Movies & TV / Columns

The Hush-Hush News Report: 03.14.12: The Gunslinger Rides Again

March 14, 2012 | Posted by Jeremy Wilson

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Hey there peeps. Yes, after weeks…nay, months of waiting to see what happened with John Carter, everything we expected to occur…did. John Carter is a financial bomb, a minor catastrophe for Disney and one of the bigger swings-and-misses in recent memory. Disney will take a hit – both commercially and reputation/pride – but it won’t sink them or anything. I also doubt it will significantly change their tentpole/franchise strategy much, but it may make them more gun-shy about green-lighting science fiction properties. However, there were some slight moral victories for the Mouse House; it won’t save them from losing money on it, but it might make them feel a little better than they might have. These folks are smart(ish)…they knew what was going to happen.

To be fair though, John Carter (slightly) exceeded analyst expectations taking in a bit over $30 million at the domestic box office and performing relatively strongly oversees (breaking Russian box office records). The reviews overall weren’t great by any stretch, but they weren’t uniformly horrible either. I’m giving it another week before I delve a bit deeper (the only major release coming out this weekend is 21 Jump Street), so let’s see how it fares Week 2, before we start writing its obit.

For now, let’s concentrate on the non-John Carter news, shall we?


The Gunslinger Back From The Dead

This I did not expect.

According to various reports (including first from Deadline,) Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” project has drawn serious interest from…Warner Bros.

After coming together and nearly getting the green-light last year from Universal Pictures with Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Imagine backing it and Javier Bardem to star as the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, it appears the mammoth project is having a second life breathed into it by the folks at Warner Bros. After Universal declined to fund the three-film, two-television series project, Howard and Grazer pledged to stick with it and find a way to make it happen. While they continued shopping it around Hollywood, many thought the sheer cost and scale – and uncertainty – of the undertaking would be too much for any studio to green-light. Particularly in the wake of Disney’s disastrous opening weekend for their speculative fiction tentpole “John Carter,” and the general cost-cutting wave that has swept through Hollywood in the past year, no one could imagine anyone undertaking something that is essentially unprecedented. Until now.

It now seems that the folks at Warner Bros. are very close to a deal that would see Howard direct at least the first feature film with Bardem starring (contingent on his availability) and the television component moving to HBO (a Warner property). Grazer, King and screenwriter Akiva Goldsmith would produce the film, which is likely to start shooting in the first quarter of 2013. The studio essentially bought Goldsmith’s script and has paid him to polish it.

For those unfamiliar with it, Deadline describes the project as: “‘The Dark Tower’ is about the last living member of a knightly order of gunslingers, with Deschain becoming humanity’s last hope to save civilization as he hits the road to find the Dark Tower. Along the way, he encounters characters, good and bad, in a world that has an Old West feel.”

This is perhaps the most shocking news of the new year so far. Look around and you see Hollywood cutting and paring down costs (relatively speaking, of course) as much as possible. Look at the inevitable failures of John Carter and how it has affected Disney. Look at how Universal – the studio that was planning and then declined “The Dark Tower” project – backed away from its own tentpole strategy and agreement with Hasbro. Look at what other projects like The Lone Ranger and Ouija needed to do to finally get green-lit. Now compare that to what Warner Bros is thinking of doing with this project. It is a scale and strategy we haven’t seen before. It is high-risk and –based on what we’ve seen from other projects of a similar nature and style – the rewards are questionable.

And yet, it sort of makes sense. Warner Bros is likely looking for some tentpole help. The Dark Knight Rises is ending Nolan’s involvement with Batman this year (his next project for the studio has not been announced) and Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel is coming in June 2013, but based on the reception for Superman Returns, there is no guarantee on its prospects. Green Lantern was a flop. Harry Potter – 2011’s box office champ – is done and over. And while the studio has acquired a multitude of properties and studios, it isn’t exactly at the front of the line with the highly lucrative animated franchises/films that are some of Hollywood’s most reliable moneymakers. While the studio does have a recent surprise franchise hit in Journey 2 (starring The Rock), their animated film, Happy Feet Two was expected to fair a lot stronger than it did.

This makes me think Warner Bros is a bit nervous. For the better part of the last decade, they’ve held sure money-making properties (specifically, Batman and Harry Potter) and now they’re scrambling to replace them. Green Lantern’s failure probably surprised them a bit and the less-than-overwhelming reception and success for Superman Returns last time around probably has them a bit worried about their next Superman release (especially coming off the release of Snyder’s own bomb, Sucker Punch). I’m not saying “The Dark Tower” project will fill those kinds of shoes, but it does give some insight as to why Warner Bros would be interesting. WB sister studio HBO is also a much more natural fit for the television component, especially in the wake of the huge success that network has had with fantasy show, Game of Thrones.

I was worried about what John Carter’s failure might mean for the industry and if it would reverberate throughout the town, especially in relation to projects that could be labeled as speculative fiction. I think instead, most view it as a Disney problem – a project that never should have gotten a green-light at the budget it did and of a studio kowtowing to a beloved and revered Pixar figure. I think Warner and HBO have a better sense of the market and of the audience “The Dark Tower” would be geared toward, coming off the success of Game of Thrones. I think Howard, Grazer and Goldsmith’s insistence and determination have helped to win them over a bit and I think that with the economy starting to turn the corner, they feel a little bit better at attempting something like this. That doesn’t mean they are going to jump in with both feet without giving themselves an out. I would be shocked if they green-lit the entire project all at once. I think they’ll wait to see how the first film and TV series does before moving forward with another feature film. I guess we’ll find out soon enough, but needless to say, this is a pretty stunning turnaround for a project that most of Hollywood thought would never get made.

The Avengers Are Coming; Assembly Not Required

The drumbeat is starting to pick up as we head closer to the May 4 release date for one of the biggest films in years, “The Avengers.” Lots of bits and pieces have come out recently (including new character banners seen here) as director Joss Whedon begins his press tour for “The Cabin in the Woods,” a horror comedy he co-wrote and produced coming out April 13. Speaking to Collider, Whedon talked about the film’s running time and his vision for the film.

“I had always intended to go over two, under two and a half. There was no way a movie with this many great actors and this much epic scope was gonna clock in under two and not feel a little anemic. Somebody wasn’t gonna get their moment if that happened. But at the same time, I get very angry that romantic comedies run over two hours long. It’s like, ‘Guys, that’s not okay.’ More isn’t more. I don’t want anything in the movie that shouldn’t be.”

Describing what was cut, Whedon stated, “There’s a lot of me that got cut out, but I think part of the process in a situation like this is you make the movie, you make your movie, then you remove yourself out of the equation. At some point you stop looking beyond The Avengers movie, at your own stuff… You go, ‘You know what, The Avengers are more important than I am so these things that I’m obsessed with aren’t necessarily moving the story forward, and therefore they are baggage.'”

Whedon also surmised that a three-hour director’s cut was unlikely once “The Avengers” made its way to DVD/Blu-ray. “No [there won’t be a director’s cut on the DVD]. I… believe very strongly in putting the director’s cut into the theaters. I believe that the director’s cut is the best movie for the studio and the best version of the movie for the audience. I’ve never really been in a situation where I had to pull the beating heart out of something that I did. I think people get to see a lot of extraordinary extras because I did shoot a bunch of stuff that I love, but the movie is the movie I want it to be.”

As for how Marvel fans will view the film, Whedon said there are a few little things thrown in they might catch, but not in a way that will drastically change the picture for one group over another. He also stated very clearly there won’t be many Easter eggs, winks or nods. “There are a couple of mentions of things; we were preserving the continuity and I threw in one or two things where I’m like, ‘Well this is something one of them would say because it’s part of the Marvel universe even if it’s not a part of this movie necessarily.’ I had such a job just making the thing coherent that I didn’t have time to play a lot of games, and I’m not really a fan of that. I do think fanboys will see more in certain bits than everybody else, but ultimately I want them all to have the same experience.”

As for what everybody cares about – the plot – Whedon created a stir by declaring pretty unequivocally that the identity of Loki’s army is not the Skrulls or Kree. “I will say only this: It is not the Kree or the Skrulls… Those two aliens are Marvel mainstays and have enormous back stories. They have a big life of their own that just could not be contained in a film where I already had seven movie stars… The Skrulls — they can shape change. That’s a whole thing. I’ve already got Loki. He’s got magic. Once you got magic along with your Iron Man and your Black Widow — it’s a real juggling act.”

Whedon also made waves by sharing what he thought “The Avengers 2″ should be like. When Collider asked the director how the next film (which we all know is inevitable, regardless of this film’s success), he stated: “By not trying to [go bigger]. By being smaller. More personal, more painful. By being the next thing that should happen to these characters, and not just a rehash of what seemed to work the first time. By having a theme that is completely fresh and organic to itself.

No word on if Whedon would or will return for the possible sequel, although Marvel’s plans for its next cycle of film does seem to start with “Iron Man 3″ and conclude once more with “The Avengers 2.”

In addition to all the Whedon quotes, “The Avengers” news keeps coming as AMC Theaters has announced “The Ultimate Marvel Marathon,” a promotion destined to excite a large number of fanboys around America (I frankly don’t know if it’ll be shown in other countries). Numerous AMC locations around the country will show a marathon of Marvel superhero movies on May 3, leading up to the midnight premiere of “The Avengers.” Theater and tickets information can be found here, but the schedule kicks off at 11:30 am with “Iron Man,” then in succession: “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man 2″ in 2D, “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” in 3D, and finally – premiering at midnight – “The Avengers” in 3D. All six films and a pair of 3D glasses with Avengers-themed colors (that retail for $10) will be included in the (only) $40 price tag. Plus, if you are an AMC Stubs member, you’ll get a $5 Bonus Bucks card, presumably for use at the concession stand. More theaters will be announced on Friday, March 16, so check it out if you are interested.

Finally, potential spoilers and plot threads that link Marvel films have been posted by the usually reliable Latino Review concerning the possible story of “Iron Man 3″ and how it originates in “The Avengers.”

SO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CONSIDER THIS YOUR WARNING OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS

Summarized by Dark Horizons, Latino Review’s scoop basically said that “Captain America is essentially responsible for placing an idea in the head of Tony Stark – nanobots. The third ‘Iron Man’ film would therefore adapt elements from Warren Ellis’ acclaimed “Extremis” mini-series in which the title refers to a programmable military nanotechnology serum, an attempt to recreate the Super-Soldier Serum, and one which grants Stark extraordinary powers.

The comic itself was something of a reboot of the title, introducing a new origin story for the character which also heavily influenced the one seen in the first ‘Iron Man’ film.”

The Avengers can’t come soon enough. So…Who do you think Loki’s army are?”

Chevy Chase Back On Vacation?

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, at the PaleyFest event for “Bones,” John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have stated that they hope to bring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo back in some way for their upcoming “Vacation” reboot.

“It is something that we’ve been warned not to screw up. We have confidence that there’s still a lot to tell in the story of the Griswolds. And we’ve been involved with it for so long, it felt like the natural next step to direct. There’ll be no recasting, except for the fact that Rusty will now be grown up. We don’t know who will be playing him, but we intend to have a part for Clark Griswold. Chevy, we’re hoping he’ll be down to come back – and Beverly D’Angelo as well.”

Daley and Goldstein are also working on the script for the sequel to “Horrible Bosses” and Daley is directing the pair’s script for the upcoming Jim Carrey-Steve Carrell comedy, “Burt Wonderstone” as well. “I’ve been on the set every time I’m not doing ‘Bones,’ so I’m excited to see how it all turns out,” he told THR. “The fact that I’ve gotten to work with Jim Carrey in this capacity is a dream come true. I wanted to be him when I was a kid.

We mentioned a couple weeks ago that Daley and Goldstein had been brought on by New Line to not only write the script (whch both did for summer hit Horrible Bosses) but also take on directing duties together as well.

Their script for the upcoming reboot centers on a grown-up Rusty Griswold taking his own family on a vacation filled with misadventures. The possibility of Chase and D’Angelo returning was left open and now it would seem Daley and his partner would want them back in a more defined and definitive role. That doesn’t change my mind about wanting the rebooot, but Chase and D’Angelo along for the ride (in at least a supporting role) might help. Then again, the adult Rusty and his family blow, Chase and D’Angelo’s presence might remind people about those other (possibly better) Vacation films. What does everyone else think? Should Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo be back for the Vacation reboot? Who should be cast as Rusty and his family?

The Puzo Family Goes To War (With Paramount)

In what is quickly becoming a nasty back-and-forth, the Puzo family/estate has fired back at Paramount for trying to stop a new book sequel in the “Godfather” series.

Bert Fields, lawyer for the Puzo estate, released a statement that read: “Paramount wanted a war, and they’re going to get one – only the stakes will be much higher than they thought. Mario Puzo brought vast wealth to Paramount at a time when they desperately needed it. Now that he’s gone, Paramount’s trying to deprive his children of the rights he specifically reserved. I promised Mario I’d protect his kids from this kind of reprehensible conduct.”

How much higher are the stakes going to be? $10 million looks to be the number. The Puzo estate has filed a counterclaim against Paramount, seeking to end the company’s “Godfather” book rights and asking for damages that could exceed $10 million. In it, the estate states that a new book using characters from “The Godfather” was going to be released, but that Paramount “falsely asserted …that the Puzo Estate had no right to publish that book.” As a result of that Paramount claim, the counterclaim says, the publisher decided to “withhold its performance of the Publishing Contract,” causing the estate “substantial monetary damages in a sum not yet known, but which the Puzo Estate alleges … will exceed the sum of $10 million.” The counterclaim requests that Paramount – due to breaching the contract it had with Puzo – should lose its rights to the “Godfather” books.

Paramount has long maintained that it bought the copyright to Puzo’s “The Godfather” back in 1969 and is simply trying to protect its claim and the “integrity and reputation of “The Godfather Trilogy.” A statement from the studio read, “Paramount has tremendous respect and admiration for Mario Puzo and his legacy. We are only seeking to adhere to the terms of the deal that were agreed upon by Mr. Puzo himself.”

I honestly don’t know who’s in the right and who isn’t. Paramount has allowed one Godfather book sequel but claims another was released without its permission. The Puzo family obviously feel like they can do this, but if I were to lean one way of the other, I’d probably lean in Paramount’s favor. The Puzo family is probably looking to continue capitalizing on Mario’s creation and I’m guessing it pisses them off that they have to deal or share with Paramount. I can’t wait to hear about the restraining order after the bloody horse head is discovered in a Paramount studio head’s bed. Also, no word on how The Godfather Part III upheld the “integrity and reputation of ‘The Godfather Trilogy.'” I won’t hold my breath on a response for that one.

First Look At Javier Bardem in Skyfall
(*Possible Spoilers: Don’t Look If You Don’t Want To See*)

Courtesy of MI6-HQ, we seem to have our first glimpse of Javier Bardem in the upcoming Bond film, “Skyfall.” Bardem is the principal villain of the film, known only as “Silva,” and also stars Daniel Craig as 007, Dame Judi Dench as M, Helen McCrory, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Bérénice Marlohe. As can be seen in the pictures, Bardem is blonde and in uniform, although it is still unclear what his exact role is in the film.

“Skyfall” is directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) and scheduled to be released into theaters on November 9th, 2012. The film’s release also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first Bond feature – 1962’s “Dr. No.”

Javier Bardem news is all kinds of win this week. We know he can be bad – just look at his work in No Country For Old Men – but can he separate himself and become one of the all-time great Bond bad guys . I think so and the pieces of the story that have surfaced make Skyfall sound pretty intriguing. I’ve enjoyed both of the Craig-as-Bond films and something tells me the third won’t disappoint. Plus…I mean, just LOOK at that cast.

Late-Breaking News Concerning Paramount Releases

Paramount Pictures have announced that they have moved back the official release date for their zombie flick, “World War Z.” The film starring Brad Pitt and based on the popular novel, was to be released on December 21, 2012, but has now been bumped off the studio’s 2012 slate altogether. The new release date for the film is June 21, 2013. As of now, we don’t know the studio’s official reasoning for the move.

The studio also announced that the new live-action reboot for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” will be released on Christmas Day 2013.The film does not have a director or cast as of yet, but the release date makes it seem as if all involved are confidant and ready to proceed. Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes outfit is producing while Josh Appelbaum and Andrew Nemec (“Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol”) were recently brought on to write the film. The project’s original script was done by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (“Iron Man”) but it is unclear if Appelbaum and Nemec did a complete rewrite or simply polished it.

Awesome news. There is not a bigger Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan than me. That was my childhood and I’ve always had a soft spot for the franchise (even though it’s not exactly the culture’s high-water mark). I’m not totally surprised by the bump for World War Z – it felt like a summer release anyway and I’m not exactly sure why it was originally slated for December. We don’t quite know why the sudden change, but I wonder if the production needs additional time or reshoots.

Trailer Face-Off:

This week’s trailer face-off showcases the much buzzed-about comedy, 21 Jump Street, (starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) and a couple of the week’s other limited releases: the Will Ferrell-starring Spanish comedy Casa de mi Padre and the indie comedy, Jeff Who Lives At Home, starring Ed Helms, Jason Segal and Judy Greer. Also being released in a limited run is the newest film from the Dardenne Brothers, The Kid with a Bike.

**Note: The 21 Jump Street trailer shown below is the red-band trailer and may be NSFW.**

Are you planning on seeing any or all of these? Which looks better? Let me know in the comments.

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From The Great Capt. Smooth (Guest):
Bieber as Venom? Yes, I am a sicko. Probably just caused a few strokes. Always thought Brock Lesnar had the perfect look, but I doubt the acting would suffice.

From Aprince66 (Guest):
Couldnt agree more. When Brock first debut, one of my first thoughts was, “man, that guy would make a perfect Eddie Brock”.

You sick, sick man. Bieber as Venom. SICK. I’m pretty sure you just gave Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer casting ideas for their next “movie.”

Brock would have been an awesome-looking Venom…although Brock’s acting ability never struck me as Hollywood-quality. Although if Big Daddy Cool Nash can get walk-on roles as a bad guy, who knows. Maybe since Brock isn’t busy fighting much anymore, we see him move on to acting? Although odds are good he’s get a role or two, get injured and retire. (Too soon?)

From Guest#2946 (Guest):
Hell just cause, will play the delusional one. Prior to his decision to host mania what was Johnson doing? Everyone was commenting on a decline and how he should do more action. He was signed on to Fast Five but, he still came back to get the bandwagon he had from wrestling to ride him back to the box office and thats was jumpstarted his movies to begin with. Its the same thing different day. He will ride this WWE thing again back to the very top which it appears is working well for the man.

I don’t know if you really believe that or not, and it is possible a small part of that might be true. But there is this myth that The Rock absolutely needs to make action movies and that those have been his biggest hits. I have no news for everyone – they’re not. They may not be the movies the 411 demographic pays to see and they may not help his “cool” factor, but the kids/family comedies he has done – including, yes, The Tooth Fairy – have made up the majority of his commercial successes (The Scorpion King and Fast Five are exceptions, but were also later installments of previously existing popular franchises.

From demOcratic (Guest):
“Sony’s “Venom” “

Yeah, if it’s not under Marvel control it’s gonna suck. How can you have Venom without Spidey? You’re just gonna p!ss a whole generation of fanboys.

All 4 Spider-Man films (including the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man) have been produced by Columbia Pictures (Sony). I don’t necessary think Venom can or will work without Spider-Man involved (see: Catwoman), but I also don’t think the quality depends on whether Marvel is heavily involved or not. What matters is the script, who they get to direct and casting.

From G-Walla (Guest):
I loved the casting of Topher Grace as Venom. I thought he could pull of a suprisingly good marriage of the 616 and Ultimate Universe versions. Sadly, the movie did him, nor the character, any favors.

I always envisioned Venom as being introduced at the end of 3. The 4th movie would have dealt with the lizard with Venom in the background. I’d have ended the movie with Venom revealing himself. The 5th movie would have been all about Venom.

Probably the best reason I had to take Intro to Film back in college was getting to see Casablanca on a big screen.

One of the most disappointing, unpleasant experiences I ever had in a movie theater was the midnight premiere screening for Spider-Man 3 so I totally agree that the film did Topher Grace no favors. The fact is though, Grace was given a major opportunity and a chance to run with the ball…and he didn’t do it. Hindsight is 20/20, but I think it would have been best to put someone else in the role. I do agree though that a little more planning on their part could have really made Venom’s appearance something special. Reveal at the end of the 3rd and Venom as villain in the 4th film could have really worked and might have kept the Raimi-Maguire-Dunst films going a bit longer. I think a 5th film would have been a stretch, to be honest.


Trailer of the Week: The Cabin in the Woods

Funny Video of the Week:Superbad sex scene table read”

That’s all for this week. As always, let me know what you think in the comments section. For now, this is Jeremy Wilson, off the record, on the QT…

…and definitely, “Hush Hush!”

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