The Hush-Hush News Report: 04.11.12: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
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I’d appreciate if you all read the wonderful other work here at 411. My own reviews of The Hunger Games and John Carter are up and other reviews for films out in theaters now include Jeff Who Lives At Home, 21 Jump Street, Friends With Kids, Mirror Mirror, Goon, Wrath of the Titans, and The Raid: Redemption. We’d still write them if no no one was reading, but admittedly it’s better and more worthwhile when people do. Something about a tree falling in a forest. Anyway, on with the news….
As we head down the home stretch and into the heart of blockbuster season, we are beginning to learn and see more of some of this year’s biggest movies. One of the biggest is Sony’s rebooted Spider-Man flick, The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield as the titular hero and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, his first true love. Many have wondered about how Webb and company are going to successfully provide audiences with a new, different origin story than the one many have come to know through Sam Raimi’s previous films. Webb discussed some of that in an interview with MTV News, as the director talked about how Peter’s parents will become a bigger part of his vision for the franchise.
“I wanted to give the audience something new, so that started off with getting underneath the parents’ story, which will unfold over probably a few movies. We don’t totally wrap up that story in this first movie. It’s sort of an ongoing mystery.
There are elements that we were very conscious of, but it all emanated from [the idea of] this kid who got left behind by his parents many, many years before. I thought that was interesting enough for me to explore.
[There are] obligations to the canon, in terms of Uncle Ben and the spider-bite, but the conditions under which those things happen are very different…”
(**Minor Spoilers Ahead**)
“This is probably a reveal,” Webb said, “but there is no wrestling match in this movie. The character is evolving in a different way. It’s about finding a balance between iconic elements of the ‘Spider-Man’ mythology—like how Uncle Ben’s death transforms him emotionally—but it happens in a different way.
“He’s bitten by a spider, but maybe it’s not a radioactive spider. Or maybe it is! You’ll have to see.”
I’ve mentioned – over much of the last year – how I don’t necessarily see the point in redoing Spider-Man’s origin story. It’s always felt – for me at least – “too soon” for this kind of rebooted origin story. I know there’s a ton of stuff in the comics that ripple throughout Peter Parker’s life, but this film franchise isn’t for comics fans. It’s for moviegoers. The number of people who are die-hard Spider-Man comics fans compared to the number who know only the movies (and perhaps animated TV shows) is small, to say the least.
So I never really understood Sony’s desire to dive head-first into an entire new origin story/reboot, so soon after Raimi’s trilogy had concluded. It has only been a decade since Spider-Man was released. Yes, it was always going to be hard replacing Raimi, Maguire and Dunst, but the Batman and Superman franchises have made similar transitions just fine. Everyone knows Spidey’s origin story and everyone saw it already in the first Spider-Man. Abrams isn’t rehashing the cinematic origin story with his Star Trek. He was essentially creating a story that hadn’t been told. Same with Nolan and Batman Begins. Same with X-Men: First Class. They are all telling origin stories that – while they may be different from the comics – hadn’t been told in movie form. Admittedly, the few number of clips we’ve seen for the film have seemed solid enough, but Webb’s statements seem a bit too cute at times. While the percentage of die-hard comics fans will be relatively small, they are very vocal and vociferous. If they don’t like something, it tends to permeate the general audience at large.
It just feels like Sony, Webb and company have put even more of a burden on themselves in trying to “out-do” Raimi’s story. Which is exactly what they are going to have to do most likely for this to be considered a success. That probably isn’t fair to Webb, Garfield and Stone, but it was always going to be unavoidable. I would say the same thing if this were happening after Nolan was done with Batman. I honestly don’t have positive or negative feelings towards this movie, but that doesn’t change my opinion that The Amazing Spider-Man has put enormous pressure on itself. In a summer with Prometheus, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, it doesn’t feel like The Amazing Spider-Man has the same level of excitement or attention from fans that perhaps Sony was expecting.
I don’t get paid for promoting Prometheus, I promise. (If someone at 20th Century Fox wants to send me a check, let me know!) That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop, since: a) it looks awesome, b) I have seen absolutely nothing to make me think it’s going to be anything less than one of the best films of the summer (and probably year), and c) it looks awesome. Ww’ve got two months to go. The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises don’t need marketing/promotional help. Those two movies are going to be billion-dollar behemoths. Prometheus, however, is far from a surefire hit (I’m still slightly sore at John Carter’s abysmal failure at the box office). So when I continue to hear nothing but stellar things about Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien universe, I am going to share.
Tuesday morning saw the world’s first screening of 3D footage from Prometheus at the Vue cinema in London’s Leicester Square. The folks over at Total Film were lucky enough to get a look at it, as well as attending a Q & A with both director and cast. Total Film concluded that “if possible, we’re even more excited than we were before…”
Their coverage of the footage and event was extensive so I’ll simply quote it directly in their own words, as well as their general conclusions. Keep in mind, minor spoilers are involved:
“We were treated to approximately 13 minutes of footage comprised of a series of scenes setting up the film’s premise. Naturally, if you don’t want to know anything before going in, you should probably stop reading now.
First up was a sequence set on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, in which research scientists Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green discover some peculiar markings on the wall of an old cave. Surmising that the etchings make reference to a race of extra-terrestrial beings, Rapace make the fateful proclamation that, “I think they want us to come and find them.” Hmmm…
The next scene was set upon the good ship Prometheus in the year 2093, with Michael Fassbender’s placid android, David, attending to a pushup-performing Charlize Theron. “Were there any casualties?” she asks him casually, as she completes her workout. David confirms that there were not.
She’s referring to the awakening of the ship’s research crew from their stasis chambers, having spent a whopping two and a half years in there before being roused. Straight off the bat it seems as though Theron’s character, a suit from the Weyland Corporation, is a very cold fish indeed. Intriguingly, Theron revealed after the screening that her character is initially detached from the mission, but has actually got a very personal reason for being there. Curioser and curioser…
We’re briefly introduced to various crew members (including Idris Elba’s scene-stealing badass, the pilot, Janek) before a hologram of Peter Weyland introduces the lead scientists and congratulates them on the mission ahead. As suggested by his TED talk, it’s to be one of discovery. He also makes reference to David the android, describing him as “a son” before referring to his absence of a soul. David looks a bit hurt.
It’s then the turn of Marshall-Green and Rapace to explain the mission ahead, referring to their cave-based findings and revealing their discovery of a planet with its own moon, capable of sustaining life. That’s where the crew are heading. Sean Harris makes a snide comment scoffing about the veracity of cave paintings, leading us to believe his card may well be marked…
The final sequence showed us Prometheus coming in to land on the aforementioned planet, with Elba revelling in centre stage, firing off one-liners and generally chewing the scenery to great effect. It was probably the most visually arresting sequence in a film that promises to be extremely easy on the eye.
The stage duly set, we were then shown a brief sizzle reel, re-capping some of the footage from the trailer, and generally showing all hell breaking loose. There was a very brief glimpse of something alien-like (although not particularly similar to a Xenomorph), the revelation that that giant head “is moving”, and a deliciously icky moment involving one crew-member’s eye…
All in all, we were fairly blown away by proceedings. Although the bulk of the film’s action was kept firmly under wraps, there was enough to suggest this will be quite the spectacle. Pleasingly, the 3D (filmed on the super-crisp RED camera) is of the layered, innocuous variety, never appearing distracting but adding real depth to some breathtakingly beautiful space-vistas. Indeed, we could have sat staring at the view from the ship’s bridge all morning, had we been given the chance…
In a brief Q & A after the screening, Ridley Scott revealed a few more tidbits about the project, explaining how Alien’s Space Jockey scene was the whole jumping-off point for the film. Who was that figure, why was he there, why was he bearing that specific cargo and where was he heading? He and his kind might have wanted to be found, but not for the benevolent reasons believed by Rapace’s character…
As for the connection between the two films, Scott explained that the link is “barely in its DNA”, reasserting that the film is a standalone piece. However, he did admit that the connection becomes more apparent in the films final seven minutes…
Scott also dropped one final, mouthwatering teaser, promising that there will be a scene in Prometheus that serves as a counterpart to Alien’s chestbuster moment. It involves Noomi Rapace, but that’s all we know. Some things are best kept as a surprise…”
Yes, Total Film’s description at times comes off a little too excited. But I find it especially interesting that I’ve heard such overwhelmingly positive things about Prometheus’ 3D effects. Scott’s decision to shoot it in that format from the get-go and with the RED camera seems to have paid off. I say that knowing that no ones has actually seen the final cut of the film yet. However, this report, on top of what I heard from those who viewed the trailer in 3D IMAX, seems to confirm the idea that Prometheus could possibly join the ranks of Avatar, How To Train Your Dragon and Hugo in being one of the premier examples of what great 3D can look like and the value it can provide to a film. Plus, it could be a major boon for science fiction on the big screen, which has struggled outside of Inception to truly capture the masses’ attention in recent years (I’m obviously not counting superhero/comic book adaptations).
Prometheus stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Logan Marshall-Green, and Charlize Theron. It opens in 2D, 3D and IMAX theaters on June 8.
We are REALLY coming down the home stretch in regards to The Avengers, as the film’s May 4 release date is less than a month away. Marvel hasn’t been resting on their laurels, as they’ve continued to release a plethora of stills, trailers, character posters and clips to make everyone happy. This week, we already have numerous new clips, including the “Suit Up” TV clip, “Isolated” TV clip, another TV clip featuring Cobie Smulders and Samuel Jackson, as well as an Avengers-themed Dr. Pepper commercial. Contrary to appearances, The Avengers will not be riding Victory motorcycles in the film.
Two things I noticed? First, they did Cobie Smulders a terrible disservice sending that clip with her for Letterman. Seriously, what a horrible clip to show on a late-night talk show, especially for a demo that isn’t exactly the target. Second…HULK SMASH!
Speaking of HULK SMASH, Marvel and Disney have also released 10 new Avengers wallpapers for the masses.
The internet was set aflutter on Monday with the news (via Variety) that Sir Ben Kingsley, fresh off being cast in Ender’s Game, is in final talks to feature in Shane Black’s upcoming Iron Man 3.
Variety is quick to put to rest the rumors surrounding the involvement of Tony Stark’s original arch-nemesis, The Mandarin. For those who don’t know, The Mandarin is a wealthy and brilliant Chinese scientist and martial arts expert who, by backing the warlord who imprisoned Stark, was indirectly responsible for his creating Iron Man. Traditionally, the Mandarin is a Chinese ruler who worked with communists in the 1960s, deriving his power from 10 alien rings. Variety made it clear that while The Mandarin had been discussed as a possibility for Iron Man 2 – with Jon Favreau interested in tackling the character (he hinted at it in the first Iron Man) – Black was less inclined to use the character, believing it to be too much of a racist caricature. As for who Black and Marvel may be using as Stark’s foil(s) in the next film, ComicBookMovie.com stated the following:
“Shane Black has confirmed that the Villain will not be The Mandarin, calling it a racist caricature in opting to not use the most well know nemesis of Ironman in the comicbook series. Additionally Black has said that it will not be two men fighting in iron suits, somewhat narrowing the field on who may appear as the opponent of Stark. There can be the Ghost, Spymaster, potentially the Fixer, or maybe exploring the relation or potentially looking at a potential relation between A.I.M and Howard Stark.”
As for Kingsley’s involvement, while not much is known at the moment, it is thought to be a villainous character involved in the spread of a virus through nanobots. This is a big element in the story for Iron Man 3 which is reported to be loosely based on Warren Ellis’ six-issue Extremis comic series. While Marvel declined comment on Kingsley’s involvement, it would be a stretch to believe that Kingsley would be a more “physical” opponent for Downey considering his age and stature. With shooting starting in May of this year, we will discover sooner rather than later what Black and Marvel have in store for Tony Stark, as Iron Man 3 is scheduled for a May 3, 2013 release.
There have been lots of changes to the movie release calendar of late, with notable movies from Gavin Hood, Sacah Baron Cohen and Ben Affleck among them.
First, in news that may surprise no one, die-hard science fiction fans will have to wait just a little longer to see the big screen adaptation of Ender’s Game. Gavin Hood’s sci-fi action film has been pushed back eight months from its original March 15, 2013 release date to November 1, 2013. This is notable, since it places it in the same month of release as Catching Fire – the second installment of The Hunger Games franchise, the new runaway Hollywood blockbuster franchise. It is also interesting because Lionsgate (The Hunger Games) recently purchased Summit (Ender’s Game) for $412 million and both studios must believe there is enough room for both films to breathe and bring in the profits. It also may mean that the release for Catching Fire might get pushed back a bit, especially considering the film doesn’t yet have a director and star Jennifer Lawrence has commitments with sequels for X-Men: First Class. Also of note, Sony’s science fiction film helmed by Roland Emmerich, Singularity, is set for that November 1 date, although that film has also gone through several delays.
Also moving back is Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming comedy, The Dictator. Originally scheduled for a Friday, May 11 release, the comedy has been moved back five days to Wednesday, May 16, 2012. The reason? To get out of the way of Tim Burton’s gothic comedy, Dark Shadows, a film starring bankable star Johnny Depp which has been gaining interest in recent weeks due to its initial marketing roll-out. The Dictator will now go up against Sony’s action blockbuster, Battleship, and Lionsgate’s What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Paramount evidently decided on the last minute move in order to avoid two comedies going up against each other, fighting for the same audience. While What To Expect… is also a comedy, the studio believes it is more female-centric and won’t take much of The Dictator’s male-oriented audience.
Also moving dates is Ben Affleck’s highly anticipated follow-up to The Town called Argo. The film, about the rescue of six U.S. diplomats during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis through the ruse of having them pose as a movie crew, was initially going to be released September 14, 2012. Instead, Warner Bros has pushed it up a month to October 12, in turn knocking Ryan Gosling’s period crime drama, The Gangster Squad, directed by Ruben Fleischer, back to a TBA 2012 release. The studio is evidently so pleased by strong early test screenings of Argo that it wants it better positioned in the heart of awards season in order to capitalize. Both films are thought to be strong awards season contenders.
Finally, Disney has settled on a release date for Maleficent, its revisionist take on the nemesis in Sleeping Beauty. The film, which stars Angelina Jolie as the titular character (with Elle Fanning in talks possibly to play Aurora) will open March 14, 2014 and believe it or not, it already has competition for the date. The animated Mr Peabody & Sherman will be hitting theaters the same date, with the film being based off of the short cartoons from Rocky and Bullwinkle and featuring the voices of Ty Burrell (Modern Family) and Max Charles (The Amazing Spider-Man). Disney has certainly given itself plenty of time if anything happens that could cause a delay (this project has been discussed for years).
Well, we still don’t know whether Gary Ross will be back for Catching Fire. One would have thought that after the insane success of The Hunger Games, Ross would be a no-brainer to come back and direct the sequels. Through miscommunication, a desire to move on or whatever, it appeared late last week and over the weekend that Ross and Lionsgate would be separating. It appeared that money was at least part of the issue, with the stuido seemingly low-balling the director. Other factors in the apparent split included Ross’ desire to move on creatively, as he has a pretty decent career as a screenwriter/re-writer. It was also mentioned that Ross much preferred the first book in the trilogy.
Now, The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that talks are set to continue this week and may lead to Ross coming back on-board. The director is not currently signed on for the sequel (unlike the franchise’s young stars) and has previously expressed concern over an ambitious shooting/production schedule that would have shooting starting in August. Star Jennifer Lawrence is to start shooting on the sequel for X-Men: First Class in January. This means – with no script yet done for Catching Fire that all preparations must be done in four months and shooting has to finish in 3-4 months.
THR says of the talks between Ross and Lionsgate: “Sources describe the negotiations between Ross and Lionsgate as delicate. In addition to his concerns about the schedule, THR reported Wednesday that the filmmaker would like a raise from the $3 million (and 5 percent of backend) that he received for the first film, which has passed $450 million in worldwide box office and received an 85 percent “fresh” rating from critics on Rottentomatoes.com. Ross, an accomplished screenwriter and director (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) has several other projects in development and could choose to pursue any of them.
One option for Lionsgate is that it could attempt to “buy” more time for Ross, essentially paying Fox (or horsetrading in other ways) to bump its production schedule to accommodate the Hunger Games shoot. Or Lionsgate could move on and hire another filmmaker to take on the sequel, much like Twilight studio Summit Entertainment dropped Catherine Hardwicke in favor of Chris Weitz for the second installment of that franchise.”
Also a factor was Ross being on vacation last week, only arriving back home from Italy on Friday. Whatever the reasons, we will almost certainly have clarity by the end of this week. No one necessarily wants to be rushed in decisions such as this, but with a compressed schedule, both parties don’t appear to have much choice.
**LATE-BREAKING NEWS: Gary Ross is officially out as director of Catching Fire. He cites “scheduling conflicts” as a reason for his departing the planned sequel. More next week on Ross being out and on who his replacement will be.**
In addition to Gary Ross and Catching Fire, Marvel is narrowing its field in trying to replace Joe Johnson for Captain America 2. F. Gary Gray has dropped out of the running and is focusing instead on bringing the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton to the big screen. The short list now is getting smaller with Community’s Joe & Anothony Russo and The Adjustment Bureau helmer George Nolfi left in the running. It is also understood, however, that Marvel is talking with other filmmakers (no word on who those might be). Disney just set the sequel’s release date for April 4, 2014, with the film picking up where this summer’s The Avengers leaves off. Star Chris Evans will be back, but there is no word on who else will be in the film.
Gary Goddard, head of The Goddard Group, recently released the story of how a full-scale replica of the USS Enterprise could have been built in Las Vegas. Yes, the story is as awesome as it sounds.
The $150 million project, rather minimal by today’s Vegas standards, was all part of a 1992 Las Vegas downtown redevelopment competition. The idea was that the Strip was draining downtown Vegas of tourism and money, and that a major project was needed to bring some of that back. The Goddard Group’s idea was to build a full-scale Star Trek USS Enterprise, complete with restaurant, ride elements, tours and live entertainment, but not, to its detriment, a hotel or casino. Goddard and company believed it perfectly fit the bill in answering the competition’s requirements and could “become an attraction of such magnitude that it would draw people from the strip, a destination attraction” that would “re-establish the downtown core as the center of the action in Las Vegas.” The project came close, but lost out to the competition’s runner-up, the “Freemont Experience.” I’ll let Collider and Gary Goddard take it from here:
“Since other hotels and casinos in the downtown area were financing the winning project of the competition, those two features would be left out due to conflict of interests. While this was surely a sticking point, it wasn’t the coffin nail. The project had to be cleared by not only the city officials, but also the studio that owned the property: Paramount. Most of the decision makers were on board, including Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones; the redevelopment committee; the President of Paramount Studios, Sherry Lansing and the Paramount Licensing group. One man was left to convince before the project could get off the ground (so to speak): Paramount CEO Stanley Jaffe.
As quoted by Goddard:
Albert Einstein said it best: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
And with that foreboding comment, Goddard recounts the fatal meeting with Jaffe:
“All of our work, the effort to get Paramount, the Mayor, and redevelopment committee aligned, everything had come to this moment. We were ready to go. Money in place, land provided by the city, license for the property negotiated with Paramount licensing – all set. If Mr. Jaffe says ‘yes’ and we are a ‘go’ project. And the city wanted to have a press conference within a week announcing the project.
So with everyone in the room, I take Mr. Jaffe through the project. With the art, the plans, the overall concept. After my spirited “pitch” everyone was beaming – everyone except Mr. Jaffe. Mr. Jaffe thanked us for the effort, and he congratulated us on creating a bold concept and presentation, and then went into a speech that went something like this:
‘You know, this is a major project. You’re going to put a full-scale ENTERPRISE up in the heart of Las Vegas. And on one hand that sounds exciting. But on another hand, it might not be a great idea for us – for Paramount.’ Everyone in the room was stunned, most of all, me, because I could see where this was going. “In the movie business, when we produce a big movie and it’s a flop – we take some bad press for a few weeks or a few months, but then it goes away. The next movie comes out and everyone forgets. But THIS – this is different. If this doesn’t work – if this is not a success – it’s there, forever….” I remember thinking to myself “oh my god, this guy does NOT get it….” And he said “I don’t want to be the guy that approved this and then it’s a flop and sitting out there in Vegas forever.”
And with that, Mr. Jaffe in a single moment, destroyed about five months of work by a host of people, and killed one of the greatest ideas of all time.
‘Stanley waltzed out of the room and I think everyone was stunned. No one could believe it. But our dream pretty much ended there. Sherry Lansing was stunned and apologized to the room and followed her boss out. The Paramount licensing team was embarrassed to say the least, and of course, they were also realizing they had just lost out on millions of dollars in future licensing revenues too. The Mayor and the redevelopment committee were just depressed I think. But they thanked me for all the efforts I put into it, and for making the meetings with Paramount possible, and then they headed back to Las Vegas.'”
Just another reason to hate studios heads. I have no idea how it would have turned out, but it’s not like it would have made Vegas any tackier.
This week the highly anticipated critic’s darling, The Cabin in the Woods – from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard – hits theaters after making a name for itself on the festival circuit, especially down at SXSW. (Note: many who have seen it recommend not reading about it before seeing it or seeing much footage to avoid spoiling the experience). The sci-fi prison-break action movie,Lockout, starring Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace also makes it debut, as does the long-gestating modern adaptation of The Three Stooges.
Can The Hunger Games keep on winning the box office, now that a full slate of new releases is going up against it?
Has the good buzz for The Cabin in the Woods have you planning to go and see it in its first week in theaters?
Are you seeing The Three Stooges and has its marketing campaign helped or hurt its chances?
Are you planning on seeing any or all of these? Which looks better? Let me know in the comments.
Many apologies, but due to (continuing) incredibly frustrating computer issues leading to a time crunch, all of last week’s (and the week before) comments will be responded to next week. Trust me, I’ll get to every one of them eventually.
Funny Video of the Week: “The Filtered Network”
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!”