Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

01
Jul
14

Top 5 Movies Based on Graphic Novels

Yes, that's Captain America himself Chris Evans leading the way, this time in Snowpiercer.

Yes, that’s Captain America himself Chris Evans leading the way, this time in Snowpiercer.

We here at the Red Band Project are excited for the upcoming release of Snowpiercer. Directed by Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho (Mother, The Host) the film stars Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, and John Hurt as some of the last survivors on Earth who reside on the Snowpiercer, a train that continually navigates the frozen globe keeping its inhabitants alive. It’s a sci-fi fable that deals with class struggle amidst the backdrop of a future where the world is frozen over.

Due out tomorrow at Consolidated Theatres Kahala 8, the film is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. While Hollywood has been quick to jump on the comic book craze, it’s also adapted its fair share of graphic novels. While similar in many respects to comic books, graphic novels are usually self contained stories told in one book or a set of books and are not ongoing series.

This got me thinking, we’ve had all sorts of graphic novel adaptations, some of them good and some of them pretty crummy, but which ones have been the best? Listed below are my Top 5 Films Based Off of Graphic Novels . . .

#5 – Old Boy (2003)

0701_02-OldBoy

Loosely based on the Japanese manga series written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi, Korean director Park Chan-wook‘s film of the same name is quite the twisted tale of revenge. I’m not going to lie, it’s the total 180 that this film pulls that got it onto this list. I remember the first time watching this film thinking it was going one way and then I get the rug pulled out from under me. Talk about mind blown. The way Chan-wook tells the story and how well he sets the table is was drew me in. That and the utter brutality in the film, the first I’d really seen like that, is what helps to make this film stand out.

#4 – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

0701_03-ScottPilgrim

If there was only one thing I could say about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it would be that it makes me proud to have played video games at least for a time in my life. Based on the series of graphic stories by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the movie is jam packed with video game references and is so smart about the way it uses and portrays them that it’s no wonder that it holds a special place in the hearts of geeks everywhere. When you combine that with Edgar Wright‘s vision and style, the movie is truly unique and a love letter to video games, comics, music, and geeky pop culture. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World gives us a glimpse into a world where real video game conventions (extra lives, power ups, restarting levels, bosses) do exist and is so awesome that it made me wish I could live in that same world as well.

#3 – Sin City

0701_04-SinCity

Based on a few of the novels from the Frank Miller series, Sin City the movie is also directed Miller and Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids). The movie’s visual style is definitely what draws you in and for the record is really is quite gorgeous. The stylized black and white look with accent colors popping up every once and a while to add mood and tone to the film simply blew me away when I saw it for the first time. That combined with the engrossing and criss-crossing neo-noir crime stories that involve these checkered characters in this disreputable city really engages you. While comic book movies up till this point really tried to shy away from their paper based roots and go for realism, the coloring and stylization of Sin City made it truly feel like it was a ‘comic book movie’ through and through–and I thought it really worked for the film.

#2 – V for Vendetta

0701_05-VforVendetta

There is just so much good stuff going on in V for Vendetta that whenever I see it on TV, I almost always get sucked into watching it. Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, the film version of V for Vendetta is an awesome example of when you take rich source material and create an appropriate adaptation. Themes in the film such as government having too much control, fear of the people warranting government protection, and propaganda spread by the government all underline growing sentiment that was going on in a post-9/11 world when this film came out in 2005. Add to the mix a very charismatic (and sharp tongued) character with a righteous mission in V and like I said, there’s a lot of stuff here to like. The film also has some snappy fight sequences with stylized use of V’s daggers that make him even more of a loveable folk hero. “Remember, remember the 5th of November,” from his lines of dialogue to the way he carried himself, though you never saw his face, Hugo Weaving did an awesome job of portraying V. From a strong lead character, to themes in the film that overlap with real life, to a fun story; V for Vendetta is a prime example of what a good graphic novel adaption should be.

#1 – 300

0701_06-300

While Frank Miller‘s graphic novel 300 isn’t the thickest tome, the translation from page to screen is really spot on. The way Zack Snyder literally took what was on the page, used green screen digital backgrounds and visual effects to create a visual look that was similar to what was on the pages of Miller’s book, the film adaptation is a visual spectacle to behold. Couple that with the charismatic portrayal of Leonidas by Gerard Butler and mighty Spartans would be forever engrained as pop culture icons. While the story is fairly straightforward, it’s the ferocity and undauntedness the Spartans exude on screen that get you pumped up and make you wish you were in battle with them. With a great visual style, colorful characters, and a never say die attitude, Leonidas and the brave 300 is quite possible the best film to have been adapted from a graphic novel.

——–

Of course a whole slew of graphic novels from a wide range of genres have had the film treatment; 30 Days of Night and Constantine from the horror genre, Road to Perdition and A History of Violence are period dramas, and American Splendor and Ghost World in the indie vein. While quite a few films were considered, in the end many didn’t make the cut. A few honorable mentions that just didn’t make it onto my list: Men in Black, The Mask, and i. If you have any suggestions on what should have made the list, sound off in the comments below.

While Snowpiercer certainly won’t be the last graphic novel to be adapted into a movie, it’s definitely one we here at Red Band have been looking forward for quite some time. Be sure you check it out this weekend at Consolidated Theatres Kahala!

 

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26
Jun
14

Going Past Days of Future Past

0626_01-DOFPdom

We should get a free pass cause we all got together.

Okay, don’t get me wrong. I liked X-Men: Days of Future Past (DOFP). And I count myself as one of the hugest “mutant-and-proud” supporters of the franchise on the planet. Hell, I even liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine, amnesia bullets, ratchet Deadpool and all the rest of that nonsense. But unlike the rest of the planet, I don’t think DOFP was the best film in the franchise. (For the record, I reserve that slot for the more nuanced, sweeping, and socially relevant X2.)

SPOILER ALERT: Mind your words. We’re heading into spoiler territory. You’ve now been duly warned.

SPOILER ALERT: Mind your words. We’re heading right into spoiler territory. You’ve now been duly warned.

My biggest problem with DOFP: Nobody bothers to explain how they put Professor X back together after he literally fell to pieces confronting Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yes, the end credits for the latter film suggested he occupied another body but still, it was a different physical person. In the end credits for The Wolverine, the now whole Professor X tells Logan, “As I told you once before, you’re not the only one with gifts.” And that’s that. DOFP just plops a non-disintegrated Charles Xavier into our laps and goes on with the show. C’mon, there needs to be some explanation here, cause you know: THE GUY GOT OBLITERATED! That kinda exposition really matters.

0626_02-ProfXtoProfX

“When exactly do I lose my hair?”

(If you dig around online, reportedly in the commentary for the X-Men: The Last Stand DVD, it is explained that Xavier entered the consciousness of Moira MacTaggart’s patient, who just happens to be his twin brother. In the womb, the Professor’s overwhelming mind abilities just totally fucked up his bro. Fair enough, but since when did we have to research the internet for a film’s plotlines?)

Another franchise quibble: At the end of The Wolverine, where Logan makes friends and enemies in Japan, didn’t he lose his adamantium in the final fight? And keeping that plot point in mind, how does he have adamantium bones in the future in DOFP? Again, no explanation.

0626_03-WolverineAttacks

Rock, scissors, paper. Okay, go!

And mutant-logistically, while the scene was arguably the best sequence in the movie, doesn’t it seem Quicksilver is a bit too powerful? He may not have had an appealing sense of dress, but he really could have come in handy during the film’s many, many almost-assassination scenes. He just needed to run by and take the gun away from the person in question. In fact, he probably could’ve speeded up the film’s main flaw: Characters spent precious and long moments convincing each other that they had to do things to make the future a better place, or they shouldn’t do things that would ultimately bring on the end of the human race.

But then, I guess that makes me a dick cause the movie would be over in 60 minutes.

0626_04-QuicksilverBreakout

Even in the past, there apparently was an Armani AX.

And on a purely personal and non-objective note, the end credits were initially confusing. They already announced the next movie in the series will be X-Men: Apocalypse, and it will feature the titular fearsome, totally buff-ass villain. What we saw was a child building the pyramids in Egypt in front of a worshipping crowd with four horsemen in the background.

Obviously this is Apocalypse Baby. I guess it’s just that I never imagined Apocalypse as a toddler. I mean, even The Avengers showed us what appeared to be the real Thanos. Would it have killed anyone to show us a glimpse of the real Apocalypse? Especially because in this day and age, he’s gonna be CGI anyway.

But enough with #100daysofhate. We could discuss the series’ inconsistencies till…well… the apocalypse, but in conclusion, I’m coming from a sincere place here. I genuinely care about these poor mutated characters. I mean, I think this is the most I’ve written about a movie in almost a year since my jaw-dropping shock at the collateral damage of Man of Steel. (This summer, even Godzilla had a nimbler touch around a city’s infrastructure.)

Again, X-Men: Days of Future Past was an entertaining enough film. I just want the coming apocalypse to be a little less bumpy.

01
Apr
14

Assembling a Universe I: High Profile Talent

Assembling a Universe is the first in a two part series (and potentially ongoing series) that takes a look at Marvel's strategy in building their cinematic universe. Pictured above, the announcement of The Avengers at the 2010 Comic Con.

Assembling a Universe is the first in a two part series (and potentially ongoing series) that takes a look at Marvel’s strategy in building their cinematic universe. Pictured above, the announcement of The Avengers at the 2010 Comic Con.

The gambit of Marvel’s Avengers Phase I paid off in dividends two years ago with the monumental release of The Avengers. Nothing like it had ever been undertaken before and it’s quite surprising that no one had attempted it sooner given the franchise film model that all the studios are currently operating under. Now that all the other studios are trying to chase Marvel, not only does it seem that they were ahead of the curve in every sense when building this mega franchise, but they seem to be really good at it as well.

Consider this, none of the Marvel films (post Iron Man) has been a flop and though not every film tops the last release, none has ever earned less than $370 million worldwide (not a lot when compared with the $1.5 billion that The Avengers made, but still a lot when you consider that Captain America–a film with ‘America’ in its title, is a hard sell in foreign markets). So what’s their secret then? Really, really well planning. In our first of two posts on ‘Building a Marvel Universe’ we take a look at one of the smart decisions that Marvel has made with their films: getting high profile talent.

This week marks the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Joining series regulars Chris Evans (Captain America), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) will be Academy Award winning Robert Redford. Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman, two Oscar winners, star in Marvel’s Thor franchise, most recently last year’s Thor: The Dark World. Back in late December we also saw the announcement that another Oscar winning actor, Michael Douglas, would star in Marvel’s forthcoming Antman movie.

Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson debating the merits of foreign policy in The Winter Soldier.

Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson debating who should star in the next Marvel film in a scene from The Winter Soldier.

If you were to just look these names alone, you think that we were gathering actors together for an Oscar winner photoshoot. How about we throw in a few more names: Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Jeff Bridges, Mickey Rourke, Glenn Close, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, and Paul Rudd. While not all of them are Oscar winners, they all are recognizable actors. What they all have in common is that they are a very important part of the world building that is the Marvel cinematic universe.

To fully realize the scope of what Marvel is undertaking, there are a couple of key questions that we need to answer; the first of which is, why are high profile actors signing up for comic book movies? Sure, we’ve always had big names in superhero movies (Jack Nicholson in Batman, Wesley Snipes in Blade, and Arnold Schwarzenegger & George Clooney in Batman & Robin), but it’s never been anything on the scale of what Marvel is putting together.

The first and most obvious answer is money and work. By nature of franchises and tv series the longer they run, the more cast members are paid for reprising their roles in future installments. While many think all actors make quite the pretty penny, by taking a gig with Marvel, an actor knows they will have job stability over the course of several years in a couple of different films.

Yes, Joss Whedon can do this all he wants after the success of the first Avengers.

Yes, Joss Whedon can do this all he wants after the success of the first Avengers.

These type of franchise films not only get actors paid, but it also affords them a certain amount of clout to work on other films that are of interest to them (independent or pet project films). Would Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Joss Whedon be where they are right now if it wasn’t for their roles in the Marvel cinematic universe? Sure Downey, Evans, and Whedon were known names in Hollywood before Marvel’s Avengers movies came along, but none of them were bankable or A-list. Having a leading role in an Avengers movie (or shepherding in Whedon’s case) or two gives you something that sought after and is difficult to attain . . . box office bank-ability.

Believe it or not Chris Evans turned down the role of Captain America several times before he got a call from Robert Downey Jr. convincing him to take the role. From Variety:

“I remember getting on the phone with him and strongly suggesting that he not shrink away from the offer,” Downey says. “I said, ‘Look man, you might not like the fact that you’ve played one of these guys before (in “Fantastic Four”), but you know, the thing is this can afford you all sorts of other freedoms,’ ”

later . . .

For Evans, the “Captain America” experience has been mostly positive. He credits the series with enabling him to land his dream job. “Without these movies, I wouldn’t be directing,” he reckons. “They gave me enough overseas recognition to greenlight a movie. And if I’m speaking extremely candidly, it’s going to continue to do that for as long as the Marvel contract runs.”

Evans first film as a director, 1:30 Train, is currently in post production and he hopes to start on his second film as a director after filming on Avengers 2 wraps later this summer. As stated in his interview, these types of projects wouldn’t be available to Evans if not for his role in the Marvel cinematic universe.

And even a third reason for actors joining up with Marvel is just plain curiosity and genuine interest. From IGN.com:

“One of the reasons that I did [Captain America: The Winter Soldier] was I wanted to experience this new form of filmmaking that’s taken over where you have kind of cartoon characters brought to life through high technology,” [Robert] Redford explains. “The Avengers series is a product of high technology playing a major role in the new order of filmmaking so I wanted to experience that—I just wanted to know what that was like and I had that opportunity, so for me it was like stepping into new terrain just to experience what it was like.”

So while the big name stars that Marvel brings in to populate their world get more than just a nice payday for being in their films; what does Marvel get out of it? This is where things start to get interesting. At the surface level, you put known actors in your film and you already bring a sense of heightened awareness for it. People recognize them, and by extension, put the film on their radar. A secondary surface level benefit is that you put an established actor in a role and you know you’re going to get a good solid performance out of them. Granted you ultimately don’t know what kind of performance you have until the film is finished, but any filmmaker will tell you that casting the right actor is key for any film. Those with a proven track record, who deliver time and again, give filmmakers and audiences a certain confidence about a film.

How about this for gravitas, Hannibal Lecter himself Anthony Hopkins plays Odin in the Marvel cinematic universe. He'll eat other superheroes for breakfast with fava beans and a nice chianti.

How about this for gravitas, Hannibal Lecter himself Anthony Hopkins plays Odin in the Marvel cinematic universe. He’ll eat other superheroes for breakfast with fava beans and a nice chianti.

On a larger scale and most importantly, Marvel gives these films and this world a certain sense of credibility by having these types of actors in their films. Counting all of the Marvel films released to date as well as those coming out this year, there are 19 Academy Award nominated actors starring in nine films, six of which are Academy Award winners (to give you some perspective, the Harry Potter series only has 12 spread across eight films). Add to that a number of actors who may not be nominated, but still provide high quality work and are recognizable, and you have a sizeable pool of actors who moviegoers know and love. By having quality actors in a film, it gives Marvel a strong foundation to build their cinematic universe upon as well as a sense of legitimacy. Part of the message sent is “we’re serious about these movies and we want you to come see them.” And it’s with this credibility that Marvel is using to build and sustain their shared universe.

Marvel has embarked on something that has never been done before in cinema–create a set of films that exist in the same universe. We’re not talking about franchises and franchise building like Peter Jackson and the Tolkien movies or Harry Potter; while those film exist in the same universe, they are all essentially one long story. This is all old hat.

No, Marvel’s shared universe is a bit different. They are producing a game changer. While every other studio out there is jumping on the “EPIC group superhero movie” bandwagon (Fox with another X-Men movie and Sony with multiple Spider-Man movies), Marvel is paving the way for something bigger. After the success of The Avengers, Marvel has moved on to what they call “Phase II.” While many think that Phase II is just building to another Avengers movie much like the Phase I of Marvel films did, Phase II is more than that. It will ultimately lay the groundwork for an entire universe of superheroes and potentially endless supply of movies. If Avengers 1 was a gamble that paid off, the impending success of a second Avengers movie will not only solidify the Avengers series of films, but open the door for Marvel to further populate this universe that they’ve created. The are ultimately out to create a goose that will lay them an endless supply of golden eggs.

While the superhero films of the late 90s/early 00s introduced us to the modern superhero film (Blade, X-Men, Raimi’s Spider-Man), Marvel has established it as an official genre; with the actors that they recruit to be in their films being an important cog in the larger machine. You see a universe of this size, it needs strong supports to hold it up. High caliber actors provide this type of support.

Phase I . . . Assembled. Now on to Phase II.

Phase I . . . Assembled. Now on to Phase II.

We know that the stories from Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy compose Marvel’s Phase II and lead up to next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, none of this would be possible if we as an audience didn’t believe in the characters that populate this universe. While franchises come and go, having an entire ‘universe’ of films to draw from does carry a certain gravity with it. Through calculated and shrewd decision making, Marvel’s casting of well acted and reliable talent for their films gives them an excellent foundation to build their universe.

Is part of Marvel’s success due to the shrewd casting of high profile actors in their films? Tell us what you think and more in the comments.

30
Oct
12

Disney’s Acquisition of Star Wars

Wise is Yoda.

The Walt Disney Company sent the collective movie world on tilt today with the news that Disney will be purchasing LucasFilm Ltd for approximately $4 billion. The sale includes everything under the LucasFilm Ltd umbrella including the LucasFilm film unit, LucasArts video game unit, effects house Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Sound, and most prominent among them–the rights to the entire Star Wars universe. Perhaps the biggest news to come out of the whole deal is that Disney is kicking the tires on Star Wars: Episode 7 and is targeting a 2015 release with potentially more episodes to come.

Needless to say, this is some huge news that is already prompting a lot talk, buzz, and speculation about everything under the collective sun at Disney and especially the future of the Star Wars franchise.

Disney: Buying vs Creating

From a financial and business standpoint the purchase of LucasFilm makes perfect sense for Disney. They get to add another recognizable and family friendly name brand to their already large stable of family friendly name brand characters. The tactic of acquiring other name brands has served Disney well in the past 6 years. After a ten year relationship with Pixar dating back to the first Toy Story, Disney acquired Pixar Animation Studios in 2006 for $7.4 billion in stocks. Then in 2009 Disney announced that they would be acquiring Marvel Entertainment in a deal for $4.24 billion which would bring Marvel’s character’s into the Disney fold and gave birth to this year’s mega-blockbuster The Avengers. Now, three years later Disney has done it yet again and on similar terms with their acquisition of LucasFilm.

Over the past six years Disney has positioned themselves as THE center for lucrative family entertainment. In this time there definitely has been a shift at Disney from content creation to acquisition and becoming a repository for similar properties. Yes at the end of the day all these decisions are about how these properties will make the company money, but what does this say about the company itself?

Walt Disney was long gone by the time I was born, but I grew up watching the classics like Bambi, Dumbo, Cinderella and then experienced the second golden age of Disney animation with great films like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Lion King. After that last run though, things definitely take a different turn. As I got older it seemed as though every Disney movie was getting direct to video sequels and you could start to tell that they weren’t coming out with as much quality original content as they had in the past.

I guess you could say that the company is just changing with the times and their acquisitions over the past six years only reflect this change. In fact, if you look at the current trends in Hollywood right now where sequels, adaptions, remakes, and reboots are all the norm . . . acquiring the rights to Star Wars (ie: acquiring familiarity) totally makes sense. My biggest fear is that the next generation of kids/movie fans may not have anything to call their own if this current trend of rehashing and retelling stories from their parents’ past continues. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m down to see another Star Wars movie as much as the next person, but I’ve grown up in a world where the Original Trilogy meant something. I don’t think that could be said of those who grew up in a world where Jar Jar and angsty Anakin could have been their first introduction to the Star Wars universe.

What Comes Next For Disney, Star Wars, and Everything Else?

The Force is with Disney when you combine Star Wars with the collective power of the mouse house.

With today’s news comes a ton of questions, not just about the proposed film, but about how all of Disney’s properties could potentially intermingle with one another and the partnerships and creative projects that could be created.

First and foremost is Episode 7 itself. With a projected target date of 2015 (assume a summer release), production would have to start towards the end of next year (at the latest) in order to make this date. Is there anything currently in development right now? Is there a script or even a screenplay at this point? What would it be about? From a production standpoint who would be involved?

One of the most interesting nuggets from today’s news announcement is that George Lucas will serve as “creative consultant” on Episode 7 which means that he most likely will not be directing and only give creative input into the film. With that said who will screen write the story if there already isn’t one? Who will direct the film? And gulp . . . who will star in it? These are all questions that are currently circulating, answers for which I don’t think we’ll get for at least another year. However, that’s not stopping the movie blogosphere from already suggesting recommendations.

I know many Star Wars fans were disenfranchised when the new trilogy came out and continuously still when Lucas again altered the Original Trilogy when they were released on blu-ray. With today’s news that Lucas will be relegated to a supportive role rather than grand master on upcoming films I think is the reason why there is a lot of renewed interest and hope that Star Wars can be good again. Our first recommendation . . . friend of the blog and local screenwriter Brian Watanabe should be in the writer’s room on Episode 7, 8, or 9. After all, he did give some pretty good ways to remake the the prequels that made for some pretty good drama. With new Star Wars films a certainty, the question now will be: Will they be better than the prequels?

Sort of the next tier I guess is how this latest Star Wars film and the franchise itself will affect Hollywood. Star Wars has influenced so many filmmakers working today that who knows how many will jump at the chance to not just work on this film or any of the future films in the pipeline, or how many will make pitches to Disney for potential projects now that George Lucas is not controlling the reigns. Who knows, maybe Indiana Jones could come back for another tour. Granted, some of this this is all pie in the sky at this point, but when you live in a world where creative access to Star Wars and other Lucas related properties maybe viable, you can’t help but be excited by the possibilities.

Then comes the potential across the Disney landscape and the potential for cross collaboration, crossovers, and synergy between these Disney properties and creative units. Probably the first thing that jumps out with fanboys is that theoretically Pixar Animation could do an animated movie set within the Star Wars universe. With their track record for great storytelling and a focus on characters this could be a great project. However, this is what everyone said three years ago when Disney acquired Marvel . . . a Marvel movie done by Pixar, that’d be great! Three years later though we’re no closer to seeing the beginnings of this than when we were back then. And don’t even get me started on Marvel or Star Wars characters crossing over. I don’t think the universes should mix at all. However, the long talked about Star Wars TV show could get some life breathed into it seeing as how Disney owns ABC as well as a slew of other different TV channels. Only time will tell if any of this comes to fruition.

My (New) Hope . . .

In the grand scheme of things, I think Disney could possibly be the right place for the Star Wars franchise. There are some circumstantial numbers out there to prove it. If there is one thing Disney is smart about these days, they know how to foster success; you only have to take a look at their previous two high profile acquisitions to see that. With both Pixar and Marvel, both of those divisions have retained their internal structure and autonomy from when they were acquired. I mean, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? With the internal development process that goes on at Pixar, it could have been a disaster if Disney chose to fully integrate them into the Disney brand. Same goes with Marvel. They seem to have a pretty good formula going as they craft and produce the Avengers line of films. The way Marvel vets stories and personnel seems genius in this post-Avengers world.

And I hope the same goes for LucasFilm and Star Wars. I hope that Disney takes what they’ve learned and gained from their previous acquisitions and applies that same management style to their latest. If they can do that, then I think that galaxy far far away will be just fine.

04
Oct
12

Ignorant Tourists Deleted From Lilo & Stitch

An alien hula dancing??? Well that’s a stereotype if I ever saw one.

Growing up in Hawaii, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with “dumb tourists.” You live here long enough and I’m sure many of us have a story or two about island visitors who just have no common sense or any ounce of courtesy. It’s this little bit of Hawaii nuance that seems to have been cut in a recently surfaced deleted scene from Disney’s 2002 animated feature Lilo & Stitch.

The scene depicts Lilo & Stitch walking along a road and being asked several times for directions to the beach by tourists; and let’s just say they’re not depicted in the most favorable light. Later in the sequence, Lilo shows up at the beach and uses our monthly tsunami siren warning tests to scare off all the tourists at the beach. Here, take a look for yourself:

I know the film is somewhat divisive in regards to the portrayal of Hawaii and local culture; but I wonder if anyone’s perception would have changed if this scene had actually made it into the film. It looks like this scene and the idea behind it made it pretty far in the development of the film as it made it past the storyboard stage and got some rough animation and voice cast treatment.

At face value I don’t think there’s anything bad or wrong about the scene. Lilo has a little fun by scaring the tourists. If you’re from Hawaii, you’d have to be a fool not to realize what’s really going on there and I definitely think this scene is the work of the filmmakers trying to accurately depict local culture. However, imagine yourself as a mainlander (the typical person seeing this film); you’d probably only see a mean spirited girl from Hawaii giving visitors a hard time.

A lot of speculation seems to be circulating as to why the scene was actually cut. Guess run from “they didn’t want to offend anyone so they took it out” to the more practical “it was cut for time length purposes” and everywhere in between. And I guess we’ll never really know. I haven’t seen Lilo and Stitch in a while and I’m actually a little curious as to what point in the film this sequence would have been. Right now we only have this one scene out of context and knowing where in the film it would have fallen might give us more insight into the state of Lilo’s character. In any case I find it really interesting that the animators even thought to put something this nuanced and challenging into a Disney film and a little disappointed that some form of this didn’t make it into the final product.

What say you? Would keeping the scene have hurt the film? Was the scene deleted as to not offend a majority of its audience? Let us know what you think in the comments.

20
Jul
12

Tragedy in Colorado

Police on the scene at the Century 16 theaters in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo via The Denver Post)

In what was supposed to be a weekend celebrating and enjoying The Dark Knight Rises has instead turned to tragedy. As midnight screenings were about to unspool on the West Coast and here in Hawaii, a gunman opened fire just minutes into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. As of this posting 15 are confirmed dead with 50 more wounded.

According to eyewitness reports, the gunman’s barrage coincided with a shootout that was taking place in the film–confusing moviegoers as the gunfire was masked by what was occurring on screen. There are also reports of explosions involving gas or smoke that also went off in the theater. Police do have a suspect in custody and are still collecting evidence and information related to the event.

Eyewitness accounts describing the gunman and his actions from NBC 9 News Denver and The Denver Post.

More photos from Century 16 in Aurora, Colorado via The Denver Post.

—————

When I first heard the news of the shooting I was in the packed lobby of Consolidated Ward 16 Theatres checking out the attendance for midnight screenings of The Dark Knight Rises. Going to the movies is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable experience–not something to fear. Hearing the news from Aurora, Colorado definitely extinguished the excitement I had for seeing the film.

If you’re like me a lot of things go through your mind when you think about what happened . . . Why did this happen? What would make someone do this? What this person crazy? On drugs? I definitely went through a wave of emotions; from excitement, to astonishment, to anger, to frustration, and finally sadness.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families in Aurora.

With no good way to really transition out of this tragic news and without being unsympathetic, we segue now to the potential consequences for The Dark Knight Rises. If my enthusiasm for the film was doused after hearing this news will other Americans feel the same? Will the film now be associated with this tragedy? All these questions and more started pouring in from the movie blogosphere via Twitter:

Only time will tell if any of our questions will be answered.

01
Jul
12

Peter Berg on KCRW’s The Business

Director Peter Berg on the set of his latest film Battleship.

One of the movie podcasts that I listen to is KCRW’s The Business. It’s predominantly an interview show where host Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter interviews actors, directors, producers, and creators “about the business of show business. It goes beyond the glitz and glamour to the who, what, why and how of making movies and TV.” In honor of RIMPAC 2012 starting last week, I wanted to look at a recent episode of The Business where director Peter Berg was on the show and talked about some of the fallout on his latest film Battleship.

Battleship as you may recall, did not do well here in the United States and currently has only brought in about $63 million. However, Battleship’s silver lining is that it made $239 million overseas for a combined total of about $300 million. Not bad, though not great when you consider the budget for Battleship was $209 million.

Number crunching aside, what I found really interesting about Berg’s interview is how calculating and “assembly-line” like making Hollywood blockbusters are. Schedules are locked in, release dates are locked in, and everything along the way needs to contribute in some way to making sure the film comes out on time. If not, money could be lost on a film as millions of dollars are at stake.

“We sunk your Battleship.” No, not The Avengers . . . aliens.

Though Berg never shies away from the fact that Battleship did have its share of problems and obstacles that needed to be overcome, his major conceit is that the film had a bad release date:

Battleship did under perform domestically, but none of us saw the nuclear bomb that Avengers was going to be . . . if you look at the history of the Marvel films, if you look at Iron Man you look at Thor, if you go talk to the people that predict it the people in Hollywood who, all they do is study tracking, read the tea leaves; everyone thought, everyone in the business thought that Avengers would open to $80 million, maybe $85, would drop off 65% second weekend, another 60% the third weekend so that we felt by the time that the third weekend came . . . [Avengers didn’t follow that and just went] up and up and up. And then it opens to the largest weekend in film, north of $200 million, and its third weekend when we come out it makes $62 million dollars.

While being beaten down by The Avengers is exactly what happened, there are definitely other reasons why Battleship didn’t do too well–first and foremost being, the movie was about frigging aliens. Getting people to buy in to an adaptation of a board game such as Battleship was definitely a big enough challenge to begin with, but when it was announced that the antagonists of the film were aliens . . . that in my opinion, turned the movie from something curious, into something preposterous (and not in a good way). As much as I liked the film (3.5/5 stars, Red Band Redux), it definitely was no Avengers killer–something that a better movie would have been able to do.

Peter Berg with lead actor Taylor Kitsch.

Putting the premise of the movie aside, I do think Berg is onto something when he talks about releasing the film internationally three weeks before its domestic debut, especially in China where he thinks some money was left on the table:

The poor box office we incurred domestically from my mind was primarily the result of a bad release schedule. If you look, we made quite a bit of money internationally, it would have made a lot more, it underperformed by about $40 million in China because nobody realized James Cameron was bringing Titanic 3D a week before us. That was a monster hit. When I was in China doing press for Battleship Chinese journalists were crazy looking at me like “Titanic 3D?” Titanic 3D . . . that’s an issue? “Oh yes.” [The Chinese] never got to see it the first time, they’re crazy about 3D films; so if we had come out and there were a lot of reasons why we couldn’t pull it ahead domestically; but if we had come out 3 weeks ahead of Avengers [in the US like we did internationally] it would have been a different story.

On why Battleship couldn’t follow it’s international release strategy:

It gets really complicated. We had so many [commercial] tie-ins with companies like Subway, Coke, Cisco; they had all committed a ton of money, they had a media strategy that was tied in to a release date that was three weeks after Avengers; and it just became a real pain in the but to move it.

As always, marketing seems to always play a big role in movies . . . sometimes to the detriment of a film. But would a different release date (something before Avengers in April or a few weeks later in June) have helped? Maybe, but it’s really hard to say. For whatever reason, Americans do tend to frequent the cineplex more in summer than other time of the year so unless you have a surefire hit (à la The Hunger Games), releasing before summer is a calculated risk. On the other side of that if you release later in summer, you still have to contend with the other summer movies.

What’s wrong with Hollywood blockbusters in development right now? Both Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna try to get to the bottom of that.

The scariest part of the interview though, came when Berg was asked about what he thought was going on with studio blockbusters that have been running into problems as of late and have been pushing their release dates back (GI Joe: Retaliation, World War Z):

I think there’s a lot of pressure on studios to take these big swings and have these big contacts and have home runs. And it’s not easy to make these films. And it’s not easy when you’re locked in to a release date and you’ve got a film that is going to be seen–all of [these big budget films] have huge visual effects components. And the reality is when you make these films the visual effects aren’t coming in till the very–sometimes, you’d be shocked at how last minute, maybe a week before a release you’re still sliding shots in, completed shots in. You don’t have the luxury of really knowing what you have often times till it’s too late.

He then goes on to talk about how with smaller films, dramas with just a few actors, a reshoot could cost just a couple of days for maybe $40,000 whereas a visual effect shot for something like Battleship could cost a couple of millions of dollars and take weeks to months to redo.

All scary thoughts when there’s a movie you want to see that’s not finished till the week before it comes out. And even then, just the decision to go with footage that you have–even though it may not be great footage or what’s best for your film; that’s gotta be tough for any filmmaker to swallow. For these big Hollywood movies though, that’s life. You have to make the release date or loose millions of dollars.

If you do have some time, I really encourage you to listen to the podcast to hear Berg talk about more in detail about the film. A lot of it might sound like he’s defending his film, but there are some good nuggets in there that are interesting to hear. You can find out more about KCRW’s The Business here and download this specific podcast episode here.




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