Tagged: Hollywood

Box Office Democracy: Summer Box Office Report

This past weekend was the worst total box office of any weekend in ten years.  If you consider how much more expensive a movie ticket is now than it was ten years ago you can get a picture of how catastrophic this weekend was for the film industry.  It was so sparse this weekend that rather than have me review the one meager offering this week (a Christian-themed unlicensed Elvis biopic) I’m here to give you a run down on Hollywood’s disaster summer and try looking ahead to determine if film is in an inescapable death spiral.

This summer was off 15% from last year’s take, and I assure you it was not because our nation’s exhibitors decided to slash ticket prices across the board.  Guardians of the Galaxy was the only big hit this summer and not for lack of trying on the part of every other movie.  We had big name sequels like Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes fail to connect with an audience.  All of those movies made $200 million dollars, which used to be a barometer of big success but you have to remember that’s now what The Avengers did in one weekend.  There isn’t a movie released in 2014 that has out-grossed the first 10 days of The Avengers.

The poor results this year may have more to do with the movies that didn’t come out than the ones that did.  Pixar moved The Good Dinosaur from this summer allegedly to fix “story problems” and while that doesn’t sound like the strongest movie in the world Pixar is usually good for some good money, this summer felt particularly starved for kids movies so the latent demand was probably there.  The unexpected death of Paul Walker pushed Fast & Furious 7 to next year and it’s not unreasonable to suspect that it would have been the highest grossing movie of the year had it released.  Those movies wouldn’t have just added dollars to the ecosystem, they also would have likely drawn some money from other films but there’s no question losing a big franchise and the most successful studio in animation was a serious blow.

Hollywood loves to think the movie business is coming to an end.  It happened when the television was introduced, when the VCR came out, when movies on VHS got cheaper, when DVDs were popularized, when high-definition TV became cheap, and now we’re in the doom saying cycle with streaming services.  None of the other things killed movies so I seriously doubt this one will either.  Nothing you do in your house is the same as the experience of going to the movies and it seems as if people from all walks of life around the world simply like going to the movies.  Give people movies they want to see and they will go to the theater no matter what is in their living room.

Luckily, next year Hollywood seems much more prepared to give people what they want.  We have The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which will almost certainly break every box office record we have.  We have Finding Dory, the sequel to one of the most successful movies ever made and a likely box office titan.  We have the delayed Fast & Furious  sequel primed to do good business.  People say they hate sequels but they really don’t; they hate bad sequels and this year that’s all they got.  Next year will be the biggest year ever and such a substantial boost over this year that industry pundits will be writing long pieces about how movies have never been better and no one will remember how soft things were this year when they note that sales are up 25% or whatever they are.  It is only in this last paragraph that I realized that I am now also an entertainment industry pundit and if you’ll excuse me I need to take a long shower.

Win a Copy of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

CMS1_ beautyshot_01Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
presents a fantastic journey through the universe as Carl Sagan’s visionary series continues with COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY, arriving on Blu-ray and DVD June 10.  Debuting tomorrow, two days after the epic conclusion, fans can re-watch this legendary story 13.8 billion years in the making just in time for Father’s Day in spectacular high-definition.

We have ONE copy to give away to a luck reader. Details below.

Hosted by renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson and executive produced by Ann Druyan, Seth MacFarlane, Mitchell Cannold and Brannon Braga, COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY features incredible bonus materials including a stunning five-part documentary on the making of this critically-acclaimed ground-breaking event.  Fans can also discover what connects us all and see the past, present and future of our galaxy with the interactive “Cosmic Calendar,” exclusive to the Blu-ray release.

COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY is the spectacular follow-up to Carl Sagan’s award-winning series that explored the remarkable mysteries of the cosmos and our place within it. This thrilling, 13-part adventure transports viewers across the universe of space and time, bringing to life never-before-told stories of the heroic quest for knowledge and a deeper understanding of nature. With an updated Cosmic Calendar, dazzling visual effects, and the wondrous Ship of the Imagination, fans will experience an unforgettable journey to new worlds and across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest and smallest scale.

11 FAMOUS UNDERCOVER GEEKS

vin-diesel-fights-off-aliens-in-new-riddick-trailerWhen it was announced that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane would be Executive Producer of an update the the classic Carl Sagan-hosted science documentary series Cosmos, it raised a few eyebrows. Even more people were surprised to learn that the funny man was a personal friend of new “Cosmos” host and renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In honor of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’s release on Blu-ray and DVD June 10th, we thought we’d take a look at some of Hollywood’s other unexpected geeks.

Vin Diesel

The beefy action star doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotype of a Dungeon Master, but Diesel has proudly been a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast for over 20 years!

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman VThe Oscar-winning beauty holds a degree in Psychology from Harvard University, and has twice had her research published in scientific journals.

Angela Bassett

Stella may have needed Taye Diggs to help her get her groove back, but Bassett never lost her academic groove. The acting powerhouse has her Bachelors in African American Studies from Yale and a M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama.

John Legend

The All of Me singer turned down Harvard in favor of a degree in English and African American Literature from UPenn. He even worked at the prestigious Boston Consulting Group before making a splash on the music scene.

Dolph Lundgren

Dolph PuinisherBefore he was Master of the Universe, Dolph Lundgren was a master of science, having earned a Bachelor’s degree from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and a Master’s degree in Chemical engineering as well as a Fullbright Scholarship to MIT.

Rashida Jones

alg-rashida-jones-wallpapersThe Parks and Recreation actress didn’t rely on the privileges that came with her family name (she’s the daughter of music and producing mogul Quincy Jones). She worked hard and earned a degree from Harvard University. If that isn’t enough geek cred, she’s even created her own comic book series called Frenemy of the State.

Casey Affleck

Being a brother to Ben Affleck, Casey had his fair share of experience with giant stars—something that probably helped him during his programs in astronomy and physics at Columbia University.

Tatyana Ali

We all knew Ashley Banks had a good head on her shoulders. Who knew the performer who played her was so brainy too? When The Fresh Prince of Bel Air ended its run on television, the actress and singer took a break from acting to get a degree in Politics and African American Studies from Harvard University.

Emma Watson

Hermione Grainger is practically the patron saint of geeky girls everywhere, played to perfection for 10 years by the extremely talented Watson. It made us all proud to see Watson avoid the celebutante lifestyle her fame could have afforded her and choose to pursue a college degree—from Brown University, no less!

Mila Kunis

Mila Kunis Book of EliAs if being the voice of Meg Griffin on cult animated series Family Guy wasn’t enough to get fanboys drooling, she’s also a known World of Warcraft addict, often playing anonymously with strangers online. Maybe you’ll be a little nicer to that Goblin you come across the next time you play.

Christina Applegate

Applegate may have gotten her start playing ditzy Kelly Bundy on Married with Children, but in real life the actress enjoys much nerdier pursuits. She is a hardcore gamer, spending much of her downtime on her Playstation, Xbox, and Wii.

So, out of all these geeks, tell us which one you want to have an intellectual debate with and why. We must have your answer posted no later than 11:59 p.m., Monday, June 16. The decision of ComicMix‘s judges will be final. The contest is open only to readers in the United States and Canada.

Dennis O’Neil: They Say It’s Your Birthday…

Julius SchwartzSome 75 years ago I stuck out my head, decided I didn’t like what I couldn’t quite see yet, and protested, but it was too late to go back and so I’ve been occupying space and respirating ever since.

Think 75 is a big number? Well, my component atoms popped into existence at about the time as the Big Bang, when it all began, and that was 13,798 billion years ago, give or take (and what’s a billion or two among friends?). Now, that 75 seems pretty tiny, doesn’t it? And, matter of fact, it is.

For 49 or 50 of those years, I’ve been involved in what was once a backwater of American publishing, comic books. My timing was pretty good. Roy Thomas brought me into the business just as it was emerging from a decade of disrepute, during which its continued existence was in doubt. But first the late Julius Schwartz reinvented a few once-popular superheroes and, a little later, Stan Lee concocted a new approach to writing comics. Then Roy, and Steve Skeates, and I came to New York, young guys who had grown up reading and liking the kind of fantasy-melodrama that comics purveyed, and the business evolved around us. I can’t speak for Roy or Steve, but I wasn’t thinking of a career, and that was probably sensible since no career path existed in the world of comics. I was just doing a kind of nutty fiction writing and putting food in the mouths of those who depended on me and that was pretty much that.

We’re still here, Roy and Steve and I, and so is the business.

But it’s not exactly the same business. Even those who were taking comics seriously weren’t predicting what they’ve become. The look of the product is different: the pages slicker and fewer per issue, the art style showing influences that weren’t available a half-century ago. The vocabulary is sophisticated, and the themes either more mature or more adolescent, depending on your sensibility. Comics’s usual form, the complete-in-this-issue story, is odd and rare.

Imagine that, you gentle and kindly millennials…no continued stories! And more than one story per issue! And text stories with nary an illustration in sight! And half-page humor strips!

AND…all in color for a dime!

Then, there are the movies. Oh,yeah, Hollywood had been borrowing material from comics since the early 40s and after the first big budget Superman flick in 1978, it was possible to anticipate more superdoing at a theater near you. But I doubt that anyone predicted superheroes becoming their own genre, a first cousin to science fiction but, nonetheless, their own thing, and that they would dominate summer entertainment. Cinema technology evolved in tandem with the ever-more-mature costumed good guys resulting in a near perfect marriage of form and content. We sure didn’t see that coming.

What next? Well, given everything in preceding paragraphs, you’ll pardon me if I pass on prognosticating.

Michael Davis: Enter– Deathlok! with J. August Richards

Today is my birthday.

As is my custom, as Master of The Universe, on my birthday, I like to give gifts on the very day I receive such. I like to show those who appreciate me I’m appreciating them right back.

I’ve been writing for ComicMix a long time yet I’ve never given you guys a present on my birthday. Many see my weekly words of enlightenment as gifts but they should not be called such.

The correct word is blessings.

I’m happy to correct my oversight with what I’m sure you will agree is an wonderful gift, my exclusive conversation with J. August Richards, better known to ComicMix readers as Mike Peterson from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Martha Thomases: MoCCA My Socks Off

mocca_logoAs a writer and a long-time nerd, I’m used to spending a lot of time alone.  Especially after the winter we’ve had, I can go for days not only not leaving my apartment, but not even wearing anything my mother would recognize as pants (sweatpants didn’t count).

And then, this weekend, just as the snow finally melts and the sun comes out, is the MoCCA Festival .  All of a sudden, instead of talking only to my cat (who doesn’t require much sophisticated banter), a lot of people I enjoy will be conveniently assembled in one place.

MoCCA is certainly a lot bigger than it was the first time I went, back in the days when the museum was separate from the Society of Illustrators.  Still, compared to the behemoths in San Diego, Chicago, and even across town at the Javitz Center.  Instead of Hollywood previews and video game demonstrations, MoCCA’s non-comics exhibitors tend to display hand-made crochet monsters or cal figurines.

I’ve seen people I admire on the floor of this show, just as I’ve seen people I admire on the subway and on the sidewalk. But celebrities?  In San Diego and New York, I’ve seen people like Robert Downey, Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg on the floor.  They are easy to spot because they are surrounded by bodyguards.  And they need to be.  Fans have to be kept away or the celebrity will be mobbed, even physically hurt.  This year’s MoCCA celebrity spotting?  Probably the most high-profile will be Macy’s Charlie Brown parade balloon.  Fans aren’t tall enough to maul him.

That’s cool.  At MoCCA, the books are the celebrities.  And this year’s assortment of new books looks especially wonderful.

MoCCA has books for kids and books for grown-ups without either feeling forced, because, for the most part, the people creating the books are creating what they want to read, not (necessarily) what they think the market wants.  MoCCA is fan-friendly in a way that doesn’t require special events for cos-players. Nor do they need security guards to protect women and/or children and/or queer people and/or other minorities from assault.

Sometimes the aisles get too crowded, and sometimes it’s too hot, but it’s a very friendly show, with plenty of good will.  I wish all comic book shows could be this pleasant.

In case that isn’t enough people for me, I’m also going to one of the two big benefits my family enjoys attending every year.  A cancer charity throws a big party that is attended by huge celebrities, like these from last year.

Come by, if you find yourself with nothing to do in the middle of MoCCA.

Box Office Democracy: “Divergent”

Divergent is a rather cynical reminder that Hollywood is all about making money and never taking any chances.  Twilight blows up and everyone scours for Young Adult books with supernatural elements and love triangles.  That search eventually leads to The Hunger Games which makes a ton of money leading to another wave of searches for YA books about dystopian futures and that is how we got to Divergent.  If this movie makes enough money expect a round of films where everyone refers to groups of people with needless SAT words.  I think that’s the takeaway here.

In the Divergent world all life exists in a post-apocalyptic Chicago where everyone exists in one of five factions Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, or Dauntless.  Everyone is tested for their appropriate faction but that is rendered moot as you are allowed to pick your faction when you reach some late teen age that somehow makes it so our main character Beatrice chooses on the same day as her older brother. Beatrice is a Divergent, someone who tests equally well for more than one faction.  This makes her dangerous somehow.  People will try and kill her if they discover this information.

This might seem like a lot of basic exposition and the film struggles mightily with it.  Establishing the previous paragraph and showing Beatrice (later just Tris) training for acceptance into the Dauntless faction takes the overwhelming majority of the film.  The actual story with real consequences and stakes doesn’t start until awfully close to the two-hour mark of the film.  This is a trilogy and I understand the need to lay groundwork for future movies (especially when they come pre-greenlit) but it really feels like they sold this movie out for excessive exposition and one too many training montages.

I also strongly feel that good science fiction needs a clear philosophical bent and I’m just not sure what that is in Divergent.  It might be about accepting people who are different, it might be about the importance of family, or it could be as simple as condemning people who want to throw violent coups.  It could be that this will also be clearer as the series goes on but I knew after one film that The Hunger Games would be about rebelling against an oppressive government.  Divergent just leaves me confused and disinterested.

The bad guy for most of the middle third of the movie, Eric, looks so much like hip-hop artist Macklemore that it’s honestly distracting.  It’s a choice I can’t understand unless this movie is intended as a propaganda piece to turn the young girls of America against Macklemore.  I would fully support that agenda and would be prepared to change this entire review into a rave if that agenda came out.  If anyone at Summit Entertainment or Lionsgate would like to comment on these please send a note through official ComicMix channels.

Harold Ramis: 1944-2014

Harold Ramis: 1944-2014

Actor, writer, producer and director Harold Ramis, who made many of the most iconic comedy hits of the 1980s and 1990s, died today at his home in Chicago. He was 69. The award-winning comedy filmmaker who co-starred in and co-wrote Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, and Stripes passed away from complications related to auto-immune inflammatory vasculitis which he’d battled for four years.

Chicago native Ramis graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, MO and worked as a joke editor for Playboy Magazine before launching his career as a writer for The National Lampoon Radio Hour, the radio show that was a launching pad for a who’s who of future comedy stars and collaborators including Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Richard Belzer, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner. Rising alongside his peers in the late-’70s comedy scene, Ramis came up through Chicago’s Second City improv troupe and was head writer on sketch comedy show SCTV before breaking into Hollywood as the co-writer of 1978′s National Lampoon’s Animal House. The campus comedy sparked his hot streak through the ’80s and Ramis’s career as a writer, director and actor skyrocketed from there. He wrote camp comedy Meatballs (1979) the next year before making his directorial debut with the Chevy Chase-Rodney Dangerfield classic Caddyshack (1980), which he also wrote with Douglas Kenney and Brian Doyle-Murray. Caddyshack went on to become a cult hit and was named one of AFI’s Top 100 Funniest Films of all time.

via Ghostbusters’ Ramis Dead at 69.

Mike Gold will have his own stories about Harold Ramis later. Our condolences to his family and friends.

Michael Davis: Damage Control

A sad day in comics is coming.

Sad days are in my opinion, the one thing that the comic book business knows better that any other entertainment business. Yes, other media has its share of sad days but those are usually the death of someone.

I wish (and so do you) I had a dollar every time I’ve heard some newscaster, after lowering their voice, state with deep, deep sorrow:

“It’s a sad day in Hollywood, Bart Simpson was shot and killed this morning when he smiled at a man in Florida. After the man shot the famed Simpson he told police he thought the smile was a gun. This was the latest in what has become a wave of ‘colored’ killings.  Florida’s ‘Stand your ground ruling’ accomplished what critics of the law thought it was intended for, the elimination of Black kids from the cites of Florida. Once the last Black child was eliminated, killings of other colored youth (including cartoon characters) spiked to new highs.

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MGM Announces Year-Long 90th Anniversary Celebration

MGM logo earlyLos Angeles, CA (January 22, 2014) – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) announced today a yearlong global campaign to honor the studio’s storied 90-year legacy. Founded in 1924 when theater magnate Marcus Loew bought and merged Metro Pictures Corp. with Goldwyn Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Productions, MGM and its legendary roaring lion logo signify the golden era of Hollywood to film lovers around the world. Since its inception, the company has led the industry in creating some of Hollywood’s greatest stars and is home to over 175 Academy Award®-winning films, including 14 Best Pictures.

“What a supreme honor it is to preside over a company with such an unparalleled legacy. It’s remarkable to have this opportunity to reflect on MGM’s amazing achievements in film history while also looking ahead to MGM’s bright and promising future,” said Gary Barber, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

The celebration of 90 extraordinary years kicks off today, as the MGM icon, Leo the Lion, is immortalized with a paw print ceremony at the world famous TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, cementing his place in Hollywood history. Sylvester Stallone, writer and star of Rocky (1976), one of MGM’s most iconic and enduring characters, is also on hand to commemorate the special occasion, along with Barber.

MGM is debuting a special 90th anniversary trailer which will play in theaters, on MGM channels – including MGM’s 24/7 movie network, MGM HD; its action-themed VOD channel, Impact; and its premiere multicast programming service dedicated to movies, THIS TV – as well as on DVD products and across social media. The trailer includes a tapestry of iconic images and scenes from films in MGM’s library, evoking a deep emotional connection and celebrating the company’s extensive contributions to the entertainment world. 

[youtube]http://youtu.be/AybnnAQH-Wc[/youtube]

Additionally, several of MGM’s signature films including Rocky, Rain Man, Fargo, RoboCop and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, have been meticulously restored in 4K resolution (four times the clarity of HD) and will be presented on Blu-ray™ for a beautiful, high-definition home viewing experience. These re-releases will be issued through MGM’s home entertainment partner, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and are now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Other initiatives to mark the company’s 90th anniversary include:

  MGM will complement its already vast collection of films currently available on Blu-ray™ by releasing new titles across all genres throughout the year. Upcoming titles for release include In the Heat of the Night, A Chorus Line, and The Birdcage.
     
  MGM has created a one-of-a-kind collector’s book and bonus video disc companion commemorating 90 amazing years, featuring interviews from award-winning filmmakers, directors, and actors discussing the significance of their contributions to MGM’s legacy. The book and video highlight the evolution and history of the legendary studio and provide an extensive look into the studio’s golden years, classics, iconic franchises and much more. Interviews include Sylvester Stallone on Rocky, Clint Eastwood on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis on Thelma and Louise, and Walter Mirisch on The Pink Panther. The bonus disc will also be available accompanying select DVD offerings.
   
  Fans can also relive their favorite film moments at www.mgm90th.com, a unique Tumblr website and the first Tumblr integration to feature a studio’s full library. The MGM 90th Tumblr site’s dynamic design encourages fans to explore and immerse themselves into rich content celebrating 90 years of MGM filmmaking.  As fans integrate socially with the yearlong celebration, the Tumblr site will serve as an active aggregator showcasing all of the current sharing and postings.   This fresh approach to syndicating content to fans allows a seamless integration appealing to all ages within Tumblr’s rapidly growing platform and beyond.

REVIEW: A Chorus Line

A Chrous LineYou may not have seen A Chorus Line but most everyone knows the song “One” thanks to its endless use in other productions (think Treehouse of Horror V, Phineas and Ferb, Scrubs) throughout the years. Since the play debuted Off-Broadway in 1975, it has gone on to become one of the best known musicals of the latter 20th Century. One reason it endured a run of 6137 performances on Broadway was its emotional honesty, bare bones set, and soul-bearing songs. As conceived by Michael Bennett, it was brought to life by Marvin Hamlisch (music), Edward Kleban (lyrics), and James Kirkwood Jr. (book) at a time when everyone was doing a little soul searching.

By the time the 1985 film adaptation from director Sir Richard Attenborough arrived, it was heralded as a return of the musical to the movies. Unfortunately, the so-so movie failed to ignite that revival and was mostly rejected by those who adored the film.

The main reason the movie, out now on Blu-ray from 20th Century Home Entertainment, doesn’t work is that the presence of film acts as a barrier between audience and performer. In live theater, you see the ensemble audition, you see them sweat and struggle and can see them in your personal field of vision. With the variety cinematic techniques brought to bear, it becomes less about a class of people (performers) and about a series of individuals all vying for a chance at stardom. Their interactions with the direct, Michael Douglas, is more intimate than it should be.

Bennett was resistant to a film adaptation and didn’t participate and eyebrows were raised when a British director was hired rather than someone who would appreciate the nuances of American theater. He also instituted a series of changes that brought down deep criticism from theater-goers, notably the substitution of the lesser songs “Surprise, Surprise” and “Let Me Dance For You” in place of “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love,” “Sing!,” and “The Music and the Mirror”. Whereas the stage production had raw language in its lyrics and had Gay members of the ensemble, the film scrubbed the later elements away, weakening its realistic feel.

Attenborough claims he rejected Madonna, who auditioned to be in the film and instead with a cast filled with largely unknown singers and dancers although today we know Audrey Landers and Janet Jones from the ensemble. They do a fine job but are ill-served by Attenborough, who attempts to replicate the raw stage setting, shot at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, but fails to translate it to film. What he needed was a radical reinterpretation or something to make the story hold up as a feature. Instead, this is a mildly entertaining muddle.

In addition to the desperate performers is the romantic story of Cassie (Alyson Reed), a dancer who left for Hollywood a year ago and failed. Back and hoping to start over, she’s auditioning for her former lover. As a result, Attenborough disastrously repurposes “What I Did for Love” from a story about sacrifice to perform to a paean from dancer to director. What worked as a spine for the stage production has been turned into soapy subplot.

The film is beautifully transferred to high definition so the performers dazzle amidst the stage gloom. This is well matched with the lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track so the music and lyrics are sharp.

Despite a wealth of available material about the show’s legacy, the disc comes without a single extra feature, not even the Marvin Hamlisch feature that was including on the initial DVD release in 2003.