Tagged: MGM

Captain America (the 1990 version)

In the wake of Batman’s success in 1989, it appeared to renew interest in movies based on comic books. One of the first, and one of the worst, was the 1990 version of Captain America. The film had actually been announced in the early 1980s from Cannon Films but in the intervening years, the studio folded and the right shifted a bit before Menahem Golan mounted it under his 21st Century banner.

The movie languished in development until the rights were about to expire so director Albert Pyun urged Golan to let him take a crack at getting the film made for about $6 million. Marvel actually approved the script that was shot and Pyun loved its take on America’s fascination with heroism. If only some of that love found its way onto the screen.

The movie was shot in 1989 but wasn’t released theatrically and was finally dumped on video in 1992, where it was met with derisive laughter from comic book fans. Now, MGM’s Limited Edition collection has released the film as part of its print on demand operation. The print used is pretty crappy and dark and the film is at best a curiosity for collectors and fans alike.

The horrific script from Stephen Tolkin (from a story by Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block) pays lip service to the source material and leaves you scratching your head at the shoddy story construction and utter lack of characterization. Significant changes were made, none of the better starting with giving Steve Rogers polio as an excuse to keep him from enlisting. Then there’s the Red Skull (Scott Paulin) now an Italian fascist, which never made sense. On the other hand, both this film and the current blockbuster made the unnecessary dramatic change in linking Cap and the Skull by having them both be products of the Super Solider formula.

There’s Matt Salinger as Cap/Rogers who is anything but the American ideal and fairly wooden in performance, perhaps because they give him nothing to work with. His first mission leads to the rocket that sent him to an icy sleep in Alaska. He’s found and inexplicably breaks free and rather than ask his rescuers anything, he runs all the way to Canada. There’s little time spent on his cultural isolation and his interactions with others is laughably minimal. (more…)

A Look Back at the First Captain American Feature Film

captainamerica_stills_1-293x450-7474526Marvel has been touting the July 22nd release of Captain America: The First Avenger, and has focused all their efforts on the latest entry in the Marvel Film Universe. What they don’t talk about are the previous screen incarnations of the Star-Spangled Avenger. Beyond the Lawrence-Gantry animated series of the 1960s, there were several telefilms on CBS featuring Reb Brown in a modified outfit that looked borrowed from Evel Keneval.

There was also, the 1990 movie that bizarrely featured the Red Skull as an Italian fascist. Poor Matt Salinger donned the chainmail but never quite looked comfortable. What’s amazing is that the screenplay by Stephen Tolin is based on a story he crafted with acclaimed crime novelist Lawrence Block. Clearly, he did it for the bucks.

Thankfully,  Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s “manufacturing on demand” program is making this forgotten film available just days before the new release. A part of MGM’s Limited Edition Collection, the low-budget offering stars Salinger (What Dreams May Come), Ned Beatty (Superman), Darren McGavin (The Night Stalker), Michael Nouri (Flashdance), Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and Kim Gillingham (One Big Family).  The DVD will be available for sale on online retailers everywhere. We provide you with a trailer to remind you of what the film looked like.

During World War II, a brave American soldier (Salinger) volunteers to undergo experiments to become a new super-soldier, codenamed “Captain America.”  Infiltrating Germany to sabotage Nazi rockets pointed at the U.S., Captain America faces off with Nazi superhuman warrior Red Skull (Scott Paulin, The Right Stuff) who defeats the hero, throwing him into suspended animation.  Frozen for 50 years, Captain America is found and revived only to find that Red Skull has changed identities and has targeted the President of the United States (Ronny Cox, RoboCop) for assassination.  With America on the verge of utter chaos, it is up to one man to save the day!

Review: ‘Dark of the Sun’

Given the unrest across Africa today, it’s easy to forget that there was similar troubles as country after country gained their independence from colonization in the 1950s and 1960s. The Congo crisis, in particular, lasted from 1960-66 as it struggled to establish itself after Belgian rule. Over 100,000 people died during the ordeal and it inspired a 1965 novel, [[[The Dark of the Sun]]], by Wilbur Smith.

The novel, rather than the actual events, led to the 1968 MGM film adaptation which is finally available on DVD from Warner Archive. The film has been a favorite of directors including Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino who lifted some of the score, and its lead Rod Taylor, for use in last year’s [[[Inglorious Basterds]]].

Taylor plays mercenary Bruce Curry who is hired by the iron-fisted president Ubi (Calvin Lockhart) to retrieve $50 million in diamonds from the northern country. Accompanied by his Congolese friend Ruffo (Jim Brown), Curry extracts a fat pay day and agrees to rescue the “unfortunate Europeans” stuck in a town about to be assaulted by the rebel Simbas. Curry and Ruffo are longtime allies and their equal partnership is a rarity in its day and about the only good thing to come from the flat script by Ranald MacDougall (as Quentin Werty) and Adrien Spies.

In the hands of the acclaimed cinematographer turned director Jack Cardiff, the movie has a roughhewn feel, matching the African land (although it was shot in Jamaica). Unfortunately, the script and performances don’t live up to the potential. Curry is a dull hero and every obstacle in his path feels perfunctory. There are complications from the former Nazi Henlein (Peter Carsten) who wants the diamonds for himself and chafes under Curry’s orders, a safe on a timer, UN peacekeeper fire, and reluctant-to-flee nuns.

Even Jacques Loussier’s score feels familiar. One of the first acts Curry performs is rescuing Claire (Yvette Mimieux) from her burned out home, but then there’s nothing for her to do but look pretty and concerned for the rest of the film. There’s also the alcoholic Doctor Wreid (Kenneth More) who gets his one moment to shine and that’s it.

The best moments, although they feel forced watching it today, as the conversations about race and life between Curry and Ruffo about midway through the movie before the action ignites and remains a relentless presence until the end credits. Much was made of the violence when the film was released because such brutality had rarely been seen on the screen at the time. Beyond the usual shoot ‘em up stuff, the Simbas invade the town, raping and pillaging with wild abandon. It’s perhaps the truest depiction of what must have happened across the land and continues to this day.

The 101 minutes plod along until we get a fairly predictable ending.  The transfer holds up and film students will probably enjoy studying this. The rest of you have to be truly interested in the subject matter or cast to bother sitting through this.

More MGM Limited Edition Movies Released

More MGM Limited Edition Movies Released

Given the success of Warner’s Archive program, we’re thrilled to see other studios scouring their vaults for content aimed at the discerning cinephile. Here’s a release showcasing the latest coming from MGM via Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment:

LOS ANGELES (April 14, 2011) – Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is bringing even more classics to DVD in April through its unique “manufacturing on demand” (“MOD”). The newest group of films will be part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection and available through online retailers. The vast catalog ranges from 1980’s DEFIANCE to 1965’s four-time Academy Award® nominated A THOUSAND CLOWNS.

Enjoy your favorite movies from across the decades including:

●    DAVEY CROCKETT, SCOUT (1950): A U.S. military scout is assigned to stop Indian attacks on a defenseless group of wagon trains making their way West. Stars George Montgomery, Ellen Drew, Noah Beery Jr. Directed by Lew Landers.
●    CLOUDBURST (1951): A World War II veteran, working in the British Foreign Office, avenges his wife’s murder. Stars Robert Preston, Elizabeth Sellars, Noel Howlett, Harold Lang. Directed by Francis Searle.
●    FORT DEFIANCE (1951): The story of a young blind man, the brother he worships and a Civil War veteran who intends to kill the latter. Stars Dane Clark, Peter Graves. Directed by John Rawlins.
●    CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL (1957): Brian Keith stars as Jim Fremont, an Illinois States Attorney fighting corrupt unions in Chicago. The union crooks in collaboration with a gambling syndicate try to pin a murder rap on an uncooperative union leader Blane (Dick Foran). Fremont and his co-worker fiancee Laura (Beverly Garland), work to prove Blane’s innocence and to punish the true villains. Directed by Sidney Salkow.
●    FOUR BOYS AND A GUN (1957): The moving story of four young men struggling against overwhelming odds to stay honest. When a crooked employer shorts their earnings they turn to crime, with their first theft ending in tragedy. Stars Frank Sutton, Tarry Green, James Franciscus, William Hinant. Directed by William Berke.
●    FORT BOWIE (1958): Attempting to affect peace between his men and the Apaches, the commander of a fort unwittingly inspires an Indian massacre. Stars Ben Johnson, Kent Taylor, Jan Harrison, Jana Davi. Directed by Howard W. Koch.
●    THE GUN RUNNERS (1958): The owner of a cabin cruiser in Florida innocently rents it to a ruthless gun merchant who sells arms to a revolutionary group in Cuba. Stars Audie Murphy, Eddie Albert. Directed by Don Siegel. (more…)

Why Isn’t ‘The Hobbit’ Shooting Yet?

Why Isn’t ‘The Hobbit’ Shooting Yet?

In case you were sleeping off the three-day weekend and missed it, director Guillermo Del Toro withdrew from The Hobbit, announcing in a press release leaded to The One Ring that MGM’s inability to green light the production forced his move. Del Toro has an extensive deal with Universal Studios carrying him through 2017 and his window to direct the two films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel was rapidly closing.

You sit there wondering why on Earth such a no-brainer of a decision isn’t just handed down. And there hangs a sad tale.

The Hobbit’s rights are controlled in part by MGM which currently is considering bids for a sale given its bleak financial outlook. The once mighty studio that proclaimed it had more stars than were in the heavens has floundered and day to day operations have been virtually halted with the exception of its television unit, which recently sold a 12-episode series to MTV.

By not having the funding to mount big budget films to replenish its coffers, not only has The Hobbit been stalled but work on the studio’s one perennial cash cow, James Bond, has been suspended. EON Productions’ Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced several weeks back that all work on the 23rd installment of the series had been halted, which means Daniel Craig’s tenure as the spy may prove short-lived. The hedge funder holders who now control the studio’s fate began soliciting bids back in the fall of 2009 and today the sole bid outstanding is $1.5 billion from TimeWarner. The debt holders, who bought the outstanding obligations of about $3.7 billion for sixty cents on the dollar, had anticipated reaping $2 billion for the studio and its assets.

Those assets not only include 007 but an extensive film library that hungry media outlets need to fuel the future demand for entertainment on mobile devices and beamed straight to televisions.


Easter Goodies from 20th Century-Fox and MGM

Easter Goodies from 20th Century-Fox and MGM

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM Home Entertainment has released Easter-themed family friendly fare complete with Easter Basket Approved! stickers. 

At More Easter Fun there are Easter activities including downloadable character coloring pages,
coupons, games, and a chance to win a $50,000 Nest Egg.

The titles involved include

Alvin and the Chipmunks                                  
Horton Hears A Who                                                      
Ice Age                                                        
Ice Age: The Meltdown                               
Night at the Museum   
The Black Stallion                                
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang                                      
The Pink Panther 2                                                        
The Secret of Nimh

Personally, we here at ComicMix can recommend the Ice Age films for modern day humor and The Secret of Nimh as a fun, underrated animated escapade. And while Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is based on the Ian Fleming book and features that nifty car, it was too long and devoid of magic.


MGM’s Cash Woes Imperils ‘The Hobbit’

MGM’s Cash Woes Imperils ‘The Hobbit’

Deadline Hollywood’s Nikki Finke broke the news that MGM is having severe cash flow issues and may have trouble financing eagerly awaited films starting with The Hobbit two-picture project along with the next installment in the revitalized James Bond franchise.

MGM execs held a conference call with their lenders and admitted this year’s releases missed their targets and left them short of operating capital. “The implication was that it’s teetering on bankruptcy,” one source told Finke. The studio reportedly stuck its hand out and begged for $20 million just to cover immediate needs plus the $150 million they budgeted for the Guillermo del Toro-directed adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien novel.

The call, she reported, did not go well. As a result, the equity holders have seemingly given up on the studio with bondholders suspecting the studio is overvalued given their poor track record and management. Bankruptcy is a possibility but no one wants to see the once venerable studio go under or lose valuable rights, such as Bond.

Should the unthinkable actually occur, studios are poised to swoop in and fund the existing projects. Pre-production continues Down Under with full casting for The Hobbit expected in the coming months. The next Bond film is also in the works with a 2011 release being eyed.

‘Hancock 2’ Charged with Bringing Sony Profit

‘Hancock 2’ Charged with Bringing Sony Profit

The Los Angeles Times notes that Sony has profited handsomely from its investment in MGM, earning huge profits from Casino Royale and expects a similar payday for Quantum of Solace.  After that, MGM regains full control of Bond so the studio needs fresh cash cows.

Looking ahead, the Times counts off forthcoming films based on The Green Hornet, Flash Gordon, and Preacher are worthy candidates. Closer to home, they are preparing a sequel fro the original super-hero tale, Hancock, which brought in huge dollars and little buzz.

Among the films mentioned, The Green Hornet, starring Seth Rogen and Stephen Chow, and to be directed by Chow, will be arriving first, in summer 2010. They’ve pencilled in Spider-Man 4 for summer 2011 but the other projects are still in development so the studio can’t start counting on profits yet.

Flash Gordon will be the first feature film featuring Alex Raymond’s classic hero since the 1980 disaster and will be directed by Breck Eisner, known more for his schlock horror efforts. Preacher, though, will be directed by Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) so comes with greater hopes.

Sony entered into a financing agreement with MGM when the studio was once again facing financial failure.  As a result, by investing in Casino, Sony actually earned more than MGM, netting as much as $100 million in profit. MGM and Sony parted ways after the latter failed to meet sales targets for DVDs from MGM’s library. The deal allowed Sony to participate in Quantum but that will be all.

‘Three Stooges’ Moves from Warners to MGM

‘Three Stooges’ Moves from Warners to MGM

The Three Stooges has gained new life with MGM becoming the new parent to the Peter and Bobby Farrelly project. The brothers had spent five years trying to develop the film at Warner Bros. but now they have a new lease on life and will give their script a polish then turn it over to Michael Cerrone to direct.

Peter Farrelly credited Mary Parent, MGM’s Worldwide Motion Picture Group chairman with having the enthusiasm to go out and grab the moribund film from Warners plus secure rights to the Stooges from C3. She sees the $45 million production as targeted as a PG or PG-13 project complete with the trademark slapstick the trio is known for. The movie will actually be three 20-25 minute segments loosely tied together to recreate the feel of the shorts the act made from the 1930s through the 1950s.

"It’s not a biopic. It takes place in present day, and they look, dress and sound exactly like the Stooges," Peter told Variety. "When the economy started turning, we felt like the world could use a Stooges slapfest. Bobby and I haven’t done a real physical comedy in a while, and it’s the most exciting thing we could think of now, to have people go to the movie, see some great slapstick fun family humor."

A nationwide talent hunt, compared with the search for American Idol, will begin as the producers and director seek three comedians who can work well together and do the physical humor required to earn the Stooges name. A similar hunt will be conducted to find humorous short films to run with their feature.

"We know this is extremely difficult to pull off; we realize some Stooges fans will be upset no matter what we do," Farrelly said. "We love the Stooges and honor their memory, and we don’t want them to disappear. We hope that next Thanksgiving, dads will introduce their kids to the Stooges and create a new generation of knuckleheads."

MGM has already picked out November 20, 2009 to release the film. The studio may rethink that since Variety notes the competition that day is already thick with Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and the animated Planet 51.

Pink Panther, Collected and Reimagined

Pink Panther, Collected and Reimagined

Pink Panther & Pals will be a new 26-episode animated series for the Cartoon Network, airing in fall 2009.  The deal between Turner Broadcasting and MGM Worldwide Television sees production in Los Angeles and Amman, Jordan, jointly produced by MGM and Jordan-based Rubicon according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The new half-hour series will depict a teenage Pink Panther as he and his peers get into all sorts of trouble. Ant and Aardvark will be back in addition to new characters. The Henry Mancini musical score and comedy themes will be reprised since after all, that’s what we all love best about the property.

"The character is drawn a little younger to depict the Pink Panther as a teenager, although he will be instantly recognizable with his signature walk and devil-may-care attitude," executive producer David Corbett told the paper.

Meantime, TV on DVD is reporting that The Pink Panther and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection will be out January 27, 2009. All nine volumes of Pink Panther shorts, totaling 190, will be collected for the first time for a retail price of $69.98.  For live action fans, MGM will be releasing The Pink Panther Ultimate Collection on November 25. The box set will contain the live action Inspector Clouseau films (including 2006’s Steve Martin rendition), in addition to the nine volumes animated theatrical shorts.

The animated volumes not only include The Pink Panther series of shorts, but also The Ant and the Aardvark, The Inspector, and Roland and Ratfink. The collection also includes Jerry Beck’s Pink Panther, The Ultimate Guide to the Coolest Cat in Town! The collection will retail for $199.98.