A host of mid-level blockbusters and some serious classic films highlight the DVD release schedule for the week of Dec. 7.
Heading things up is Warner Bros.' special edition of the Renny Harlin-directed action feature "Deep Blue Sea" ($24.98 SRP). A sort of 1999 version of "Jaws," "Deep Blue Sea" features a group of scientists attempting to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease by experimenting on sharks. As the sea creatures are altered with enlarged brains, they begin to get uppity, and chaos ensues. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Saffron Burrows and Thomas Jane. Warner's special edition includes a running commentary, behind-the-scenes documentaries and detailed storyboards and stills.
As expected, Disney has re-released its Academy Award-winning "Shakespeare in Love" ($39.99 SRP), this time in a deluxe, special edition. The Best Picture recipient at last year's Oscar presentation now features a pair of audio commentaries -- one with director John Madden and one with cast and crew as well as deleted scenes and a spotlight on costumes. Unfortunately, this pattern of releasing and then re-releasing its films in special-edition format comes as a bit of a blow to Disney enthusiasts who find themselves having to buy multiple copies of a film in order to get all the added goodies. On the plus side, at least these special editions are actually seeing the light of day in the first place. You decide.
Director Mike Figgis' controversial "Loss of Sexual Innocence" ($27.95 SRP) will also hit shelves this week in a special-edition package. Debuting at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and starring Julian Sands, Saffron Burrows and Kelly MacDonald, the feature includes a running audio commentary by Figgis, as well as the original theatrical trailer.
The Disney animated classics continue to roll off the presses. This week, an old classic joins a newer one when "The Jungle Book" ($39.99 SRP) and "The Little Mermaid" ($39.99 SRP) hit video outlets. Both are presented in their proper aspect ratios (1.33:1 and 1.66:1, respectively) and are available only for 60 days. Unfortunately, neither includes any real extras and will probably have collectors shelling out additional cash at some point down the line when the real special editions finally hit the streets.
For those looking for a walk on the wild side, the seminal 1969 biker epic "Easy Rider" ($24.95 SRP) hits stores in a deluxe special edition. Starring Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, "Easy Rider" turned a generation on to the beauty of riding a big, loud Harley across America. Easily one of the most influential psychedelic films of its time, "Easy Rider" continues to impress filmgoers. Columbia/TriStar's special edition also includes a running commentary by actor/director Hopper, as well as the making-of documentary "Easy Rider: Shaking the Cage."
The filmmakers of today owe a monumental debt of gratitude to cinema's forefathers, not the least of which is silent-film icon D.W. Griffith. The grandfather of modern filmmaking was riding a high and powerful wave when he released his 1916 tour de force "Intolerance."
His 178-minute ode to man's brutality toward man throughout history was one of the most expensive and time-consuming projects ever attempted. Jumping between tales of injustice from four different moments in history (known as the Babylonian, French, Judaean and Modern stories), "Intolerance" proved to be far, far ahead of its time. While film scholars marvel at the detail and complex storytelling, the film proved disastrous at its time of release. Fortunately, in the 83 years since its box office flop, film lovers have come to embrace Griffith's tale of corruption and inhumanity as perhaps the most important work in early film history. Image Entertainment's special edition DVD of "Intolerance" ($29.99 SRP) includes the fully restored 178-minute version of the film, as well as deleted segments, publicity material and copyright registration frames.
From the classics to the notorious, home video will never be the same once documentary filmmaker Todd Phillips' ode to the late punk rock icon G.G. Allin hits stores this week. "Hated: G.G. Allin & the Murder Junkies" ($24.98 SRP) documents the performer's final U.S. tour after his parole from a Michigan prison on assault charges. With a wide (and amazingly fair) assortment of interviews with fans, former teachers and band members, as well as archival and concert footage, "Hated" paints a disturbing portrait of a man whose biggest claim to fame cannot even be printed on a family Web site. As controversial as its subject (upon word of Allin's lethal drug overdose in June 1993, several magazine reports began with the qualifier that "it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy"), "Hated" gives viewers a well-rounded introduction into a world most would rather not inhabit.
What are they smoking over there in France? Apparently something good enough to come up with this: "Easy Rider 2." Today's Daily Variety, in a straight-from-Cannes dispatch, reports that two people you've never heard of (producer Glen Tobias, writer/director Mikki Allen Willis) will team to create a sequel to 1969 hippie classic "Easy Rider."
Shooting is said to begin in the fall. It's not known whom Tobias and Willis will be shooting. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, who starred in and created the original "Rider," are kinda old to be biking down to Mexico these days.
And their Captain America sidekick -- that would be Jack Nicholson -- is kinda expensive these days.
Oh, one other thing: All three of those guys' characters got killed in the first movie.
A major cast makeover is in the works for David E Kelley's dramedy Ally McBeal. Four new faces are set to join the cast full time--Josh Hopkins (The Perfect Storm), Regina Hall (Scary Movie), James Marsden (X-Men) and Julianne Nicholson (The Love Letter), according to The Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile, two regulars, Lisa Nicole Carson and James LeGros, are departing the show, and two other stalwarts, Lucy Liu and Peter MacNicol, are contemplating constricting their appearances.
Strapping Irish stud Colin Farrell was named the year's best actor for his work in "Tigerland" by the Boston Society of Film Critics on Saturday.
And if that alone does not cause a bit of head scratching, take a look at the heavyweights whom the young upstart has beaten out for the nod: Tom Hanks in "Cast Away," Javier Bardem in "Before Night Falls" and Mark Ruffalo in "You Can Count on Me."
Perhaps just as surprising is actress Ellen Burstyn snagging a best actress win for "Requiem for a Dream." Before this award, some thought of Burstyn as more of a supporting actress contender. Burstyn beat out Julia Roberts ("Erin Brockovich") and Laura Linney ("You Can Count on Me"). The Boston critics handed the best picture award to "Almost Famous," as well as the best director mention to the film's helmer Cameron Crowe, who also shared the best screenplay award with "Wonder Boys" scribe Steven Kloves.
Best supporting actress went to Frances McDormand for her performances in both "Almost Famous" and "Wonder Boys," and best supporting actor belonged to "Best in Show's" Fred Willard as the faux-pas-spilling announcer.
Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" continues to do well with the critics, nabbing best foreign film and best cinematography for Peter Pau.
Along with the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review have all unveiled their top picks for the year.
HEAR ME ROAR: Looks like Cameron Diaz has found her voice. The "Charlie's Angels" actress managed to scare off a pair of thieves rummaging through her Rome hotel room Friday night -- by screaming really loud, The Associated Press says. On their way out, two men dropped two leather jackets and a laptop computer.
BLACK FRIDAY: Stan Lee Media laid off nearly all of its Los Angeles staff on Friday because it was unable to secure new financing, Reuters reports. The company recently has experienced a drastic drop in its stock price.
ANOTHER "GRADUATE" ALUM: English actress Amanda Donohoe ("L.A. Law") will assume the post of Mrs. Robinson in the London stage version of "The Graduate." The play has grossed more than 6 million pounds since it opened in April. Previous Mrs. R's includes Kathleen Turner and Jerry Hall.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 8, 2000 -- Tom Cruise is a $70 million man. And he doesn't even have a bionic arm. (Just a really good agent.)
Seventy big ones is the amazing amount Cruise netted for 1996's "Mission: Impossible" -- a staggering detail heretofore unreported until it was casually mentioned by Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone during a speech Monday in Munich, Germany.
The "Impossible" payday included "a shrewdly negotiated backend participation deal," in the (understated) words of today's Hollywood Reporter, for starring in and producing the movie, which grossed $464.9 million worldwide.
The payday trumps other (reputedly) supersized ones, including Jack Nicholson's $50 million-something turn as the Joker in 1989's "Batman."
After telling you Cruise made $70 mil for making one "Mission: Impossible" flick, do we really have to add this: Cruise is currently finishing work on, yes, a "Mission" sequel.
"Mission: Impossible 2" is due out in theaters May 24. Cruise again stars and produces, but studio officials aren't saying whether a similar big-money deal is involved.
Cruise's next acting-only vehicle is now up for grabs. He and director Steven Spielberg had talked about working together on the sci-fi flick "Minority Report," but now that Spielberg is recovering from kidney surgery, Cruise is said to be meeting with the Farrelly brothers ("There's Something About Mary") about their new in-development comedy "Shallow Hal."
Either way, the payday for either project is not likely to match his "Mission: Impossible" kitty. There are only so many bills in circulation.
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane!
No, it's another "Spider-Man" rumor.
For nearly seven years, speculation has run rampant among comic-book geeks and genre-film fanatics about the red-and-blue building-climbing superhero. Nearly every director worth his box-office salt has been linked to "Spider-Man" at one time or another, beginning with no less than James Cameron ("Titanic") and ending with Sam Raimi ("A Simple Plan," "For Love of the Game"), who is now supposedly the front-runner for the job.
One thing's for certain: "Spider-Man," one of the most highly anticipated films in memory, is now on the fast track at Columbia Pictures. The studio wants to release the film in summer 2001, and that means a director is expected to be hired soon -- perhaps within a few weeks. At long last, Marvel Comics' biggest franchise property will get his big-budget Hollywood makeover, a privilege that, until now, has been afforded only to characters from rival DC Comics (home of Batman and Superman).
"Spider-Man definitely has the potential to be a very successful franchise," says Mirko Parlevliet, creator of the Spider-Man Hype! Web site (www.spidermanhype.com), launched in March 1999 when years of legal battles over Spidey's theatrical rights ended and Marvel and Columbia struck a deal to make the movie.
"Unlike Batman and Superman, Spider-Man is a character many people can identify with," Parlevliet adds. "Peter Parker [the web-slinger's secret identity] is a teen-ager who is always picked on for the wrong reasons." He says Spidey is more realistic and down-to-earth than his DC rivals, a positive role model and a "fun guy" to chill out with. "How can you identify with a millionaire orphan or an alien with superpowers?"
For the record, this won't be the first live-action adaptation of the arachnid-man. There was a short-lived TV series in the late 1970s starring Nicholas Hammond as a pudgy Peter Parker. The show featured neato special-effects tricks, like tilting the camera sideways while Hammond crawled across the side of a wall. There also was a Japanese "Spider-Man" teleseries in the late 1970s, in which the web slinger drove around in a cool racecar. And the infamous Cannon Group proposed a Spider-Man movie during the 1980s but, thankfully, did not follow through. There have also been numerous cartoon series over the years.
The current Spider-Man project began as Cameron's brainchild; he wanted to make the movie immediately after "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Cameron wrote a lengthy Spidey treatment and Carolco obtained the theatrical rights to the character -- or so it thought. Pretty soon it seemed like everyone in Tinseltown was suing to get a piece of the Peter Parker pie.
By the time Sony/Columbia emerged as the Spidey legal sweepstakes winner, Cameron had signed an exclusive deal with Fox that basically barred him from directing the superflick. However, Sony got the rights to Cameron's treatment, and screenwriter David Koepp ("The Lost World") was hired to fashion a screenplay out of The King of the World's outline.
For the record, the following names have been linked to "Spider-Man" since 1993:
James Cameron, Ron Howard, Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Chris Columbus, Jan De Bont, Stephen Sommers, Ivan Reitman, Barry Sonnenfeld, Sam Raimi, the Wachowski brothers, Terry Gilliam and Robert Rodriguez, in no particular order, have been rumored to direct.
Charlie Sheen, Corin Nemec ("Parker Lewis Can't Lose"), Michael Biehn ("Aliens," "Terminator"), Bruce Campbell ("Army of Darkness"), Jason Patric, Leonardo DiCaprio, Owen Wilson, Jim Carrey and Australian actor Heath Ledger ("10 Things I Hate About You") have all been rumored to star as Peter Parker/Spidey.
In the villain department, Jack Nicholson has been pegged as Spider-Man's arch nemesis, the Green Goblin, while Arnold Schwarzenegger could play either Doctor Octopus or Venom, according to the rumor mill. There hasn't been much talk about who might play Peter's girlfriend, Mary Jane, or his editor at the Daily Bugle, the hot-headed J. Jonah Jameson.
David Mamet, if you believe the latest word, has been secretly hired by Columbia to revamp David Koepp's screenplay.
For the uninitiated, "Spider-Man" (the comic book) is the story of Peter Parker, a high school whiz kid who is bitten by a radioactive spider during a biology experiment. The bite gives Peter some nifty powers, like the ability to walk on walls, and enhanced strength and agility, plus a "spider sense" that enables him to detect danger.
Peter is also a gifted inventor; he creates wrist-mounted "web-shooters" that spray a sticky compound resembling a spider's web, from which he swings from skyscraper to skyscraper. Peter dons a Spider-Man suit and greedily uses his powers for personal gain (he becomes quite a celebrity) until his uncle is killed by robbers and he re-dedicates his life to fighting crime. Peter becomes a newspaper photographer, using a well-placed, timer-activated camera to snap pictures of himself (as Spider-Man) in action.
One major issue that remains to be decided is whether Columbia's film will be based on the old-school, idealistic Spidey comics of the 1960s, or one of several more recent incarnations, such as comics guru Todd McFarlane's dark, moody version.
"I'd prefer to see Spider-Man done old school," said Rob Worley, Webmaster of the Comics 2 Film Web site (www.comics2film.com), which tracks (what else?) comic books optioned by Hollywood. "The thing that made Spider-Man great (the thing that current writers of the comic have forgotten) is that the character, under the mask, was so relatable. Peter Parker is an Everyman. He's not some square-jawed, iron-willed vision of perfection. He's a kid who has all the normal problems that a regular young man has, in addition to the monkey wrench of having the great power that he feels compelled to use responsibly."
Now it remains to be seen whether Spidey can escape the curse -- real or imagined -- that has plagued film adaptations of other Marvel Comics franchises in the 1990s.
Witness "Captain America," a 1992 film version of Marvel's Nazi-fighting hero, starring Matt Salinger. In this barely watchable, low-budget film (which was widely advertised for a theatrical release, then instead went straight-to-video), the Cap's evil foe Red Skull is inexplicably Italian, not German, and the villain wears an embarrassing rubber mask.
Then there is "The Fantastic Four," a $2 million epic shot by Roger Corman's (say no more) Concorde Pictures, and then suddenly shelved before release when Marvel cut a new deal with 20th Century Fox wherein Chris Columbus was to direct a new megabudget version.
"I have a sentimental attachment to The Fantastic Four, and I was heartbroken to think it might appear only as a low-budget quickie," Marvel godfather Stan Lee told Entertainment Weekly. That was way back in 1994. There has been nary a peep about the film since.
Rights have been acquired and screenplays have been written for film versions of The Incredible Hulk and Silver Surfer, two Marvel properties with amazing potential, but both have landed in development hell.
So far, the only Marvel property to get a (fairly) big-budget film adaptation is New Line's "Blade" (1998) starring Wesley Snipes. New Line is currently developing an Iron Man movie, with Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott ("The Mask of Zorro") writing the screenplay and Tom Cruise supposedly interested in the starring role as reclusive billionaire/inventor/superhero Tony Stark.
Worley says one reason that Marvel's film adaptations have mostly been low-budget has to do with poor licensing decisions made by the comic book company that gave Marvel little say in the way the movies were made.
"I recall readi g a letter from Stan Lee [in a comics trade magazine] around the time the low-budget Fantastic Four movie was due to come out. Lee said fans asked him all the time why Marvel movies sucked. He promised fans that it was due to bad negotiating on Marvel's part and ... no movies would be made from that point forward without Marvel having a say in things. So Marvel sold off their movie rights, cheap, to filmmakers who didn't get it."
Now all fanboys' eyes will be on Fox's "X-Men," due out this summer from director Brian Singer and starring Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
"In the past, it seemed the low-budget constraints hurt Marvel's superhero adaptations," says Parlevliet. The X-Men film, he says, will be Marvel's big test. "If it succeeds, the film will set the stage for many similar projects in the future. There really is no such thing as a Marvel curse. It's just hard to adapt a comic book and make it believable on the big screen."