First it was sequels. Then it was remakes. Then it was reboots. Now, as Hollywood responds to the ever-changing needs of audiences hungry for both mind-blowing cinematic experiences and nostalgic throwbacks, studios are taking cues from the practices of repertory movie theaters. Why figure out new ways to revive old movies when you can just bring them back to the big screen?
This week sees the re-release of Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg's science-infused monster movie. Timed to the defining blockbuster's 20th anniversary, Universal has imbued the movie with the new re-release standard: pristine, eye-popping 3D. So there's still a twist — it's the movie you know and love, modernized in a way that feels familiar alongside today's mega-tentpoles.
Reviving Jurassic Park— a kid-of-the-'90s staple that has never faded from memory thanks to ad nauseum repeats on TNT — screams cash-grab and, in some ways, it is. A 2011 report from the Los Angeles Times pegged the post-conversion cost for a non-3D movie at around the $10 million mark. Plus promotional costs, re-releasing a well-known title back into theaters with fanfare to contend with new releases costs a fraction of what goes into making a modern movie a hit.
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In Sept. 2011, Lion King 3D surprised the industry when it opened to over $30 million at the box office, working its way up to a $94 million over the course of its theatrical run. After the success of Lion King, delivering their classic animated films for kids with eyes for 3D became an imperative for Disney. They followed it with Beauty and the Beast 3D ($57.9 million), Finding Nemo 3D ($41.1 million), and Monsters, Inc. 3D ($33.8 million).
3D works so well for animation because traditionally 2D cartoons are created with layers. When Simba clings to a cliffside above a stampede of wildebeests or Belle and Beast dance in the castle ballroom, the drawings are physically laid on top of the backgrounds and can be separated for 3D using computers. Live-action is a bit tougher, and so audiences' perception for the post-conversion process was an inherently harder sell. The images look different — but clearly, not so much so that audiences backed away from the films.
George Lucas took his first stab at 3D-ifying Star Wars with the 2012 re-release of The Phantom Menace, bringing in a decent total of just under $43.5 million. Doing even bigger business was 3D veteran James Cameron with his re-release of Titanic. The record-holder for highest grossing movie of all time added another $57.9 million by the end of its 3D release.
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Will Jurassic Park see the same success? The movie is tracking for an opening around The Phantom Menace, but should have even better luck at the box office thanks to the pure love of the audience. As one fan of the film told me, Jurassic Park was his life back in '93. He caught it several times in theaters; the film even spurred him to write a letter to Spielberg professing his love for the movie (and pitching him a few sequel ideas, in case the director needed any). People love Jurassic Park — especially the key demographic, 20- and 30-somethings, who flood movie theaters.
Not only is the promise of Jurassic Park back on the big screen enough to get butts in seats, but the conversion serves the story. The 3D works because the movie is equipped for it — Spielberg's camera as always pushed the limits of the frame, putting faces in the foreground and eye-catching objects behind them. Is it a better film? No, but the 3D amplifies the terror, and the effects compliment what's already been shot. Take the legendary T-Rex attack: Timmy in the back of a jeep, playing with nightvision goggles behind a rain-covered window; Grant and Dr. Malcolm watching from the front seat as the animal emerges from its broken pen; the T-Rex snapping at Tim and Lex as they hold it away with a pain of glass. Spielberg composes the entire attack with layers, like the animation of Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Adding a dimension was easy.
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It's hard to call Jurassic Park 3D a "cash grab" even though it's easy money in the studios pockets because Jurassic Park is just that good. Unlike most of the movies we'll see this summer, every moment in the film feels thoughtful, each character woven into the larger-than-life narrative with a personality (for example: of courseNedry wipes shaving cream on to a slice of pie when first receiving his fake Barbasol canister!). The movie is a spectacle — and a terrifying one at that — but it's also about ambition, about people struggling with personal issues (c'mon Dr. Grant, kids aren't that annoying), and grand concepts of science we're still wrestling with today.
Spielberg may not have planned for his Michael Crichton adaptation to be resurfaced in movie theaters 20 years after he unleashed to audiences, with an added 3D effect then normally utilized for the shoddiest of B-movies, but that's the thing with the entertainment industry. Re-releases find a way.
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[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
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The Amazing Spider-Man would prefer if you didn't call it the fourth Spider-Man movie. See this ain't the Spider-Man your older brother knew from ten years ago — it's a reboot. The latest adventure to feature the comic book webslinger throws three movies worth of established mythology straight out the window swapping the original cast with an ensemble of fresh faces and resetting the franchise with a spiffy new origin story. "New" in the loosest sense of the word — the highlights of ASM mainly a sleek new design and spunky reinterpretation of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and gal pal Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) are weighed down by overpowering sense of familiarity. Nearly a beat for beat replica of the 2002 original with some irksome twists of mystery thrown in Amazing Spider-Man fails to evolve its hero or his quarrels. The film has a great sense of cinematic power but little responsibility in making it interesting.
We're first introduced to Peter Parker as a young boy watching as his parents rush out of the house in response to a hidden danger. Mr. and Mrs. Parker leave their son in the care of his Aunt May (Sally Fields) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) who raise him into Andrew Garfield's geeky cool spin on the character. Parker's a science whiz but faces the challenges of every day life — passing classes talking to girls the occasional jock with aggression issues — but all of life's woes are put on hold when the teen discovers a new clue in the mystery behind his parents' disappearance. The discovery of his dad's old briefcase and notes leads Peter to Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a scientist working for mega-conglomerate Oscorp and his Dad's old partner. When they cross paths Connors instantly takes a liking to the wunderkind and loops him into the work he started with his father: replicating the regeneration abilities of lizards in amputee humans (Connors is driven to reform his own missing arm). But when Parker wanders into Oscorp's room full of spiders (a sloppily explained this-needs-to-be-here-for-this-to-happen device) he receives his legendary spider bite that transforms him into the hero we know.
Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) desperately wants Amazing Spider-Man to work as a high school relationship movie but with the burden of massive amounts of plot and mythology to introduce the movie sags under the sheer volume of stuff. Stone turns Parker's object of affection Gwen Stacey into a three-dimensional character. Whenever they happen upon each other an awkward exchange in the hallway a flirtatious back-and-forth in the Oscorp lab (where Stacey is head…intern) or when the two finally begin a romantic relationship the two stars shine. They're vivid characters chopped to bits in the editing room diluted by boring franchise-building plot threads and routine action sequences. Seriously Amazing Spider-Man another mad scientist villain who uses himself as a test subject only to become a monster? And another bridge rescue scene? Amazing Spider-Man desperately wants to disconnect from the original trilogy but it's trapped in an inescapable shadow and does nothing radical to shake things up. Instead it settles for the same old same old while preparing for inevitable sequels instead of investing in its dynamic duo.
There's a sweet spot where the film really hits his stride. After discovering his spider-abilities Peter hits the streets for the first time. He's superhuman but still a headstrong teen full of obnoxious quips and close calls with shiv-wielding thugs. The action is slick small and playful Webb showing us something new by melding his indie sensibilities with big scale action. If only it lasted — the introduction of Ifans reptilian half The Lizard implodes Amazing Spider-Man into incomprehensible blockbuster chaos. A gargantuan beast wreaking havoc around New York City promises King Kong-like escapades for the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man but the lizard man has other plans: to rule the world! Or something. Whatever it takes to get Lizard and Spider-Man fighting on the top of a skyscraper over a doomsday machine — logic be damned.
Amazing Spider-Man peppers its banal foundation with great talent from Denis Leary as Gwen's wickedly funny dad and the police captain hunting down Spider-Man to Fields and Sheen as two loving adults in Peter's life to Garfield and Stone whose chemistry demands a follow-up for the sake of seeing them reunited. But it's all at the cost of putting on the most expensive recreation of all time with new demands imposed by the success Marvel's other properties (except that franchise teasing worked). Amazing Spider-Man introduces too many ideas that go nowhere undermining the actual threat at hand. No one wants to be unfulfilled but that's the overriding difference between the original movie and the update. You need to pay for the sequel to know what the heck is going on in this one.
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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Following is a roundup of American Film Market deals making news over the past day.
Voltage Pictures has closed a host of pre-AFM sales for indie political drama The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz, Variety reports. Territories to acquire the project include Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Hong Kong, Latin America, Taiwan and the Middle East. UTA is selling the pic for the US.
Also per Variety, Maya Entertainment has acquired US rights to Sympathy for Delicious, Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut. Plans are to release in the spring. Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Orlando Bloom and Laura Linney star.
London-based WestEnd Films has boarded international sales for The Song of Names, directed by Vadim Perelman and starring Anthony Hopkins and Dustin Hoffman.
Per Screen, the project will be shot by Oscar-winning DP Pawel Edelman. Script is by Oscar-nominated writer Jeffrey Caine with a score composed by Oscar winner James Horner.
Story follows a man searching for a childhood friend, who mysteriously vanished one day when they were teenagers.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Anchor Bay Films has acquired all distribution rights for the US, UK and Australia/New Zealand to Joker Films' Daydream Nation. Michael Goldbach's feature debut stars Kat Dennings and Josh Lucas.
TF1 International is handling two Canadian projects: Hobo With a Shotgun and :) 388 Arletta Avenue.
Latter is produced by Vincenzo Natali and Steven Hoban. Starring Nick Stahl, the found-footage film is Paranormal Activity meets Rear Window, says TF1.
Hobo is from director Jason Eisener, who originally won top honors in the Grindhouse Trailer Contest with a faux trailer for the project. Rutger Hauer stars in the vigilante tale.
France's Memento Films is handling the English-language debut of Palme d'Or winner and Oscar nominee Laurent Cantet, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' Foxfire.
The project, per Screen, is set in 1950s America and follows a group of headstrong teenage girls. Memento previously handled Cantet's lauded The Class.
StudioCanal has sold all Japanese rights on horror hit The Last Exorcism to Comstock Group.
Indomina Releasing, says Screen, has acquired all North American rights from Films Distribution to French horror project The Pack, which premiered in Cannes and stars Yolande Moreau and Emilie Dequenne.
Magnolia International has closed multiple territories on Norwegian creature feature Troll Hunter. According to Screen, the film has sold in the UK, Australia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and Thailand.
Finally, Strand Releasing has picked up all US rights to Catherine Breillat's Sleeping Beauty from Pyramide Intl. The film will be released next spring.
Source: Hollywood Wiretap