Saturday, April 3, 2010

“2010: Summer of the 1980s movie remakes - Chicago Sun-Times” plus 2 more

“2010: Summer of the 1980s movie remakes - Chicago Sun-Times” plus 2 more

2010: Summer of the 1980s movie remakes - Chicago Sun-Times

Posted: 03 Apr 2010 01:59 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES — "Clash of the Titans" writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi awere understandably excited about their movie arriving in theaters. But if you really want to get them going, mention the "Red Dawn" remake coming later this year.

"I love that movie," Hay says of the 1984 Cold War adventure flick where Colorado high school students use guerrilla warfare to stave off a Soviet invasion of America. "Everyone from my generation loves 'Red Dawn.' It's really ripe for a remake."

These days, it seems any movie that came out during the 1980s is ripe for a remake. "Clash of the Titans" and "Red Dawn" are but two of a significant number of '80s-related films Hollywood will bring to theaters in coming months.

Joining their ranks are Disney's mega-budget "Tron" sequel starring Jeff Bridges; reboots of "The Karate Kid," "Predator" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchises; a follow-up to Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" and the Sylvester Stallone-directed "The Expendables"; an '80s-style, men-on-a-mission movie teaming Stallone with other action stars of his vintage.

"It's crazy, man," Bridges says. "You almost want to look around and make sure people still have their cell phones and laptops. It's like going back in time."

You mean, like stepping into a "Hot Tub Time Machine"? The nostalgia-infused, gross-out comedy "Time Machine" uses the '80s as a punch line, taking its heroes back to a decade heavy on the legwarmers, mullets and primary colors.

"Anyone who wants to know why the '80s are a joke need only look at the fashions in our movie," "Hot Tub" director Steve Pink says.

But if the '80s are a joke, it's a quip studio executives and filmmakers are now eager to share with moviegoers. Chalk it up to the fact that the people who grew up watching Freddy Krueger and Mr. Miyagi are now in a position to green-light the movies they loved as children.

"Certainly, there's a fondness for that culture for those who come of age with it, and now we want to share it," says Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad.

In addition to "The Karate Kid," Belgrad, 44, and Columbia co-president Matt Tolmach, 45, are developing sequels and reboots to such 1980s properties as "Ghostbusters," "21 Jump Street" and "The Smurfs." 20th Century Fox will release a feature film based on the '80s action-adventure TV series "The A-Team" this summer.

"Grown-ups are always looking for movies they could share with their kids," Belgrad adds.

With "The Karate Kid," he notes, Will Smith took that idea a step further, suggesting remaking one of his favorite childhood movies with his 11-year-old son, Jaden, starring. The new "Karate Kid," due in June, shifts the action to Beijing, attempting to add a dash of culture clash to the familiar story.

Other remakes and sequels, like "Clash of the Titans" and "Tron: Legacy," bring modern technology to movies that time has dated.

"["Tron" director] Steve Lisberger told me that we've made the movie that people think they remember seeing when they were 8-years-old," says "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski. "The original pushed the envelope in a way that we can't do. But we can take things that have been simmering in people's minds for 25 years and bring them to life."

Kosinski shot "Tron: Legacy" entirely in 3D. Warner Bros. converted "Clash of the Titans" to 3D after the fact, hoping to cash in on the "Avatar"-fueled mania for the format.

But "Clash" writer Manfredi says that what made the original so special — and what he hopes the remake maintains — is a good-hearted sense of adventure.

"What all these '80s movies have in common is a feeling of fun and excitement, a certain genuineness," Manfredi says. "You don't find that spark as much in movies these days. That's what we're hoping to bring back."

Others are attempting at stab at modern relevance with their films. Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko has been refashioned as an antihero, warning business leaders of impending doom in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps."

The "Red Dawn" remake has the Chinese, not the Soviets, invading America.

And you have to wonder whether the Smurfs will make a passing reference to their blue-hued cousins from "Avatar."

OK — maybe you don't have to wonder or even think about the Smurfs at all.

"Hot Tub Time Machine" star and '80s icon John Cusack would be just as happy to consign the whole decade to the attic.

"I remember it being a kind of forced Prozac happy time without the Prozac," Cusack says. "We were sort of like optimism by martial law. There were jumbotrons of Ronald Reagan everywhere. There were Dr. Pepper people dancing. There was this militant patriotism, nationalism, faux spirituality to it. I look back on it as an intense, dark decade."

Maybe next time, he could set the hot tub to the '60s.

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Movie ticket sales may be a gamble - Scranton Times-Tribune

Posted: 02 Apr 2010 03:26 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES - Think you're better than Hollywood at gauging whether an upcoming flick will be a box office bomb or a sleeper hit? You'd get a chance to put your money behind that under two proposals that movie studios are denouncing as legalized gambling.

The proposals the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission are expected to rule on this month would let movie fans, industry executives and speculators bet on expected box office receipts. Investors profit if their predictions come true and lose if they don't.

These online trading forums would be similar to futures markets common for commodities such as corn, pork bellies, natural gas and silver. Although goods are rarely exchanged directly through such markets, they let buyers and sellers reduce risks by locking in prices months ahead of time.

A corn farmer might want to do that in case a bumper crop pushes prices down too low.

Now, two companies want to bring that concept to Hollywood, a notoriously risky industry in which big-budget productions can go bust in a single weekend and independent movies can become unexpected hits. But the investors most likely to benefit from such an exchange - the six major Hollywood studios - have rallied against the proposals.

Although the companies behind the exchanges still plan to proceed, regulators pushed back a decision on one of the proposals, Trend Exchange from Veriana Ventures, amid the last-minute opposition. A ruling could now come Friday, more than a week later than originally expected.

A decision on the other proposal, Cantor Fitzgerald LP's Cantor Exchange, is expected around April 20.

The studios' trade group, the Motion Picture Association of America, argues that the proposals tarnish the reputation and integrity of the movie industry by authorizing "legalized gambling on movie receipts."

The organization also complained that so many people screen movies before they are released that it would be "virtually impossible" to prevent insider trading.

The backers of the proposals say they don't need studios' involvement to succeed, though that's akin to corn farmers staying out of the futures market for corn.

"The studios only represent a small part of the hedging community," said Rich Jaycobs, president of the proposed Cantor Exchange.

Russ Andersson, Veriana's director of risk management, said other players with large stakes in movies, such as directors, actors, financiers and theater owners, might have doubts about the box office potential of some projects and would be willing to take part.

Cantor Fitzgerald already runs the Hollywood Stock Exchange, a virtual market in which shares of celebrities and movies rise and fall with their popularity. But while that market trades on "Hollywood Dollars," those using Cantor Exchange would use real currency to bet on a movie's prospects.

(Cantor Fitzgerald is also behind a venture that lets people use wireless devices to bet on sporting events while roaming around casinos. The devices, approved by Nevada gambling regulators, also casino mainstays such as black jack as well.)

Under both proposals, no actual goods or shares in films would change hands. Trading would simply offset deals made in the real world. Movie fans and others without a direct interest in the films would be able to participate as well, absorbing some of the risks from producers and other investors.

Investors would be able to hedge against potential flops by preselling a share of future box office receipts. The exchanges could even guard against likely hits such as the upcoming "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" sequels falling short of projections.

If a movie doesn't do as well as expected, investors would at least be guaranteed revenue from those presales, known as futures contracts.

If it does better, though, they wouldn't get to keep all the additional receipts. Speculators would get a share when they bet on risky movies that do unexpectedly well.

Movie financiers also could use the system to diversify their portfolios, by investing in portions of several movies rather than placing all their money in one.

Both systems would rely on two parties making deals based on estimated box office revenue of a certain movie over a fixed period, such as the opening weekend or the first month in theaters.

The amount of money changing hands would depend on the number of contracts sold - in other words, how much investors want to offset their risk and how much speculators want to wager.

There are restrictions, though. Cantor, for instance, would prohibit investors from hedging more than a third of their interests, and the exchanges and federal regulators could step in if, say, a movie studio pulls advertising to artificially lower theater attendance.

Cantor would allow trading accounts starting with just $50 in them, allowing most members of the public to participate. By contrast, Trend Exchange's higher minimums and stricter trading standards would prevent amateurs from taking part. Cantor would allow direct trading by investors through a Web site, while Trend Exchange would require brokers.

With opposition from the six major studios, the box office futures markets may have to look elsewhere to find participants, and hedging could take place by those who don't really have that much at stake. If the backers can't find enough people to sell futures contracts, the exchanges might die off even if they receive regulatory clearance.

Cantor's Jaycobs predicted studios will come to understand the system and see its benefits, adding that less risky outcomes could make it easier for some movies to get made.

He noted that when the New York Mercantile Exchange began trading crude oil futures in 1983, none of the big oil companies wanted to take part, but became major participants in subsequent years.

"By Year 3, using the energy market example, I'm sure they (the studios) will participate," he said.

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movie review - Times-Leader

Posted: 01 Apr 2010 10:18 PM PDT

April 2

REVIEW: 'Clash of the Titans'

ROGER MOORE The Orlando Sentinel

Here we are, back at the end of the world in 2012. Only this time it's 2012 BCE, as the gods of Olympus set out to take "man" in the form of early Greek civilization back to the stone age in a fit of Olympian pique.

If you go

What: "Clash Of The Titans"

Starring: Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Mads Mikkelsen

Directed by: Louis Leterrier

Running time: 103 minutes

Rated: PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality


Warner Bros. has revived "Clash of the Titans," the ultimate '80s "sword and sorcery" epic, as a vehicle showing off the state of movie special effects in 3D. The new film even references and scoffs at one of the puppet-animation characters (the mechanical owl) from the original 1981 film, as if to say, "Look what we can do now."

What we can do now makes for a sometimes-fun ride, a digital bastardization of Greek mythology with digital eagles, giant scorpions, wraiths and a Kraken — the sea beast to end all sea beasts.

What hasn't improved is the silly, archetypal story or the stagey arguments among the gods of Olympus — Liam Neeson is Zeus, in chrome armor that glows in soft focus.

Men from the island of Argus are rebelling against the gods, burning temples, tearing down gigantic statues. And because the Olympians live on prayers from the faithful, Zeus looses Hades (an almost unrecognizable Ralph Fiennes) upon them.

"You are specks of dust beneath our fingernails," Hades hisses. Olympic trash talk.

Hades wants a sacrifice — the lovely Andromeda (Alexa Davalos). But not if Perseus (Sam Worthington) has anything to say about it. He's a demi-god. Zeus tricked his mom into Olympic sex. He's grown up knowing Pete Postlethwaite and Elizabeth McGovern are his adoptive parents, though he has wondered about that ageless beauty, Io (Gemma Arterton), who looks over him from the shadows.

And like the demi-gods of "Percy Jackson and the Olympians," he's got daddy issues.

Perseus sets out on a quest — to consult with witches, visit Medusa in Hades and find a means to defeat the Kraken and keep Hades at bay.

Worthington is emerging as the new Charlton Heston — an actor big enough to fill a big screen with his bigness. But he plays every role the same — always a crew-cut Marine, here battling beasties in the distant past. His out-of-place haircut and unflattering hemline do the "Terminator"/"Avatar" star no favors.

The guy who really chews the "Titans" scenery is Mads Mikkelsen, the Dane who made a meek Bond villain ("Casino Royale") but who makes a fierce warrior, Draco, who prepares Perseus and escorts him on his journey.

Louis "The Incredible Hulk" Leterrier directed this, and he benefits from terrific production design and art direction. The flinty, shattered shale hills of Wales and volcanoes of Tenerife provide backdrop for the palaces and temples of this Clash. Olympus looks like the Emerald City of Oz, without the emeralds.

There isn't a serious moment in it, and the light touches come from one-liners and supporting players. For all the impressive (but not dazzling) effects, the scattered jokes and stentorian acting (especially from the Olympians), there's not much here that will stick with you after the popcorn's gone. But as any ancient Greek could tell you, that's sort of the point.

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