Monday, July 15, 2013

Will Fincher Ever Make The Girl Who Played With Fire?

By Steve Evans

Sony’s Columbia Pictures and director David Fincher want to move forward with the next installment of his English-adaptation of the Millennium trilogy (The Girl Who Played with Fire would be the second film). They may already be too late.

Incredibly, Sony is considering eliminating the essential character of journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig in Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because the James Bond star wants more money. And he can pretty much name his price after his last Bond film, Skyfall, topped $1 billion. But there’s an important gap between Craig’s desire to broaden his roles and his actual range. He makes a good Bond because the character is a man of action, not rhetoric. Craig is ill-suited to the role of a crusading Swedish journalist, and he seemed vaguely constipated throughout Fincher’s 2011 Dragon Tattoo film.

Sony has already paid a reported $5 million+ to screenwriter Steven Zaillian (an Oscar winner for adapting Schindler's List for Spielberg) to adapt the second of Stieg Larsson's amazing mystery books, even though Fincher's first film was at best only modestly successful (a $90 million budget before marketing & promotion costs; $233 million box office). By contrast, the original 2009 Swedish version was produced for a relatively minuscule $13 million and made $104 million worldwide. That’s a massive differential in profitability between the two films, but money isn't everything.

Three observations:

1) Please, Sony, if you are going to make more films from Larsson's books, don't eliminate a key character. If Craig is too expensive, replace him with another actor better suited to the part. Hell, Ralph Fiennes needs a job when he's not playing "M" in the Bond flicks, although I’m sure you can also find other actors equally as good.

2) Could the sell-by date on this material have already expired? Larsson’s books peaked on the best-seller lists three years ago. Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo came out during Christmas 2011. If Sony/Columbia ever greenlights a second installment in this would-be trilogy, that film would not hit theaters for at least a year. Public enthusiasm for pop-cultural ephemera has a nasty way of fading fast and moving on to something else.

3) Consider this: don't even bother with more English adaptations. I just picked up the DVD boxed set of the three original Swedish films adapted from Larsson's books and these terrific films could scarcely be improved upon, even by someone possessed of Fincher's talent.

I argued as much 18 months ago.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2013 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 12, 2013

May the Wicked Witch Unleash Hell Upon Warner Bros.

By Steve Evans

If there was one indisputably great year for American cinema, it was 1939. That year saw the release of such classics as Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, the greatest film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Garbo in Ninotchka, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dark Victory, Of Mice and Men, and that perennial favorite of the young at heart, The Wizard of Oz.

Through the years the copyright to Oz has come to be owned by Warner Bros. via Ted Turner, who bought the old MGM catalog in 1986 -- nine years before his own company was acquired and became a subsidiary of Time Warner. Now Warner Bros. has decided to do what all good Hollywood studios like to do on any movie-related anniversary date: make complete whores of themselves in slavish obsession with making a buck. And so, on the upcoming 75th anniversary of one of the greatest films, we can now expect...

“The Wizard of Oz IMAX® 3D Experience" coming soon to a screen near you.

From the Warner Bros. press release:

“Following the IMAX® theatrical release, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will release a limited and numbered The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition on October 1, 2013, featuring the 3D version of the film and more."

To which I say, "Jesus H. Christ. Leave it alone."

And if Warner Bros. can’t do that, please dear people, deny them that which they desperately seek: more of your disposable income. This will be at least the sixth home-video edition of Oz.

Here's some more gibberish from the Warner press release (I suggest you put down any sharp objects or projectile weapons, because this is just going to agitate my fellow cinephiles):

"In support of the 75th anniversary of the film, Warner Bros. Consumer Products’ extensive licensing program of more than 80 top-tier licensees will expand with new partnerships. Leading the way is master toy partner Jazwares, along with Mattel, Rubies, Lionel, Steiff, USAopoly, Thomas Kinkade, and many more that will be taking part in the celebration. Special commemorative anniversary product will be available across a wide array of categories including apparel, jewelry, collectibles, publishing, stationery and paper goods, toys and games, slot machines and personal care."

And finally, this choice bit of news: "(A) Wizard of Oz themed competition will also be featured on an upcoming episode of Food Network’s 'Cupcake Wars' to be aired later this year."

Good God.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. We're in the land of big business run by low-rent bastards with MBAs and less sense than the man in the moon, all resolved to bleed every last nickel from anything of value.

How long will studios continue to cheapen the few remaining quality films in their vaults? How many times will studios try to sell us the same movie? Hell, I'll go for broke: why would anyone idly support Warner Bros. as they trivialize and pollute our cultural iconography with this drivel? Cupcake Wars? Commemorative anniversary product?

Fuck you, Warner Bros. And your little dog too.

Your cinematic schilling must stop.

Cinema Uprising copyright © 2013 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.