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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Media Man Movie And Entertainment News: WWE Studios, Planet Of The Apes, Mission: Impossible, Marvel Entertainment, Underbelly Razor; by Greg Tingle

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Tom Cruise Dead Serious in New 'Mission: Impossible 4' Still...

The 'Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol' picture sees the 'Rock of Ages' actor wearing a hoodie while standing with his back on the explosion scene and giving a fierce gaze to the camera.

A brand new still from "Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol" has just arrived, giving a look at Tom Cruise who looks fierce as he throws a steely gaze at the camera. The Ethan Hunt depicter wears a black hoodie and plants his hands in the pockets of his jacket. He's surrounded by smokes and flames coming from the explosion behind him.

The fourth installment of "Mission: Impossible" franchise, the action movie will follow Ethan and his team as they go undercover to clear their name after they were blamed for a terrorist bombing. While trying to find out the true mastermind behind the crime, they have to dodge the government to avoid being captured and charged for something they didn't do.

The film is supported by Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Ving Rhames, Josh Holloway and Simon Pegg among others. Co-produced by Cruise along with J.J. Abrams and Paula Wagner, it is scheduled to make its way out in the United States on December 21.


WWE Studios rethinks its strategy after shooting seven films in New Orleans...

WWE Studios' New Orleans experiment might not be down for the count, exactly. But the wrestling-linked outfit's unique local strategy -- in which it shot seven films in town in less than two years, including the just-wrapped "No One Lives" -- is definitely changing.

WWE Studios chief Mike Pavone, who had been a near-constant presence in New Orleans for the better part of a year and a half, is leaving the company "to pursue other opportunities," according to a report this week in the trade paper Variety. That follows by days remarks from WWE honcho Vince McMahon that the company is rethinking its film strategy.

Taking advantage of Louisiana's filmmaking tax credits was a key to that strategy, which was Pavone's brainchild, dreamed up after the locally shot, bigger-budgeted 2009 action film "12 Rounds" performed poorly at the box office in the wake of a marketing push by distributor 20th Century Fox that was lackluster at best.

The Pavone plan was intended to keep the budgets of the studio's films -- mostly family-friendly fare on his watch, ranging in genre from comedies to a period drama -- in the $5 million range, a bargain by Hollywood standards. In addition to taking advantage of Louisiana tax credits, it signed a new deal with independent distributor Samuel Goldwyn Films that gave the studio more say in marketing strategy.

Another key to it all, though, was Pavone's mass-production concept, in which production on one film cranked up just as its predecessor was wrapping, allowing the studio to roll much of its crew over from film to film and tamp down startup costs.

That was great for local film-industry workers hired by the studio, as they saw steady work with largely the same group of people for more than a year. And local movie buffs got to see New Orleans on the big screen. (Particularly memorable: Michael Rappaport's black-and-gold Super Bowl XLIV shirt in the forthcoming "Inside Out," albeit a shirt of questionable copyright.)

WWE's bean counters didn't have much to complain about, either -- at least not at first.

"This whole idea is based on a television model," Pavone said in a September interview on the New Orleans set of the forthcoming "Bending the Rules," starring Jamie Kennedy and wrestler Adam "Edge" Copeland. "Amortizing your costs over several movies, you roll the same crews over and over, you don't have to spend all the money for startup and shutdown costs, which could be to the tune of six grand a day to start up in a new place and hire new people and hire stage space.

"We make all of our deals based on multiple movies, so they give us some better rates and on and on. We found out we save a million dollars a movie."

Unfortunately, while all of that meant savings on the production side, it didn't necessarily translate into quality at the box office. Pavone tried to lend his films credibility by signing established actors -- including Ed Harris, Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover, Michael Rappaport and Parker Posey -- to star alongside a selection of WWE wrestler/actors. But audiences didn't respond.

The new distribution deal didn't help matters. It was built around a cost-cutting plan to give each film a limited theatrical release followed just weeks later by DVD releases -- meaning WWE Studios would foot the bill for just one, rather than two, advertising campaigns. But the results apparently weren't much different than when Fox had the reins.

Although WWE Studios generated $4.3 million in the past three months, its latest release -- the coming-of-age comedy "That's What I Am," starring Harris and directed by Pavone -- lost $3.3 million during the second quarter after mustering only $6,400 from 10 theaters in three days at the box office, Variety reported.

After getting an exclusive DVD release at Walmart on May 17, "That's What I Am" -- shot mostly in Jefferson -- gets a wide home-video release on Tuesday (Aug. 16).

As for what direction the studio will take next, a hint could be in "No One Lives," which just wrapped production on the north shore.

That film saw the studio team with Pathe U.K., part of a strategy to share costs with other production partners. As a horror flick directed by Ryuhei Kitamura ("Midnight Meat Train"), it also might signal a shift toward more genre fare, Variety speculated, after Pavone's slate of mostly feel-good dramas and family fare didn't appeal to the company's fan base.

And, it's worth noting, Louisiana is apparently still part of the picture.

WWE Studio's Snapshot...

A look at WWE Studios' films shot locally under the supervision of recently departed executive Mike Pavone:

"Knucklehead," available on DVD now.

"Legendary" (working title: "Brother's Keeper"), available on DVD now.

"The Chaperone," available on DVD now.

"That's What I Am" (working titles: "Big Red," "Big Ginger") available Tuesday on DVD.

"Inside Out", set for limited theatrical release Sept. 9.

"Bending the Rules," release date unannounced.

"No One Lives," just wrapped production.


Rise Of Planet Of The Apes Delivers US Numbers...

Close competition for the top spot on Friday kept Fox's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" in the lead for its second weekend in a row. "Rise" made $8.1 million from 3,691 locations at the US box office. Closely followed by Disney's "The Help" scored $7.626 million from 2,534 locations and Warner Bros' "Final Destination 5" earned $7.34 million from 3,155.


Marvel Schedules Release Dates for Two Mystery Projects...

Marvel Entertainment and Disney are getting close to announcing the next chapters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While 2012 will only see the release of The Avengers, Marvel has already planned two movies for 2013: Iron Man 3 (opening May 3) and Thor 2 (opening July 26). 2014 will also have two releases from the comic book company, though which ones is still a secret. Box Office Mojo reports that two mystery projects will open in 2014, with "Marvel Untitled 1" will open on May 16, 2014, while "Marvel Untitled 2" will open June 27, 2014. No details on which movies they might be, though there are a few obvious possibilities.


Disney - Marvel Comic War Escalates With DC Comics...

On Wednesday, Walt Disney (NYS: DIS) stock suffered its worst sell-off in a decade, dropping 13% in a single day. Sales were strong, but investors worried consumer wallets might not be big enough to keep Disney growing much longer. Result: Wednesday was a horrible day for Disney ... but hold onto your portfolios our friends. The week ain't over yet.

Background...

Two years ago, Disney snagged Marvel Entertainment for a cool $4 billion. Marvel shareholders wept for the loss of their stock, but Disney shareholders cheered approval.

With the fun and games Disney has got itself in a bit of negative publicity. Its new subsidiary Marvel Comics is offering comic book retailers the chance to sell a "variant cover" edition of Fear Itself No. 6. All a retailer has to do to get the coveted item is ... rip the covers off of 50 copies of any No. 1 issue from rival DC Comics' Flashpoint line of titles, and send them to Marvel, coupon-style.

The gambit's perfectly legal. The retailers paid for these comics, and would be destroying their own property, essentially turning their DC comics into coupons to acquire a rare Marvel edition. Marvel has even done this before -- successfully -- cajoling envious retailers into destroying tens of thousands of copies of its rival's comics. Still, there's a bit of an underhanded feel to the whole gambit. Marvel's clear aim here is to limit readership of DC publications, with the hope of strangling DC Comic's fan base.

It may work, but its not a lock. Marvel may have forgotten that by destroying its rivals' work, it's actually making the DC publications rarer...thus increasing their aftermarket value. This could have the perverse effect of encouraging collectors who might not have bought the DC comics before to rush out and buy them now before they disappear. And that's before we even consider the amount of bad blood and negative publicity Marvel (and Disney) are bringing upon themselves through this "dirty tricks" campaign.

What this may mean to the motion picture war between Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics is not totally clear at this point, but Marvel flicks such as Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and X-Men: First Class, have it all over DC's Green Hornet. Will Marvel tie up DC in webs, or will DC fight back and snatch the crown back from Marvel with the help of Batman and friends. Marvel legend Stan Lee and his friends at The Avengers are up to the fight, and news media and fans will not want to miss a second of the action.


Marvel Movies Upcoming...

Movie Studio Date

Captain America: The First Avenger Paramount Pictures 7/22/11
Ghost Rider 2 (3D) Sony 2/17/12
The Avengers (2012) Buena Vista 5/4/12
The Amazing Spider-Man Sony 7/3/12
Iron Man 3 Buena Vista 5/3/13


Underbelly Razor Gets A Makeover; More Advertiser Friendly...

Network Nine top brass has confirmed they worked the casting to put a prettier face on the femme fatale series.

Mug shots of Sydney's most notorious criminals from the roaring '20s were used to hire actors resembling the hard men, the female leads went to Kiwi fems Chelsie Preston Crayford and Danielle Cormack.

Nine boss David Gyngell sold the sexed up and prettier version to advertisers as part of the network's push to get Underbelly the right sort of attention.

Photographs from the time show real-life vice queens Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh were hardly the stuff of cinematic close-ups. They were rough looking girls.

Much of themale casting reflects an uncanny likeness to the real crims who would become underworld legends.

It certainly follows the Underbelly tradition of art imitating life, with Gyton Grantley making his name as Carl Williams in the first series, while Firass Dirani passed as John Ibrahim in last year's 'The Golden Mile'. Dirani later picked up a role opposite Robert Di Niro in 'The Killer Elite'. John "Vulcan" Seru, closely associated with the Media Man agency, is understood to be working on a couple of films under wraps. Long time James Bond fans will know Seru from playing Gabor in 'The World Is Not Enough'.

Make no mistake, bad girls and bad guys are still in vogue.

Underbelly Razor premieres next Sunday night at 8.30pm on Channel Nine.


Mad Max Fury Road Won't Be Made In Australia...

Rural NSW town Broken Town is feeling quite broken hearted after learning that Max Mad will not be filmed there.

The decision, described by the Mayor of Broken Hill as a "tragedy", has stripped the outback city of the $10-12 million in investments it was expecting to receive as a result of the production.

Local council announced the decision saying the production company behind the movie, Kennedy Miller Mitchell (KMM), felt recent heavy rains had ruined the arid landscape the film required.

The now cancelled production would have seen acclaimed director George Miller, as well as Hollywood celebrities Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, working in the western New South Wales city.

Local business people, such as hotel owners who were banking on the influx of people and money, will be hit hard by the decision to cancel filming.

The Mayor of the Broken Hill City Council, Wincen Cuy, told ABC Broken Hill he is disappointed by the decision, but concedes nothing can be done to change the outcome.

"This decision hasn't been taken lightly by KMM... but nature's caused it, nothing else has caused it apart from nature."

Mayor Cuy says the money KMM has already paid to use the film studio is "signed, sealed and delivered", but other parts of the Broken Hill community will suffer from the decision.

"What we're saying is that... from a community's point of view, and from trying to take Broken Hill into the future, yeah it is disappointing."

Despite the disappointment, Mayor Cuy says the City Council understands the decision and respects KMM's right to make it.

Mayor Cuy feels that, although having missed this opportunity, Broken Hill could stand to gain from future opportunities with KMM.

"Let's look at the long term future; if there's going to be a Mad Max Four, it's better to be made (so) then we possibly can get some input into Mad Max 5, or have Mad Max 5 (filmed) here."

Kennedy Miller Mitchell has made no comment as to where the filming of Mad Max: Fury Road will now take place.

Wild flowers cover the Australian desert after a one-in-100-year rain event.

“The Mad Max landscape looks like Wales,” director George Miller said in The Sydney Morning Herald. “There was a carpet of flowers on the location we were shooting on. There’s no way it’s going to brown off.”

The search for browness and a new location is now on. Africa or South America are likely candidates.

This will mark the first time a major Australian film will be shot predominately overseas since “Disgrace” in 2007.

Namibia is the most likely location for the first installment in what will be a new three-movie series.

The film was originally meant to be shot in the African country in 2003, but the production ran into complications with travel restrictions and political sensitivities caused by the Iraq War.

At that time, original Max Mel Gibson was signed for the film. And while it’s still rumored Gibson will appear, the reality is getting increasingly unlikely.

“It won’t be Mel. He was 21 when he made the first one,” George Miller told news.com.au. “Now he’s a lot older and his passion is for filmmaking and directing.”

Tom Hardy, Teresa Palmer and Charlize Theron will reportedly star in the film.

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