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Thursday, October 23, 2014

THE 'SCENE' by Seymore Flix

Toy Company Hasbro To Make Movies

Hasbro Studios, the film making arm of the toy manufacturer, gave the green light to produce an animated feature based upon the very successful 'My Little Pony' line of toys.  Hasbro will self-finance the project, and is in discussion with the Hollywood studios to release the film on the broadest possible number of screens.

The 'My Little Pony' series of toys has been extremely lucrative for Hasbro.  Introduced in 1983 the 'Pony' characters are very colorful, with manes and distinguishing marks which make each one unique. The 'My Little Pony' line of toys has had 4 revamps over its 30 year life.

"We are going to make big tentpole movies by ourselves and with our studio partners" says Steve Davis, President of Hasbro Studios, "like our partnership on the "Transformers" and "G.I.Joe" with Paramount and "Monopoly" and "Candy Land" with Sony.

With the 'My Little Pony' franchise, Hasbro has already produced direct-to-homevideo animated movies and is producing the 100th episode of the current, 'Pony' TV series that airs in over 100 countries on the Discovery Channel.

I am very familiar with 'My Little Pony' toys, as my daughter, Megan, was very much the Pony collector and played with these toys on a regular basis. I my go to see this pic just to reminisce.

A New BioPic on Jerry Lee Lewis?
Lewis (left) with Carl Perkins, Elvis, and Johnny Cash

The 'Would Be King' of Rock n' Roll - that is what many call Jerry Lee Lewis, and they are right. But for the scandals and self-inflicted career stoppers he may have taken the title away from Elvis.

People say a lot of things about me - "talk about me like a dog" he says "but they can't say I didn't put on the best rock n' roll shows ever." When people talk about Jerry Lee Lewis they usually smile, I know I do.  Just a kid, I first saw Lewis on American Bandstand, a popular TV show hosted by Dick Clark, and I was amazed.  He was playing 'Great Balls of Fire', one of his big hit songs, when all of a sudden he was on his feet banging away at the piano (no guitar for Jerry Lee, it was always the piano). Then he was ON the piano, banging away at the keys with his feet. You had to love it. I'd never seen anything like it and haven't since.  It is often told that at his live concerts Lewis would play, non-stop for three or four hours!  There was no doubt, there was Elvis, there was James Brown, but Jerry Lee was the best live - he was the first pure rock n' roll performer.  Sam Phillips, the head of Sun Records, where rock started, called Lewis, "The most talented man I ever worked with, black or white ... one of the most talented human being to walk God's earth."

In 1989, a biopic entitled, 'Great Balls of Fire' starring Dennis Quaid, Winona Rider, and Alex Baldwin was released but is widely regarded as not a real portrayal of Lewis's life.  Another biopic is called for.

Now 79, Lewis has been married seven times.  "I ain't no goody-goody", he says, "and I ain't no phony. I never pretended to be anything, and anything I ever did, I did it wide-open."  He was inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him 24th on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

We need another movie about Jerry Lee Lewis, the 'almost' King of Rock, or maybe he was?

Must Have Toy This Christmas
Walter White action figure

Toy-of-the-year: the highly desirable action figures from the big hit TV series 'Breaking Bad'.  However, these toys are not without controversy. The Walter White doll, the main character in the Breaking Bad series, sports a tiny bag of crystal meth, while the Jesse Pinkman doll, Walter's partner in crime, comes with a gas mask.

A petition started by a Florida parent, Susan Schrivjer, to stop Toys R Us from selling the dolls got traction. The toy retailer issued a statement saying that "the items are intended for ages 15 and up, and are located in the adult action figure area of our stores." Nonetheless, the dolls have been removed from the shelves for the time being.

The more it's talked about the more demand there will be for the dolls as Toys R Us was finding it hard to keep the dolls in stock and they are being 'black marketed' on eBay and Craig's list.

S. Flix

Sunday, October 19, 2014

CINEMA BuZZ - 19 October 2014

Quidditch - The New Sport
A contact sport - Quidditch is rough to play

No the players do not fly on brooms, but they do run with them. The 'snitch' isn't a small round, golden ball with wings, but a ball hanging from a pole attached to a person clad in yellow who runs around with 'seekers' in pursuit.  This is no joke, but a new sport with over 150 teams in the U.S. alone, playing a human version of the Harry Potter movie game. And as many sports' movies have visited the silver screen so to has Quidditch in the new film called, 'Mudbloods'.

Started in 2005 at Middlebury College, VT the sport is now global and played mostly on university campuses.  The players swap flying brooms for plain ones which they grip in one hand and run with between their legs. The last Quidditch World Cup (number 'V') was held in New York City and won by the team from UCLA - a real under-dog. That, cinderella story, is the premise of the 'Mudbloods' documentary. "When I first saw it being played it was embarrassing to look at. Players running around on brooms, it was silly. But then I realized how athletic the game really was " Farzad Sangari, the movie's producer told me, "and that inspired me to make the film".

UCLA winners of Quidditch - World Cup V

With World Cup V, Quidditch may have gone from fledgling sport to mainstream, at least on college campuses. In World Cup V,  96 teams competed from around the world and since that event the sport's following has swelled - with over 150 teams in the U.S. alone and hundreds more worldwide. Spectators and fans now number in the tens of thousands, which is no small feat given the fact that the game's play book is over 200 pages long with 700 rules and regulations.

'Mudbloods' provides the first glimpse of the 'real' sport of Quidditch.  It may sound weird at first, but the sport is real, hard to play, and may be the next mainstream 'must watch' sport. All it takes is a few endorsements from the likes of Nike, Adidas, or a major auto or beer manufacturer and it just may be a refreshing diversion from all of the crap and big money that now drives virtually every major sport.

Who Gets The Job of Playing Jobs
Jobs at launch of the iPod

It appears that Christian Bale will get to play Steve Jobs in the upcoming biopic about Apple's co-founder and main mover.  Leo DiCaprio, who originally was to star in the role backed out in order to " take a break from acting".   The movie, based on the biography by Walter Isaacson entitled, 'Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography', will be divided into three long scenes taking place on the eve of an Apple product launch - those products being: The Mac in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1990 (which Jobs launched after leaving Apple), and the iPod, which launched in 2001 after Jobs returned to Apple.

The movie is set to start production next spring. From the sound of things, this film could be a great one or a real yawn'er. Almost everyone owns at least one Apple product (the average household in the U.S. owns three). No doubt Jobs was a technology wiz and his efforts and vision changed the entire way people work, play, and function on a daily basis. Lets hope the movie does him justice.

At right, current photo of Bale.

ILM Opens Studio in London

Industrial Light and Magic, the great movie special effects firm started by George Lucas has opened a new studio in London to take on the task of doing the effects for the Star Wars trilogy of films to be produced.  Disney, which purchased LucasFilms in 2012 for a reported $2.4 billion, is the current owner of ILM.  In a statement, Kathleen Kennedy, the President of LucasFilm said, "once again ILM will oversee all of the visual and special effects for the upcoming installments of Star Wars, most of which will be performed at the new London studio".  ILM currently has facilities in San Francisco, Vancouver, and Singapore.

As the films, of this lengthy franchise, are being shot in London it made sense for ILM to set up shop in London. The first film, in the three movie sequel, is scheduled to be released in December 2015.

ILM has performed the effects to over 300 movies - everything from 'Back to the Future' to 'Avatar'. On the finance side, it was revealed that Disney was given $350 million in tax relief from the Inland Revenue (the IRS of England) in return for agreeing to make the Stars Wars films in the UK.  The British government's tax breaks and other 'investments'  has made the movie industry in England very vibrant which has, in turn, brought a lot of talent and money into London.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Busted" - Could Hollywood Have the Same Fate?

China Bans Abusive Actors From Screen
China Bans Actors

The current Chinese government crackdown on corruption and moral abuse has targeted actors with a history of drug or other substance issues, as well as moral abuses, and has ban them from appearing in any film or TV production.

An edit issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) ordered cinemas and TV networks to halt all screenings of movies featuring stars with "morally dubious pasts".  These moral transgressions include: drug use, alcohol abuse, illegal acts (such as DWIs), sex with prostitutes, indecent exposure, and other moral offences.

It was reported that over 40 performing arts organizations have agreed with the government's new policy and will not employ actors with a history of drug or other substance abuses.  In its official statement, SARFT announced that the new regulations were introduced because actors "corrupted the social atmosphere through their behavior and create a detrimental influence on the development of many young people."

There has been both critical and pro support for the new law.  As of now, there is no indication that the new regulations will apply to actors outside of China, but it may come to that.  Currently China and Hollywood are having a love-affair, and given China's huge market H'wood may succumb to new moral standards of its own.  OH NO - if that were the case most of the 'A' listers would be in trouble.
Abuse, loose morals, domestic strife, these are worn by U.S. actors as badges to reflect their, 'I'm just a common person' guilt trip.

"Hollywood is a Whorehouse"

At least according to John Cusack, the 25 year vet actor who knows all about the dark-side of tinsel-town.

In his latest film, 'Maps to the Stars', Cusack does just that, exposes the dirty under-belly of H'wood and it is a film not to be missed.  In the movie, Cusack plays a millionaire self-help guru and his clients paradox current personalities in very thinly veiled terms.  It is a brutal expose' of how the studio system works and vilifies those obsessed with fame.

As Stafford Weiss, Cusack does a great job at playing a therapist who gets rich using a mixture of "Freudian psychoanalysis, deep-tissue massage, and generous amount of bull-shit".  The glitterati want a quick fix for their insecurities, and as Stafford tells his clients, "If we can name it, we can blame it."

According to Cusack, 'Maps' reflects the surroundings. "LA seems to be a place where a guy can say he's a "life-coach -  channeller - masseur" and be believed.  People are looking to turn pain into art, but they also want to be famous, and there is so much money to throw at their problems."

In H'wood, age is currency.  Says Cusack, "I got another 15, 20 years before they say I'm old.  For women its brutal.  If your 26, you're menopausal - it only a little absurd because it's a little bit further than the truth.  I have actress friends who are being put out to pasture at 29.  The studios just want to open up another can of hot 22.  It's becoming almost like kiddie porn. It's fucking weird."

Cusack made his film debut at 16 and has been in movies ever since. "Back then people looked after you.  There were good people in the business. I was mentored by Rob Reiner and Al Pacino.  Now it's different. The culture justs eats young actors up and spits them out."

'Maps to the Stars' shows us that H'wood is no longer a place, it's a nostalgic idea. Now it's a corporate culture of risk-aversion.  It's the era of the 50-producer movie. In modern H'wood the franchise is king - the actor just leverage. "You can't make it up", says Cusack.

'Maps to the Stars' is a must see film where everyone's too hungry for fame and riches to question motive.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Music Biopics: On A Roll

Hollywood and music fans love biopics of recording stars - living or dead.  Many of these musical artists have led interesting and sometimes violent lives (many shortened by drug, alcohol, or other excesses). Music biopics can be very lucrative, as they carry with them: music downloads, strong DVD and pay-per-view sales, and concert tours for the artists.  To those living it is a shot in the arm financially.

It seems Hollywood is currently on a musical stars biopic spree.  Starting with the Hank Williams based, 'I Saw The Light' which will star Tom Hiddleston.  Although British and not a great voice, Hiddleston does bear a striking resemblance to the C/W legend.  Williams died in 1953 at the age of 29, but made a great mark on the country music scene.

Freddie Mercury - a movie about the life of  Queen's vocal lead and frontman has been in development since 2010.  Originally, Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borak) was to play Mercury but there was a dispute with the surviving members of the band regarding Cohen portraying Mercury.  Ben Whishaw, has now replaced Cohen and a director is being decided. Heavy money and clout is behind the film, including Robert DeNiro who is one of its producers.

Brian Wilson - a movie was always in the future for this most famous of the Beach Boys. A release date for a film on Wilson's life, 'Love & Mercy' (named after a single from his 1988 solo album) stars Paul Dano playing a young and John Cusack an elder Wilson in the film.  Looks to be a good but not great depiction of Wilson.

Frank Sinatra - who can play the Chairman?  The rights to the biopic on the life of the legendary Sinatra are owned by Martin Scorsese who purchased them in 2009.  But the movie has yet to see any daylight.  Problem is, getting an A-lister to sign up to play the legend.  Reportedly Scorsese has been wooing Clooney, DiCaprio, Depp, and Pacino or several of them to play various stages in Frank's life.  The project is still very much a go and if directed and played right with a great script will no doubt be a box office smash.

Miles Davis- the great jazz (perhaps the greatest jazz trumpet player ever - at least in my book) artist. Davis's biopic has been a passion of Don Cheadle - who is directing, starring, co-writing, and producing - the film, titled 'Miles Ahead'. The movie began production in July, and co-stars Ewan McGregor, as a music journalist.  Cheadle is a much liked figure in Hollywood and everyone is rooting for his success with this project, including the Davis family which has given permission to use Davis's actual music.  The soundtrack should be particularly good. Hope there is a rendition of 'YesterNow'.

Janis Joplin - the great '60s blues singer who could belt-out a ballad better than anyone then or now. A bio on the short-live Joplin has been on the drawing boards for more than 10 years.  Pink, Zooey Deschanel, Renee Zellweger have all been whispered as possibilities.  Currently, it is Amy Adams who is the front runner to play Joplin, who died in 1970 after a heroin overdose.  The title of the film, for the moment, is 'Get It While You Can' and it would be a great (be it demanding) role for Adams.

Kurt Cobain - the moving force behind Nirvana, who committed suicide in 1994 a biopic has been in the works for awhile.  A documentary, 'Kurt and Courtney' , based on the life of Cobain and Courtney Love was released on 1998.  However, the problem in doing a bio on Cobain is Love.  Anyone trying to do a film must deal with Love.  It appears that the film will be shot in England but little progress has been made - we'll just have to wait and see.

As stated, a music biopic can be a great, if not, greatest role for any actor - Joaquin Phoenix in 'Walking Tall', Jeff Bridges in 'Crazy Heart', Sissy Spacek in 'Coal Miner's Daughter'.  Current musical biopics include a pic on soul man, James Brown, 'Get On Up' and a bio on the great rock guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, 'Jimi: All Is By My Side'.