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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

'Emojis' Rule

Slated for release in August of 2017 will be the first full-length feature of emoji. To be entitled 'The Emoji Movie', the animated film is being produced by Sony Pictures Animation and will feature the round-headed figures that have become a staple in social media across the world.

Emoji (Japanese for 'picture word') is a computer language created to send lots of information in a small amount of data space.  Started in 1999 to help Japanese cell phone companies address the problem of people sending photos vs. text messages - as one photo takes up as much data as hundreds or thousands of text messages - the emoji was conceived.

The emoji has now gone from Japanese icon to global phenomenon and July 17th is now dubbed 'World Emoji Day'. The most popular emoji is the "face with tears of joy".

Emoji complement language and the day of the emoji becoming a language unto itself is fast approaching.  A grammatical system has been developed whereby text can be converted to emoji figures (a la Egyptian hieroglyphics) that is universal and will be shared by the estimated 6.1 billion cell phone users by 2020. Emoji are here to stay and will become a larger part of our lives, they are already being used for commercial purposes by any number of companies from Taco Bell to Coke.  All of the U.S. Presidential candidates have emoji and eventually everyone in the world will have there own emoji if the wish.

The Sony film will be similar in make and form as the Minion movie. My guess is it will be a hit and there will be sequels - as everyone who uses a cell phone knows what emoji are and has used them in there text messaging.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

CGM's Holiday Post: In Defense of Scrooge

Ok, so Scrooge was a tight-waded, miser who had no friends, only one nephew for family, and was pretty much disliked by all he came in contact with.  But does that make him a bad person? In this era of inclusiveness Scrooge has to be accommodated.
There's  a lot of Scrooge in all of us

Dickens's character build of Scrooge is perhaps misunderstood by readers and movie-viewers alike. There have been many iterations of the Scrooge character in films - at least thirty going back to the 1940s and before that on radio and on-stage.  Basically, Scrooge wanted to be left alone and asked for nothing of anyone - a rarity in today's gimme world.

Christmas has gravitated to a giving/receiving fest. With news broadcasters reporting how much money the average family will spend and on what items.  Tech toys and gaming are big this year, as are drones. Apparel not so much. Gift cards are prevalent (easy to get and give) and lots of stuff is bought on-line.  Amazon is booming. Their ship-to time is fast but they want to get it faster (they are in negotiation to lease 20 Boeing 767 cargo planes) and skip the slower  UPS and FEDEX delivery services. But I digress, let's get back to Scrooge.

Not a soul in 'The Christmas Carol' gives Scrooge anything.  Those he comes in contact with are unpleasant and some contemplate his demise. They talk of taking his bed linens and curtains and divvying up his other belongings upon his death. What would Bob Cratchit and his family do without Scrooge? Simply put, Scrooge is thrifty - a valued trait in this age of spending and debt accumulation. The U.S. Government could take a lesson or two from Scrooge on the value of a dollar. Not only that but Scrooge is diligently working on behalf of his clients, while saving on energy and air pollution by conserving the use of coal.
C. Dickens at work

His nephew, Fred, is a job-less spend-thrift who is planning on getting married, go figure. His one employee is a day-dreamer, who shows up late for work and tries to sneak out early, has six children, and a stay-at-home wife. Is Scrooge responsible for Cratchit's misguided life decisions.

Let's face it. Ebenezer Scrooge is a victim of Christmas just as many of us are today.  No one asked Scrooge what he wanted for Christmas. Everyone likes getting gifts - they mean 'someone cares about me' and most people like giving gifts as well.  Charities abound year-round and the requests for donations are everywhere - from the supermarket line to utility bill, not to mention the incessant TV commercials for needy children, pets, and various diseases and afflictions.

Scrooge gets a raw deal
Remember good-hearted, lovable, generous, old Fezziwig who goes bankrupt because he couldn't compete on price. Scrooge, on the other hand, was a financially secure, self-sufficient entrepreneur who was well respected in his business/social circles.  He was very successful in his money-lending and trading businesses. He was fair, honest, and shrewd - traits we hold in esteem.

I believe, more and more people are becoming closet Scrooges.  Secretly they admire his steadfastness against the 'buy me' commercialization of Christmas - which now starts right after Halloween - and shun the false hype that 'giving' is the best gift.

Actually, Scrooge needs no defending. If anything he deserves admiration.  He is an example to all of us that Christmas is not about those giving and others taking but about being forthright, honest, and steadfast all of the time.  Sure the holidays should be a happy time spent with family, friends, and neighbors but keep in mind that the majority of the world's populace doesn't celebrate Christmas.

In the end, Dickens has Scrooge succumbing to social pressures (via three ghosts and a dead business partner) and loosing the fight against the onslaught of  'commercial' Christmas. I like old Scrooge and the 'born-again' Scrooge - why not, it's Christmas!    

Saturday, December 19, 2015

49 - 0

A biopic on Rocky Marciano, a sports legend, and the only undefeated heavy-weight boxer in history, is in the works and will star Jeremy Renner. Although you may say that Renner is too small to play the part of a heavy-weight, Marciano was only 5'11" and scaled-in at a mere 190 pounds. To be titled, 'Undefeated:The Rocky Marciano Story'  Marciano's story should make for a great sports film.
The 'great' Rocky Marciano

The film will be the first authorized biopic on Marciano's life and will follow him from childhood to his untimely death in a plane crash in 1969, at 46.  He retired from boxing in 1955 at the age of 31 and remains the only heavy-weight champion to retire undefeated with a record of 49 - 0 with 43 of his bouts ending in knockouts. Only Floyd Mayweather, a welter-weight boxer, has managed to match Marciano's 49 - 0 record with a 53% knockout record, Marciano's KO rate was 87% - the highest in boxing history.

Marciano was what is termed in boxing as a brawler. Given his small size for a heavy-weight his strategy was to get inside his opponents reach and than deliver his devastating punching power. He also had the ability to take a punch and was said to have an 'iron jaw'. In his career he was only knocked to the canvas twice, one time each in two separate fights.  Marciano's professional boxing career ran from 1947 to 1955 at which time he retired as world champ.
Jeremy Renner to play Marciano in biopic

As time passes there is a tendency to lose history. Ali, dubbed  'the Greatest', had a much longer career (from 1960 - 1981) than Marciano and amassed a record of 56 - 5 with 37 KOs.  Problem with Ali, he didn't know when to quit and decisively lost 3 of his last 5 fights.

It will be very hard to beat Marciano's boxing record and that's why it still stands. Better still is the fact that he knew when to exit the ring and retire as champ - you've got to admire that. I, for one, look forward to Jeremy Renner's portrayal of 'the great' Rocky Marciano.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Is The Cinema Aging?

Although you wouldn't notice from the throngs lined-up to see 'The Force Awakens' there appears to be a glint of aging at the cinema.  Could movies be entering an age dominated by elder folk? Could we be on the cusp of witnessing the age of  'geezer cinema'?

Sam Elliott (71) starred in 'Dreams' and 'Grandma'
A view of the films and stars that are up for the big awards this year (including the Oscars) may hint at this aging process. It's no surprise to anyone who follows entertainment trends that younger moviegoers are trending down, while - low and behold - older folks, especially those 60 and above, are flocking to the cinema.  What gives? Hollywood is all about youth, beauty, action, and sex - or at least that's what we thought.  It now appears that old fogies are in vogue.

Look at the roster of films that are the front-runners in the awards' races. 'Youth' with Michael Caine (82) and co-stars Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda. '45 Years' - Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, 'Creed'- Sylvester Stallone, 'Grandma' - Lily Tomlin and Sam Elliott, 'Woman in Gold' - Helen Mirren (who also stars in 'Trumbo', 'The Lady In The Van' - Maggie Smith, 'Mr. Holmes' - Ian McKellen, 'I'll See You In My Dreams' - Blythe Danner and again, Sam Elliott.  The average age of this group is about 75.  2015 is skewed with coming-of-age films about 'aging boomers'.
Fonda (77) and Keitel (76) star in 'Youth'

Will this be a trend with legs?  Make no mistake, geezer films won't replace the high-impact, action/fantasy genre, but as independent, low-budget marquee fodder they make a lot of since and for the most part are solid grossers. Older audiences can't, or perhaps don't want to, relate to the issues of a 20-something.  They have a myriad of issues to deal with and these issues make for a slew of good story-lines and acting roles (hell, they just need to play themselves).  Lily Tomlin picked up a Golden Globe nomination last week for her role in 'Grandma' and stated that, "People get it. They are more aware of the inevitability of aging and its issues then ever before. And want to see this reflected in movies and on TV."

In a recent interview, Ian McKellen (76) implored people to use the term "seasoned stars" and to "please don't say veteran". He won a lot of kudos for his portrayal of an aging Sherlock Holmes that is grappling with dementia.  Many of these new 'old age' films deal with dating and sex, drugs, financial issues and the impact of changing personal and family relationships for folks who are active and normal but just older. Casting these films with actors who are well known only enhances their appeal and believability.

I think the 'geezer' film trend will continue. Hollywood as found a new audience (their old audience) and it's an audience that is large and looking for meaningful stories they can relate to.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What's Up At The Movies? - by Seymour Flix

How 'Real' Can Movies Become
Ad for 4DX Experience

The cinema experience, by default, has got to move to a higher level - but the cinema exhibition industry, for the most part, isn't aware of that yet!

Like all businesses, cinema exhibition must embrace the tech revolution and will have to deploy the latest in audio and visual sensory devices to lure (and keep) audiences.  Going forward, cinemas will need to give consumers a very good reason to leave their ever expanding entertainment option at home (and elsewhere): streaming services, video games, 4k TV, digital/surround sound, and the upcoming and eye-popping virtual reality experiences which will redefine home entertainment.

At this time, all of the 40,000+ cinema screens within the U.S. have converted to digital projection allowing them the capability to not only exhibit movies but to stream live concerts, sporting events, and a huge array of alternative content.  But cinema will need to do more !

IMAX has proven that consumers are willing to pay a premium ticket price for an 'experience' but the enhanced experience must be for real and not a gimmick.  For example, the CJ Group, a Korean company, has introduced a system dubbed '4DX Cinema'.  4DX equipped auditoriums (several have been opened by the Regal Entertainment chain), on average, generate 3X the revenue of a regular cinema. The 4DX experience includes, moving/vibrating chairs, along with wind, strobe, fog, and scent-based effects synced to the on-screen action.  The upcharge for the 4DX 'experience' is $6-8 per admission - but sells out. The upgrade to 4DX cost from $1.5-2 million per  auditorium so it is iffy as to its mainstream acceptance: however the writing is on the wall that moviegoers will expect to have some sort of added experience when visiting a cinema. 

I believe that as time passes, exhibitors will have little choice but to improve their movie presentation experience - it's inevitable!

Brace Yourself For The Award Shows
This is how you accept an Oscar - who needs to talk.

Get ready for politically charged movie award shows.  The Emmys, Oscars, SAG, Golden Globe, Critics Choice etc. award shows will be politically-driven and all about the Presidency, global warming, and being socially inclusive. My guess is terrorism will not be talked about other than reference to gun control.  The theme of 'inclusiveness' however will be fully vetted (no pun intended).

It's not that I dislike discussion of the various views on the geo-political landscape so long as the facts are correct and the rhetoric doesn't degrade into a forum for spewing personal agendas.

Hollywood has a definite role to play regarding the world in which we live and the events taking place and a responsibility to address these events through well conceived and delivered films.  The average European, American, and Asian feel less secure than they did last year. An insecurity spawned by political terrorism, as well as, homegrown derangement.

Honest and constructive commentary is needed by those whose opinions matter to the public. Personal rants at award shows don't do anything to help and foster more resentment.

Seymour Flix

Monday, December 14, 2015

'Stars Wars' - Is It Becoming A 'Cliche'?
Emperor's Throne 

Has the 'Star Wars' theme gone too far? Are we all suffering from an overused 'Star Wars' craze. Look at the new 'Star Wars' themed cinema that Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas just opened in Omaha, Nebraska. The cinema features a 10ft. diameter Death Star hanging from the lobby ceiling, an Imperial space station for concession stand, and an Emperor's throne where the occupant controls the Death Star.

Space Station Concession Stand
The thought for Alamo was to build a themed cinema around an iconic film and to immerse moviegoers into the experience.  It just so happens that the cinema's opening coincided with the new 'Star Wars' film, the 'The Force Awakens'. Alamo management says, the installation is permanent but has the 'Star Wars' theme gone too far.  Has the whole idea become a cliche, an idea lacking any original thought or excitement.  What if the new films don't live up to expectations (which are huge) does the iconic notion become a 'has-been' and 'over-worked' construct?  We'll see - you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

CinemaBuzz by Seymour Flix

Rambo Is Back

Stallone at 69
A spin-off of Vietnam's favorite vet is scheduled to appear on a new TV show.  The scuttlebutt is that Fox has been working with Sly Stallone on bringing Rambo to the small screen in a series entitled, 'Rambo: New Blood'. The series would follow the exploits of Rambo's son, JR - a retired Navy Seal on a quest for justice. It is not clear what Stallone's role, as Rambo Sr., would be, but it would be significant, according to Fox.

The Rambo franchise has been very successful. Four films were made: 'First Blood' (1982), 'Rambo:First Blood Part II (1985), 'Rambo III' (1988), and 'Rambo' (2008). A fifth Rambo is in the works. The first four films cost $171 million to make and market but grossed over $727 million.

As John Rambo in 'First Blood'
Stallone, 69, and has had a long and very successful movie career. He is currently starring in the now-in-release film 'Creed', a sequel to the 'Rocky' franchise. 'Creed' earned a very respectable $44 million on its opening weekend and has been met with critical acclaim. There were six previous Rocky films which have earned over $1.3 billion but cost only $119 million.

Stallone's latest franchise is the 'Expendables' series. Their have been three episodes in the series and a fourth is in the works.  Although these films met with limited success at the U.S. box office they did very well overseas - earning $785 million but costing only $202 to make and market.

CMG wishes Sly Stallone continued success. 'Rocky' is certainly on my top 25 film list - it's a great movie. It should be noted that Stallone has written virtually all of the movies he has starred in, including all of the Rocky, Rambo, and Expendable films.

"I Will Make No Cuts"

Micheal Moore is in a snit over the 'R' rating his new docu-drama, 'Where To Invade Next', received from the MPAA and in losing his appeal to have the rating changed to a 'PG-13'. The movie received the 'R' rating (one one under 17 admitted without an adult) due to "vial language, violent images, drug use, and graphic nudity".
Perhaps a docu on weight loss would be appropriate

'Where To Invade Next' is essentially a travelogue which (sort of) explains how countries deal with social and economic issues in comparison to the U.S. Needless to say, the U.S. comes up very short in all categories - as with all of Moore's films.

In his defense, Moore said of the MPAA ruling, "This film has been widely praised (he gave no names) for its warmth and humor and optimism.  I wish the MPAA would be honest".

The movie is set to open on December 23th in NYC and LA and go wide release on January 15th.  Moore was seeking the 'PG-13' rating (no one under 13 admitted without an adult) for the film.  The option is to release the film without a rating but that won't happen as the large cinema chains refuse to screen any film without a rating.

CMG thinks all the rating fuss may be for naught as the film will fall victim to 'Star Wars'. Teenagers aren't interested in Moore's political views or social opinions, they are interested in spending their cinema dollars on entertainment - and 'Star Wars' will provide that.


Friday, December 04, 2015

A New 'Star Wars' - Can It Get Any Better

Lucas, Happy With The Disney Deal
George Lucas, "I haven't seen a single frame of the new 'Star Wars' ".  In an interview with The Washington Post, Lucas described his selling of Lucas Films to Disney as a "divorce" from the franchise.  He confirmed that he had absolutely no involvement in the new movie adding that Disney "decided they didn't like the stories he had outlined for the sequels."

Toshiro Mifune
"I can look over someone's shoulders on this.  You're either the dictator or you're not. All I would do is make them miserable. I'd make myself miserable. It would have ruined the vision."  Having not seen a clip of the movie as yet, but definitely planning on viewing it, Lucas added, "Now I'm faced with this awkward reality, which is fine.  I gotta go to the wedding.  My ex will be there, my new wife will be there, I'm going to have to take a very deep breath and be a good person and sit through it and just enjoy the moment." Lucas sold out to Disney for $4 billion in 2012 and with it the greatest franchise in film history.

On another 'Star Wars' note .......  It was revealed recently that Toshiro Mifune, the great Japanese actor, turned down the chance to play one of two key roles in the 'Star Wars' saga.  In 1977, George Lucas approached Mifune and offered him the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Upon Mifune's refusal of the role, Lucas offered him the role of Darth Vader, but was turned down for that as well.

Kirosawa with devotees Lucas & Speilberg
Mifune starred in a number of films by the greatest director ever (in my opinion) Akira Kurosawa (who Lucas idolized). In fact, the whole 'Star Wars' plot is based upon a Kurosawa film entitled 'The Hidden Fortress' - a 1958 film that Mifune starred in.

Mifune is not alone in his turn-down of roles for the original 'Star Wars' films.  Others, included Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Burt Reynolds, Robert DeNiro, and James Caan.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What's Up At The Movies

Lawsuits Mount
Walkers during happier times
Over Paul Walker's Death

In September, CMG reported that, Meadow Rain, the daughter of Paul Walker, best known for his starring role in the Fast & Furious movies, had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche (owned by Volkswagen).  The lawsuit alleges Porsche was aware that the 2005 Carrera GT that Walker, and friend, Roger Rodas (who also died in the crash) had stability issues and lacked safety features that would have saved both Walker's and Rodas' lives.

This week, Paul Walker's father also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche.  Seeking unspecified damages, the senior Walker's suit was joined by another lawsuit, this one filed by Rodas' widow.

In response to these lawsuits Porsche issued the following statement. "Mr. Walker knowingly and voluntarily assumed all risks, perils, and dangers in respect to the use of the subject 2005 Carrera GT. That the perils, risks, and dangers were open and obvious and known to him, and that he chose to conduct himself in a manner as to expose himself to such peril, thus assuming all the risks involved in using the vehicle."

It has been documented that the Carrera was traveling at a high-rate of speed when the crash occurred.

Redstone Sued Over 'Mental Vacancy'
Redstone in recent photo

Sumner Redstone was sued last week regarding his mental competence and raised questions about the 92 year old's capability in overseeing the affairs of Viacom and the CBS Corporations.

Court documents describe Redstone as "mentally vacant, unable to speak intelligibly or eat on his own and prone to uncontrollable crying spells."  In response, his attorneys contend that the "litigation is a farce, it is a meritless action, riddled with lies, and a despicable invasion of privacy." Redstone's attorneys further added that "it proves only that the claimants will stop at nothing to peruse their personal financial agenda."

Redstone, who is reported to have a net worth of over $5.5 billion, owns Paramount Pictures. Although he has not managed any of his companies for sometime he has relied on Viacom's management and its Board to run the day-to-day affairs.  Philippe Dauman, Viacom's CEO is currently the person in charge of Redstone's healthcare directive and would make all decisions if Redstone should become totally incapacitated.

CMG only brings up this issue because Redstone's condition will have significant ramifications for the Paramount studio.  Outside of 'Mission Impossible:Rogue Nation', no other Paramount film made it into the top ten this year.  Paramount will only release 16 films this year and through November it had only 6.2% of the total U.S. box-office gross. Only 14 movies are scheduled for release in 2016.

Polanski Exonerated
Polanski exonerated

Roman Polanski will not be be extradited by Poland as the U.S. had requested.  In an almost 40 year-old case, Prosecutors in Krakow, Poland who sought extradition of Polanski said, "the court's refusal of the extradition closes the matter".

Polanski's reaction to the ruling was "great relief and satisfaction". The 82 year old Polanski currently resides in Paris and is now free to travel to Poland, his native country, where he is planning to film his next movie.

In 1977 Polanski pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13 year old girl during a photo-shoot in Los Angeles.  He then fled the U.S. fearing imprisonment and the U.S. authorities have been seeking his extradition since that time.

His notable movies include: 'Rosemary's Baby' 1968, 'Chinatown' 1974, 'The Tenent' 1976, 'Tess' 1979, and 'The Pianist' 2002.  Polanski's second wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by members of the Charles Mansion family in 1969 while he was in Europe working on a movie.

Jim Lavorato

Monday, November 23, 2015

CinemaBUZZ by Seymore Flix

Hunger Games Poster Ban In Israel
Poster Ban in Israel 

Several cities in Israel, including Jerusalem have ban the use of a poster to advertise the last film in the 'Hunger Games' series.

The poster had to be redesigned so as to exclude any image of Jennifer Lawrence. A source at an Israeli PR firm told CMG "the town of Bnie Brok and others, including sections of Jerusalem, do not allow posters with female images, based upon the fear that the posters may incite the feelings of the city's residents."  I'm not sure what that all means but the views on women seem a tad out-of-touch.

Ironically, there has been nary a word from the Hollywood feminists, including Lawrence, on this subject - which can be seen as very anti-feminist.

'Star Wars' - $50M In Advanced Ticket Sales

Shattering all previous records, 'The Force Awakens' has broken the $50 million mark in advance ticket sales and there is still over 3 weeks until its release.

The seventh film in the outer space saga is by far the biggest pre-seller in history. IMAX screenings are essentially sold out and theatre chains and independent exhibitors are continually adding extra showtimes to keep up with demand.

I believe, 'The Force Awakens' will have the biggest opening in history and have legs to push it's play-dates well into January.  It is expected to open in over 4,000 screens in the U.S. and thousands more globally which could push the film to be the highest grosser yet.  It better live up to all of the hype or Disney will be in a world of hurt for the next two sequels already in the works.

Samsung Intro's VR Headset
Samsung's new GearVR Headset

On Friday, Samsung began selling its version of a virtual reality headset - the GearVR for just $100.

Directed at the consumer, the GearVR works in conjunction with Samsung's most recent smartphones.  Samsung developed the GearVR with Facebook owned VR firm, Oculus (which sells a VR headset for over twice the price of the Samsung).

The GearVR is reported to be easy to use and has installed apps or those that can be purchased through the Oculus store.  Games are the big draw for GearVR with cinema a second as it offers films in 360-degree version.  There is also a Media app which lets you stream from Twitch and there is a Netflix app that puts you into a virtual living room to watch Netflix movies.

On the down side, the GearVR reportedly has focus issues and the fact that you are staring at a smartphone poses resolution issues.

At the moment, my suggestion is to wait before pulling out your wallet for a GearVR or any other VR device - these devices aren't yet ready for prime-time.  Other companies will be entering the fray and the competition will be fierce for the VR user.  Samsung has laid down a $100 device, so the price is right (assuming you have a compatible Samsung smartphone).  I believe the trick will be to offer consumers a low-cost, high-quality, wireless (the Oculus VR has a giant cord) device for connection to a PC or tablet and not a phone.

As it currently stands, VR devices don't present any competition to cinemas as they are used primarily for gaming, but it's worth watching their development nonetheless.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

David vs. Goliath Battle Continues

IPic seating
In the continuing battle of big vs. small the David-sized cinema circuit IPic has sued the Goliath chains AMC and Regal as the legal wrangling over anti-competitive practices by the large circuits shows no let-up.

This past Tuesday, IPic Gold Class Entertainment (a high-end cinema chain with 12 luxury cinemas in various cities throughout the U.S.) sued both Regal Entertainment and AMC Entertainment (the U.S.'s #1 and #2 largest chains) alleging that both of these large circuits are using their "market power" to "squeeze out" IPic's new cinema in Houston and one planned to open in Dallas, Texas.

IPic food offerings
The IPic suit claims that Regal and AMC informed the major studios that any film they licensed to IPic theaters in Texas would not be screened at any of their theaters located in that area. Because of this illegal boycott, IPic's new Houston cinema has been unable to screen first-run movies such as 'The Martian', 'Bridge of spies', or 'Steve Jobs'.

CMG has written about so-called 'clearances' (the practice of shutting out smaller competitors from obtaining first-run films) which stifles competition.  IPic maintains that its cinemas do not compete with  AMC or Regal  because they are so much smaller, sell higher-priced tickets, and offer premium services such as luxury dining and alcohol beverage services.  IPic is seeking an injunction to remove the clearance practice.

In a statement, AMC noted, "Allocated film zones are a long-standing and well established industry practice and has a demonstrated benefit to all stakeholders, moviegoers, studios, and exhibitors."
Hmmm .... How so, AMC?  Regal had no comment regarding the IPic lawsuit.

IPic's lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions against the large U.S. chains.  Last year, Cobb Theaters sued AMC accusing it of having "monopoly power" to block Cobb from screening films at its upscale cinema in Atlanta, Ga.  That case is currently proceeding through the courts.

As previously reported in CMG, last summer, the U.S. Department of Justice began an extensive probe of Regal, AMC, and Cinemark (the U.S.'s #3 largest circuit) regarding anti-competitive practices and if they have violated federal antitrust laws - that investigation is now on-going. CMG will keep you informed as to the on-going DOJ probe.

It is fair to say that the large circuits, which don't really offer luxury viewer accommodations like the smaller chains are running scared.  Operating larger multiplexes is no longer the best strategy for cinema operators - it's just too much brick-and-mortar and too staff-heavy to support itself.  The cinema exhibition industry is moving toward fewer screens but of exceptional viewing comfort and quality - in presentation, seating, and concession.  Which leaves the large circuits in a bad position.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cinema BuZZ by Seymore Flix

Cinemas Say "NO" to Political Ads

Ad dollars run rampant during political campaigns, especially for U.S. Presidential elections.  It's estimated that over $5 billion will be spent during the 2016 election cycle for the Presidential run - double what was spent in 2012. Of this, $4 billion will be spent on TV ads split about even between Democratic and Republican candidates.

However, the large cinema advertising giants, National CineMedia and ScreenVision have decided not to participate in this ad spending frenzy - saying that cinemas are 'politics free-zones'. Its not easy to reject the large potential ad revenues that would be generated but the companies have decided to keep cinemas free from the deluge of political ads viewers are inundated with on a daily basis.

Pressure is being put on the cinema advertisers by the political parties given the coveted (and captive) 18-to-49 year old demographic movies draw. But, according to Cliff Marks, NCM's Head of Sales and Marketing, "It is more important to keep the movie-going experience entertaining and maintain a safe haven for NCM's other advertisers.  We want the movie experience to be all positive".

I believe the cinema ad companies are doing the right thing.  Many, including myself, are already tiring of the negative campaign 'drama' and there is over a year to ago!

It is said that all advertising is based on one (or a combination) of three things: sex, fear, or novelty.
Political ads are largely fear based. As in, 'a vote for my opponent will be a vote that will hurt you in someway: personally, financially, or ideologically'.  Cinemas as political ad free-zones will be seen as a welcomed respite from the non-stop, in-your-face political ads we have all come to despise.

50th Oscar Nomination

If nominated for best music score ('Star Wars: The Force Awakens') this year, music composer and conductor John Williams will have been nominated a staggering 50 times for an Oscar. Currently he is the only living person to have five Oscars.  To put this achievement in perspective, Meryl Streep (the actor with the most nominations) has had 19 nominations and three wins.

Williams is only surpassed by Walt Disney who had 59 nominations and amassed a total of 22 Oscars and four additional honorary Academy Awards an achievement that will probably never be equaled.

Hopefully Williams will not only be nominated but win the Award this year. Now 82, he has provided us with great film scores over the last six decades.  From 'Jaws' to the 'Indiana Jones' films to the theme music for 'Sunday Night Football'  and 'Gilligan's Island'.  Good luck John!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Oscar Watch: Pre-Award Parties

Every evening, in and around L.A., cocktail parties are now the norm.  'Friends' of those being considered for an Oscar nomination front these informal affairs, of usually from 40-80 guests, so as to tout the efforts for the award contenders - who mill around the crowd, back-slap, glad-hand, answer questions, and remind Guide and Academy members about how good their 'work' was.

Sometimes (if the hosts is well-heeled enough to have a screening room in their home) the cocktail infused guests are provided a presentation of the 'work' , which they may not have seen as yet.

November brings on a tsunami of these 'get-togethers', which number into the hundreds each week and timed so the Academy and Guild guests can zip from one party to the next.

It's not so much that the blockbusters need this kind of 'pitch', it's the smaller, lesser-known movies that need booze and elbow-rubbing to gin-up support.  A veteran awards consultant (who asked to remain anonymous) told CMG, "Voters are people, and they vote with emotion. Events like these where you screen the movie and then let people meet the talent behind it forms a connection with voters.  It makes it personal. And if it's personal, then maybe they'll remember it when they vote."

Ah .... to just have to worry about which party to attend every night for weeks on end.  To be wined and dined, to hobnob with Hollywood's elite - rubbing elbows with 1-percenters (ok, 10-percenters).
Ah .... the good life of entertainment.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Movie Ads on Porn Sites

All of the major and minor film studios advertise their upcoming releases on a variety of media outlets: TV spots, print media, web-based ads, trailers, posters, bill boards, merchandising, promo items. Additionally, the movie's stars appear on an array of TV and radio shows, film festival interviews and panel Q&A, etc. But, one form of movie advertising that you may not be aware of is the use of porn websites - and just about every studio utilizes it.

Porn-site advertising is cheap and efficient, especially for adult, male, R-rated films.  Many studios won't admit to it but when you think about it, it does make a lot of very sly sense.  In fact, for certain films this form of marketing makes a whole lot of sense.

Question: Who is going to notice a movie ad on a porn site? Answer: Everyone watching.  People notice the unexpected.  Most people viewing porn would expect to see ads for more porn not ads for 'regular' movies.  Not only that, but since only certain types of films can be marketed on a porn site, those that show up are without doubt viewed.

So, given its cheap cost relative to other advertising and its impact, porn-site advertising is gaining in popularity with film companies.  Some may think this is a very bad way to market a film but given the right film it makes all the sense in the world.  For example, Tim Palen, Chief Brand Officer and Head of Marketing for Lionsgate Pictures told CMG, "We did it, for example, with 'The Expendables' films and it worked great for us".  Any movie with a lot of action, a raunchy comedy, or even horror works very well.

Like it or not, porn is huge. Estimated revenue from porn related websites and other outlets was over $13 billion in the U.S. alone in 2014 - that's more than the box-office gross from regular cinemas! How does that go, oh yea, 'Sex sells'.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

CMG - Christmas Gift Suggestions

Go Full 'Circle' With Disney
'Circle With Disney'

As I wrote in the last post, Disney has some near term management problems but that doesn't mean I view Disney a poor performer - far from it.  In fact, if (and when) they move to pay-per-view of ESPN sporting events and re-negotiate their cable TV partner payments, the money-making machine will kick-in.

'Circle With Disney' is an example of Disney's forward thinking.  'Circle' is a new product that would make a great gift for anyone wanting to control how their Internet connection is being used.  What 'Circle' does is monitor and provide control of on-line activities.  Employers who want to control how employees use their WiFi while at work, or parents who want to control time and topics of their kids Internet devices.  Before, controlling a private Internet connection was very ineffective - because the control products were device-based ,- whereas 'Circle' provides control of an Internet connection and the content that flows through it, for any device, at the source - the router.

'Circle With Disney' is a small, white box that functions as an Internet gate-keeper and provides complete control over any device using the Internet connection 'Circle' is monitoring.  'Circle With Disney' is installed and managed via an app (free at iTunes).  No software or other app is needed to be installed on any user device.

Limits on time used and information accessed can be controlled and monitored by parents, employers, or anyone else with a need to limit access to their Internet connection.  For example, 'Circle' can tell you if anyone has hacked into or is 'borrowing' your WiFi connection and let you put a stop to it.

At $99, 'Circle With Disney' is a great Christmas gift and is available at meetcircle.com or DisneyStore.com/circle.

Emoji Keyboard
Emoji Keyboard

Yes, it can be used for regular typing but the focus is on emojis. Each key of the Emoji Keyboard contains three emojis which are activated by pressing one of the 'emoji' buttons at the bottom of the keyboard.

EmojiWorks, the manufacturer of the keyboard, says the keyboard speeds up the time when using emojis and the board has the newest emojis, including the Taco emoji.  The keyboard can be used with either Mac, IOS, or Windows on all platforms.

The Emoji keyboard is a great Christmas gift for both adults and children.  

Friday, November 06, 2015

Is The 'Force' With Disney

Not enough to beat the blackhole of sports entertainment
Coming out in December will be the new episode of 'Star Wars' and it will be a box-office bruiser which will easily reach the $1 billion+ mark on its way to being, perhaps, the biggest grosser in film history.  Unfortunately, for Disney, 'The Force Awakens' (no matter how successful) will not have an impact on its share price - which has been tumbling as of late.  Problem: Disney is in a blackhole, and its not in outer space but in the universe of sports entertainment.

Disney's profit breakdown is as follows: Consumer Products - 37%, Broadcasting - 22%, Parks and Resorts - 16%, Studio/Film Entertainment - 11%, Media Networks, Interactive - 5%, all Other - 10%, and Cable TV - (1%).

Disney is the preeminent deliverer of live sports entertainment via ESPN and its cable revenue is tumbling.   Although it has tremendous revenue drivers via intellectual properties, such as 'Star Wars' and 'Marvel' it is losing money in the blackhole of sports entertainment. Disney needs to take ESPN's sports content and move it to an 'over-the-top' pay-per-view model - however  this is proving to be more difficult then exploding a 'death star'. 

Disney has inked contracts in the tens of billions with major sports leagues which necessitates charging high 'view fees' to watch sporting events, problem is Disney has contractual obligations with its cable TV affiliates which are set in stone.

Disney is in the process or re-negotiation with its cable partners but, as one can imagine, this will be slow going. In the meantime, Disney will flounder and 'the Force' will not be with it.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Movie Industry in Flux

'Outliers', like Netflix and Amazon are changing the movie industry - there is no doubt about that.  With very deep pockets, these disruptor's are producing quality content, purchasing the best entries at Festivals, and signing 'A' listers. In the process, these companies are changing the movie industry forcing others, from the major studios to indie film-makers, to readjust or all-out change their modus operendi.
Social Media Has Huge Impact on Movies' Success

In 2006, when I started this CMG blog, I forecasted that the internet would change the movie industry. As predicted, the web evolved and spawned large entities with virtually unlimited monetary resources which gravitated to the world of mass media entertainment -  movies, sports, and TV shows.  At this time, Netflix and Amazon are the big players in the field, but there are others: Apple, Hulu, HBO, Facebook, and yes, even Twitter, just to name several.

Netflix is the most aggressive and backup their attitude with an annual content acquisition/production war-chest of $6 billion.  Amazon is more conservative, which can be expected given all of the other lines of business it is involved in, including being one of the major cloud service providers.  In fact, Netflix is in the process of having Amazon 'serve up' all of its content as Netflix wants out of the back-office operations in providing content to its subscriber base - Amazon will do this.  Netflix has 69 million U.S. subscribers and hasn't scratched the overseas markets, including China and Russia, most of the rest of Europe and Latin America.

A lot of content is needed to satisfy the global entertainment marketplace but will this trend produce a 'bubble of content'.  Too much content chasing too few outlets. We may already be seeing this at cinemas. Movies that normally would be sure box-office bets now flop in the wake of the big franchise films that suck all of the oxygen out of the theatrical playlist.  Only films that generate favorable social media chatter make for good box-office grosses, and this trend will not only continue but get more traction - and it will be felt by cinemas.

The cinema's digital rivals are relentless, and day-and-date release across all entertainment platforms is inevitable.  The movie-going experience must become more, must become better, must become immersive.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

'Look Who's Back'

Poster for 'Look Who's Back'
'Spoof' movies can sometimes hit it just right and go big, for example, the Borat and Jackass films.  In Germany the top grossing film for the last three weeks is such a film - but its main character is Adolf Hitler.  Entitled 'Look Who's Back', Hitler comes back after a Rip Van Winkle-type sleep and awakens in 2011 and hits the streets of Berlin to get the reactions of real-life people. He is mistaken for an actor/impersonator and ultimately becomes a talk-show host and YouTube star.

Based on a satirical novel by Timur Vermes published in 2012,  the book sold over two million copies in Germany alone and has been translated into 42 languages, including Hebrew.  It is scheduled to be sold in the U.S. starting this week through British publisher MacLehose Press as American publishers passed on it.    According to Vermes fans are demanding a sequel.  The book's success was a surprise, given its theme, but humor own out over history.

Germany has a long tradition of Hitler satire but 'Look Who's Back' pushes into new territory as the movie makes you laugh with Hitler - which is kind of creepy as you don't want to have an affinity with the character.  Yasher Mounk, a German/Jew and author of a bio about growing up in Germany in the 80s and 90s entitled, 'Stranger In My Own Country' said of the movie, "it is the allure of the forbidden. It signals defiance at the notion that you shouldn't laugh at the Nazis. It says, "Look at me transcending the taboos that are meant to hold us down." If we cannot recognize the 'real' Hitler for who he was then we are all in trouble."

The movie is funny, for sure, but it makes you go deeper into yourself.  As New York Times critic, Janet Maslur stated, "it remains both humorous and disturbing at the same time."

Whether or not 'Look Who's Back' will ever play in cinemas in the U.S. is iffy. Baring the Jewish factor the whole issue that the U.S. had to defeat Germany twice for their indiscretions took a great toll on America at many levels.

The question becomes, should the whole issue of Hitler and the Nazis be a scar on the German psyche after 70 years? Many Germans, and others, think not.  'Look Who's Back' is a metaphor for unshackling the collective guilt of the past. Time is a big healer - societies change, wars are forgotten with new generations, guilt disappears and like a sack of bricks it is eventually put down and people walk away.

I don't believe 'Look Who's Back' would be a box office hit in the U.S. - it may be just too soon for us, but it should be released nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"WHAT'S UP" - At The Movies

Victoria - A First

Feature films are never shot in one single take.  No cuts. No stops. No special effects. No tricks. Just one single 138 minute take - that's 'Victoria'. And that's impressive.

'Victoria' is a movie about a woman who gets caught-up (by choice) in a bank robbery and the story goes from there.  The movie is very good, perhaps excellent, considering there was no editing and the actors played there roles off of a twelve page script so most of the narrative was ad-libbed. Nonetheless, 'Victoria' is a first-rate drama which is technically complex.

Filmed in Berlin, 'Victoria' has gotten rave reviews particularly given it's non-stop filming and direction which occurs in-doors and out - an amazing feat in this age of long production times and mega-millions to produce even a small budget Hollywood-type film.  'Victoria' is a must see and you have to keep reminding yourself, as you watch it, that it's all filmed in less than three hours.

Rich Women Of Hollywood

There has been much hoopla recently about the women of stardom not making as much as men; however, it is hard for the common person to empathize with the issue, given the amount of money movie stars earn.  Here is a rundown of the top 10 wealthiest (several will surprise you):
Alba hit it big 'going natural'

- Sofia Vergara - $85 million. Surprise! Sofia earned $37 million last year between 'Modern Family' and mega-endorsements.

- Cameron Diaz - $90 million. Making one hit after another Diaz deserves her big paydays.

- Jane Fonda - $120 million. Over the years Jane not only made a lot of films and cash but tons of dough from her fitness videos.

- Angelina Jolie - $145 million. Earning about $20 million per film she rakes in big paychecks.

- Jennifer Aniston - $150 million. 'Friends', films, and TV commercials all add up for this highly successful actress.

- Julia Roberts - $175 million. An 'A' lister Julia gets $25 million per pic and it's well deserved given that her films have made over $2 billion.

- Julia Louis-Dreyfus - $200 million. From 'Seinfeld' to any number of her own sitcoms have made Julia lots of cash.  Additionally, her father, Gerard Louis-Dreyfus is a billionaire - all of which Julia will inherit some day.

- Sandra Bullock - $200+ million. Movies, movies, and more good movies have made Bullock a very rich woman.  She now selects which movies to make and who directs them.

- Jessica Alba - $220 million. Another surprise. Jessica has made a lot of good films but her real money comes from her co-founding of The Honest Company (a natural products company for babies and women). If and when The Honest Company goes public, Jessica will be worth hundreds of millions more.

- Dina Merrill - $5+ billion. Yes, starring in 22 films in the 50s and 60s plus numerous TV shows Dina is the grand-dame of the Hollywood upper-crust. She is also the heir to the Post cereal fortune.

And there you have it. Not too shabby in the wealth department these ladies but hey, you can always have more. Remember: you can never be too rich or too thin.

H'wood Women Need A Break?
Sorry, but I had to put this in. It's a squeak. 

According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film in 2014 only 15% of movies had a female director, only 20% female writers, and only 8% of cinematographers.  Having tracked these numbers for over 20 years, Dr. Martha Lauzen, Head of the Center, says "not much has changed over that period of time."

In fact, the issue of gender equality in Hollywood has gotten so much attention of late that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal agency in charge of employment discrimination, is now interviewing industry figures in sorting out the huge gender discrepancies in films.

Funny thing. When researching the data, the Center, looked at the 700 highest grossing films (which make up all that had a theatrical release).  What it found was that more women were employed on the lower budget, lower grossing films than the bigger productions.  Meaning, according to the Center, that there may be the notion that women are not being hired on big films because they are somehow riskier hires.

And so it goes. I've said before, women in films (and everywhere for that matter) need more representation and equal pay.  Thing is - the movies that drive the box office (the top 25, which generate close to 50% of global admissions) are dominated by action-based, high-impact films with lots of killing, destruction, and over-the-top effects which is where male film-makers thrive.

Don't be fooled. Hollywood portrays itself as a liberal bastion of politically correct do-gooders.  In reality it is a very closed, very conservative social environment that leaves little room for (and doesn't want) change.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"WHAT'S UP" At The Movies

'Razorland': The Next Big Franchise?

Like 'Twilight', 'Hunger Games' or 'Harry Potter' can Ann Aquirre's 'Razorland' trilogy be the next big movie franchise?

Kickstart Productions thinks so as it optioned the rights to Aquirre's books and has started movie and TV productions of 'Enclave' - the first book in the trilogy. 'Enclave' tells the story of a girl from an underground enclave in which no one lives past the age of 25.  She is exiled from of the enclave to the uninhabited surface in punishment for a crime she did not commit.

Ann Aquirre is a bestselling author who has written over 30 novels for adults and teens.  Her 'Razorland' series has sold in the millions and has been translated into ten languages.
Aquirre has a winner in 'Razorland'

For its part, Kickstart Productions has had success in promoting both movies and TV shows. Several projects include the upcoming series, 'Preacher' on AMC and 'Ready, Jet, Go!' for PBS.

The 'Razorland' series includes three novels: 'Enclave', 'Outpost', 'Horde' and three novellas: 'Foundation', 'Endurance', and 'Restoration' all of which center around the exploits of a female character, named Deuce.  Aquirre is still a relative unknown even given her writing success; however, this will all change as, I believe, 'Razorland' will become as big as the 'Twilight' or 'Hunger Games' franchises.

"We Don't Need Hollywood"

According to Shan Dongbing, a veteran Chinese film producer and head of Foye Films, "We no longer need Hollywood, we have all the investment and intellectual property necessary to produce our own blockbusters."  Shan made these comments at the Tokyo Film Festival last week in response to Chinese/Japanese collaboration in making movies.

Unfortunately for Shan, the reality is much different. According to Hitoshi Endo, head of Amuse, a Japanese production and talent firm, "Japanese TV shows have been much more successful in China than movies. This is due mainly to demographic and regulatory issues that need to be overcome."

Thus far, Japanese production companies have not budged to China's censorship laws as they want to keep their, hard worked for, brand recognition.  They don't want to give up cast or script control on a Chinese remake of their films. "It can be very difficult if the movie is controlled by multiple owners", says Hitoshi.

Chinese regulatory issues - including script approvals, censorship, and Chinese content requirements - often block the path to co-production of films. However, according to Shan, "China wants to and will change it rules on easing film quotas and relaxing distribution and exhibition impediments."

I just don't see it. The Chinese and Japanese historically are leery of each other and given the political sensitivity regarding movies by the Chinese government there isn't much promise for them making blockbusters for the global box office any time soon.

Map of Tolkien's Middle-Earth Discovered
Tolkien's Map of Middle-Earth

For all of you 'Lord of the Rings' fans, a map of Middle-Earth was discovered in a copy of the 'Rings' novel owned Pauline Baynes, an illustrator for the Tolkien books.

The map contains notes by Tolkien regarding both 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' novels. It is on display and for sale at Blackwell's Rare Books in London for $100,000.  The most notable detail is how precise Tolkien was regarding his story and the work and research that went into his classic tales.

Who Bought All Of The Advanced Tickets to 'Star Wars'

By now everyone has heard how advanced ticket sales of 'Star Wars; The Force Awakens' crashed the on-line servers due to extremely heavy transaction volume.

The interesting thing is that older men were the big ticket purchasers.  70% of ticket sales were to men 18-49 years old, with the average age being 34.  These are mostly regular moviegoers who visit their local cinema monthly and most (67%) go to opening night presentations.

The trailer for the new 'Star Wars' was released during the half-time on 'Monday Night Football' and drove the sale of the tickets.  The trailer got 112 million subsequent views.

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' opens at cinemas on December 18th.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Oscars: Between a Rock and a Rock

It's been hard for the Academy. Trying to get even a second tier talent to host the awards is difficult. Neil Patrick Harris, Seth McFarland, Ellen, or Whoopie just don't give the 'biggest entertainment award hoopla' the status it deserves.
A Tired Gala

Now, Chris Rock has been tapped to host the upcoming Oscars.  The potty-mouthed Rock made his bones using strong language and racial commentary but his shtick is old and out-of-touch.  Better choices would have been Eddie Murphy or Louis CK but the Academy can't control them and that's why a Rock or one of the 'lesser' talents is chosen.

The Academy Awards have witnessed a constant downward slide in viewer ratings over the last decade as the show is too long, too boring, and too much of the same. Viewership will drop again this year as Rock doesn't have the showmanship or entertainer juice to bring it home.   The red carpet runway is now the highlight of the show.  Perhaps the Hollywood glitterati likes it that way - because it's safe. These hosts are counted on to jab the political 'right' and not touch upon the politically correct or, God forbid, the tinsel-town elite.

Not since Billy Crystal has there been a top-talent host who could jab thin-skinned 'A' listers and get away with it.  Carson and Hope were the best at it and we see that now with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who have been killing it at the Golden Globes.

Chris Rock is a safe choice. He knows better than to blast the Hollywood hoi polloi. He'll get in a few decent one-liners, but the Oscars are a scripted event and there is no room (or tolerance) for ad-libbing.  I'm not looking forward to viewing the Awards or Chris Rock (his second time hosting). I believe, and I've said this before, the Academy Awards need a complete rework, into a much hipper, current, and terse affair.  This year we'll be getting the same 'old'.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"What's Up" At The Cinema by Seymore Flix

An 88 Year Old OO7
Roger Moore today

"Why don't they have a geriatric 007" says Roger Moore. "I would love to play James Bond again. "I'll come back."

Moore played Bond in seven movies during the '70s and '80s and of Daniel Craig, Moore made this back-handed comment, "I think he's terrific.  He's a great Bond. He looks like a killer, he really does. Frightens me!"

Sir Roger Moore is 88 and has had a long career in both film and television playing in such hits as 'The Saint' and 'The Persuaders' . He has been married four times and has three children. Will we see Moore playing Bond anytime soon - I wouldn't bet the farm or even a goat on it.

Box office Analytics - Are They Necessary?

Rentrak, an audience measurement company for both box office and TV programs and Gower Street, a newly formed analytics firm have partnered to develop forecasting products for the movie industry.

The new venture's first product will be a global distribution planning tool that generates box office estimates for all movies with a planned theatrical release up to 18 months in advance.  It is postulated that such data will allow studios and distributors to optimize their release strategy and maximize box office performance.  I say, watch out guys as you may be stepping on some very big toes if the estimates come up short and are leaked.  Why does this help distributors?  The studios know (for the most part) which films will gross big and which are marquee fodder.

The second product Rentrak/Gower will be hawking will be a "screen booking optimization" tool which will evaluate the performance of all possible booking scenarios.  I ask - Why?

According to David Kosse, Gower's Non-executive Director (non-executive?), "By combining Gower's industry knowledge and technical expertise with Rentrak's box office and television information we are set to create the standard in theatrical distribution data analytics."  Gower, which launched earlier this year, is managed by Kosse and two other prior employees of Universal Pictures, all which worked on analytics for the studio.

Am I'm missing something. Good movies generate big audiences - bad films beget poor attendance. That's the only analytic one needs to know.

My Favorite Cult Comedies
Landlady of Kung Fu Hustle

Everyone has their favorite comedies, some of which are cult (those that have reached a status whereby they have a very strong fanbase).  Cult films have often quoted phrases and enjoy repeated viewing by their followers.

My favorite cult comedies are the following:

'The Big Lebowski' 1998
'Caddie Shack'
'Animal House'
'The Blues Brothers' 1980
'Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo - 1999
'Kung Fu Hustel' 2004
'Clerks' 1994
'Beverly Hills Ninja' 1997
'Big Trouble in Little China' 1986


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lindsay or Kanye For Pres in 2020

If it's good enough for 'the Donald' then Lindsay Lohan says it's good enough for her.

On Friday, actress and troubled-soul Lindsay Lohan posted on her Instragram that she is strongly considering running for the U.S. Presidency in 2020.  She thanked President Obama and Kanye West for inspiring her to run for the highest office in the land, and if elected, she stated that her first act as President would be to take care of all the suffering children in the world (the 'how' to accomplish this was not elaborated on).

Her announcement, naturally, got a huge and varied response particularly given Lohan's past bouts with drugs, DUIs, rehab, and jail-time.  Hey, but who's holding that against her.

As for Kanye, his statements regarding his bid to seek the highest office in 2020 may be a stunt as his notoriety has waned in the last several years, principally due to his public behavior 'fits' and non-productive and lame musical output; however, Kim, as first lady, may be interesting.

I guess, secretly, we all hope both are serious and will run for the Commander-in-Chief job.  What a great time it would be for the press, talking-heads, stand-ups, bloggers, and SNL.  Oh, I forgot to ask. Is Lindsay running as a Republican or Democrat? Or, how about the 'Fight For Your Right To Party' Party.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dumbing Down Movies

Are moves getting completely unrealistic and testing the limits of credulity? Is the public buying this or are they coming to believe their intelligence is being insulted?

Movie plot-lines especially for superhero and monster films are looking more foolish and really unreal.  'Godzilla' winking at the audience while defending humanity. 'Jurassic World' where dinos from earlier films come out of nowhere to fight the newer versions of themselves.

For example, Warner Bros. just green lit  'King Kong vs Godzilla' for a 2020 release - but only after the release of a new Kong film entitled 'Kong: Skull Island' a reboot of the original Kong and a 2018 release of  'Godzilla 2'.  Also in pre-production is 'Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus' and additional 'Sharknado' films.  Make no mistake,  'Kong vs Godzilla' will be a big-budget pic and feature marquee stars.

The superhero genre is taking a cue from the monsters. This can be seen in the upcoming 'Batman vs. Superman' and 'Captain America: Civil War' in which the Captain will battle buddy Ironman. Superhero showdowns and match-ups are becoming the norm but are pitting good hero against good hero and not super villains.

Have moviegoers become so mindless and dismissive to what they view that cogent storylines are almost nonexistent and so far-fetched that good fantasy turns to laughable hijinks.  Has the hype trumped substance?

So, while we're at it. How about Ironman vs King Kong or Batman vs. Giant Octopus.  Hey, Alien vs. Predator worked! Why not really crazy match-ups or should we say mismatch-ups - but what difference does it make.  So long as the moviegoer buys into it, it doesn't have to make any sense, it just needs to have great effects and a somewhat, if any, believable plot.      

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Snowman doing his stuff
Equine films are always popular at the box-office - it is our affinity to the horse. It is not the dog but the horse that is man's best friend. To wit, a new documentary entitled, 'Harry and Snowman' is going on sale at the American Film Market.  This movie will be bought and if you are lucky enough to see it on a marquee view it.

The films centers on a plow-horse, Snowman, who became a championship jumper and won what is considered the triple crown of horse showjumping, the National Horse Show Championship in 1958 and 1959.  Thing was, just two years before, Snowman, was purchased for $80 off a truck that was bound for the slaughterhouse.

Snowman's story has been the topic of two books in addition to this new documentary.  "Snowman" penned by Robert Montgomery in 1962 which is now being re-published by Simon & Schuster, and Elizabeth Letts book, "The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired A Nation" which MGM recently purchased the rights to and has plans to green light for a movie.

The Champ
At film festivals this year, the documentary was a winner, drawing huge crowds which spurred the auctioning of the movie.  There is a large appetite for equestrian stories and they always do well at the box-office - 'Snowman's' story will be no different.

Snowman had worked as a farm-horse for eight years and was used up. He was literally on his way to the meat market when Harry de Leyer, a riding instructor who was looking to buy a horse for his riding school, saw Snowman on a truck and decided to purchase him for $80.  Leyer used Snowman as a children's lesson horse but then realized he had great jumping abilities.  Snowman won every show jumping event he entered throughout the 1950's.  He lived to be 26 years old and is now recognized as one of the greatest show jumpers of all time.   Great story!