Hollywood Playbook: Monday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Monday's Top 5 News Items

Variety: Taxpayers Will Subsidize Hollywood Forever

According to Variety, 40 states out of 50 now offer some kind of incentive to attract Hollywood film and television productions. Permanency — of what is known as “corporate welfare” when Hollywood’s Top 1% are not benefitting — is becoming more and more important to productions deciding where to go for their taxpayer-funded handout. This is especially true for television series that want to locate to a place and stay there through the run of the series.  

The rich get richer.

Tax cuts for the wealthy.

Corporate welfare.

The middle class funding an industry that is not only hostile to them but advocates for raising their taxes and energy prices…

However you want to put it, it is appalling, and I am very pleased that in my home state of North Carolina, we have at least phased some of this nonsense out:

In North Carolina, even though a number of Republicans had been critical of the program, the state Senate earlier this week passed an incentive program to replace its existing tax credit that expires at the end of this year. The new program is not as generous: it creates a grant program rather than a tax credit. The maximum grant to a single project is capped at $5 million, from the current $20 million in maximum credits. But supporters hope to get a better program as the Assembly considers legislation that would extend the credit.

The reality for the state, a production hub for the past 30 years where such shows as “Under the Dome” were made and movies like “Iron Man 2″ were shot, is that it may very well lose production to nearby Georgia without a significant program. There, producers are so convinced that the program will endure that Pinewood Studios built a studio near Atlanta.

“It’s about educating. It’s about giving the right message at the right time,” said Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office.

It makes me more than a little nauseous to think the Harvey Weinsteins of the world are getting a piece of my labors. They hate me and I would appreciate the right to hate them back.  

Tom Cruise’s Upcoming Films are More Than a Little Depressing

Domestically, “Edge of Tomorrow” earned a little shy of $30 million this weekend but was the top worldwide grosser. At best, Tom Cruise’s career is treading water. Grosses for “Edge,” which probably won’t break $100 million domestic, surely did nothing to lift this once-infallible megastar out of his career doldrums.

Because of that reality, according to IMDB, Tom Cruise’s career is about to get a whole lot safer and dumber. Cruise has 4 upcoming films listed – three sequels and a remake: Jack Reacher 2, Top Gun 2, Mission: Impossible 5, and Van Helsing.

After the first Mission: Impossible in ’96, Cruise made Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, Mission: Impossible 2, and Vanilla Sky.

Those were the days.

At 52, Cruise should now be at a point in his career like the Paul Newmans, Robert Redfords, and other Giants in their middle age: where they have nothing left to prove and can take interesting roles. But the couch jumping/Scientology debacle 10 years ago means Cruise has to keep treading blockbuster water to stay alive and relevant.

Big loss for him. Bigger loss for us.

How Hyper-Editing Murders The Potential for Legendary Status

Over the weekend the wife and I decided to re-watch the first and best “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which has lost absolutely none of its marvelous entertainment value.  

The sword fight (embedded below) between Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom happens early in the film. This is the first time Jack Sparrow and Will Turner meet. It’s plenty entertaining. Depp is hilarious. But what could have been an iconic scene, just isn’t.


Compare that to this scene from Errol Flynn’s 1939 “The Adventure of Robin Hood”:

By today’s standards, the “Pirates” scene is probably more entertaining for most but only because America has ADD.

But which scene is The Standard to which all others fall short?

The athleticism, prowess, and skill Basil Rathbone and Flynn put on display is unforgettable, and has risen to the status of legendary and iconic because we know it’s for real. The editing doesn’t create the energy, the actors and choreography do. We marvel at how practiced and natural the performers look. Without exaggerating, I have seen this movie at least 30 times. That scene still makes me feel like a 12 year-old. But here’s my point…

Maybe Depp and Bloom worked just as hard and were just as skilled as Flynn and Rathbone. Maybe if there weren’t 9,000 edits creating an artificial energy in their fight scene, that scene might be remembered as something more than just an entertaining lark.

The same is true for modern musicals.

Cathrine Zeta-Jones needs no help in the sexy, charismatic, and talented department. In 2002, she starred in and won a supporting Oscar for her role in “Chicago.” A dozen years later, though, who remembers the film, much less the musical numbers?

Below is her “All That Jazz” number. Ask yourself: Was all that editing and inter-cutting necessary? Wouldn’t Zeta-Jones and the audience have been better served if the camera had danced with her (like it did with Eleanor Powell, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) instead of what we get, which is a sequence edited to within an inch of its life?

Maybe if the camera had stayed on Zeta-Jones and moved with her, she would have at least had the opportunity  to deliver something every bit as timeless and unforgettable as this simple scene from “Singin’ In the Rain” 62 years ago. If you compare the two scenes, the cut ratio is so high in “Chicago” you can hardly keep up:

There was such a thing as editing during the Golden Age. If The Masters who made those films wanted to, nothing was stopping them from slicing and dicing Gene, Fred, Ginger, Eleanor, Errol, Basil, or Tyrone. They all knew, though, that the one true and lasting way to wow audiences was to let them see that the performers were really doing it. The thrills all came from them, not post-production.

This hyper-editing is not only an injustice to the audience, but also to actors who at least deserve a shot at creating an iconic moment that will live on long past their careers. The editing might fool people in the short term, but as time passes and the sugar high fades away, all we’re left with is the smell of  plastic phoniness.  

‘Yes Man’ Director to Helm Marvel’s ‘Ant Man’

“Ant Man,” another franchise installment in the Marvel cha-ching Universe, just lost Edgar Wright, the director who had been attached to the project for years. Just announced as his replacement is 50 year-old television/feature director Peyton Reed.

It looks as though Reed divides his career between television movies and series, and feature films. He directed 2006’s The Break Up” with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, Jim Carrey’s “Yes Man” in ’09, and “Bring It On” in ’02.

Everybody’s got to start their blockbuster career somewhere, right? And “Bring It On” remains one of the great comedies of the new century.

Comedy director Adam McKay is handling the rewrite, so it looks as though “Ant Man” is going for the funny.

You can question Marvel’s decisions, but are we really going to second guess the most successful going concern in Hollywood right now? I’m certainly not.

“Ant Man” is locked into a July, 2015 release date.

“Premium” Theatres Still Don’t Offer People What They Really Want

The New York Post’s Reed Tucker says that Regal Theatres is preparing to offer “premium” theatres guaranteed to deliver a “premium experience.” For $20 to $25 you will enjoy bigger screens, better sound, comfier chairs, and something called VIP seating.


Tucker ends his piece with my exact thoughts: “[H]ow about holding ‘No talking, no texting’ screenings? I’d easily pay $5 more to watch a movie in an auditorium policed by staff who would enforce the rules.”

Same here.

If Regal or any theatre were to guarantee the following five things, I would happily pay $20 to $25… Keep your comfy chairs and VIP seating, this is what everyone really wants:

1. Talkers get tossed immediately

2. Texters get tossed immediately

3. Anyone crinkling a wrapper for more than 30 seconds gets tossed at second 31

4. No one is allowed to come in late (they always sit directly behind me)

5. You get 5 sniffs and 5 throat clearings. Once you hit 6, buh-bye

Maybe 5 is a bit much, but you get my point and know I’m 100% correct.

All  premium seating means to me is that I would pay even more money to be aggravated.

No thanks.

Knock wood, my local movie-going experiences of late have been remarkably pleasant. But I tend to go on Thursday nights when the hardcore fans who really want to see the movie show up.   

Quick Hits:

Eastwood Looking Good In a Beard

Matthew McConaughey Open to a ‘True Detective’ Return

Judging All the Performances of Tom Cruise: Great or Terrible

Justin Bieber Baptizes His Adolescent Racism Away

‘Alien’ Bluray $4.99

Upcoming Releases:

Heaven Is for Real Available on Bluray July 22

From the Sony press release:

The inspirational story of family and faith based on the No. 1 New York Times best-selling book by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL debuts on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD July 22 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Directed by Randall Wallace (Secretariat) and starring Academy Award® nominee Greg Kinnear (Best Supporting Actor, As Good as It Gets, 1997), HEAVEN IS FOR REAL tells the true story of Todd Burpo, a small-town businessman whose young son, Colton (Connor Corum), miraculously recovers from a near-death experience with vivid memories of his visit to Heaven.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD both feature inspirational bonus materials, including six deleted scenes and the “Colton Goes to Heaven” featurette, taking fans behind the scenes for a look at the journey of bringing the book to the big screen.  Exclusively available on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack are two additional featurettes.”The Making of Heaven is For Real” gives a look at the production process and talent in the film, and “Creating Heaven” explores the choices in production design that support the film’s religious themes.

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