TV & Film Magazine
Update: July 17, 2007

Thanks for visiting this site, but it is no longer being updated. I've moved on over to and I invite you to join me over there from now on. Thanks for your understanding.

New Site Launched

Though it won't be terribly different from this one on the outside, on the inside, it's a whole new world that I needed to have to continue doing what I've been doing here. Now, the move has been made, and I invite you to come along with me to the new site.

Check it out, and give me some time to get back up to speed with news on television and film development. It'll be fun, trust me!

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Evan Almighty drowns

I wrote my most recent box office prediction early this morning before the numbers were in for Evan Almighty, and while I wasn't confident in how I called it at the time, I should have trusted my instincts. Evan only made $11 million on Friday and is projected for just $33m for the weekend, barely half what Bruce Almighty made. With its enormous budget of between $175m-$210m, it will never make a profit in theaters.

Won't even be close.

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Breaking it Down: Evan Almighty

Evan Almighty
Typically I write these articles in the week or two prior to a films theatrical release, but I didn't realize that Evan Almighty opened yesterday. In fact it is a little past two in the morning on the 23rd as I write this, and I don't think the Friday returns have been publicized yet so I'm filing this one a little late.

Evan Almighty is a sequel to the 2003 comedy Bruce Almighty, staring Jim Carrey as a man who is given all the power and responsibility of God (played by Morgan Freeman who briefly reprises his role). Not much else needs explaining here, the plot from that point forward is fairly thin with Carrey's character abusing his new found power for his own personal gain and amusement, but later finds the responsibility more than he can handle.

The film was a wide success, grossing $484 million worldwide on an $81 million dollar budget.

This time around, co-star/supporting actor Steve Carell is given the staring role and tasked by God to create another Ark, and from what I've heard of the film based on early screenings, this film follows the path forged by Bruce Almighty with a thin plot and lots of obvious jokes, but with somewhat strong religious overtones. Universal has made no attempt to hide its interest in courting large religious institutions to draw in an a captive audience of the faithful.

Evan opens to a few more screens than did Bruce, about 3600 for the former against 3500 for the latter, which should make comparisons a lot easier.

Before I examine the production staff, I first have to express great concern over the films irresponsible budget. Laden with special effects, this film should easily set a record for the most expensive comedy ever produced, with rumors circulating that production costs range anywhere from $200-250 million. That's nearly two-and-a-half times the first films cost, even at the low end of media estimates.

In fact, the runaway production saw a meltdown of sorts for director Tom Shadyac in front of studio executives during which Shadyac accused the studio skimping on the marketing campaign in retaliation for the overruns. I'd like to note that while I have no specific knowledge of what happened, other than what I've read, I find it very easy to believe that the studio did in fact cut the marketing budget significantly, but not out of petty retaliation. They did it out of self defense when saddled with an outrageously expensive movie that may turn out to be a stinker.

The worst case scenario for Evan is that it'll have to gross (worldwide) about half a billion just to break even. Best case, if it was say around $180 million, it'll need $360 million to break even. It's possible that if Evan is equally as popular as Bruce was, it'll make back its costs and Universal will have a good year. But as I said, based on early screenings, a positive reception by the public is anything but certain.

What It Has Going For It
Director Tom Shadyac has returned for the sequel, giving it the advantage of having the same feel as the first film. That always plays in favor of the feature unless the director didn't do a very good job the first time around. Shadyac did alright, so he apparently earned the studios favor enough to come back and try to do it again. The writers I will address below.

Steven Carell is a known commodity, though I wonder if his recent success has been the result of his ascendancy as a legitimate comedy leading man, or if his quirky style of delivering dead-pan comedy is simply fresh to the larger audience of movie goers who will soon tire of it if he can't grow beyond it.

Until proven otherwise, I'm going to assume it is the former while I personally learn towards the latter. For now though, there's no arguing against his recent streak of success, so he brings more good mojo to the film than he does bad. If it turns out that he blew this role precisely for the reasons I've noted, make sure you remember that I'm saying here and now: this could go either way.

What It Has Against It
Unfortunately, neither the studios nor directors show much respect for writers, and two of the co-writers from Bruce were jettisoned in favor bringing back Steve Oedekerk, who was one of three who wrote the original script for Bruce. Oedekerk can't seem to decide what he wants to do in life; the man has roughly an equal number of credits for writing, producing, and acting. The latter of the three concerns me, and makes me think he's an actor first , one who snuck into other projects by being a good weasel. Nothing on his resume stands out as qualifying him for going solo on a tent pole film that cost $250 million to produce - but then again, hardly anyone in the business warrants that kind of excess.

Speaking of that ridiculous budget, it is undoubtedly the most significant drawback to the production, and sadly it is the toughest to overcome. This summer has seen a ton of tent pole sequels already, Pirates 3, Spider-man 3, Shrek 3, with Potter 5, Die Hard 4 and others yet to come. They can't all make $400 million domestically - they just can't. People only have so much money to spend, especially with a slowing economy, hotter weather, and higher gas prices.

If there are must-see films this year, I fear the ones I just listed above were at the top of most peoples lists.

What It Means
This is a tough call. Carell may end up drawing in a very large, and even while disappointing them, theaters wisely take peoples money *first*, so it won't really matter if they liked it or not. If they go to see Carell, the film will succeed. If they don't, the film will bomb. Universal's attempt to stir up the evangelical audience probably won't pay off as much as they'd like it to, though it may a little.

The only thing that matters right now is money. With an assumed budget of $250 million, it needs $500m to break even. It took Spider-Man probably two weeks to make that while setting all-time records along the way, and Evan Almighty isn't going to do that. It needs to stay popular for a long time, and the summer box office is just too active for that to happen.

I really wish Universal had brought in a more significant supporting cast to take some of the heat off of Carell, and not canned two of the original three writers. That crew knew what they were doing and there was absolutely no reason to break it up. Nothing Oedekerk has done impresses me and I can name a few of his scripts that really stunk. This isn't the crew that made the first film and there have been public questions over the direction of the film - overt preaching instead of good, solid, and happily pointless comedy.

Universal screwed with the formula, going with a new lead and dicing up the writing crew, all while allowing Shadyac to nearly run the studio into the ground financially. They really need this film to succeed, and I'm afraid that it isn't going to happen.

I'm calling Evan Almighty for a loss in theatrical run and after rental. It will take the #1 spot from Fantastic Four 2, but only barely - and maybe not at all, and fall off seriously after the first weekend. It will be easily knocked out of first on the following weekend when Die Hard 4 hits screens, but it may have problems of its own to worry about.

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Q&A with Michael Bay

Michael Bay
I can't really say that I'm a Michael Bay fan, because what is there to be a fan of, explosions? The man's reputation is built on making movies that have no content or plot to speak of, no character development, pretty much nothing but visual effects.

A movie that breaks the golden rule (movies are about people, not things) actually seems like the perfect fit for Bay, and I wonder why he bothered casting actors in the film at all. Why not just go with the flow and start directing all-CGI movies from now on? No story, no heart - it's a perfect fit if you ask me.

Question: One thing I kept hearing from this movie, from the actors is what a great actor's director Michael Bay is, which is a whole new theme we haven't heard before, did you do something different?

Michael Bay: No, listen, the sound byte – press is very weird, because a sound byte gets out there, Michael Bay yells. Listen, I am very similar, I visited Jim Cameron on "Titanic," I'm very similar the way he directs, he's an assistant director, I'm an assistant director of my own sets, I move my own sets, I shoot very fast, I never leave the set, and I love working with actors, I love giving actors freedom, I love improv-ing with actors, it freaks studios out because they're like, "That wasn't in the script, what's this, he's wrecking the movie."

Oh wow, where to begin. The studios freak out because we're not talking about improving lines, but entire scenes, which is why you end up paying $200 million to make a movie that was only supposed to cost $100 million, and a film that doesn't really resemble the script they bought because the additions done "for fun" or to "be funny" completely fracture what normally is a painstakingly crafted story.

The bit about Cameron, oddly, seems apt, but not for the reason Bay mentions. I've heard that for all of the mans Godly talents, Jim Cameron is a control freak on his films, will blow up when primed, and doesn't give a damn about worldly concerns (little stuff, like budgets.) The story of Cameron walking off the set of Titanic for three days, shutting down production and essentially quitting to the face of Fox studio chief Bill Mechanic - that's the stuff of legends. Cameron got away with it because everyone knows he can produce, but Bay? Not the same deal.

If you want to read the rest, be my guest. I shall leave you with this.

Question: Do you ever foresee a time where you might want to do an intimate low budget character study?

Michael Bay: No [..]

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Gordon Ramsay sued for faking 'reality' TV

The actor chef star of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares is being sued for faking reality TV. Isn't that kind of redundant, haven't we gotten past that debate already? All reality is fake, otherwise it wouldn't be entertaining. Real reality is boring as hell, that's why we have television and theaters.

That said, there is naturally a line to be walked between "edited reality" which is the category that almost all reality entertainment falls under, and fraud. A&E's Flip This House got a taste of that very important difference recently when the authorities began investigating Sam Leccima for fraud in connection with episodes of that reality show which were supposed to feature Leccima buying, renovating, and reselling a house over the span of just a couple of weeks. Leccima is accused of using clever editing and shooting tactics to conceal the fact that most of the work he was doing was just for show.

Gordon Ramsay, for his part, is now being accused of crossing the line between clever editing, and not actually doing the job he is supposed to be doing.

Says Variety on the lawsuit, "Ramsay falsely claimed meat was spoiled, used a defective chair to imply that Dillons' furniture was shoddy and even hired actors to pose as customers to make the restaurant look busy at the end of the week."

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares features the famous British chef spending a week with a failing restaruant, using his expertise to revitalize the business. I wonder though why they bother. If his expertise is being a chef, what makes him capable of turning around a business?

As for Sam Leccima, that's just a shame. I liked watching his crew work and it was a fun and entertaining program, but there's no room for con artists. If he did what he was accused of, and it's hard not to believe that he did, then he's got to go. And so do Ramsay.

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Indiana Jones 4 gets movin'

Indiana Jones: And The Unknown Subtitle has finally gotten underway after churning through at least four different scripts and writers if memory serves, finally settling on a tale written by David Koepp. Although it'll probably shoot something in foreign territories at some point during production, it appears that Steven Speilberg decided not to contribute to the problem of runaway productions by opening shooting somewhere in New Mexico, with other scheduled locations including Connecticut and possibly Nevada.

Though I'm not certain why this is worth noting, veteran British character actor Jim Broadbent has signed on for a small role as a professor at Yale. Broadbent has played over 90 roles in his career, most of them in U.K. productions.

Broadbent will be in good company though, as Variety notes the pics star heavy lineup of Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett (hopefully she ate something recently,) and John Hurt. Even though the character of Henry Jones had been written into the script and remained there as recently as two weeks ago, Sean Connery made his intentions known when he announced that he was staying in retirement.

It is unlikely that the role will be recast, instead it will probably be written out of the script, if it hasn't been already.

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Good news for Silver Surfer fans

There were some concerns that Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was going to bomb in the theaters, and nuke any chance of the pending spinoff feature that has already been written by comic & TV veteran J. Michael Straczynski. Defying a couple of extremely negative (and probably accurate) reviews, the film pulled in $58 million over this past weekend which should at least do nothing to hurt the prospects of the spinoff going into production, and ought to help it along considerably.

The film was produced for what today is considered a moderate budget of $130 million, meaning that while it'll have to pull twice that globally to break even, it's pretty much a lock at this point for that price, with that opening.

For those who were not impressed with this sequel, remember what I said. JMS has already penned the spinoff, so Mark Frost and Don Payne won't have anything to do with it.

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Eli Roth on piracy

Eli Roth
I agree with Nikki on Deadline Hollywood, Eli Roth doesn't care or really know anything about piracy, and he's blaming it for Hostel 2's box office woes out of ignorance. It made back its money which is more than he could have hoped for, and I figure he might have let the hype to go his head.

A couple of set visits and some masturbatory early screening reviews from AICN are not representative of real world audience reaction, and it's not like Hostel tried to be anything other than what it was - torture porn rather than a risky horror film.

To save you the horror of having to visit his MySpace page, Nikki reproduced the entire missive on Deadline Hollywood, and I've got to respond to a couple of these things to set the record straight.

However, piracy has become worse than ever now, and a stolen workprint (with uninished music, no sound effects, and no VFX) leaked out on line before the release, and is really hurting us, especially internationally. Piracy will be the death of the film industry, as it killed the music industry, and while it makes a smaller dent in huge movies like Spider Man 3, it really hurts films like mine, which have far less of an advertising and production budget.

Obviously the music industry is anything but dead, they are pulling in hundreds of billions if profit year after year, and while music purchases has been falling for several straight years, companies who monitor file sharing networks - the primary venue of music piracy - have noted that there hasn't been a corresponding increase in piracy at all. What's that mean? People are buying less music, but not stealing more of it.

Online music stores like iTunes are doing record levels of business, so we've already got a problem with this rant right off the bat. I do agree however that Roth's ignorance of the state of the music industry aside, the film industry is in a far more precarious position. In general, music gets a fixed return for their effort, whereas the film industry fails nearly one-out-of-ten times and relies on summer blockbusters to make up the loses for the year.

Note though that Roth admitted that piracy doesn't hurt the tent pole films anywhere nearly as bad as it does smaller flicks, so maybe it's not as big of a threat as they make it out to be. In fact, it is generally recognized (even though you need to get this acknowledgement at gun point) that physical DVD bootlegging outside the United States are responsible for the overwhelming majority of film piracy.

Most of that happens over seas, even though a studio print of Hostel 2 made its way onto the streets a couple of weeks before it hit the theaters.

The excuses for stealing abound, though the most popular one I hear is that people who pirate weren't going to go see it in the theater, nor would they buy the DVD either, so there's not really a lost sale at stake. Yet those same people cower when you challenge them to have the balls to try stealing it from a store where their ass is actually at risk.

Pardon the rant of my own, I absolutely feel sympathy for Roth and the studio being ripped off, but I harbor my own doubts as to the reason Hostel 2 didn't meet Roth's expectations. Put simply, it was too gross to do solid business.

Studios feel the public doesn't want them any more, and so they are only putting PG-13 films into production. The only way to counter this perception is to get out there and support R-rated horror.

This is true to a degree, studios are putting mostly PG-13 films into production, but for good reason: they sell. R-rated films eliminate younger audiences (for good reason) and when you do that, you're going to make less money. It's the nature of the business, it's the same reason nobody makes NC-17 films if they can possibly avoid it - fewer people can get in to see them. And there's nothing wrong with that, and I don't believe studios are doing it because people don't want horror. It just so happens that people want more family entertainment, not less horror.

Nor is Hostel 2 horror. If you have lots of funny jokes in a horror film, at some point it becomes a comedy. If you go past a certain point with gore and violence, you've left the realm of horror (which is to scare) to something entirely new, and you've instantly cut down on your potential audience. If there are fewer people that want to see horror, how many fewer are there that want to see torture porn?

I don't blame Roth for being bummed, but he can't just shrug off reality and blame it on piracy. Hostel is two steps beyond Saw and really exists to exploit the torture and gore, and it pays the price for serving that very narrow segment of the public.

People love the movie, and even though it only cost $10 million dollars (as opposed to the other summer tentpoles which cost $300 million), and has already earned its money back, if it's not a massive money earner then they'll just continue to make the same PG-13 films everyone complained about a few years ago.

Again, reality differs in opinion. Saw has its fourth installment coming out this fall and I don't know whereas it plans to stop anytime soon. Same fundamental source genre, same low budgets, but not stepping over the line like Hostel does - it makes money. The first two films combined cost less than Hostel 2 did to make, and brought in about $100 million in box office revenue.

People want horror, it appears they just don't want Eli Roth's brand.

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My Apologies

I've been busy lately working on a new site to replace this one, in preparation for the move off of Blogger has been good to me and I have no complaints, but there's little else I can do with it other than continue what I've been doing. There simply isn't enough flexibility on this hosted platform to do what I want to do.

I have my eye on a specific domain name that should expire in July, and I'll grab that if I can. Meanwhile, I'm working on some new graphics but nothing special - I'm not graphically inclined if you will - and learning the new publishing system so that when the move is made, I can just turn it on and go. Because of that, I've been less interested in updating this site because I know it'll be a rough transition, and that I'll basically be starting over.

When the change happens, I'll make sure anyone coming to any page on this site knows where the new site is. It'll probably be a little while still, but it's coming.

Therefore, I don't expect to be able to make 7-10 posts every single day like I was doing there for a while. I'll try to maintain at least 4-7 if I can, it's hard to "get into it" when I know I'll just be leaving this site behind, and subsequently losing most of the traffic it gets today, in just a month or so.

That said, if you enjoy the news I find and the commentary I provide, stick around. The quantity is only going down because I'm working on the move, not because I'm just giving up on this new thing.
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Babylon 5's JMS to pen 'Silver Surfer' spinoff (with exclusive NEW info)

J. Michael Straczynski
Well, I have an exclusive on part of this, but not the whole thing. First from AICN,

20th Century Fox is soooooo certain FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER will be a hit that that plans for a SILVER SURFER spin-off movie are already afoot.

An article in yesterday's LA Times says this:
Feeling bullish on the eve of the release of its "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," Fox has already put a feature spinoff into development that will star the enigmatic Surfer, with J. Michael Straczynski currently crafting the screenplay.

If there is any truth to this at all, chances are excellent that someone has asked about it in the moderated Babylon 5 newsgroup that Joe haunts, so I dipped in there just a moment ago and found as good confirmation as you are likely to get anyplace until the official announcement comes out. This is the exclusive part: nobody else has this.

> Anything more you can tell us?

Not as such...I don't really know how much I should or shouldn't say
on this because I've been waiting for the official studio announcement and this kind of precedes that...they haven't told me *not* to comment on it, but they haven't told me that I could, with luck I can say more in a few days.

There's another little surprise in the imdb listing, btw....


That's it, he's doing it. If it wasn't happening, Joe would have said so outright, he's real good about being straight with people. As for the hint about the credits, Straczynski confirmed that he's writing the screenplay for They Marched Into Sunlight based on an outline by Paul Greengrass, who is also directing.

Straczynski has been writing comics since the 80's, including work on Teen Titans, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and Babylon 5 for DC. For Marvel, it's been The Amazing Spiderman, Supreme Power, Fantastic Four, Dream Police, Silver Surfer: Requiem, and more.

So that's cool, everyone has the first bit, but I have the virtual confirmation. Who said the USENET was dead?

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