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Ask 411 Movies for 11.18.13: You Wouldn't Like This Column When It's Angry!
Posted by Chad Webb on 11.18.2013


















An "Ask 411 Movies" column would be nothing without questions, so please toss them my way. Why should you ask me instead of using Google? Well, perhaps I'll tell you something you can't find there, or maybe you just like my conversation and soothing words. You can post any questions or thoughts below in the comments section, email me at cthomaswebb@gmail.com, or send me a tweet using the links below:











What I Watched This Week



This week I caught All is Lost in the theaters, starring Robert Redford. Fabulous movie that will surely get the sole star an Oscar nod. I also saw Thor: The Dark World, which was "meh." I enjoyed it more than I did the first film, but I wasn't crazy about that and I wasn't crazy about this. It was entertaining and all, but far from spectacular. I'll be posting my Letterboxd review today sometime. I'm catching up on this season of Boardwalk Empire, which is ok so far. The Capone segments are quickly becoming my favorite. Steph and I just started season 3 of Veronica Mars. I also rewatched the entire Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy recently, which is outstanding as usual.

Saturday night was spent by the TV watching UFC 167. This is not an MMA column, but oh well. Georges St-Pierre has been one of my favorite fighters for awhile. His style does not always excite the masses, but I like him. Having said that, while his battle against Johny Hendricks was close, I thought he lost. And hearing about his personal troubles and possible retirement or break or whatever reminds me of Heath Ledger in a weird way. St-Pierre said he had trouble sleeping and that was one of the problems Ledger had leading up to his death. Not being able to sleep is serious business. I would love to see him give Hendricks a rematch, but I hope he gets well more than that. It's been a wild year in the UFC. Lots of champions going down or having fights that result in controversial decisions.

If want to know more about my movie tastes, check out my page on Letterboxd by clicking right here. Also, make sure to look at all the great articles and writers at 411, particularly in the Movie-zone because that's where I predominantly am, but all of the zones.



The Questions





Q:

Hey Chad,
I was listening to the Adam Carolla Podcast and he was talking about TV pilots. He has made 3 sitcoms that never made it to air so he should know a few things.
1) With so many new TV scripted shows bombing badly the last few years (only 11 shows from the 5 broadcast networks (only 1 from cbs) made it to a 2nd year this year) and many new shows outright flopping out of the gate, how would you fix this system?
2) Since so many shows are bombing badly and they are the lucky ones to even reach it on to the air and they are so expensive to even make, how would you fix the pilot system?
3) Since I know that so many shows don't make it to a 2nd season and I don't want to make a commitment to a show when there is a good chance it will fail, I will wait until summer usually to catch up on broadcast shows through their website, hulu, netflix, or illegally. The only new show I watched this year is Agents of the Shield, How does networks fix the system because of people like me? Yes I know if I watch a show from day 1 and actively support it, it will most likely stay on the air; however, I am not neilsen household so screw that.
Note: Cable shows however are given more time to succeed and thus I am more likely to watch from day 1 because of the commitment issue.
Thanks,
--John


A:

Well, it seems that you're ultimately asking the same question in all of your numbered points, so let's give a little background before tackling it. Many networks rely on pilot testing/market research in determining which shows end up on air. Of course once it does air, it is then up to the ratings, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. What pilot testing involves is the network or the Nielsen Company paying random strangers approximately $75-$100 to hold dials measuring their emotional responses to potential shows. Usually they have a button to dislike something and one that indicates that they do like something. Meanwhile, producers, etc. sit behind glass nervously watching to see how their shows fare. To read an article where one guy talks about his experience, click here.



This audience dial testing has been used since the 1960's. There are numerous flaws with this system, but it continues to be utilized because for networks because it does provide feedback. Many producers argue that the results from pilot testing can be taken in many different ways depending on what kind of show or characters you're dealing with. The biggest criticism with the process is the fact that you have someone poking and prodding you for a response and that's not how anyone normally watches TV. When people are given a button that is supposed to gauge their emotional responses, they instantly become more critical and this results in reactions and responses you might not have had in the privacy of your own home. A famous example of pilot testing not being effective is in 1989 when NBC had great feedback for a sitcom about a nun who takes in a group of orphans (Sister Kate). Meanwhile, another show about a comedian and his friends tested poorly enough that NBC had no hope for it. Fast forward to the following spring and Seinfeld is being hailed as one of the most renowned comedies on TV and Sister Kate was cancelled after 18 episodes.



Pilot testing focuses on the need for instant gratification in the business. Networks expect results right away and a pilot will tell the future of that show in their eyes. In reality, some shows need a few episodes, even a season or so to properly find their footing. Unfortunately, shows need positive feedback and instant impressive ratings to stay on the air. It should be said the ratings a show needs to stay on in this day and age are different than it was 5-10 years ago, but ratings are still important. Kevin Smith once said Clerks: The Animated Series had like 7 million viewers when it aired in 2000. He said if that happened now, "They would be the kings…" Having said all that, some executives and producers will tell you that market research rarely determines whether or not a network will order or not order a show.



But as far as shows already on the air that fail or bomb as you say, they need ratings. Networks feel that star power is stronger than anything else. In some cases, this helps, but often it generates idiocy like We Are Men where you have a bunch of pseudo-celebrities forced into a storyline where they live together. Premium channels and channels like AMC or FX only have a certain number of slots per year and thus they are more careful about what they select. Premium channels and the original content they greenlight seems to me to be more in the vein of a movie studio. These types of channels normally do not require the level of ratings or instant results that major networks do. This alludes to your statement that these channels give shows more time to succeed and more of a commitment. They have to, and if they bomb it is a huge hit to them.



So, how to fix the system? There is only so much that regular viewers can control. If a network sees a group of celebrities that are names people will recognize, they will likely air that show and give it a chance no matter what. Major networks have more money to spend and more timeslots to fill, hence you have more pilots arriving and eventually more that fail. Don't forget, many of the other channels that have such great, acclaimed shows, are also known for showing a lot of movies. However, in terms of pilot testing, I quite enjoyed the approach Amazon took in putting a bunch of pilots on their site to watch for free and then asking us to review them accordingly for submission to the company. If every network did this, I would probably take part in it more often than not. Its fun and you don't have someone watching you through plate glass while you hold a button. You can be yourself and I think this would alter the feedback certain shows receive. When you say you occasionally wait to see if a show lasts before making a commitment to it, that is probably a common thought, which is why networks do not demand the high ratings they once did. If networks gave shows more than one season just to see if more viewers catch on and make a commitment they would be wasting money on an assumption. Doing so with multiple new shows could ruin a company if viewers never tune in. As I said before, this business requires immediate results so if you want a show to stay on the air, you have to give it a chance right away.

Here is another interesting article on shows getting canceled too soon and ratings. Click here.

On a side note, the next question sorta kinda deals with this issue as well, so read on!



Q:

Two part question. Have you watched Orange is the New Black? Also what do you think about future tv shows airing exclusively online?
--Travis


A:

Orange Is the New Black is an American comedy-drama series created by Jenji Kohan that first released on Netflix on July 11, 2013. The series, produced by Lionsgate Television, is based on Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman, a memoir about her experiences in prison. Orange Is the New Black stars Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman, a woman imprisoned for transporting drug money. The series also stars Laura Prepon as Alex Vause, a drug dealer and Piper's ex-girlfriend; Michael J. Harney as prison counselor Sam Healy; Kate Mulgrew as the inmate cook "Red," and Jason Biggs as Piper's fiancé, Larry Bloom.

Actually I haven't watched Orange is the New Black yet. This is a show the wife wanted to watch with me and since we are immersed in Veronica Mars at the moment, that one will have to wait. I have heard good things from everyone I know who has seen it. As far as Netflix shows go, I burned through House of Cards, but never got a chance to see Hemlock Grove or Orange is the New Black yet. I'll probably skip Hemlock Grove, don't know anyone who gave that a thumbs up.



As far as shows that air exclusively online, overall, I like the idea, but I think a few kinks need to be worked out. It's great that Netflix (and presumably Amazon but I'm not sure) enable the shows to be viewed through game system consoles so we can watch them on TV if we want. Regardless of whether the show airs online or on the television, if it's good material, people will check it out. One of my problems is that Netflix just posts the entire season at once. This is fantastic for binge watchers, but it also brings out those pricks that feel the need to watch everything in one day and then spoil it for everyone else. If it were me I would post a handful of episodes at a time, or one per week to help prevent this kind of nonsense. TV shows airing online is another avenue where the public can access quality entertainment. I'm fine with it. I think new shows will still predominantly debut on television networks, but if Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu want to put original programming out, that's cool.

Q:

When did the first post credit scene occur & what movie was it for? Was there any reason behind this other than to try to make people stay for the whole credits? Are there some out there that people may not have seen or are aware of? Kinda vague I know but I am lazy. Thanks for the help & keep the great work.
--Uncle Jimbo


A:

Since you found the answer on your own, I'll keep this brief in case anyone else out there wanted to know. A post-credits is a short scene that appears after all or some of the closing credits of a movie have elapsed. Most of the this is used for comedic purposes, or to set up a possible sequel. They can be traced back to 1963 with the James Bond franchise. At the end of each 007 film, is says "James Bond Will Return in…" However, the first true post-credits scene, also known as a stinger/coda/button/or tag, was in the 1979 film The Muppet Movie. This involved breaking the fourth wall, where a character would notify the audience that it was the end of the film. As Uncle Jimbo stated last week, you can find a complete history and listing of these scenes on Wikipedia. The first one I remember seeing was by accident. When I was a kid, I absolutely loved (and still do, so sue me) Master of the Universe (1987). I watched it so many times that on an early occasion, I let the credits run through and then was startled to discover the following scene revealing that Skeletor was alive:



Q:

Why do you believe the last 2 attempts to create a stand-alone Hulk movie have essentially failed or at the very least not been as successful as Thor, Captain America or Iron Man? In my opinion Bruce (well, David Banner according to CBS) will always be Bill Bixby and the Hulk, Lou Ferrigno. Bixby had that vulnerability that Eric Bana lacked but Norton had to a degree. You just felt like he was emotionally burdened and looked the part physically.
--Paul


A:

Ok, this is an interesting question, and forewarning, my opinion will likely not be shared by everybody. This can be looked at from multiple angles. For starters, let's look at the TV series:

The Incredible Hulk is an American television series based on the Marvel Comics character, the Hulk. The series aired on the CBS television network and starred Bill Bixby as David Banner, Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, and Jack Colvin as Jack McGee. In the TV series, Dr. David Banner, a widowed physician and scientist, who is presumed dead, travels across America under assumed names (his false surnames always begin with the letter "B", but he keeps his first name), and finds himself in positions where he helps others in need despite his terrible secret: in times of extreme anger, he transforms into a huge, incredibly strong green creature, who has been given the name "The Hulk". In his travels, Banner earns money by working temporary jobs while searching for a way to control his condition. The series was originally broadcast by CBS from 1978 to 1982, with 82 episodes over five seasons.



The show was just before my time, so I'm not as attached to it as others are. For example, if Leonard Hayhurst were replying to this, the answer would be different. He loves the show. I think it's fun, but very cheesy. However, it's telling that the most lauded incarnation of the character has been on TV. Perhaps he is more suited to an episodic structure, similar to Superman, whose shows always establish a lengthy lifespan. The character was allowed time to stretch and develop on TV, and on the big screen they have to fit everything into 2 hours or so.

But as for why the movies themselves have not flourished into franchises, it could be many reasons.
Before I get into that, here is some background on the two films we have received to date:

Hulk (also known as The Hulk) is a 2003 American superhero film based on the fictional Marvel Comics character of the same name. Ang Lee directed the film, which stars Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner, as well as Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, and Nick Nolte. The film explores the origins of the Hulk, which is partially attributed to Banner's father's experiments on himself, and on his son. The film grossed over $245 million worldwide, higher than its $137 million budget, but still considered somewhat of a disappointment. The film received mixed to positive reviews from film critics. Many praised the writing, acting, character development of the film and the music score by Danny Elfman, but criticized the character origins differing from the comics, outdated CGI, and the dark, depressing story plot.



The Incredible Hulk is a 2008 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character the Hulk. It is directed by Louis Leterrier and stars Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner. It is the second installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film establishes a new backstory where Banner becomes the Hulk as an unwitting pawn in a military scheme to reinvigorate the supersoldier program through gamma radiation. On the run, he attempts to cure himself of the Hulk before he is captured by General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt), but his worst fears are realized when power-hungry soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) becomes a similar but more bestial creature. Liv Tyler also stars as Betty Ross, Banner's love interest and General Ross' daughter. The film was No. 1 at its box office release—out grossing its predecessor—grossing over $260 million in worldwide, as well as No. 1 for the DVD release. Norton was initially intended to again portray Bruce Banner in The Avengers and other future installments featuring the character, but after talks broke down, he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo, who has signed on to reprise the role in all future sequels. However, despite the positive reception towards Ruffalo's portrayal of the character in The Avengers, Marvel chose to put off a possible sequel until at least 2016.

As we examine the box office gross and critical reception of both, it is important to note that they are pretty damn close together. Truth be told, The Incredible Hulk made a bit more money than Hulk and had a bit higher of a Metacritic rating, but it didn't blow it out of the water and the difference in rating did not equate to unanimous praise for one. Most critics thought they were both "average at best." Why? I look at this way. I did not hate Ang Lee's Hulk. I certainly didn't love it, but as Lee is more of a dramatic director, that aspect of his Hulk was terrific. However, his action was lacking and the effects (although solid) were completed during a time when CGI was still being perfected (and was extremely expensive).



The Incredible Hulk from Mr. Leterrier was excellent from an action standpoint, but mediocre with the drama. Had you put these together, it would have resulted in a near flawless Hulk picture. The reason the Leterrier version packed in so much action and rebooted the origin story is because fans demanded it. Marvel decided to cater to them and it didn't really help their case significantly. Adhering to the comics can help, but it is not a foolproof plan. Approximately the same amount of people did and did not show up to the theater to see it and the response from a quality standpoint was about the same.

I say Hulk's movies are not generating overwhelming enthusiasm and praise because the character is better in a supporting capacity. The best example I have seen of him so far is in The Avengers. Whedon made him intimidating, funny, and used him sparingly. This made sense. It wasn't because of Mark Ruffalo's performance either. No disrespect to him, but Banner is not the greatest character to play. I won't say anyone can do it, but it's not exactly a reach. I hesitate to rope Banner in with Batman, but they are similar in that we're drawn to the character more than the actor portraying him. There is only so much the actor can work with. Obviously some actors are better than others and we all have our favorites, but my point is there will always be someone new and adequate to try the role, whereas with Robert Downey Jr., who can envision anyone else playing Tony Stark/Iron Man? Eric Bana and Edward Norton were both fine. I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite between them. Neither really moved me more than the other.

Another reason why the movies haven't gone well could just be chalked up to the fact that the right director and screenwriter have not collaborated yet. Perhaps the pinnacle of Hulk features is on the horizon, but I doubt it. Could it be that the concept is not easy to translate properly to the big screen? What doesn't help is that no actor has totally dedicated himself to the role yet. Whether or not Ruffalo returns in a future sequel remains to be seen, but until one of them decides to keep doing it long-term, it will make getting more people invested that much harder. Is there an ideal actor for Banner out there? Who knows? Another reason to your question is one that comic book fans will not want to hear. Maybe the public just isn't that interested in the Hulk. Not every comic book character is as popular as the others. Certain characters just don't connect with a huge audience. Sad, but true.



In conclusion, I wish there was one concrete answer to your question, but there isn't. It could be one of these reasons or all of them looped together. According to Wikipedia, Marvel might revisit the character in 2016. Personally, I look forward to seeing him in The Avengers 2 more than another of his own movies. You've also had several cartoon shows and animated DTV movies over the years that have been warmly received, but then again you can do things in a cartoon that you can't in live-action. On a side note, I have been meaning to watch the 2008 film again because I've only seen it once. Need to get on that soon. I hope fans get what they want and a great Hulk picture is released someday, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.

RANDOMNESS



--I was shown this recently…the Mrs. Doubtfire trailer recut as a horror movie. Nice!



--This dude is covering death metal on the clarinet. Awesome.



--And this gloriously awful rap from the 1989 movie Teen Witch. Top That!







--Thanks to Misty for my banner.

"The plural of Chad is Chad?"
--From the movie Recount





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