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 411mania » Movies » Columns

The UBS Evening Movie News 09.11.08
Posted by George H. Sirois on 09.11.2008

Welcome everyone to the latest edition of The UBS Evening Movie News. I'm George H. Sirois, and yes, there will be a bit of a rant this week. Hopefully it will be worth the wait since last week's report was missing one, but before we get to it, we got some news to report, so let's get on with it…


HBOlab, an experimental offshoot of the cable powerhouse focused on online programming, is launching a Web video series featuring a cast of the Internet's most popular entertainers.

Jessica Rose, star of the Web sensation "lonelygirl15," will be joined with top YouTube talent, including video bloggers known as sxePhil and KevJumba, for the scripted comedy "Hooking Up." Set to premiere Oct. 1, the 10-episode series will be distributed on top video portals including YouTube and MySpace as well as a destination site, hookingupshow.com.

"Hooking" could prove groundbreaking for the nascent webisode genre by amassing a sizable viewership, given its aggregation of Internet personalities who can promote the production to their devoted audiences of millions of young viewers.

For HBOlab, "Hooking" is an opportunity to take to the next level the knowledge the unit has gleaned regarding Internet video distribution.

"I think we're going to see a lot more hits than had we cast a bunch of funny people you didn't know," said Fran Shea, head of HBOlab.

YouTube content partnerships manager George Strompolos likened the genesis of "Hooking" to an organic strategy employed occasionally by his site's stars who pop up in one another's videos to cross-pollinate their audiences.

"It has happened before, but there hasn't been a real production company with this level of support orchestrating everything," he said. "That will be the extra push it will need to get out there in a smart, fun way."

"Hooking" puts its Internet all-stars to work acting as students at a fictional university where the populace spends most of its time e-mailing, instant-messaging and Twittering, but always seems to be miscommunicating.

Hookingupshow.com will be supplemented with social-networking capabilities, and the series' characters will have their own Facebook pages. No advertising will be a part of the first season, though HBO could elect to bring sponsors on board should the series continue.

To date, HBOlab has concentrated on creating the online hub Runaway Box, a collection of comedy videos that will continue to operate. One Runaway player, Mike Polk, recently signed a script-development deal with HBO.

Registering among the 10 most subscribed channels on YouTube, Kevin Wu, aka KevJumba, and Philip DeFranco, aka sxePhil, are well-known as video bloggers but have not worked on a scripted production.

"It was a big risk to take two non-actors and put them in lead roles," Shea said.

Another top 10 YouTube star, Michael Buckley of the "What the Buck Show," not only appears in "Hooking" but also has signed a development deal with HBOlab that will put him in other projects created by the unit. Other Web stars with roles in "Hooking" include Kevin Nalts, Charles Trippy and Cory Williams.

"Hooking" is written and directed by Woody Tondorf, a HBOlab staffer who also has a part in the series.

Reading about how HBOlab will have various Internet stars appearing in each other's videos reminds me of the recent South Park episode when we saw Tron Guy, the Star Wars Kid, the Dramatic Chipmunk, the Laughing Baby, the Sneezing Panda, Chris Crocker, "Chocolate Rain" and all the other Internet personalities together in an office. To me, that episode was pure genius, and it showed how these random people are becoming mini-celebrities in their own right, so it was brilliant for HBO to lock up a group of them to basically turn the Internet into a mini-Golden Age of Hollywood.

It's amazing. Just when I was losing faith in HBO and their higher-ups, an idea like this comes out and all of a sudden, I'm excited about them all over again. Granted, I'm glad we cancelled our subscription since the constant string of movies that suck on six channels was getting really tedious and the original programming hadn't provoked much excitement from me, but I'm still glad that they had the foresight to come up with this project. At least I know I can still watch it online.

Credit: Hollywood Reporter



Burn After Reading: A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent (John Malkovich) ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees (Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt) who attempt to sell it.

The more I see the commercials for this, the more I want to see it NOW. Yes, No Country for Old Men was a brilliant Coen Brothers film (screw labeling, it was a brilliant film, period). But I just love it when they allow themselves to get a little… what's a good word… silly.

I got a kick out of their take on The Ladykillers, Raising Arizona is a classic, there's nothing I can say about The Big Lebowski that hasn't been said before and the black comedy in Fargo was fantastic. So I expect this to be a lot of fun as well, and it doesn't hurt that everyone looks like they had a blast doing it.

Righteous Kill: Two veteran New York City detectives (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino) work to identify the possible connection between a recent murder and a case they believe they solved years ago.

I'm not too sure about this one. On paper and in the trailers, it looks like a slam-dunk winner. But one would think that, with two icons working together, the film would have gotten a more prominent release, not to be sent out in the middle of September. And the early buzz I heard didn't make it sound too promising either. However, I am still curious to see how it turns out and I would like to give it a look.

Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys: Two families (Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodard) from different walks of life learn to work together.

Man, this is not the best way to lay out the premise to this film. Not at all, at least judging from what I've seen in the commercials. From this quick one-sentence breakdown of the film, it sounds a lot like Perry's other films.

But looking at how it's being marketed, it comes off like a thriller that could allow Perry to broaden his audience. Obviously, the man is very talented and successful when it comes to his films, and I'm glad to see a project like this coming from him.

The Women: A wealthy New Yorker (Meg Ryan) leaves her cheating husband and bonds with other society women (Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith) at a resort.

Ahh, and here's the remake of the week. Yes, The Women is a modern-day look at an old classic of both theatre and film that goes as far back as 1936. Diane English – the creator of Murphy Brown – has taken this one on, and it's been a pet project of hers for some time.

One problem, though. It comes off way too much like Sex & the City in the commercials. We have a group of women sticking together, one of them bragging about how she may give her new boyfriend her real phone number and another one acting way too hyper to be appealing, even if it is Debra Messing.

Oh, and Meg Ryan looks way too good in this film to be cheated on. If she had her less than glamorous look that she had a few years back, then I can understand. But she looks terrific here, and despite the other woman being Eva Mendes, I find it hard to buy Meg's husband in this looking elsewhere.


If you haven't gotten caught up on the classics yet, Paramount Home Entertainment is about to give you a new reason why you should. They are starting a new line of releases, called the Centennial Collection, which will feature acclaimed classic movies with new transfers and bonus materials in special editions. The quality of the DVDs is expected to rival the Criterion Collection. Yes, Criterion.

The first release in the line will be Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder's Academy Award winning look at Hollywood, featuring Gloria Swanson and William Holden.

The release will offer a new transfer of the film and over 2 hours of additional bonus materials. There will be a Commentary Track by Ed Sikov, author of "On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder," taken from a previous DVD release. But there is also a wealth of brand new materials, usch as the Featurettes "Sunset Boulevard: The Beginning", "The Noir Side of Sunset Boulevard by Joseph Wambaugh," "Sunset Boulevard Becomes a Classic," "Two Sides of Ms. Swanson," "Stories of Sunset Boulevard," "Mad About the Boy: A Portrait of William Holden," "Recording Sunset Boulevard," "The City of Sunset Boulevard," "Behind the Gates: The Lot."

Other Featurettes included on this version are "Franz Waxman and The Music of Sunset Boulevard," "Paramount in the '50s," and "Edith Head - The Paramount Years." Further the Morgue Prologue Script Pages will be included as well as the Hollywood Location Map and the movie's Trailer and Still Gallery.

The "Sunset Boulevard: Centennial Collection" will his shelves on November 11 for only $19.98.

Credit: DVDReview.com




If this is "back-door" use, it's the loudest back-door I've ever seen: DreamWorks' "Disturbia" is a rip-off of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window," according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Manhattan federal court.

According to the Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust, which owns the rights to Cornell Woolrich's short story "Murder From a Fixed Viewpoint," Hitchcock legally obtained the rights to turn the short story into a big-screen thriller in 1953. However, the trust claims DreamWorks did not do the same.

The lawsuit contends that "Disturbia" and "Rear Window" are "essentially the same" stories. Both are murder mysteries solved by a man peering from his window and witnessing strange behavior by a neighbor.

The characters in the films -- as well as the short story -- are similar, and the plots unfold basically the same way, the lawsuit states.

"What the defendants have been unwilling to do openly, legitimately and legally, (they) have done surreptitiously, by their back-door use of the 'Rear Window' story without paying compensation," the lawsuit states.

Also named as defendants are Steven Spielberg, who declined comment through a spokesman. Reps for DreamWorks parent company Viacom did not immediately comment.

Well, look who finally showed up! After almost two years, NOW the Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust wants to press charges that Disturbia is a rip-off of Rear Window. If I were a judge, I'd wonder what the hell took so long. Articles and reviews made a point to say that Disturbia is a 21st century teen-thriller update of Rear Window, and anyone who knew a smidgen about Rear Window could see the resemblance in the commercials. Hell, if I were holding the rights to the short story, my Spidey-Sense would tingle the second I saw the poster of Shia LOOKING THROUGH BINOCULARS!

Just like the whole Watchmen fiasco, I'd say the blame lies on both sides. Yes, if DreamWorks wanted to be that blatant with their update on Rear Window (and I'll give them credit for putting some originality into it; more than I can say for a lot of movies these days), then they should have gotten their legal department to make sure they weren't stepping on anyone's toes. In the meantime, why wouldn't Sheldon Abend say something before the movie came out? Did they want to wait until they saw how much money it made and then move forward to get their cut? I don't get it.

Credit: Hollywood Reporter

This Week in Remakes: Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment has set Wes Anderson to write "My Best Friend," a remake of the 2006 Patrice Leconte-directed French comedy "Mon meilleur ami." Anderson is also eying the project as a directing vehicle.

Brian Grazer and Agnes Mentre will produce. Rosalie Swedlin will be executive producer.

The French pic starred Daniel Auteuil as a cranky antiques dealer who learns at a dinner with his closest acquaintances that none of them really like him because of his harsh manner and selfishness. When his business partner bets him a valuable vase that he can't produce a best friend, the dealer tries to get an amiable cab driver to pose as his buddy.
Pic marks Anderson's first collaboration with Imagine, which releases the Ron Howard-directed "Frost/Nixon" on Dec. 5 and the Clint Eastwood-directed "Changeling" on Oct. 24 through Universal and "Angels & Demons" on May 15 through Sony.

Anderson just completed directing an animated adaptation of Roald Dahl novel "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" with 20th Century Fox Animation.

UTA reps Anderson and sold remake rights on the film to Universal.

If you happened to listen to the podcast last night, you would have heard me talking about Hollywood's insistence on pleasing everyone by basically outsourcing their premises. As long as it would be familiar to some part of the audience, then they would be good to go, whether this was a sequel, a reboot, an adaptation or – God help me – a remake.

Based on what I've read about the premise of this film, I want to see the original more than I want to see what's going to be done to American-ize it. Granted, I think Wes Anderson's a very talented filmmaker who's going to give it an interesting spin, but come on, guys! The original movie's only two years old! I'm sure there are plenty of spec scripts for original projects that have been sitting in boxes longer than that at production companies.

Credit: Variety

Sean and the City: Do real men wear Prada? New Line Cinema will presumably answer that question in a film about professional hockey player Sean Avery's experiences in the fashion world, including his stint as a summer intern at a fashion magazine.

Avery, who considers himself something of a fashion jock, in May began a summer internship at Vogue, where, among other duties, he served as guest editor of MensVogue.com.

New Line, which is developing and will produce a big-screen account of his experiences in the fashion world and the relationships he made there, has hired ICM-repped Stan Chervin to write the screenplay. Contrafilms' Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson, who were behind New Line's sleeper hit "Journey to the Center of the Earth," will produce.

Avery, also repped by ICM, was a member of the NHL's New York Rangers at the time of the internship; he's since signed with the Dallas Stars. Avery told The Hollywood Reporter he's always been a fashionista. "I was always trying to be the best-dressed kid in school," he said.

Avery said that though his experiences made for great storytelling, it was his friends that pushed him into Holly wood's stylish threads. Lauryn Flynn, a friend and director of celebrity services at Burberry, brought the idea to her brother, Beau. Lauryn Flynn will co-produce.

The movie will be a romantic comedy.

Avery, an instigator and fighter who piles up penalty minutes, said he took some razzing for the experiences but has learned not to worry about the stereotypes of sport. "I think it's great to be into something that you care about," he said. "But I'm still an athlete who likes to beat the crap out of people."

I honestly can't think of a better example of some of the more original stories being out there; you just have to know where to look. While studios are scrambling to look for old material to redo and throw back onto the big screen, here comes New Line – which is now completely under the TimeWarner umbrella and, since it's now considered an after-thought in the wake of its shake-up, could wind up surprising some people before long – with a story about a hockey player at Men's Vogue.

Call me crazy, but this has the makings of being one of those movies that guys won't mind going to see with their girlfriends or spouses. If the hockey's played out as well as it was in Miracle, then the fashionista segments will take care of themselves and the film could wind up being something pretty damn good.

One word of warning to New Line, don't Hollywood this up. I'm a Ranger fan and was thrilled to see them win in '94, but they got their asses handed to them by Pittsburgh in the playoffs and this film should show that too. Show all sides of Avery, including the side of him that had to watch the Penguins celebrate. That should make for a hell of an ending.

Credit: Hollywood Reporter

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: August 29 – 31, 2008

Remember last week, when I gave kudos to the American people for having the brains to ignore the Friedberg & Seltzer shit-fest? Well, I kinda have to take some of it back since, with the lowest grossing weekend in years, it STILL hasn't fallen off the Top 10 list! AND it looks like this one broke even!

I swear, these guys are like roaches. Someone turn the lights on, so they'll scatter!

1. Bangkok Dangerous: $7,783,266
Total: $7,783,266
2. Tropic Thunder: $7,230,710
Total: $96,541,629
3. The Dark Knight: $5,515,119
Total: $511,997,658
4. The House Bunny: $5,512,870
Total: $36,611,667
5. Traitor: $4,274,297
Total: $17,265,872
6. Babylon A.D.: $4,180,570
Total: $17,378,536
7. Death Race: $3,710,915
Total: $29,909,125
8. Disaster Movie: $3,031,307
Total: $10,602,140
9. Mamma Mia!: $2,855,945
Total: $136,440,050
10. Pineapple Express: $2,255,875
Total: $84,013,748

Credit: BoxOfficeGuru.com


I'll say it again. This list is NOT ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION…

1. Titanic (1997): $600,788,188
2. The Dark Knight (2008): $512,374,922
3. Star Wars (1977 & 1997): $460,998,007
4. Shrek 2 (2004): $441,226,247
5. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982 & 2002): $435,110,554
6. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999): $431,088,301
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006): $423,315,812
8. Spider-Man (2002): $403,706,375
9. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005): $380,270,577
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003): $377,027,325

Credit: BoxOfficeMojo.com

Click here to take part in the latest discussions in the Past/Current Movies Thread at the 411Movies/TV Forum.


I'm not going to lie. That's not what your hero is all about. So I'm not going to lie, I think porn is great. I really do. This week I am going to feature a young lady that works in the adult industry; Ashlynn Brooke. Ashlynn is 23 and hails from Oklahoma. She's been in the industry for 2 years and has starred in such classics as Four Finger Club 24, Stuffin' Young Muffins 8, and Ashlynn goes to College 1 through 4.

I wouldn't let the fact that she is in a lot of sequels intimidate you; I have a feeling you'll be able to follow the plots without having to see the previous movies. Let's take a look at the recent Penthouse cover girl:

Beautiful, right? You can get more Ashlynn on her official site which you can find through a quick Google search. You didn't think I was going to post an adult link here did you? Come on!

Let me know if you enjoyed this edition in the comments section below and if enough people ask for it, I will feature more girls like Ashlynn as opposed to the celebrities that I usually showcase.

And if you are a gal who wants to be on the Interactive Babe Photo News Brief, just email me at ascrit@myway.com and I'll see about getting you published.



We miss you, JT! Come back soon!








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Okay, I'm convinced. The next time someone makes a satirical film about Hollywood, they should make sure that the story takes place around a studio called Copycat Pictures. Everyone knows that originality is hanging by a very thin thread in the industry, but every now and then, there comes along a piece of news that has even Platinum Dunes executives shaking their heads in confusion.

In the Wall Street Journal last month, Warner Bros. Group president Jeff Robinov dropped the news that not only does he want to reboot Superman (as I "briefly" mentioned in issue number 75), but that he wants something done to the character along the lines of a giant spider in the third act...

Like the recent Batman sequel -- which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far -- Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as "The Dark Knight." Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.' DC properties. "We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it," he says. That goes for the company's Superman franchise as well.

I would love to see Robinov locked in the same room as Bob Daly and Terry Semel, the two guys who used to run WB and who made the decision that Batman needed to be "lighter and brighter." You know, for the kids. Anyway, it's perfectly understandable for Jeff to want all of his movies to be like The Dark Knight, if only for the chance that they get to recreate the success at the box office. The problem is that Jeff doesn't understand a single bit of what makes Batman who he is and what makes Superman who he is.

I gave writer/director Tom Mankewicz a bit of a hard time a couple weeks ago because of how he and Richard Donner were going to handle Superman II, but he made a good point when Warners approached him to write the screenplay for what would be the 1989 Batman film. He told them that you can't write Superman and Batman the same way; they're too completely different characters. And he's right, for the most part.

If the 1989 Tim Burton film was structured the same way that the 1978 Richard Donner film was, it would have suffered because those two would have been the highest profile comic book films out there, and they would have looked alike to the average moviegoer. Fortunately for us, the 1989 blockbuster started off with Batman already existing and very quickly causing fear for another couple criminals. Oh, and here's another element that worked in Batman's favor: the film was true to the character! He looked and acted as he did back in 1939 when Detective Comics #27 hit the stands.

What Robinov wants is for the "world's oldest living Boy Scout," the "man who fights for truth, justice and the American way" to be a prowling vigilante, strolling the rooftops of Metropolis and striking fear in the hearts of criminals. Sounds a lot like Superman to me. And this is the main problem with a lot of executives these days. The only thing that matters to them is that these two are comic book films and one made a lot more money than the other; therefore if the two were alike, then both would make the same amount of money, no matter how different the characters.

We also know now that Robinov cares only for the bottom line – the box office dollar – no matter how the actual film turned out. He thinks exploring characters' evil sides equals dollar signs, but he fails to realize that Sam Raimi already tried to go down that road and turned his main character into a dancing, emo pain-in-the-ass. However, it was still a smash hit at the box office, despite the less than stellar reviews. Yes, fans were looking forward to the evolution of Venom and the black costume having its effects on Peter Parker; they just didn't get it done right.

Thankfully, Raimi is willing to work past the mistakes he made and restore his Spider-Man franchise so it wouldn't finish on such a depressing note. But it doesn't seem that Robinov wants to listen to reason. If even Jon Peters – a producer notorious for ripping off whatever was successful the week before – is willing to back away from a black armor-wearing Man of Steel, then maybe it's not such a good idea for a character as bright and optimistic as Superman to go down that dark road.

So how to fix this little problem that Robinov has? It's simpler than he thinks, and it still has a bit more to do with Batman than fans would be comfortable with. A couple of the readers two weeks ago made a very good point. Everyone already knows what Superman's origins are, so there's little point in going back and re-telling it for the eventual reboot. Besides, if they did go back to the planet Krypton, then ironically, this new series would be compared to Batman Begins, which didn't have to worry about being compared to the Richard Donner film because it was too busy trying to distance itself from the previous Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher films. (If I may borrow a line from John Kerry, I was for re-telling Superman's early days before I was against it.)

So while Batman Begins used some elements from 1978's Superman, then this new and "improved" Superman should use some elements from the 1989 Batman. You don't have to make it dark; just start it off with Superman making an early appearance in Metropolis. This way, Robinov gets to borrow from Batman and still stay true to the character. Everyone is happy, and everyone comes to the theater.

See, Jeff? It's not that hard. The closer you get to the original concept, the better chance of the film being successful. Marvel knows this. You should too.

And that's a wrap for Chapter 77 of The UBS Evening News. For Andy Critchell, I'm George H. Sirois, and we'll see you next week!


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