Arnold Schwarzenegger announces his return for TERMINATOR 5… Minions run amok in DESPICABLE ME 2… Supernatural drama coming in MARY LOSS OF SOUL…
From the luxurious Cinefantastique Online studios in NYC, Dan Persons brings you up-to-date on what’s happening in the world of genre media.
Cinefantastique’s Round Table Podcast – the podcast of horror, fantasy, and science fiction films – adjusts its schedule to make room for CFQ’s Spotlight Theatrical Podcast (Sunday/Monday) and the Laserblast Home Video Podcast (Tuesday). From now on, expect the Round Table to appear later in the week; also expect the Black Hole Ultra-Lounge to be re-incorporated into the Round Table, which will now feature both a look at the week’s news and a free-from meditations on whatever fascinating topics occur to Lawrence French, Dan Persons, and Steve Biodrowski.
This week looks at word that rights have been secured for two TERMINATOR sequels; DARK TOWER stays at Universal Pictures; Miramax plans to revive the AMITYVILLE HORROR franchise; Lionsgate plans to give us LEATHERFACE 3D. And we bid farewell to Dana Wynter, the lovely female lead of the 1956 classic, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.
And what’s up with those final words each week? Anyone catch all the references so far?
In this week’s installment of the Cinefantastique Round Table Podcast, Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski render their opinions on the week’s top news stories and upcoming theatrical releases: Will Arnold Schwarzenegger be back as the Terminator? Is Joss Whedon’s upcoming THE AVENGERS worth anticipating? Do we really need to know Conan the Barbarian’s origin story? And will THOR thunder into theatres like a mythical god?
Deadline reports that former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is indeed signed to star in a new TERMINATOR film.
Major Hollywood agency CAA is shopping a film “package” that includes Schwarzenegger and currently hot director Justin Lin (FAST FIVE) to studios.
The article claims that Universal, Sony Pictures and Lionsgate are very interested in the project, though no script has yet been devised.
There may be some degree of urgency to the TERMINATOR franchise; in 2018 North American rights to the characters will technically revert to original writer/director James Cameron (and presumably producer/co-writer Gale Anne Hurd).
CHUCK returns with it’s season 4 premiere “Chuck vs. The Anniversary” TONIGHT at 8/7c on NBC.
“Chuck (Zachary Levi) and Morgan (Joshua Gomez) go on a rogue globe-spanning mission to find Chuck’s mom (Linda Hamilton).
Meanwhile, Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) and Casey (Adam Baldwin) follow a trail to Russia as they investigate the mysterious Volkoff Industries and its operative, Marco (Dolph Lundgren).
Back at home, Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) delivers big news to her family.”
It’s nice to see Linda Hamilton (THE TERMINATOR, BEAUTY & THE BEAST) back on television.
CHUCK airs Mondays at 8:00 pm/7 Central on NBC.
Mike Flemyng at Deadline New York is reporting that Pacificor, the company that owns the sequel rights to THE TERMINATOR, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hannover House, which rocked the world of Internet sci-fi geekdom last week by sending out a press release announcing that they were prepping a computer-animated film titled TERMINATOR 3000. Initial reports indicated that Hannover had licensed the rights from Pacificor; it turns out that Hannover House’s Erik Parkinson claims to own the animation rights from when he left Hemdale, the company that produced the first TERMINATOR. However, Parkinson admits that it would be legally “dangerous” to proceed without Pacificor’s approval, because an animated film might still infringe on their “intellectual rights.”
Parkinson has now arranged a meeting with Pacificor, in which he will try to convince the company of the wisdom of allowing him to proceed in exchange for multi-million dollar fee he will be able to deliver to them:
“…we’ll show them our money and if the rational brain prevails, they’ll take the deal. If not, I can’t do it without them. You’ll have a followup next week that we are either holding hands, or not doing the film. At least we now have our meeting. I hope they will can think outside the box, because if we can make a movie that delivers a $20 million to $30 million rights payment, that is an income source they didn’t realize was possible. If not, it was a good idea anyway.”
The Internet is abuzz this morning with the news that a company named Hannover House has sent out a press release announcing an upcoming $70-million TERMINATOR sequel, to be titled TERMINATOR 3000 and – get this – filmed in 3-D animation with a PG-13 in order to bring in the kiddie audience. The film will be made in association with Red Bear Entertainment. Details are scarce at the moment, but production is tentatively scheduled to begin in January of 2011.
The franchise has passed from Hemdale (which produced the original) to Carolco (which produced TERMINATOR 2), later passing through the hands of Halcyon Media and ending up with Pacificor, which licensed the rights to Hannover House.
If we had to pick the five greatest theatrical experiences of our adult life (eliminating childhood, where even the lights going down could give goosebumps) then catching TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY on opening day back in July of 1991 would rank highly among them. It’s an amazing thing to walk out of a theater with your head buzzing after witnessing something utterly, totally, and demonstrability different, and TERMINATOR 2 was exactly that – an action epic with an unlikely emotionality at its core, a special effects extravaganza that utilized brand-new technology and combined it flawlessly with reliable, older methods, and, perhaps most amazingly, a sequel that outdid the original in every imaginable way.
The success of The Terminator in 1984 served as a calling card for the talents of both star Arnold Schwarzenegger and writer-director James Cameron, with both having labored for years in low-budget genre efforts before joining forces on a vehicle that called on each of their strengths; playing a (nearly) emotionless cyborg negated the stars thespian weaknesses; the director’s skills, honed working on the special effects for numerous ultra low-budget productions (including numerous Roger Corman efforts and some nifty matte paintings for Escape from New York), allowed Cameron to create viable future tech for very little money. The film was a smash, and the fortunes of both men rose at a geometric rate for the remainder of the decade, creating almost ridiculously high expectations for the inevitable sequel.
Following months of pre-release hype surrounding both the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to his most iconic role and the use of the groundbreaking digital morphing effects, TERMINATOR 2 did finally debut to virtually universal critical and audience acclaim. Though its action set pieces are justifiably famous, it is the deliberate pacing of James Cameron’s editing that has you gripping for the figurative edge of your seat long before the bullets start flying. Even the major action beats utilized longer takes and far less cutting than you’d find in a similar blockbuster. Cameron always keeps the special relations of both people and objects easy to follow; unlike headache-inducing shows like Transformers, the editing rhythms carry through and establish momentum throughout the film’s running time (watching Michael Bay’s film is like being in the car with a 16-year-old learning to drive a stick shift), and you always know where everyone and everything is in relation to everything else – a depressingly lost art. And though digital effects (in their infancy in 1991) are utilized whenever Robert Patrick’s T-1000’s shifted its liquid metal shape, the rest is achieved through expert models and gasp-inducing stunt work.
Just as important to TERMINATOR 2’s success are the principal actors, almost all of whom make something quite special out of their roles – whether, in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, they were returning to roles they had previously created, or newer editions to the cast. Under James Cameron’s careful direction, Schwarzenegger has always seemed livelier and more comfortable, able to take gentle pokes at his image without degenerating into outright mockery. His reading of certain lines – like his response to Edward Furlong’s shocked exclamation that he was prepared to kill a man in broad daylight (“Of course, I’m a Terminator”) is priceless, and his performance is peppered with unexpected character moments.
Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is simply amazing to behold, incredibly fit and muscular without being freakishly so. She was one of the more unusually attractive actresses of that era, and Cameron photographs her with a mixture of love and awe – similar to the way Michael Bay photographs an aircraft carrier. The authority that she carries holds the film’s more questionable plot turns in check and more than makes up for TERMINATOR 2’s only real shortcoming, the irritating, lispy performance of Edward Furlong as John Connor – the future leader of the Resistance that we wouldn’t follow across a room.
After the bankruptcy of Carloco Pictures many moons ago, the home video rights to TERMINATOR 2 have leapt from one company to another – and from VHS to Laserdisc to DVD and now Blu-Ray – with decidedly mixed results. After one of the earliest “must have” special edition releases on Laserdisc, all subsequent releases have built off this foundation – including commentary tracks featuring nearly all the production personnel, an extended (and superior) 153min cut of the film (the theatrical ran 137min) that reinstated Michael Biehn’s appearance as Kyle Reese, and literally hundreds of documents and photos from the production. The DVD releases saw the debut of an “extended special edition” running just a few minutes longer than the special edition, and including only two additional scenes – the T-1000 using his fingertips to scan John’s bedroom, and a coda taking place in a futuristic Washington D.C., with Sarah as a grandmother watching as her son, Senator John Connor, play with his daughter in an idyllic park, the Skynet threat finally defeated.
Lionsgate’s new Blu-Ray represents a noticeable improvement over their previous Blu-Ray, taking advantage of the soon-to-flop Terminator: Salvation to re-master TERMINATOR 2. While only those intent on heavily scrutinizing the image on large displays will notice most of the image upgrade, the drastic improvement that the lossless audio offers is immediately evident (back in the Laserdisc days, that first metallic crunch of the Terminator foot crushing the skull always knocked us out of the chair, and we were glad to have that feeling once again).
There has been a lot of grumbling in regards to the use – or misuse – of digital noise reduction on the title, and we wish that we could offer a more definitive answer. TERMINATOR 2 was never a particularly naturalistic-looking film; virtually the entire show is shot with heavy blue filtering, giving even human features near-metallic sheen. We suspect that some people may be mistaking this (and it is the way that the film was originally shot) for a DNR byproduct, though I’ll leave it to people with displays 65-inches and over to determine. The transfer looked good to us.
The extras represent a best-of compilation of previously offered items, with both the original commentary plus the slightly newer commentary track featuring James Cameron and co-writer William Wisher that had been offered with the “Extreme Edition” DVD release – it’s more interesting than the somewhat jumbled cast-crew track by virtue of concentrating on Cameron’s point of view (it is also scene-specific whereas the other is not.)
All extant versions are here as well, though you still have to put in the code 82997 to access the Extended Version; the two scenes that make up the difference between the Extended and Special editions are available separately on the disc and both represent solid cuts (the fingertip scan looks sillier than it probably read and mucks with the pacing, while the D.C. coda is embarrassingly stiff.)
Much of the previous BTS content had been carved up for picture-in-picture content that can be set to run with the film. All the theatrical teasers and trailers are also present (in HD) including the terrific “I promise, I will not kill anyone” spot. If you haven’t already bought the previous edition, this represents a pretty good value for money – particularly for the terrific lossless audio track. If you’re worried about heavy use of DNR, you can check out a very comprehensive screenshot comparison at DVD Beaver. Recommended.
Variety reports that midnight screenings of TERMINATOR SALVATION last night (technically, this morning) earned$3-million, launching the extended Memorial Day weekend with an early explosive bang. By way of comparison, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE earned almost $5-million at midnight screenings, and WATCHMEN took in $4.6-million the midnight before its official opening.
TERMINATOR SALVATION is in 3,580 theatres today (although not all of them screened it early). Hollywood prognosticators expect it to be the summer’s top-grossing film, thanks to the franchise’s appeal to male viewers.
Over at USA Today, Scott Bowles points out that Summer 2009 is loaded with blockbusters that feature origin stories. The motivations for this a fairly clear: Hollywood likes familiar franchises, but audiences are getting tired of sequels rehashing the same old plots. Prequels allow filmmakers to fill in the back story; more than that, an origin story also offer a chance to reboot a franchise entirely.
Consequently, this season is offering films like X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE and STAR TREK, which take us back to the beginning in different ways: WOLVERINE is a genuine prequel; STAR TREK is a reboot. Even TERMINATOR SALVATION, which opened today, is a prequel of sorts: although set in the future, because of the series’ time-travel plot, it tells us the back story of John Connor and Kyle Reese, which was referenced in THE TERMINATOR (1984).
Bowles quotes Lauren Shuler Donner on her strategy for WOLVERINE:
“You have to start somewhere,” says Lauren Shuler Donner […]. “An origins story is like getting to know somebody. When you meet someone and like them, you want to know where they came from. It grounds your franchise.”
Producers credit BATMAN BEGINS with launching the current craze for franchise reboots:
“Batman Begins really showed how much a back story can free you up creatively,” says Chris Aronson of 20th Century Fox, which released Wolverine. “You don’t have to confine yourself.”
This is true, but in a way I think SPIDER-MAN was the proto-type for this approach. Though not technically a reboot (unless you remember the old live-action television series), SPIDER-MAN showed what you could achieve with an origin story showing a character make the transition from normal human to superhero – which is the basic formula that BATMAN BEGINS used so well.
I would also add CASINO ROYALE to the list, or as I liked to call it “Bond Begins Again.” that film was a perfect example of reinvigorating an old franchise by throwing out the old baggage and starting over like new – something that this year’s STAR TREK took to heart. Although J. J. Abrams’ film retains the old mythology, it uses a time travel plot device to create an alternate time line that will allow sequels to warp in a new direction instead of building toward story lines we already know – a problem that killed the STAR WARS prequels.
Whatever the reasons, this summer’s sequels are trying to sound less like knock-offs by avoiding numerals in their titles: ANGELS & DEMONS, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN, TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS. Only HALLOWEEN 2 is a hold-out. (Hey, Rob Zombie – how about “Halloween: Second Season” instead?)
Meanwhile, the prequels are proving potent at the box office. WOLVERINE achieved this year’s biggest opening ($85-million), and STAR TREK made a debut twice as big as any previous movie in the franchise.
At this rate can 1992: HAL’S BIRTHDAY ODYSSEY, DAWN OF THE MATRIX, PLANET OF THE APES: EVOLUTION, and THE EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING be far behind? Oh wait, they already did that last one…