Tag Archive | "Sam Mendes"

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Why The MGM Bankruptcy Was The Best Thing That Could Have Happened

Posted on 12 October 2012 by William Gatevackes

Over its almost 90 year history, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, or MGM, has become a legendary name in the world of film. From film series ranging from The Thin Man  to Pink Panther  to James Bond series, from  movie musicals such as Singing in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz  to Best Picture Oscar winners such as Ben-Hur and Mrs. Miniver, MGM became known for classic cinematic fare.

Unfortunately, over the last several decades, MGM has become even more well known for its financial troubles. Year after year where box office bombs (Heaven’s Gate, anyone? How about Cutthroat Island?) outweighed box office successes and poor management decisions increased the studio’s debt. The once strong MGM entered a fight for its survival.

The years of financial struggle came to a head in 2009, as MGM CEO Stephen Cooper attempted to sell the studio to try and fend of bankruptcy. Even though MGM’s future looked bright–it still had rights to the newly rejuvenated Bond franchise, it had much talked about remakes of RoboCop and Carrie in the pipeline, and it owned a stake in the eagerly anticipated The Hobbit–and had a number of potential buyers, no deal could be reached for the sale. MGM’s  bankruptcy plan was approved on December 2, 2010.

As MGM entered bankruptcy, much of its operations came to a halt. Two films that were completed and set to be released–The Cabin in the Woods and Red Dawn–were put on hold, and development on the next Bond film and The Hobbit was delayed.

Typically, this kind of hiatus could be fatal for a film. Movies put on the shelf often stay on the shelf, and if projects are delayed, you typically lose cast and crew who can’t afford to wait for the project to restart. However, in this case, time spent in limbo did a whole lot more good than bad.

The Cabin in the Woods and Red Dawn were both scheduled to be released in 2010, but MGM’s financial troubles did away with that idea. By 2011, MGM was looking to sell distribution rights for the films. Cabin ended up at Lionsgate, a perfect fit for the horror homage/satire as the distributor is known for the horror films like Saw that Cabin was parodying. Red Dawn ended up at the relatively new FilmDistrict.

Both films had, at the time, young, unknown casts. This is where the delay helped because in between the time they were filmed and the time they were release, some of  the up and coming cast came up, so to speak.

Chris Hemsworth, who has a role in both The Cabin in the Woods and Red Dawn, was a relatively unknown Australian soap opera actor when he shot those films. His biggest American film role was a cameo in the Star Trek revamp as Captain Kirk’s father. But in 2011, he starred in Thor, one of Marvel’s “Phase One” superhero films. Thor tripled its production budget in grosses worldwide and established Hemsworth as a burgeoning superstar in the making and a hunky heartthrob for the ladies.

Red Dawn one ups The Cabin in the Woods when it comes to the little known actor to superstar quotient as it also has Josh Hutcherson in its cast. Unlike Hemsworth, Hutcherson got his start in Hollywood as a child actor and has an extensive resume to his name prior to shooting the Red Dawn, including the successful Journey to the Center of the Earth remake. But his casting as Peeta Mellark in the highly anticipated The Hunger Games adaptation shot him into super stardom as well. Unless something highly unlikely happens, when Red Dawn opens on November 21, it will feature stars from the highest grossing (Hemsworth and The Avengers) and third-highest grosssing (Hutcherson and The Hunger Games) films of 2012 in its cast. If even part of the audiences for those films carry over to Red Dawn, it should be a hit.

Another way the release delay should help Red Dawn‘s grosses is that it allowed the filmmakers to change the villain of the film from China to North Korea. In the time between when the movie was filmed and when it will be release, foreign markets, especially China, have become vital for a film’s financial success. Red Dawn should do much better in China now that their country isn’t the one viciously invading ours.

MGM made sure to keep hold of their interests in the Bond franchise and The Hobbit as they progressed through bankruptcy. Both projects were affected by the delay, but they too came out of the ordeal better than they went into it.

Development had started on Bond 23, which we now know is called Skyfall, before MGM entered bankruptcy. Sam Mendes was picked as director and Peter Morgan was chosen to write the script. However, when the project became delayed, Morgan had to leave the project before finalizing the final script. Rumor has it that Mendes worked on the script to the film during the time production was unable to go forward, calling on writers such as Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan to build up the characterization in the script.

Another benefit of the delay is that the film will be released in November 9, 2012, 50 years, one month and four days after the Bond franchise began with Dr. No. The anniversary was covered in all forms of media, and Skyfall was mentioned prominently in every article and news feature about the golden jubilee.  If the film was released years earlier, it would not have received the boon of so much free publicity. (The Cabin in the Woods also benefited with a load of free publicity due to its being released the month before The Avengers. In the promotional blitzkrieg for that movie, of course starring Hemsworth and written and directed by Cabin‘s co-writer and producer Joss Whedon, interviews would often refer to the earlier film, raising awareness of the film among a possible target audience).

While Skyfall lost a screenwriter, The Hobbit lost a director in the delay. Guillermo del Toro was originally slated to direct the Lord of the Rings prequel, but had to drop out when MGM’s financial quandary prevented the film from being green lit before the window del Toro allowed in his schedule for the film elapsed. The director’s departure left MGM and co-producers Warner Brothers searching for a new director. Eventually, the powers that be picked the executive producer of the film to take over as director.

Normally, when a producer replaces a talented and experienced director such as del Toro, the film is doomed with no hope for improvement. However, this time around, with no offense meant towards the skill and ability of del Toro, the producer will be an obvious improvement. Why? Because that producer is Peter Jackson, the man who brought Tolkien to the screen with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, winning three Academy Awards for its final installment, Return of the King.

With Jackson at the helm, The Hobbit trilogy will have a sense of continuity with the world Jackson built with Lord of the Rings. Again, no slight meant to del Toro, a director I admire and respect, something would simply be missing without Jackson in the director’s chair.

We are witness to the impossible happening–four films whose quality and/or box office potential were magnified by a studio’s bankruptcy. Too bad what happened to MGM was a stroke of luck, or else many other studios would pursue bankruptcy as a sure-fire way to turn their fortunes around.

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The First Full Length SKYFALL Trailer Is Here (US and International Versions)

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Rich Drees

We’ve had a teaser trailer and a television commercial, and now here is the first two full-on trailers for the upcoming James Bond adventure Skyfall.

At first glance, it seems as if this third film of the Daniel Craig-starring rebooted franchise is bringing in some more elements from the previous five decades worth of films. We get to see Bond’s first meeting with the British Secret Service’s quartermaster, codenamed Q, this time being played by Ben Whishaw. But more intriguingly, the trailer reveals a plot point that is definitely lifted from one of Sean Connery’s Bond adventures. The trailer also provides our first good look at a bleach-blond Javier Bardem as the film’s villain, Silva.

What I find interesting in the two trailers – one for US audiences and an international trailer – is the way that they use much of the same footage but have different modes established at the beginning.


Skyfall opens in the US on November 9, though the lucky British get it on October 26.

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Olympics See New New SKYFALL Commercial

Posted on 30 July 2012 by Rich Drees

Fortunately, Bond’s second appearance, in the form of a new commercial for the upcoming Bond cinematic adventure Skyfall. This new 30-second clip features some more action beats as shot by the Oscar winning cinematographer Roger Deakins under the direction of Sam Mendes than we got to see in the initial teaser trailer released back in May.

The film is due to be released internationally on October 26 and in the US on November 9.

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SKYFALL: First Trailer For The New James Bond Thriller

Posted on 21 May 2012 by Rich Drees

Good morning. Let’s start the week off with a little game of word association.

Skyfall? Trailer.

That’s right. Sony has just released the first trailer for the latest installment in the James Bond franchise, Skyfall. The film is due to be released internationally on October 26 and in the US on November 9. While it does consist of mostly quick flashes of scenes, it does give us an idea of some of the visuals Sam Mendes, a director not necessarily known for action films, has in mind for the film.

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Major SKYFALL Rumor Rears Head Again (Possible Spoiler)

Posted on 05 April 2012 by Rich Drees

There are not many rumors about the storyline for the upcoming James Bond adventure Skyfall, but their is one major one that seems to pop up now and then. If true, it would be a big moment and one that would be a first for the series.

Best For Film (via Bleeding Cool) is reporting this rumor again and this time it sounds like it is a little closer to being reality.

We have it from a fairly iron-clad source (a member of the Skyfall team) that there’s going to be a fairly momentous death in the next Bond film.

“We’ve just filmed M’s death scene. Judi Dench is leaving the franchise.”

This would definitely be a strong creative choice for a franchise that historically hasn’t taken too many detours from its established formula that would have a lasting impact on the series. In fact, outside of 2006’s reboot with Casino Royale, I think the only Bond film that really had a dramatic moment that impacted on the character in the long run was 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with the death of Bond’s hours-old bride Tracey. And that was more due to the source material of Ian Flemming’s original novel than it was a creative choice on the part of producers.

Given that Dame Judi Dench has had some reported health problems, this would give her an exit from the series that provides an in-story explanation for the change in actors in the role.

Skyfall hits theaters this November.

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SKYFALL Gets Third Bond Girl

Posted on 04 April 2012 by Rich Drees

Each Bond adventure sees the suave secret agent making time with a beautiful woman or two and in the upcoming case of Skyfall, it may very well be three. In addition to Naomie Harris as and MI6 agent by the name of Eve (with the possible last name of Moneypenny) and Berenice Marlohe in the role of Severine, the production has just hired a third Bond beauty in the form of Tonia Sotiropoulou.

Bond fansite MI6 is reporting that the Greek actress will be appearing in the film’s pre-title sequence which is set for filming in Turkey in a few weeks.That she’ll only be appearing in that section of the movie may or may not be a spoiler.

Sotiropoulou had originally auditioned for the role of Severine last August, though she lost the part to Matlohe. On the suggestion of the casting agent, Sotiropoulou’s agent submitted her for consideration for the new, unnamed role and after an audition and meeting with director Sam Mendes last week she was offered the part.

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Some Turkish SKYFALL Set Footage (Spoilerish)

Posted on 21 March 2012 by Rich Drees

I certainly hope that the real British Secret Service has better security for the things they guard than the production for the new James Bond adventure Skyfall does.

The film is currently in production in Turkey and a high school boy was able to infiltrate the set by borrowing a railway workers uniform and just walking on. He managed to record some rehearsal of a fight sequence on top of a train. (Presumably, this is the same sequence that the Indian government had a problem with last year, leading to the production to move location shooting to Turkey to begin with.)

The footage found its way to CNN’s Turkish division and that is the source of the news story embedded below.

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SKYFALL Spoilers: Some Set Pics Of Javier Bardem Plus His Character’s Name

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Rich Drees

The first pictures of Javier Bardem as the villain in the new James Bond film Skyfall have surfaced over the weekend. They are indeed a bit spoilerish, so we’ll hide them and some new details about his character, below a not so spoilerish set photo of Daniel Craig. As always, click on each photo for a larger view.

OK, so the filming was taking place at Whitehall, the street where a number of government buildings and offices are and which is considered to be the center of the British government. Judging by Bardem’s costume below, he is probably trying to sneak by Bond and the assorted gun-totting types after pulling off some sort of caper, perhaps in the MI6 offices themselves.

As to his character’s identity, that mystery has been solved by the Bond website James Bond Brasil (via Bleeding Cool) have posted some call sheets from the production that list Bardem’s character as “Silva,” so we can discount any rumors/speculation/hope that he was playing a new version of a classic Bond series villain like Blofeld.

Skyfall hits theaters this November.

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SKYFALL director Sam Mendes Releases Video Blog

Posted on 27 February 2012 by Rich Drees

As production continues on the next James Bond adventure Skyfall, director Sam Mendes has released a video blog from the set. It’s perhaps not as comprehensive as some of the ones that Peter Jackson has released from the set of The Hobbit, but we do get to see a bit of non-spoilery behind the scenes footage. The short clip is more Mendes talking about his own feelings about the Bond franchise and how impressed he was when it rebooted everything and brought in Daniel Craig for 2006’s Casino Royale. Hopefully future installments will show us some more specific glimpses of what the production is up to.

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Is SKYFALL Going IMAX A Bad Idea?

Posted on 23 February 2012 by Rich Drees

The latest James Bond adventure, Skyfall, will also be the first of the five-decades-old franchise to get a release in IMAX theaters it was announced today. The film will be digitally remastered for the format by the time it opens internationally on October 26 and two weeks later on November 9 in the US.

In The press release announcement, which you can read in its entirety below, IMAX Filmed Entertainment Chairman and President Greg Foster is quoted as saying “It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this legendary franchise, whose iconic characters and electrifying action will only be amplified in the IMAX format.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think that last part will be exactly true.

The truth of the matter is that director Sam Mendes has not been shooting any portion of Skyfall with actual IMAX cameras. This means that the frame shot with a standard movie camera will be digitally enlarged for the bigger IMAX screen, which could possibly lead to some picture degradation. Standard digital cameras do not have the resolution capacity that IMAX projection requires and that IMAX digital cameras possess.

Additionally, I can find no mention that Mendes and his director of photography Roger Deakins have actually shot any of the film with the idea that it will be seen on IMAX screens with their substantially different aspect ratios from traditional theater widescreens. Will their work have to be cropped for IMAX?

The upshot is that this may very well not be as exciting and immersive a film experience as the recent Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – which did have sections shot with IMAX cameras and an eye for the different screen requirements of the format – was.

Now it is possible that the press release is just referencing the IMAX branded screens that are nothing more than enlarged standard theater screens with a higher end audio and digital presentation and not the 1.44:1 aspect ration of what I guess we could call “classic” IMAX presentation. If that is the case, there should probably be no real composition compromise, but if the few films I’ve seen on these newer IMAX branded screens are any indication, there will still be some possibility of a less than crisp picture.

But hey, given MGM’s financial problems over the last few years, I really can’t blame them for trying to rake in a few extra bucks through an IMAX upcharge on tickets. Makes me surprised that they didn’t go all out a try for a post-production 3D conversion as well.

Here’s the complete press release –

Los Angeles – February 23, 2012 – IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX), Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment today announced that the long-awaited next chapter in the famed James Bond franchise, SKYFALL, will be released in IMAX® theatres simultaneously with the film’s international release on Oct. 26, and its domestic release on Nov. 9, 2012. This is the first IMAX installment of the iconic Bond film franchise.

In SKYFALL, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

SKYFALL marks the return of Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007, as well as Judi Dench reprising her role as M. The film also stars franchise newcomers Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem and Naomie Harris. The film is directed by Sam Mendes from a screenplay written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli are producers.

“SKYFALL will be the cool, must-see event release of the fall, and releasing the film in IMAX only reinforces that,” said Rory Bruer, President, Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures Worldwide Marketing and Distribution.

“It is fitting that with SKYFALL marking the 50th Anniversary of the James Bond franchise, we celebrate in epic style and what could be more larger-than-life than IMAX joining the festivities,” said Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officers of MGM.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this legendary franchise, whose iconic characters and electrifying action will only be amplified in the IMAX format,” said Greg Foster, Chairman and President, IMAX Filmed Entertainment. “We are excited to rejoin forces with our friends at Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM and so pleased to work with Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, and Sam Mendes to bring their vision to IMAX and Bond fans around the world.”

The IMAX release of SKYFALL will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. The crystal-clear images coupled with IMAX’s customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.

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