I like bad movies July 25, 2006
There are many movies that I greatly enjoy, even though I know their quality to be a bit lacking. Circle of Friends is one of them. I love it, I could watch it again and again, but I know it is not actually a good movie.
But little did I know just how bad my taste was. My sister, Emily, found a list of the 100 worst movies on IMDB. Being all kinds of fun, she declared a family contest to see who had the worst taste in movies. You got one point for every bad movie you had seen, and an extra point for any movie that you owned. I have seen a lot of bad movies (The [Girl] in the Iron Mask springs to mind), so I was excited. Unfortunately, I had only seen three of them (From Justin to Kelly, Spiceworld, and Teen Wolf Too), and I owned only one (Spice World, of course!). Fortunately, this was enough to win the competition.
My sister had promised a prize, and even alerted me of it’s impending arrival. Even so, when I received a padded envelope in the mail with no return address and my name and address printed on a piece of paper, cut out, and taped to the envelope, I thought it was slightly creepy. When I opened it to find a DVD of a yucky looking movie I had never heard of, and no note or receipt or anything, I got even more creeped out. I know it’s melodramatic, but friends, the idea that this was some sort of threat to my life actually crossed my mind. It was the only thing I could think of.
It took me over 24 hours to realize that rather that a dire warning, this movie was my prize. Oddly, it was both a relief and disappointment.
Say that three times fast!
A couple of weeks ago Erin and I went to the Shake Shack. We went at the end of last summer, and I was completely enamored of it. The last time the special shake of the day was blackberry, and I was hoping that somehow, it would be that flavor when we went again. It wasn’t, so I had to be content with a chocolate shake (wasn’t too hard). We also got Shack Burgers (cheeseburgers with their special sauce, something involving both mustard and mayo-yum) this time, and we were not disappointed. It’s a good time.
Variety article July 21, 2006
New Line goes for the gold
After socko ‘Rings,’ studio chases another Brit fantasy trilogy
By DAVE MCNARY
Three years after “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” grossed more than $1.1 billion for New Line Cinema, the iconoclastic mini-major is embarking on another high-stakes — and high-brow — fantasy, with Phillip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass.”
At $150 million, it’s New Line’s biggest bet since spending $300 million on the phenomenally successful “Rings” trilogy. Chris Weitz starts a five-month shoot at Shepperton Studios in London on Sept. 4.
New Line’s already staked out Nov. 16, 2007, as a release date and plans to shoot the second and third stories in Pullman’s trilogy “His Dark Materials” — that is, if all goes well with the first.
New Line has committed publicly to “The Golden Compass” only. But even with a single pic, it faces a potentially daunting array of challenges:
The pic’s fantastic creatures and dual universes will require over 800 CGI shots. Rhythm and Hues, CFC London and Cinesite London have signed on.
The story’s centered on a single character — an adolescent girl, portrayed by newcomer Dakota Blue Richards — rather than a group of characters as in the “Rings” trilogy or the Harry Potter pics.
Even though Pullman’s trilogy has sold 12 million copies in a decade and spawned a successful London stage version and a fervent fan base, it doesn’t carry the same kind of worldwide branding clout as “The Lord of the Rings” or Harry Potter.
There is a decidedly anti-authority tone to the stories. (Because of Pullman’s atheist beliefs, some have interpreted this as anti-organized religion, but for him, it’s a metaphor for any controlling organization.)
“The Golden Compass,” published in the U.K. as “Northern Lights” in 1995, centers on the eternal saga of good vs. evil via a young girl named Lyra Belaqua.
It’s a world where cars and telephones don’t exist and where Lyra battles a totalitarian regime, known as The Magisterium, like the Empire in “Star Wars.” Story lives up to its “dark” billing with an alternate universe of armored bears, witch queens and shape-shifting “daemons,” or animal manifestations of inner selves.
Brit helmer Anand Tucker left this spring after replacing Weitz, who was the original director. Weitz, who also penned the script, had stepped down in late 2004, due to the daunting technical challenges, but now insists he’s up to the task.
“I think Chris was willing to come back just because we were so much further along — knowing the budget, when we’re shooting, where we’re shooting,” notes New Line production president Toby Emmerich. “It’s a lot easier for directors when that’s already been decided.”
Emmerich says he’s encouraged by Disney’s blow-out success with “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” But he admits that New Line, which hardly ever goes over $40 million on a budget, hasn’t yet committed to filming the other books in the trilogy, “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass.”
The “Dark Materials” trilogy is aimed at preteens and teens, though the books — inspired by John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” — have a far bleaker view of the world than that contained in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series or C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” books.
Pullman’s tales have also shown significant traction among adults. “Amber Spyglass” won the U.K.’s 2001 Whitbred Prize for best children’s book, then became the first children’s book to win the Whitbred Book of the Year award.
“That award is very much to the point,” notes producer Deborah Forte. “When I optioned the book 10 years ago, it wasn’t because it was a children’s book; it was because it’s great literature that will stand the test of time.”
Nicole Kidman has been rumored as a possibility for the part of the evil Mrs. Coulter, but none of the adult parts has been nailed down, and Forte says they will be tapped over the next few weeks.
She’s not worried about a religious backlash or that New Line hasn’t firmed plans for the second and third films, adding, “As long as we can live up to the source material, we’ll be fine.”
Forte is producing with line producer Bill Carraro, whose credits include “Frequency,” “Blair Witch 2” and “The Best Man.” New Line has assigned exec VP Mark Ordesky, who was the go-between exec on the “Rings” trilogy, and senior VP Ileen Maisel to oversee.
Emmerich admits “The Golden Compass” is a big bet for the mini-major.
“It’s very ambitious for us from a budgetary point of view — a massive undertaking with incredibly complicated special effects,” he says. “But we feel that New Line has a unique asset in what we’ve shown with the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy: that we have the capability to produce and market a film like this and carry it to the finish line.”
Even some successful franchise starters don’t spawn offspring. Despite a $208 million worldwide gross for “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” no sequel is planned.
On the other hand, the siren call of franchises is impossible to resist, particularly since New Line’s gamble on “The Lord of the Rings” paid off by grossing nearly $3 billion.
“Before the trilogy, we didn’t really have a capability for a tentpole film,” Emmerich admits. “We had ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ ‘Seven,’ ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ ‘The Mask’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ but we didn’t have a worldwide day-and-date event film.”
Pirates & Cream Puffs July 19, 2006
Last night I had the pleasure of two treats; Erin and I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and I checked out Beard Papa on Emily’s recommendation. Emily read about Beard Papa in a magazine, and suggested we try it out. I was of course willing (as I always am as far as trying desserts is concerned), but I wasn’t going to get too excited. It seems that almost food place in Manhattan has been written up somewhere as being fantastic, so I was definitely holding my judgment until I taste-tested for myself. I walked up to the movie theater by way of Beard Papa and picked up six cream puffs to go. They always have regular custard, and one specialty flavor. The special flavor didn’t look good to me (can’t even remember now what it was), so I just got regulars. It was fun watching the lady fill them up (they have a huge bin of the pastries, and when you order them, they fill them with custard and top them with powdered sugar), and they come in a cute box. Once Erin and I had our seats at the movie, we tried them, and let me assure you, they are noteworthy. The pastry is just a little crunchy, and the filling is just the right sweetness. Be sure to put this on the list of places to check out next time you’re in town.
As for Pirates, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. That being said, I hate the title, it was too long, too confusing (this is coming from someone who regularly figures out supposedly sophisticated plot twists – why am I getting mixed up during a family film?), and Kiera was terrible. I might just have to see it again. Kudos to Johnny on mastering comedic running.
toast July 18, 2006
The other night I was thinking about how much I wanted some toast, and then I started thinking that really, there’s never a time, day or night, when I wouldn’t like to have some toast. I love it. I have a particular weakness for cinnamon sugar toast, but I also greatly enjoy toast and jam (seedless raspberry is the best!). Isn’t there a Francis book where she’ll only eat toast and jam? (Just looked. It’s bread and jam, which is almost, but not quite as good as toast and jam)
Yes, I’m fairly sure I could happily eat toast for breakfast lunch and dinner for quite some time. It’s just that good.