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Costner Doesn’t Want Tarantino Bump

September 28, 2011
Kevin Costner playing at the Cisco Ottawa Blue...

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We at YSIS had reported that Kevin Costner was all set to play a dirty racist in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film, Django Unchained. Along with his upcoming role in the new Superman film, it seemed like Costner was all set for a renaissance. His career has been stuck in the doldrums for last fifteen years. During the eighties and early nineties, Costner was one of the biggest stars in the stratosphere. But after Waterworld and the epic failure The Postman, Costner became a punchline.

John Travolta can relate. Before he starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, his career had become a cautionary tale for aspiring actors. The only thing Travolta had going for him was the Look Who’s Talking franchise, which was on the verge of giving a lamp internal dialogue. Saturday Night Fever and Grease were looking pretty distant in the rearview mirror. Then Tarantino gave him the role of Vincent Vega, netting Travolta an Oscar nod and another shot at superstardom.

Travolta is the best example of the Tarantino bump. Other actors, such as Robert Forster, Pam Grier, Christoph Waltz, Michael Parks, and more have had their careers take a positive turn after working with Tarantino. (Uma Thurman may owe a greater debt to Tarantino than any of those actors, save Waltz. Kurt Russell may be one of the few actors not to have seen an immediate benefit from working with Tarantino, although I happen to like Death Proof.) It seemed like a no-brainer that Costner would jump at the chance to work with Tarantino.

But now it looks like Costner might have lost his golden ticket. He has dropped of Django Unchained due to a scheduling conflict. Costner is committed to doing a miniseries for the History Channel, called The Hatfields and McCoys. (Because Wyatt Earp turned out so well.) Beyond starring in the project, Costner is also producing. To sum up: Costner decided to do a miniseries for the History Channel rather than do Django Unchained with Quentin Tarantino.

This is stupid on several fronts. Costner would be much better off playing against type in a Tarantino film than doing an ego project for the History Channel. The History Channel would be much better off if Costner did Tarantino’s movie: Costner would be more relevant and people would be more likely to tune in. Costner’s agent would make a lot more money if Costner was a desired commodity. In this situation, everyone loses. Except, of course, the actor who takes Costner’s role in Django.

Not having read the script or knowing much about the role, I have no idea what qualities Tarantino is looking for. In just grabbing a name out of the air, I recommend Kevin Kline, Costner’s Silverado costar. I would never think of Kline as a rascist; the role is completely against type for him; I really like Kevin Kline. He can play mean (and dumb), look at A Fish Called Wanda. He won an Oscar for comedy, which is nearly impossible.

[Source: Deadline]

Update: Kurt Russell, of Tarantino’s Death Proof, is in negotiations to take Costner’s role, according to Collider. Kevin Kline has signed to play two roles in the upcoming Charlie Kaufman movie Frank or Francis, also according to Collider.

FX Makes Power Moves

July 6, 2011
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Logo for FX

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FX recently nabbed the television rights to Transformers 3: The Dark of the Moon, which just scored a $181.1 million opening weekend. In and of itself, that might seem like a pretty good get. But scoring Michael Bay‘s latest is only the icing on what has been an extremely busy few months for FX. Last weekend, FX picked up Cameron Diaz’s Bad Teacher, which finished behind Cars 2 at the box office. Before that, FX purchased the rights for almost every big release this summer: Super 8, Green Lantern, The Hangover Part II, X-Men: First Class, Thor, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Kung Fu Panda 2. FX also got earlier releases Just Go With It, The Green Hornet, Tron: Legacy, The Roommate, Rango, and Battle: Los Angeles. What gives? FX is starting to look like my Netflix queue.

FX is not just acquiring films, it is also developing a few new series to complement its existing slate. The comic book adaptation Powers, has signed Jason Patric and Lucy Punch for the leads. Powers follows a pair of police officers that investigate crimes committed by super-powered individuals. Outlaw Country is an upcoming crime drama about a family of southern gangsters, starring Luke Grimes, Stephen Root, Mary Steenburgen, and John Hawkes. FX has recently hired Scott Rosenbaum to write the pilot for Port Royal, about 17th century pirates around Jamaica. Think of it like Deadwood for pirates.

FX successfully launched Winfred, starring Elijah Wood, which achieved the best ratings ever for an original FX comedy series. The second season of Louie, starring stand-up Louis C.K., improved upon its season one premiere by 40%. The channel also has Justified, Archer, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Damages, and Sons of Anarchy returning. The only show going off the air is Rescue Me, which is entering its final season.

With several notable series, a lot of recognizable talent, and a deep line-up of summer movies, FX is committing a lot of money to increasing its viewer base. FX is one of the more popular basic cable networks, but it ranks behind AMC, A&E, TNT, and USA. Given the resources that FX is allocating to programming, it should be well-positioned to move up in total viewership. AMC may have Mad Men and The Walking Dead, but it does not have a modern film vault. If everything goes according to plan, you and everyone you know will be watching FX a year from now. Too bad you’ll never have time to talk about it, as you’ll be far too busy watching FX.

[Sources: Deadline (Outlaw Country, Port Royal, Green Lantern, Transformers 3, Bad Teacher, Wilfred), Screen Rant]

Is J.J. Abrams the Next Spielberg?

June 29, 2011
J.J. Abrams at Time 100 Gala

Image via Wikipedia

When Kobe Bryant began collecting NBA championships like Fabergé eggs, many analysts wondered aloud if Kobe Bryant was the new Michael Jordan. Ever since Jordan’s retirement, that question has been asked of many an NBA player. Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all-time, not just for his stats, but because of his ability to win championships.

In filmmaking, comparisons between current and past directors are common, but more along stylistic grounds. A few pans and a notable soundtrack might warrant a comparison to Martin Scorsese. If there is a Michael Jordan of the film world, it may be Steven Spielberg. I am not arguing that Spielberg is obviously the greatest filmmaker ever. He is certainly in the conversation though: he combines critical and box-office success as few do. He has occasionally been trashed by critics and audiences (1941 and Hook are his only “Rotten” films, according to Rotten Tomatoes), but his track record is pretty remarkable. James Cameron might rival Spielberg, as he wrote and directed the two highest grossing films of all-time, but Cameron has not fared as well with the critics as Spielberg. (Cameron has only one rotten film, Piranha II, but he’s directed far fewer films than Spielberg.)

J.J. Abrams‘ new film, Super 8, is obviously inspired by Spielberg’s work. By evoking Spielberg’s films with such reverence, Abrams is inviting the comparison to Spielberg. History will tell whether or not Super 8 will be remembered as an ode to Spielberg, a great film, or both. Abrams has set himself up to be anointed as the new Spielberg, but…

I’m not ready to say that the mantle has officially been passed. Spielberg is still Spielberg, and Abrams has only directed three films. While Spielberg produced Super 8, not too much should be made of that. Spielberg has produced dozens of films by dozens of filmmakers. However, rarely has a director paid such lavish homage to Spielberg in a Spielberg produced film.

If Abrams does desire to be the new Spielberg, he certainly has competition. His closest competition is Christopher Nolan, who has made several critically praised and financially successful films. Nolan’s Batman films are not quite “family friendly” in the traditional sense. Spielberg has made several films that are geared more towards adults (Jaws, A.I., Minority Report), but his hallmark is the family friendly spectacle, like his upcoming Tin Tin film. Spielberg’s wheelhouse is culture clashes (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Amistad, Empire of the Sun, E.T.) that contain splashes of childlike awe. Nolan tends towards the psychological drama with visual flair, something akin to a Kubrick-Hitchcock lovechild. Abrams penchant is more towards the “mystery box”, a concept he elaborated on in his T.E.D. talk.

The other filmmaker that comes to mind when discussing the “mystery box” is M. Night Shyamalan. But Shyamalan’s style is the inverse of Abrams. Abrams is upfront with the idea of a mystery, which will ultimately take a backseat to the emotional denouement. Shyamalan offers roman à clefs: twist endings that recast how the entire story was seen. However, Shyamalan undermined his own storytelling ability by having the audience constantly expect a twist, thereby deflating the surprise of any potential twists.

Chuck Klosterman recently surmised that the “twist ending” has been ruined by the spoiler nature of the Internet. If Klosterman is correct, then Shyamalan’s trademark is a thing of the past. Shyamalan is further damaged by everyone of his films being worse than the one that preceded it. (I still enjoy Unbreakable.) If anyone should hate Abrams, it is Shyamalan. While M. Night’s films are dark, they’re mostly family friendly and awe-inspiring. In a large practical joke, Abrams and the makers of Lost started a rumor that Shyamalan would be directing the finale of the series. Looking back, I see that the Lost team was announcing exactly what they would not be doing: offering a twist that would change everything. It was the Abrams touch that won out: trying to sidestep the mystery by giving an emotional resolution.

Oddly, the main criticism of the Lost finale was that it did not resolve many of the mysteries of the Island. People wanted a Shyamalan-like twist, and instead got the Abrams-two-step. Yet it is Abrams’ star that is ascending while Shyamalan’s star is plummeting.

Abrams has yet to announce his next directorial project. It will most likely be Star Trek 2, which does not necessarily deepen the connection to Spielberg. Spielberg has two films coming out this December, War Horse and The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of Unicorn. Abrams has rode the wave of geek-chic to becoming one of the most recognizable filmmakers in Hollywood.

Returning to the original question: is Abrams the new Spielberg? It’s hard to say. We have not yet seen his serious, emotional Schindler’s List-like movie. Abrams does not have a World War II. So much of Spielberg’s pathos is tied up in the trauma of World War II. Spielberg might have just been a commercial filmmaker if not for his deep feelings about WW II. I don’t know what Abrams feels that deeply about besides Spielberg films. Abrams definitely does feel that deeply about something, but whether or not that resonates with an audience is yet to be seen.

Hulu Hangs “For Sale” Sign

June 27, 2011
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Image representing Jason Kilar as depicted in ...

Image via CrunchBase

After receiving an unsolicited bid to purchase the company (the Los Angeles Times reports that it was from Yahoo), Hulu has hired two investment banks to help navigate the possibility of a sale. Last year, Hulu was preparing for an IPO, but backed away due to concerns that their content agreements were not sufficiently long-term. With reported revenue of $500 million, Hulu’s IPO had targeted a valuation of $2 billion.

There are many possible buyers (although a few are improbable), giving Hulu more suitors than the average prom queen:

  • Google: Hulu’s content would pair well with YouTube
  • Yahoo: needs to make a big move or be left behind
  • Netflix: current content to go with their library would only enhance their lead in streaming services
  • Amazon: could help them close in on Netflix
  • Apple: does not fit their strategy, but they can basically get away with anything
  • Facebook: has shown some interest in streaming media
  • AOL: could be the last step in rebranding their company

The biggest problem with selling Hulu is convincing the buyer that the News Corp. (Fox), Disney (ABC), and Comcast (NBC) will keep the content flowing. Hulu CEO Jason Kilar has fought to get more content on Hulu, only to meet resistance from the major networks. Fox and Disney have apparently agreed to extend their content deals with Hulu, which does make Hulu more appealing to potential buyers. After all, it is the next-day distribution rights to three out of the four major networks that gives Hulu its value. If one of the parent companies pulls its content, Hulu’s worth would plummet.

News Corp., Disney, and Comcast have butted heads over how Hulu should be run. Each believes that they can get better value for their content through other partnerships. That is most likely true: although Hulu did report revenue of $500 million, that’s quite small compared to the $3 billion in revenue that Netflix reported. If Hulu was an independent company, the networks would be able to charge a healthy premium for their content. However, that’s exactly why any buyer might be skeptical. The buyer would need assurances that the content would not become exorbitantly priced after the sale was completed.

As much as Hulu’s owners might like to rid themselves of their uneasy partnership, it’s unlikely that a sale will actually occur. News Corp., Disney, and Comcast would have to give up too much control and extend too many promises to any potential buyer to make a buyout tenable.

[Sources: cnet, Business Insider, The Hollywood Reporter, Mashable]

Evening Assembly

June 23, 2011
Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

My Terminator 5 Recommendations

June 22, 2011
Cover of "The Terminator [Blu-ray]"

Now free of his Governating responsibilities, Arnold Schwarzenegger is returning to his prior occupation as an action star. Before it detoured to the governor’s mansion, Schwarzenegger’s career was in a malaise. He had not had a bona fide hit in years. One could argue that his career had chilled after his laughable performance as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin.

One of the most surefire ways to regain lost glory is to refresh a successful franchise with a sequel. Bruce Willis took off his shoes and balled his toes for a fourth time in Live Free or Die Hard. Sly Stallone strapped on his gloves for Rocky and broke out his headband for Rambo. Now Arnold will squeeze into his black leather jacket to turn back time on his career with another edition of The Terminator.

But this is easier said then done. There are so many Terminator stories out there, it’s hard to find a new chapter that is still integral to the story as a whole. Arnold has aged, and machines are known for rust, not wrinkles. There are myriad problems facing the filmmakers who will shepherd the Terminator 5 to fruition. Here are my recommendations to them as they begin to breakdown the story.

The Terminator Canon

Arnold has already returned as the T-800 in the disappointing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The film was followed by Terminator: Salvation, which featured a cameo of a digital Arnold. There were also two seasons of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which did not feature Arnold. In making Terminator 5, the filmmakers have to put some serious thought into which iterations of The Terminator are canonical. Parts of Terminator 3 were ignored in Terminator: Salvation. Many viewers of the film series may not be familiar with the story of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. (Although they really should be. It’s good, and it’s on Netflix Streaming!) Time travel creates its own problems with continuity, but balancing these sometimes conflicting narratives might be even more difficult.

My recommendation is that the filmmakers only hold the first two Terminator films as the official canon. The other films and television series should be held as true, unless thoughtfully violated. Still, little touches should be added within the film to reward those who are familiar with the entire franchise.

Arnold: Terminator or Human?

We all love Arnold as The Terminator. He’s intimidating, stoic, and an all-around badass. But Arnold is now sixty-four years old. This may seem like a problem that can be solved with make-up, but I recommend turning this weakness into an asset. This is the perfect time to have Arnold play the human his Terminator was based on.

With a human Arnold as its star, this move could help shore up some logical inconsistencies in the earlier films. James Cameron originally envisioned Lance Henriksen as The Terminator. Why? Because it makes absolutely no sense to hide a killing machine within a scary package. A Terminator does not need muscles. Make a Terminator a little girl or something. So why would the machines make The Terminator look like Mr. Universe?

Read more…

A New Addition to the You Screen, I Screen Family

June 22, 2011

Greetings reader! Thanks so much for reading the blog or for being accidentally led here by a search engine. Either way, you’re here now! I wanted to let all readers, both intentional and unintentional, know that You Screen, I Screen now has a tumblr blog to complement the main blog. The purpose of new blog is to provide a place to post film and television ephemera that does not necessitate a post. That means you’ll find trailers, minor casting news, new posters, links, and random quotes over on the new site. You can also submit questions and your own posts to the new site. Don’t worry, the main site will continue to provide the same great content it has since its inception in 1903. The new site can be found by clicking “YSIS Lite” on the menu bar or by going to www.ys-is.com. If you want even more ways to follow You Screen, I Screen, you can follow us on Twitter at the name ‘PRGittlestuff.’

Thanks for reading!

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