Honesty isn’t always fun, but in environments where it is a rare commodity honesty can provide entertainment like nothing else. Ronald Meyer is the head of Universal Studios. He’s a US Marine who co-founded the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in 1975 and became president of Universal in 1995. He has held that post ever since, through six regime changes. He’s doing something right, even when he does things wrong.

The question is, which of these things was wrong: making Land of the Lost, The Wolfman and Cowboys & Aliens, or publicly admitting that the movies were mistakes? While appearing at the Savannah Film Festival, Meyer talked with surprising candor about Universal’s recent fortunes and the state of the studio’s business today. The quotes in the headline are just the beginning. Read More »

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The last time we heard about Universal’s future plans for The Wolfman, the report was that the studio is essentially planning to pretend the 2010 film by Joe Johnston (who stepped in at the last minute) never existed. A new film called Werewolf, written by Michael Tabb, is supposedly the angle Universal will take to further exploit the classic horror property. And now the film might have a director: Louis Morneau. Read More »

The modern incarnations of the Universal’s classic monster stable haven’t quite had the best luck. And by ‘modern’ I mean in the last twenty years: Francis Ford Coppola kicked things off with his not-quite-canonical retelling of Dracula, and Kenneth Branagh bombed with his take on Frankenstein. (Neither of which were Universal films, however.)

Fast-forward several years, and Universal did a slightly better job with The Mummy, which at least found an audience, even if it did not quite match the original film. But a revival of The Wolfman, which should have been a pretty simple prospect, turned into a complicated and over-budget production when director Mark Romanek left and Joe Johnston came on board. The film was poorly received and underperformed at the box office, though it did score an Oscar for makeup.

Now, if one report is correct, Universal has decided that plans for a sequel to that film aren’t quite as good as plans to reboot it altogether. Read More »

Never Let Me Go

After the Telluride Film Festival premiere of his latest film, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview director Mark Romanek for a long-form interview.  It was a collaboration between Alex from FirstShowing and myself, which explains how we were able to get so much time with the filmmaker.

Mark Romanek is one of the best music video directors to come out of the 1990′s. His videos have included Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”, “Scream” – Michael Jackson’s grammy award winning collaboration with sister Janet Jackson (at $7 million, one of the most expensive music video ever made), Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”, Johnny Cash’s gut-wrenching cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”, En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind”, Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut”, Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”. His 2002 feature film One Hour Photo is probably best known for Robin Williams’ dramatic turn. While the film is beloved by cinephiles, it pretty much went under the radar of mainstream audiences. It did however gain Romanek a lot of the respect in the movie industry. His follow-up, a big screen adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel Never Let Me Go, premiered at the 37th Telluride Film Festival. The book was named one of TIME’s 100 Best Novels (from 1923 to the Present), featured on many top ten books of 2005 lists, and a finalist in the National Book Critic Circle Award.

We ran the first part of the interview yesterday, click here if you missed it. After the jump is part two of the chat, where we talk about the casting for Never Let Me Go, deleted scenes, what’s up next, the state of the music video industry, clarifying the Guinness Book of World Records-perpetrated lie that he was responsible for the most expensive music video ever made, why Michael Jackson/Janet Jackson‘s “Scream” cost so much, the wonders of creative producing, and what he thought of Joe Johnston‘s The Wolfman. Hit the jump to read the interview.

Read More »

Never Let Me Go

After the Telluride Film Festival premiere of his latest film, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview director Mark Romanek for a long-form interview. It was a collaboration between Alex from FirstShowing and myself, which explains how we were able to get so much time with the filmmaker.

Mark Romanek is one of the best music video directors to come out of the 1990′s. His videos have included Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”, “Scream” – Michael Jackson’s grammy award winning collaboration with sister Janet Jackson (at $7 million, one of the most expensive music video ever made), Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”, Johnny Cash’s gut-wrenching cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”, En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind”, Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut”, Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”. His 2002 feature film One Hour Photo is probably best known for Robin Williams’ dramatic turn. While the film is beloved by cinephiles, it pretty much went under the radar of mainstream audiences. It did however gain Romanek a lot of the respect in the movie industry. His follow-up, a big screen adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel Never Let Me Go, premiered at the 37th Telluride Film Festival. The book was named one of TIME’s 100 Best Novels (from 1923 to the Present), featured on many top ten books of 2005 lists, and a finalist in the National Book Critic Circle Award.

After the jump is part one of the chat, where we talk about the director’s influences, how he became a music video director, his long journey back to feature filmmaking, and what it took to create his latest movie, Never Let Me Go.

Read More »

This Week in DVD & Blu-ray is a column that compiles all the latest info regarding new DVD and Blu-ray releases, sales, and exclusive deals from stores including Target, Best Buy and Fry’s.

Rent It

ALICE IN WONDERLAND
(Blu-ray available as single-disc and 3-Disc Combo Pack: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)
I’d call Alice in Wonderland a misguided effort, but I’m not so sure director Tim Burton put forth much of an effort. At this point he’s in sleepwalk mode, content to wear out the Burton brand until Hot Topic goes out of business or is burned to the ground. I imagine a lot of time was saved during the film’s production by simply asking for everything to be made “more Burton”. For a filmmaker who prides himself on weirdness, it’s curious that he’s managed to take this supposedly original rendition of these classic, outlandish tales and grind out such an inert, formulaic bore. The movie isn’t exactly unwatchable; it’s just sort of there. Too much of an attempt has been made to fashion a straightforward narrative of the proceedings, with little attention paid to bringing a sense of vitality or genuine personality to the world or the characters that inhabit it. The CGI looks nice and expensive, but the design is so deliberately ostentatious that it ends up distracting more than immersing. There’s nothing to latch on to here—nothing to care about. Mostly it’s just a movie about a girl who shuffles lifelessly between different characters while being warned about “the Jabberwocky”. By the time the film reaches its climactic battle sequence, with a sword-wielding, armor-clad Alice, the moment doesn’t feel earned; it feels like it belongs in an entirely different movie. Even the film’s smaller moments, like the obligatory payoff to a previously set-up gag about the Fudderwacken dance, come across as empty attempts to elicit any sort of an emotional response. I’m not trying to paint the movie as some grand, spectacular failure, because it isn’t, but after seeing Johnny Depp’s lispy, accent-changing portrayal of the Mad Hatter, I can’t help but imagine how much better it could’ve been if there was a little more restraint and a whole lot less Fudderwacken.
Available on Blu-ray? Yes.
Notable Extras: DVD – 3 featurettes (“Finding Alice”, “The Mad Hatter”, “Effecting Wonderland”). Blu-ray – Includes everything on the DVD, as well as additional featurettes (“The Futterwacken Dance”, “The Red Queen”, “The White Queen”, “Scoring Wonderland”, “Stunts of Wonderland”, “Making the Proper Size”, “Cakes of Wonderland”, “Tea Party Props”, “Time-Lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen”).

BEST DVD PRICE
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$16.99 $16.99 $12.99
Amazon – $15.99

BEST BLU-RAY PRICE*
Target Best Buy Fry’s
$22.99 $19.99 $19.97
Amazon – $19.99

*Does not include 3-Disc Edition, which costs $24.99 at Amazon and Fry’s, and $26.99 at Target and Best Buy.

Read More »

slashfilmcast550

The Wolfman movie posterIn this week’s episode of the /Filmcast, David Chen, Devindra Hardawar, and Adam Quigley discuss their thoughts on upcoming renditions of Akira and the Riddick franchise, lavish some love on Adam Reed’s Archer, and see the return of Adam Quigley’s much-loved “Shit movie of the week” segment. Special guest Dan Eckman, whose film Mystery Team is now available for pre-order, joins us for this episode.

You can always e-mail us at slashfilmcast(AT)gmail(DOT)com, or call and leave a voicemail at 781-583-1993. Join us next week on Monday night at 9 PM EST / 6 PM PST at Slashfilm’s live page as we review Shutter Island.

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Sample the Rejected Rock Score for The Wolfman

wolfman_trailer_21

Many changes were wrought to Joe Johnston‘s The Wolfman during production, many of which we talked about yesterday. One of the last-stage changes was a switch from Danny Elfman‘s original score to a new one by electronic/rock composer Paul Haslinger. Originally working as part of Tangerine Dream in the mid ’80s, Haslinger had a part in scoring films like Near Dark, Miracle Mile and Three O’Clock High. (That one is such a fun, underrated little movie.) He moved on to score films like Death Race and Underworld, which made him seem like an odd fit for The Wolfman. Indeed, at the last minute, the film’s producers went back to Danny Elfman’s score, bolstered by additions from other composers.

Now there’s a clip of Haslinger’s rejected score online, so you can hear what might have been. Read More »

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