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José Padilla's remake of RoboCop - What's with the hand?
General chit-chat between work colleagues usually ends up covering the same topics and this weekend was no exception. As most of my workmates know about my love for the cinema, it is unsurprising when they ask me which films are worth checking out, or my thoughts on the films that I have already seen (I always try to point them in the direction of this website, to limited effect!). One rather chipper cohort asked if I had seen the remake of RoboCop yet. I feel I must apologize to my aforementioned colleague for my blatant snort of derision and insult. The trouble is that Paul Verhoeven's 1987 action satire is, in my humble opinion, a genre-smashing masterpiece. Despite the subsequent inferior remakes that followed (people still insist on saying that RoboCop 2 is good... poor, misguided individuals), the original remains a true one of a kind in both execution and design. So that old debate rears its ugly head once more... Why, why, why is a remake necessary?
PictureGareth Evans' "The Raid" is up for "re-imagining"...
It is no big secret that remakes have existed since the art of film was invented. Some of the greatest and most recognized film makers have dabbled in remakes themselves - Alfred Hitchcock even remade his own movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. And yet, when another film is given the remake green light, public opinion swings wildly towards vitriol. Why does a perfectly fine film need a "re-interpretation"? This argument has become even more diverse when one takes into consideration the international success of many foreign language films. As a recent example, it was announced that producers in the US have been given the go-ahead for an American take on Gareth Evans' modern Indonesian martial-arts epic The Raid - a lean, mean and explosive action thriller that has caused a huge stir for kung-fu fans. The online uproar when the remake was announced is one of the most vocal and negative of recent times - aided in no small way by the impending arrival of Evans' sequel Berandal, already making waves on the festival circuit. The language barrier is usually touted as the primary reason for remaking these films - Johnny Mid-West America surely cannot handle subtitles in movies, so an English language version makes perfect sense. Perhaps this is true, but only when the original was a relative success to begin with - either artistically or financially. And when you look at this in a business sense (it is showBUSINESS after all), copying and repackaging a proven success surely improves the odds on making something successful too?

PictureFincher's "...Dragon Tattoo" was superior
The real reason for all this negativity and ranting on the web is when a film that is particularly close to your heart is considered for the remake treatment. When you are really honest with yourself, the way you react to this sort of news is completely connected to how you feel about the original movie. Personally I have enjoyed many remakes to films that I liked, but did not love with a great passion. Norman Jewison's 60s Steve McQueen caper The Thomas Crown Affair was great, but I really enjoyed John McTiernan's 90s version with Pierce Brosnan. Keeping with the Bond theme, I actually preferred David FIncher's more faithful take on Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starring Daniel Craig - even though I enjoyed the Swedish original a lot. But when I found out about a RoboCop remake, I spat acid at the film makers who I believe to be completely deluded if they think they can offer anything worthy of the original's greatness! Did no-one learn anything when they tried to remake Verhoeven's other Sci-Fi classic, Total Recall??! "Leave it alone" is the only response, surely?

Perhaps a remake is worth it - perhaps it is not. Thankfully it is all down to personal taste. Do you truly love the original, or do you feel a remake can offer something fresh and exciting? When my workmate asked me if I had seen the new RoboCop film, my considered and well-rehearsed answer was simply this: "I have a pristine Blu-Ray disc of Paul Verhoeven's 80s classic original at home - I consider this film to be a masterpiece. I will not go to see the remake for two reasons: One, because I do not want to spend my hard earned money on a film that I consider pointless. And Two, what can a remake possibly give me that my Blu-Ray original already does?"

(Now, a remake of Showgirls... I'd buy that for a dollar!)

 
 
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Bayhem in full swing on the set of Transformers: Age of Extinction
Today saw the first real glimpse of the latest in the Transformers franchise with a release of the first full trailer of Transformers: Age of Extinction. After an introduction to our new lead characters in the form of Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammar and Stanley Tucci, the overblown snippets of world destruction and indiscriminate robot wars are all present and correct. In fact, apart from a couple of new transformers in the mix (hello, Glavatron and Dinobots!) the trailer looks, sounds and feels like every last one of the previous films. Not that you would know from the first responses to the trailer - comment after comment heaped (largely undeserved) praise on the footage, validating director Michael Bay in his quest to completely trash on one of my beloved childhood memories.
Picture"Me Grimlock no pony!!!"
The release of a new Michael Bay trailer always brings out the worst instincts from film lovers. It seems that each and every one is greeted with an unfounded and almost always disappointing degree of hope from this director. When looking at the release of the trailers for each of the previous films, there are the same levels of positivity that this will be the one to break the festering mould that shaped the rest of the franchise, only to realize that in fact the new film is even worse than the previous effort. I find it truly astonishing that people can expect Bay (in my humble opinion, a well-connected, well-financed but talent-free hack) to actually produce a decent movie. Even last year's "low budget" effort Pain and Gain was truly one of the most vile and hateful films I have seen in recent years. And I feel confident that I have a sure bet that Age of Extinction will prove to be another nail in the artistic coffin for this franchise.

Many will point to the fact that the franchise is very successful - which I am happy to concede as a valid argument. All of Bay's films have made money - even his dire cloning Sci-Fi thriller The Island were profitable. Yet profit is never a good marker when it comes to a film's artistic merit - as I am sure most critics would state. How many people can truly say that they enjoyed Pearl Harbor? And when it comes to Transformers, surely I am not alone in feeling utterly morose in seeing Bay stamp his action/porn "style" all over a beloved kids TV show? People tell me, "But the first one was good!" No... It wasn't. It was NOT Transformers for me. I do not care what it would be like if the Transformers came to Earth and hung out with LaBoeuf and company! I wanted Cybertron, intergalactic warfare and above all, distinguishable characters!
Picture"No, I will never schtarr in another Bay movie!"
Even those who agree with me point to the Bayster's first movies as evidence that he CAN make a decent action movie. Here is where I feel conflicted. It is true that I do like Bad Boys (although that is mostly due to the charisma of stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence). And then there is The Rock - a film that I really like. I use the fantastic score from Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith and Harry Gregson-Williams as a motivational ass-kicker, the chemistry between Sean Connery and Nic Cage is buddy-movie gold and the action sequences on Alcatraz are truly thrilling. But if I had to look hard at the film, it is clear that it is not perfect - the villain has an extremely weak motivation for taking hostages and threatening the US, the dumb Navy SEALs are typical movie good-guy idiots who are taken out by the bad guys the moment they set foot on the Rock and there is a whole car chase that is rendered completely unnecessary when Connery, after going to so much effort in escaping FBI custody, just hands himself back over after a brief pow-wow with his estranged daughter.

Regardless of these flaws, I cannot help but enjoy watching The Rock. So why is it that Bay has lost the sense of fun and enjoyment that he once brought to these meat-headed action movies? I am certain that Transformers: Age of Extinction will be a financial success. But I am also certain that Bay is set endure another bout of critical vitriol, both from movie-lovers and reviewers alike. Are we ever going to see a Bayhem movie greeted with complete universal indifference or even dislike? I certainly hope that this will be the case. I really hope he doesn't destroy may favorite characters, The Dinobots... Or is this just even more wishful thinking?

To see the new trailer, click here.

 
 
"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live... This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup."

Steve McQueen

Another year, another Oscar night... And for a change, the 86th Annual Academy Awards threw very few surprises as the cream of Hollywood joined film makers from all over the world and celebrated a particularly strong year at the movies. Hosted by the "safe pair of hands" Ellen DeGeneres (After last year's rather disappointing turn by Seth MacFarlane), The night will not go down as one of controversial choices and shocking acceptance speeches. In fact looking back at it in the cold light of the day after, it all seemed a little... dull. True, some of us (OK, just me) were harshly campaigning for Paul Greengrass' glorious Captain Phillips to illegally board this steady vessel and take it over in a vicious act of piracy, but by all accounts the awards fell to their expected (and in many ways most deserving) recipients.

PictureThe photo that broke Twitter
Steve McQueen's harrowing and timely 12 Years a Slave was a very worthy winner for Best Picture, as well as picking up awards for both Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress,  for the astonishing breakthrough performance from Lupita Nyong'o. Alfonso Cuarón was richly rewarded for the 5 years he put into his box office smashing Gravity, becoming the first Mexican to win Best Director. Gravity ended up with a total of 7 Oscars, taking all the technical awards including Best Cinematography. Cate Blanchett eased to victory as Best Actress in Blue Jasmine, while the double-team of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto took the Actor and Supporting Actor for the sublime Dallas Buyers Club. A mild surprise was Spike Jonze's victory for his take on the romantic comedy Her, which beat off stiff competition to the Original Screenplay crown from the likes of Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club. And it was a big night for the British, with key wins for McQueen and the VFX crews on Gravity, as well as a great win for director Malcolm Clarke in the Best Documentary Short category. So all in all, rather predictable.

Picture#Cumberbomb - Benedict Cumberbatch with U2...
Thank goodness for the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, who "photobombed" Irish rockers U2 on the red carpet, to liven things up a bit. Last Year's Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence, managed to trip over yet again - only this time on the red carpet and not on the way to the podium. And the great Bill Murray paid a small but charming tribute to his Ghostbusters, Stripes and Groundhog Day cohort, the late Harold Ramis while presenting the Best Cinematography award. It is these small moments that will linger long in my memory. Unlike most others who have commentated on last night's event, the lack of controversy and the charming, pleasant quips from our host (I do love Ellen, but she played it a little too safe) left me a little bored and nonchalant about it all. In fact I was wishing for a Conan O'Brien or Jimmy Kimmel type to shake up proceedings, for Borat to create an international incident when presenting the Best Foreign Language Film, or maybe even a surprise honorary award for Amy Adams' side-boob in American Hustle (deserving of a credit alone!). Maybe the Academy can see how Trey Parker and Matt Stone's schedules are looking next year...

For the full list of award winners, click here.

 
 
"Thank you so much. I never in my life thought I would be up here."

Halle Berry, Worst Actress, Catwoman - 2005

Last night, as is now tradition on the night before the Academy Awards, the 34th Annual Razzie Awards took place at IgnitedSpaces on Hollywood Boulevard. And in a surprising twist, regular Raspberry blower Adam Sandler left the ceremony empty handed, despite strong representation in the shape of so-called "comedy" Grown Ups 2. In a break from tradition, an Adam Sandler film was not the worst in the room for a change - that honor fell to the woeful Movie 43, a film where (I imagine) each of the 13 contributors behind the camera all tried to get the Alan Smithee moniker to replace their credits. M Knight Shyamalan's leaden After Earth also picked up awards for the "performances" from father-son team Will & Jaden Smith. Tyler Perry continued a long line in tradition when he won Worst Actress for yet another Madea movie, while Kim Kardashian fought off all competition (!!) to win Worst Supporting Actress for a film that I can only hope will never see the light of day over here in the UK (even the name brings back horrid memories of Robin Askwith comedies from the 70s).

So far, so "good". However for the first time, there was a bit of controversy (at least, in my eyes) when it came to the award for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel - which was awarded this year to Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger. Now hang on... I know it cost a lot and lost even more, but was The Lone Ranger really that bad? I admit, it was no masterpiece, but I sure as Hell thought it was way more entertaining than Sandler's brain-killing SNL love in... And don't even get me started on The Hangover, part III! And the umpteenth Scary Movie film was better than it too??! It beggars belief that the "Academy" could be so narrow minded...

Despite this, The Golden Raspberry Awards continue to have the strongest hit rate of any movie awards ceremony around at present. Sure, some say it is easier to pick the worst movies as opposed to the best - but sometimes it takes true grit and ability to churn out steaming piles of diarrhetic celluloid... And it sure is fun to honor them!

(BTW - No Pain and Gain??! I demand a recount!)

For the full list of award winners, click here.

 
 
"I don’t care who you are. When you sit down to write the first page of your screenplay, in your head, you’re also writing your Oscar acceptance speech"

Nora Ephron

And so that time is upon us once again... Hollywood's biggest night of them all, The Oscars, takes place tomorrow, rounding out the awards calendar for another year. I personally have a love-hate relationship with the Academy Awards. Yes, it is an incredible reminder of the magic that Hollywood still casts of us mere mortals, with the cream of western cinema's Demi-gods paraded before us and honored for their skills at weaving stories of pain, joy, suffering and euphoria. But we also have to endure the Red Carpet rubbish ("Who are you wearing?" - that question makes me wanna punch pretty people so hard!), the often excruciating music numbers and (for us in the UK at least) commercial breaks so that commentators & critics can throw their two cents about who should have won and who shouldn't. But above all, the bit I hate the most (fast forward button always at the ready) - the acceptance speech.
PictureThank you to my agent, my stylist, my blah blah...
I am certain that I am not alone in wishing that winning nominees would just walk up, acknowledge the applause they have received, say a simple "Thank you so much" and be on their way. There is nothing worse than another nauseating list of agents, producers, studio bosses, parents, Gods, manicurists, teachers and plumbers that have all helped our victor in achieving success and validation for all those years serving burgers and shakes in South Central. Yes, I understand that you have been working SO hard for this moment... Yes, I realize that this is an emotional time right now... But when you don't even remember to thank the hard-working public who don't download an illegal copy of your film, but actually go to an overpriced multiplex and fork out their money to see you play a disabled, space-traveling priest that is dying of consumption for three hours, perhaps we can spare the sentimental gushing.

There are always diamonds among the sycophantic rough, however. And it is these moments of genuine joy and amusement that stop me from spinning through to the next award (it is not always practical to stay up till dawn to watch the Oscars over here in the UK). I continue to watch through the dross in order to find another rare nugget of genuine respect and amusement. Here are my top three Acceptance Speech moments:-

Adrian Brody - When Brody won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Polanski's 2003 film The Pianist, he did what any red-blooded man would do... Grab the presenter of the award, the delectable Halle Berry, tilted her back and passionately tongued her in front of everyone. He even quipped, "I bet they didn't tell you that was in the gift bag!" I love that guy!

Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová - Winning Best Original Song for "Falling Softly" from Once was one of the big David vs. Goliath victories in Academy history. Hansard made a brief, heartfelt speech and then stepped back to allow his co-star Irglová to speak, but the orchestra started playing and the mic was cut, so she could only smile and head backstage. It was then  incredibly touching when host Jon Stewart publicly shamed the orchestra and invited Irglová back on stage, who made a very touching speech that inspired every independent film maker watching. 

Roberto Benigni - The Best Actor winner for his self-directed film Life Is Beautiful didn't just walk down the aisle when his name was read out... No, he decided to scramble over the seats, stepping on the heads and shoulders of his fellow movie makers and waving his arms in triumph at the whole auditorium. His speech was even more outrageous, as he kindly offered in broken English to make love to the entire room on the planet Jupiter... Really.

It is these moments that make the acceptance speeches worth checking out. Mostly we are left with floods of tears and endless studio back-patting. This year's line-up look all too civilized for any anarchy or fun. But I cannot wait to find out if I am wrong... And as Warren Beatty once summed up - "We want to thank all of you for watching us congratulate ourselves tonight."

 
 
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Continuing the BBC's Sound of Cinema season, BBC Four broadcast Secret Voices of Hollywood last week. The documentary shed light on one of the most under-appreciated and little-known areas of film production in Tinseltown - that of the 'ghost singer'. During the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals, vocalists such as Betty Noyes, Marni Nixon and Bill Lee covered vocals for some of Hollywood's biggest names. Noyes covered Debbie Reynolds in Singing in the Rain, Nixon provided vocals for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Lee assisted Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music. These invisible stars were a trade secret to everyone outside of Hollywood, and if the big moguls still wielded the power they once had back in the heyday it would remain so. This enlightening programme returns the credit long owed to these talented individuals as well as show the rapid decline of the practice, when the grip of control by the studio heads begins to slip.

Today we have seen an increase in actors and actresses who are non-singers taking on large roles in major musical productions. We've had Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd and significant numbers in the cast of Les Misérables. Success is varied, depending on your point of view. But it seems a shame that the use of ghost singers has been lost completely. Society has grown accustomed to their celebrities receiving credit for their rightful endeavours, so the use of a vocalist dubbing them over would cause a little consternation among audiences. This is understandable, but I would like to put forward an argument for their continued use - Mamma Mia!

I feel at times that I am the only one who was invited to the party and did not have a good time. I found Phyllida Lloyd's musical rom-com to be lacking in anything even remotely entertaining. A tonally deaf, badly edited and severely unfunny movie, the real discoloured icing on the stale cake for me was the so-called "vocals" provided by the (otherwise very talented) cast. Listening to Pierce Brosnan murdering SOS had me trying to stab pencils into my ears in a failed attempt to puncture my eardrums and save myself from an even more unbearable pain. Am I alone in feeling that the use of ghost singers would have, at the very least, allowed me to work through the rest of the movie without smashing my head in despair throughout? While it may not have improved the movie as a whole, at least it would have allowed me to bear it with a little more ease. 
 
I still feel there is a place for these talented artists. Without doubt they should be given full credit when utilized, but when the alternative is Meryl Streep desperately "emoting" through The Winner Takes It All I think the call for a return of the likes of Marni Nixon is justified. Am I right or am I way off-key with this?

 
 
"Film scores demand an extraordinary degree of both musicianship and dramatic understanding on the part of their composers."

Neil Brand
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Tonight saw the final episode of silent film composer Neil Brand's Sound of Cinema: The Music that Made the Movies broadcast on BBC Four in the UK. This fascinating and detailed three-part series took the audience from the birth of the now-classic orchestral score, thanks to the likes of European-born composers such as Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, to the modern day audio movie landscape, where classical scores from John Williams and Hans Zimmer rub shoulders with the likes of modernist works by Carter Burwell and Clint Mansell, by way of artists with pop music backgrounds like John Barry and Jonny Greenwood. The use of pop tracks, modern technical advances, audio design and Foley all feature in a journey that shows you just how difficult, stressful but extremely rewarding it can be when challenged to accompany the visuals to a film. 

As a budding film maker, this insight into the world of film scores has been one of the most enlightening and educational for me in recent years. In previous short films I have used music in various forms and styles. One of my key projects featured the use of 1950s rock and roll music. My final film project for university was even named after a Buddy Holly track, Ready Teddy. In writing my simple romantic tale, I struggled when it came to dialogue. My confidence in producing believable and appropriate words to accompany my ideas was not very high, when it struck me that the use of song and lyric could tell the story for me. When I watch the film now, it is clear that it is the work of a young student with more ideas than ability to achieve them. And yet the basic idea worked and the film was received very well by my tutors and peers - certainly better than I could have hoped. The songs conveyed all the emotion that I had intended them to, with the lip-syncing actors able to fashion their own performances around the tracks and capturing the exact mood I had intended to. 

A few years later, a much darker project required a very different musical score altogether. For my drama short Who's Next?, I chose a more atonal score to reflect the other-worldly and despairing tale of two soul-collectors working for the Grim Reaper. The downward spiral of their charge was expanded by the unusual sounds and tones created by my composer, allowing the audience to feel his sadness and despair, while at the same time reflecting the relentless monotony of the spiritual bailiffs' predicament. The score was one of the most successful elements to the film and upon a repeat viewing the composer married his work to mine perfectly. 

This is one of the first true lessons I had in the importance of sound. One could argue that it is the most important factor of film making: it is much easier to follow a movie with sound and no pictures, as opposed to a film with pictures and no sound. But the marriage of visual and audio is the real key to success, where both work to produce a full cinematic picture that envelops the audience and heightens the experience. Neil Brand's series has shown me just what can be achieved and will be a significant influence on my future work. So from one Aberystwyth alumni to another, thank you for opening my ears, Mr. Brand!


 
 
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For comic book fans the world over, the hot topic on The View has been Warner Brothers'
announcement that two-time Oscar winner Ben Affleck is the next actor to play Batman in the upcoming sequel to Man of Steel. Before the ink had even dried on his contract, the web was alive with poisonous vitriol and petitions demanding the studio have a re-think on their decision. Not since the casting of Michael Keaton back in 1989 has there been such a huge wave of negative response to the casting of the Dark Knight. Christian Bale got a bit of flack, George Clooney escaped relatively unscathed when he was cast (In stark contrast to what happened after the film was released), but Affleck has been hit by a fully-fledged comic book geek smack down.

Before the pickaxes get sharpened, perhaps a step back is in order. With all the negative comments flying across the web, there is a distinct feeling that the fact that the next Superman movie will primarily focus on Superman, not Batman, has been lost in translation. There is no doubt that Batman is going to feature very prominently, but the film is not going to head that far into the dark recesses of Bruce Wayne's mind. Superman will be front, right and center of the movie, as he rightly should be in a Man of Steel sequel.

From a business point of view, this is a smart move from Warner Brothers. The rather fiery departure of their former president Jeff Rubinov meant that the new bosses at WB could lose some high-profile talent to rival studio Twentieth Century Fox (where Rubinov has been rumored to be headed), of which Affleck is one of them. So it is something of a coup to have signed up Affleck to one of their tent-pole franchises. To have a big name star attached to the franchise is also something of a home run for the studio - Henry Cavill is unlikely to fill cinema screens on his own without the red and blue suit, so a big name like Affleck is significant plus. And his casting will also re-ignite the Justice League rumors once again (Affleck was the hot favorite to direct it), and if they can continue to attract big name stars to the franchise, the future for Warners and DC Comics looks very rosy indeed.

Some noted critics have also stressed a fear that after all the hard work Ben Affleck has done to reach his current position in Hollywood, he is about to undo it all by signing up to the Superman franchise. The thoughts that he has tied himself to the DC Comics universe means that instead of working with renowned artistes and auteurs, Affleck is wasting his talents in comic book lore. This is rather harsh, and also rather unfounded. It has been announced that his upcoming Denis Lehane adaptation Live by Night will still be going ahead in 2014, before the Superman sequel is to begin production. His Whitey Bulger biopic with Matt Damon may be moved until after Man of Steel 2, but it is still on his radar and should still be a viable entity in 5 years from now. And should the Justice League movie fall into his hands, few would doubt that he hasn't earned the chance to make a movie of such scale and influence to so many.

The elephant in the room is Daredevil. Yes, response to Mark Steven Johnson's Marvel adaptation did not go well and Affleck did not do himself any favors. However what is still absent from most people's memories is that studio interference resulted in the removal of a significant subplot that severely damaged the final film - something that was remedied by the release of a director's cut soon afterwards. The new cut resulted in a superior film that has been accepted by those who have seen it as a proper and faithful adaptation of the character, with Affleck playing a significant part in that. It would therefore be rather unfair to label Affleck as a liability to the film; some have stated that it is the role of Batman that is poor for Affleck, as opposed to the other way around. Casting of beloved characters has always been tricky, and not more so than in the present day of instant information on the web. Heath Ledger as the Joker and Daniel Craig as James Bond are both fine examples of this, and yet look at how well they were received by the public. Affleck has much work to do to convince everyone that he is the right man for the job - perhaps he should be afforded the chance. It was in fact Superman that rescued his career before (his performance as George Reeves in Hollywoodland is still one of his finest acting moments), so a chance to repay the favor would seem perfect for him. And to those that threaten boycotting the film - do you really think that a movie in which Superman and Batman go toe to toe against each other is going to fail?

 
 
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Today sees the UK release of Walt Disney's big summer tent pole movie, The Lone Ranger.
Re-uniting the trio that brought us the Pirates of the Caribbean films - director Gore Verbinski, star Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer - high hopes were placed on this big budget western, but reports of a troubled production (most famously with regards to the colossal budget) and poor critical reception has seen the movie nosedive at the US box office, with little hopes for success at the international markets either. Walt Disney themselves have already released a press statement that says the company is estimating The Lone Ranger will lose them between $160m - $190m, largely thanks to heavy spending on the film's promotion which has failed to bring in the audiences. 
 
This is just one of several high-priced studio blockbusters that has disappointed at the box office - After Earth, Pacific Rim and White House Down are some of the examples. And unlike previous summers, there is not one film that has brought in extraordinarily high box office returns - for example, Iron Man 3 and Man Of Steel have been financially profitable, but have not hit the heights that were expected of them. Why has this happened and is this the first nail in the coffin for mega-budget summer blockbusters?

Almost two months ago, directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas stressed that Hollywood's love of big expensive summer movies could lead to an implosion, where "three or four, or maybe even half a dozen mega-budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground", leading to inflated prices for these high budget tent pole movies and a squeeze on ticket prices for smaller budget, independent or foreign films. This will lead to these films being pushed out of the cinemas in favour of high ticket income for blockbusters, making it even harder in today's cash-strapped industry to get independent films into production. As more of the current big budget films fail to recoup their finances, it seems that two of the principle engineers of the summer event movie were right - which does not make comfortable reading for struggling new film makers.

What adds fuel to the fire is that Hollywood has green lit plans for even more $200m+ films in the coming years, with further adventures for Spiderman, Superman and the Marvel heroes among many others. Unless the big studios apply the breaks and considers working on more lower budget projects, Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas will have correctly identified the death of the independent movie on the big screen.


 
 
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Comic-Con International 2013 is currently in full swing on the other side of the Pond in San Diego. Over the 4 day convention, it is estimated that over 130,000 people will be attending over 600 different events that include workshops, screenings and exclusive movie previews with film makers and actors. Since 1970, Comic-Con has advanced comic books and comic art to an ever increasing audience, and with that has come an increase in comic adaptations for the big screen. Thanks to the likes of Marvel and DC Comics, almost every other big budget blockbuster can trace its origins from the lowly pages of a comic book, and with the advance in film visual effects technology the studios are now able to create incredible alternate universes where men can fly and aliens try to take over our planet. Alongside the new growing market in teen literature adaptation, as well as a shot in the arm for video game adaptations (both genres that have examples featured at Comic-Con this year), is there room for anything a little more… Original in the movie theaters these days?

Adaptation has always been around since the beginning of film - film makers like Eisenstein and Méliès are good examples of early successes. And yet there is a constant sense of studio execs plowing through every $1 store and bookshop, looking for any fantastical story to turn into a motion picture. Has this left no room for an original concept? Perhaps, perhaps not. There are clear reasons why the big studios are turning to comics and teen literature for their future movie projects. These are testing times for everyone in the world financially, even for the wealthy Hollywood boys. With a ready made audience ready and waiting, an adaptation seems a safer bet for the bigwigs to spend their money on Even if fans of the original literature are wholly against a movie adaptation of their beloved works, there is more than a good chance that they will pay for their ticket and see the movie. They may come out and sling vitriol on the internet about how they have ruined an undoubted "masterpiece", but by that time they have spent their money and the producers can forget about them. 

And original movies are still getting pushed through, with the likes of Pacific Rim, Elysium and The World's End playing out in cinemas this Summer. And yet even here a certain amount of caution has been taken. These three examples all come from a Sci-fi genre, like most comic book subjects, and it is not too much of a stretch to imagine these films if they HAD been adapted from comics. Is there any room for conspiracy thrillers, comedies that actually are funny (shock horror!) or submarine dramas? At least there is a new western on its way in the form of The Lone Ranger… Nope, sorry that is another adaptation. There is even a new take on the original teen literature classic, Romeo & Juliet. This may be a rather general viewpoint, and I am certain there are many fine examples that can quash my fears, but seeing as none come to mind straight away I am allowed to have a little sense of worry for the future of blockbuster entertainment… Even if I cannot WAIT for the new Thor movie!