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World War Z – What Went Wrong?

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The Hollywood Reporter

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http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/brad-pitt-world-war-z-production-nightmare-336422

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The road to get the big screen adaptation of the Max Brooks novel World War Z into theatres has been as bumpy as we have ever seen. Prop seizures. Reshoots. Rewrites. You name it, this production has suffered through it. Insiders close to the flick have already started dishing dirt.

The Hollywood Reporter recently ran an article in which said insiders fill in some of the blanks of exactly what happened that sent this project flying off the rails.

Per THR:

“A nightmare from top to bottom,” describes one source with ties to the production, which appears to have been hampered from the outset by a lack of clear creative direction. Pitt hired the director of his choosing, Marc Forster (The Kite Runner, Finding Neverland), but Forster — who has limited experience on effects-heavy tentpoles — was not allowed to bring along his usual team. Instead, several more seasoned players were hired. The result, say multiple sources, is a seemingly headless enterprise driven by conflicts. At this point, the movie, with a price tag now said to be north of $170 million, needs as many as five weeks of complex reshoots, which are not expected to get under way until at least September. Paramount has taken the unusual step of hiring Prometheus scriptwriter Damon Lindelof to rework the film’s third act. The studio announced in March that it was moving the film to June 2013 from December.

Trouble emerged early: Three weeks before shooting was to begin in June 2011, sources say Forster had not made critical decisions about what the zombies would look like and how they would move. “They just couldn’t get it right,” one insider says. “There was a lot of spinning of plates, a lot of talking. [But] they did not have a plan.” Meanwhile, seasoned below-the-line talents were hired, then replaced, including line producer Colin Wilson (Avatar) and Oscar-winning effects man John Nelson (Gladiator). Cinematographer Robert Richardson, who has three Oscars, is said to have asked to leave the production on more than one occasion. (None would comment for this report.)

World War Z is one of several recent projects that underscore the risks associated with big effects films, especially when untested directors are involved. Disney saw first-time live-action director Andrew Stanton’s John Carter bomb in March, and Universal is facing serious problems with the $175 million to $200 million Keanu Reeves samurai film 47 Ronin, which it pushed into 2013 after first-timer Carl Rinsch presided over a chaotic shoot. Industry veterans say World War Z is another example of a film that was greenlighted and sent into production with a concept and script that were not fully baked. And they cite this situation as one of many in which studios set release dates and then push to finish in the timeframe allotted, leaving insufficient prep time.

In Paramount’s case, World War Z is the third film — along with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and G.I. Joe: Retaliation — to be shoved out of 2012, leaving the studio with just a trickle of movies for this year. Sources involved with the project believe it was assured a greenlight because of the longstanding relationship between Pitt and Paramount chief Brad Grey, who once managed the star and was a partner in Pitt’s Plan B production company. (When Grey took the job at Paramount in 2005, Plan B promptly moved there from Warner Bros.)

Paramount insulated itself on World War Z to some degree by taking on partners, including producer Graham King and Silicon Valley scion David Ellison’s Skydance Productions. Sources say both made efforts, to little effect, to intervene as the movie got into trouble.

Several sources question Pitt’s choice of Forster to direct. The only film on Forster’s résumé in the action vein is the 2008 James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, which disappointed creatively compared to its immediate predecessor, Casino Royale. Sources with ties to World War Z say the hope was that Forster could focus on character and story while a strong crew could guide him on action and effects. Among those brought on was Simon Crane, the second-unit director who helped to salvage Pitt’s 2005 film Mr. & Mrs. Smith. But even Forster’s detractors say the attempt to bolster him created its own problems.

“The director was not empowered,” says one insider. “There was nobody that steered the ship. … When you get [a director] who can’t do it all … you get a struggle as to whose is the singular voice.”

There were other problems. As the movie was being prepped last spring, Pitt and his producing partner, Dede Gardner, were busy with Killing Them Softly, a small film that played Cannes in May. Then Pitt was unavailable because he was spending time with his family. By the time Gardner began to focus on the project a few weeks before shooting, a source says, “the disaster was already well in the making.” (Gardner, Pitt and Forster did not respond to requests for comment.)

It was unclear to several people working on the film whether Paramount was fully aware of the mounting issues, including the insufficient time allotted for the shoot. While Crane is said to have wanted 60 days or more for second-unit work, for example, the schedule called for about a third of that. Some insiders expected that Pitt could use his influence with Grey to get more time and money, but sources say the studio provided neither. Instead, it replaced key crew members such as line producer Wilson. (Ian Bryce, whose credits include Transformers, took his place. Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.)

As the production wended its way through locations in London, Glasgow, Malta and Budapest, there was still more trouble. By several accounts, cinematographer Richardson struggled to impose order, antagonizing other crewmembers in the process. A colleague says Richardson is highly gifted but doesn’t respond well to weakness at the top. “If you waffle at all, you get slammed,” he says.

Then in October, proceedings were disrupted when a Hungarian anti-terrorism unit raided an airport warehouse and confiscated 85 fully functional automatic assault rifles that were to be used on the shoot. (The guns were not supposed to be operational, and it is illegal to transport such weapons into the country.) With the movie already behind schedule and over budget, Pitt was said to be livid at the mistake — and perhaps wearying of a project that was showing no sign of ending.

While such significant problems do not ordinarily augur well, it is possible to pull troubled movies back from the brink. (The Bourne Identity is one vivid example.) “The footage from this film looks fantastic, but we all agreed it can have a better ending,” Paramount film group president Adam Goodman tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Getting the ending correct is essential, and we are in that creative process. World War Z is a giant summer movie, and we are confident it will be a global hit when it’s released June 2013.”

Another source associated with World War Z says he believes the movie can be saved. “It’s a great first 45 minutes, maybe even an hour,” he says.

And in that January interview, Pitt seemed sure the movie would find at least some enthusiastic fans. “I know my boys are going to like it,” he said. He seemed less sanguine, however, about the prospects for a trilogy.

Keep it here for more as it comes.

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Editorials

Thanksgiving Flesh Feast: A Cannibal Holocaust Retrospective

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“Why ban films? If you don’t want to go watch something, don’t go. Don’t spend your money to watch it. To me it’s against your civil liberties. Censorship is against your human rights. It just takes a critic to exaggerate and say the film is over the top, it’s gruesome and full of terrible violence.” Words from legendary cinematographer Roberto Forges Davanzati on the special edition Blu-Ray of Cannibal Holocaust.

As you celebrate this holiday of stuffing your face full of delicious gooey goodies and cooked meats, let us look back at a feast for the ages that was buried in lawsuits, censorship, exploitation and even jail time for its creator. Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most infamous video nasties of all time, is not only one of the most gruesome and horrifying collection of images put to celluloid but also, in its own way, one of the most beautiful. Often times it’s notoriety as a horrid exploitation film overshadows the artistry that crafted it and the true message behind it.

First off, let’s look at the fact that this is truly the first found footage film. Its narrative is about four young documentarians who set out into the Amazon into an area dubbed “The Green Inferno” to find and document several primitive tribes of cannibals. While this narrative is the backbone of the movie opening up the film, this footage is not shown until the latter half. Professor Harold Munroe is assigned by the television studio that employed the documentarians to go into the Green Inferno himself to see if he can unravel the mystery of the youth’s disappearance or obtain the footage they filmed. Today we have found footage movies left and right but it’s rare we get a movie within a movie in this style.

Davanzati has talked about his different shooting styles for the time on the Blu-Ray for the film. Munroe’s section of the film was shot on 35MM film while the “found footage” shot by the documentarians is shot on 16MM film, giving a much grainier and dirty look to their footage. Not only that, but since the four youths within the film at all times had two 16MM cameras operating, Davanzati would often film the two camera men within the film and then switch around showing the point of view of each camera man within the found footage, which he states helped edit the movie as they shot it. The artistic decision to have two narratives wrap around each other like this are perfect antithesis to each other as Munroe’s footage shows a completely opposite depiction of the cannibals compared to the documentarian’s footage. This style informed a generation and still does, but has never been stylistically approached the same way.

Some may argue that regardless of the artistic vision and groundbreaking filmmaking style of both Davanzati and director Ruggero Deodato that it doesn’t matter, because what good is beautiful footage of despicable trash? How dare they film something so atrocious? Actor Robert Kerman can maybe answer that in a quote from an interview on the Cannibal Holocaust Blu-Ray. “What’s the difference between Cannibal Holocaust and Schindler’s List? Or the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan?” The world is full of horrible atrocious things and sometimes we don’t like to acknowledge them. To simply not acknowledge them would seem an injustice to the victims. In this case, what may offend might be the same reason audiences were offended about the Universal Monsters: the fact that perhaps we are the villains. Perhaps those victimized within Cannibal Holocaust are the titular cannibals.

Deodato opens the film with a reporter speaking about how far the world has come and how advanced we are as a civilization, that it is strange that indigenous tribes still exist in the jungles of the Green Inferno. All the while, during this news report on the savagery of those tribes, Deodato cleverly shows us the jungles of the modern world as the imagery put to this news cast foreshadows the film’s true intentions. It would be easy to assume the “Holocaust” in Cannibal Holocaust refers to the humans devoured by cannibals, when in reality, the holocaust is the devastation inflicted upon the cannibal tribes by the so-called “normal” humans. Deodato cleverly misleads the viewer showing off all-American kids as the documentarians. He quickly follows the opening with a scene of the Yacumo tribe devouring a human body as the Colombian soldiers gun them down and capture one of their tribe. It’s a brutal scene that depicts the Yacumo as monsters.

As Professor Munroe ventures into the Green Inferno with his Yacumo captive and guide, Chaco, it is discovered that the Yacumo tribe itself has had some hardship and pain. They are the more peaceful of the tribes who simply thrive and survive. Their Yacumo captive who was found devouring a human was doing so as part of a ceremonial practice to ward off evil spirits. Befriending the tribe, they venture deeper to find the two warring tribes that scare even the Yacumo: the Yanomamo (Tree People) and the Shamatari (Swamp People). While the Shamatari are depicted throughout as vile and dangerous, the Yamamomo befriend the professor and Chaco due to the pair aiding them against the former tribe.

Munroe and the Yanomamo friendship gives way to a very beautiful scene in the movie. Munroe disrobes himself completely and swims in the river naked with a group of Yanomamo women. There is nothing sexual about the scene, only curiosity and playful ignorant bliss. This sense of peace is elated by the score of Riz Ortolani, which permeates the entire film with melancholy melodies and themes of religious experiences. This scene in particular is boosted amazingly by his score.

Munroe’s journey is the audience’s point of view where we watch in horror and wonder at what these “cannibals” are capable of but, upon venturing further for ourselves with respect towards the tribes, we find perhaps there is more to these people than monstrosities. There are definitely horrible things the Yacumo and the Yamamomo commit, but our eyes are slightly opened as to why.

Enter the found footage aspect of the film, which is the core of Deodato’s message. The young documentarians headed by Alan are the true villains of the piece. While the indigenous peoples within idolize their gods and ways, this crew of documentarians only idolize the gods of entertainment and visceral mind rape. What’s worse is the discovery of the studio behind them condoning their efforts in order to get people to watch. The found footage approach descends into madness as Alan and his crew are responsible for the Yacumo’s problems that Munroe discovered when he arrived. We see them burning down the village and even having sex on the ashes of their homes in a horrifying shot that pans out to show the Yacumo watching in sorrow as they are huddled by the river for warmth. As the television executives watch this footage unfold it is stated, “The more you rape their senses, the happier they are.” It’s disgusting.

The footage goes on and gets progressively worse as Alan and his crew commit horrible acts of rape and violence that parallels the natives actions. But while the natives at least have a misguided sense of purpose, there is none for the documentarians. They set up a girl on a spike after they rape her just to have something visceral to film. “Watch it Alan, I’m shooting.” Alan has a smile on his face from the atrocity he’s committed, their excitement paralleled by Ortolani’s score. This scene plays on the typical thought of things we don’t understand being weird. As the filmmakers have no concept of what makes the Yanomamo tick or of their religious rites, they just create something ghastly. Because their audience will not understand it, they lump it in with their actual spiritual and cultural beliefs, making it all seem bereft of rhyme or reason, confusing audiences just to entertain.

“Keep rolling, we’re gonna get an Oscar for this!” The final act of found footage is more intense and more satisfying than any you can see. As one of the cameramen dies, they keep filming, that prize in their eyes with the camera lens as a separation from what’s before them. Their friend is no longer a person but a spectacle to be shot as he’s torn limb from limb and prepared to be eaten by the cannibals for their transgression. Who is worse, those that created the situation or those simply reacting to it? The Yanomamo stand triumphant over the interloper and, as stated in the beginning of the film, they eat him ceremonially in order to keep out the evil spirits of the white man. Each is taken down and each filmed. Debts paid in blood to the cannibals and
the white man’s gods of entertainment. The found footage has all been viewed as Munroe and the rest of the executives walk off, “I wonder who the real cannibals are?” 

True, there are very vile things depicted in this film. Rape, animal cruelty, extreme violence. It is definitely not for the squeamish. I, myself, cannot stand the animal violence as it shouldn’t be in the film and is lingered on for far too long. However, each scene of extremism beyond those shots serves a purpose in the film, juxtaposing the actions of the protagonists and antagonists, often times blurring the lines of those roles.

Watch this film with an open mind and a filmmaker’s thought process. You’ll see the amazing direction accompanied by brilliant and, at the time, never-before-seen cinematography. The score elevates the film with its beauty against the ugliness of the visuals. While the actions of many of the characters are disgusting, you have to admit the level of excellence each actor gives in their portrayal of these characters, especially the tribes.

We must not forget in these dark times not to judge the cultures of others before we truly understand them as people.

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I Already Have a Dog But Now I Want a Baby Dinosaur

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The first trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World, is rumored to be attached to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Since that film is going to be coming out in less than a month, it’s no surprise that the marketing campaign for the dino-filled trailer is already starting and today it kicks off with a six-second teaser that is as adorable as you can get!

In the teaser, Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady is petting a baby velociraptor, which coos and twitters in the cutest of fashions. Is there anything else going on? Nah. Does something else need to happen? Nope. The movie already has me sold.

Directed by J.A. Bayona (When a Monster Calls), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, B.D. Wong, and Toby Jones. However, the biggest and most important star of the film will be the return of Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, who is, in my humble opinion, the best character in the franchise, besting even the T-rex that seemingly cannot die.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will evolve into theaters on June 22, 2018.

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John Landis’ Rejected Pitch for American Werewolf 2 Was Brilliant

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If you’re anything like us then you consider writer-director John Landis’ horror-comedy An American Werewolf in London to be one of the best f*cking movies of all-time.

Horror (or comedy), or not.

But did you know that Landis was asked back in 1991 to make a sequel to his original classic? Neither did I. But he was, and his pitch for the sequel was amazing.

“I was asked to do a sequel by PolyGram in 1991,” Landis told Digital Spy. “I entertained the idea for a little bit and then came up with something that I liked and wrote a first draft of the script.

“The movie was about the girl that the boys talk about at the beginning of the movie, Debbie Klein. She gets a job in London as a literary agent and while she’s there, starts privately investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Jack and David.

“The conceit was that during the time in the first film where Jenny goes to work and David is pacing around the apartment, he actually wrote Debbie Klein a letter. It was all to do with this big secret that David had never told Jack that he had a thing with her.

“She tracks down Dr. Hirsch, who tells her that Alex now lives in Paris because she was so traumatized by what happened. She went back to the Slaughtered Lamb and everyone is still there! I think the only changes were a portrait of Charles and Diana where the five-pointed star used to be and darts arcade game instead of a board.

“It’s then when she speaks to Sgt McManus, the cop from the first movie who didn’t die, that she finds out that Jenny is still in London. She calls her and leaves an answer phone message, which we then reveal is being listened to by the skeletal corpses of Jack and David, watching TV in Alex’s apartment!

“The big surprise at the end was that Alex was the werewolf. It was pretty wild. The script had everybody in it from the first movie – including all the dead people!”

But then Landis adds:

“I gave the script to Michael Kuhn and he loathed it! He absolutely hated it and was actually pretty insulting about it. Clearly, he would have hated the script for the first movie because, like that, it was funny and scary – and if anything, a little wackier.”

Is it just me or does this sound like a perfect sequel to An American Werewolf in London? Make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think below!

Synopsis:

David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne), two American college students, are backpacking through Britain when a large wolf attacks them. David survives with a bite, but Jack is brutally killed. As David heals in the hospital, he’s plagued by violent nightmares of his mutilated friend, who warns David that he is becoming a werewolf. When David discovers the horrible truth, he contemplates committing suicide before the next full moon causes him to transform from man to murderous beast.

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