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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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Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

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Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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