Showing posts with label Sam Raimi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sam Raimi. Show all posts

Friday, August 12, 2016

Ghost House Pictures' 'Don't Breathe' Reunites Fede Alvarez and Jane Levy

In 2013, Ghost House Pictures rebooted the classic horror comedy series Evil Dead with a new director (Fede Alvarez) and a new star (Jane Levy). The film attempted to balance itself between the two horror/comedy extremes of the Evil Dead franchise. It was less creepy and haunting than the original film and focused less on humor than Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness. In attempting this balance, the film selected a talented comedic actress whose prior work included the short-lived and entertaining series Suburgatory.

The pairing was a success. Rotten Tomatoes ratings show that many critics and audience members found the Alvarez/Levy Evil Dead to be a worthy addition and the film is by a large margin the most successful theatrical release in the series. This success was in no small part due to the cult classic status the movies have attained as they have continued to build audience. The box office success of the 2013 Evil Dead film doesn't in itself answer whether audiences truly liked the new vision or whether the success was due primarily to the power of the brand. The film was polarizing among some of the fan base who thought the film was too gory and lacked sufficient humor. Ghost House Pictures has an opportunity to prove that Alvarez and Levy have appeal outside of a strong brand with this year's Don't Breathe. This film is an original story that features no supernatural elements and promises to focus on suspense rather than gore.

Don't Breathe opens with a premise similar to that of In Cold Blood, but turns the tables on the criminals in a fashion common in horror films like You're Next. The filmic twist in this case is that audiences are supposed to sympathize with one of the home invaders as she realizes that she and her friends have invaded the home of someone who, though blind, is freakishly good at killing people.

The film is slated for wide release on August 26th, right in time for the new school year and a good lead into Halloween.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hulu Recommendation Friday (on Monday) -- The Legend of the Seeker

Since 1994, Terry Goodkind's objectivist Sword of Truth has been flying off the shelves. The series combines objectivist philosophy with traditional fantasy storytelling to very good effect. If you ever wondered what a fantasy series written by Howard Roark would read like, the Sword of Truth series is a pretty good approximation.

The first novel, Wizard's First Rule, is the novel that suffers the most from "generic-itis." The overall story in the novel is very similar to the underlying narrative of Terry Brook's wonderful Sword of Shannara -- itself reminiscent of the Tolkien classic Lord of the Rings. Both Goodkind's and Brook's novels focus on the importance of Truth and the dispelling of "illusion." Both books are entertaining, but each approaches the central theme of Truth from a different perspective. Brook's Shannara series uses the more traditional fantasy toolkit of mythic tradition to advance his argument. Goodkind, on the other hand, uses the novel as a place to embed philosophic discussions. Beginning with the discussion of the titular "wizard's first rule," and not really ending in the first novel, the book continually examines the best tools for determining Truth.

Goodkind's books are entertaining and insightful, and one need not be an Objectivist to appreciate them.

The Legend of the Seeker television series is a very entertaining adaptation of the Goodkind series to the tv medium. Sam Raimi's production company Ghost House Pictures is affiliated with the show, but unlike Raimi's prior fantasy foray's Xena and Hercules this series doesn't fall as much into slapstick. Xena and Hercules were fantasy for Three Stooges fans (which includes Cinerati), but The Sword of Truth is fantasy for television fans.

As always, click play then click full screen and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blizzard Finds Method to Create Profitable Commercial: Sam Raimi to Direct "World of Warcraft" Film

A couple of years ago movie going audiences started seeing advertisements for Blizzard Entertainment designed video games. First came the advertisements for Warcraft III, then came the advertisements for World of Warcraft. The advertisements were exciting, entertaining, and conveyed an accurate depiction of what consumers could expect from the video game products.

The advertisements also worked. Warcraft III sold 1 million copies in its first month of release. Given that Blizzard shipped 4.4 million copies upon release in order to meet demand and that Warcraft III related products are still on top 20 sales lists for PC games, we can guess that Warcraft III has sold in excess of 4 million copies. Better yet, as of the end of the first quarter of 2009 World of Warcraft had subscription revenues of $314 million for the first quarter of 2009. With the World of Warcraft MMORPG, Activision-Blizzard essentially has a blockbuster movie a month in revenue with a cost of goods sold of less than $20 million per $100 million. Not a bad revenue stream.

Marketing is one effective way to increase a revenue stream, but Activision-Blizzard do an ample amount of marketing and marketing isn't free...or is it? What if Activision-Blizzard made a movie for $100 million, with an established genre director, and the movie turned a profit? What if people who watched the movie, but hadn't played World of Warcraft the game yet, became subscribers to the game? Wouldn't that be an advertisement that not only paid for itself in new subscribers, but literally paid for itself because people paid admission to watch the advertisement?


This is exactly what Activision-Blizzard announced today. In 2006, we mentioned that Legendary Pictures was interested in making a World of Warcraft movie, now Blizzard Entertainment and Legendary Pictures have signed Sam Raimi to direct a World of Warcraft motion picture. As a director and producer Sam Raimi has been involved in several successful "geek" genre ventures. From his successful Spider-Man comic book adaptations to Army of Darkness,, Hercules, Xena, and Legend of the Seeker, Raimi has demonstrated that he approaches these ventures with a "fan's eye." One can easily see how Raimi's ability to combine humor and darker elements will be a virtue for the World of Warcraft movie. According to Variety, Raimi will pick up the reins after he completes his work on Spider-Man 4.

Geek reaction to Raimi's involvement is certain to be mixed. Some fans will yawn, others will grown, still others will cheer.

Put us among those that will cheer, but with a slight tapering worry based sigh at the end of the cheer. Raimi can make a great World of Warcraft film, but only if he concentrates on making a great fantasy movie that takes place in the World of Warcraft and avoids trying to simulate playing sessions as film.

Monday, January 26, 2009

13: The Fear May Not Be Real, But the Laughter Certainly Is

Cinerati may not be the biggest proponent of reality television shows. We only watch "American Idol" during the auditions -- you know, when the show is entertaining. We only watch "So You Think You Can Dance" after the auditions when the real competition begins.

That may seem inconsistent, but the reality is that the finalists on Idol are all talented and Cinerati WILL have plenty of chances to hear the artist sing in the future. This is only half true for "So You Think You Can Dance." The dancers are all extremely talented after the audition stage, but one doesn't get many opportunities to watch elegant dancers -- so we take our dancing pleasures when we can get them.

Cinerati is also a big fan of "The Real Housewives" series of shows. We don't care if it's Orange County, New York, or Atlanta. Those mean women, not you Jeana -- you are a sweetheart --, but most of the other women are amazingly petty caricatures that Cinerati cannot resist watching.

We can now add one more show to our strange list of preferred reality TV, "13: The Fear is Real." Let me assure you, that if the fear is real, it is only real for the contestants. There is nothing scary about watching the show, except for how scary ridiculous the contestants are. The show currently airs on Friday nights at 9pm, which puts in in competition with "Monk" and means that it goes straight to DVR while Cinerati watches more thoughtful fare. But once that more thoughtful fare is over, we run straight for the DVR menu to see what shenanigans the producers of 13 have in store for the contestants.

What is "13: The Fear is Real" you ask? It is a high concept reality show that asks the essential question, "what if we made a reality show that simulates a horror movie." Instead of contestants getting voted off every week, one contestant is killed off by the "mastermind of terror." Like "Top Chef," there are two stages of each episode. First there is a small group activity that sets the stage for which contestants will have to attempt to survive that episodes "death ritual," a contest that simulates some murder from the horror films we all know and love. Anything from being buried alive to being burned at the stake can be the "death" highlighted in the final ritual. Of the two contestants who participate in this ritual, only one returns to the group. At the end of the show, one contestant goes home with $66,666.00. Not a lot, we know, but it is the CW.

Added to the natural selective process of the show's contests is a twist. Early in the show, one of the contestants acquired a "murder box" when the others weren't looking and became the mastermind's accomplice in crime. This "wolf among the sheep" will have the opportunity to use the box to kill, one at a time, up to three other competitors. So not only do the contestants have to worry about the mastermind, they have to worry about each other.

And worry they do. They are constantly talking about how "afraid" they are. If one were to design a drinking game where you had to drink every time a contestant said they were afraid, you would die by the end of the first 10 minutes. These people are crazy scared -- of some pretty mundane stuff. The casting directors did a great job of picking some of the most paranoid, phobic, and superstitious competitors possible.

Cinerati's favorite episode was when the murder box was first acquired by the -- yet to be revealed -- killer. One of the contestants was certain he knew who the killer was and wanted to "out" the killer. By the structure of the episode, the tension this contestant was causing threw them for a bit of a loop. But instead of letting the contestant sidetrack the show, they decided to seize the opportunity and make accusations a part of the game. The contestant was informed that if he wanted to publicly accuse someone he could, but two things would be required. First, he'd have to get everyone to agree that the person was the killer. Second, if he was incorrect he would have to participate in the death ritual that night. He was wrong and had to participate. What leads one to believe that this was an on the spot decision by the crew was that it is the only time that 3 people have taken part in the ritual. I thought it was a brilliant adaptation to the changing circumstances that the players can create and it has been great fun watching the paranoia build on the show since that episode.

So far, the killer has eliminated only one of the other contestants, but the choice could not have been better. You see, in the first episode one of the contestants acquired the box, but was too stressed out by the responsibility and returned the box to the location it was originally placed. She was the first victim of the killer. That's what Cinerati calls good TV.

The show isn't scary. The production values are laughable at times. But the contestants are an absolute riot, and the contests are often very creative -- especially the final rituals. Cinerati recommends this show to anyone who doesn't take their reality TV too seriously and would like to thank Ghost House productions, that's you Sam Raimi, for this excellent diversion. Once you realize the show isn't about the viewing audience being afraid, rather about watching how the contestants deal with fear, then you can sit back and enjoy the show.