Thursday, October 31, 2019
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
As we reported last night, legendary comedian John Witherspoon has passed away. ‘Pops’ always made us laugh, lifting even the lesser films he starred in into the stratosphere.
You can read more about his amazing career at this link:
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Contrary to early reports, Disney’s Maleficent kept the box office crown against Warner Brothers’ Joker. The full story is here:
Monday, October 28, 2019
Legendary producer Robert Evans passed away today at age 90. His contributions to Hollywood extended far beyond the studio gates of Paramount Pictures, the studio he ran in the 1970’s. Looking to read more about him? Click here: https://variety.com/2019/film/news/robert-evans-dead-dies-chinatown-producer-1203385589/
Sunday, October 27, 2019
Beginning tomorrow evening, we’ll highlight one movie related news article EVERY evening! This will be in addition to our regular morning feature. Check back each evening after 6PM PDT (9PM EDT) beginning tomorrow!
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Friday, October 11, 2019
Warner Brothers was undoubtedly shocked when it saw the first cut of Gremlins. The slightly scary family film they thought they were getting was a full fledged horror picture with comedic touches. The licensees were definitely not going to be happy. While director Joe Dante didn’t have final cut on the film, he answered to Steven Spielberg and his production company and the only restriction placed on them was to bring in a PG film. Warner Brothers could have pressured Spielberg, but he was a hot commodity and they were loathe to make him mad. The last chance they had to get a less violent film was in the hands of the MPAA. If they gave it an R, Spielberg would have no choice but to order the picture be recut.
The MPAA provided no help in that regard. The film was given a PG. The picture went out on the same weekend as Ghostbusters and it was most likely seen as the more family friendly film released that weekend. The studio’s promotion and marketing had put the adorable Gizmo front and center. That’s why many people were shocked at some of the films’ violent scenes. That controversy, however, did little to dampen enthusiasm for the film. It was a monster success and its merchandise flew off the shelves.
The negative reaction to the violence in this and another Spielberg produced film- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom- led to a re-evaluation of the ratings system and resulted in the creation of a new rating- PG-13- that could be used for films deemed too intense for those younger than 13 years of age but not quite deserving of an R.
Thursday, October 10, 2019
While Joe Dante was making his horror film, Warner Brothers set about finding licensees who would be willing to produce merchandise tied to Gremlins. When the licensees saw the cute Gizmo, they lined up to slap him on just about anything.
Even toilet paper.
When Spielberg’s mega hit E.T. hit theaters there was not much merchandise on store shelves. Universal and toy manufacturers rushed to remedy this problem, though much of the merchandise was produced after the initial craze began to subside. E.T. had been a hard sell to licensees before the film was released because he wasn’t seen as being particularly cute. That was a mistake since his merchandise still sold quite well once it was produced. Nobody was willing to pass up the opportunity this time, especially since Gizmo was so adorable.
While some of the licensees did have some reservations about the actual gremlin character designs, they still went forward with putting them on merchandise. It probably wouldn’t be too risky- after all, how scary could a film with little Gizmo be?
Warner Brothers would not be caught off-guard when it came to merchandise. Kids would be able to march out of the theaters and into the stores to get instant gratification, taking a plush Gizmo (or two) home with them. Warner Brothers would be caught off-guard by the anger over the violence in the film, however. The controversy would lead to big changes in Hollywood.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
As pre-production began on Gremlins, it almost seemed as though everyone believed they were making a different film. Director Joe Dante and the cast were making a horror picture that was slightly comedic. Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Entertainment seemed to believe the film was more of a comedy with horror elements. As for Warner Brothers, they saw the adorable Gizmo and saw a family film with some scary elements in it.
While it might seem bizarre that the three groups had gotten such different ideas about the film, it’s not so farfetched when one considers the script. It didn’t spend too much time vividly describing the horror elements. Warner Brothers was especially calm since Steven Spielberg had eliminated the most gruesome death scene that would have taken place in a McDonald’s and decreed that Gizmo would remain alive and a hero until the end. They just assumed that Dante would stage the scary scenes with a soft touch and wouldn’t provide too many production notes or supervision because they didn’t want to annoy Spielberg. These assumptions would stir up a wasp nest of controversy later on.
Strangely enough, the decision that caused the most controversy at Warner Brothers was the casting of Phoebe Cates. Perhaps in an early sign that the studio misunderstood what kind of picture they were getting, they protested her casting because she had starred in more “adult” pictures. Spielberg insisted on her being in the picture so the studio relented. Relative newcomer Zach Galligan was chosen due to his chemistry with Ms. Cates. The rest of the cast was filled with Showbiz veterans like Hoyt Axton and Polly Holliday who added a veneer of respectability to the production. Joe Dante was pleased that he had some seasoned veterans in the cast; their presence would make some of the more complex special effects scenes go smoother than they might have otherwise with a less experienced cast.
Amusingly, the original plan was to use trained monkeys in costumes to portray Gizmo and the Gremlins. Early tests were disastrous; the monkeys went berserk. The setback added to the film’s cost as expensive animatronics would have to be used. The finicky animatronics bedeviled the crew. The most troublesome animatronic of all was Gizmo, who frequently broke down and caused delays. The scene in which the gremlins attack Gizmo was added to the picture as an inside joke. The crew got to let out some frustration on the Gizmo animatronic.
While production was underway, Warner Brothers was preparing a promotion and merchandising package for the family friendly movie it thought it was getting. The diverging visions of the film would be on a collision course that would ignite controversy in Hollywood and beyond.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Chris Columbus was surprised when his story about cute little critters who turn into menacing monsters was picked up by none other than Steven Spielberg. Spielberg saw the project as being one of the most inventive ideas that had come across his desk in, well, ever. He snapped up the movie rights and began the process of setting it up at his new production company- Amblin Entertainment. Chris Columbus would have to wait, however, as Spielberg had used up some of his cred earned with Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind by making the box office failure 1941. Spielberg would eventually earn it all back by making E.T. After E.T. became a box office sensation, Steven Spielberg could make any film he wanted anywhere he wanted to make it. Warner Brothers would eagerly snap up Gremlins.
Joe Dante had directed The Howling, which had been seen as a novel, low budget horror film. His career, however, had seen better days by the time Steven Spielberg chose him to guide Gremlins forward as the film’s director. While Spielberg mostly liked the script, he did have a few problems with it- it was originally much darker and violent. Spielberg wanted that toned down. Originally the main cute character- Gizmo- was supposed to turn into an evil gremlin like the others. Spielberg didn’t think that was a good idea. Joe Dante had originally thought that the film could be a low budget horror film but quickly saw that the complexity of the creatures and the vision that Steven Spielberg had for the film would make it much bigger and much more expensive than he thought it would be when he signed on.Would he be up to the challenge? Stay tuned!
Monday, October 7, 2019
It was an unlikely hit film; premiering the same weekend as Ghostbusters, the film Gremlins was overlooked by most industry types despite its pedigree. Produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Spielberg favorite Joe Dante and written by Chris Columbus, the film didn’t quite fit into a neat and tidy box. Not quite a comedy and not quite a horror film, the movie seemed to be about a cute little creature named Gizmo.
The idea of gremlins came out of World War II. “Gremlins” were the personification of random malfunctions that took place in military equipment. These gremlins were the mythical creatures Roald Dahl and Walt Disney had considered making a film about them back then, but the idea was shelved with only a book getting released. By the late 1970’s, the stories about gremlins had been long forgotten. Chris Columbus, meanwhile, was trying to make his way in Hollywood. Inspired by the mice who infested his loft nightly, he wrote a screenplay about these imagined creatures beginning life as cute and cuddly animals who turned into horrific creatures. Columbus never intended for his script to become an actual film. He wrote it as a spec script meant to show Hollywood that he could write an entertaining screenplay. Little would he know that his script would become a huge franchise and one of the biggest films of the 1980’s.