Archive for May 14, 2020
Will Smith intended After Earth to become a transmedia experience that rivaled the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will Smith may be a household name, but his career hasn't been without hitches. He bowed out for a while after 2008's Seven Pounds, but returned to his old partnership with Sony for 2012's Men In Black 3. That production was a troubled one, in large part because Smith had become accustomed to calling the shots.
Sony subsequently entered a partnership with Smith's Overbrook Productions to release After Earth. Directed by M. Night Syamalan, After Earth is a sci-fi adventure set 1,000 years after Earth had been abandoned due to an ecological catastrophe. It starred Will Smith and his son Jaden, and in spite of Smith's hopes it proved to be a box office bomb. It grossed just $243 million worldwide against a budget of $130 million, and was panned by critics.
In truth, pretty much every film star has stumbles like After Earth at some point in their career. The striking thing in this case, however, is that Will Smith had an ambition to transform After Earth into a rival for the likes of Star Wars, the MCU, and Lord of the Rings.
The story about Will Smith's plans for an After Earth shared universe is told by Ben Fritz in his excellent book The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies. He's spent countless hours combing through documents released as a result of the Sony hack in 2014, and as a result he's pieced together a lot of the behind-the-scenes drama at Sony Pictures. In the case of After Earth, he uncovered the sheer scale of Will Smith's ambitions. Smith had recognized that the age of 'star vehicles' was coming to an end, and that moviegoers were now more invested in franchises than they were in stars. As a result, he envisioned After Earth as the beginning of a project he called "1000 AE." He worked with a team of writers to create a 294-page bible detailing a thousand years of history, explaining what had happened to Earth's survivors. As he described it in Overbrook's pitching document:
"Each generation discovers a world that connects with them on a visceral and emotional level... their appetite for revisiting that world is endless and as they grow older, the attraction continues to grow stronger. Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have all reached such stature, and now they are being joined by 1000 AD."
Smith even hoped this would rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The celebrated actor didn't just approach Sony with the pitch for a single film; he detailed plans for a sequel, a live-action TV show, an animated series, webisodes, mobisodes, a video game, consumer products, theme-park attractions, documentaries, comics, an educational program in partnership with NASA, merchandise such as cologne and perfume, and even an AE branded social network. Smith intended to create an incredibly immersive experience, one that would use transmedia elements to become the center of fans' online lives.
Sony, quite sensibly, wasn't entirely convinced at the scale of Will Smith's pitch. Still, they needed franchises, and they had a strong relationship with him, meaning they believed in him. The studio seems to have watched production of After Earth with a wary eye, understanding what Smith did not - that this film's biggest asset was its star. Some scripts sidelined Will completely in favor of his son, Jaden, but Sony wanted him on the big screen as much as possible. Even the finished script had Will Smith disabled in a spaceship for much of the film, giving advice to his son over a communicator. Sony wisely decided their best bet in terms of marketing was to conceal Will Smith's injury. "He's the star that everyone's looking forward to seeing," marketing advised, "and it's best for moviegoers to assume that he's a part of the action - it'd be disappointing to our audience to discover that he spends the majority of the film stuck in the ship."
Sony execs likewise weren't convinced there should be much focus on director M. Night Shyamalan, given he can be quite a polarizing figure in the film industry. "Night is, without a doubt, a world-class filmmaker who we were thrilled to team up with on this project," Sony's worldwide marketing and distribution chairman, Jeff Blake, observed in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Together, we decided to focus our campaign on both the action and both Will and Jaden given that 'After Earth' is an adventure story of a father and son."
Will Smith was doomed to be disappointed. The film grossed only $61 million in the United States; it performed better overseas, making $183 million, but that just wasn't enough. Factoring in the marketing budget, After Earth lost more than $25 million. As Fritz noted, "There were no sequels, no TV shows, no video games, no perfumes, and no social network. The failure was devastating to Smith, who not only acted in and produced the movie, but also got his first-ever feature screenwriting credit." In truth, Sony do seem to have sensed this was coming, as indicated by the conscious downplaying of Shyamalan's presence and Will Smith's role in the script. It's never a good sign when a studio feels they need to deceive with the marketing. Critics focused on the awkward script, clunky dialogue, and poor performances; a negative buzz built up quickly, killing any sense of momentum.
Smith had failed to realize that the franchises he cited as competitors - Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, even the MCU - were largely unexpected. Even George Lucas didn't realize how big a thing Star Wars was going to be; J.K. Rowling was blown away when her Harry Potter books became bestsellers, and frankly struggled under the pressure of it all; and the MCU is built on the foundation of decades worth of comic book adventures. If After Earth was going to compete at this level, it would need to be pitch-perfect, striking at exactly the right moment for maximum cultural impact. It wasn't pitch-perfect, and it was too late. Smith had rightly diagnosed the change in the film industry, from star-driven productions to franchises, but he was releasing this film too late - and his star power just wasn't enough to launch 1000 AE. For all that's the case, though, in interviews Smith has admitted After Earth stung more than any other failure. "My son was involved in After Earth," he pointed out, "and I led him into it. That was excruciating."
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Denise Richards broke protocol and let fans in on some behind the scenes secrets by breaking the fourth wall. She shared secrets about filming confessionals that only the pros know.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has not been disappointing fans as the women are back with a lot of baggage this season. The franchise launched in 2010 and the spin-off shows the lifestyle of the rich and famous that inhabit the famous 90210 area code. Some of the women are self-made, actresses, and even married well, but all know how to bring the drama. Richards has been the voice of reason until this recent season where it seems she is on the outs with the other woman and is hiding a pretty big secret. Brandi Glanville has a storyline with Denise Richards regarding a rumor that they had dated and been sexually involved.
During last night’s episode, fans watched as Richards spoke her mind during a confessional, letting fans and the women know that she was not just some “ragamuffin” as she has graced the covers of almost every magazine. Richards was tired of the production crew twisting some of her words so she went on the defense to explain with ET. She explained that she had used a trick Kyle Richards had taught her that would not let the network use her unwanted footage. By saying "Bravo Bravo Bravo" it was a well-known secret that productions would stop taping for a makeup touch up or so the housewife could gather her thoughts.
Classic Richards added a “f*cking” in front of one of the "Bravos" while talking about Wednesday’s brawl at her home as the women became heated with one another. The actress felt that the conversation was getting out of hand and wanted everyone to take a minute to regroup. Richards also wanted to take time to defend herself as she was accused of having a glam team but wanted to point out she either was all done up for the show or coming from an acting gig as she was a working actress.
Richards thought that if she broke the fourth wall the network would not use the footage, but they did, and Bravo fans loved it. The episode went on to show the women once again getting into it at Lisa Rinna’s event with Sutton Strucke flipping out on Dorit Kemsley and Richards once again facing down Kyle at the dinner table, leaving their relationship rocky at best.
The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills airs at 8pm EST on Bravo.
Although most big releases planned for 2020 had to be delayed, there are still various movies set to be released in the summer. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many TV and movie productions had to be put on hold while others had to change their release dates after theaters were forced to close for health and safety reasons. Most titles will still come out this year, but others were pushed back to 2021 – which, in some cases (like the Marvel Cinematic Universe), meant changing the dates of those planned for 2021 and 2022.
Highly anticipated releases like Black Widow and No Time To Die were rescheduled, with the former releasing in November and James Bond’s latest adventure waiting until 2021. Sadly, there are movies that suffered the consequences of so many others being postponed and are now left in the air with no release date, as is the case of Antlers, The Woman in the Window, and Last Night In Soho. Although there’s no exact date for theaters around the world to reopen, many studios are hoping to release some of their biggest movies in the summer and thus haven’t changed their dates yet.
Some of these titles were moved from their original dates to the summer, while others haven’t changed at all. If the current emergency calms down soon and allows theaters to reopen and people to gradually go back to their normal lives, the following movies will be the first ones to be shown. Here’s every movie still releasing in summer 2020.
Unhinged is a thriller movie directed by Derrick Borte (The Joneses) and starring Russell Crowe. The story is based on something every person has experienced at least once: road rage. After a confrontation at a red light, a single mother (Caren Pistorius) begins to be stalked and tormented by a stranger (Crowe) who won’t stop until she learns “what a bad day really is” and to apologize. Unhinged was originally set for a September release but was moved up to July 1 in order to “likely be the first to test the waters as theaters try to rebound” from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Purge franchise continues expanding on the big screen, and this summer will see the arrival of the final installment in the series. Titled The Forever Purge, plot details are unknown and neither a teaser nor trailer has been released yet, but what’s known is that it’s directed by Everardo Gout and will star Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, and Leven Rambin. The Forever Purge is set after The Purge: Election Year, where Purge Night was abolished – but not for long, apparently.
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is still scheduled for a summer release, and hasn’t shown signs of changing its date. Like any other Nolan movie, plot details on Tenet are a mystery, but the first trailer gave the audience an idea of what to expect. Tenet will follow a secret agent (John David Washington) tasked with preventing World War III, and will address the concept of time. Also starring are Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Clémence Poésy.
Disney’s live-action version of the 1998 animated classic Mulan was moved from March to July. Just like the animated version, the story centers around the eldest daughter of an honored warrior who steps in to take the place of her ailing father. She then disguises herself as a man to battle northern invaders in China, prompting her to harness her inner strength and embrace her true potential.
The Empty Man is a supernatural horror movie based on the graphic novel of the same name by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey. On the trail of a missing girl, an ex-police officer who witnessed the violent deaths of his wife and son comes across with a secretive group trying to summon a terrifying supernatural entity. The Empty Man stars James Badge Dale, Samantha Logan, Stephen Root, and Joel Courtney.
SpongeBob SquarePants is getting a third movie that once more mixes live-action with animation. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run will see SpongeBob and Patrick on a rescue mission to save Gary, who has been “snailnapped” by Poseidon. Their mission will take them to the Lost City of Atlantic City and will also bring them face to face with the Sage (none other than Keanu Reeves). The movie will also reveal the origin of SpongeBob and Gary’s friendship. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run was originally scheduled for a May release.
The One and Only Ivan is a fantasy drama movie directed by Thea Sharrock and based on the children’s novel of the same name by K.A. Applegate. It follows the story of a gorilla named Ivan (Sam Rockwell) who lives in a cage at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade with an aging elephant, Stella (Angelina Jolie), and a dog, Bob (Danny DeVito). Sadly, none of them can remember how they got there. When an abused baby elephant named Ruby (Brooklyn Prince) arrives, she’s taken under Stella’s trunk and Ivan starts to care for her.
Related: Every Disney Movie Coming In 2020
Diana Prince is back with her second solo movie, Wonder Woman 1984, which was originally scheduled for June. As the title says, the story is now set in 1984, and will follow Diana as she comes into conflict with two enemies: media businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and former friend and archeologist Barbara Ann Minerva a.k.a. Cheetah (Kristen Wiig). In addition to that, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) will be back, and that’s the biggest mystery the movie has to solve.
Bill & Ted are back with a third adventure in Bill & Ted Face the Music. Now stuck in the monotony of middle-aged life, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are warned by a visitor from the future of the need for them to create a song that will save not only Earth but the entire universe. In order to complete the task, Bill and Ted will work with their families, old friends, and old musicians.
Antebellum is a horror movie starring Janelle Monáe as Veronica Henley, a successful author who finds herself trapped in a living nightmare where she must uncover a mind-bending mystery in order to break free. Also starring are Marque Richardson, Eric Lange, Jack Huston, and Kiersey Clemons. Antebellum was originally scheduled for an April release.
Just when New Mutants was on its way to finally be released, the coronavirus pandemic changed its release date again. Directed by Josh Boone, New Mutants follows five young mutants – Magik, Wolfsbane, Cannonball, Sunsport, and Mirage – who are discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will. New Mutants has had a rough post-production process, but it might finally come out in August.
A Quiet Place Part II was delayed from March to September, and the audience will finally learn more about how the whole chaos began. A Quiet Place Part II will see the remaining Abbott family members doing their best to survive in silence following the death of their father/husband, Lee (John Krasinski). The Abbotts will come across with other survivors and will also learn that there are more threats out there that aren’t supernatural at all. Also starring are Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou.
Monster Hunter is a fantasy action thriller directed and written by Paul W. S. Anderson and loosely based on the video game series of the same name. When Lt. Artemis (Milla Jovovich) and her soldiers fall into a portal to an alternate world, they find themselves fighting to survive against giant monsters and other menaces. Also starring are Tony Jaa, Clifford “T.I” Harris, Ron Perlman, and Diego Boneta.
It's hard to overstate the popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and now even food companies are trying to get in on the action, as one chain in particular is willing to pay someone roughly twenty-five hundred dollars a month to create and manage a branded island. One of the most enjoyable things in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is designing different kinds of islands and homes for characters, and there have been all kinds of guides and helpful tools posted online to assist players in doing so.
From the Animal Crossing Happy Island Designer to a fan-made Turnip calculator, players are constantly looking for ways to optimize their Animal Crossing: New Horizons experience. Now that even popular culture icons like T-Pain, Brie Larson, and Elijah Wood are showing up in Animal Crossing, it makes sense that some companies are seeking ways to make the game's popularity work in their favor.
Thanks to a recent article by Quartz, Animal Crossing: New Horizons players are now aware of a new job opportunity, one which involves harnessing all the Nintendo Switch design skills they have been acquiring since March. Yummy House, a chain consisting of eight different stores spread across Hong Kong, is "seeking a 'game specialist' who is creative, has art skills," and, most importantly, has logged over one hundred hours into Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Thankfully, the job is a work-from-home position, with the employee only needing "to report to the company three times per week," and offers "a starting salary of HK$20,000 ($2,580) per month."
Speaking to Quartz, a senior marketing executive at Yummy House, Savannah Tang, said the company began planning this Animal Crossing: New Horizons project back in April, and their decision was largely based around "the pandemic in Hong Kong," which, much like in the rest of the world, has caused thousands of people to stay indoors and hundreds of businesses to close. Tang said, "We thought, since so many people don't have much to do, why don't we provide this opportunity while doing some soft selling?" According to Quartz, the planned Yummy House Animal Crossing crossover island "will showcase aspects of the company... such as its products, logistics, factories, and stores, hoping that online interest will translate into real-life sales."
If Yummy House's idea pays off, it would be interesting to see other companies attempt to adopt a similar marketing strategy within Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This is far from the first time a seperate company has utilized the engagement aspect of video games to allow players to interact with their product, and although it's not as large-scale a crossover as games like Fortnite sometimes feature, it's nice to see Yummy House offering a fairly decent-paying job to someone just for playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons for them all day.