Bears, snakes and turkeys: more reasons for New Line’s troubles
Wednesday 16 April 2008
You know those Orange ads that come before the film every time you go to the cinema nowadays? Where the mobile-phone executives try to shoehorn their product into any frame they can, regardless of genre, plot or historical accuracy? Well, Cellular is the film those guys would make if they could: a thriller all about a mobile phone. Jason Statham is in it. Enough said.
Pride and Glory (2008)
This promising-looking police drama starring Ed Norton, Colin Farrell and Jon Voight was trailed before screenings of No Country for Old Men, and its writer-director, Gavin O'Connor, was expecting it to be released last month. Instead, New Line decided to push back the release until 2009, a decision that the studio blamed on clashes with the stars' other 2008 pictures, In Bruges (Farrell) and The Incredible Hulk (Norton). The irate O'Connor decided to withhold his next promised script until he had a decent explanation. New Line's demise may not have been quite the answer he was looking for.
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)
Yes, that really is the title. And no, you shouldn't be surprised that the studio that gave it the green light is going under. No doubt the marketing push will focus on the sensitivity of the film-makers towards the victims of the "war on terror". But seriously, this is a comedy about a pair of stoners who manage to escape from the world's most notorious detention facility. It is unlikely to amuse the real-life inmates – none of whom have escaped, by the way.
One of the first surge of anti-Iraq War films that assaulted cinemas last year, Rendition, like many of its peers, failed to make an impression on either the White House or the box office. Jake Gyllenhaal is a troubled CIA agent. Reese Witherspoon is a concerned wife. Meryl Streep is... Bored already? Thought so. The film has admirable intentions, but unlike the wonderful Syriana or In the Valley of Elah, even its two-minute trailer gets dull towards the third act.
Anyone who still thought Will Ferrell was an infallible comedy genius was proved wrong by last month's Semi-Pro, in which a guy uses the profits from a hit single to buy a basketball team and tries to take it all the way to the NBA. And, get this: it's the 1970s! So they all have stupid haircuts! Hilarious! Ferrell's last two films, Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory, made $47m and $33m respectively in their opening weekends. Semi-Pro made $15m. Is a pattern emerging?
The words "Jennifer" and "Lopez" above a title (especially one as godawful as Monster-in-Law) ought to sound about as appetising to film audiences as broccoli does to a five-year-old. Lopez hasn't made a decent picture since Out of Sight in 1998. Matching her up with Jane Fonda and having them throw food at one another wasn't going to buck the trend. Yet, somehow, the film was a modest box-office success.
The Hobbit (2010)
New Line's biggest hit, The Lord of the Rings, became a behind-the-scenes nightmare for studio founder Bob Shaye, who has been embroiled ever since in a troublesome legal dispute with the director Peter Jackson over merchandising money. Shaye said last year that Jackson would never again work for New Line, which sunk the tantalising prospect of a Jackson-directed version of The Hobbit. Since then, Guillermo del Toro has been attached to the project and Shaye has rebuilt bridges with Jackson. The film is slated for 2010, under Warner Bros, not New Line, colours.
The Golden Compass (2007)
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy was the franchise everybody wanted to make; with its epic themes and fantastical tales of talking polar bears, it ought to have been the next Lord of the Rings. The casting decisions sounded promising (Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Sam Elliott), but the choice of director – Chris Weitz, who made American Pie – was baffling. Meanwhile, the book's antireligious overtones were muted. The result was, by all accounts, a load of tosh.
The New World (2005)
The director Terrence Malick, who made Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, is notorious for his long, drawn-out shoots and even longer, even more drawn-out editing processes. The New World was postponed because he was still cutting it, and when it finally appeared it was (surprise, surprise) long and drawn-out. Not enough people fancied two and a half hours of Colin Farrell's furrowed brow, and the film barely covered its budget.
Snakes On A Plane (2006)
Snakes on a Plane sounded so hilariously awful that it became an internet phenomenon. New Line picked up the original script in 1999, after 30 Hollywood studios turned it down. When the internet buzz started about the film and Samuel L Jackson's "motherfuckin'" performance, it poured cash into reshoots. Unfortunately for the studio, the finished product isn't "so bad it's good", it's "so bad, it's bad". And nobody went to see it.
Little Children (2006)
Little Children was one of New Line's best films of the decade, a nuanced tale of smalltown frustration (with a touch of paedophilia thrown in) starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly. Despite glowing reviews and a slew of award nominations, it failed to make a dent at the box office, losing more than $10m owing to a half-hearted marketing campaign and an unsuccessful Oscars push.
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