Random Thoughts: What happened to these directors’ (once-promising) career?

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DirectorsChairAs a film director wannabe, I tend to follow the careers of professional filmmakers. To me,they’re more interesting than movie stars. Yes, I’m one of the few people who doesn’t really care about stars. Years ago, I met Tom Cruise in person and all I said to him was how much I enjoyed his films and didn’t even ask for his autograph or take a picture with him, even though he’s my favorite actor. But if I ever run into Spielberg, Nolan, Fincher, Tarantino or Scorsese, I’d probably be excited and try to talk to them about their films and the movie-making business.

Movie-making is a tough business to get into and that’s why it’s kind of sad when I see some promising filmmakers career never took off or just go down the toilet. Maybe because they made some bad choices by choosing to direct a certain film or just have bad agents, their career is not once what it used to be. Below are some directors whom I thought had great promise when they burst into the scene but somehow they never became a household name like Nolan or Tarantino.

1. John Singleton

Director_JohnSingletonHe first film was a success, Boyz n the Hood, he’s only in his early 20s when he made it. Not only was he a young successful director but he’s one of the few African American directors working in Hollywood at the time. Instead of jumping into doing big budget production, he decided to stick with small budget dramas for his next few films. Then he made his first big budget film in 2000, a semi-sequel/remake of Shaft.

Apparently he had ran into a lot of problems while shooting the film, he fought with his star Sam Jackson constantly on the set and didn’t agree with tone of the film with producer Scott Rudin. The movie was a mild success and many thought Singleton would keep making big action pictures. Well his next film was another low budget drama, Baby Boy, it didn’t jell with critics or audiences. He decided to jump back into another big budget action film by directing 2 Fast 2 Furious, the worst in the series in my opinion. The film turned out to be his most successful yet at the box office.

After 2 Fast 2 Furious’ success, I thought for sure Singleton would be on his way to becoming one of the A-list directors in Hollywood. Well that never happened, his next film was an action drama, Four Brothers, it’s kind of weird movie that I’m still scratching my head as to why it even got green lighted by the studio and released in the summer time. Now, the film didn’t bomb at the box office but somehow Singleton’s career went downhill fast. During this time, he was attached to direct the long in development Without Remorse, a film based on Tom Clancy’s excellent novel. Of course the film never got made and Singleton’s last film was the atrocious looking, Abduction, an action (comedy?) starring that boy from the Twilight films [Taylor Lautner]. I do hope he makes a comeback someday because I like him as director.

2. Neil Jordan

Director_NeilJordanWhen his film The Crying Game became a hit here in the States, Jordan name was everywhere in Hollywood and he took an offer to direct a big budget adaption of Anne Rice’s popular novel, Interview with a Vampire. The film was a hit at the box office but instead of directing another big budget tentpole type of film, he decided to make a more personal film, Michael Collins. It didn’t click with the critics and not many people went to see it in theater. After Michael Collins, Jordan’s career sort of mellowed out and he didn’t make another big budget film until 2007’s The Brave One, a female version of Death Wish that I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t see any of his films after The Brave One but I’m curious about Byzantium.

I really like Jordan’s directing style and wish he’d tackle other genre, like sci-fi or action/espionage. I don’t know if he’ll ever make a comeback and reach the status as he did with The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire. I sure hope so because the man is very talented.

3. Curtis Hanson

Director_CurtisHansonHanson has been in the movie business for a long time but he didn’t get any recognition until he made L.A. Confidential in 1997. The movie scored big with critics, got a lot of Oscar nominations and was a hit at the box office. After the film’s success, Hanson’s name was everywhere in Hollywood and he got offer to do a lot of big films but he decided to make a small drama, Wonder Boys, as his next film. It’s a very underrated movie, I really enjoyed it but somehow it never garner the attention like L.A. Confidential.

A couple of years later he made a huge come back with 8 Mile starring the then hugely popular rapper Eminem. Now I think the film’s success was mostly because of Eminem’s popularity, not because of Hanson’s work. But the film was good and I though Hanson did a great job with the material. He then tried his hands at romantic/comedy in In Her Shoes, the film got some good reviews but it didn’t click with the audience.

His next film may have been his downfall, the romantic/drama Lucky You was supposed to be his next big hit. But after some bad test screenings, the studio kept pushing the release date back. Finally they decided to open it on the same day as Spider-man 3 and of course it got crushed. His last film, Chasing Mavericks, was another dud starring the king of romantic/comedy bombs, Gerard Butler. I’m not sure if Hanson will ever make a comeback again, the kind of films he likes to direct aren’t popular anymore at the box office, unless he tries his hands at popular genre like sci-fi, action/spy or comic book, he may never gain the attention like he used to back in the late 90s.

4. Walter Hill

Director_WalterHillHill is one of my favorite directors, here’s a man who was responsible for some of the great action films of the late 70s and early 80s. The Warriors, The Driver (if you’re a fan of Drive, you’ll like this one), The Long Riders, 48Hrs, Extreme Prejudice and Southern Comfort are some of his best work. He was on his way to becoming an A-list director but a film called Streets of Fire put a stop to that. The film was a big budget (for its time) rock ‘n roll action adventure that studio hoped would spawn many sequels. Unfortunately it tanked at the box office and Hill’s career never really recover. He continued to make action films throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s but none of them were hits.

To be fair, some of the films he made were pretty bad, Wild Bill, Last Man Standing and Supernova were some good examples. Don’t waste your time on those films. I haven’t seen his last film, Bullet to the Head, but from what I read it’s another one of his bad films. Not many people know this but he’s one of the producers of the Alien franchise and at one point he’s going to direct Alien 3 before David Fincher was hired. I’m not sure if Hill will ever make another great film, seems to me he sort of gotten lazy and don’t care about his work anymore.

5. Mimi Leder

Director_MimiLederLeder’s been doing TV work for a while and then got a chance of lifetime by directing Dreamworks’ studio first big action film, The Peacemaker. Apparently Spielberg was so impressed with her work on the TV show E.R. that he personally offered her the gig. The film wasn’t a big hit but it got her to direct another big film, 1998’s Deep Impact, it’s one of the biggest hits of the summer. After Deep Impact‘s success, I thought for sure she’s be doing more tent pole type of films. But she decided to do a drama, Pay It Forward, it was ravaged by critics and many people hated it, especially the downer of an ending. After this film’s failure, she went back and only work on TV series.

It’s a shame that Leder never got a chance to make more action movies since she’s one of the few female directors in Hollywood and she knows how to shoot good action scenes. That climax in The Peacemaker was one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen.

Honorable mention:

Director_MNightI didn’t want to put him on the list because it’s too obvious but M. Night Shyamalan‘s career has been on the downhill slide ever since TIME magazine put him on the cover and called him the next Steven Spielberg. Well as we all know that statement turned out to be WRONG! After I saw The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, I thought he’s one of the great young directors at the time. I didn’t mind Signs like some people did, but then he made the atrocious The Village followed by an even more atrocious film, Lady in the Water. I skipped The Happening and The Last Airbender because they looked so bad and I already gave up on him. He’s now on my list of hack directors working in Hollywood today. His newest film, After Earth, doesn’t look too appealing to me and [surprise, surprise] it underperformed again at the box office.

Is there any hope for M. Night to make another good movie? I don’t know, he’s still relatively young and obviously Hollywood studios don’t mind footing the bills for his films. But I think he needs to work with some good writers and only handle the directing part.

TedS_post


What do you think folks? Are you a fan of any of the directors I mentioned? Feel free to comment below.

Weekend Roundup – Indiana Jones, BBC’s Sherlock + Chasing Mavericks Review

Today I truly appreciate the simple things in life. Well not that I wouldn’t any other day but especially so the past couple of days after reading all the news and weather updates on the Frankenstorm that is Hurricane Sandy. The fact that I can drive peacefully on the road without being pounded by crazy winds and heavy rain, and the fact that I have electricity in the house and place of work. The Empire State Building was trending last night on Twitter and it turned out it was because of this instagram of the Empire State Building’s light that shone when NYC went completely dark. What an eerie but yet striking image.

My thoughts and prayers goes out to everyone in the path of the storm… please do stay safe!

This weekend I actually opt for home cinema as I’ve seen both Cloud Atlas and Chasing Mavericks early last week. We had bought the Indiana Jones Blu-ray set a couple of weeks ago but couldn’t watch ’em right away as I had to cover for TCFF.

We rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark and it was still as entertaining as ever. The picture quality is just brilliant, and Harrison Ford is perfectly cast as the rugged explorer, I really can’t picture anyone else in this role so whoever’s gonna replace him in the reboot would have HUGE shoes to fill. I also love Karen Allen as Marion, her spunk and demeanor reminds me so much of Margot Kidder as Lois Lane!

We finally caught up with BBC’s Sherlock Season 2, starting with Scandal in Belgravia. It’s by far the most confusing episode for me, the plot is just so darn complicated for my little brain. But still it’s entertaining to watch Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the odd couple and there are some really hilarious moments, especially when they first encounter Lara Pulver as Irene Adler. I thought she was brilliant in the role — Sherlock’s definitely met his match in her and watching the two psychopaths flirt with each other is quite amusing.


Now, on to the review:

I’m NOT a surfer, I’ve never even been ON a surfboard, not on land, let alone on water. But something about the surfers’ lifestyle fascinates me so I don’t think you need to know anything about surfing to enjoy this film.

The film tells the true story of Jay Moriarity, a young Santa Cruz surfer who’s immortalized in the Live Like Jay movement that just celebrated the 10th anniversary of his death last June. It was a short life as he drowned when he went diving in the Maldives just a day shy of his 23rd birthday, but the movie showed just how he lived.

Jay (Jonny Weston) first met Frosty Hesson (Gerry Butler) when Frosty rescued him from the ocean when he was only 8 years old. That experience didn’t put him off surfing, in fact, the opposite is true. He found it to be his true calling, not unlike someone like Felix Baumgartner who has a penchant for heights. Jay just loved the water and that 40-foot waves seems to be calling his name each time it hit the shores.

The fact that he lives with a single mom and an absentee father, he also yearns for a father figure and he finds that in Frosty, even though he himself is a loner who doesn’t seem to have it all together despite having a saintly wife (Abigail Spencer) and two kids. Predictably, the two bonded as Frosty trains Jay to be able to achieve his dream to chase ‘Mavericks,’ which refers to the surfing location north of Half Moon Bay in California where after a strong winter storm could top out at over 80 feet! I appreciate that this is truly a movie about surfing, not about some girl in a bikini or a procedural action flick. It focuses on the sport and shows the dedication it takes to be a darn good surfer in a sport where even the smallest miscalculation could cost one his/her life. Butler himself surely knew that by heart as he experienced a near-death accident when he was knocked off his board by a freak wave during filming. Talk about suffering for your art!

Jay certainly has a story worth telling, though I wish the story could’ve been as groundbreaking as the subject matter. Seems like when the movie is not so much focused on surfing, the script sort of loses its footing, so there’s barely any depth to any of the relationships portrayed in the film aside from Jay and Frosty’s. Even the romance between Jay and his eventual wife Kim (Leven Rambin) is so darn cheesy it comes off like an after school special.

The formulaic script really doesn’t give the actors any favors. It’s really too bad as I think Butler shows what he’s capable of all along. It’s an understated role that shows his vulnerable side, so it’s not the typical alpha-male action hero he’s known for. He not only look the part with his svelte physique and surfer hair, but he’s also got that convincing surfer swagger. As for Weston, I had been skeptical about his casting initially but I thought he captured the jovial spirit of what I picture Jay would be. The female characters are under-developed however, with Elisabeth Shue as Jay’s mother suffers the worst fate of being completely wasted here. There’s also an attempt to add a ‘villainy’ character in the film that goes absolutely nowhere.

What I do love about it is the spectacular cinematography that captures the glory of surfing. Those giant waves are amazing, and I’m glad I saw this on the big screen! I love that it was filmed on location which adds a high level of authenticity to the film. One of the main draw of this movie for me is the fact that L.A. Confidential’s director Curtis Hanson’s at the helm (reportedly Hanson had to bow out of filming because of health reasons and Michael Apted took over, so they share directing credit). I do think given the filmmakers’ credentials, this could’ve been a lot more compelling, but it’s not a bad movie by any means. In fact, I’m glad to hear according to Santa Cruz Patch, this film was well-received by the community where Jay used to surf.

I think a lot of the lessons that Jay learns in this movie, about the ‘Four Pillars of the Human Foundation’ and other disciplines can be applied to other parts of lives. The rousing ending is quite a spectacle, with those giant, mystical waves taking center stage and I could see how surfing is as much a mental sport as it is a demanding physical one.

3 out of 5 reels


P.S. I’m quite bummed that his movie was a total bomb. I didn’t expect it to be in the top five, but I certainly didn’t think it’d do so badly with a paltry $2.2 mil. Vulture asked Why Does Hollywood Think America Likes Surfing? and seems like the sub-genre of surfing movies are inherently not very marketable. Ah well, I’m glad I saw it and I’m glad they brought Jay’s story to life in this one.


Well, that’s it for the roundup this week. How ’bout you, seen anything good?

Gerard Butler Special: What’s next for my favorite Scot

Taking cues from my fellow Indonesian blogger Novia who’s done a great job keeping us updated on what her #1 crush Cillian Murphy is up to, I decided to keep you abreast on what’s going on with MY #1 crush 😉 I will be doing another follow-up posts that list the projects for the other four actors that round up my top five crush list (that I listed on Novia’s 5-men to drool on post) 😀

Seems like the last few months he’s been constantly rumored to be cast in all kinds of movies. I counted seven projects listed under pre-productions in his IMDb page.

  • Manhunt (pre-production)
  • Olympus Has Fallen (pre-production)
  • Crossface (pre-production)
  • Thunder Run (pre-production)
  • Motor City (pre-production)
  • Brilliant (pre-production)
  • Hunter Killer (pre-production)

None of them seems to have any real confirmation, that is until last week there’s news about Olympus Has Fallen, a.k.a. the other Die Hard in the White house movie that Millennium Films are developing (more on that later). The only other possible project out of that list that seems legit is Albert Hughes’ Motor City. I was really psyched about that one when Gary Oldman was involved [even GB himself was very excited about the possibility of working with his acting hero] but now Oldman has exited the project, bummer! I do hope they’ve got another excellent actor in Oldman’s place.

Before I get to his upcoming projects, here’s the rundown of the films he’s wrapped and will be out later this year:

Chasing Mavericks

I just read on this site that the title has now been changed from Of Men and Mavericks (though it’s not reflected yet on the poster below), I prefer the former but I suppose the simpler title is easier to remember.

Director: Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential)

Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Scott Eastwood, Jonny Weston

Butler made the news back in December during filming and almost lost his life! He was getting ready to film action scenes when he was thrown off his surfboard and pummeled by breakers at least 12 feet high, then held underwater for two consecutive waves before being hit on the head by four or five more when he managed to swim to the surface. (per Daily Mail). He described the surfing incident during this Graham Norton interview and said he was under for almost a minute!

I am VERY excited about this one because of Hanson’s involvement and the fact that Gerry is learning how to surf for this film. Mavericks tells the true story of a courageous young surfer who trains with an old school master of the sport to reach heights that few men ever dare. Frosty, (Butler) a quiet, reclusive surfing guru, struggles to balance his addiction for the rush of riding waves with the responsibilities of raising a family (per letitcast.com).

Check out the gorgeous and majestic-looking poster [thanks to my pal Terrence], man look at that wave!

Release Date: October 26, 2012

Playing the Field

Director: Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness)

Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid, Judy Greer

I have talked about that movie here as well as posted some on-set photos. The premise seems tailor-made for Gerry. He plays a former professional soccer player with a wild past who tries to redeem himself by coaching his son’s soccer team, only to find himself tempted by the kids’ restless and gorgeous moms. Two of those moms are Zeta-Jones and Thurman, I think Biel is playing his ex-wife. Not a bad female cast at all, well, apart from Biel that is.

I sincerely hope they have a different poster than this one, but what I REALLY want to see is a trailer!

Release Date: December 7, 2012

Now, here’s one he’ll be filming soon that I’m quite excited about:

Olympus Has Fallen

Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott

THR reported that this movie — which was marketed at Cannes as White House Taken —that Butler plays a Secret Service agent who has fallen from grace — until the White House is attacked and taken over by a team of North Koreans armed with extraordinary technology. Everything the Pentagon throws at the problem fails and it falls on Butler’s character, who knows the famous building like nobody else, to save the president and the country. Heh, I don’t like either one of the title, but hopefully this is just temporary and they’ll come up with something better. This is that other ‘Die Hard in the White House’ movie that’s probably going to be out of the same time next year. Kind of like the battle of the Snow Whites this year.

Eckhart reportedly will play the U.S. President and Bassett has signed on to play the role of the head of the Secret Service. Now just yesterday, news came in that Dylan McDermott will also play one of the secret service agents, presumably under Bassett’s command? Well, well, well, how many hunks could one movie have? 😉 I initially wasn’t keen on this one but I’m quite excited about this project now. I mean I LOVE the cast, just Butler and Bassett alone is enough to sell the movie, and now we’ve got Eckhart on top of the bargain. Plus Fuqua’s gritty style should make this intriguing and he’s certainly has a way with actors.

Additional cast info:

A few hours after I posted this, THR reported that Oscar winner Melissa Leo is in negotiation to portray ‘a tough secretary of Defense who cracks when tortured,’ and Rick Yune is confirmed to play the villain of the movie, ‘a North Korean posing as a South Korean ministerial aide who is described as a sociopath monster.’ Cole Hauser (as one of the FBI agents) and Radha Mitchell (as Butler’s wife) have also joined the cast. Ashley Judd has also been cast as the First Lady and Robert Forster as a US general.

Filming has started in Shreveport, Louisiana and one lucky fan posted this photo on the right with Butler who’s now clean-shaven and sporting a new cropped hair [swoon] 😀

Click to view a larger version

Btw, the other White House action flick is helmed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) and starring the beefcake Channing Tatum as the secret agent who’ll save the day. Makes it a pretty easy choice which one I’ll go see, ahah.

Release Date: June 13, 2013

Thunder Run

Director: Simon West

Cast: Sam Worthington and Matthew McConaughey

According to THR, this movie has received funding at Cannes. Reportedly, the script is adapted by Robert Port and Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) from Thunder Run — The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad by Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent David Zucchino. Principal photography is to start this Summer.

Butler told EMPIRE what the movie is about: “It’s about the initial attack on Baghdad, as US troops went in with a column of tanks called the Thunder Run — and it’s going to be done like Avatar,” Butler says. “My face and body will be recorded with little cameras and everything else will be CGI, painted in in the background. I’ve never read a script with more action, more explosions, more violence. If you didn’t do it like this, it would cost $300 million. I saw a three-minute test-piece and it blew my balls off.”

A little trivia: McConaughey has worked w/ Butler before in Reign of Fire, yep with our favorite Batman Christian Bale, no less. Butler played Bale’s BFF in a dragon-infested dystopian Britain.

I don’t know about this one, I’m going to wait and see as the subject matter doesn’t appeal to me. I’m far more psyched about How To Train Your Dragon 2, GB’s first ever sequel project and I’m glad it’s something I’ll definitely enjoy!

The role that got away

I’ve got to talk about that casting news on Highlander that’s been swirling around lately. Well, a couple of weeks ago, it’s apparently confirmed that Ryan Reynolds is going to reprise the role of the immortal Scottish warrior Connor MacLeod. So it seems that role authenticity has gone by the wayside again. As you know, the original MacLeod in the 1986 movie was played by a French guy Christopher Lambert with Sean Connery playing a Spaniard (good grief!), and now we’ve got a Canadian native in the role. So maybe this time Ramirez might be played by… Brian Cox? Or might as well just get Billy Connolly there, hot off the success of Pixar’s Brave [shrug]

Well, it’s no surprise WHO my pick would be for MacLeod…

Despite being perhaps a bit too old for the role, I think Butler would’ve ROCKED it. A real Scotsman who has done a plethora of heroic roles in the past. He can swing a mean sword better than anyone and he wouldn’t have to fake a Scottish accent. I was having some Twitter discussion with my Glaswegian friend Mark of MarkedMovies and his pick for the role is Robert Carlyle.

If not Butler, I personally would rather see an unknown who’s the right age and ethnicity than Reynolds any day. Ah well, I’ve said my rant so I guess I’ll just try to let this go.

Roles I’d LOVE to see him do

Well of course I’d love to see him do a British romantic thriller like Hearts Want that I pitched a couple of years ago. I think a role that requires him to be a ‘tough guy with a heart’ suits him well and I’d love to see him opposite a sultry actress like Eva Green. Seems like all of the movies Butler’s signed on are all action-packed, I do hope he’d have some dramatic roles he’ll be signing on in the future as he’s got the chops for them. I’ve said so many times since I’ve seen what he’s capable of in the BBC miniseries The Jury, and most recently his soulful performance in Machine Gun Preacher. You can read my full review here and if you think I’m biased, then check out my pal Mark’s take on it here.

I’m still holding on to hope that he’ll do the Robert Burns biopic that I mentioned several times, here and here. I know Butler was interested to do it at one point so hopefully it’s still on his radar. There were reports that he had met with the potential director Vadim Jean and it’s to be written by Alan Sharp (Rob Roy – check out my friend Michael’s in-depth review of the film). Even the Scottish Government was supposedly going to provide financial backing for the film. Not sure what happened since, but by golly, if he can’t do MacLeod, here’s another role where he can actually play a Scotsman!!

Plus Scotland’s favorite son is supposedly quite the ladies man, so a role tailor-made for Butler, right? 😉

Producing Gigs

Butler and his long-time manager Alan Siegel formed a production company Evil Twins back in 2008. Apparently his company was being sued by another production company called Evil Twins Prods [per THR], so I believe now they go by Alan Siegel Entertainment.

In any case, Butler’s been wearing the producer’s hat for a while, in fact he’s producing three of his upcoming films I’ve mentioned above: Of Men and Mavericks, Playing the Field and Olympus Has Fallen.

Well, I read in LA Times that he’s now going to produce Septembers of Shiraz, which centers on a young Jewish girl in Iran whose life is thrown into disarray shortly after the 1979 revolution, when her wealthy jeweler father is brutally jailed. The story is based on Dalia Sofer’s debut novel.

The NY Times  review says, “Sofer writes beautifully… she tells her characters’ stories with deceptive simplicity. Every member of the Amin family attains a moving, and memorable, depth and reality.

I’ll keep an eye on this project, seems like an intriguing story that has a lot of dramatic potential.


Well, those are what Butler’s been up to. Which of his projects are you interested in?