TAKE TWO: How would these films turn out had these directors made them?

Many of us who follows Hollywood knows that a film goes through several writing stages before it hits the big screen; we also know that many directors were involved in this process, most of the time these directors decided to leave the project on their own terms or get fired by the studio. Then the studio would bring in another director to take over the project, sometimes it works out, many times the second or third director would end up leaving or get fired from the movie.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Mission Impossible 3 playing on TV and thought to myself, this film really blows and I really wished Cruise and Paramount went with David Fincher’s version. (You can read here as to why that didn’t happened).

So I decided to come up with a list of films that could’ve been directed by a different director and maybe the final product might be better than the ones we got.

Watchmen

Back in the late 80s, Terry Gilliam was put in charge of bringing the popular graphic novel to the big screen. The studio hired Sam Hamm to write the script, for those of you who are old enough, you probably remember Hamm; he wrote Tim Burton’s Batman and was the most popular writer in Hollywood at that time. But after several attempts at rewriting the script, Gilliam determined that the project just won’t work for the big screen and suggested that it should be made into a mini-series. Well, the studio disagree and so he left the project. By the way, if you want to read Hamm’s Watchmen script, I believe it’s available online but be warned, it’s quite awful.

So in early 2000s, Paramount hired Paul Greengrass to take over the project and his version was going to take place in our modern day society. In fact Paramount has so much faith in the movie; they even set up a website for it, well over a year before the film’s release date; it was scheduled to open in the summer 2006. Well in early 2005, Paramount then CEO Sherry Lansing decided to step down and Brad Grey took over. When Grey became the CEO, his first priority was to cut many of Paramount’s big tentpole projects, of course this includes Watchmen. Originally Paramount was going to have two big films opening in summer of 2006, Grey decided to just release one and the one he chose was Mission: Impossible 3. Now, I don’t blame Grey for making that decision because the M:I films are a well known franchise while not many people know anything about Watchmen.

I do feel bad for Greengrass and his team though since they worked on the project for several months trying to bring Watchmen to the big screen and suddenly they’re jobless. Of course things turned out well Greengrass, after he lost the gig he went and made United 93, which he got nominated for an Oscar and then he made The Bourne Ultimatum, which became the highest earning film of that franchise. M:I-3 on the other hand was a box office disappointment. I couldn’t stop thinking though, how would Watchmen turn out had Greengrass directed it? I’m pretty sure it would’ve been much better than Snyder’s bloated and too much slow motion crap fest.

Mission: Impossible 2

After the massive success of the first M:I film, Paramount and Tom Cruise wanted to move quick and make a sequel. They got Oliver Stone to come on board as the director after Brian De Palma declined to come back to do another one. Stone and screenwriter Robert Towne came up with plot about a big pharmaceutical company trying to spread a deadly virus to the world and the M:I team has to stop them. I remember Stone even tried to convince Paul Newman to come out of retirement and appear in this movie, he would’ve played Cruise’s Ethan Hunt’s boss, which went to Anthony Hopkins in the final film. The film was scheduled to open in the summer of 1999 but Cruise was stuck shooting Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, so they had to push the shooting date of this film way back. After several months of waiting, Stone decided he couldn’t wait any longer and left the project so he could shoot Any Given Sunday.

After Stone left, the project was handed to John Woo, who’s still high on the success of Face/Off. When Woo took over the movie, he told Robert Towne to rewrite the script and make it more of action/romance which is what we got. Now I enjoyed M:I-2, but I really would have love to see what Stone could’ve done with the movie. I’m pretty sure his version won’t have tons of doves flying around, slow-mo shootouts and cheesy love triangle storyline.

I Am Legend

Back in the late 1990s, Warner Bros. was gearing up for their 75th anniversary celebration and they wanted to release two big films in the same year. The new Superman film was supposed to come out in summer of 1998 and for the holiday season they were going to release a remake of I Am Legend. Ridley Scott signed on to direct and Arnold was inked as the leading man. Mark Protosevich wrote the script that was truer to the original novel, minus the one liners intended for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Everything was ready to go until they did some math and realized the film would cost well over $100mil to make. Remember this was back in the 90s, so a $100mil film was rare. By comparison, today the average cost to make a tent-pole picture is $150mil. Well, after they couldn’t figure out how to bring down the price tag, the project was put on hold.

The film finally opened in December of 2007, almost ten years after its original release date. Of course we all know it starred Will Smith and directed by Francis Lawrence. I enjoyed this version but I think Scott would’ve done a better job than Lawrence.

Dune

Alejandro Jodorowsky spent years in the 70s trying to bring this popular sci-fi book to the big screen, but after he spent millions on pre-production, he ran out of money and couldn’t shoot it. According to Frank Herbert, the author of the book, Jodorowsky’s script was the size of a phone book and it would’ve been a 14 hours movie, which was one of the reasons why it never made it to the big screen.

So in the late 70s, the film rights were sold to producer Dino De Laurentiis and he hired Ridley Scott to take over the project. Scott intended to split the book into two movies but after realizing it would take over 2 years to complete the movie, he decided he didn’t have the strength to do it. Also, his older brother has just passed away around that time, so he needed time off to grief.

In the early 80s, De Laurentiis decided to hire David Lynch to direct the movie because he was so impress with Lynch’s previous movie, The Elephant Man. Lynch decided to take over the screenwriting duty as well, even though he’d never read the book. After a 135 pages script was finished, Lynch started shooting the film in early 1983. The film finally came out in December of 1984 and it was a huge box office failure. Lynch was so distraught by the film’s failure, he vowed to never again work on a big budget movie.

Dune is one of a rare film where I didn’t hate it but didn’t really like it either, but every time it’s on TV, I’d watch it. In fact I bought a Blu-ray version last year and watched the entire thing again. I always wonder what kind of film it would be had Jodorowsky or Scott directed it.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Originally Stanley Kubrick was going to direct this movie, in fact he started developing the concept of the film way back in the 70s. By the 80s, he thought the technology was ready and he hired a few writers to write the script for him. He didn’t want to hire a kid actor to play the lead role, so he went to automobile manufacture such as Honda and Toyota and asked them if they could build him a realistic child robot that he can use for filming. Of course they told him that was impossible, so he decided to put the project on hold until the technology would be more advance.

In the early 90s after he saw Jurassic Park, he thought the technology was indeed ready and he again started working on the script. But when he saw some CGI pre-visualizations, he was not impressed and again he put the project on hold. He decided to start working on his other movie, Eyes Wide Shut, hoping by the time he finishes this film, the technology would be advanced enough so he could start shooting A.I. Unfortunately he passed away in early 1999 and we never know what his version of the film would’ve been like. From what I remember reading, his version would have been much more darker than Spielberg’s and it wouldn’t have included that “happy” ending with the super intelligent robots ruling the earth.

– Post by Ted S.

You can find all of Ted’s contributions here.


So folks what do you think? Do you wish these films were directed by another filmmaker or are you a fan of the final product? Also, feel free to name other films you thought could’ve been better with a different director behind the camera.

Flix Watching Plans – looks like it’ll be a Blu[-ray] weekend

Happy Friday all! It’s kind of a meh weekend for me as far as movie releases is concerned. There’s none opening tomorrow that I’m even remotely interested in: the animated superhero-deconstruction Megamind with Will Ferrell & Brad Pitt? Maybe a rental, just maybe. Due Date? Cool poster, but I just don’t find the trailer all that funny nor do I get the appeal of Zach G., he’s just not as likable as say, Jack Black. So, Robert Downey’s hotness notwithstanding, it’s a definite skip for me.

Now, I was intrigued by Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours from as far back as last November, but as I told Castor of Anomalous Material, I think I might pass out watching the amputation scene, as did several a few people who saw this at various film festivals (read here how this movie knocking audiences out, literally!). watching the screening at . As you probably already know, 127 Hours is based on the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s (played by James Franco) five-day ordeal pinned beneath a fallen boulder in a Utah canyon, which led to him hack off his own arm with a dull blade. Ok, I wince just typing that very sentence!

If I do get to the theater, I might catch up on Social Network as I’m like the last person who hasn’t seen it! But I’m not going to sweat it if I don’t get to it, as I have a bazillion Blu-ray movies that I’m hoping to get through this weekend, thanks to my pals Vince and Ted (NOT to be confused with Bill & Ted :D) who lent me a few of them. Below are the Blu-ray movies waiting for me at home, now the challenge is which one should I watch first???

Blade Runner
I have only seen bits and pieces of the first one, but everyone’s been saying how fabulous this sci-fi cult classic looks on Blu-ray. (updated 11/8: My write-up on Blade Runner can be seen here)

Days of Heaven
As we were talking about Terrence Malick’s work a few weeks ago, Ted highly recommended this one. I kinda thought Richard Gere is an odd choice but the story looks intriguing and it’s Malick, so it’s got to look beautiful.

Master & Commander
Well, apparently posting about Peter Weir’s work without having seen this movie is practically criminal (right Sam? I know you’re thinking it :)) Then Prairiegirl’s comment convinced me even more!

Watchmen
I’ve seen this one in the theater and quite enjoyed it, but Vince raved how this is one of those must-haves on Blu-ray. The trailer is one of my all-time favorites!


Well, now you know what I’ll be watching. What are you going to watch this weekend?

Five Favorite Movies of 2009 … and My Top 25 picks of the Decade

I realize I might be rather late in posting this kind of list, but I figure since it’s technically still the first month of the year, I think I can get away with it. No? Oh well, I don’t live by your rules! 🙂

I can’t judge whether 2009 is a good or bad year for movies, as I haven’t really been paying so close attention to previous years prior to this blog. However, I think it’s safe to say that though it’s not exactly the ‘most stellar’ year in movie history, quite a few movies released last year made 2009 a pretty memorable one.

Anyhoo, I titled this post ‘favorite’ because this kind of list is personal in nature, so I didn’t want to say ‘best of’ because these might not necessarily be the most excellent quality or ‘perfect’ cinematic pieces, but for one reason or another, they either made a big impression on me or were hugely entertaining despite their flaws.

So with that in mind, I give you my Top Five Favorites of 2009:

  1. Avatar
    The movie that dethroned Cameron’s previously unbeatable Titanic is still going strong in its seventh straight week. I’m in the camp that totally dig this movie, though when I first saw it at Avatar day, I wasn’t sure how successful it was going to be given the somewhat poor reactions to its first trailer. But Avatar lives up to the hype in a big way. Its visuals is so mind-blowing spectacular it gave me such an immersive cinematic ride like no other, and it’s one of those rare movies that’s still rewarding in its second viewing, which is really no small feat. As for the story? Well, it’s not as ‘original’ as one expect, but it’s quite an engaging one. As to those criticism that call the storyline ‘loathsome,’ MadHatter says it best: hogwash! I guess it’s easy to criticize other people’s work, but seriously, those naysayers should ask themselves, given the opportunity, would they actually be able to top this one?
    ….
  2. District 9
    Looking back, I’m still quite surprised how much I enjoyed this movie and the impression it left me days after. Truthfully, I wasn’t anticipating to see this movie, I only saw one trailer and didn’t know much about it, but the highly-favorable reviews intrigued me and so I went. Suffice to say, I was impressed by the innovative way this story was told, and especially by newcomer Sharlto Copley’s bravura performance. Despite being quite squeamish, I wasn’t too disturbed by the gritty and stomach-churning scenes as they served the story and the payoff was worthwhile. This was by far one of the most memorable movies I’ve seen in a while and the ending left me wanting more. As I said in my review, it’s such a distinctly moving, poignant and provocative film that makes you ponder long after the end credits roll.
  3. (500) Days of Summer
    This movie was embraced by critics and average moviegoers alike and it’s easy to see why. I’ve long believed that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fantastic young actor, but his performance here again reached a pinnacle in his already impressive body of work. The credit doesn’t belong entirely to Gordon-Levitt though, as first-time director Marc Webb is also to be praised for making an anti rom-com with such an innovative and refreshing story-telling style. The clever and witty script, combined with memorably quirky and vividly surreal scenes, makes the love story of a regular guy so deeply affecting and real. Though I said in my review that I wasn’t as excited about Zooey Deschanel, I still have to commend her for portraying Summer with a certain depth and novelty that’s as far away from a caricature desirable ‘it’ girl that’s ubiquitous in Hollywood.
  4. Watchmen
    I’m a sucker for superhero movies and am a fan of Zack Snyder’s style ever since 300, but Watchmen is not your typical superhero ‘good guys’ with savior-complex. Sure they wear costumes, but these ‘heroes’ are as flawed as they are vulnerable (well except for Dr. Manhattan with his god-like powers), and definitely not the kind of characters kids should aspire to. Despite being too violent and raunchy for my taste — not to mention bizarre (or even retarded as one of my friends call it) — this movie is memorable for its spectacular visuals, as well as terrific performances from the cast, most notably Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s The Comedian, Patrick Wilson as Night Owl Jr. and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Snyder jam-packed it with breathtaking and edgy scenes, creative camera angles, and one of the coolest opening sequences ever. Beneath the wildly exhilarating madness though, the story is thought-provoking and surprisingly deep. As this article says, “Who watches the watchmen?  In this sense, this is less a theoretical pondering and more a deeply profound political philosophical question… [it] is not about the super heroes at all.  It is about us.  Can our self governance actually work?  Has it worked?  Does it work?” It perhaps raises more questions than it answers, especially for someone like me who isn’t familiar with Alan Moore’s graphic novel it’s based on, but it’s still a bold and inspired piece of work that makes for an extraordinary and riveting movie-going experience.
    ….
  5. Up in the Air
    A gem of a movie, director Jason Reitman takes a subject so pertinent in today’s society and creates a story that’s deeply engaging and wonderful to watch. The movie’s ‘CGI’ comes in the form of kudos-worthy performances of his three main actors: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. I feel even more compelled to say that the two female characters are as instrumental in the movie’s success as Clooney’s was. The incredibly smart script spits out witty dialog that offers a perfect blend between tragic and humor, whilst the quieter moments still speak volumes. The opening scenes where we see Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham’s travel routine (packing, going through security, etc.) are fascinating and takes the audience in who this man is and what matters to him. I overheard someone explaining the plot of this movie recently where he said ‘it’s a movie about someone who goes on firing people‘ and I winced at such oversimplification. This movie is definitely much more than that, and much deeper than even its marketing campaign makes it out to be (as a romantic comedy of sorts). I like movies that make me ponder about them long after it’s over. Up in the Air unquestionably delivers in that regard, and then some.

Honorable mentions:

  • The Young Victoria
  • Law Abiding Citizen
  • The Blindside

..
And looking back, here are Twenty-Five Favorites of the Decade (2000 – 20009, in order of release):

  1. Chicken Run (2000)
  2. Moulin Rouge (2001)
  3. Finding Nemo (2003)
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  5. Phantom of the Opera (2004)
  6. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  7. Unbreakable (2004)
  8. Batman Begins (2005)
  9. Casino Royale (2006)
  10. Dear Frankie (2005)
  11. Gladiator (2005)
  12. Children of Men (2006)
  13. The Painted Veil (2006)
  14. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  15. Stranger than Fiction (2006)
  16. 300 (2007)
  17. Atonement (2007)
  18. Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
  19. The Visitor (2007)
  20. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
  21. Bella (2008)
  22. The Dark Knight (2008)
  23. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  24. District 9 (2009)
  25. Avatar (2009)