Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dreamworks Drops Aardman

Well, at long last, perhaps the end of quality "Stop Motion Animation" comes not with a thud or a boom, but with the unnoticed headline "Aardman, DWA end partnership. "Dreamworks Animation," the only part of the Katzenberg, Geffen and Spielberg company "Dreamworks SKG" to survive, thrive and realize the independent, artistically directed dream created by its three visionaries, has dropped all dealings with the finest and one of the last true stop motion factories, "Aardman Animations." Since the promise of the feature film "Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and the competition's "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride," was burst by less than lackluster ticket sales, the last best chances for the original, non computer driven artform was living on borrowed time, (at least in the main stream.) Aardman's follow up CG project "Flushed Away" also had less than stellar revenues, so it's of little surprise that we come to Today's announcement.

Little surprise, but also little faith on the side of "visionaries" like Geffen and Katzenburg, who now run DWA. Aardman is the "Pixar" of stop motion animation and deserves better. Variety has the story (here).

Aardman, DWA end partnership
Move comes after failures of 'Rabbit,' 'Flushed'

'Flushed Away' cost more than than $100 million to make, but grossed only $63.4 million.
After a critically lauded but commercially troubled six-year partnership with DreamWorks Animation, Aardman is back on its own. The British claymation giant, best known for its signature Wallace and Gromit characters and 2000 hit "Chicken Run," officially terminated its five-picture deal with DreamWorks on Tuesday.

Move was widely expected after the financial failures of "Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit" and "Flushed Away" (Daily Variety, Nov. 13). The former was a claymation pic made by Aardman and distributed by DWA, the latter a CGI collaboration between the two companies.

Aardman is back in development on several films inhouse. Having long established its claymation prowess, company's in the midst of building up CGI capabilities, meaning it could potentially produce pics in both formats.

How it will finance those movies, and how they will reach the market, is now an open question. A rep would say only that Aardman execs are looking at several different options.

Only project Aardman has in production is CBS claymation series "Creature Comforts." Eye net ordered seven episodes last year and hasn't yet skedded the show, though it was announced as a midseason replacement for 2006-07. It could still air in the spring or get pushed back to the summer or fall.

"Chicken Run" grossed a solid $106.8 million in 2000, but 2005's "Wallace & Gromit" made only $56.1 million Stateside, while last fall's "Flushed Away," which cost well over $100 million to make, grossed only $63.4 million. ("Gromit" did better overseas, but "Flushed" was a worldwide disappointment.)

Likelihood that the companies would sever relations became clear in recent months. There was the "Flushed" flop -- and DreamWorks announced its slate through 2009 without any pics from its British partner. All its upcoming movies are in the hip, sarcastic vein of toon studio's franchises "Madagascar" and "Shrek," sequels of which are in the works.

Companies had one pic in development, "Crood Awakening," which was announced at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and penned by John Cleese. Rights to the project revert to DreamWorks, though it's unlikely to see the light of day.

Aardman was founded by Peter Lord and David Sproxton in 1976. They were later joined by Nick Park, who won Oscars for three of his animated shorts and the "Wallace & Gromit" feature.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Clive Owen is Phillip Marlowe

From Variety.... HERE!
Universal Pictures and Strike Entertainment have found a new vehicle for Clive Owen: Raymond Chandler's hardboiled private eye Philip Marlowe.

Strike has made a deal with Phil Clymer at U.K.-based Chorion to get rights to a Chandler mystery series that includes "The Big Sleep" and "Farewell My Lovely." Strike's Marc Abraham and Eric Newman will produce the film, with Owen exec producing. The project is in a nascent stage -- they are courting writers and filmmakers -- and they haven't decided which title to adapt.

But they sparked to having Owen narrate the dramas in Chandler's testosterone-laced prose, something Owen did well in "Sin City." The plan is to keep the noir spirit of the Chandler books, and keep the mysteries set in the 1940s in Los Angeles, with Marlowe continuing to be the hard-drinking, wisecracking gumshoe.

This is great news, but many of the news stories covering this are calling it a Bogart role, just because Bogart played him once. Philip Marlowe is not a great Bogart role. Bogart plays Bogart in "The Big Sleep." He isn't really Philip Marlowe. There is no difference between Bogart's Marlowe or his Sam Spade. Dick Powell is Philip Marlow (in "Murder My Sweet" from the Raymond Chandler book "Farewell My Lovely.)" Powell embodies the coolness mixed with humility and great cynical smoothness that Raymond Chandler's pages created. But you probably are asking, what the heck I'm talking about.

Here's the good news in short form: Indiana Jones, Fletch, Han Solo, James Rockford (from "The Rockford Files"), Easy Rollins (From "Devil in a Blue Dress"), John McClane (from "Die Hard"), actually every cool, self doubting hero who takes a few lumps on the head on his way to the truth is based on Philip Marlowe. Philip Marlowe is the original cynical gumshoe with a voice over telling you his story, while he looks where he shouldn't and gets neck deep into trouble with the "wrong people."

Clive Owen is a great actor and if this is done right, Philip Marlowe will be his franchise. Well Done!!

Wiki do your thing....

Philip Marlowe is a fictional private detective created by Raymond Chandler in a series of detective novels including The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Marlowe first appeared in The Big Sleep, published in 1939. Marlowe appeared in none of Chandler's early short stories, though many of his early stories were republished years later with the names of the protagonists changed toPhilip Marlowe; this change was presumably made with the approval of Chandler.

Philip Marlowe's character is foremost within the genre of hardboiled crime fiction that originated in the 1920s, most notably in Black Mask magazine, in which Dashiell Hammett's The Continental Op and Sam Spade first appeared. The private eye is a pessimistic and cynical observer of a corrupt society, yet the enduring appeal of Marlowe and other hardboiled detectives lies in their tarnished idealism.

Underneath the wisecracking, hard drinking, tough private eye, Marlowe is quietly contemplative and philosophical. He enjoys chess and poetry. While he is not afraid to risk physical harm, he does not dish out violence merely to settle scores. Morally upright, he is not bamboozled by the genre's usual femme fatales, like Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep. As Chandler wrote about his detective ideal in general, "I think he might seduce a duchess, and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin."

Chandler's treatment of the detective novel exhibits a continuing effort to develop the art form. His first full length book, The Big Sleep, was published when Chandler was 51; his last, Playback, when he was 70. All seven novels were produced in the last two decades of his life. All maintain the integrity of Philip Marlowe's character, but each novel has unique qualities of narrative tone, depth and focus that set it apart from the others.