Sunday, June 25, 2017

Box Office: 'Transformers' Crashes With Franchise's Lowest Opening Ever

By Seth Kelley

LOS ANGELES, June 25 ( -- It seems the "Transformers" franchise is rusty.

As of Sunday morning "Transformers: The Last Knight," the fifth installment directed by Michael Bay, looks to bring in $69.1 million from 4,069 domestic locations during its five-day opening weekend. That's a franchise low for the sequel from Paramount and Hasbro, behind the first in the modern series, which earned $70.5 million in 2007. "The Last Knight" carries an estimated $217 million production budget.

This makes "Transformers: The Last Knight" the latest summer blockbuster to bank on overseas ticket sales to have a shot at turning a profit. In China, the big-budget action sequel made $41 million in its opening day alone. The projected international cume through Sunday is $196.2 million, powered by $123.4 million in China.

"The Last Knight" comes at a time when Paramount could have used an all-around hit, following recent misses "Baywatch" and "Ghost in the Shell." While the latest "Transformers" movie has been advertised as "the final chapter" and Bay's last go-around, the franchise will continue — Paramount has at least two more movies slated, including a spinoff that could star Hailee Steinfeld. The franchise has historically been massively profitable and seen solid multiples for the studio. Together, the first four earned over $1.3 billion domestically and well over $3.5 billion worldwide.

The latest take on the series centers on an alliance between Bumblebee, Cade Yeager — who Mark Wahlberg also played in 2014's "Age of Extinction" — and roles played by franchise newcomers Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock. Together, the team works together to save the world. Audiences have earned the film a B+ CinemaScore, while critics have mostly dismissed it — it currently holds a 15% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

"The Last Knight" was uncontested at the box office this weekend, but a few indie releases showed traction. Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled" remake from Focus Features played at four theaters this weekend, and should gross $240,545 with a strong per screen average before it expands to over 500 locations next weekend.

"We're thrilled by this opening," said Lisa Bunnell, Focus Features' distribution president. "This is Focus' third collaboration with Sofia and she's created an entertaining, atmospheric thriller featuring strong female representation in front of and behind the camera."

And Kumail Nanjiani's critically adored romantic comedy "The Big Sick" should earn $435,000 during its opening weekend in five locations — that would give the Lionsgate and Amazon Studios release the highest per screen average of any film that has opened this year so far.

"Kumail and Emily's true story provided audiences of all ages a much-needed alternative to the summer blockbusters," said Bob Berney, Amazon Studios' distribution chief.

Otherwise, "Wonder Woman" continues to post impressive numbers, and holds onto second place during its fourth weekend in theaters. This weekend, it should earn an additional $25.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $318.4 million. Earlier this week, the film became the highest-grossing live-action movie to be directed by a woman — a major distinction for Patty Jenkins.

Disney and Pixar's "Cars 3" also looks to earn $25.2 million domestically during its second weekend. Some estimates have the film slightly lower, just below $25 million. The family film, which won last weekend's box office, is expected to pass the $100 million mark in North America by Monday.

"Transformers: The Last Knight's" performance is a tough break for the summer box office's bottom line domestically. For the past two years, this weekend has seen monster grosses for "Jurassic World" and "Finding Dory." Now, attention is turned toward a trio of releases next weekend, as the box office hopes for a shot in the arm from "Despicable Me 3," "Baby Driver," and "The House."

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15 Things You Never Knew About John Carpenter's 'The Thing'

Can you believe it's been 35 years since "The Thing" first terrorized moviegoers?

The film didn't make a huge splash when it first debuted, but over the years it's developed a massive fanbase and come to be regarded as one of the greatest horror movies ever made. To celebrate this big anniversary, here are 15 interesting facts you might not know about John Carpenter's masterpiece.
1. While he's worked with Carpenter many times over the years, Kurt Russell wasn't the first choice to play MacReady. Both Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte turned down the role. Several actors were also considered for the part of Childs, including Isaac Hayes and Carl Weathers.

2. Carpenter considers "The Thing" to be the first part of his "Apocalypse Trilogy," which also includes 1987's "Prince of Darkness" and 1994's "In the Mouth of Madness."
3. Legendary makeup and effects artist Stan Winston (of "Alien" and "Jurassic Park" fame) had a hand in the movie. Winston was brought on board late in production after original makeup artist Rob Bottin had to be hospitalized do to the stress of the project. That's why Winston receives a "thank you" mention in the end credits.

4. Carpenter cut production costs by using the same set for both the US and Norwegian camps in the film. The Norwegian scenes were filmed after the set was destroyed for the big finale sequence.5. Though it's never mentioned in the film, Carpenter and Russell worked out a back-story for the MacReady character. They envisioned MacReady as a disaffected, alcoholic Vietnam vet/chopper pilot, who is reluctant to be thrust back into a leadership role.

6. If MacReady's shocked reaction after throwing a stick of dynamite seems surprisingly authentic, it's because Kurt Russell wasn't actually acting. He misjudged the strength of the blast after throwing the dynamite and was knocked backwards. Carpenter elected to use that take in the final film.7. Editor Todd Ramsay was concerned that audiences might react poorly to the film's dark, ambiguous ending (above), so he and Carpenter filmed an alternate ending where MacReady is rescued and a blood test confirms his humanity. However, Carpenter elected to leave that scene out of all test screenings, and to this day the alternate ending has yet to be released.

8. The only female performance in the entire movie comes courtesy of Carpenter's then-wife Adrienne Barbeau, who provided the voice of MacReady's computer in an uncredited role.
9. "The Thing" hit theaters the exact same day as "Blade Runner." Interestingly, both films suffered similar fates, receiving middling reviews and doing poorly at the box office. Eventually, they attracted massive followings on home video and became modern classics.

10. There's an alternate cut of the film designed for TV broadcast. Aside from toning down the violence and language, this version also adds voiceover narration and a new ending, where the Thing again transforms into a dog and escapes the ruins of the camp.
11. Prior to the release of the 2011 prequel (above), there were multiple attempts at green-lighting a sequel to the original film. The Sci Fi Channel announced a TV mini-series continuation in 2003, though it apparently never got past the writing stage and was quietly forgotten.

12. Carpenter himself revealed his ideas for a sequel in a 2004 interview with Empire Magazine. He envisioned "The Thing 2" picking up right where the original left off, with MacReady and Childs struggling to survive the deadly Antarctic climate until a rescue team arrived. Carpenter even planned on having Kurt Russell and Keith David reprise their roles, with frostbite injuries being used to disguise their older ages.13. In the film, T.K. Carter's Nauls (left) mysteriously vanishes during the climax and is never heard from again. Alan Dean Foster's novelization explains that disappearance, as it includes a scene from an earlier screenplay draft where Nauls is cornered by the Thing and kills himself rather than be assimilated.

14. In 2002, Black Label Games published a video game sequel to "The Thing" in the form of a third-person shooter for the PC, Playstation 2, and Xbox. The game stars a new character named Captain J.F. Blake, who leads a team to investigate the ruins of the U.S. camp and battles new manifestations of the alien virus.15. The game (which Carpenter considers to be in-canon with the film) reveals that MacReady alone survived the events of the film, while Childs perished from exposure. MacReady appears in the game's climax, where he shows up in his helicopter to provide assistance to Blake.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

22 Things You Never Knew About 'Blade Runner'

Given how vastly influential "Blade Runner" has been over the 35 years since its release (on June 25, 1982), it's hard to remember that the movie wasn't a hit. Neither critics nor audiences were certain what to make of Ridley Scott's visionary adaptation of a mind-bending Philip K. Dick novel; nor were they used to seeing Harrison Ford get his ass kicked.

Still, "Blade Runner" was a milestone, one that created the template for how movies would visually depict the urban future, introduced Dick's brain-twisting storytelling to movie audiences (making possible the likes of "Total Recall" and "Minority Report"), and offered early career boosts to such actors as Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, and Edward James Olmos. Now, with a sequel on the horizon (October's "Blade Runner 2049"), it's worth going back to learn how Scott, Ford, and the rest of the "Blade Runner" team overcame personal differences and pre-CGI effects challenges to create a lasting vision of the future.
1. Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" drew Hollywood interest when it was published in 1968. At one time, Martin Scorsese hoped to direct it. It would take 14 years before Dick would see a screenplay that didn't make him want to punch the screenwriter in the face.

2. Hampton Fancher, who wrote a Dick-approved script, got the title from William S. Burroughs' book "Blade Runner: A Movie," an adaptation of Alan E. Nourse's novel "The Bladerunner." Neither book had anything to do with Dick's story, but Ridley Scott liked the name so much he optioned the film rights just to keep the title.
3. Scott had already turned down the project once; instead, the "Alien" director had been developing a version of Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic "Dune." When that fell through, he returned to "Blade Runner."

4. Harrison Ford wasn't the first or second choice to play replicant-hunting detective Rick Deckard. Initially, Fancher wrote the part with Hollywood legend and film noir veteran Robert Mitchum in mind. Scott spent months meeting with Dustin Hoffman, but the actor ultimately declined.
5. Many other stars were on the short list, including Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who'd eventually play the lead in the Dick-derived "Total Recall"). Ford got the part on the recommendation of Steven Spielberg, who'd just finished directing him in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

6. The movie's striking visuals, which have influenced so many movies made since, drew inspiration in turn from Fritz Lang's silent classic "Metropolis" (another futuristic nightmare where the wealthy live in towers while the workers live below), French comic-book artist Moebius, and "Nighthawks" painter Edward Hopper.
7. For antagonist Roy Batty, Scott cast Rutger Hauer without ever having met him; he simply knew he wanted the Dutch actor after having seen him in several Paul Verhoeven movies.

8. The eerie, atmospheric, layered, neon-lit look of the film was created in-camera, using a technique called multipass exposures. A scene would be shot with the camera guided by a computer; then the film would be rewound and re-exposed as the computer guided the camera along an identical path, but with new lighting or new visual elements introduced. Some scenes used as many as 16 passes.
9. Ford and Scott have both acknowledged that they clashed often on set. Scott has chalked this up to his own inexperience as a feature film director ("Blade Runner" was his third movie), dealing with a leading man who was a 15-year Hollywood veteran with several landmark movies on his résumé. For his part, Ford grumbled about having to shoot 50 straight nights in the rain.

10. What really irked Ford, though, was recording the voiceover narration, which was forced on the filmmakers by panicky producers after test-screening audiences found the movie confusing.
11. Ford thought the voiceover dialogue, meant to evoke the classic film noir movies that had been inspirations for "Blade Runner," dumbed down the film, and he called recording the narration a "f***ing nightmare."

12. Dick was just 53 when he died of a stroke in March 1982, three months before the first film based on his work was released. But he got to see about 20 minutes of "Blade Runner" and praised the sets, effects, and Hauer's appearance as exactly what he'd had in mind.
13. Today, the "spinners," the flying cars (above), would probably be created digitally, but for "Blade Runner," Scott's production crew built life-size spinners that weighed several tons each. To simulate flight, they were hoisted by cranes. The constant rain effects helped hide the cables.

14. If the footage at the very end of the movie, with its helicopter shots of an idyllic countryside, look familiar, that's because they're leftover second-unit footage from "The Shining," which Scott obtained from Stanley Kubrick.
15. Producer Alan Ladd, Jr. picked June 25 as the release date for "Blade Runner" because the 25th of the month had proved lucky at the box office for two of his previous sci-fi releases, "Star Wars" and "Alien."

16. "Blade Runner" cost at least $23 million to make; some sources say $28 million. It made back just $27.6 million in North America.
Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar17. The release date turned out to be not so lucky after all, since it came at the tail of a month-long sci-fi glut that included "The Road Warrior," "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," and "The Thing."

18. The Academy nominated "Blade Runner" for two Oscars, for art direction and visual effects. Incredibly, it lost both, the former to "Gandhi," the latter to "E.T."
19. There have been at least seven different cuts of "Blade Runner" put forth before the public over the years. The three best known versions start with the initial domestic cut, with the voiceovers and countryside ending. Then there was the 1992 "Director's Cut," with the voiceover and countryside footage removed, for a more ambiguous telling of the story. Despite the name, however, Scott has said his involvement in this release was minimal. He eventually oversaw a fully restored print of the film cut to his liking, the 2007 "Final Cut," which includes some violent scenes previously shown only to international audiences, as well as the full-length unicorn dream sequence that suggests Gaff (Olmos) believes Deckard to be a replicant.

20. The Domestic Cut and Director's Cut left it up to the viewer to decide whether Deckard was himself a replicant or a natural-born human. Ford himself believed Deckard to be human, but in 2007, Scott said he'd always considered Deckard to be a replicant.
21. In a 2001 online chat with fans, Hauer called "Blade Runner" his favorite among his own films. As he put it, "'Blade Runner' needs no explanation. It just IZZ. All of the best. There is nothing like it. To be part of a real MASTERPIECE which changed the world's thinking. It's awesome."

22. Scott and Fancher spent years trying to develop a sequel or prequel to "Blade Runner." After several abortive attempts, we're finally getting one this October. Directed by "Arrival's" Denis Villeneuve, "Blade Runner 2049" will be set 30 years later, with Ryan Gosling in the lead role and an appearance by Ford.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

'Grey's Anatomy' Star Reveals the Show Had Three Terrible Previous Titles 

"Grey's Anatomy" is such a perfect, obvious title, you'd almost think they started with that, and then figured out the rest of the show from there. Instead, Kate Walsh (Dr. Addison Montgomery) told Buzzfeed the show cycled through three previous titles, including one that she really thought was "bullsh*t." (She's not wrong.)

The topic came up when Buzzfeed asked Walsh about her role in "13 Reasons Why," wondering if she expected the Netflix series to take off the way it did. (Short answer: No.) The site also asked if it was similar at all to when "Grey's Anatomy" really took off. Here's her answer to that:

"With 'Grey's,' I remember because I came in at Episode 8, at that time the morale was really low. They kept changing the name of the show. It was 'Doctors' and then 'Surgeons' and then 'Complications' and I was like, 'What a bullsh*t show title!' 'Grey's Anatomy' is the perfect title. To keep our morale up they started showing us episodes at Friday lunches that were already edited. And I was like, 'This is a really good show' and I was so excited to be a part of it. I was supposed to do a pilot for another sitcom on ABC, and it didn't end up getting picked up and then they called me to be a series regular on 'Grey's' and the world changed. It was stunning right? It was really phenomenal. And that Super Bowl episode! That was what put us into the stratosphere."

It's hard to imagine the show with any other title -- or to think of the morale being so low. But it's clear they had no idea "Grey's" would still be around now, going strong into Season 14 this fall.

Walsh had more to say on her role as Addison, saying her character's big entrance at the end of Season 1 changed her life.

"I got more calls and attention from that 60-second scene than anything in my career before. Isn't that funny? Shonda [Rhimes] is a genius. Everyone hated me, but at that time there was no Twitter. There were chat rooms, but I never really went on them. I kind of liked being the Wicked Witch from the East. Or the wicked bitch. Shonda's really gifted at flipping every character that's seemingly awful. It's a great lesson in how to have compassion for people that you initially hate."

Addison ended up leading the first "Grey's" spinoff, "Private Practice," with the second spinoff coming soon, following Seattle firefighters.

FYI, Walsh also said she hasn't kept up with "Grey's," but when she learned they were killing off Addison's ex Derek (Patrick Dempsey), she was so surprised that she tuned in just for that episode.

"Grey's Anatomy" Season 14 premieres this fall on ABC.

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ABC Cancels 'Downward Dog,' But Creator 'Not Giving Up' on New Home

But ... look at how sad you've made them, ABC!

"Downward Dog" fans are now trying to use social media to save the freshman series, which was just canceled after one eight-episode season. There's also hope that if a big crowd tunes in to watch the final two episodes this Tuesday, ABC will either change its mind, or another network/streaming service will swoop in to save the day.

Allison Tolman stars in the quirky comedy series, which is told from the point of view of her dog Martin. Samm Hodges co-created the show with Michael Killen (Hodges also voices Martin) and he shared the cancellation news in a letter on Twitter, expressing his surprise, but also hope:

So far, six episodes have aired, so episodes seven and eight will be airing on Tuesday, June 27. Fans -- including ABC star Karen David ("Once Upon a Time," "Galavant") -- are now reacting on Twitter, hoping to somehow keep the show alive:

What exactly went wrong on ABC? According to Deadline:

"ABC was faced with making a renewal decision on Downward Dog, from Legendary TV and ABC TV Studios, as the options on the cast were to expire next week. Downward Dog, which became the first broadcast comedy series to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, had been relatively steady in the ratings though it slipped to series lows of 3.1 million viewers and a 0.6 adults 18-49 rating (Live+same day) this week, which didn't help its cause. [...]

But in the end, the show proved too expensive to produce (the single-camera comedy films in Pittsburgh) for a summer run, and scheduling it in-season was virtually impossible because ABC's comedy deck is stacked with seven returning series that have full-season orders. There is only one new half-hour series slated to debut in the fall, The Mayor, with two more, Alex, Inc., and Splitting Up Together, on tap for midseason."

ABC just moved "Still Star-Crossed" to Saturdays in what was viewed as a pre-cancellation move. The network has yet to officially announce anything, but we'll stay tuned for details on the future of "Downward Dog."

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'The Vampire Diaries': This Deleted Steroline Scene Has Fans Crying Again

It's hard to believe they dared to delete a Stefan/Caroline scene from "The Vampire Diaries" series finale. But they did -- they being The CW, which just posted the 1-minute, 44-second deleted scene on YouTube, including this beautiful exchange from the newlyweds:

Stefan (Paul Wesley): "I bet this isn't how you were expecting to spend our wedding night."
Caroline (Candice King): "In case things get chaotic later, I love you Mr. Salvatore."
Stefan: "And I love you, Mrs. Forbes-hyphen-Salvatore."
Caroline: "We didn't even talk about that!"
Stefan: "Come on. I know who I married."

THE FEELS. The clip also features Damon (Ian Somerhalder) getting impatient with Stefan, and he's so good at that:

The series finale aired in March, but "The Vampire Diaries: The Eighth and Final Season" just came out on DVD last week, including deleted scenes, so that's probably why this scene is only coming out now. Tonight (June 23) also marks the finale of TVD spinoff "The Originals" Season 4.

Of course, fans shared impassioned comments under the video, wishing this scene had been included, or that Steroline got better treatment, or not caring about Steroline because they're more into Klaroline -- which could still happen -- or still upset about a lack of a Delena proposal scene. Etc. Oh, how we missed this fandom!

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Mark Ruffalo & Robert Downey Jr. Bond in New 'Infinity War' Set Selfie