Friday, January 27, 2017

Unfinished Movie Series based on Adaptations of Book Series, Part 2

     Welcome to the second installment of Unfinished Movie Series based on Adaptations of Book Series. Established book series are popular movie franchise starters.  They have established audiences the filmmakers hope people will come to movies to see and make a success.  The Percy Jackson book series, Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events and the Sci-Fi Ender’s series all have those established audiences, but that does not mean it translates into a finished series.
In 2004, 20th Century Fox bought the rights to the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief, a series of young adult books that mixed modern day teens with Greek Mythology.  Filming began in April 2009, with high hopes by the director about the series.  He specifically mentioned that the cast was chosen so they could star in the sequels.  Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was released on February 12, 2010, with a budget of $95 million.  Rotten Tomatoes gave the first movie a 49% score.  The movie went on to gross $226.5 million at the worldwide box office ($88 million US).  In October 2011, a sequel was officially approved and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters went into production.  Sea of Monsters was released on August 3, 2013, with a budget of $90 million.   Rotten Tomatoes only gave a score of 41%.  The moved grossed a total of $202.2 million at the worldwide box office ($68 million US).  Since then, there has been no official news about a sequel.  Logan Lerman, the main star of the series expressed in 2015 that he felt he and his co-stars were getting too old for the series.
The adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events started out well enough, when Nickelodeon Movies, a production company under Paramount Pictures bought the rights the book series in May 2000.  While initially series author Daniel Handler was attached to write the script, after eight drafts for the script were written, the producer left over budget problems and the initial director left as well and Handler was let go.  Then a new director, Brad Silberling, and new writer, Robert Gordon, were hired in 2003.  Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was finally released on December 17, 2004, covering (loosely) the first three books in the series, The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window.   The movie had a budget of $140 million.  Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 72% score, indicating generally positive reviews.  However, the movie grossed only $209.1 million worldwide ($118.6 million US).   A sequel was never officially put in production, and while Handler mentioned in 2008 and 2009 there were talks about sequels (a stop-motion sequel was briefly considered), the movie series seemed dead.  But in 2014, a new series adaptation was announced for Netflix.  On January 13, 2017, eight episodes, covering The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window and The Miserable Mill, were released, and while Netflix refuses to release official numbers, it received a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes.  The second season has been green-lighted, so there’s hope that the new series will be completed.  
Ender’s Game is the first and most famous novel in a series of Sci-Fi novels about Ender Wiggin.  The book was published in 1985, but, the author, Orson Scott Card was reluctant to give up creative control of the story for a long time.  After several false starts, in 2009 when Gavin Hood was attached to write and direct, Ender’s Game finally got off the ground.  While Card had written six drafts in the early stages of development, it was Hood’s screenplay that was used in production.  Filming began in 2012, and the movie was released on November 1, 2013, with a budget $110-$115 million.  Ender’s Game was given a 60% score on Rotten Tomatoes.  The worldwide gross was $125 million ($61 million US), and given the budget was considered a box office bomb.  While there were talks of a sequel, given the movie’s performance, it seems very unlikely.  
Every studio and author want the financial success of the Harry Potter or the Twilight franchises.  However, translating successful book series into successful film franchises is not as easy as it sounds.  Here are three more unfinished movie series based on book series.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Unfinished Movie Series based on Adaptations of Book Series, Part 1

Whenever a book series is optioned by Hollywood, everyone has big plans for the series.  What the makers of the adaption of the series are hoping for is a success on the likes of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games.  However, for just as many who succeeded, there are just as many who failed or are in limbo part way through, leaving the last of the books not adapted for cinema.  There are many examples, so this post is the beginning of a new series.  Here is the first installment of the biggest unfinished movie series based on adaptations of book series.
The Divergent series is probably the most frustrating to the hardcore fans.  Divergent, following the wake of the successful apocalyptic YA adaption like the Hunger Games series; was released on March 21, 2014, in the United States.  Divergent is the first movie based on the first book in a three book trilogy, Divergent, Insurgent and  Allegiant, adapted into four movies, the last book splits into two movies.  Trouble was already brewing when Divergent was only given a 40% Rotten Tomatoes score, but the movie was made for an $85 million budget and grossed $288.9 at the worldwide box office ($150.9 million US), turning a nice profit.  Then The Divergent Series: Insurgent was released on March 20, 2015, on a budget of $110 million.  It was only given a 28% score on Rotten Tomatoes and made $297.3 at the worldwide box office ($130.2 million US).  Signaling what most critics perceive as growing boredom with the YA apocalyptic genre, the Divergent Series: Allegiant (which contained only the first half of the last book) limped to the screen on March 18, 2017, with a budget of $110 million.  The movie received a dismal 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $176.9 million at the worldwide box office ($66 million US).  While the last movie, The Divergent Series: Ascendant was originally supposed to be released on June 9, 2017 (pushed back from a March 24, 2017, release date for another movie’s release).  But after the announcement of the Ascendant being adapted into a TV Movie (to start a new TV series), which resulted in the domino effect, of the announced director and the two main stars refusing to participate in the TV version of Ascendant.  While Ascendant is not officially dead yet, all signs point the last movie in the Divergent Series being officially canceled.
The Chronicles of Narnia started strong, but as the sequels were released, the box office returns started diminishing.  After the success of Lord of the Rings, many looked to The Chronicles of Narnia series as the next big fantasy book series adaptation.  Walden Media bought the rights to the Narnia series and Walt Disney Pictures agreed to produce the series.  On December 8, 2005, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe were released in the UK and December 9 in the US.  The first Narnia big screen adaptation had a $180 million budget and made $745 million at the worldwide box office ($291.7 US), and received mostly positive reviews, with a 76% score on Rotten Tomatoes.  The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was put into production next, with a budget of $225 million.  Prince Caspian was released on May 16, 2008, in the US (June 26, 2008, in the UK) and received a 67% score on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $419 million at the worldwide box office ($141 million US).  Disney wanted a lower budget than Walden Media wanted for the next movie, so Walden Media took the movie to 20th Century Fox.  The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was released on December 9, 2010, in the UK and December 10, 2010, in the US, with a budget of $155 million.  Dawn Treader was only given a 49% score on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $415.7 million at the box office ($104 million US).  Walden Media wanted to produce The Magician’s Nephew next, but its contract with the estate of C.S. Lewis expired in 2011, and no more adaptations of the Narnia series have been made – Stop the Presses!  While it didn’t get much press, Mark Gordon Company bought the rights to the Narnia series in 2013.  The latest news, released on December 16, 2016 (Read here:, says that a script has been completed and the movie is considered a “reboot,” with a new cast and production company taking over the project, with none of the old people involved.  But no official production announcement yet, and no projected release date yet.  Could The Silver Chair really be considered a continuation of the original series if none of the cast and crew from the original are involved?  Time will tell, but for now, all that can be done is waiting for the next movie to be announced.
The Divergent Series was on a regular schedule of a movie a year until the last one only contained the first part of the last book and did poorly at the box office.  The Chronicles of Narnia, by contrast, spread out its production over several years, but nevertheless experienced poorer box office results with each subsequent movie.  While both of the next movie adaptations are in limbo, Narnia has the advantage of being an established book series since the 1950s (Divergent, by contrast, was released in the early 2010s).   While the limbo persists, all fans can do is hope and wait that Hollywood will finally make some official announcements.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Seven Movies Made in India Co-Produced or Distributed by Disney

                When many people associate movies by Disney, they think of the American conglomerate which produces some of the biggest and most famous movies, from America.  However, what is not as well known is that Disney puts its name on several Indian movies, released exclusively for India, including at least one animated movie.  Here are some Indian movies that carry the Disney production banner.
                The first live action movie produced and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures for India was a Hindi film called Do Dooni Chaar (English Translation: Two Twos are Four).  The film starred Rishi Kapoor and his wife Neetu Kapoor, who were popular stars in the 1970s and early 1980s.  Rishi stars as a poor but passionate teacher who is dealing with his wife, his son and teenage daughter.  A wedding invitation suddenly spurs on the poor family to dream big; including Rishi’s desire for a car (he only owns a scooter).  But with the big dreaming comes moral dilemmas he never expected… Do Donni Chaar was released October 8, 2010.
                The next live action movie produced and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures for India was Telugu fantasy-adventure film called Anaganaga O Dheerudu (Once Upon A Warrior).  The story follows Priya (Shruti Haasan), a young gypsy, and Yodha (Siddharth), a traveling swordsman, who must battle the soul of Irendri (played by Lakshmi Manchu, who plays sorceress who is also Priya’s great grandmother) and Sudigundam (Ravi Babu), a man who is terrorizing the local gypsy villages, and save an young girl with divine powers.  The movie was released on January 14, 2011.
                Walt Disney Pictures then produced Zokkomon, a Hindi superhero action movie.  In Zokkomon, Kunal (Darsheel Safary) plays a young boy whose parents have just died.  He is sent to live with his uncle Deshraj (Anupam Kher) and his family.  The only problem is, Deshraj has fallen into financial trouble and the only way to access Kunal’s family money for Kunal to be dead.  So Deshraj abandoned Kunal far from home and says he is dead.  Kunal returns, and with the help of scientist Dr. Vivek Roy (also played by Kher), transforms himself into the superhero Zokkomon to battle his uncle.   The movie was released April 22, 2011.
                In 2012, Walt Disney produced the animated Hindi production of Arjun: The Warrior Prince.  The Warrior Prince was actually given a limited run in the US to qualify for the Academy Awards.  However, it did not receive a nomination.  Based loosely on the Indian epic Mahabharata, the story follows Arjun, a young man from the royal family of the Pandavas, who is the best student of Drona in all the land.  Duryodhana and the Kaurvas brothers, cousins to the Pandavas brothers, hate the Kurvas.  In a betting scheme, the Pandavas are exiled and the Kaurvas brothers flee to Viratnagar.  But Duryodhana finds out and launches an attack on Viratnagar… The movie was released on May 22, 2012.
                Walt Disney’s next Indian production was Khoobstrat (Beautiful), a Hindi Comedy-Drama.  In this movie, Dr. Miralini “Mili” Chakravati is a physical therapist who works for the Indian Premier League or Indian royalty.  Clumsy and enthusiastic, she is in stark contrast to the more reserved Premier League.  Mili’s completely different outlook on life slowly changes everyone in the family, from the young daughter to the prince, to the Queen mother and the King, and Mili even falls in love with the prince.  The movie was released on September 19, 2014.
                The movie ABCD 2 (or Anybody Can Dance 2) is the only independent film in India (so far) that was distributed but not produced by the Walt Disney Company.  A sequel to Anybody Can Dance, ABCD 2 follows two aspiring dancers Suru (Varun Dhawan) and Vinnie (Shraddha Kapoor), who are initially found to be cheating in a dance completion.  They are seeking to redeem themselves in a hip hop completion in Las Vegas.  Prabhu Deva reprises his role as the choreographer Vishnu from the first movie.  ABCD 2 was released on June 19, 2015. 
                Finally, Dangal (which means Wrestling Competition) is a Hindi biographical sports drama.  Dangal follows the story of Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan) and his two daughters.  Mahavir, who gave up amateur wrestling, is disappointed that he has only four daughters, who he think cannot wrestle because they are girls.  However, once he finds out two of his daughters, Geeta and Babita beat up two boys because of disparaging comments made toward the girls; he realizes that he can teach his daughters wrestling.  What follows next is the journey Geeta and Babita to train to win gold and silver respectively at the Commonwealth games.  Dangal was released on December 23, 2016, in India (and December 21, 2016, in the U.S.) 

                Disney’s Indian productions are as varied as the American productions, running the gamut from Fantasy Adventure to Romantic Comedy to Animated Adventure to Sports Biopic.  Check out these Disney Produced or Distributed Indian movies.  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Four Interesting and Unique Documentaries

Documentaries may not be perceived as exciting as a fictional movie, but nevertheless, the subjects they address are fascinating all on their own.  These four documentaries approach their subject with un-ironic appreciation.  Here are four varied and interesting documentaries to check out.
Show Business: The Road to Broadway examines the 2003-2004 Broadway Season, through the eyes of four Broadway productions: two of the most successful: Wicked and Avenue Q, and two which closed that same season: Caroline, or Change and Taboo.  The show starts with workshops and ends with the Tonys, detailing many aspects of production, including writing, composing, rehearsing, set design, dealing with the press, etc.  The major New York City critics are also featured in the movie, where sometimes they know what they’re talking about and sometimes they don’t know what they’re talking about.  While the four above mentioned musicals are the main focus, the movie also takes a short look at all the plays appearing that year.  Fans of Wicked and Avenue Q will find much to appreciate, but it is also fascinating to look at the failed plays, Caroline, or Change, which was a critical darling, and Taboo, which garnered controversy but had a small but passionate fan base.  The movie was released on May 11, 2007, to the public after premiering at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival, and grossed $151,708 at the box office.
                Maidentrip profiles Laura Dekker, the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world in a sailboat, at age 16.  She grew up living on a sailboat with her family around New Zealand, but at age 5, her family settled in their home country of the Netherlands.  Her parents divorced, and she chose to live with her sailboat loving father rather than her mother.  She began to fall in love with sailing and wanted to, at age 14, be the youngest woman to sail around the world.  However, after she left on a trial sailing trip without telling her father in person, the Dutch authorities took her into custody and brought her back to her home city of Wijk bij Durrstede.  When her plans to for her solo around the world trip became known to authorities, even though her father approved the trip, Dutch child protection intervened, and Laura had to fight them in court.  Ultimately, Dutch court relented and Laura was allowed to sail.  The majority of the film is shot by Laura herself on her boat, showing a young woman growing up on her own on the sailboat, where she meets other sailors, reluctantly takes interviews from the press, and battles her own initial loneliness and storms.  The movie was released to the public on January 17, 2014. 
                Above and Beyond details the story about the people who transported and fought in aircraft for the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.  In 1948, Israel is about to partitioned from Palestine to become a nation.  However, Israel has no army or aircraft to speak of, so how can it defend its own country?  Starting with American Curtis C-46 Commando transport aircraft, Israel slowly starts to build their own air force.  Unfortunately, US maintained neutrality at the time, so, led by American Al Schwimmer, former Jews, many of whom were American and fought in WWII, snuck the planes around the world to get them to Israel.  Several other aircraft from Czechoslovakia were obtained for the war effort, and six fighter pilots (some of whom were Jewish-Americans) trained there to become fighter pilots.  With these small but important aircraft, the Israeli air force started pushing back the Egyptian army that was encroaching on the newly formed nation.  Above and Beyond was released on July 15, 2014, and made $288,751 at the box office.
                The Drop Box is about South Korea Pastor Lee Jong-rak and his wife, who have a drop box, a box on the side of their house where unwanted babies can be dropped off without papers or the mother identifying herself.  Lee Jong-rak then cares for the child, and he must ultimately place him or her in the custody of the state.  Lee Jong-rak and his wife also have several handicapped children of their own, both mentally and physically.  Jong-rak’s life was changed forever when his son was born severely mentally handicapped.  In choosing to care for his son, his heart leaned toward caring handicapped children and unwanted babies in a large city in South Korea.  While Lee Jong-rak and his wife are overworked and tired, they nevertheless never stop serving their handicapped children and the babies found in the drop box.  The Drop Box was released March 3, 2015.
                Each of these films shows a fascinating story, whether it be aBroadway production, a young Dutch woman sailing around the world, the small but incredible forming of the Israeli Air Force, or a South Korean pastor who saves unwanted babies through a Drop Box.  Check out these awesome documentaries about these awesome subjects and people.