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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

'Gordon's alive!' Fox inks deal for 'Flash Gordon' remake

Posted: 25 Apr 2014 01:05 AM PDT

Twentieth Century Fox has signed a deal to resurrect forgotten American sci-fi hero Flash Gordon for a new remake that cult fans have been waiting for. 

In many ways an ancestor to the modern-day cast of Marvel and DC superheroes, Flash Gordon first appeared in a 1934 comic strip of the same name drawn by Alex Raymond.


Nice duds: The original Flash Gordon drawn by comics artist Alex Raymond.

Without any super powers, the hero – who was originally a polo player and Yale graduate – undertook a mission to save Earth from the invading armies of Ming the Merciless, a bloodthirsty tyrant from the alien planet of Mongo.

Installed as screenwriters for the remake are JD Payne and Patrick McKay, according to The Hollywood Reporter, with producer John Davis about to close the deal with Fox.

Though Payne and McKay may not be widely known, they are regarded as hot property in Hollywood, as the team behind the script for a proposed third film in the rebooted Star Trek series.

Although discussions of remaking Flash Gordon have been going around for the past few years, this is apparently the first one that's actually entered actual development. Whether or not it will actually become a reality is still anyone's guess. 

The hero has seen action many times on the small and big screens, beginning with a trilogy of 'film serials' made between 1936 and 1940 starring Buster Crabbe as the title character. There have also been a few animated versions and a 21-episode Syfy channel TV series that ran through 2007 and 2008.

Early incarnation: Buster Crabbe (left) was the original cinematic Flash Gordon.

But it was the 1980 cinematic version directed by Mike Hodges that captured the public's imagination – and subsequent derision – with its campy dialogue, outlandish costumes and phallic spaceships. It didn't help that the movie downgraded Flash to a football player played by Playgirl-centrefold model Sam J. Jones who was nominated for a Razzie Worst Actor award. 

Cult favourite: Poster for the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon, directed by Mike Hodges.

The 1980 flick was also memorable for Max von Sydow's over-the-top performance as Ming, Timothy Dalton during his pre-James Bond era, and Golden Globe double-winner Chaim Topol as Dr Hans Zarkov. But the star of the film would be the soundtrack composed by British rock band Queen, especially the theme song Flash.

Although it did moderately well during its time, the film found a bigger audience after the 1980s as a cult favourite. Self-professed fan Comedian Seth MacFarlane even featured Sam J. Jones in a cameo in his 2012 hit comedy Ted

The crucial question now is: Who should be the new Flash Gordon? – AFP/RelaxNews

Play it again: Summer movie sequels bring in the big bucks

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Summer movie sequels may seldom be as good as the original but they do bring major profit for Hollywood studios.

Captain America, Spider-Man, the X-Men and Transformers are storming back into movie theatres, returning in sequels to save the world from mass destruction, while at the same time churning out profits for movie studios.

Studios generally don't have to spend as much to raise awareness of sequels months in advance, as they do with other big-budget films, executives say. And when sequels reach the big screen, ticket sales in foreign markets, which can account for up to 80% of a film's box office, often exceed their predecessors.

"When you can say, here's Avatar 2, and you've got six billion people ready to see it, it doesn't take a lot of marketing to get them into the theatre," said chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment Jim Gianopulos. 

"It's a self-propelling marketing message in a very big world." The first installment of 20th Century Fox's animated Ice Age series took in US$207mil (RM672mil) overseas in 2002. The fourth Ice Age from the studio owned by Twenty-First Century Fox earned US$716mil (RM2.3bil) at international box offices in 2012.

Sequels are hardly a new Hollywood phenomenon. But in recent years, as DVD sales crumbled, movie studios began to cut back on the numbers of films they produced to trim the risks.

Shotgun Chimp: One of Ceaser's people vets an unwanted visitor.

One of Caesar's troops vets an unwanted visitor in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Starting in 2008, they began to churn out more sequels and big-budget event films, turning away from riskier original films like independent dramas and romantic comedies.

This year's sequels include superhero films The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from Sony Corp, Fox's X-Men: Days Of Future Past and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes; Transformers: Age Of Extinction from Viacom Inc's Paramount; animated movies Rio 2 from Fox and Dreamworks Animation's How To Train Your Dragon 2; and Sony comedies 22 Jump Street and Think Like A Man Too.

What mostly drives the studio top brass is that audiences keep buying tickets for sequels. In 2013, nine of the top 12 films in the United States and Canada were sequels or prequels, including Marvel's Iron Man 3 and Lions Gate's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Those films generated US$2.6bil (RM8.4bil) in domestic ticket sales, nearly one-quarter of the year's US$10.9bil (RM35.4bil) total, and another US$4.5bil (RM14.6bil) worldwide.

That shift away from riskier films has helped studios increase or stabilise their profits, said Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Tony Wible.

Operating margins at Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros., the studio behind the Harry Potter franchise and The Dark Knight Batman series, hovered around 7% in 2007 and 2008, Wible said, before rising to about 10% for each of the next five years.

At Walt Disney Co, the focus is on a smaller number of films with the potential to produce sequels, drive toy sales and inspire theme-park rides.

In a typical year, Disney is aiming to release one film each from Pixar, Disney Animation, and Star Wars producer Lucasfilm; two from Marvel, and four to six from its Disney live action division, said chairman of The Walt Disney Studios Alan Horn. "We choose our sequels carefully," Horn said. "If we have a picture that has earned a right to have a sequel, it's because the audiences loved it." Next year's crop of sequels may set even bigger records.

Studios are already planning to release new installments of some of the biggest films of all time, including Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Marvel's The Avengers.

The rash of sequels has prompted even filmmakers to make fun of their world. In the opening number for Muppets Most Wanted, Disney's sequel to its 2011 The Muppets movie, the furry puppets break into a song called We're Doing A Sequel

"That's what we do in Hollywood," the puppets sing, "and everybody knows that the sequel's never quite as good." – Reuters

HK filmmaker Dante Lam's new movie loosely based on past events

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Unbeatable director Dante Lam and actor Nick Cheung are fast becoming an unstoppable team as they unleash their new movie That Demon Within.

Three cops engaged in a gun battle in a subway. Two are found dead while one is seriously injured. This is the story of the rogue cop that rocked Hong Kong in 2006. And it is the springboard for Hong Kong director Dante Lam's latest action thriller That Demon Within.

In a recent phone interview from Hong Kong, Lam shared that his new movie is not a story exactly based on Hong Kong's notorious 'Demon Cop'.

"That Demon Within may be inspired by those events, but the plot for the movie is entirely fiction, save for the infamous gory subway scene. It is one which Hong Kong people will know too well," said Lam, 48.

The thriller stars Daniel Wu and Nick Cheung; the latter recently grabbed headlines after winning the Best Actor trophy at the 2014 Hong Kong Film Awards for Unbeatable – another movie directed by Lam. Cheung's collaboration with Lam has proven to be most fruitful; the 2008 Beast Stalker won him seven acting accolades and propelled him to superstardom.

Lam recalled how he had already gotten both Wu and Cheung on board, but had yet to decide on the final casting. After doing extensive research and consultation with psychology experts, Lam made up his mind.

"After examining our storyline and the psychological condition of our protagonist, it was decided that the character had to be younger, which explains how he could still be so deeply affected by childhood trauma," the director explained.

Since Wu is 39 while Cheung is 46, the former was then cast as the reclusive cop and the latter, the ruthless criminal.

In That Demon Within, Wu plays strait-laced policeman Dave Wong, who unknowingly saves the life of the vicious psychopath Hon Kong, then becomes obsessed with apprehending the ringleader of the Demon King gang of robbers,

Though Cheung may have been accorded less screen time this time around, work was equally daunting. "It was mentally exhausting this time, as I had to create a diabolical persona for this character, sometimes with just a smile, as he doesn't say too much."

And even though Cheung did not have to spend months conditioning his body like he did for Unbeatable, the physical challenges were no less demanding. The perfectionist in him meant he constantly insisted on performing all his own stunts and refused to use body double even in long shots, where his character was wearing a full-face mask.

The multiple-award-winning actor also had to endure hours of makeup for several of his scenes. One of the most extensive sessions required him to endure some five hours of having prosthetic makeup applied on his face for a fiery inferno scene. "But, the removal of prosthetic makeup adhesive is even worse as the process took hours and requires the continuous application of special solvent that made my face stiff and red," he recalled.

After being in front of the camera for 25 years, Cheung made his directorial debut with a horror flick that was filmed in Malaysia last year. The movie which tells of spooky events encountered by a Cantonese opera troupe during the Hungry Ghost Festival is due to hit cinemas later this year.

> That Demon Within opens in cinemas nationwide today.


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