Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Harry Potter 6" moved to summer 2009

Some of you may have heard the surprise announcement last week that Warner Bros. was moving the upcoming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from its November 21 release date. The new release date is July 17, 2009, almost eight months later. There are several reasons why the studio may have moved one of their biggest upcoming releases from a prime holiday release date all the way out to a late summer date, but most of them don't make much sense to me.

Sometimes, a move like this might indicate problems with the production of the movie itself (an actor drops out of the film, preview audiences didn't like the early cut of the film, the budget was escalating out of control, etc.). I would be surprised for that to be the case here, as the cast and crew are all well-seasoned, and early word-of-mouth is excellent.

Other times, a studio might be trying to avoid poor timing around an unrelated event. For example, immediately following September 11, 2001, several movies (Zoolander) were re-cut and/or postponed to avoid showing images of the World Trade Center or other potentially disturbing imagery. One particularly gossipy columnist from asserts that the Warner Bros. decision to move HP6 was to avoid ugly press from Daniel Radcliffe's upcoming stint on Broadway in the controversial play, Equus, in which the actor appears nude. Unappealing as the actor's decision is, the play itself is old news--he performed it to rave reviews in London over a year ago--and unlikely to affect the performance of one of the series' most popular installments.

Still another ridiculous rumor is that Warner Bros. moved Half-Blood Prince out of the holiday season so as to avoid competition with Twilight. My own ambivalence for the vampire book notwithstanding, I'm quite sure there was room this winter for both movies, especially where they were scheduled to open three weeks apart. In this battle, I'm fairly certain that Harry would have kicked the crap out of Edward Cullen, so I don't believe this theory at all. (In an interesting side-note, Summit Entertainment has now moved the release of Twilight up three weeks to take the spot previously occupied by HP6.)

According to the studio itself: “...we are still feeling the repercussions of the writers’ strike, which impacted the readiness of scripts for other films—changing the competitive landscape for 2009 and offering new windows of opportunity that we wanted to take advantage of. We agreed the best strategy was to move Half-Blood Prince to July, where it perfectly fills the gap for a major tent pole release for mid-summer." Translation: the studio didn't have much else going on for next summer, and needed something big to help fill in the late summer gap. I can buy an extent.

A quick glimpse at the studio's release calendar for the 2009 summer season reveals only one major release: the Christian Bale Terminator Salvation on Memorial Day weekend. Typically the major studios will have at least one major "tentpole" (i.e. costly potential blockbuster) for each month of the summer season (starting in May), sometimes more. So it does make some financial sense to push a sure-thing like Half-Blood Prince into 2009, where the studio can spread out some of the potential earnings for an upcoming year that looks a little bleak.

Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if the studio's decision had more to do with the recent mega-success of The Dark Knight, which has outperformed every financial expectation, and is currently headed toward an almost unprecedented $500 million domestically. That gives the studio a little breathing room for the rest of the year, and allows them to spread the wealth of franchises into a new fiscal year.

One final (and admittedly unlikely) theory about The Dark Knight: the critically-adored comic book adaptation is likely the WB's best shot at Oscar attention when the awards season begins at year-end. Pulling Harry Potter out of the way during the holiday season could give the studio the chance to re-release The Dark Knight into theaters for the holidays (assuming they choose to hold off on a DVD release). The theatrical re-release would not only keep the Caped Crusader (and more importantly, Heath Ledger's Joker) fresh in Academy voters' minds, but could also provide an extra boost of revenue for the film, which will likely finish its current theatrical run about $80 million shy of the current domestic record-holder, Titanic. Who cares about Harry vs. Edward...the real battle here may be between Batman and The King of the World.

Update: WB President and C.O.O. has responded to fans' disappointment over the delay of HP6. Read it here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CBS announces teams for "The Amazing Race"

CBS finally released the profiles for the 11 teams competing in the upcoming season of The Amazing Race. The teams include the southern belles (in pink), comic book aficionados (in hats), and married hippies (guess which ones they are). Meet all the teams by clicking here. USA Today has also posted an Associated Press article about the upcoming season, which you can read here.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The Amazing Race is the best of reality TV, and quite possibly the most entertaining show on TV (depending on what kind of a year Lost or 24 are having). It's funny, occasionally touching, and always thrilling. Plus, it's the cheapest way to see the world during these tough economic times. I hope you'll all make a weekly appointment to watch The Amazing Race, starting on Sunday, September 28.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whatever happened to John Hughes?

Tonight Wendy and I watched the John Candy/Steve Martin road-trip comedy, Planes, Trains & Automobiles. I'm sure we are probably the last people in the world to see this movie, so I won't really take much time to speak to its merits, other than to say that it was a classic awkward comedy-of-errors. And I can't remember the last time Steve Martin made a good movie (Father of the Bride?)... But the larger question that lingers is whatever happened to the once-prolific writer-director John Hughes?

The man was once a Hollywood heavyweight, who wrote, produced, and/or directed some of the most memorable comedies of the 80s and early 90s. These included the early Chevy Chase Vacation movies, Molly Ringwald's greatest (Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles), some veritable teenage-angst classics (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful, The Breakfast Club), and several other box office hits (Home Alone, Uncle Buck, 101 Dalmatians, etc.). You could hardly see a comedy in the late 80s without Hughes' involvement; he was the Judd Apatow of the feathered bangs era.

So whatever happened to him? And why the sudden disappearance from Hollywood in the late 90s? He's still alive and well, and only in his late 50s, according to (always a legitimate source, of course). It's a genuine mystery as to why someone whose reign was as successful and wide-reaching would suddenly choose to sever ties with the industry that buttered his bread for so long (makes you wonder if some Hollywood big-wig unceremoniously kicked his Ferrari through the back windows of a high-story garage...).

Either way, I'd love to see a comeback. Though several of his movies were pretty bad (Weird Science, Flubber), when he was good, he was really good. I'd say Ferris Bueller is still my favorite of the bunch, and the one I quote more often than the others. Which of John Hughes' movies is your favorite?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

J-Dawg vs. DISH

A few weeks ago I remember hearing on the radio that we consumers should try to haggle with some unlikely companies (include big box retailers, phone companies, etc.) about prices we disagree with. The thinking is that consumer-minded companies will bargain with us in order to keep (or obtain) our business.

With that in mind, I put this theory to the test today. Since I've been on an insatiable quest to obtain any and all things HD for my home (researching TVs, Blu-rays, and programming), I decided to call DISH Network and ask them what it would cost to upgrade my current equipment to HD equipment. The first time I called, the sales rep told me in no uncertain terms that the upgrade cost would be a flat $150 with an additional $10/month HD charge. Unsatisfied with his offer, I called back today and this time mentioned that I was a loyal DISH customer who was looking at some competitive offers. I said that I didn't want to leave DISH, but that I was unwilling to pay $150 to upgrade to an HD receiver. "Is there any way around that $150?" I asked. The polite sales rep paused and said, "There's nothing I can do, but I can transfer you to someone who can..." And just like that, I was on the phone with a friendly gentleman who, with very little hassle, agreed to waive the $150 upgrade charge.

Still thrilled with my consumer victory, I gamely asked the man (Jerry) if there was anything else he could do to lower our monthly cost. Once again, with very little hesitation, Jerry knocked off an additional $8.98 off our monthly bill, in essence making our complete HD upgrade cost us only about $1.02/month more than what we were already paying (now I just need the TV...).

Now that I've had some success with this bargaining business, I wonder if it's time to start calling everyone else who sends me a bill each month (watch out Springville City Utilities!) At the end of the day, I've got nothing to lose in asking for a better price.

Are there any other consumer secrets/successes that I should know about?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

New "Pushing Daisies" trailer

This is for you Pushing Daisies fans, who only have to wait until October 1 for brand-new episodes of the romantic-comedy-fantasy. This "trailer" was created from the first three episodes of the new season, and was screened at Comic Con in San Diego last week.

I realize it's not the most conventional of TV shows, but it's certainly one of the most unabashedly romantic, and it's funny to boot. And that Emmy nominee Kristin Chenoweth is a riot. I can't wait for it to start up again.