Issue: July 2015 - Blockbusters

Bringing horror back to the multiplex: Blumhouse Productions and mainstream horror

Many people these days will associate Blumhouse Productions with the horror genre, since the company has been responsible for hit films, such as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and The Purge. While Blumhouse Productions isn’t entirely dedicated to horror, as evidenced by Jason Blum being a producer on last year’s Oscar-nominated film Whiplash, it can generally be agreed that Blumhouse Productions has all but monopolized the mainstream horror market. Blum founded Blumhouse Productions in 2000, with the company’s mandate being to produce high quality micro-budget films. Considering the limited audience for horror films, those low budgets allow for greater profits. A big budget R rated film just isn’t going to make the same kind of money. The origins of Jason Blum’s takeover of the horror genre can be traced back to around 2007. Oren Peli had screened his independently produced found-footage film Paranormal Activity at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival and was sending out screeners of the film looking for distribution. Jason Blum, who was working as a Senior Executive at Miramax at the time, acquired one of the screeners, thought that the film had potential, and he worked with Peli to create a new edit of the film and the rest is history. While Blumhouse Productions isn’t entirely dedicated to horror, it can generally be agreed that Blumhouse Productions has all but monopolized the mainstream horror market. With the huge success of Paranormal Activity in the fall of 2009, Blumhouse Productions’ future as a horror...

Read More

Fake it ’til you make it: the myth of the blockbuster

When you try to define what a blockbuster is, you may find yourself a little confused. Before Jaws arrived in 1975, a blockbuster was a film that gained traction through word of mouth, eventually going on to make plenty of money. That makes perfect sense. Calling a film a blockbuster suggests that the film has found a huge audience, and has made a healthy profit. It’s after Jaws that things become complicated, and the word blockbuster suddenly loses all meaning. By exploring the evolution of the films that have gained the moniker of blockbuster, as well as the marketing and the eventual merchandising that seems to accompany so many films deemed blockbusters, we can start to see a very different definition for the term as it is used now. Jaws is actually one of the last true blockbusters, although it’s also the beginning of a strategy to create a blockbuster. Great test screenings led to Universal cutting down the number of theatres that the film would open in, creating a demand for the film and allowing it to run for the entire summer. Jaws was a huge financial success, and also helped create the idea of a summer blockbuster. The difference was that Jaws was a slower paced film with a well written script that hides its main selling point for most of the film. You couldn’t make a film like this now as...

Read More

Knowing what to expect: actors who are always the same

Since the days that people began to actually care about who created the films we watched, we also started making assumptions based solely on who is starring in, writing, or directing the newest films. Audiences knew what to expect if Charlie Chaplin was making a new movie, and very little has changed since those times. If I told you that Liam Neeson had a new film coming out this summer, you would probably assume that it was an action movie about a man who is seeking revenge against somebody. You would also probably be right. Many times that boils down to typecasting, something that can hurt or help an actor, but it can also be that some actors are just always the same, no matter what movie they’re in. Some actors have built entire careers out of playing the same role. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been playing the same cigar chomping, gun firing, good guy in almost all his films. After stepping away from acting for politics, he returned to do the exact same thing he had been doing before, going so far as to return to the Terminator franchise. There were moments outside of the action genre for the actor, but even those films typically cast him as a person who was a cop, or still managed to beat up a few guys in the movie. Sylverster Stallone, Jason...

Read More

Wild world: the Crocker family on All the Time in the World

Every summer, a large number of Canadians and their families retreat from bustling metropolises to rural, wooded, or lakefront cabins and islands with hopes of recharging their batteries and getting away from the daily grind and weekly stressors. In this day and age, however, most of these retreats are still relatively plugged in and wired to the outside world, and the amount of time spent at these idyllic retreats is often harshly regulated by never having as much time to spend there as one would hope (or in rare cases, too much time spent around bickering relatives). There’s probably more than a few people who wish they could simply decamp to these temporary domiciles for the rest of their lives, but question the practicality of doing so. But for filmmaker and Dawson City native Suzanne Crocker, the idea was taken a step further. Her latest documentary, All the Time in the World (opening Friday, July 17, 2015 at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema after screening earlier this year at Hot Docs), was never intended to be a hard piece of filmmaking, but more of a document on how to live more simply and deliberately as her family spent a full year in the sometimes harsh climate of Yukon’s bush country. “The whole point of going was to reconnect the family and to remember what it’s like living in the moment,” Crocker...

Read More

Responsible choices: director Josh Rothstein on his film, Dukale’s Dream

Dukale’s Dream documents Hugh Jackman’s journey to Ethiopia in order to learn more about the birthplace of coffee, immerse himself in the rigorous process of coffee farming, and be inspired to make a change revolving around fair-trade products. The film has become a passion project for director Josh Rothstein, who spoke with us following the release of his film on July 14, 2015, as well as learning he had much in common with Jackman regarding human rights issues. “I met Hugh Jackman in 2009 when he was preparing to host the Oscars and I was doing a short promotional documentary on his preparation process,” explains Rothstein. “At that time I was just finishing up a film called 3 Points which was about Darfur refugees. So [Hugh and I] began discussing our shared interest in human rights and social justice issues and things of that nature. Hugh, as a long-time ambassador for World Vision was travelling to Ethiopia to gain a better understanding of development, and asked me to come along. I was going to document Hugh’s experience in a very limited capacity, initially. But then it grew and grew.” Rothstein explains that while he has previously made films about human rights and about the plight of humanity, he was not involved with World Vision before Dukale’s Dream. After becoming comfortable working with one another during the Oscars, Jackman referred Rothstein...

Read More

Buster Keaton: silent era blockbuster star

Buster Keaton is hardly whom anyone thinks of when they think of blockbuster stars, but Keaton was exactly that in the heyday of silent films. Not only were his movies fitfully funny, but Keaton established himself as a respected actor, director and gag man for comedic and parodic pieces. He continues to be celebrated today as one of the best actors and directors in the history of film, and that high praise is not without warrant. Movies fans gobble up Keaton’s filmography today, but few fail to stop and consider that he was to the silent film era what Bruce Willis was to the ‘80s or what Tom Cruise was to the ‘90s. He was a flawless creator, a comedic genius and a blockbuster star before the term even really existed. Keaton was among the forerunners of the silent film era of North America and, along with fellow stars like Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, helped to not only create the film industry, but to establish it. Keaton did in the ‘20s what most filmmakers today can’t even manage: he was a writer, a director, an actor and stuntman all rolled into one. The madcap physical and prop-based gags that make up his movies, and which had fans rolling in the aisles, were not only conceived by Keaton himself, but performed by him as well. These daring and often dangerous...

Read More

Learning to move on: actress Katherine Barrell on My Ex-Ex

Learning who we are, what we want, and what we deserve in life is an ongoing process. Nobody understands that better than Katherine Barrell, star of the Canadian romantic sex comedy, My Ex-Ex. Barrell’s bio explains how she always dreamed of becoming either a star basketball player in the WNBA, or the voice of Disney characters. “It’s always been split all my life. I realized early on that the WNBA is probably not going to happen.” Barrell says with a laugh as she speaks to me over the phone on her one day off in between projects. Obviously acting has paid off, even if she’s not voicing the next great Disney character yet. With a fantastic role in The Scarehouse as Jaqueline Gill, audiences can now watch Barrell in a very different role as Mary in My Ex-Ex. The film starts off with Mary expecting her boyfriend of two years, Ted (Ray Galletti), to propose to her. She’s excited, despite the fact that Ted is the biggest jerk around. When he actually breaks up with her, Mary is taken by her friends to see a psychic, who tells her that she’ll bump into her ex very soon. What Mary isn’t expecting is to bump into her ex from college, Patrick (André Bharti, who also wrote the film), whose heart she broke and is now trying to win her back. The very...

Read More

Recent Tweets

Pin It on Pinterest