Twilight parody $500-million lawsuit against Lionsgate Pictures and Summit Entertainment: Serious business
Twiharder, not the son of Twilight and Die Harder but just Another Twilight Parody, reportedly had a planned late 2012 release date to coincide with the release of Lionsgate Pictures / Summit Entertainment's own The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, the final installment in the Twilight movie franchise. But at the time, Summit / Lionsgate felt it would be unhealthy to have Kristen Stewart (as Bella Swan-Cullen), Robert Pattinson (as Edward Cullen), and Taylor Lautner (as Jacob Black) fighting off not only the mean-spirited Volturi, but also micro-budget parodists. As a result, a cease-and-desist letter was sent to the Twiharder producers at Between the Lines Prods.
But never say Die, Twiharder, Die! Like Dracula risen from the grave, they're back – at a less-Hollywood-friendly New York federal court, too, bringing with them a 219-page complaint and a demand for $500 million in damages from Lionsgate / Summit, whom they accuse of “anti-competitive” practices and abuse of intellectual property law, claiming that the Hollywood studio's cease-and-desist letter scared off potential distributors.
Twilight parody vs. Twilight: Fair Use Doctrine
According to EW, the lawsuit asserts that Twiharder clearly falls under the Fair Use Doctrine, which protects the rights of “independent filmmakers, parodists and other 'counter-cultural' artists who create separate or derivative works that may be related to, inspired by or comment upon the pop culture events that dominate the national Cineplex and, by extension the attitudes, perspectives and behaviors of the populace.”
And whether you love and/or hate Twilight and any or all of those associated with the literary / film series, you can't deny that the Stephenie Meyer-created romantic-fantasy tales have become a worldwide cultural phenomenon.
There's more to the Twiharder lawsuit: Between the Lines Prods. accuses Lionsgate / Summit of registering trademarks for more than a dozen Twilight-related names, “thereby multiplying the universe of potential infringers exponentially.” They claim that the studio's intent is “to utilize the 'tentpole' model as a leveraging mechanism to prop up a full-scale, 360-degree IP monopoly in which all the statutory rights granted by the Copyright Act simply become interchangeable with (and/or subsumed by) the statutory privileges granted by the Trademark Act.”
In other words, if you manage to get Fair Use Doctrine protection to create a Twilight-related work, you may still be infringing on Lionsgate / Summit's Trademark rights.
Recent The Hobbit precedent
Although Lionsgate / Summit may have been inspired by the Walt Disney Studios, which ferociously (and according to some, unjustly and unfairly) guards its properties, there have been other such fights in the past.
In fact, as recently as last December, Warner Bros. succeeded in halting the direct-to-DVD release of Joseph J. Lawson's parody Age of the Hobbits, claiming that it would have (very stupid?) people mixing it up with Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which hit the world's screens at that time. The key issue here was the name “Hobbit”; hence, Age of the Hobbits is now known as Clash of the Empires.
Of course, if lawsuit comes to counterlawsuit, Lionsgate and Summit – especially following Gary Ross / Jennifer Lawrence's The Hunger Games and Breaking Dawn - Part 2 – have enough cash to buy out the entire U.S. Justice System. The studio's fiscal 2013 revenue, for instance, topped $2.71 billion.
But things will likely not reach that far. After all, the Twilight movie franchise is a thing of the past; even if Twiharder finds any DVD distributors willing to make the parody available, it could have an even tougher time finding an audience than M. Night Shyamalan / Will Smith's After Earth.
And it remains to be seen whether or not Lionsgate / Summit will be willing to hand out any sort of compensation to Between the Lines Prods. Having said that, one thing is for certain: The $500-million lawsuit against the studio has brought infinitely more attention to Twiharder than it would have enjoyed merely by coming out at the same time as Breaking Dawn - Part 2.
'Twilight' parody trailer: 'Twiharder'
Say what you will about the productions values found in (or missing from) the Twiharder clip below, but you must admit that in the first scene leading lady Tanya Zoeller does a really good imitation of Kristen Stewart's voice and mannerisms (e.g., lip-biting). And I gotta admit that I found kinda kinky-funny watching Christopher Sean's use of his abs to stop the bleeding on the forehead of Zoeller's Stella Pond. Edward Cullen parodist John Gearries, for his part, does a pretty good imitation of John Gilbert in His Glorious Night, repeating “I love you” ad nauseam.
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain, by the way, had Kelly parodying John Gilbert in that early talkie. Now, why didn't anyone try to stop them? Well, a key reason is that the Singin' in the Rain production company, MGM, also owned the rights to His Glorious Night. Now, check out the Twiharder trailer below. (Update: The trailer has been removed. Below are a couple of movie clips.)
Twilight movie parodies
Twiharder was directed by Giorgio Caridi, from a screenplay by leading men John Gearries (The Young and the Restless) and Christopher Sean (The Bold and the Brave). Both Gearries and Sean also executive-produced the film, using funds out of their own pockets.
“A big role model for Chris and I is Jon Favreau,” John Gearries explains in a Twiharder Yahoo.com Q&A. “We looked at what he did with Swingers and decided to do something along those lines as a production company. We want to make a cult following and build up from there. I mean look at Space Balls, that movie still has a cult following.”
Previous Twilight parodies include Craig Moss' direct-to-DVD Breaking Wind (2012), featuring Heather Ann Davis, Eric Callero, and Frank Pacheco; and Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer's Vampires Suck (2010), featuring Jenn Proske as Becca Crane, Matt Lanter as Edward Sullen, and Chris Riggi as Jacob White.
Somewhat surprisingly, the $20 million-budgeted Vampires Suck bit a not-unimpressive $80.54 million chunk out of the worldwide box office. In Germany, for instance, Vampires Suck was a bigger box office hit than Chris Columbus / Logan Lerman's Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Jason Reitman / George Clooney's Up in the Air.
Twilight directors and cast
The Twilight franchise was adapted by one screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg, but had various directors: Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Chris Weitz (New Moon), David Slade (Eclipse), and Bill Condon (Breaking Dawn - Part 1, Breaking Dawn - Part 2).
Besides Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, the Twilight movie franchise cast includes, among regulars and “guest” actors, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Billy Burke, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Maggie Grace, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Graham Greene, Ashley Greene (no connection to Graham), Nikki Reed, Cam Gigandet, Rachelle Lefevre, Bryce Dallas Howard, Xavier Samuel, MyAnna Buring, Booboo Stewart, Mackenzie Foy, Mia Meastro, J.D. Pardo, and Rami Malek.
Vampires Suck box office figures via Boxofficemojo.com.
John Gearries and Tanya Zoeller in Twilight parody Twiharder screengrab: Between the Lines Prods.
John Gearries, Tanya Zoeller, Christopher Sean in Twiharder poster: Between the Lines Prods.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers to star in 'Star Wars: Episode VII'?
Jonathan Rhys Meyers is “in talks” to star in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII, according to Latino Review. Best known for his role as King Henry VIII in the Showtime series The Tudors, which also features upcoming Man of Steel Henry Cavill, Rhys Meyers has already been featured in one Abrams movie: Mission: Impossible III (2003), in which he supported Tom Cruise.
At this stage, it's unclear which role Jonathan Rhys Meyers would play in Star Wars: Episode VII, now a Walt Disney Studios production. The next installment in the highly popular franchise is reportedly to continue the Star Wars saga where Return of the Jedi left off.
Having said that, in case Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, and Anthony Daniels (perhaps a little rustier?) are indeed returning to the Star Wars fold, then Episode VII must begin a few decades after the conclusion of Return of the Jedi. Filming of the next Star Wars movie should commence next year in the United Kingdom, so it can be ready for release in 2015.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers movies
The 35-year-old Dublin-born Jonathan Rhys Meyers has been featured in more than 30 movies in the last two decades. Most notable among those are Michael Collins (1994), in which Rhys Meyers plays Collins' assassin; Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine (1998), opposite Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale; Julie Taymor's Titus (1999), starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange; and Gurinder Chadha's Bend It Like Beckham (2002), with Keira Knightley.
But Jonathan Rhys Meyers' most renowned movie role is that of the ambitious social climber in Woody Allen's unofficial An American Tragedy / A Place in the Sun remake Match Point (2005), featuring Scarlett Johansson. More recently, Rhys Meyers played the lead in Glenio Bonder's international production Belle du Seigneur, in addition to a supporting role in the Glenn Close star vehicle Albert Nobbs, and the lead opposite John Travolta in the critical and box office misfire From Paris with Love. Additionally, Isabel Coixet's thriller Panda Eyes should be coming out in the not too distant future.
J.J. Abrams: Star Trek: Episode II before Star Wars: Episode VII
As for director J.J. Abrams, Star Trek: Into Darkness opened this weekend. Despite mostly positive reviews, 3D surcharges, and the inclusion of late Wednesday and all-day Thursday box office grosses, the Star Trek sequel opened at about the same level as its 2009 predecessor (over a three-day-weekend period). Star Trek: Into Darkness features Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers The Tudors: Showtime / HBO.
'Gravity' trailer goes 'bong!' as George Clooney and Sandra Bullock go flying
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock become the victims of an unfortunate incident while watching the sun rise. Skin cancer? Nope. Do they get mugged? Nope. What happens then? As you can see in the Gravity trailer below, following a loud Bong, Bam, Boom! Clooney and Bullock quite literally go flying. Something – was it a meteorite? Intergalactic debris? – has collided against their spacecraft (or space shuttle or whatever). See, they're watching the sun “rise” from way up there. Check out the Gravity trailer below.
Gravity trailer: '2001: A Space Odyssey' Meets Lost in Space Meets Apollo 13?
The Gravity trailer, or rather, teaser, provides quite bit of action with minimal dialogue. It's impossible to tell what kind of relationship (veteran astronaut) George Clooney and (medical engineer and tyro astronaut) Sandra Bullock share. Will he feel sad if she dies? Will it be good riddance? And perhaps most importantly, will they find safety and a happy ending? Well, it's hard to tell. Gravity is a Hollywood movie, after all, but one directed by Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men's Alfonso Cuarón. Also, it's not a summer movie, as it opens in North America in the fall. In other words: Who knows what's going to happen to Clooney's and Bullock's characters?
Now, although the Gravity special effects look just fine – visually, the film is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey – it's hard to imagine what looks like a minimalist solar-system drama getting shortlisted for the Best Visual Effects Academy Award when the competition is bound to include more bombastic fare such as Marc Forster / Brad Pitt's World War Z, Guillermo del Toro / Charlie Hunnam's Pacific Rim, and Shane Black / Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man 3 – to name only three summer-season movies.
Gravity cast and release date
Gravity, which really isn't a big-screen version of the Gravity Falls television series (or of Lost in Space), stars the aforementioned Oscar winners George Clooney (Syriana, one the producers of Ben Affleck's Argo) and Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side). The supporting cast includes several meteorites (or debris?) and a couple of space suits. No kidding. If Clooney and Bullock get shortlisted for the 2014 Academy Awards, Gravity will join Steve Binder's Give 'em Hell, Harry!, starring James Whitmore (and only James Whitmore), as one of those rare films that received Oscar nominations for the entire cast.
Of note: Before George Clooney was cast, Gravity's veteran astronaut was to have been played by Robert Downey Jr. Prior to Sandra Bullock's casting, the space-traveling newcomer was at some point or other to have been played by Angelina Jolie, Marion Cotillard, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, and Natalie Portman.
The Gravity screenplay was written by Alfonso Cuarón and his son Jonás Cuarón (Year of the Nail). And if any U.S. critic dares to tell us that Gravity either has or lacks gravitas, off with his/her head!
Gravity's North American release date is October 4, nearly a year after its originally scheduled November 2012 launch.
George Clooney in Gravity movie photo: Warner Bros.
'Pacific Rim' trailer: Jaegers fight Kaiju to save humankind from extinction – but should they bother?
Michael Bay's Transformers 5 (or 6 or 7, sorry, lost count) has a new trailer – er … scratch that. Let me start again: Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim has a new trailer. Before you check it out, remember that every similarity between del Toro's Pacific Rim and Bay's Transformers movies (and Matt Reeves' Cloverfield and Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds and Peter Berg's Battleship and Gareth Edwards' upcoming Godzilla remake and TV's The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and …) is mere coincidence. After all, the Pacific Rim screenplay (credited to del Toro and Travis Beacham) is based on an “original story” – a.k.a. film treatment – penned by Beacham. Now, check out the Pacific Rim trailer below. (Image: Pacific Rim movie star Kaiju.)
Pacific Rim Trailer insights
So, what does the new Pacific Rim trailer tell us about the film's plot and characters? Well, the trailer opens with the following line: “We always thought alien life would come from the stars, but it came from deep beneath the Pacific.” In other words, no Pacific Rim-mer has ever watched any Japanese monster movie or Spielberg's War of the Worlds or Eugène Lourié's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
As for any profound insights into plot and characters – you must be kidding. In fact, watching the Pacific Rim trailer made me wonder if Guillermo del Toro's latest will feature any recognizable narrative or three-dimensional human beings, 3D glasses notwithstanding. For the trailer is all about the giant Transformers robots – er … the Jaegers, who will fight the monsters from beneath the sea, a.k.a. Kaiju, to the death. Or to the last scrap of rusty metal. Nothing else matters.
A feast for the eye, a pain in the ear
I doubt it that Pacific Rim will get Academy Award recognition in the acting categories or for Best Original Screenplay – though one never knows with the Academy – but Oscar nods for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Recording are all but guaranteed. Possibly Best Cinematography as well?
Say what you will about the film's plot and acting (if any), but Pacific Rim looks like a feast for the eye and torture to the ears. Tell me you're not impressed by the Kaiju vs. Jaeger fights. One they're done with one another, they'll also be done with Tokyo or Singapore or Sydney or Santiago or Lima or Vancouver or wherever they've performed their massive boxing match. And chances are that once they're done, you'll be a little more hard-of-hearing as well.
And finally, here's hoping Pacific Rim will offer at least a bit of irony. The kaiju are defeated, millions of humans (even those along the Atlantic) cheer in unison believing themselves safe from extinction – as the polar icecaps keep on melting away at an ever faster pace. So much for “canceling the apocalypse.”
Pacific Rim cast and release date
The Pacific Rim cast includes Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Queer as a Folk), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Idris Elba (Luther), Academy Award nominee Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), Clifton Collins Jr., Charlie Day, Max Martini, Heather Doerksen, Burn Gorman, Robert Maillet, Timothy Gibbs, Diego Klattenhoff, Robert Kazinsky, and Robert Morse. At one point, Tom Cruise was considered for a key role in Pacific Rim; it's unfortunate that didn't work out. Warner Bros. could then have sold the (reportedly) $150 million-budgeted Pacific Rim as a War of the Worlds sequel.
The Pacific Rim release date in Canada, the US, Mexico, the UK, and several other European territories is July 12, 2013. The movie will open the day before in about a dozen countries, including Argentina, Australia, Italy and Russia. France, Finland, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, and Japan will have to wait a little longer – release dates for those countries range from mid-July to mid-August.
Pacific Rim movie star Kaiju image: Warner Bros.