Tuesday, January 31, 2012

EYE ON PRODUCTION

"Gentlemen, you are hereby granted a full pardon for having - through song and dance - brought joy and laughter into the hearts of every murderer, rapist, and sex maniac in Sing Sing! You're free!"
-The Producers

Legendary Pictures
I don't know if you've ever paid much attention but at the beginning of every movie made these days, there's a whole chain of different production companies that helped make a film. Each one of them has a thirty second animation for their company and you have to sit through them all to get to the actual film. Its funny because in the old days, they'd put all the credits at the beginning, and you'd have to sit through them but now most of those are at the end.

And I've noticed that some of these companies I like more than others. Films I want to see and enjoy I keep spotting the same production companies on over and over. And other companies I tend to be less impressed by.

For example, Dreamworks SKG was founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen in 1994, which is pretty much the dream team of entertainment moguls. You'd expect such a wealth of experience, creativity, and ideas to produce amazing stuff. Except... they don't very often. There have been some good movies, they started on a high note with Peacemaker, Amistad, and then the put out... Mouse Hunt and other than a few like Saving PRivate Ryan, its been largely mediocre or silly movies. Here's their last five films:
  • I Am Number Four
  • The Help
  • Fright Night
  • Real Steel
  • War Horse
Now I haven't seen most of these, and The Help did get a lot of good word of mouth (what did you expect, its a white person saving blacks from evil southerners in the 50s). But you see that lineup and you expect stuff like Indiana Jones and Schindler's List, not Hotel for Dogs and The Tuxedo.

On the other hand, Lionsgate is a production studio I keep seeing movies I really like from. Lionsgate is an independant company which started out with little projects such as The Pillow Book and Gods and Monsters, but their first big movie was Dogma by Kevin Smith. They've gone on to make movies such as American Psycho, The Punisher, Hotel Rwanda, and Crash. And they put out a lot of crap like Saw, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Secretary, so its not all great but when they put things out like The Expendables and From Paris With Love I can't help but like the company. They've been so successful they just bought Summit productions (Twilight films, Hurt Locker, The Dark Knight.

What's interesting is how many of these companies are out there. It used to be just the big studios, with Fox and MGM and Universal and Paramount. I think the first independent company was Tri-Star, created in 1984. Their first movie? The Natural . Now there's hundreds and movies are so expensive they pile on by the half dozen or more. These little independent companies have becomes so successful that big studios have created subsidiary companies to produce different kinds of movies like Miramax, which was successful for a time.

So I actually watch for these companies now to see who is putting out films, such as Legendary Pictures (Batman Begins, 300, Watchmen etc) or Icon (Mel Gibson's company, which put out Braveheart and Payback). Usually they're going to be well made and entertaining. Others, I tend to think less of, such as Franchise Pictures (Battlefield Earth, Get Carter) or Morgan Creek (Juwanna Mann, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves).

The thing is, they all are up and down, even Franchise put out Boondock Saints, and Legendary put out Superman Returns. Its just that some seem a lot more consistent in their choices and product than others, and while actors can pick some real turkeys or get like DiNiro and just show up for a paycheck, directors can lose their way like George Lucas, a production company can help tie it all together and give you some idea what a movie might be like.

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