Saturday, March 1, 2008

New Line Cinema In Memoriam

If you haven't been following entertainment news you may not have heard that New Line Cinema collapsed this past week. The studio brand name will still exist (having been absorbed by parent company Warner Bros) and function similarly as Rogue Pictures does for Focus Features, a branch designed specifically for developing and distributing genre pictures (horror, sci-fi, fantasy etc.) . Yet another example that truly all history is cyclical. New Line began as a small production company that had released a handful of mostly forgotten films finally striking gold with 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street. From then on the studio became known as "The House that Freddy Built", finding success the Nightmare franchise and Critters, but the studio also showed a certain degree of bravery steadily courting independent filmmakers such as John Waters (Hairspray) and Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho). The studio had a solid track record mixing solid genre efforts and franchises and occasionally daring their audience with more cutting edge fair. With the start of the nineties the studio had a new franchise to prop itself up on, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The end of the nineties brought Austin Powers. However at this time, Bob Shaye took a large risk on a young Kiwi filmmaker named Peter Jackson, helping the studio bank-roll an ambitious, historic film production. The likes of which that had never been attempted. A massive fantasy series that was to be shot back-to-back-to-back. It would either boost the studio to new heights or send it spiraling into bankruptcy. As fate would have it, the film actually did both, but in ways analysts could not even begin to foresee.

New Line's initial gambit work. The films were a colossal success both critically and (even more importantly for the studio) commercially. However, the studio, flush with it's success got greedy. New Line withheld money from the actors, the Tolkien estate and the director. Furthermore they assumed that audiences wouldn't mind seeing countless fantasy knock-offs. New Line again invested in an expensive and ambitious fantasy film series, an adaptation of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy. On the backs of numerous smaller films failing came The Golden Compass. The film landed in theaters this holiday with a massive thud and the national box-office could not even make back it's production budget, let alone the advertising costs. After that it was academic. I will miss New Line as its own independent studio with it's own unique flavor and I certainly wish only the best for any employees unfortunate enough to get screwed by the poor decision making of the higher-ups. Who knows maybe this production arm of Warner Bros may once again rise up to be it's own powerful force within the industry. Stranger things have happened.

15 New Line Favorites
My Own Private Idaho-Daring, haunting and exciting.
Glengarry Glenn Ross-Remains a quotable masterclass in acting.
Friday-Hilarious, lively and always fun.
Se7en-A personal favorite.
Dark City-Better than The Matrix. Yep, deal with it.
Pleasantville-A sweet, well-acted dramedy.
American History X-Powerful work from Ed Norton and an impressive debut from Tony Kaye.
Magnolia-Before there were milkshakes, there were falling frogs.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch-The Origin of Love remains an AMAZING movie musical number.
The Lord of the Rings-A masterpiece, plain and simple.
Punch Drunk Love-Sweet and touching, best Sandler performance yet.
About Schmidt-Better with every viewing.
Birth-Chilling and masterfully shot, scored and acted.
Little Children-The best urban drama you've never seen has one of the best sex scenes in years.
Hairspray-Charming and vibrant. Gives great Marsden.

15 New Line Guilty Pleasure
Suburban Commando-That big strong space-man is playing havoc with that family's lives.
Pump Up the Volume-Sooooo verrrrry 90's.
Surf Ninjas-QUANSU DUDES!
The Mask-For Cuban Pete and the Tex Avery homages. Also the hottest Cameron Diaz has ever been.
Mortal Kombat-If you were a child of the 90's this film was a very big deal.
The Long Kiss Goodnight-Shane Black could not write a boring film if he tried. Also Geena Davis fights Craig Bierko.
Money Talks-Before becoming a Rush Hour punchline Chris Tucker developed his schtick in this loud, amusing L.A. based 48 Hours rip.
The Wedding Singer-Sure the 80's stuff may be a little much at times, but the movie is not without it's charms.
Drop Dead Gorgeous-Featuring a supporting turn from some girl named Amy Adams.
Blade 2-Directed by some young Spanish filmmaker. Whatever happened to THAT guy? :)
Willard-I wish Crispin Glover did more stuff like this all the time. So proudly, defiantly strange.
Elf-To not like this movie you'd have to be a cotton headed ninny muggins.
Harold & Kumar-Three little letters: NPH. Oh also the shofar bong (God I hope someone uses this as a google keyword).
Snakes on a Plane-Why America? Why couldn't you embrace Snakes on a Plane?
Shoot ‘Em Up-I laughed every minute. Dumb fun. SO MUCH FUN!

Do you have a favorite New Line produced film or memory? You can check out a comprehensive list of their films here.

3 comments:

brian said...

One of the first movies I saw in theaters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The New Line logo still brings back flashes of sewers, pizza, and "cowabunga!"

[Not to mention the stellar follow up, The Secret of the Ooze.]

elaine said...

The Wedding Singer: I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I used to watch this after school in junior high and think, "oh my gawd, making films is going to be GREAT!" it just got me stupidly excited about being around funny people on a set.

Pleasantville: Got me back into Fiona Apple after the whole 'criminal' track fizzled out.

El Gigante said...

Brian: Ninja Rap+Toka and Renzar+Super Shredder=Pure Gold.

Elaine: I'm not too much of a grouch to not admit the certain electric thrill one gets when Billy Idol blocks the doorway. Inspiration has many fathers, some of them have the last name Goulia.

UGH damn you people. You've got me started on this and now in order to feel clean I'm going to have to watch a De Sica marathon. :)