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Michael Jackson doc/Venice Film Festival highlights/Michael Sheen added to Tron: Legacy/Yet another “Saw” Film/Apatow contracted to Universal

MJ Documentary?

The King of Pop continues to be incredibly lucrative, even in death.  The latest posthumous venture concerns the “…rights to the approximately 80 hours of high-definition, full dress rehearsal footage captured by AEG Entertainment, the company behind Jackson’s concert series.”  It’s the rehearsal footage for the “This Is It” series of 50 live shows that would have taken place at London’s O2 Arena. were it not for Michael’s tragic death in June.  “According to U.S. media and movie industry reports, Sony Pictures is among the lead bidders offering more than $50 million US for rights (to this footage)”  Financially, this is money extremely well spent, and necessary cash on the part of AEG Entertainment.  “AEG Live had invested $20 million to $30 million in the arena show, not including any advance paid to Jackson’s camp, according to Billboard.”

“According to reports, several of the 50 concert dates were insured…but according to insurance industry insiders, (if Jackson’s death was caused by) a preexisting condition, such as drug addiction or a heart defect, could mean AEG gets zip.”  So AEG has an extra incentive to make a deal for the footage; depending on whatever we eventually learn was the cause of death.

The real question from a cinematic standpoint is: can this be made into a quality documentary?  If Sony Pictures (or whoever eventually wins the bid) simply races to put it out to cash in on Jackson-Mania, they could just make it a straight concert film, which would likely still be profitable. However, it would be nice to see that footage integrated with some interviews and some past footage to create a unique and creative tribute to the King of Pop.

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A few 66th Annual Venice Film Festival Highlights:

The festival will feature 71 world premieres. Some of the highlights in competition include:  Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Michael Moore’s new documentary, which comments on the perils of the American economy, entitled Capitalism: A Love Story, and famously eccentric  director Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime.

Out of competition, the festival also features Oliver Stone’s new film South of the Border, and Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!

For the entire film selection list, visit

Michael Sheen will be the new Tron Legacy villain

Walt Disney Pictures confirmed via Twitter…Michael Sheen (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) will have a role in Tron Legacy.   Sheen was terrific as Tony Blair in 2006’s The Queen, but it is unlikely that this updated Tron will feature the nuance and sophistication of a Stephen Frears-directed film.  We are comparing two disparate styles of film here.
The film already stars Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, and Olivia Wilde.

The Saw Adventure continues…

How could the Saw franchise even get to six installments, you ask? (see below)  The sixth film is coming out in October of this year.   Well, what do you think about a seventh film?  So far, “the five Saw pics to date have grossed more than $700 million worldwide.”   The Lionsgate studio has made the fiscally logical choice in deciding to produce a seventh film.  There’s not much need for a quippy comment on my part – obviously these films have some sort of cultural cachet I do not understand.

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“David Hackl — production designer of the second, third and fourth films and helmer of Saw V — has been tapped to direct (Saw 7)… Mark Burg and Oren Koules are producing again, as they have on all the Saw films…Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, who penned the fourth, fifth and sixth films, are writing the seventh.”

Judd Apatow tied down at Universal

According to Variety, “Universal Pictures has kept its key funny guy in the studio fold, signing a three-picture directing deal with Funny People director Judd Apatow…he has never directed a film outside of Universal….”  Apatow is pretty much a guaranteed investment, given that “…his directing debut on the 2005 comedy hit The 40-Year Old Virgin…grossed over $177 million worldwide. He followed with the 2007 hit Knocked Up, a film that grossed over $219 million worldwide.”  It is interesting to see a deal like this; it is almost like a return to the old studio system, where stars or directors were signed down to multi-picture deals, and were assets of the studio.  However, the studio is paying Apatow for his abilities as an auteur.  So rather than assigning him a writing or directing job, as would have been done in the majority of Old Hollywood under the studio system, they are contracting him to write and direct his own films.

“Apatow has not yet committed to his next directing vehicle. He writes those films himself, a process that will begin after Funny People opens.”