Monday, March 1, 2010

A Glimmer of Hope for Conan?

Al Harron over The Cimmerian has given me small cause to hope that the upcoming Conan flick might not be completely without redeeming value. Photos have emerged of star Jason Momoa looking decidedly more Cimmerian than I had imagined possible. Give the man some blue contact lenses and bulk him up a little bit more and he might just look the part. Diehard Howardians will, quite rightly, point out a number of problems with Momoa's physiognomy as a match for Conan's, but, by my lights, even in these pictures he looks a lot closer to my mind's eye vision of the character than did Arnie.

Cheering as this is, the new film will live or die by its script and I've yet to seen any indications that the new film will be any more true to REH than its predecessors. Harron's post also notes that a second script doctor has been called in to rewrite the screenplay just weeks before shooting starts. That doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, but who knows? Perhaps the "rewrite" will prove to be more extensive than that and we might be saved from the worst nonsense that was in earlier drafts.

Time will tell.

41 comments:

  1. I understand Al Hannon's frustrations completely, but I do feel his anger is getting the best of him.

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  2. Al's a very rational guy. He's actually done a very good job in evaluating Solomon Kane from a Howardian perspective while still demonstrating objectivity and a recognition of the differing needs of literature and film. I think he's doing the much the same with Conan, but I suppose everyone balances guarded optimism/pessimism differently on a slightly different scale.

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  3. All points about the other parts of the project aside, I think Momoa might be able to carry the role. He's got an imposing presence, and isn't afraid of a physical role.

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  4. Momoa looks great; the lack of blue eyes is a non-issue for me. As you point out, we can now adjust eye color with contact lenses. Heck, it wouldn't bother me if they just let Momoa's Conan keep Momoa's darker eye color--I know the piercing blue eyes are a common descriptive element in Howard's stories, but they're not the core of the character. The script is the sticking point here.

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  5. "by my lights, even in these pictures he looks a lot closer to my mind's eye vision of the character than did Arnie."

    +1 on that

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  6. For what it's worth, these days it's not unusual for script doctors to be messing with a film even days before filming starts...

    That said, there aren't a hell of a lot of good films being produced by hollywood these days. A Conan movie that doesn't completely suck is probably the best we can reasonably expect to hope for.

    Here's to the continued lowering of american expectations...

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  7. I too am a fan of The Cimmerian and Al has done a good job of evaluating the development of both projects. But his criticism now seems to be getting a wee bit personnel and juvenile--especially with his comments towards Rourke and Sapp.

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  8. OK, I just did quite the double-take after clicking the link for the photos, pressing the Next button, and then seeing a picture not of Jason Momoa, but Jason Segel. And with a rather sheepish look on his face as if he had just stopped at the restaurant to grab his take-out and got in the way of the Jason Momoa photo shoot. I can just hear someone shouting at the photographer "Not that Jason, the other one!"

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  9. Anger, Crowe? Trust me, this isn't me angry. Dismissive and derogatory, sure, but I find it difficult to muster any measure of genuine anger after ranting and raving after reading the script.

    What did you find personal and juvenile in my comments towards Rourke? I don't think I was particularly cruel to him, in fact, I wanted him to get away from the project. I'm a fan of the guy, and I'm much more interested in War of the Gods: I'd honestly rather have Rourke in that film than in this.

    Sapp I'll give you, but frankly, he's infamous for his glass jaw. Anybody who knows Bob Sapp's MMA experience knows that for all his size and imposing manner, he's been knocked out by people half his size. That's the kiss of death for a guy whose badass reputation is built on such fighting experience.

    As for the scale of optimism verseus cynicism: I'm a positive guy most of the time, and will give credit where it's due. My review of Solomon Kane is testament to that.

    However, in my mind, Momoa and Rourke are the only bright spots in this project so far. Nispel inspires no confidence, nothing short of throwing out the original script will improve the story (and they won't, since that would involve dropping the characters too). I simply don't see the justification for a "wait and see" approach given the script and director.

    If nothing else, I'd be happier to be proven wrong and eat my words, than to hope beyond hope and set myself up for disappointment. I guess others might differ.

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  10. TRASH TALK THE MOM OF A GUYS KIDS IS A GOOD REPORTING?SHAMEFULL. CERTAINLY CONAN WOULD NOT APROVE A ATTACK OF THIS ON A INNOCINT WOMAN. I THINK ROBERT HOWARD WOULD NOT THINK TO MUCH OF THIS REPORTER EITHER.

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  11. If you're referring to me, could you point out exactly where I "trash-talked" about Lisa Bonet?

    Unless you're referring to TMZ.

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  14. Well Al, if your a fan of Rourke your sure didn't display it in your article. Instead of making note that he's one of the best actors of his generation and that if you HAD to cast someone to play Conan's father, Rorkue would be an excellent choice. Instead you had to make some derogatory comment relating to a scene he did with an actress over twenty years ago who has a relationship with Jason Morma. As to Sapp himself, your attacking him not on his acting ability but his fighting record which neither one has noting to do with the other. I'm sure every MMA and tough guy in Hollywood auditioned for the role so obviously he stood out if the producers decided on him. I also think Nispel is a great choice. He's a proven commercial director with a great eye for visuals and if you ever seen his little seen film " Pathfinder", you would know he pays a great deal of homage to Frazetta.

    I understand your feelings All and everyone is more or less on the fence as we all want to see a great Conan film that keeps to the spirit of REH. But the way your going signifies you've pretty much written the move off entirely.

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  15. Pathfinder was Crap, and if that's the best that Nispel can do, then the He should stick to directing advertisements and Music Videos.

    This whole thing is beginning to be ominously similar to the reaction on all the Transformer forums when Bay started working on the first one..

    First, Everyone was angry.. then the " wait and see " people started to be viewed as the voice of reason and next thing you know people who who have been transformer fans for 20+ years suddenly know less about the franchise and its characters than Micheal Bay and Don Murphy.. Now its so bad that if you happen to have anything negative at all to say about the movies.. you're a " Hater " and you get jumped on by hundreds of posters.. I'm so not looking forward to that with Conan once this movie hits...

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  16. Well, look at it this way. At least you know you'll be saving a few bucks when the Conan movie comes out.

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  17. IM AM TALKING TO YOU. POINTING OUT A RELASIONSHIP IS FINE,BUT TO SNICKER BEHIND YOU'RE HAND ABOUT 'SOARDID FAMILY SCANDAL"S THAT ONLY YOU HAVE DREAMED OF IS TRYING TO BE MEAN. A TEST FOR TRASHTALK IS EASY- WOULD YOU SAY IT TO HIS FASE? OR HERS???? ONLY IF YOU WANT A FIGHT ON YOUR HAND.

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  18. CAPS LOCK .. UNLEASH THE FURY!


    As for saving a few bucks.. well I plan to see Solomon Kane if it ever comes out, and I'll probably see Conan when it does as well. But I'll likely wait till its at the 1$ theater.. I don't want the film makers to get the wrong idea that this is what I want now do I?

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  19. I remain quite optimistic. If they're reworking the script it's probably to make it a little more Howardian. And haven't I said from the start that Momoa could look just like Conan if he wanted?

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  20. @Lagomorph Rex

    I don't know why, but your comment about caps lock caught me totally off guard. Funniest thing I've see or heard all day.

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  21. Bob Sapp can act. Not Shakespearian quality acting, but the guy can get the job done. He spend a few years in Japan being the "big scary foreigner" on various and sundry shows and commercials.

    And casting him will lock up the Japanese audience just because of the popularity he has there, I'd bet. That's the biggest international market for Hollywood movies, so there's some logic to his casting.

    Even if he gets his ass handed to him occasionally in MMA, this is acting. His character doesn't have an MMA record to worry about.

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  22. I'm willing to give Mr. Momoa the benefit of witholding judgement until after he gets a shot at the role. He can act, and has got to be better at the role than the bodybuilder they got to play Conan in the short-run TV series that was absolutely awful. Maybe some sort of stroke of genius will strike the people behind this movie and they'll revise the script along the lines of Howards' actual stories...

    One can hope. Toss a coin in the fountain. Then move along.

    So does anyone know just what the heck ever happened with the animated version of Red Nails?

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  23. Crowe, I still fail to see what was derogatory about me stating simple facts. Rourke was in an (excellent) film starring Jason Momoa's long-time girlfriend and the mother of two of his children, and Rourke happened to have sex scenes with her. If you've seen Angel Heart, you'll know that there's way more to it than just the sex scenes in themselves (I didn't want to spoil it, major twist). It's just an amusing coincidence to me, that's all.

    As for Sap, if I thought he was a fantastic actor, don't you think I would've mentioned it in the article? Sapp basically growls and grunts as adequately as any MMA/wrestler-turned-actor this side of Dwayne Johnson.

    Sapp was hired for his intimidating appearance - which is infamous for being mostly show. It's like casting notorious womaniser Wilt Chamberlain as the guy charged to protect a princesses' virginity: of course it has no reflection on his acting ability, but it's the sort of thing that would be pretty distracting to people in the audience.

    I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree on Nispel, since outside of the seriously flawed Pathfinder, I'm thoroughly unimpressed. Now, *if* you gave him a great script and just had him contribute to visuals, that'd be fine... but with this script? Now.

    I have indeed written off the film entirely, because of one thing only: the script. It makes a mockery of Conan, the Hyborian Age, and Howard's themes. It isn't even Conan the Barbarian: this is Conan the Destroyer-level wretchedness we're talking about. Hell, it's Kull the Conqueror-level.

    Dungeonbrawler: I'm not talking about real life here, I'm talking about the fictional context of the film. I would've thought "Cimmerian family scandal" would've explained that enough. I'm not implying some sort of real life affair between Momoa, Bonet and Rourke. No, I wouldn't say any of this to his face, because I'm not talking about him in the first place!

    Rach, you're welcome to your optimism. I wish I could share it.

    Netherwerks, Red Nails has officially been halted. A shame, because it would've been nice to finally have an actual REH adaptation in film for once, even with the liberties it takes.

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  25. @ James:

    Maybe with Kane Al has been objective, but the amount of vitriol that has been leveled at Momoa's casting, based on one picture of him in makeup to make him look like an alien, certainly doesn't seem fair.

    I think not judging the movie until you actually see it would be the first criteria for anyone wishing to be labeled "objective".

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  26. Al, have you even read the current script or let alone seen any of the revisions? How about the sets? The storyboards? FX tests? No you haven't. You haven't seen one frame of it but you've already written off the film entirely. Your attitude is typical of every arm chair internet critic who based their options not on the final product but on what some anonymous person you don't even know has said about the project.

    Honestly, If you really are the REH fan that I know you are, you would at least hold final judgement until you seen the film and not the other way around.

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  27. Momoa looks great; the lack of blue eyes is a non-issue for me.

    The thing is that blue eyes cost the filmmakers next to nothing and their presence would signal that they've not only read Howard but are using his stories as the basis for their own work. It's the kind of good faith gesture I look for when Hollywood is preparing to make a movie about a beloved character or series.

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  28. And haven't I said from the start that Momoa could look just like Conan if he wanted?

    To be fair, Momoa's not there yet, but I'll admit I'm surprised that he looks as good as he does now. The real pity will be if manages to be an awesome Conan but the script damns his performance to a by-the-numbers Hollywood action movie hell.

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  29. So does anyone know just what the heck ever happened with the animated version of Red Nails?

    I presume, though I don't know this for a fact, that it ran into funding problems and was shelved. It's never been formally canceled but it's long overdue.

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  30. I think not judging the movie until you actually see it would be the first criteria for anyone wishing to be labeled "objective".

    I think it depends upon what one is criticizing. If one's critiques are about technical details, then I'd agree you can't objectively criticize them without seeing the film. But if the concerns revolve around fidelity to Howard and his stories, we have quite a lot of evidence, based on the casting calls alone, that this film won't be particularly true to the source material. Unless I'm mistaken, I don't believe Al's ever claimed the movie would be a bad movie, taken in its own right, only that, from what we know, it's almost certainly going to be yet another poor adaptation of Howard.

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  31. Honestly, If you really are the REH fan that I know you are, you would at least hold final judgement until you seen the film and not the other way around.

    Again, I think it depends on what one is critiquing. Unless the latest round of script revisions are extensive (i.e. eliminating characters entirely, for example), we can already tell that the film is going to take great liberties with the source material. If that's one's concern, as it is with me, I think there's plenty of reason to doubt the quality of the film without even having seen it, especially when one considers how the Solomon Kane film turned out, despite much more explicit talk by its director about its Howardian origins than we're getting with Conan.

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  32. James: I think it depends upon what one is criticizing. If one's critiques are about technical details, then I'd agree you can't objectively criticize them without seeing the film. But if the concerns revolve around fidelity to Howard and his stories, we have quite a lot of evidence, based on the casting calls alone, that this film won't be particularly true to the source material.

    There are many, many things that contribute to a film's success and it's more alchemy than chemistry.

    And no, I don't think you can judge a film based solely on its casting or its script.

    How this actor plays the role, how the movie is directed, costumes, sets, will all have a huge bearing on the film.

    I've seen too many comics fans declare that Michael Keaton can't play Batman because he's too small (turns out he could), or Hugh Jackman can't be Wolverine because he's too big (turns out he could), or Heath Ledger couldn't play Joker cause he's too pretty (turns out he could) to judge movies based solely on casting.

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  33. One final comment:

    The presence of a screen doctor right before shooting doesn't mean a damn thing.

    Many good movies have been rewritten DURING filming, and many terrible movies have never used a screen doctor.

    Screen doctors just mean someone with the power to make things happen is unhappy with some element of the script.

    They might be tuning the script to the star, or maybe Mickey Roarke had a problem with some element of his character, or maybe they've decided they won't have the time or money for one of the locations they planned to shoot at.

    Again, just like casting, the fact that writing is still happening means nothing.

    Wait until someone has seen the damn movie. Is that hard?

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  34. There are many, many things that contribute to a film's success and it's more alchemy than chemistry.

    Certainly, but if one's primary concern is fidelity to its source material, there's plenty of grounds already for worrying about this film. I won't speak for Al, but, for me, I'm not doubting that it might be an enjoyable, eve well done action movie in its own right. However, as a film laying claim to the heritage of Robert E. Howard, the signs of not even as promising as were initial reports of Solomon Kane and we all know how that one turned out.

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  35. James:

    If the script is indeed being rewritten, then we can't even judge the script.

    And leaked scripts are dicey specifically because things change even while movies are being made.

    Secondly, even if the script makes major departures from Conan, which it probably will, since this is a movie and not a book (many things just won't work), the movie could STILL evoke the right feel.

    A "by the numbers action movie" with a brooding main character, brutal, visceral combat and spooky as hell sets might in fact convey fidelity to the source material.

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  36. Secondly, even if the script makes major departures from Conan, which it probably will, since this is a movie and not a book (many things just won't work), the movie could STILL evoke the right feel.

    You're talking to a man who's very skeptical of "feel" in general, as it's usually used as a cover for reducing all criticisms to the realm of the purely subjective.

    A "by the numbers action movie" with a brooding main character, brutal, visceral combat and spooky as hell sets might in fact convey fidelity to the source material.

    I guess we have differing definitions of "fidelity." If what you describe is the best we can hope for, why make a Conan film at all, especially when doing so creates expectations on the part of people who care deeply about the source material, expectations that seem unlikely to be fulfilled? It's not as if Hollywood is incapable of producing faithful adaptations of literature and most of Howard's Conan yarns are eminently adaptable without much change due to the medium. So why introduce ridiculous elements like Conan being "the last of the Cimmerians," for example? It's unnecessary and (once again) reduces Conan to a walking cliché rather than the complex character REH created. If that's the kind of fidelity to the source material we're getting, I'll happily pass.

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  37. James: You're talking to a man who's very skeptical of "feel" in general, as it's usually used as a cover for reducing all criticisms to the realm of the purely subjective.

    Well, actually, I do think all criticisms of a movie's quality are subjective.

    I love Hard Boiled. My best friend thinks its terrible. There's no objective measure to prove which of us is correct.

    James: I guess we have differing definitions of "fidelity." If what you describe is the best we can hope for, why make a Conan film at all, especially when doing so creates expectations on the part of people who care deeply about the source material, expectations that seem unlikely to be fulfilled?

    Well, first, I would question the expectation for 100% fidelity to Howard's vision.

    It might be *my* personal taste, but there's been decades of popular Conan material between Howard and now that's very different, and as a Howard fan, I still can enjoy those different takes on the character.

    I have a complete run of the Roy Thomas comics. I like the Frazetta paintings of Conan.

    Neither of these have a slavish fidelity to Howard's vision either.

    In fact, just by taking a book and turning it into something else, you're changing it.

    LOTR the movies are *very* different animals than the books.

    So I think expecting 100% fidelity with popular fiction written 7 decades ago, when its been interpreted and re-interpreted many times (in ways that have had their own enduring popularity) is way too high a bar.

    It's like me going to see Iron Man and expecting it to be 100% faithful to its Stan Lee-penned beginnings, while ignoring everything contributed to the mythos by other writers since the 60's.

    You know, that story where Tony Stark is testing landmines to use on the Viet Cong.

    You're putting a burden on Conan that it simply can't sustain.

    This isn't a similar situation to LOTR or the Narnia books (and those movies took licenses with the literary source too).

    Conan, unlike those other two books, has really been a more popular fictional universe, more akin to characters like Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Batman or Superman.

    Many authors and artists have interpreted the character, and many of those interpretations have taken root in the general consciousness.

    When printing Howard's stories, I think all that stuff (de Camp, Lin Carter, Frazetta, Roy Thomas) should be kept at bay.

    When making a movie, I think it needs to be considered, because a certain percentage of the audience will only know Conan from those other sources.

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  38. YOU WOULD NEVERT ALK TO A ACTOR ABOUT HIS CHARACTAR? YOU CAN WHEN THEIR IS NO SHAME.

    ANGRY YELLS WITH SOME FINGERS IN YOUR EARS MEANS LATINA REVIEW IS BOOKMARKT FOR CONAN NEWS. TO SAY YOU DONT LIKE SOME SCRIPTS OR DIS-AGREE WITH A CASTING IS FINE,. BUT RUDE AND DISSMISSING MEANS YOU HAVE TO LINK TO OTHER PEOPELS SCOOPS.

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  39. It's going to be a stock Hollywood action movie with a main character whose name happens to be "Conan."

    That doesn't mean it will be a bad representation of that type of movie. It could be Die Hard with swords.

    That's unlikely though. Not because of anything I've read in this thread or anywhere else. Rather, it's unlikely because Hollywood puts out only about 1 decent movie for every 9 clunkers.

    But that's not the point James and Al are making. The point is, whether it's a good Hollywood action film or bad one, there's not likely to be anything particularly Conan-y about the film.

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  40. Crowe, you seem to think that until the film is finished and out in theatres, there is absolutely no way to tell whether it's good or bad. Which is nonsensical: by that logic, any Uwe Boll film coming out *could* be the next Citizen Kane. If I protest, you could say "have you read the current script, or the sets, or the storyboards?" - and it would be just as inaccurate.

    I don't NEED to have seen the revisions, storyboard, FX etc, because I'm not criticizing the revisions, storyboards, or FX. All I'm commenting on is the stuff that is directly available and confirmed - and again, there's very little to find confidence in.

    All I have to go on is what has been officially confirmed, and that includes the character casting sheet, which reveals crucial elements of the story.

    Of course, I AM going to withhold final judgement until the film's out and I've seen it, but until 2011, I'm going to call the problems out when I see them.

    James: I am guilty of saying that the film will be bad, because many of the elements are hideously cliched. I counted scenes ripped from Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja, Krull, X-Men: The Last Stand among others. The second version removed a couple of things like the Ceti Eels, but the major problems remained.

    Chuck: I'm just going to leave us with an analogy one of the mods at the REH forum came up with: You put in an order for a Lexus top-of-the-line model and show up at the factory to see it starting. It looks like they’re putting together the frame for a Ford Fiesta. As soon as you protest, they say, “Don’t worry, it’s still early in the process.”

    I reiterate: outside of Momoa and Rourke (and the monster guys from 300, who are at least competent) there is no reason to think we're going to get anything other than Kull the Conqueror for the 2010s. The director isn't great, the script they started with (and no matter how extensive the rewrite, some elements of the plot are so itegral that they couldn't be removed) is atrocious, and Lionsgate are not exactly wowing us with their releases.

    For a useful comparison, let's compare with Solomon Kane. MJB is known as a hungry young director whose horror films attempt to be different (Deathwatch, Wilderness). MJB came on to the Conan forums and actively debated why he made the changes he did, and argued that they were a valid interpretation of the text. MJB got great actors like James Purefoy, Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, and Max Von F'n Sydow for the film. The producers have constantly repeated their desire to make a film adaptation, viewing the origin as a compromise to get things started.

    Conan? Nispel is most known from Frazetta fan-films and unwanted horror remakes. Nobody on the screenwriting side - Doppenheimer, Nispel, the doctors - explained or defended the story changes, or even acknowledged them at all. So far we have *one* a-list actor, an unproven cable star, and an MMA fighter turned actor. And there's no indication that Lionsgate have any desire to adapt REH.

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  41. Please you can't be serious. Your actually comparing this film to a Uwi Boll crapfest? Your hated for this film has sunk so low that you think it's now on par with such dung as Alone in the Dark and Paperboy. Even you said if Nispel had a great script to work with you would be fine with him directing it so obviously you feel the man has some talent. Believe me, if you gave Boll that very same script the movie would turn out just as bad as everything else he makes because he has no talent in any way nor any insight on what are the elements to making a film except for one: convincing people to give him money to make more crap-- THAT he is a genius at.

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