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Five Alternate Endings That Could’ve Ruined Contemporary Film Classics

Five Alternate Endings That Could’ve Ruined Contemporary Film Classics (photo)

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Up until the advent of DVD, alternate endings could only exist in the audience’s imagination or as the product of movie industry lore. Few were ever seen beyond the studio’s gates, the general public never knowing that Deckard was outed as a replicant in the final minutes of the original cut of “Blade Runner” or Duckie won the heart of Andie in one version of “Pretty in Pink.” Often times, it was better this way since alternate endings are usually discarded for a reason, only occasionally resulting in something more interesting like the snipped conclusion to “I Am Legend.” Good or bad, the common link between them is they completely change the tone of the film. Obviously, there are spoilers ahead for the five modern classics that could’ve ended quite badly, not only for the film’s characters in most instances, but also for the films themselves which might not be held in such esteem if they didn’t stick the landing. (And though we couldn’t bring ourselves to call “Eagle Eye” and “Sweet Home Alabama” contemporary classics, their would-be climaxes need to be seen to be believed, so appropriately, they’ve been tacked on at the end.)

“Election” (1999)
Directed by Alexander Payne

Just this weekend, a reader of SlashFilm recently dug up the clip from a workprint of Alexander Payne’s high school-set comedy from an unmarked VHS tape bought at a flea market that doesn’t end with Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) leaving Nebraska. Instead, it plays upon a minor detail in Tom Perrotta’s original novel that Matthew Broderick’s disgraced teacher Mr. McAllister ultimately ended up as a car salesman rather than the docent gig he gets at the Museum of Natural History in New York in the version that became the final cut. Dropping the film’s satiric tone almost completely, a frightened Flick visits McAllister at the dealership where he works and asks to go on a test drive before she heads off to college.

Both make amends for their actions during the student body president election that drove each of them the school with McAllister offering an apology and Flick driving home to ask him to sign her empty yearbook — a sort of “love conquers all” ending, despite the fact it’s far sadder than the one Payne eventually went with since the characters show remorse, but no real growth. A possible sign of the melancholy feeling Payne would leave audiences with in his future films, “Election” simply proved to be the wrong film to go out on such a note. [UPDATE: The video below no longer works due to a copyright claim by Paramount.]

“Titanic” (1997)
Directed by James Cameron

Whether one loves or hates James Cameron’s love story on the leaky ship, there’s likely common ground that this potential ending that played up the neuroses of Bill Paxton’s treasure hunter Brock Lovett would’ve sunk the film. Rather than seguing directly into Gloria Stuart’s elderly Rose recalling the glory and the grandeur of the Titanic after her younger self sees the love of her life (Leonardo DiCaprio) shiver to death in front of her, Cameron felt the scene needed a little comic relief in the form of Lovett panicking after discovering that Rose had kept the invaluable Heart of the Ocean necklace all along. In both versions of the film, Rose drops the Heart of the Ocean into the water, but in the final cut, it’s poignant since Rose is alone, paying tribute to her lost love, whereas with Lovett around, it becomes a parody of itself as it’s suggested Rose might be considering suicide before she’s caught and gives an unnecessary “Aw, shucks” explanation that love is far more valuable than money before flinging the Heart of the Ocean into the water so that Paxton can mug as a greedy bastard. Shifting the focus from the epic romance the audience just witnessed to a bad afterschool special was very much out of character for the film, which highlights Cameron’s notoriously bad dialogue. However, the filmmaker was probably using his eyes far more while whittling down the final cut, realizing that making a trim would excise another six minutes from an already unwieldy three-hour running time and sparing the audience a corny lecture in the process.

“Clerks” (1994)
Directed by Kevin Smith

Back in 1994, Kevin Smith’s famously low-budget felt like a blast of irreverence, much in part to the first-time writer/director’s blisteringly funny dialogue and the fact that he brought a fresh perspective to filmmaking. But that inexperience came back to haunt Smith in the final act of the film where instead of leaving well enough alone with Dante and Randall, the two New Jersey counter jockeys whose repertee about subjects such as the feasibility of the Death Star construction powers the film along for 90 minutes. But in the form it originally premiered at Sundance, it was the final two that shocked audiences when out of nowhere, Dante is shot and robbed before the film cuts to black. If kept intact, the ending wouldn’t only have put a painful punctuation mark on one of the funniest comedies of the decade, but it would’ve cheated Smith out of a franchise that not only produced a sequel, but an animated series, countless toys and served as the basis for Smith’s entire View Askew universe.

Underworld

Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?


2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.


3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.


4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.


5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.


6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.


7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?


8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.


9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!


10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

Trailering: “High Road”

Trailering: “High Road” (photo)

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Heads up to improv comedy fans in the Seattle area. Matt Walsh, one of the members of the Upright Citizens Brigade and founders of the UCB Theater, is playing his debut feature film, “High Road” at the Seattle Film Festival May 20th and 21st (for full details go to the SIFF website).

According to the film’s official site, “High Road” is described as the story of “Fitz, a lovable bone headed pot dealer, [who] mistakenly decides to go on the lam. He visits his estranged cross dressing dad, to seek advice. In Fitz’s world, he has the worst possible case of love triangle where he is forced to choose between the three things he loves most: selling weed, his really bad rock opera, or his newly pregnant girlfriend.” Here’s the trailer:

High Road (Trailer) from Peter Atencio on Vimeo.

As you can see, the cast is absolutely stacked: Abby Elliott, Lizzy Caplan, Ed Helms, Joe Lo Truglio, Rob Riggle, Horatio Sanz, Zach Woods, and on and on. According to this New York Post interview with Walsh, the film had a unique production as well: it was almost entirely improvised.

“We spent two weeks rehearsing like theater camp — did scenes that would never make the movie. Lots of improv games. It really helped to show people the tone of the film & the process. I’ve done improv for so long and am a huge fan of Christopher Guest. I’ve always wanted to tackle it. Plus, I know so many funny people, I love being able to give them an opportunity to step forward.”

The film won Walsh a Best Director prize at its premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival. And I just realized looking at the film’s IMDb page, that the cinematographer is Hillary Spera, a friend of IFC’s; she shot the documentary “Darkon,” along with a lot of our festival coverage over the years. So that’s yet another reason to seek the film out. “High Road” doesn’t have a distributor yet, so I don’t know when I’ll get to see it. But I’m looking forward to it.

Sean Kirkpatrick Weighs the “Cost of a Soul”

Sean Kirkpatrick Weighs the “Cost of a Soul” (photo)

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Independent filmmakers are always looking for their big break. Writer/director Sean Kirkpatrick found his, appropriately enough, in something called “The Big Break Contest.” Launched last summer by Relativity Media and AMC Theatres, the contest was designed to give one worthy filmmaker a shot at national distribution. A panel of judges that included Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and actress Kate Bosworth picked Kirkpatrick’s “Cost of a Soul,” a dark story of Iraq war veterans lost in the drug trade in Kirkpatrick’s hometown of Philadelphia, as their inaugural winner. Now the film’s opening in 50 AMC Theatres across the country this Friday (you can find a full list of locations and showtimes here).

It’s a move that could be one small step for a single indie filmmaker or, if the business model of movie theaters distributing smaller films to large audiences catches on, a giant leap for an entire industry. Kirkpatrick, a Penn State alumni making his feature directorial debut, says he understands the magnitude of the opportunity. “I feel an obligation to try to push this thing through,” he told me, “not only because I want to further my career but because I feel like this is hope for all independent cinema. Here you have one of the biggest power players in the business reaching out and saying ‘We want a good film. We don’t care how much you made it for, we don’t care what actors are in it. We want something that’s good.'”

During our interview, Kirkpatrick told me about the experiences that inspired his screenplay, the hardest thing to find when you’re making a microbudget indie in Philadelphia (hint: it rhymes with runny), and his experience as the test subject in this unique cinematic experiment.

You’re from near Philadelphia originally?

I’m from just outside Philadelphia. A town called Norristown.

And how much of making the movie was the inspired by the desire to shoot in Philadelphia?

It all comes down to the desire to shoot in my hometown. In this film, the city is really a character. And the story evolved from the city and my experiences in it, particularly in North Philadelphia. When I was writing the screenplay, Philadelphia was the murder capital of the country. There were more drug-related homicides, and more bodies, than days of the year in 2007. And I guess my goal was to portray the lives of the people living in these neighborhoods with as much truth as possible.

When you say you know these neighborhoods, what’s that mean? Did you live there? Work there?

Yeah, I used to work there. I had several jobs in North Philadelphia. One was I was a glorified garbage man; I worked for a junk removal service and drove a dump truck. I also set up surveillance systems in a lot of the drug neighborhoods. These were dangerous, dangerous places, so much so that I was required to get my license to carry, and I had to carry a concealed weapon.

Really?

Yeah. And we had to be out of the neighborhood by a certain time before it “awoke” and there were people on the streets because you’re talking about essentially coming in and putting up a camera that’s going to disrupt someone’s livelihood. If you sell drugs, and I put a camera on the corner, you can’t sell drugs anymore. So they didn’t like me.

Right. I guess that’s good research for a film like this though.

Yeah. It’s really a culmination of a lot of experiences, but I don’t want to make it seem like it’s all bad in this area. The communities in these neighborhoods are amazing. You have a lot of great people living amidst all this violence; in war zones, essentially. And they have to raise their children in war zones and face the challenge of keeping their kids off the streets. I really wanted to make this movie for them.

When you’re shooting this sort of movie in North Philadelphia, what’s the hardest thing to find? Is it the actors? The cinematographer? The caterer? What was the toughest thing to find?

Money.

[laughs]

The toughest thing to find was money. There’s so much untapped talent out there. When people see the movie they’ll see there are these amazing unknown actors in the film. They’re just mind-blowing; I think a lot of them are going to win awards someday. And ultimately it was mostly a Philadelphia cast and crew with a few actors from New York.

The biggest conflict we faced was finding money. We didn’t have money for anything so we had to get creative every step of the way in order to make this film possible. We shot it on a $100,000 budget in eighteen days. And we’re going into neighborhoods with a small but full cast and crew. You’re talking about camera crew, a lot of logistics, and a lot of expensive equipment. These are some of the roughest neighborhoods in America and we couldn’t afford to bring police escorts or security. And even if we could afford it, that can cause a lot of conflict in these neighborhoods when you start bringing police in.

What we did was build up community relations. We had a group of guys who were former… we’ll just say they were former knuckleheads who’ve seen the error of their ways. Their goal now is to keep kids from making the same mistakes they did. These guys have a lot of respect in the neighborhood, everybody knows who they are, and they protected us. They kept us safe, they were on our sets they made sure nothing happened to us. We didn’t have a single incident.

The film looks excellent. Not just for the budget either, it looks good period. What was the aesthetic you and your cinematographer wanted for the film?

Everything we looked at as research was film noir. I wanted a film noir, and my crew will tell you I’m very clear in my vision, so much that I can be anal at times. I got together with my director of photography [Chase Bowman] and all we watched were 1940s film noir. I don’t think we watched anything in color. With digital technology and the RED camera we were able to create a hybrid between the color film of today and the values and contrast and the chiaroscuro that you get in those old beautiful film noirs.

We see film noir today for certain stylistic choices but a lot of people miss the big picture of what film noir was. Most of them were films about World War II veterans coming back from the war, coming back and dealing with the dangers of the streets and the city. And I can’t think of a better place to set a film noir like that than my hometown and the streets of North Philly.

I thought the use of music in the film was really interesting too, particularly through the musician character DD, and the way that his music literally transports the viewer; when he starts playing, you start to show us images of the city. Do you have any sort of background in music?

I’m not a musician but I wish I was.

So you have that appreciation of people who do have that talent.

I have an amazing appreciation of everything from Beethoven, whose “Moonlight Sonata” is in the movie, to jazz and John Coltrane, who’s probably my favorite. He was a huge inspiration for the music in the film, and he’s actually from Philly.

(more…)

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