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Beyond Battleship: 3 More Board Game Movies in the Works

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Whether Battleship is a super success or super failure, a thundering battalion of movies based on board games is marching toward a theater near you. At the very least, I thought you should be prepared.

1. Candy Land

Once upon a time, a toy company desperately wanted to make a movie about a journey through a land of candy based on a board game featuring a journey through a land of candy.

Absolutely no one got excited about this. So they hired screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, the duo behind Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. This writing team envisioned an epic tale in a vast and foreboding world of butterscotch waterfalls and licorice trees. As Berger told Entertainment Weekly, they saw Candy Land as “Lord of The Rings, but set in a world of candy.” And while the “WTF?” quotient of that statement could break even the most sturdily made “WTF?”-ometer, I was looking forward to Gollum hunting after his “precious” Ring Pop.

Still, America was not on board. After years in development hell, Universal, which held the rights, actually paid $5 million to get rid of Candy Land.

Then came the sweet, sugar-coated magic. Sony picked up the reins and suddenly Adam Sandler was attached to star. Sandler brought along buddy Robert Smigel (creator of the Ambiguously Gay Duo and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) to write the screenplay. Expect gay-panic jokes, an endless supply of farting gum drops, a running gag with someone getting repeated hit in the groin with a giant lollypop, and family fun for all!

2. Ouija Board: The Movie

Remember how I said Universal had to pay to not make Candy Land? Well, back in 2008, just a year after the success of Hasbro’s Transformers movie, Universal struck a deal with Hasbro to make five movies based on Hasbro board games and toys: Ouija, Stretch Armstrong, Clue, Candy Land and Battleship. Four years later, Universal only made one movie and wanted to dump the rest (the fact this happened so close to Battleship’s release is more than a tad foreboding). To get out of the deal, Universal had to pay Hasbro a reported $5 million for each movie not made. That’s pretty desperate. And yet, some projects have survived.

Ouija Board started as a $100 million supernatural, haunted house affair with director McG (Charlie’s Angels) at the helm. Michael Bay came on board as a producer to, well, Bay-ify it, presumably. The production hired writer David Berenbaum, who wrote the Eddie Murphy vehicle The Haunted Mansion, to draft a screenplay.

With Universal abandoning them like an unwanted puppy, the fate of Ouija Board looked grim even for a movie about dead people.

But like a temperamental lover with wild mood swings, Universal suddenly changed its mind and wanted Ouija back (even after paying millions to make it go away). The romance rekindled, Universal made but one request of Ouija: cut the $100 million budget.

To $5 million.

To put that in perspective, that’s about the same budget as a Lifetime Movie of the Week. $5 mil would barely cover Michael Bay’s Axe Body Spray budget.

On that budget, expect Ouija Board: The Movie to be two hours of people playing with a Ouija Board in real time, getting in fights about someone moving the piece on purpose, taking frequent bathroom breaks, and spending the last hour watching Jersey Shore reruns because it’s scientifically impossible to wrench any more than fifteen minutes of fun out of playing with a Ouija Board.

3. Monopoly

Of the upcoming board game movies, Monopoly takes the cake for the most ambitious. The man who wants to bring Monopoly to life is none other than Oscar-nominated super director Ridley Scott. Yes, the man behind Alien and Blade Runner wants to bring you the game with the thimble…but with gravitas.

Originally, screenwriters and producers saw Monopoly as the story of a man transported to a candy-colored world filled with rainbow-colored money. Then Scott stepped in and said, “Nope, this is going to be about the financial crisis.” Yes, a family fun board game movie about the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

How deep would the film delve into the housing crisis? “Completely," Scott said. "It’s a blood bath. It was really bad behavior. It’s [going to be] a comedy.”

A very funny blood bath. So far, so good.

To be fair, the themes perfectly intertwine. Monopoly is all about buying up as many toy properties as you can with pretend money. The economic housing market implosion was all about people buying up as many real properties they could, like they were buying toys, using pretend money they didn’t have. And though Universal has passed on Monopoly, Scott is committed.

“I wanted to just make a movie about the idea of greed," he told ComingSoon.net. "I told them you know your game can turn your sweetest, dearest aunt into a demon – a nightmare of greed. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

So the director of two of the darkest sci-fi movies of all time wants to transform a silly board game into a dark, “bloody” satire on the greed and avarice behind the housing debacle? Actually, I totally want to see this.
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There’s also a new Clue movie in the works. Are there any board games you'd like to see on the big screen?

Cole Gamble explores the possibility of getting his own film project, Jenga!, on Twitter @ColeGamble.

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The 10 Best Horror Movies of All Time
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Synapse Films

From creature features to haunted house capers, the horror genre has been giving audiences the willies since the dawn of film. Here are our picks for the 10 best of all time. (If you’re bemoaning the lack of, say, Alien or The Fly, check out our list of the 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time first—there are just too many excellent films to justify any duplicate entries.)

1. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

One of the reasons that the recently departed George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead became such a touchstone of the horror genre is, well, it’s a damn good movie. But a more minor reason has to do with a copyright fluke that put the film in the public domain. (The theatrical distributor changed the title prior to the film’s release, but when they updated the title card, they forgot to add the required copyright notice.) No copyright means no royalty fees, which in turn meant that Night of the Living Dead got more play on TV and a larger home video release than it would have had otherwise. It also meant that other filmmakers could create their own twists on Romero’s zombie classic without having to pay the man for the privilege, helping to give rise to the robust zombie sub-genre that’s been eating brains ever since.

2. PSYCHO (1960)

With Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock broke new ground in a lot of ways. For one, he changed the way film was exhibited. Prior to Psycho, it was a generally accepted practice that moviegoers could enter a theater at any point during a screening. Hitch, determined that people wouldn’t wander in halfway into the movie and wonder where mega-star Janet Leigh (killed off in the famous shower sequence in the film’s first third) was, had theaters put up notices to the effect that late admittance was not allowed. And speaking of: In Alexandre O. Philippe’s doc 78/52, which is all about Psycho’s shower scene, horror director Richard Stanley posits that the film “might have also started the rather negative trend of victims undressing before they’re butchered, which is something that’s haunted slasher cinema throughout the ‘70s.”

3. HALLOWEEN (1978)

John Carpenter’s Halloween, which begins with a six-year-old Michael Myers stabbing his nude sister, remains the only slasher film to date on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Upon its 2006 induction, the Library of Congress’ Steve Leggett noted that the film “launched Carpenter’s career and started the slasher genre.” Despite its status as the godfather of a particularly gory genre, Halloween is a film without any (literal) blood. That was intentional; writes David Konow in his book Reel Terror, it was Halloween cinematographer Dean Cundey’s belief that “even before the mad slasher craze, the feeling was that too much gore and special effects can call too much attention to itself, take the audience out of the movie, and make the story less realistic. ‘We actually spoke specifically about it,’ [said] Cundey. ‘I think part of it what was so effective about Halloween is you could say any of this could happen.’”

4. SCREAM (1996)

Where Halloween invented the slasher genre, Scream reinvented it for a new generation, combining horror with meta comedy that skewers years of slasher movie tropes. Scream also revitalized the career of Wes Craven, a founding father of horror who made a name for himself with films like The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Still, in the mid-‘90s Craven was trying to move away from the dark, violent cinema he was associated with in an effort to avoid being pigeonholed. As such, he initially turned Scream down.

“The turning point was when a kid came up to me at a film conference or a panel I was on,” Craven later recalled. “The kid said, ‘You know, you should really do a movie like The Last House on the Left again. You really kicked ass back then, and you haven’t done it since.’ I went home and I thought, ‘Am I getting soft?’ I’ve always had this ambivalence about doing violent films, and I’ve also had this other side that says, ‘This is your voice, this is what comes naturally do you. You do it really well, go do it.’ So I called Bob [Weinstein, producer] and off we went.”

5. SUSPIRIA (1977)

A surreal, gory, Technicolor extravaganza of witches, ballet, and murder, Dario Argento’s Suspiria is generally considered one of the finest examples—if not the finest example—of Italian horror. But one party involved in Suspiria wasn’t too keen on being associated with it: American distributor 20th Century Fox, which released the film under little-known subsidiary International Classics Inc. so as to avoid having its name attached to the film. Per Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ Suspiria, there were “concerns about the impact [Suspiria] might have to its recently boosted industry reputation on the back of the success of Georges Lucas’ Star Wars.”

6. ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)

Though directed by one film legend, Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby was at one point going to be helmed by a different of a different sort: William Castle. An icon of B-movie, gimmick-heavy horror—his most famous film is House on Haunted Hill, in which Vincent Price kills someone using an elaborate skeleton puppet, and for another of his movies, The Tingler, buzzers were installed in theatre seats to gently zap moviegoers—Castle bought the rights to Ira Levin’s unpublished novel with an eye toward rehabilitating his image. (“We used to sit around our dining room table at night and instead of saying grace, my father would practice his Academy Award acceptance speech,” his daughter, Terry Castle, remembered.) Alas, it was not to be: Paramount, which co-financed Rosemary’s Baby with Castle, insisted that the film be directed by the more respectable Polanski, who was fresh of the success of his Euro horror hit Repulsion.

Though he initially found Polanski “cocky and vain,” Castle was won over by the younger director’s vision for the film, which basically boiled down to, “Do it exactly like the book. Barely change anything.” Paramount won the fight, and Polanski signed on as Rosemary’s Baby’s director, with Castle producing. Some other Hollywood icons were involved behind-the-scenes, as well; Tony Curtis has an uncredited cameo as the voice of Donald Baumgart, and a cameo with Joan Crawford and Van Johnson playing themselves was filmed but later cut. (Johnson calling Polanski “Pinocchio” probably didn’t help.)

7. RINGU (1998)

One of the most influential international horror films of all time, the success of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu helped Japanese horror “[break] out of its cult status” in the West, subsequently kicking off a wave of American remakes of Japanese horror films. Ringu was remade in 2002 by Gore Verbinski as The Ring, which made more money in Japan than its source material—though not much more; Ringu made approximately $13 million in Japan, compared to The Ring’s $14.1 million. Subsequent American remakes of Asian horror hits included The Grudge (originally Ju-On), Dark Water, and Pulse.

8. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves its biopics and its period dramas ... but horror movies? Not so much. Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is to date the only horror film to win the Best Picture Oscar. And it won a lot more than that: it’s only the third film in Oscar history to take home wins in the Big Five categories, a.k.a. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (Adapted Screenplay, in Silence’s case), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), and Best Actress (Jodie Foster.) The other two Big Five victors are It Happened One Night (1934) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).

9. THE EXORCIST (1973)

The Silence of the Lambs’s route to Oscar success was paved by William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, which was the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture. It received nine other nominations, too, including one for teenaged Linda Blair, playing the possessed Regan MacNeil. The nomination was met with controversy at the time, given the fact that Regan’s “possessed” voice was actually another actress: Mercedes McCambridge, who had to fight to receive on-screen credit. The Exorcist eventually won two Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound.

10. THE HAUNTING (1963)

The gold standard in haunted house movies, Robert Wise’s The Haunting is based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, in which a paranormal investigator enlists a team of strangers to document their experiences living in a purportedly haunted mansion. (Not to be confused with the Vincent Price-starring House on Haunted Hill, mentioned above.) The favorite horror film of no less than Martin Scorsese, The Haunting adopts the show-don’t-tell ethos of Wise’s mentor, Val Lewton, who was famous for his highly atomospheric, low-budget horror movies where you frequently don’t see the monster in question. To that end, the supernatural forces in The Haunting are rarely visualized, with the emphasis more on the deteriorating mental state of the fragile, frazzled Eleanor (Julie Harris). Harris suffered from depression on-set and isolated herself from her co-stars, the result of not feeling that they took the film as seriously as she did. Wise followed up The Haunting with a decidedly more peppy film: 1965’s The Sound of Music.

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© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
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10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite
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© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that last year Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. Here are 10 sweet facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. DEB IS BASED ON JERUSHA HESS.

Jared Hess’ wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.’” 

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. “The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me,” she told Rolling Stone. “Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before.”

2. NAPOLEON'S FAMOUS DANCE SCENE MANIFESTED FROM THE SHORT FILM.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.” 

Heder told The Huffington Post he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt “pressure” to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. FANS STILL FLOCK TO PRESTON, IDAHO TO TOUR THE MOVIE’S LOCATIONS.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. IDAHO ADOPTED A RESOLUTION COMMENDING THE FILMMAKERS.

Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. NAPOLEON WAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF NERD. 

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told The Huffington Post. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. THE TITLE SEQUENCE FEATURED SEVERAL DIFFERENT SETS OF HANDS.

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. THE MOVIE MESSED UP NETFLIX’S ALGORITHMS.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. NAPOLEON ACCIDENTLY GOT A BAD PERM.

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LAFAWNDUH’S REAL-LIFE FAMILY STARRED IN THE MOVIE.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A SHORT-LIVED ANIMATED SERIES ACTED AS A SEQUEL.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

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