Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Despicable Me 2 (8/10)

Directors: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud              

                Despicable Me 2 isn't quite as good as the first, but should satisfy fans expectations. Most of what worked in the original is continued here. Gru is still lovable and snarky as the reformed villain. While Gru is the star, the minions have always been seen as the highlight for many. They’re heavily featured here and are their usual hilarious selves. The minions are getting their own spinoff movie in 2014.

                The voice acting is great throughout. Steve Carell still has great delivery as Gru. Russell Brand also returns as Dr. Nefario, one of my favorite characters from the first film. He doesn't have as much screentime in this one, but he’s still important to the plot.

                A newcomer to the series, Kristen Wiig is pretty decent as Lucy, a secret agent in the Anti-Villain League that Gru falls for. Benjamin Bratt also joins the franchise as the villain, El Macho. Some have criticized the character for being a Hispanic stereotype. The film may be guilty of using some stereotypes, but it isn't mean spirited. The character of El Macho was supposed to be voiced by Al Pacino, but he left due to creative differences.

                Pierre Coffin and Renaud return as directors. They also do the various voices of the minions.

                Despicable Me 2 was number one for its first two weekends. Pacific Rim and Grown Ups 2 lost to the animated film on their opening weekend. It only fell to number 2 on the weekend of the 19th -21st. It has made almost $600 million worldwide. It is currently the fourth top grossing film of 2013.

RATING: 8/10

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grown Ups 2: The worst I've seen this year

Director: Dennis Dugan

Why does this movie even exist? Were there people clamoring for a sequel to the tepid 2010 film Grown Ups? The first movie was successful but mediocre and forgettable. The fact that this beat Pacific Rim at the box office makes me sad for humanity.

The four stars from the previous film, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, and David Spade. I feel bad for Chris Rock, who is by far the most talented one. Rob Schneider didn’t come back for the sequel; apparently this film was too bad even for Rob Schneider. Supporting actresses Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph return as well. Steve Buscemi appears as well. I know he’s a Sandler regular, but isn't he too good for these types of roles nowadays?

Grown Ups 2 uses pretty much every comedy movie cliché and juvenile type of humor. There are urine jokes, vomit jokes, and misogynistic humor. There’s even a stereotypical group of jerky frat guys.  This movie has no point and no plot. It’s just an excuse for one terrible (usually gross) joke after another.

One example of an offensive scene involves Jon Lovitz as a janitor pretending to be a fitness instructor.  He tells the women to jiggle themselves, then bend over and smack their asses. They don’t notice anything odd about this until the real instructor enters. Apparently, in the world of Grown Ups, all women are mentally handicapped.

I would highly recommend avoiding this film. In fact, it’s probably the worst film I've seen all year.

RATING: 1/10

Monday, July 15, 2013

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film: (Part Six: 2000-2001)

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5


                 The 1990s had proven that comic book films were a bankable commodity. However, the 2000s demonstrated this several times over. The first major success of the decade was 2000’s X-Men. The X-Men were created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics and were one of the most popular comic titles for decades.
                Development on the film began in 1989 with James Cameron attached. He left to work on Spider-Man, another film that languished in development for years. At this point, the film rights reverted to Marvel.
                In 1992, Avi Arad produced an animated show for children based on the X-Men for Twentieth Century Fox. The show was a hit and caused Fox to buy the film rights in 1994. According to IMDB, there were 28 drafts of the script written, including one by Joss Whedon.
                The film was finally released in 2000 and was directed by Bryan Singer. This was his first big budget action picture. Before this, he had mainly done dramas like The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil. X-Men featured Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in his first major starring role and he became a huge star as a result of the film.
The trilogy largely centered on Wolverine, sometimes to the detriment of other characters. Many comic fans have complained that way too much attention is given to Wolverine. In the comics, he is not necessarily the main character and Cyclops is in fact the leader of the X-Men. Cyclops often gets pushed to the side in the movie versions.

The story also focused on Rogue, played by Anna Paquin. Paquin went on to star in the popular HBO series True Blood. Another important character is Professor X, who was portrayed by Patrick Stewart. Stewart played Captain Picard on Star Trek and was a fan favorite for the role of Charles Xavier for years. There were many other famous actors as well, including Halle Berry (Storm), Ian McKellen (Magneto), and Famke Janssen (Jean Grey). Cyclops was played by a relative unknown, James Marsden.
The X-Men did not wear the costumes they wore the comics. Those were blue and yellow spandex and could have easily looked ridiculous on screen. Instead, they wore black leather, which upset many fans of the comics.
The film was a huge success and made almost $300 million at the worldwide box office. It was now proven beyond a doubt that superhero films could make a lot of money. This spawned many other comic book films in the coming decade.

The other three comic book films that were released in 2000 were all relatively minor. One was a sequel to the animated Heavy Metal, titled Heavy Metal 2000. It was directed by Michael Coldewey and Michel Lemire and featured the voice of Billy Idol.
There was also another sequel to The Crow. This straight to video installment was titled The Crow: Salvation and was directed by Bharat Nalluri, with Kirsten Dunst appearing as the female lead.
This movie was not quite as bad as the second Crow film, but that’s not saying much. This one is at least not painful to watch. However, it's still cheesy and lame. It’s filled with terrible music and Eric Mabius just doesn’t cut it as the star.

Finally, we have G Men from Hell, directed by Christopher Coppola. It acknowledges its roots with beginning credits that look like comic book panels. The quirky film was clearly made on a low budget and in my opinion, really isn’t that entertaining.


The best comic film of 2001 was Ghost World, based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, originally published from 1993 to 1997. Clowes co-wrote the screenplay and even received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, making it the first comic book adaptation to be nominated in this category.
Ghost World was directed by Terry Zwigoff. Zwigoff previously made the fascinating documentary Crumb, about the famed underground comic artist Robert Crumb. I highly recommend checking this film out. Zwigoff went on to direct another Clowes adaptation, Art School Confidential. Ghost World stars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi.

Another major comic adaptation of that year was From Hell, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and artist Eddie Campbell. It was published in serial format from 1989 to 1996. This was the first Alan Moore work to be adapted into a film. However, the movie took liberties with the source material and Moore was not a fan. This ended up being the first step towards him disowning all filmed versions of his work. In fact, he refused to even be credited on later blockbusters V for Vendetta and Watchmen.
From Hell was directed by the Hughes brothers, who made Menace II Society and The Book of Eli. It starred Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, and Ian Holm.

Also released in 2001 was Josie and the Pussycats, which was originally an Archie Comics title published from 1962 to 1983. The directors were Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (Can’t Hardly Wait) and the cast included Rosario Dawson, Tara Reid, and Rachael Leigh Cook.
Furthermore, we have Monkeybone, based on the graphic novel Dark Town by Kaja Blackley.  It was directed by Henry Selick, known for The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Unlike those successful films, Monkeybone flopped hard at the box office.

Finally, there were two very small films: Tales from the Crypt: Ritual, the third and final film in the series, which starred Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), and Faust: Love of the Damned, a Spanish film directed by Brian Yuzna.

12 Years A Slave Trailer released

Today the trailer was released for the upcoming film from Steve McQueen, titled 12 Years A Slave. McQueen has earned accolades for two previous art house films, Hunger and Shame. This film is based on a true story about a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Brad Pitt, and Paul Giamatti.

The trailer makes the film seem much more accessible and Oscar-baity than McQueen's previous efforts. However, this may just be the marketing and the actual film is likely to be different. Hopefully, it will still receive some Oscar consideration.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why The Lone Ranger fizzled

Director: Gore Verbinski

                Disney’s latest tentpole, The Lone Ranger is underperforming at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo as of July 12th, it’s only made $87 million worldwide so far. This is far short of its reported budget of $215 million.
                It was defeated by the animated film Despicable Me 2, which came out the same weekend. It’s already made over $300 million, which is more what Disney was looking for. Both were aimed at a family audience, at looks like there was only room for one over the holiday weekend.

                The character of The Lone Ranger debuted on radio in 1933. It eventually became a TV show that ran from 1949 to 1957. There were two films based on the series as well as a 1981 film based on the character.
                This film has been in development since 2007 and has been plagued by budget problems. It was at one point scheduled for a release date in 2011. The director Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and stars Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, all had to do defer part of their salaries to cover the budget. Then it was scheduled for May 31, before being pushed back to the Fourth of July.

                The final product is disappointing. One of many missteps is beginning the film with a questionable framing device involving an aged Tonto in a museum exhibit about Native Americans. It cuts back to this throughout the film.
This sort of establishes it as Tonto’s story. This is a complaint many reviewers have noted; the titular character plays second fiddle to Johnny Depp’s quirky portrayal. Armie Hammer just doesn’t have the star power or presence to compete. Depp’s performance is adequate, but it could be seen as somewhat stereotypical and insulting to Native Americans. He also calls the Lone Ranger “kemosabe” way too often. And the old age makeup on Tonto is unconvincing. There are some good actors in the supporting cast, such as James Badge Dale, Tom Wilkinson, and William Fichtner, but they are all wasted here.

Many in the media blamed the failure of The Lone Ranger on the fact that it is based on a character that most under 50 are unfamiliar with.  People weren’t exactly clamoring for a Lone Ranger movie. But it could have at least made a decent showing if it hadn’t been so forgettable.
There’s a decent amount of over the top action, but it all feels like something we’ve seen plenty of times before. The film is also 2 and a half hours long; it probably should have been about 20 minutes shorter.

RATING: 3/10 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Media News Roundup (Friday)

Full length trailer for Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster released

X-Force movie is being planned

Trailer out for How to Train Your Dragon 2

New Arcade Fire album will come out October 29

Ant-Man script finished

Pacific Rim delivers

Director: Guillermo del Toro

                Pacific Rim delivers on the promise of its marketing. The Jaeger vs Kaiju battles are stunning and the special effects are perfect. The cast is solid as well. As Raleigh the main character, Charlie Hunnam doesn't give too much depth to the performance, but it really isn't that kind of role. Idris Elba is his typical badass self as the head of the Jaeger program, Stacker Pentecost.  Rinko Kikuchi is not bad either as Mako Mori, Raleigh’s co-pilot.
                Probably the biggest standout in the cast is Charlie Day as an off-kilter scientist studying the Kaiju. Day became famous for writing, producing and starring in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This is his first major role in dramatic film. He’s sort of a comic relief character, but much more restrained than his It’s Always Sunny character.
                There’s also a decent performance by del Toro regular Ron Perlman. He plays Hannibal Chau, a black market Kaiju organ dealer. This is the fifth time Perlman has appeared in a film directed by Guillermo del Toro.

                Pacific Rim hooks you early, but then takes perhaps a bit too long getting to the action. However, the movie didn't get too bogged down in details. Idris Elba just has to say a couple of sentences to convince Hunnam to pilot the Jaegers again. He’s just that much of a badass. His climactic speech is not much longer, but it gets the point across. The editing is pretty brisk; scenes never linger too long. Del Toro acknowledged in an interview that fellow directors Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón helped him cut the film.

                They definitely struck the right tone. del Toro took it seriously enough that it wasn't a joke, but not so serious that it’s no longer fun. The marketing played up the action, but I was pleasantly surprised by the scenes that didn't involve any enormous robots or monsters. They didn't try to make everything dark and gritty like so many blockbusters these days. (I’m looking at you, Man of Steel.) 

                MINOR SPOILER...

I also really liked how the film doesn’t end with a kiss, but rather a hug. It definitely seemed like it was headed for that cliché.

                Pacific Rim is supposedly tracking at an opening of around $40 or $50 million. It’s going up against Grown Ups 2, which is looking at a similar opening weekend. Despicable Me 2 is still doing well, so it remains to be seen how much Pacific Rim will end up with. It hasn't been a good summer for blockbusters that weren't part of an established franchise.

RATING:  8/10

UPDATE: Grown Up 2 made $16.5 million on Friday This beat Pacific Rim, which only grossed $14.6 million. Pacific Rim is on pace to make around $37 million for the weekend, below projections.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Heat is serviceable but nothing special

                Director: Paul Feig

The Heat is a serviceable comedy that provides a few laughs, but never really achieves its full potential. A lot of the funniest bits are in the trailer. Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock are both believable in their roles, but the script doesn't have too much for them to work with. They have a good rapport and their back and forth can be quite humorous. With better material, these two could make a hilarious movie.
                The film is pretty predictable overall, but I don’t think anyone came in expecting an original plot. It follows the formula found in many buddy-cop movies, that of a mismatched pair. Bullock is fastidious and by-the-book, while McCarthy is boorish and foul-mouthed. The main twist on the formula is that they are women.
The Heat gets sort of repetitive at times, with McCarthy’s obnoxious behavior often driving the comedy. It seems to have a message about women in the workplace, but it appears to be lost in the mix. This movie is definitely a step down from Feig’s previous effort Bridesmaids. It doesn't take the risks that film does.
The Heat is worth watching, but I would probably wait for a DVD rental

RATING: 6/10

Media News Roundup (Monday)

Charlie Kaufman is adapting Slaughterhouse Five for Guillermo del Toro

Guardians of the Galaxy villains revealed (possibly)

Oldboy trailer to be released this Wednesday\

Disney could lose $150 million on Lone Ranger

First clip from The Wolverine is out

New David Lynch album streaming at Pitchfork

Pearl Jam announce North American tour

New Poster for Spike Lee's Oldboy released

This is the second poster from the Spike Lee remake of the Korean film Oldboy. It looks a bit more chipper than the first poster. The film comes out October 25 and stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson.

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film (Part Five: 1995-1999)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4


            The biggest comic book film of 1995 was easily Batman Forever. It was technically a sequel to Batman Returns but had little in the way of continuity with that film. Returns did alright at the box office, but Warner Bros. thought it could have done better. This was due in part to the perceived dark nature of Burton’s films.
WB decided to have Burton just be a producer instead of directing. To replace Burton, they went with Joel Schumacher. At the time, Schumacher’s biggest hits were St. Elmo’s Fire and The Lost Boys. The studio thought he’d bring a much lighter tone to the Batman series.
Michael Keaton was also replaced as Batman. There are conflicting reports as to why this was the case. Rumors surfaced that Keaton was asking for too much money. Keaton claimed that he didn’t like the direction Schumacher wanted to take the series in. Also, the studio supposedly wanted a younger Bruce Wayne who was more traditionally attractive. This led them to casting Val Kilmer in the part. Johnny Depp and Daniel Day Lewis were considered. It’s hard to picture Lewis in a comic book movie, but I’m sure he would have been an amazing Batman.
Forever was the first of this series to feature Robin. Marlon Wayans was again considered for the role and was even signed. However, before filming, Schumacher changed his mind and decided to go with Chris O’Donnell. Robin’s backstory is similar to that of the comics. He was an acrobat whose family was killed. However, in the film, unlike the comics, Two-Face is the one who killed his family.
Batman Forever is a decent film. But it unfortunately started the descent into camp that culminated in perhaps the worst big-budget comic book movie ever, 1997’s Batman and Robin.

Another 1995 major release to be taken from comics was Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone. It was directed by Danny Cannon (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer). Judge Dredd is a very popular comic character in Britain from the magazine “2000 A.D.” I haven’t read any Judge Dredd comics, but apparently the movie is only faithful to the general idea and has a much different tone.
The film also featured one of the most annoying actors in history in a large role, Rob Schneider. They originally wanted Joe Pesci. Obviously, if Joe Pesci turns you down, the next logical choice is Rob Schneider. I hear he was Scorsese’s original choice for Goodfellas [sarcasm].
The film didn’t do well with critics and was a commercial flop as well. It only made $113 million on a $90 million budget.

Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight was also released in 1995. However, it was an original story not based on the comics. The director was Ernest Dickerson, who has directed episodes of The Wire, Dexter, and The Walking Dead, as well as the terrible Snoop Dogg film, Bones. He was also the cinematographer on several Spike Lee films, including Malcolm X and Do the Right Thing. The film starred Jada Pinkett Smith, Billy Zane, Thomas Haden Church, and William Sadler.
Finally, we have Tank Girl, based on the comic created by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett in the late 1980s. Hewlett went on to be the animator for the virtual band Gorillaz. It was directed by Rachel Talalay and starred Lori Petty (Point Break) as the title character along with Ice-T and Naomi Watts.


            There were no major comic films this year, but there were 4 minor adaptations. One of these was a sequel to The Crow, titled The Crow: City of Angels. It was directed by Tim Pope, who was mostly known for directing music videos for The Cure. The cast included Vincent Pérez, Iggy Pop, Mia Kirshner, and the future Punisher, Thomas Jane.
            This film was the first of many comic book adaptations to be written by David S. Goyer. At the time, he had only written B-horror movies such as The Puppet Masters and Demonic Toys. He would go on to write all three installments in both the Blade trilogy and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, as well as Man of Steel.
            The Crow: City of Angels is absolutely terrible and honestly painful to watch due to the annoying red tint that pervades the film. Both Pope and Goyer disowned it due to studio interference.

            There was also another Tales from the Crypt film that came out in 1996, titled Bordello of Blood. It starred Dennis Miller, Corey Feldman, and Chris Sarandon. The director was Gilbert Adler who went on to produce Constantine and Superman Returns.
            We also have Barb Wire, based on the Dark Horse comic series that ran from 1994 to 1995. The cast featured Pamela Anderson, Temuera Morrsion (who later played Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II) and Udo Kier.
            Lastly, there was a direct to video adaptation of Vampirella, who was created in 1969.


            And now we come to perhaps the most infamous of all comic book films, Batman and Robin. Joel Schumacher returned to direct and Tim Burton was no longer involved in any capacity. Chris O’Donnell reprised the role of Robin (whose costume was based on that of Nightwing), but Val Kilmer did not return as Batman. Instead George Clooney played Bruce Wayne. Clooney toned down the dark aspects of the character from previous installments. He was much more well-adjusted than the previous Batmans.
            The main villain was Mr. Freeze. His origin story was based on the animated show Batman, not the comics. He was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was one of many missteps. Schwarzenegger made Mr. Freeze into a campy joke, making some sort of cold related pun every five minutes. Also considered for the role were Anthony Hopkins, Sylvester Stallone, and Hulk Hogan. Hogan would probably have been even worse than Arnold, if that’s even possible.
            The other villains were Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Robert Swenson as Bane. Thurman definitely dialed up the camp for her roles, but wasn’t as bad as Mr. Freeze. Bane is almost nothing like his comic counterpart. In the comics, Bane is one of Batman’s most intelligent and dangerous rogues. However in this film, he is just a dumb brute that does the bidding of Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy.
            Batman and Robin also introduced Batgirl to the series. In a bit of uninspired casting, Schumacher chose Alicia Silverstone. She was very popular at the time, mainly for her part in the 1995 film Clueless. Her career took a hit from this movie that she never really recovered from.
            Batgirl’s origin was changed from the source material. Originally, she was Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, but in Batman and Robin, she’s Alfred’s niece. This change makes sense because Gordon is not nearly as important in the films as he is in the comics.
            The film was an unmitigated disaster. Critics lambasted it and it is often considered the worst superhero movie ever. The damage was so severe that Batman did not appear on film again until 2005. Schumacher and Clooney were at one point set to return for a sequel, but this quickly changed when the film was released. The potential sequel was going to be called “Batman Triumphant” and featured Scarecrow as the villain.
            Instead, WB considered doing a Batman Beyond film based on the animated series of the same name. The show featured an elderly Bruce Wayne training a young protégé in the future. This idea was also abandoned, and the studio made plans for “Year One”.
Batman: Year One was a well-received graphic novel by Frank Miller that told Batman’s origins. WB got Miller to write the script for the film version with Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) directing. This film was going to be radically different than most conceptions of Batman and featured Alfred as a black mechanic. This was also abandoned for a Batman vs. Superman film. This too was tossed aside for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

Also in 1997, we have the film adaptation of Men in Black, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. It was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, known for Get Shorty and being the cinematographer on a few Coen Brothers films. The film is apparently quite different from the source material. In the comics, the MIB face all sorts of supernatural creatures, such as werewolves, demons, mutants, and zombies. The film just focused on aliens.
The film was very successful, grossing almost $600 million on only a $90 million budget. It won the Oscar for best makeup and spawned two sequels.

1997 also saw the release of Spawn, based on the Todd MacFarlane character. Spawn was created in 1992 and became quite popular in the mid-90s. Michael Jai White portrayed the title character, making him the first African-American superhero on film. It was directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé, who since then has mostly done made-for-TV and direct to video films.

Finally, we have the movie Steel, starring NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. It was based on the DC character of the same name, AKA John Henry Irons. The film was quite different from the source material. It was also a massive bomb, making only $1.7 million at the box office.


            One of the first successful superhero films that didn’t involve Superman or Batman was 1998’s Blade. It was also Marvel’s first hit film and showed that comic book films were viable properties.
            Blade, created in 1973 for Marvel, was a vampire hunter. The filmed adaptation was directed by Stephen Norrington, who went on to direct the comic book film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It was written by David S. Goyer, who wrote the two Blade sequels as well. Wesley Snipes starred as Blade, with Kris Kristofferson and Stephen Dorff. Blade made over $130 million. Comic movies were now taken a bit more seriously, a fact cemented two years later by the smash hit X-Men.


            Two comic adaptations were released in 1999. One was Mystery Men, starring Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, William H. Macy, Greg Kinnear, Geoffrey Rush, and Hank Azaria. It was directed by Kinka Usher, who hasn’t directed a film since. Mystery Men was pretty funny, but it bombed at the box office. It cost about $68 million to make, and only grossed $33 million. However, over the years, it has garnered a better reputation.

            Finally, there’s the film Virus, based on the Dark Horse comic created by Chuck Pfarrer. It starred Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland, and William Baldwin. Virus got poor reviews and flopped at the box office.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The History of Comic Book Adaptations to Film (Part Four: 1990-1994)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


            The 1980s had not been kind to comic book films. There were a couple hits, but several flops. The 90s were a bit of an improvement. While it had its fair share of awful adaptations, there were multiple successful ones. By the end of the decade, comic book movies were about to blow up.

            The first big one of the 1990s was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles were created in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. They reached the mainstream through an animated kid’s show that ran from 1987 to 1996.
            The film version was directed by Steve Barron, known for Coneheads and iconic music videos like Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing”, and “Take On Me” by A-Ha. One of the few big names in the cast was 80s star Corey Feldman as the voice of Donatello. The Turtles were made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Image result for tmnt 1990 movie poster

            Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a huge hit, making over $200 million on a budget of only $13.5 million. At the time, it had generated more money than any other independent film.
            The filmed versions were lighter and more kid-friendly than the comics. Another big difference is that in the movies, the Turtles are human-sized, but only 3 or 4 feet tall in the source material.
            On the other end of the spectrum, we have 1990’s Captain America. It was reportedly made for only $10 million, and it shows. It’s faithful to the basic story of Captain America from the comics. Steve Rogers gets injected with a serum by the U.S. government, fought in WWII, gets frozen for 50 years, and battles the Red Skull. However, the Red Skull is not a German named Johann Schmidt. Instead, he’s Italian and his name is Tadzio de Santis.
            Captain America was not released for quite a while and finally came out direct to video in 1992. Captain America would not appear again on film until the 2011 Marvel Studios film, Captain America: The First Avenger.

            The only other comic adaptation to be released that year was Hardware, which was based off a story from the British comic 2000 A.D. without the permission of its creators.

            Due to the popularity of the first film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was produced the next year. It was directed by Michael Pressman who directed Doctor Detroit with Dan Aykroyd and some episodes of Law and Order and Weeds. Corey Feldman did not return for this installment. The sequel showed the Turtles using their weapons a lot less. This is because the first film was seen by some as too violent for a children’s film. Many other countries have strict rules about showing martial arts weapons. So in this one, they often fight using just their fists.

            The other comic film to come out in 1991 was The Rocketeer. The character has been around since 1982 and the film was in development hell since 1983. It was directed by Joe Johnston who went on to make Jumanji, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Wolfman, and Jurassic Park 3. The movie featured a young Jennifer Connelly and had many homages to film serials.

            The only comic adaptation to be released this year was the highly anticipated Batman Returns, the sequel to 1989’s Batman. Tim Burton returned as director, as did Michael Keaton as Batman.

This movie included Danny DeVito as The Penguin. He was a bit different than in the comics. In the comics, he’s a rich mobster, but in Burton’s world, he’s a deformed freak. Catwoman also appears, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer. Catwoman’s main characteristic in the comics is that of a thief, but she doesn’t steal anything in Batman Returns.

The third villain is Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. His name is a reference to Max Schreck, the actor who played Count Orlok in Nosferatu. This is not surprising given Burton's obvious affinity for German Expressionism.

The script originally contained Harvey Dent and Robin, but they were eventually written out. Marlon Wayans was at one point cast as Robin, an odd choice to say the least.

            Again there was only one comic book film in 1993, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. It was directed by Stuart Gillard, who mostly works in television. Corey Feldman came back for this one as the voice of Donatello.
            The film got mostly negative reviews and currently sits at 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. This is the last live action TMNT film to date. There would not be another Turtles film until the animated TMNT in 2007.

            One of the best comic films of the 90s was The Crow. It was adapted from the eponymous comic series created by James O’Barr in 1989. It’s about a man who witnessed his girlfriend being raped and beaten before both of them were killed. He is then resurrected by a crow in order to take revenge.
The film was written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. Alex Proyas directed, this being his first major feature. He went on to direct the excellent Dark City, the not-so-excellent Knowing, and the Will Smith vehicle I, Robot.

The Crow was a critical and commercial success, but it became infamous because of the death of Brandon Lee (the son of Bruce Lee) during filming. He died due to an accidental gun discharge. The firearms specialist was sent home early, so an unqualified props assistant was handling the weapons. He didn’t check the gun for the cartridge that was in the chamber. The gun was fired with a blank, which propelled the cartridge into Lee’s stomach. The script was rewritten and the film was finished.

Another success of 1994 was The Mask, based on a Dark Horse comic created by John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke. The movie version was directed by Chuck Russell (Eraser, The Scorpion King) and written by Mike Werb (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Face/Off).

 Starring in the main role was Jim Carrey. Carrey wasn’t that famous yet; his only major film prior to this was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which had been released earlier that year. This film, along with Dumb and Dumber, made Carrey a huge star. This was also the first film role for Cameron Diaz, excluding a soft core bondage flick that came out in 1992. The Mask was actually nominated for an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, but it lost to Forrest Gump.

Also made this year was The Fantastic Four. It was produced by Roger Corman and Bernd Eichinger. Eichinger bought the rights to the characters in 1986. The rights were set to expire in 1992. He wanted to renew the rights, but Marvel had other ideas. Eichinger had to begin production on a film in order to keep the rights.
The thing is, the contract didn’t say anything about how good the film had to be or big of a budget it had to have. So Eichinger and Corman set about making a low budget Fantastic Four movie. Stories differ as to whether or not the film was ever intended to see the light of day. Eichinger claimed that he didn’t intend to release it, but Stan Lee stated that it was just done to keep the rights. Eventually Marvel realized how bad the film was going to be, and offered to pay back the production costs if Eichinger agreed not to release it. Marvel didn’t want the brand to be irreversibly damaged by a B-movie and it is unreleased to this day. Eichinger eventually produced the big-budget Fantastic Four in 2005, followed by a sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Two other comic adaptations were released this year. One was Richie Rich, based on the Harvey Comics character. It starred Macaulay Culkin in his last role as a child actor. The other was Timecop, based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name. It was directed by Peter Hyams (2010: The Year We Make Contact) and starred Jean-Claude Van Damme. This was Van Damme’s highest grossing film.

Media News Roundup (Tuesday)

Entertainment headlines from today:

Breaking Bad spinoff with Saul Goodman is being developed

Dark Knight trilogy Ultimate Collector's edition announced

Spielberg is producing an adaptation of Grapes of Wrath

James Franco is directing an adaptation of The Sound and the Fury

The Lone Ranger facing negative buzz

Most Anticipated Films of 2014: Part 3

5/23 X Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer)

                This looks to be the mother of all X-Men movies. First of all, they are bringing back Singer, the director of the first two installments. Also, the casts from the original trilogy and the prequel X-Men First Class are combining forces. That means Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, and Anna Paquin are returning. No word yet on whether or not Famke Janssen (Jean Grey) or James Marsden (Cyclops) will appear.
 Returning First Class members include Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult. Peter Dinklage, known for his role as Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones, is playing a villain rumored to be Bolivar Trask. Also appearing will be the character of Quicksilver. Quicksilver is able to be used by both Fox and Marvel Studios and he will also appear in the upcoming The Avengers 2. He will most likely have a much bigger part in the Whedon film.

The film will be set in the 1970s and features time travel. The original Days of Future Past storyline was published in 1981 and showed a future where Sentinels are in control and mutants are kept in internment camps. Kitty Pride then travels back in time to warn the X-Men.


8/1 Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn)

                This will be the last Marvel Studios film before The Avengers 2 in 2015.  The Guardians are not that well known but they are important to the Marvel universe. Much of the cast has already been set. Chris Pratt, who has been in Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, and the show Parks and Recreation, will play the main role, Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord.
Zoe Saldana (Avatar) is playing the blue-skinned Gamora. Drax the Destroyer, whose sole purpose in life is to kill the villain Thanos, is being portrayed by former pro wrestler Dave Bautista. The other members of the Guardians of the Galaxy include Groot, a huge tree who is only capable of saying “I am Groot” and Rocket Raccoon, a violent talking raccoon. The actors for these roles have not been announced yet. It is also rumored that Thanos will play a large part in this film; he hasn’t been cast yet either.
John C. Reilly is in the film as the leader of the Nova Corps. Benicio del Toro, Lee Pace, and Glenn Close have also been cast in unknown roles. GOTG is being directed by James Gunn, director of Slither and Super.

8/22 Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller)

                The directing team of Rodriguez and Miller are returning for the long-awaited sequel to Sin City. Many cast members from the first are coming back, including Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, and Powers Boothe. Josh Brolin takes over Clive Owen’s role of Dwight. Eva Green and Joseph Gordon-Levitt also join the cast.
                A Dame to Kill For was going to be released this October, but was pushed back to 2014. The sequel is based on 4 stories, two of which were created just for the movie.


11/7 Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)

Nolan’s first effot since 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises will be the science fiction film Interstellar. According to IMDB, the film is “An exploration of physicist Kip Thorne's theories of gravity fields, wormholes and several hypotheses that Albert Einstein was never able to prove.” It stars Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, and Casey Affleck.
Nolan’s usual cinematographer Wally Pfister is unavailable due to him shooting his directorial debut. Instead, he’s going with Hoyte van Hoytema, who was the DP on Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy and Let the Right One in.


12/12 Tomorrowland (Brad Bird)

                The is the second live action from Brad Bird, who directed The Incredibles, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It stars George Clooney and Hugh Laurie (House) as the villain.
                The screenplay was written by Bird, Jeff Jensen, and Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus). Michael Giacchino (Lost, Star Trek) is doing the score. Not much is known about the film at this point.

12/17 The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Peter Jackson)

                The final film in Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy is coming out December 2014. It was only going to be two movies but they decided to make it three. Many fans saw this as an unnecessary grab for money. After all, The Hobbit book is shorter than each installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and those were all just made into one movie. However, Jackson has padded The Hobbit out with material that was not originally found in the book.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Most Anticipated Films of 2014: Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.


2/7 The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Chris Miller)

Although this may not sound like a great idea on paper, the humorous trailer definitely sold me. Lord and Miller have directed 21 Jump Street and the animated film Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs. They’re also writing the screenplay.
 The film has a star-studded cast featuring Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Ferrell. However the highlight might be Arrested Development star Will Arnett as Batman. Channing Tatum was supposed to be Superman, but had to drop out. The trailer is embedded below.


3/7 300: Rise of an Empire (Noam Murro)

The sequel to the 2007 film 300 (Zack Snyder) was originally supposed to come out this August, but has been pushed back to next March. Murro has only directed one previous film, 2008’s Smart People starring Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker. The movie follows the plot of an upcoming Frank Miller graphic novel titled Xerxes.
Returning from the first film are Rodrigo Santoro (Lost) as Xerxes and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) as Queen Gorgo. Eva Green also appears as Artemisia. This probably won’t be a great film, but I’m curious to see how this turns out anyway. Check out the trailer here.

3/28 Noah (Darren Aronofsky)

This is definitely a contender for the most exciting film of 2014. Darren Aronofsky is one of the most talented directors of our time, having made amazing films such as Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, and Black Swan. The script has leaked online and it is excellent. I’m curious to see how Christians react to the portrayal of Noah.
Noah is loosely based on the biblical story. It stars Russell Crowe as the title character and Jennifer Connelly as his wife. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson are also featured. Clint Mansell, who has done the music for all of Aronofsky’s films, is again writing the score.


4/4 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Russo Brothers)

The First Avenger is back in the sequel to the 2011 Marvel Studios film. This will be the third time Chris Evans is portraying the character, the second being the 2012 film The Avengers. Scarlett Johansson will be reprising her role from Iron Man 2 and The Avengers as the Black Widow; the same goes for Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders and Maria Hill. The large amount of Avengers cast members has led some fans to view this as a sort of Avengers 1.5.
Robert Redford is making his first Marvel Cinematic Universe appearance as Alexander Pierce, a high-ranking SHIELD member who is rumored to be a villain. Also joining the series is Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, Frank Grillo as Crossbones, and UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre as Batroc the Leaper.
Sebastian Stan returns as Bucky Barnes (who appeared to die in the first film), but this time, he’s the villainous Winter Soldier. In the comics, Barnes is thought dead, but reappears as a brainwashed Soviet agent.  He had a relationship with Black Widow, so it will be interesting to see if this is carried over to the film.
The Russo Brothers are directing, which is somewhat of an odd choice, seeing as they are mainly known for comedies such as the mediocre You, Me, and Dupree and the TV show Community. However, I’ve enjoyed all the MCU films so far, so I have confidence in their choices, which often seem odd at first.

4/18 Transcendence (Wally Pfister)

                This is Pfister’s first film as director, but he has a great resume as cinematographer, including Moneyball and Christopher Nolan films such as Inception, Memento, and all three of his Batman movies.  Nolan is an executive producer on Transcendence. The movie is about scientists trying to develop computers than can surpass the abilities of the human brain.
The cast includes Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara (House of Cards), Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins), and Paul Bettany. The screenplay was written by Jack Paglen, who is also writing the upcoming sequel to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. The film is being distributed by Warner Brothers.


5/2 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Marc Webb)

Webb returns to direct the second film in the rebooted franchise starring Andrew Garfield. Also returning is Emma Stone (Superbad) as Spider-Man’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy. There are several new additions to the cast as well. Jamie Foxx joins as the main villain, the blue-skinned Electro. Paul Giamatti plays the villainous Rhino.
Furthermore, Chris Cooper will be playing Norman Osborne AKA The Green Goblin. He’s the head of Oscorp, which was featured in the first film, but his character was only hinted at. Dane DeHaan plays his son, Harry Osborne, in the role played by James Franco in the original trilogy. The character of Mary Jane Watson was also cast, but now she is apparently being saved for the third movie.
Sony has already announced the release dates for the third and fourth film in the series. Number three will come out in June 2016 and the fourth in May 2018. This is very far in advance for a studio to declare a release date. They likely want to claim these highly competitive summer spots.

Media News Roundup: Monday

Here are some media headlines from today:

Christian Bale says he will not be in Justice League movie

Rumors of a Hellboy 3?

Enter the Dragon star Jim Kelly dies at age 67

Sexual abuse lawsuits against Elmo puppeteer thrown out

The Pixies announce European tour dates

The Bible miniseries is getting an NBC sequel

Most Anticipated Films of 2014: Part 1

My most anticipated films of 2013 can be found Here and Here.


Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard)
                The most recent film by the legendary Godard, Film Socialisme, shows that he’s just as experimental as ever. His upcoming movie appears to continue this trend. Goodbye to Language is being made in 3D, which may come as a bit of a shock to Godard fans. I can’t even imagine how Godard would use 3D technology but the result will undoubtedly be interesting.

Nymphomaniac (Lars Von Trier)
Von Trier’s films are always controversial, and this one should be no exception. As the title suggests, there will be explicit sex scenes. Supposedly, they will be unsimulated. This shouldn’t be too shocking coming from Lars, as Antichrist featured a close up of a penis entering a vagina. However, it is rumored the film will use CGI to put the faces of the well-known stars on body doubles.
It stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe, the nymphomaniac of the title. She has starred in Von Trier’s last two pictures, Antichrist and Melancholia. Also appearing are Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Willem Dafoe and Jamie Bell.
Reportedly, Nymphomaniac will be released as a two-parter. The first is going to come out in Denmark on Christmas (should be a good holiday movie for the family). It has not yet received a United States release date. This is probably my most anticipated film of 2014.

Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Anderson, the director of There Will Be Blood and The Master, is directing this adaption of the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. Pynchon is one the most influential postmodern authors. He has been writing since the 1950s and is most known for V and Gravity’s Rainbow. He’s an excellent writer but his style doesn’t seem to lend itself to a filmed adaptation. This is the first Pynchon work to be made into a movie. But if anyone can do it, it would be the brilliant P.T. Anderson, who also wrote the screenplay.
The star of The Master, Joaquin Phoenix, joins forces with Anderson once more for this film. Other actors in this include Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, and Jena Malone.

Vernon God Little (Werner Herzog)
Vernon God Little is the debut novel by DBC Pierre, written in 2003. It’s about a fifteen year old boy whose friend commits suicide, leading to him being suspected for murder. The acclaimed, eccentric director of Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo is directing the adaptation. The screenplay is written by Andrew Birkin (The Name of the Rose, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer).

Suspiria (David Gordon Green)
Green is mostly known for directing comedies such as Pineapple Express, The Sitter, and Your Highness. He’s also done several episodes of the HBO series Eastbound and Down. In 2014, he’s intending to release a remake of the classic 1977 Dario Argento film, Suspiria. However, there is some doubt as to if the movie will be actually be made due to legal issues.

Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg)
                Not much is known about the new Cronenberg film coming out next year. We do know he is reuniting with Cosmopolis star Robert Pattinson. Maps to the Stars also features Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, and John Cusack. The screenplay is by Bruce Wagner, who wrote several episodes of State of the Union and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3:  Dream Warriors.
The plot synopsis on IMDB only states, “Complex look at Hollywood and what it reveals about Western culture.” An article on has a more enlightening plot summary. It reads as follows: “Led by the loathsome yet funny and touching child-star Benjie, we witness the convoluted world of shallow, selfish celebrities and their minions, all of whom are about to be manipulated and destroyed by the young woman who literally represents the fruit of their twisted machinations, Agatha, Benjie’s tormented, apparently psychotic sister.”

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
Lanthimos is the director of the highly acclaimed Dogtooth, as well as Alps and Kinetta. According to ioncinema, “This is a love story set in a dystopia, and Lanthimos has described the film as an observation of “the ways and reasons certain people come together to form couples, while others don’t.” Ioncinema lists this film as their most anticipated of 2014.