Monday, August 31, 2009

Comic Observations: The Avengers vs. Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers

In what I'm calling the "Holy Shit!" move of the day, The Walt Disney Company has announced that it has sealed a deal to buy Marvel Entertainment, Inc for $4 billion.

Although Marvel shareholders will have to approve the deal, I'm going to hazard that with them getting paid $30 a share for their stock and getting .745 Disney shares for every Marvel share they own, it's going to go through. It also has to pass an investigation to see if it violates anti-trust laws, but that seems to be a formality more than anything else.

This means that Disney now owns the rights to Marvel's library of over 5,000 characters, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. Currently, Marvel has three divisions; an licensing arm, a publishing arm and a film production unit. It's unknown what, if any, changes Disney plans to make.

While it may seem as if Disney is gobbling up a smaller company, the Mouse may need Spidey more than you'd think. According to a NY Times article, Disney has been struggling of late, with its profits dropping 26% in the third quarter. Disney's net income in the last year fell from $1.28 billion to $954 million, and revenue dropped 7%.

Marvel, on the other hand, has been in its strongest position in decades, especially considering the company had been mired in bankruptcy, lawsuits and hostile takeovers in the beginning of this decade.

For comics fans, the real concern is what impact this merger will have on the books themselves and any future content. and on that front, opinion is divided. Comic book site Newsarama has run an article with a wide range of opinions from Comic industry insiders, all of who seem to be optimistic, if cautiously so:

"Hard to say how this will shake out, but it could be good for Marvel," said Tony Bedard, who has worked as both an editor and writer in the industry. "Hopefully, Disney recognizes that the current editorial team at Marvel knows what they're doing. With Time/Warner's deep pockets to back it up, DC can develop and nurture lower-selling titles like R.E.B.E.L.S. or Jonah Hex, whereas Marvel has had to watch their bottom line and cut titles a bit more ruthlessly. Perhaps Marvel will now be able to give more projects a fighting chance to find and grow their audience. I'm cautiously optimistic about this.

Comic book writer and teacher Andy Schmidt had this to say:

My first question as a story editor and writer is how will this affect content. And honestly, I doubt it will affect the comics very much at all, which is good. Marvel already has a strict work-for-higher [sic] contract so Disney's treatment of freelancers and their rights can only get better for creators--meaning we may see even better creators working for Marvel in the future. Disney is also well known for letting creative people do their work in a good working environment. Now that I think about it, I really don't see a downside--not that there isn't one, but if Disney's reputation holds true, we're probably gearing up to see some fresh ideas, new creative teams and wider exposure for Marvel's characters in the near future. I hold that change is good and exciting. It forces more creativity in the industry and I hope this will only encourage and challenge all creators and publishers to get out there with fresher and better content.

So, will Mickey Mouse pop up in the X-Men? Will Goofy team up with Spider-Man? Probably not, but I'm estimating we'll see a lot more Marvel rides at Disneyland, and a whole bunch more cartoons. If Disney is smart (and let's face it, they are) they'll largely leave Marvel alone and let them continue to do what they're doing.

But, please give Pixar Fantatic Four. How cool would that be?




Thursday, August 27, 2009

10 Sequels Better Than The Originals (Part 2)

And now, here's the top five of my list of the ten sequels that are better than the originals:

5 – The Road Warrior Mad Max was a very good movie; a brutal, rough and ready action film that broke rules and introduced the world to an Aussie star named Mel Gibson. The first film mainly dealt with the breakdown of a society choking on crime and environmental decay, embodied by the plight and brutal revenge of a cop and family man forced to become more a force of nature in the face of anarchy. The Road Warrior is about the end of the world, where things become completely simplified to focus on pure survival and how, in such circumstances, community becomes precious. With its darker viewpoint and plot and characters stripped down to their absolute, archetypal essences, what you get is perhaps one of the purest action films ever made.




4- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a ponderous and glacial mess, rushed into release before fully completed. It tried to be 2001 in a post Star Wars era. Still, it made a lot of money, somehow. But with the second instalment, they realized that a long episode of the TV show wasn’t going to do. Underrated writer/director Nicolas Meyer worked with producer Harve Bennett to craft an amazingly tight, laser beam focused tale of revenge, obsession, aging and death. The plot, although it’s really only about one man trying to kill another, is expanded upon to reach almost epic dimensions. It’s propelled by the best acting Star Trek ever saw, notably by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban. Without this film, which is still the pinnacle of the franchise, the mighty Star Trek empire wouldn’t exist.



3 – The Empire Strikes Back A lot of people will disagree with me on my choice, but I stand by it; Empire is a better movie than Star Wars. You see, Star Wars gets the accolades because it’s the one that changed movies forever. As a phenomenon, it’s second to no other film save perhaps Gone With the Wind. But looking at it as a film, Empire has the superior story, direction and in many cases, effects. It’s just better. The darker atmosphere and more sophisticated script help to generate a very adult feel to the series, one that it would never have ever again. The story opens with the Hoth sequence, which is unbelievably well done, and then splits into two plots, basically. The Luke Skywalker plot, telling the tale of his maturation from na├»ve farm boy into heroic but neurotic Jedi is wholly engrossing, but the other plot, following the crew aboard the Millennium Falcon and their eventual downfall, is filled with as many great moments, anchored by the romance of Han Solo and Leia. The performances were never better, the scripts were never better, the thrills were never more visceral and complete. It’s the best.



2 – The Dark Knight Batman Begins was a much needed and exceptionally executed reboot of the Batman franchise, but at the end of the day, it was a great super-hero movie. It did have a thematic anchor exploring the nature of fear and how we deal with it, which elevated it slightly, but still, it was basically a great comic book film. The Dark Knight is great film, period. It’s a social commentary on how we, in the modern world, deal with forces of anarchy and points of view that are completely and utterly alien and in opposition to a civilized society. It looks at how we are tempted to abandon all of our better ideals for the illusion of safety and the restoration of normalcy. It looks at what we ask of the people who are called on to deal with the wolves at the gate, and how, too often, we don’t care how they get rid of them. And it does so all within the framework of an adventure story about a vigilante in a bat costume beating up a homicidal clown. Heath Ledger deserved his Oscar, posthumous or not, for a performance that is scary in its brilliance, and the rest of the cast also turn in memorable work. But it’s director Christopher Nolan and his team of writers who pull off the real magic.



1 – The Godfather Part 2 This is another one that people may argue with me about, but give me the story of Michael Corleone’s moral dissolution over the story his absorption into the family business any day. Listen, The Godfather is the more legendary film because it was the first, but Part 2 is the more ambitious and ultimately the richer film in the saga. Pacino is simply stunning as he portrays a man who loses his soul completely in exchange for his twisted desire to keep his family “safe”. This is the film that truly raises The Godfather saga from drama to a Shakespearean commentary on the pursuit of the American dream and the corrosive qualities of ambition and immorality. It’s filled with so many great directorial moments, genius writing and superb performances that suffice to say, it’s one of the best American films ever made.


Hope you all enjoyed it. See here for Part 1.

10 Sequels Better Than The Originals (Part 1)

Sequels are a tricky thing. For every triumph there's an Exorcist II: The Heretic. In fact, there are a lot of sequels that come dangerously close to ruining the goodwill you had for the first film (I'm looking at you, Escape From L.A.). Far, far rarer are those films that somehow manage to surpass the original. I think we should celebrate those rare beasts a little more often, so I'm presenting my list of ten sequels that, in my opinion, top the first films in the series.

Here's a few rules,
right off the bat; these are second films only, no third or fourth installments (so don't look for Goldfinger, or Casino Royale), and finally, there are no "pre-planned" sequels here (so don't look for Harry Potter movies, the Lord of the Rings films, or Superman II). I'm talking real, unadulterated sequels in the classic sense.

Ready? Let's start with numbers 10-6:

10 –
Spider-Man 2 A recurring point in this list is going to be the fact that all of these sequels take the original films and add a greater degree of complexity along with dialling up the more enjoyable aspects that made the first film a success. Spider-Man 2 is no exception, boasting a stronger and more emotionally charged story, a more tragic and captivating bad guy in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, and in Sam Raimi, a director at the absolute peak of his confidence and prowess. The operating room scene is vintage Evil Dead-type Raimi, while the elevated train action set piece is superbly constructed and executed.




9 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day The first film was basically an ingenious riff on the stalker/slasher films that dominated the 1980s, spruced up with some really cool visual effects and an iconic performance by Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the first film contained some great action sequences and some nifty sci-fi concepts at its core, the sequel took all of that and ran with it. Linda Hamilton morphed from helpless victim into ripped paranoid hard ass, Arnie morphed from bad guy into good guy and Robert Patrick just plain morphed as the T-1000. Not only did its visual effects literally change film forever, but it also was way riskier with the implications of its time travel pretzel plot, and its examinations of fatalism and consequence.


8 – Bride of Frankenstein After the first film was a hit for a depression-era Universal studios, director James Whale was given pretty much free reign to create a follow up, and he took that reign and went as far as he possibly could. The result is a film that is simultaneously weirder, scarier, more tragic and way funnier than its predecessor. Karloff continues to build on his legendary role but the creation of Dr. Pretorius, as played by Ernest Thesiger, is the film’s most genius move, providing the film with a villain that is both repellent and utterly fascinating.



7- Evil Dead 2 Raimi and star Bruce Campbell went back into the woods to create a sequel that is so utterly unconcerned with the first film that it’s really more of a remake. Their desire was simply to make the first film scarier, gorier and strangely enough, funnier. And they succeed on all fronts, crafting a film that is basically a macabre, gory cartoon with an idiot for a hero tormented by demons that have watched a lot of Three Stooges shorts. It’s made all the more remarkable by the sheer brilliance of Campbell’s performance and by Raimi’s incredible skill at using the camera in a hyper kinetic way.



6 – The Bourne Supremacy You know a spy film has really hit the mark when it becomes a major influence on the granddaddy of spy films, the James Bond franchise. Paul Greengrass took the Bourne series in a new direction, visually, as he put you inside fight scenes and car chases, forcing the viewer to experience them as a mad and vertiginous flurry of movement, much as the participants do. And, like many sequels, the subject matter was darker and more intense than the previous film, anchored by Matt Damon’s underrated portrayal of the tormented and irrevocably traumatized central character.




What’ll be in the top five? See you soon to find out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Just In: GAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!

So, I'm trolling the interwebs, minding my own biznizz, and I come across this:



JESUS CHRISTOS! What the fuck was that? Why would you do that? Look, I'm not sure what the fuck is going on in Asia, but you all need to stop making robots do this kind of shit. Stop it.

Brrrrrr, I won't be sleeping tonight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Inception" Teaser


What is it, Leo DiCaprio day here at the Nerd Report? Maybe it is. He's dreamy.

In
all seriousness, the teaser for Christopher Nolan's next film, entitled Inception, has been released and it looks really fascinating to me. Nolan has apparently said that it's set within the architecture of the mind. While I have no idea what the fuck that means, it just sounds cool doesn't it?

By
the way, I love that photo there. It's a photo of three guys who are all saying, "Hey, it fucking rocks to be rich and famous doesn't it? Yes it does. Who's up for cocaine and blow jobs?"

The cast is awesome; DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, and (because Nolan seems incapable of making a film without him) Michael Caine.

Gordon-Levitt had this to say recently:

Here’s the thing… I cant wait to talk to you about [Inception] but I’ve been very specifically asked not to talk about it. I want to respect [director Chris Nolan's wishes] because I love his movies and I’m so honored and grateful to be working with him. He’s got a really specific idea and way he wants people to be presented with this thing.

It just sounds cool. The last movie Nolan made in between Bat-flicks was the underrated The Prestige, so I'm looking forward to this:


"Shutter" gets the Shaft

This may be old news for some, but a few days ago, Paramount announced that it will pushing back the release of the highly anticipated Martin Scorsese film Shutter Island. The film will no longer open Oct. 2nd of this year, but will now bow in February, 2010.

The
studio is blaming fourth quarter financial woes for the move, and have stressed that it has nothing to do with the film itself, which has strong buzz and had received some early praise in test screenings. The move does mean that Paramount has no other high-profile film opening this fall until December, which sees Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones open. The studio has encountered this problem before, blaming financial concerns when they rescheduled The Soloist and Defiance last year. Neither film enjoyed critical or box office success as a result. Ironically, that decision was made to ostensibly free up marketing dollars for, among other films, Revolutionary Road, a DiCaprio film that did not fare well with the box office or during awards season.

So
now they move Shutter Island from the fall, where it's got a chance to open strong and pick up some award buzz, to February. February. What was the last film that opened in February that picked up a bunch of awards? Can't recall? That's because February is a trash month for movies. A lot of studios dump their stuff then, saving their blockbusters for spring/summer and their Oscar bait for fall/winter.

Some
are saying this is being done to make room for Up in the Air, the Jason Reitman directed, George Clooney starring film that doesn't have a solid release date as of yet, but is garnering buzz. shows how connected I am, this movie wasn't even on my radar.

Personally
, I think it's a bad move. It dumps on two big players in Hollywood, and Scorsese has said that if this hurts the picture, he may reconsider ever working with Paramount again. DiCaprio has to be pissed off, too. If Up in the Air or The Lovely Bones (which is a far riskier film) tanks, then they'll have nothing for awards season.

So
, this means that yet another film I put in a list of fall movies I am looking forward to is not coming out this fall. Maybe I'm bad juju.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nerdlinger's Most Anticipated Films of Fall 2009 (2)

Earlier, I posted five films that I'm eagerly looking forward to this fall/winter season. Now we come to the final five, along with some alternative choices for of ones that have definitely piqued my interest, but fall just short of being must-sees.

And
on we go:


5 - The Lovely Bones (Dec. 11) - Any project that involves Peter Jackson is automatically anticipated. Here's the thing though; King Kong really hurt his reputation. Not that it was bad. Jack Black's miscasting aside, I actually think it was a pretty great movie. But it fell into the classic trap that many uber-successful directors fall into; it was monumentally excessive. There was simply too much. Too much story, too many huge set pieces, too much big-ness. It's really up to this film to see if Jackson can reign himself in or not. It's got a lot going for it, namely that it's based on a beloved novel, and appears to be an effective melding of his Lord of the Rings visual wizardry with a Heavenly Creatures-like small scale, but powerful, story. Here's hoping it all comes together, because if it does, it could be the best film of the year.


4 - The Informant! (Sept. 18) - Has anyone got a handle on Steven Soderbergh? It's like he's two people, almost. One person is a skilled craftsman of mainstream dramas and crowd-pleasers (Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven and its sequels). The other is the iconoclastic indie filmmaker (sex, lies and videotape, The Limey, Solaris, Bubble, Che, The Girlfriend Experience). The odd thing is that both of these guys can direct some great films, albeit of totally differing styles and for totally different tastes. The Informant! is one directed by the first guy, but it seems to have a little flavour of the second. Also, Matt Damon looks to put in a great performance. Is it me, or is he underrated as an actor? Not as a movie star, but as an actor.


3 - Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16) - God, has it been seven years since Spike Jonze directed a film?!? How is that possible? He's only directed two full-length films (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) but both were stunningly good. Still, everyone works at their own speed, and I'm just happy Jonze is back. He's chosen a worth comeback, too, using the beloved children's book as source material. With his skewed viewpoint, this could be the most delightful film, capable of reaching the child in us all, but never sacrificing the endearing weirdness of his vision.



2 - Shutter Island (Oct. 2) - I read the Dennis Lehane novel on which this film was based, and I recall thinking at the time what a great movie it would make. The story takes place in 1954, as a pair of US Marshalls come to an isolated insane asylum looking for a homicidal patient that has disappeared and uncovering some sinister goings on, all as a hurricane bears down on them. It's a sort of hybrid story, beginning as a hard boiled mystery and quickly descending into a dark psychological thriller and finally into a kind of Gothic horror tale. It's the type of film that Martin Scorsese has never directed before, the closest equivalent being Cape Fear. The story is enough to get you in the door, and Marty's presence amps the anticipation to a huge degree. When you add in the cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Michele Williams and Jackie Earle Haley, and you've got what could turn out to be an unforgettable thriller.....or a godawful mess. Still, if you love film, you're waiting for this one.


1 - The White Ribbon (Dec. 25) - There's no doubt that Michael Haneke is one of the most controversial directors around, being either revered or reviled depending on whom you talk to. Personally, I like directors like this, it means they're at least bold and possessed of some sort of clear vision. As for his films, I've liked what I've seen (Cache, The Piano Teacher) an awful lot, but I'm a little scared to dive into his other films (Funny Games, Code Unknown) after hearing negative reviews from people I trust. Still, his latest film, which won the Palme D'or at Cannes this year, sounds like an amazing experience. It tells the tale of a small German community in 1914 that begins to experience ever escalating moments of violence and brutality perpetrated by unknown parties. As more is reveled, the audience is shown a community that seems bucolic but is in fact stern, cruel and unyielding. Is the community being punished for something? Many people have noticed that the children the story focuses on would grow to form the backbone of Nazi Germany, but Haneke has said that the film is actually about the origin of every type of terrorism, be it of political or religious nature. It looks absolutely mesmerizing.

So
those are the ones I'm dying to see. But here's a selection of other films coming out that look pretty great in their own right: Pandorum, Bright Star, The Invention of Lying, A Serious Man, Zombieland, Amelia, Antichrist, The Men Who Stare at Goats, 9, Brothers.

Gonna be a big Fall!

Nerdlinger's Most Anticipated Films of Fall 2009 (1)

Last year, I listed the ten films of the fall that I was most excited to see. The fall is always a great time of year for filmgoers, as studios release their heavy hitters during this time in order to compete for award attention. So, like last year, I'm going to list the ones that I'm most anticipating. What's shocking to me is that one of the movies from last year didn't come out after all, and now appears on this year's list.

So, without further ado,




10 - The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Nov. 13) - Wes Anderson directs a stop motion animation version of Roald Dahl's classic book, starring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Willem Dafoe. Instead of recording the voices in a conventional studio, Anderson took his cast on location to record their performances, with the cast actually doing the things their animated counterparts did. Meaning, if Mr. Fox was digging in the ground, Clooney dug in the ground; if the animals were eating, the cast ate. Cool. And yeah, The Darjeeling Limited was pretty awful, but the pairing of Anderson and Dahl could be a match made in heaven.

9 - Broken Embraces (Nov. 20) - Pedro Almodovar is quite simply one of the great filmmakers working in the world today, and when you pair him with Penelope Cruz, the result is one of the great actor/director collaborations in modern film. Centering on a tale of dangerous love, the film has the flavour of hard-boiled film noir. Though it got some mixed reviews at Cannes, I'll take a mixed film by almodovar over some director's successes.



8 - The Road (Oct.16) - The film was originally scheduled to be released in November of last year, but was pushed to this fall for reasons that still aren't entirely clear. Some say it was done after The Weinstein Company, the studio releasing the film, thought it could benefit from a less crowded release date and from more post-production. Others claim that the Weinsteins didn't want the film to distract Academy voters from the film they preferred, The Reader. Still, the film, based on a relentlessly bleak and sublimely brilliant Cormac McCarthy novel, recieved a blindlingly positive review from Esquire, which read in part: It is a brilliantly directed adaptation of a beloved novel, a delicate and anachronistically loving look at the immodest and brutish end of us all. You want them to get there, you want them to get there, you want them to get there — and yet you do not want it, any of it, to end.

I still can't wait to see it.



7 - Nine (Nov. 25) - 8 1/2 is one of the best movies ever made. It's certainly the best movie about making movies that has ever been made. It's perhaps the masterpiece of Federico Fellini, and that was a guy who had a few absolutely brilliant films under his belt. Nine is the musical version of that film. Before you get all snooty about remaking a classic, you should know the musical debuted on Broadway in 1982, when it ran for over 700 performances and won five Tonys, including best musical. Now Rob Marshall, who, it must be said, knows a thing or two about musicals, takes it to the big screen. What really makes this cool is who takes on the main role of Guido; Daniel Day Lewis (otherwise known as The Fucking Man).



6 - Precious (Nov. 6) - Lee Daniels directs this adaptation of Push, an autobiographical novel by Sapphire. It tells the harrowing and yet still elating story of Precious Jones, an overweight teenager growing up in Harlem and trying to survive being impregnated twice by her father and a hateful relationship with her mother. It won awards at Sundance and was screened in competition at Cannes. Receiving great reviews from papers like Variety, this could be the little film that blows everyone away this year.

See you soon for the final five!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You Make My Dreams Come True

Here's a clip from a terrific movie that's out right now called (500) Days of Summer. It's a great little film that deserves, in this season of bombastic and empty blockbusters, to have more people go and check it out. It's not a perfect flick, but it's smart, funny and poignant.

Here's an awesome clip that aptly and hilariously shows how every guy feels the day after the first night with a gal he's crazy for:



Best use of a Hall and Oates song ever. Sorry, The Wedding Singer, but it's true.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Could Give a S#*t About Twilight


I read the newspaper every day, and I flip onto Google News a few times a day as well. And every single day, I see another article about Twilight, the kids in Twilight who may or may not be fucking or holding hands or touching pee-pees or something, or how that British kid in Twilight is about thirty seconds away from being devoured by a pack of wild, roaming tweens.


Now, it must be said, I have not read the books. I have not seen the first movie, nor do I plan on seeing the rest. Why? Well, first off, these books are, from what I've been able to decipher, neither horror nor fantasy in the genre sense, nor are they a drama. No, what these seem to be really, is the new version of the Harlequin romance series. The series is apparently the literary equivalent of dry-humping, and if I wanted to re-experience that, I'd think about my own teenage years, thank you very much.


In any case, do these books and these movies seriously warrant this level of insanity? I could care less who Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson are fucking, or if they're fucking each other, and I'm more than a little pissed off that I even know their fucking names. They should exist for me only as Unwashed Douchey Guy and One Expression Girl. But, due to their ubiquity, when I do think about them, I think that if I were their age and single, with their level of fame and with everyone wanting them, I would fuck as many people as humanly possible.


And as for the pack of wild tweens (and their moms!) who seem intent on tearing off a piece of Pattinson's flesh to cram into their hope chest, you might need electroshock. He's just an actor! He's not the Beatles, for the love of Ringo! He's a guy that is pretty and played a character that is hundreds of years old and yet still chases jailbait for four novels.


Just stop forcing to me read up on this shit. I survived high school already, kay?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Comic Observations: I Teach You the Superman

The quote in the headline is from Nietzsche, but it's also quoted in the first issue of Marvelman, written by Alan Moore. Recently, at the just finished San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Comic EIC Joe Quesada announced that the publisher has acquired the rights to Marvelman, after over a decade of the character being stuck in legal hell.

This could be great news for comic book fans, as Alan Moore's run on Marvelman is believed to be the finest example of his deconstructionist approach to superheroes, besting even the much lauded Watchmen.

If you're on this site, and you don't know who Alan Moore is, well, shame on you. Moore began working as an underground cartoonist in 1970s England, before abandoning art and focusing solely on writing. After short stints writing strips for Doctor Who and the legendary British anthology comic 2000 AD, he began writing Captain Britain for Marvel UK. His 2000 AD strip, The Ballad of Halo Jones, was one of the most popular in the magazine, but Moore's outspoken and fierce commitment to creator's rights would soon force him to leave the series behind, as it would with almost every major publisher in the comic book world.

In 1982, he began writing for a new British anthology series called Warrior. Moore contributed two strips that would become legendary; V for Vendetta and Marvelman, the latter being Moore's take on a once-popular British rip-off of Captain Marvel. Unfortunately, Warrior folded before either of those stories were completed. Still, they were successful enough to gain American attention, and DC Comics hired Moore to revitalize their Swamp Thing series, which Moore did to startling effect, changing a tired horror series into a bizarre and mind bending tale of spirituality, ecology, and the flexible nature of love. During this time, DC reprinted Moore's uncompleted V for Vendetta series, allowing him to complete the story, and he worked on several of DC's big characters such as Batman and Superman.

Then, in 1986, came Watchmen. Moore, who had already been touted as among the most gifted comic book writers of his generation, was now a full-fledged visionary to readers. Coinciding with this, however, was the deterioration of his working relationship with DC, and the publisher would not get Marvelman. Instead, Moore took his magnum opus to a small publisher called Eclipse. The name of the character, and the book, was changed to Miracleman to avoid friction with Marvel Comics, who were litigious when it came to comic books with "marvel" on the cover. Picking up five years after he had originally been forced to abandon the series, he completed the story once and for all. However, after 16 issues he handed the reigns over to Neil Gaiman, who wrote the character until Eclipse folded in the 1990s.

And that's when the fun starts. Here's a good summary from a recent article:

The character was created by British writer and artist Mick Anglo in the 1960s. Years later it was revived by Warrior magazine and written by Alan Moore (back before he was Watchman [sic] writer Alan Moore). Neil Gaiman eventually took over the writing duties and the Moore's Warrior stories and then new stories, first from Moore and then from Gaiman, were released in North America by Eclipse Comics but with the name changed from Marvelman to Miracleman to avoid ticking off Marvel Comics.

But Eclipse folded and eventually (Todd) McFarlane bought the Eclipse intellectual properties believing he was also purchasing Miracleman. But Gaiman, who under a bizarre ownership structure believed he owned the rights, fought McFarlane on it...

This whole thing kept the character in complete limbo without even reprints of the character being allowed, which, of course, means any back issues and collections have been going for big money on eBay and illegal downloads are also being circulated online.

So how did this all get resolved? Well according to Marvel and Gaiman, when they looked at all the agreements over the years they concluded the rights were actually still held by Anglo. So Marvel made a deal with the Brit to buy Marvelman from him.

This will apparently allow Marvel to release the back issue stuff and create new material with the character.

However, Marvel's claim to back issues, especially the ones written by Moore and Gaiman, are far from certain at this point, what with a recently released, Quesada drawn, picture of MM (seen below) depicting him in his original costume, before it was updated during Moore's tenure.


So, maybe they only have the rights to the character pre-Warrior, which is pretty lame.

But, is it all worth the hype? Well, I just read Moore's entire run on the series for the first time through a website that will go unnamed. Maybe it's because I'm more familiar with Watchmen, Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but I honestly believe the series to be Moore's best, boldest and most richly satisfying work. It has literally blown my mind. I'm actually hesitant to read Gaiman's arc, because Moore's run was some of the most perfect work I've ever read in the genre.

Here's hoping Marvel publishes a nice big, beautiful hardbound edition that we can all cherish.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We Have All Lost Our Minds

Example One

Okay, I'm going to direct you to a recent news story to come out of Toronto. Click here to read it.

Done? Okay. What....the...fuck?

Seriously, I'm becoming
more and more convinced that, as a society, we have lost our fucking minds. I've read that article a few times, and I'm still stunned. Basically a principal of a school pulled one of the classics of 20th Century literature because one parent (one) objected to a racial epithet spouted in the book. To Kill A Mockingbird. One of the greatest pleas for racial equality ever written. I'll simplify it for you; the book is about how racism is bad. This ain't Merchant of Venice, which I'll admit is questionable in its racist overtones. This is like censoring a speech by Martin Luther King.

And since when does one parent make a decision
regarding the curriculum of an entire school? When that parent came in and made that demand the principal should have tossed a copy of the novel at them, told them to read it and then to come back a write a fucking book report. Christ, I'd settle for them renting the fucking movie.


"Holy shit, it's Robert Duvall!" is not the only realization you should come to.


This comes on the heels of an ever-increasing stack of evidence that we, as a species, may be, in scientific terms, batshit insane. What evidence you may ask?

Example Two

Well, take a look at the debate that currently rages over health care in the U.S. and you will be treated to the most self-destructive and nonsensical rhetoric outside of a Twilight fan forum run by teenaged cutters.


Look, to be honest, I'm not sure there is a perfect health care system. I live in Canada and there are certainly problems here, even with our highly touted system. First off, the system seems to require more and more funds just to operate every year. It's incredibly expensive, and that cost comes from the taxpayers. Secondly, there are some wait times for non-emergency or non-life threatening care. But if you ask the average Canadian if they'd rather have the health care system they currently have or the system the U.S. currently has (or rather, doesn't have) pretty much every single Canadian would look at you with stark terror in their eyes, slap your face and insist you gag yourself for uttering such crazy-ass bullshit.


I'm not sure that Obama's plan is the perfect one. But when you live in the only country in the developed world that allows its citizens to be financially ruined over health care, surely any sort of plan that helps prevent that is better than what you have? If it's socialism that's bugging you, let me tell you this; you've got public education, you've got public works projects, you've got medicare and welfare and government funded armed forces. Government run health care is no different. And to everyone concerned about the private health care industry, well, I think they've made it abundantly clear over the last few decades that they ain't concerned about you.


Recently, at Cracked.com, Chris Bucholz wrote a very funny satirical piece entitled How Socialized Health Care Works in Canada. Now, it was a comedic piece, and it highlighted how the fear mongering being done by some people in the States regarding our system was insane, and it did so well. But like all things on the interwebs, it made the unfortunate mistake of asking comments from the public without fully realizing that the public are, by and large, out of their goddamned gourds.


Like this one:


True, such a system would provide health care to the millions of people who can’t afford it. And yes, It would probably help lots of old people live even longer. But this brings up a very important question: Why should I care about them? Survival of the fittest. I’m not rich, and honestly I can’t afford health care. But it seems unfair for someone who has worked hard to get the money they have now to have to pay for me to go to the doctor. Besides, Americans would go apeshit if taxes went up.


This guy is a proponent of some sort of Mad Max-type solution where only the strong survive, and the everyone else can,well, die, I guess. Now, I'm used to this conservative view of "help no one but yourself" but note how this guy admits HE CAN'T AFFORD HEALTH CARE. It's a new level of fucked-up-ness to prefer a system whereby you suffer over a system whereby you don't.


Then there's this champ:


It’s very simple. If you want health care get off your dead ass and get a job. I work hard, I have insurance, I shouldn't have to pay for health care for some low-life dead beat who is too lazy or stupid to get a decent job.


Let's leave behind the fact that there are people in the States who have health insurance but get their claims denied all the time, or leave behind the insurance industry practice of approving someone for health insurance, collecting premiums and then, when you file a claim, looking for any evidence to retroactively deny your coverage. Awesome system, let's keep that.


I mean, I know we are all resigned to the fact that there are two certainties in life; death and taxes. But I've never heard of a nation of people choosing death over taxes. And that's crazy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Could Be A Prophet..........worship me.


Anyone remember waaaaay back when I talked about 10 Genre Properties Begging to Be Adapted? Well, it's looking like more and more of the properties I put out there are being fast tracked to hit the big screen or the small screen relatively soon.


First, there's Preacher. It was once a major property for HBO, but they couldn't get the right team in place or find a way to approach the admittedly vulgar and controversial material. So, they dropped it. However, Sam Mendes is now attached to develop a feature film version. So, there's one.


Then there's Green Lantern. I picked it as my number one genre property that should be fast tracked to a film version, and soon after, Martin Campbell was picked to direct, and on the heels of that came the news that Ryan Reynolds has been cast as Hal Jordan.


And now Variety reports that Frank Darabont, writer/director of The Mist, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption is close to sealing an extremely lucrative deal to write and direct an adaptation of the comic book series The Walking Dead for cable channel AMC. I'm going to let Joel Stillerman from AMC talk about the deal and summarize what makes The Walking Dead special very well:


Joel Stillerman, AMC's senior veep of programming, production and original content, said the project appealed to the cabler because of "the quality of the storytelling" in Kirkman's work. The series will stay faithful to the tone of the original novels, he said.


"This is not about zombies popping out of closets," Stillerman said. "This is a story about survival, and the dynamics of what happens when a group is forced to survive under these circumstances. The world (in Walking Dead) is portrayed in a smart, sophisticated way."


This sounds like a good fit, seeing as how they produce risky, sharp TV series like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, both of which I've only seen episodes of here and there, but only because I don't have time to jump into a series with both feet right now (we're still trying to finish season 5 of The Wire and that's one of my fave shows ever). Darabont is a strong adapter of the work of others, and he could really capture the extremely bleak and brutal world that writer Robert Kirkman created.


And I'm totally prophetic. Seriously. I expect gifts of fresh fruit and virgins from my followers. I'd settle for M&Ms and dvds though. Just saying.

Friday, August 7, 2009

RIP - Budd Schulberg

Legendary novelist and screenwriter Budd Schulberg passed away in Brooklyn on Wednesday; he was 95 years old.

Schulberg had a long career in Hollywood stretching back to the 1930s, but he was most famous as the writer of the screenplays for On the Waterfront and A Face in the Crowd, and the infamous Hollywood novel What Makes Sammy Run?

He was born in New York in 1914, but he grew up in the vibrant Hollywood of the 1920s. His father, B.P. Schulberg was president of Paramount Studios and his mother, Adeline, was a literary agent. In 1934, he travelled to the Soviet Union, and upon his return to the States joined the Communist Party. He would leave the party and become bitter about communism six years later after Party members attempted to influence his writing and demand propaganda be included in his work.

After graduating cum laude from Dartmouth in 1936, he returned to Hollywood and began his career as a screenwriter. He turned in his first major screenplay, Winter Carnival, in 1938, and was dismayed when an unhappy studio insisted he work with another writer to rewrite the script. His dismay turned to joy when he discovered the writer he was going to be working with was F. Scott Fitzgerald.

From his NY Times obit:

“I thought it was just a joke, like saying ‘Leo Tolstoy,’ ” Mr. Schulberg recalled. “And I said, ‘Scott Fitzgerald — isn’t he dead?’ And he said, ‘No, he’s not dead, he’s right in the next room reading your script.’ ”

But Fitzgerald was in the final years of destroying himself with alcoholism, and the enterprise ended after he and Schulberg went on a legendary bender in New Hampshire.

During WWII, he made films for the armed forces, working alongside John Ford. At the war's end, he was assigned to compile evidence for the Nuremberg trials and in the course of his duty, he tracked down and arrested Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker made infamous for her pro-Nazi propaganda films.

In 1941, he published his first novel, What Makes Sammy Run? It was a powerful and searing indictment of Hollywood back-stabbing and inside deals. Stung by how accurate and cutting the depiction of the studio system was, Hollywood moguls warned Schulberg that he would never work again. In 1947, his second novel, The Harder They Fall, was released to similar acclaim. It has become the definitive novel about the corrupt side of boxing and is held up as one of the great sports novels of all time. For his third novel The Disenchanted, Schulberg presented a slightly fictionalized account of his short-lived but tumultuous partnership with F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In 1951 Schulberg was called before HUAC during its ruthless investigation of communist influence in the film industry. Identified as a Party member, and still convinced that communism represented a real threat to freedom of speech, Schulberg named names, including screenwriter Ring Lardner and director Herbert Biberman. Both would become famous as members of the Hollywood Ten. Like Elia Kazan, Schulberg's testimony was seen as a massive betrayal by the liberal community, and once again, Schulberg was told he would never work again.

In 1954, he fought back. He wrote the story and screenplay for On the Waterfront, which Kazan directed. It was seen by many as an explanation why both the men named names and a defense of going against the opinion of others to stand up and make a moral choice. The film won eight Oscars, and is now regarded as one of the finest American films ever made. Kazan and Schulberg would re-team in 1957 for a searing and incisive examination of the political power of television, the underrated A Face in the Crowd.

Schulberg never stopped writing or being passionate for social justice. He wrote journalism, wrote for television and released more books. He encouraged African American teens to write by establishing the Douglass House Watts Writers Workshop, and he also founded the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in New York in 1971. In 2001, he began a collaboration with Spike Lee to make a film about the life of boxing great Joe Louis. As of yet, there is no film, but one hopes Mr. Lee does make the film. It would be a fitting final work by a man who never stopped fighting for what he thought was right.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

RIP - John Hughes - UPDATED


Sad news out of New York today, as it's being reported that writer/producer/director John Hughes has died following a heart attack. He was 59.


Hughes began his career as writer for Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers before submitting stories to the National Lampoon, joining the staff soon after. His first screenplay was the Lampoon's Class Reunion, which flopped, but subsequent scripts for Mr. Mom and National Lampoon's Vacation, were hits, catapulting him into the top tier of American comedy of the day.


His directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, began the second phase, and most critically successful, phase of his career, that of one of the greatest writer-directors of films about teens. Far from focusing on the broad and base sexual high jinks that were teen films of the day, Hughes chose to examine the life of teenagers in a far more realistic, serious and complex way, while still retaining a comedic tone. Although a commercial filmmaker, it must be said that all of his films represent a clear and artistic vision.


After Sixteen Candles, he would write and direct the teen classics The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He would write, but not direct, teen films as well, including Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful.


In 1987, he began to step away from the teen genre with Planes, Trains and Automobiles and She's Having a Baby, attempts at writing and directing more adult oriented comedies. Uncle Buck proved to be hybrid of the three types of films Hughes specialized in; teen, adult and kid comedy.


In 1990, Hughes wrote the screenplay for and produced Home Alone, directed by his protege Chris Columbus. The film was the story of a child left behind by his parents when his large family goes on holiday, only to be menaced by two inept burglars. It was a massive hit, becoming the top grossing live-action comedy of all time and launching the career of child star Macaulay Culkin.

Hughes would only direct one more film, 1991's flop Curly Sue. He would continue writing, but aside from a final teen film (Career Opportunities), he would focus almost entirely on children's films. In 1994, he retired from the public eye almost entirely, rarely giving interviews or granting photographs to the media. He would continue to produce children films like Baby's Day Out and Dennis the Menace, as well as continue to write, but he would never again match the critical success of the teen films, or the commercial success of Home Alone.

In a list of the best writer/directors of the 1980s, Hughes is rarely mentioned, but upon review, he must be regarded as one of the great talents in American film of the decade, leaving behind a handful of films that have become staples of adolescent angst, and beloved films for a generation of film goers, including myself. He will be missed.

UPDATE:
Quite often when someone famous passes on, a lot of focus is paid to their work, and very little to their life as a human being. We all know about John Hughes the artist and talent, but what about his life as a man?
Well, I'm linking to a story that will tell you more about John Hughes and aptly demonstrate how unique a fellow he truly was.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cold Souls Trailer


Okay, first things first, I love Paul Giamatti.

He f
irst gained notoriety as Kenny in Private Parts, but I first really noticed him in an otherwise crappy film called The Negotiator, in which he worked overtime to steal the movie away from everyone. And when you consider that the cast featured not only Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, but a line up of character actors like JT Walsh, John Spencer, David Morse and Ron Rifkin, that takes some doing. That was in 1998, when he also appeared in The Truman Show and Saving Private Ryan, and became one of the distinguished "that guy"s in the pantheon of character actors.

That
year he also appeared in a very bad TV movie called Tourist Trap, directed by Richard Benjamin and also starring Daniel Stern. It also featured yours truly in a small role. I sat next to Mr. Giamatti during lunch one day, and much to my eternal chagrin and regret, never spoke a word to him.

Over
the next few years, the parts got bigger and bigger, with co-starring roles in Man on the Moon, Duets, Storytelling and Planet of the Apes, among others. But it was the one-two punch of his performances in American Splendor and Sideways that made everyone sit up and take notice. Somehow he was totally screwed over by the Oscars and wasn't nominated for either one of those (and it's really egregious for Sideways, since the film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and won Best Adapted Screenplay, and the fucking movie is ABOUT Giamatti's character!). They tried to make the snub right by nominating him for Best Supporting Actor the following year for Cinderella Man.

Still, now
he became a name, a guy who can headline movies, in the indie world at least. I have loved him in pretty much everything, though it was hard in the case of The Lady in the Water (he was great, movie was terrible). He was unbelievably great in the recent HBO miniseries John Adams, which goes to show that while he may look like a character actor, he's got the magnetism of a leading man.

Now
comes along Cold Souls, and judging by the trailer, we're going to see another great performance, possibly one that's better than the movie. Still I'm excited:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sci-Fi Tech That Will Kill Us All (7)

Several news agencies are reporting on this event that occurred over the weekend, but not enough are trumpeting it as the first warning sign of an imminent cyber-apocalypse. And like most thing associated with robots and insane creepiness, it comes from Japan.

On Monday, three people were seen walking through the Tokyo streets to a robotics convention......with robot legs!

Here's how the article describes the scene:

Two men and a woman, wearing what looked like white plastic exoskeletons over black outfits, were testing -- at a pace of 1.8 kilometres (1.1 miles) an hour -- robotic suits designed to give mobility to the injured and disabled.

Look, I'm all for helping give mobility to the injured and/or the disabled. But that's how these things start. First of all, you know what these robotic legs are called? They're called a Hybrid Assistive Limb, or, you guessed it, HAL, for short. They named this after the most notable and well-spoken artificially intelligent villain in film history. But what do you expect from a company called Cyberdyne. Yep, the Japanese company is called Cyberdyne. Sound familiar? They also made this:


They named their frickin' company after the one that made the Terminators! And they make robots!!! Tempting fate. Tempting fate.

By the way, a robotics convention? That place would scare me more than a spider convention. Who attends a robotics convention, anyway?