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This is fantastic: Tom Hiddleston (who played Loki in both Thor movies and The Avengers) doing a phneomenal impression of Owen Wilson, had Owen been cast as Loki.  Check this out.

West Wing fans!  Did you see this clip of Allison Janney performing The Jackal on The Arsenio Hall Show?  This is an obscure reference, but one that any die-hard West Wing fan will appreciate:

This blog from Kevin Smith gives an intriguing update on his fast-developed, absolutely bonkers weird-sounding new movie, Tusk.  Click here for even more info.  Despite being an enormous fan of Kevin Smith, I still haven’t seen Red State.  I want to see it, for sure, since I can’t imagine not having seen one of Mr. Smith’s films, but it just doesn’t interest me that much.  So far, I am bummed to say that Tusk is trending the same way, but it’s such a loony concept that I am intrigued.  It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.

This is a great short little retrospective of Jim Henson’s life and work.  I very much want to read Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Jim Henson, it sounds like a really fascinating book.

OK, this is a very geeky link, but I loved this.  An enterprising photoshopper has created images showing how awesome the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast would have looked in Original Series uniforms.  So great.

There are a lot of stories cropping up about behind-the-scenes issues on the pre-production of Star Wars: Episode VII.  Seems Disney is pushing for that 2015 release date, come hell or high water.  More info here.  I hope it’s all just talk.  I don’t have much hope that I will ever again in my lifetime see a great Star Wars film, but that little ember of hope does still exist, deep inside me.  Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe!

Chris Claremont is, I would argue, single-handedly responsible for the incredible popularity of the X-Men today.  Mr. Claremont wrote The Uncanny X-Men comic book, and a truck-load of spinoffs and mini-series and annuals and other special events, for a jaw-dropping seventeen years, from the ’70s into the ’90s.  (In one of the great injustices of the medium’s history, he was sort of pushed off of the series when his work began to be overshadowed by the popularity of the superstar artists working at Marvel in those days.)  A new documentary about his career — focusing on that incredible seventeen year run on the X-Men — has just been released, and I am dying to see it.  This is a fantastic article about a recent screening of the film, followed by a Q & A [continued]

 

News Around the Net: Comic-Con Edition!

Lots of cool news coming out of Comic-Con this week!

Let’s begin with the hilarious Game of Thrones “In Memoriam” video:

Look!  It’s Caesar and his Ape Council!  Awesome.

The Simpsons is going to do a crossover episode with Family Guy?  Awesome!  Even more exciting?  The Simpsons is also going to do a crossover with the cancelled-again Futurama!!!  Oh boy I can’t wait for that.

Speaking of crossovers, in news that I found VERY surprising, DC/Warner Brothers have announced that the follow-up to Man of Steel is going to be a Batman/Superman film.  As much as I love all the allusions, in the announcement, to the seminal Superman-Batman grudge match in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (and I love the Frank Miller-inspired Batman/Superman logo that you’ll see if you scroll down this article) I must confess to not be so excited that they are rushing into a crossover film.  I felt that Man of Steel had a lot of flaws, but it was a terrific reintroduction of Superman.  I’d love to see them get a little deeper into exploring this new incarnation of the character, before throwing him into a Batman crossover film.  Plus, since it seems clear that Christian Bale will not be reprising the role, wouldn’t it be weird to introduce a new Batman in this crossover film, without a stand-alone film of his own under his belt?  The whole thing feels to me that they are rushing things in order to combat Marvel’s success with The Avengers.

Still, if done right, a Batman/Superman film could sure be awesome.  I must admit that despite my qualms, there is some geeky excitement there.

I feel similarly about Marvel’s announcement that The Avengers 2 will be called Age of Ultron The deadly, humanity-hating robot Ultron is a classic Avengers villain, and the thought of seeing him realized on film should be tremendously exciting.  And it is, for sure.  It’s just that I am really thrown for a loop since after seeing Thanos at the end of The Avengers, and with the cosmic Guardians of the Galaxy set as one of Marvel’s Phase 2 films coming before Avengers 2, it seemed like Marvel was setting the stage for a big cosmic story with Thanos as the main bad-guy.  I thought that was such an awesome plan.  I am very uncertain, now, as to how Ultron is going to play into all that.  Is Thanos going to be held until The Avengers 3?  That is a looong way away!

Adding to my uncertainty is the specificity of the subtitle of Age of Ultron.  That is actually the title of a Marvel Comics crossover series that … [continued]

 

Why Man of Steel is Good but not Great

July 5th, 2013
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It’s been fascinating, over the past few weeks, reading all of the varied reactions to Man of Steel.  It has proved to be a tremendously divisive film, with some loving it and some really loathing it.  Personally, I am somewhere in between.  I had a great time seeing it in theatres for the first time (an experience enhanced not only by the crowd’s opening-weekend excitement but also by awesome Imax 3-D), and my initial review (click here) written the next day was very positive.

I stand by that review, but in the days that followed when people asked me what I thought of the film, I found myself not being quite as excited as I had expected to be.  Nothing makes me happier than seeing an awesome super-hero film, and I remember how evangelical I was about the first Iron Man (click here for my review) and about The Dark Knight (click here for my review).  As much as I enjoyed Man of Steel, I didn’t feel the same way about it as I had about those other amazing films.  The more I thought about Man of Steel, the more the problems that I mentioned towards the end of my first review seemed to impact my over-all evaluation of the film.

I still think Man of Steel is a fun, enjoyable film.  It is very good.  But it’s not great.  Here are the two main reasons why:

1.  The film does not pay off its central question.  All of the trailers culminated with Clark’s question: “My father believed that if the world found out who I really was, they’d reject me… What do you think?”  The entire first two-thirds of the film is focused on that issue.  Clark allows his father to die because he honors Pa Kent’s wishes that he not reveal his super-powers to the world.  Ultimately, Clark decides to put on that super-suit, and he reveals himself to the world in spectacular fashion, with a super-fight that wreaks havoc on Smallville and Metropolis.  At the end of Man of Steel, the whole world knows that aliens exist, and that one has been living among them.

And yet the movie doesn’t bother to tell us what anyone thinks of that!  We don’t get any indication as to the world’s reaction to those revelations.  Do they love Superman?  Do they fear him?  After the death of Zod, there is one epilogue scene before we get to the film’s (great) final scene in which Clark enters the offices of the Daily Planet.  That scene is the jokey moment in which Superman tells General Swanson to stop trying to find out “where he hangs his … [continued]

 

Josh Kneels Before Man of Steel

June 15th, 2013
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I love Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie from 1978, and for much of my life I thought Superman II was even better.  (My preference has swung back slightly, in recent years, towards the original film.)  Those two movies were a huge part of my childhood, and more than any Superman comic book I have ever read (and I have read a lot), they shaped in my mind the quintessential depiction of Superman.  I stand by my love of Bryan Singer’s homage to the Donner films, 2006′s Superman Returns (has it been that long since Superman Returns came out???  Crazy!!), and I remain bitterly disappointed that we never saw a sequel to that film.

I was excited, though, by the news that Zack Snyder would be directing a new Superman film, working with the Batman Begins team of Christopher Nolan (serving as producer) and writer David S. Goyer.  I love both 300 and Watchmen (particularly the super-long Ultimate Cut of Watchmen) — I think they’re both terrific adaptations of very difficult-to-adapt comic books — and so I was eager to see what Mr. Snyder could do when playing in the bigger sandbox of the Superman mythos.  I suspected he could bring a new energy to  the depiction of Superman on film, and his involvement certainly promised an increase in the action quotient (something that even I admit was sorely lacking in Superman Returns).  

My enthusiasm for the Superman reboot dipped when I heard that they were planning on re-telling Superman’s origin.  That seemed silly to me, as Superman has probably the most famous origin of any comic book character ever.  Why waste time re-telling, yet again, an origin story that everyone on the planet already knows?  Just cut to the chase and tell a great Superman story!  My enthusiasm grew again when the first trailers for Man of Steel began to surface.  I was dazzled by the visual spectacle, and really started to get excited for what seemed to be a very different depiction of Superman on film.

I just left an IMAX screening of Man of Steel, and I am delighted to report that Mr. Snyder and his team have delivered on that promise.  They have threaded the difficult needle of delivering a dramatic reinterpretation of the character and his origin, while at the same time presenting us with a depiction that is, without question, iconically Superman.

The film opens with Jor-El on Krypton, and we spend a lot more time on Krypton than I would have expected.  I loved every second, and almost wish we had a whole film set on Krypton, chronicling the breaking of the friendship between Jor-El and Zod.  (The idea that Jor-El and Zod … [continued]

 

OK, this is the greatest thing I have seen in a long time (BUT BEWARE SPOILERS IF YOU ARE NOT UP TO DATE WITH GAME OF THRONES!!!)

I love The Princess Bride!

I’ve completely lost faith in M. Night Shyalaman over the past decade, but that being said I still think Unbreakable is his best film, and I would so love for the long-rumored sequel to someday happen.  The one flaw with Unbreakable, in my mind, is that the story feels incomplete — it feels like the first act of a larger story.  So every time Mr. Shyamalan talks about a possible sequel, I am happy.

So this is interesting: in the months after the success of Skyfall, there was a lot of talk that Bond 24 and 25 (the next two Bond films) would be two connected films.  That was denied by the Bond producers.  But amidst the recent news that Skyfall Director will be returning for the next Bond film, the 24th, comes this rumor that Mr. Mendes is going to commit to helm the 25th Bond film as well!  I love the idea of a two-part Bond film, that would be super-cool if that happens.

Zack Snyder (director of Man of Steel) and Bruce Timm (mastermind behind Batman: The Animated Series) are collaborating on a Superman short film in honor of Superman’s 75th anniversary?  Awesome!

I have Superman because of my huge anticipation for The Man of Steel (which I hope to see this weekend!!), so now’s as good a time as any to read this terrific piece looking back at Superman II!  That film was a HUGE part of my childhood…!!

There’s been a lot of rumors flying in recent weeks about the inclusion of the character of Quicksilver in both Fox’s upcoming X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, as well as the Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ upcoming Avengers 2.  It will be fascinating to see how this all shakes out!

(Speaking of Days of Future PastNixon!  Love it!)

Anytime anyone is talking about Escape From the Planet of the Apes, I take notice!

And with that, my friends, I wish you all a great weekend.  I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on Man of Steel, season four of Arrested Development, and cartoons making fun of Star Trek Into Darkness.  Hope to see you all back here soon!… [continued]

 

Superman Unbound

The latest DC Universe animated direct-to-DVD/blu-ray film has arrived: Superman: Unbound.  Like many of these DCU animated DVDs have been, this new film is an adaptation of a great story from the comics — in this case, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Jon Sibal’s reinvention of Brainaic that ran in Action Comics #866-870 in 2008.

Mr. Johns’ story in those issues of Action Comics is terrific.  It manages to be a very new-reader-friendly story that reinvents both the villain Brainiac as well as the cast of characters surrounding Clark and Lois at the Daily Planet in a way that makes them new and fresh, and not overly bogged-down by continuity… and yet Mr. Johns’ story demonstrates a detailed grasp of DCU continuity, as Mr. Johns references previous Brainiac appearances and the backstory of characters such as Cat Grant, he features General Zod in the story’s prologue, and he even finds a way to clarify the often confusing, tangled histories of the Kryptonian cities Kandor and Argo (both of which somehow survived the destruction of Krypton and both of which have been used, somewhat inter-changably, in various non-comic-book Superman stories).

And Gary Frank’s art (inked by Jon Sibal) is magnificent, possibly one of my top two or three favorite renditions of Superman ever.  Mr. Frank uses Christopher Reeves’ face as his model for Superman/Clark Kent, and it is wonderful to behold.  (And I was pleased to see that Mr. Frank drew other artistic cues from Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie, such as the crystalline-look of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.)  Mr. Frank can draw super-hero fisticuffs as well as he can draw a meeting in the Daily Planet offices.  I love his design-skills (his newly-redesigned robotic Brainaic minions are fantastic) and I find his detailed line-work to be quite beguiling.

Sadly, this new animated DVD/blu-ray adaptation is a total disappointment.  Geoff Johns’ story has been stripped of all danger and excitement.  What has been left is a completely generic, bland Superman adventure, far inferior to the previous Superman/Brainiac stories we saw years ago in Bruce Timm’s Superman: The Animated Series and the follow-up Justice League series.

Geoff Johns’ story depicted a newly fierce, dangerous Brainiac, whose menacing robotic minions had no compunction about brutally murdering the inhabitants of unsupecting planets.  When Superman finally makes it on board Brainiac’s ship and encounters the true Brainiac at the ship’s core, it feels like a moment of true threat and danger for the Man of Steel.  Sadly none of that menace is present in the animated adaptation.  The awesome prologue of the comic story, with General Zod on Krypton, has been replaced by a generic earth-bound incident in which Supergirl and Superman stop some terrorists … [continued]

 

“He’ll Do it Because it’s Impossible” — Grant Morrison’s Superman in the New 52!

I’ve been re-reading Grant Morrison’s long run on Batman (click here for part one, and here for part two of my notes on my re-reading project), and I will be back soon with my next installment of commentary on that complex, years-long run.  But last year, while winding down his run on Batman, Grant Morrison also began writing DC Comics’ other biggest hero: Superman.

In late 2011, DC Comics rebooted their entire universe, ending all of their comic-book series and re-launching 52 titles with new #1 issues, in what they called “The New 52.”  (The number 52 has significance in the DC Universe, too complicated to go into here, but suffice it to say that number wasn’t chosen by accident.)  I’ve written about this universe-wide re-launch before (click here and here for some of my comments from last year).  The re-boot of the universe was a little bit uneven.  The Batman and Green Lantern books, though they re-started from new issue number one’s just like all the other DC titles, picked up their storylines seemingly uninterrupted from the pre-”New 52″ re-launch.  Other series more dramatically wiped away all of the previous years’ worth of story-lines and continuity.  Most dramatically, this was done with Superman.

When Action Comics re-launched, we were presented with a young, inexperienced version of Superman, one who had just recently arrived in Metropolis.  This Superman was crafted, intentionally, to more closely resemble Superman as he was when he was originally created back in the ’30s.  Rather than the immensely super-powered Superman of recent years, this Superman — while still super-powered — is more limited.  He can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he can’t fly.  He can be beaten and bloodied.  Young Clark Kent doesn’t work for the Daily Planet, he works for a much smaller newspaper called the Star.  The whole Superman story was re-started from the ground floor.

Grant Morrison took over Action Comics with the new issue #1, and proceeded to write the series for nineteen issues (issues #1-18, plus an issue #o that was published between #12 and #13).  Now, Grant Morrison had already written what I would consider to be possibly the greatest Superman story ever written: All Star Superman.  In that twelve-issue run from a decade ago, illustrated by Frank Quitely, Mr. Morrison told a tale set outside of the regular DC Universe continuity, cherry-picking various aspects of Superman’s presentation from the half-century of Superman stories that had been told, in order to present a sort of “ultimate” version of the Superman character.  This version of Superman contained aspects of the modern version of the character, mixed with some of the more far-out aspects of earlier … [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Well, I had less-than-happy things to say last week about the teaser posters for Star Trek into Dark Knight (ahem, Into Darkness) and Man of Steel. But both films have shut me up for now by unveiling pretty awesome teaser trailers, first Trek and now Man of Steel:

http://youtu.be/KVu3gS7iJu4

That’s a pretty fantastic trailer.  I’m not wild about having to sit through Superman’s origin yet again, but so far it looks like it’s being presented with class, and with some new imagery.  I am a bit surprised that this Zack Snyder Superman trailer is so light on action.  I had assumed that the reason to hire Zack Snyder to direct your Superman picture would be so it’d be chock-full of great super-hero/super-villain punch-em-ups.  But so far both trailers for Man of Steel have struck the same reverential tone as Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. I loved Superman Returns (I know, I am the only one) so this doesn’t bother me, it’s just a bit surprising.

Here’s another awesome trailer, for Guillermo del Toro’s long-awaited next film.  It seems to be about giant monsters fighting giant robots.  I am there.

I am not a huge kaiju fan, but I did grow up watching Tranzor Z on American TV (a Japanese cartoon about a huge robot piloted by a young boy who controlled the robot from a control-ship in the robot’s head) so I’m down with the whole people-controlling-huge-robots-to-fight-evil sub-genre.  And with del Toro at the helm, I think we’re assured of some spectacular action and weirdness.

Here’s another interesting trailer, for Oblivion:

OK, Tom Cruise is playing Wall-E and Morgan Freeman is playing Morpheus, but that could be interesting.  Original sci-fi = good.  From the director of Tron: Legacy = worrisome.  We’ll see…

With The Hobbit so close I can taste it, here’s a great article on the ways in which J.R.R. Tolkien pulled a George Lucas and ret-conned his original version of The Hobbit after writing The Lord of the Rings.

Sticking with Peter Jackson for a moment, this is very pleasant news that he is still planning on directing a second Tintin film!  (The plan was always that Steven Spielberg would direct the first film with Peter Jackson producing, and then they would swap roles for the second film.  But with Mr. Jackson working on The Hobbit for the past few years, I had thought that plan had been abandoned.  I loved the first Tintin so I’d be delighted to see a sequel…!)

Someone made a bookshelf shaped like the Guardian of Forever??  Why is this not in my home right now???

That’s all for me today, my friends.  Sorry the Skyfall cartoons have been a bit … [continued]

 

Superman vs. The Elite

September 5th, 2012
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The latest release from DC Animation is Superman vs. The Elite, an adaptation of “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” written by Joe Kelly and illustrated by Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo .  The story was originally published in Action Comics #775, and has been expanded into this latest direct-to-DVD/blu-ray release.

In the story, Superman encounters a new group of super-heroes, the Elite.  Though they at first seem like potential allies, they quickly come into conflict with Superman when he objects to their willingness to use violence and even kill in their pursuit of justice.  In the original story from 2001, the Elite was designed as a parallel to The Authority, the super-team created by Warren Ellis for Wildstorm Comics.  For a time, The Authority was an incredibly popular comic book series, and fans seemed to love their brutal, take-no-prisoners brand of super-heroics.  Joe Kelly’s story was designed to address head on the issue of whether Superman’s old-fashioned values had any place in a modern world.  Was Superman still relevant, or just a relic of a bygone age?

Those questions remain equally interesting a decade later, and Superman vs. the Elite is a compelling super-heroic yarn.  Comic-book fans will chuckle at all the parallels to the Authority (the profane, British-flag-wearing leader; the inebriated sorcerer; the teleportation doors; the huge living fortress of an HQ that exists between dimensions, etc.), but it’s not at all necessary to get any of those references in order to enjoy the story.  Although the Elite are the villains, I like that they’re not presented as too over-the-top evil.  Until the very end, they do seem like they legitimately want to do good, which makes their conflict with Superman more potent.

The film displays some solid though not hugely impressive animation.  The action is great, as per usual with these DC Animated films, though the character designs are all over the place.  I quite like the designs of the Elite, though Superman/Clark Kent is ridiculously malformed.  They went for a weird sort of stylization for Supes that totally didn’t work for me.  I found it very distracting.

The voice acting is very strong.  It’s great to see George Newbern return to the role of Clark Kent/Superman.  Mr. Newbern played Superman for the entire Justice League series, because Tim Daly was unavailable to reprise the role from Superman: The Animated Series. I’ve always really enjoyed Mr. Newbern’s work, and I think it stands equal with Mr. Daly’s iconic portrayal.  It’s nice to see Mr. Newbern back in the role.  I have never before heard of Pauley Perrette, but she is dynamite as Lois Lane.  Her work here is one of my very favorite … [continued]

 

The Man of Steel Rises

July 21st, 2012
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Our first glimpse of Zack Snyder’s new Superman film, The Man of Steel, has arrived!

Here’s an alternate version, with narration from Jor-El (Russell Crowe) rather than Pa Kent (Kevin Costner):

I prefer the Pa Kent version myself, though both are strong.  This is a very solid teaser.  I like the imagery, and the seriousness with which it seems Superman is being handled.  After reading the very excited reports from the footage screened at Comic-Con last week, I will admit to being disappointed that we don’t really get to see anything of Henry Cavill as Superman.  I’m really curious as to how he looks and sounds in the role (something that it seems the Comic-Con fans got to see).

I’m also very surprised, since this movie is supposed to be a major course-correction from Bryan Singer’s poorly-received (though loved by me) Superman Returns, just how similar this first teaser trailer is to the first teaser for Singer’s film.  See for yourself:

http://youtu.be/z5DMCd7hv1w

Am I wrong??  The trailers are eerily similar, aren’t they?

Well, whatever.  I am excited for The Man of Steel, and can’t wait for a trailer with more substantial footage.… [continued]

 

Josh Returns to the DC Animated Universe with Justice League: Doom

Justice League: Doom is the latest direct-to-DVD DC Universe animated feature.  The story is adapted from the “Tower of Babel” story-line that ran through issues #42-46 of JLA back in 1998.  Those original comics were written by Mark Waid and Dan Curtis Johnson and illustrated by Howard Porter, Drew Geraci, Pablo Raimondi, and Steve Scott.  This adaptation was written by the late Dwayne McDuffie.

In the original story, villain Ra’s al Ghul is able to take out the Justice League using strategies specifically tailored to disable or destroy each individual member of the league.  The hook of the story is the revelation of the inside-the-League source from whom Ra’s was able to attain the specific information he needed to create his stratagems.  (Every on-line review I have read of this DVD has spoiled the identity of that member of the Justice League.  I understand the reasons for doing so, since a) most comic-book fans know this story and so know who it was, and b) the identity of that Leaguer is really cool, and the story behind that betrayal is at the heart of this tale and part of what makes this such a great, fascinating story.  But I’m going to try to preserve the surprise for anyone reading this.)

Justice League: Doom is a very, very loose adaptation of the “Tower of Babel” story-line.  Though the central hook remains the same, the villain has changed (here it is the near-immortal Vandal Savage, rather than Ra’s al Ghul), many of the tactics used to attack the League members have been changed, and the villain’s ultimate goal (and his methods for achieving that goal) have changed.  After the very-faithful animated adaptations of Batman: Year One (click here for my review) and All-Star Superman (click here for my review), it came as somewhat of a surprise to me that this adaptation played so fast-and-loose with the source material.  On the one hand, I don’t think the original “Tower of Babel” story was so perfect that any change is a mistake.  Still, I was surprised by the degree to which the story was altered.

First of all, I have no idea why the villain was changed from Ra’s to Vandal Savage.  Why not use Ra’s?  He’s a terrific villain, and his connections to Batman provide a great extra layer of resonance to the “Tower of Babel” story.  (Also, since this DVD used so many of the original voices from Batman: The Animated Series and the Justice League cartoon — more on that in a minute — I would have LOVED to have seen the great David Warner reprise his role of Ra’s, who he voiced so memorably in Batman: [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Lots of fun geeky goodness has been spilling out onto the nets recently, mostly because of the annual San Diego Comic-Con.

Did you miss the teaser trailer for The Avengers at the end of Captain America? Check it out here. Pretty sweet.

Speaking of teasers, here’s one for The Dark Knight Rises.  I’m intrigued as to how definitive an ending Christopher Nolan is planning on giving his Bat-films.

Here’s another teaser for one of next summer’s big films — though this isn’t just a teaser, it’s a full-length trailer for the Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man.  The trailer is well put together, but I still can’t muster up too much excitement for this film.  I hate that they’re rebooting the series, and that we have to sit through another version of Spidey’s origin.  Just re-cast the roles and tell a great new Spider-Man story.  Why start over from zero??  Frustrating.

Now this is more intriguing: it’s the much-discussed abandoned introduction sequence to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, in which Superman explores the ruins of Krypton.  I can understand why it’s not in the movie (the whole scene is perfectly summed up in Superman’s one line to Ma Kent, that all he found at the end of his long journey into space was a graveyard), but it’s still a pretty cool sequence.  I love Supey’s crystalline Kryptonian ship, and I love the huge S.

It’s Peter Jackson’s third production diary from The Hobbit! Rejoice!

Oh, Lost, will you ever stop breaking my heart?  If you are (or WERE once, like me) a fan of Lost, this hilarious “lost” scene from season one, that was unveiled at Comic-Con, is a wonderful piece of genius.  (But Damon Lindeloff’s comments about why they didn’t answer one of the most annoying, to me, lingering questions from season 5 — just who was shooting at Sawyer and co. from the other boat — makes me CRAZY.  CRAZY!!!)

Sooo… is Prometheus an Alien prequel or not???  AAARRGH!!!  I’m desperate to know, but either way, a new sci-fi film from the great Ridley Scott has me excited.

We’ll see what people say about the set once it’s released, but for now I stand by my comments that I do not plan on purchasing the blu-ray set of the Star Wars films.  Still, I did begin salivating at the report that the set will include never-before-seen deleted scenes from the Original Trilogy, and this teaser trailer for those deleted scenes is pretty awesome:

Speaking of George Lucas, it seems that he and his collaborators have FINALLY finished Red Tails, the film about the Tuskegee Airmen from WWII, about which Mr. Lucas has been talking … [continued]

 

Josh Bids Farewell to Smallville!

It’s pretty hard to believe that Smallville has been on the air for ten years, and I am even a little bit more astonished that I’ve been watching the show for pretty much all of those ten years!  From the very beginning, I have found watching Smallville to be a somewhat frustrating endeavor.  I’d be hard pressed to name a show that’s been so wildly inconsistent in quality.  A spectacular, exciting, complex episode will be followed by an agonizingly painful, awkward, juvenile installment.  But the good episodes have been good enough to somehow keep me watching even through the bad ones (and there have been plenty of bad ones).

Smallville is probably the best argument for the strength of the British TV model (and the increasingly common HBIO/cable model) of shorter (8-12 episode) seasons rather than the standard American network TV seasons of 20-24 episodes.  Over the years I’ve read fans writing off this season or that season of Smallville as garbage, while praising other years.  Personally, I think pretty much every season of the show has had merit, and has had some great episodes.  But boy oh boy have I felt (right from season one) that the story-lines were padded and stretched FAAAAR beyond what made any logical narrative sense.  The years and years of yes-they’re-a-couple, no-they’re-not-a-couple Clark Kent/Lana Lang soap opera antics is the most annoying example of this, but even in the later, more focused seasons this has been a problem.  The show actually found interesting ways to incorporate Doomsday and General Zod as villains (in seasons 8 and 9, respectively), but by making us wait through the WHOLE long season for Clark and his Big Bad villains to finally come to loggerheads stretched my patience well past the breaking point.  Out of the ten seasons of Smallville, I’d say there’s probably a terrific four year-run of a great super-hero show.

That is not a very good record!  But Smallville did have a number of moments of real greatness, and those moments kept me from ever giving up entirely on the series.  There have been some episodes that have been among the very best live-action depictions of super-heroics that I’ve ever seen, in movies or on TV.  (The season two episode, “Rosetta,” guest-starring Christopher Reeve comes to mind, and the show consistently did season-finales like nobody’s business.)  The visual effects are not great, but they’ve been good enough to be decently entertaining week in and week out.  But when the show was great, it wasn’t because of visual effects, it was because they found a sweet spot between incorporating aspects of the Superman mythology while keeping the over-all narrative fun, engaging, and accessible.

When Smallville was … [continued]

 

DC Animated Update

It’s been a while since I’ve chimed in with my thoughts on the recent direct-to-DVD DC Universe animated films!  Here are my thoughts on the last three releases:

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse – Coming hot off the heels of what I consider to be the strongest film in this series so far, the grim and intense Batman: Under the Red Hood (read my review here) comes this, by far the worst film so far.  This one is pretty much a total, unwatchable catastrophe.  Despite what the title and cover art might have you believe, this isn’t a story about Darkseid (one of the best Superman villains) at all.  It’s really the latest version of the Supergirl story (adapted from Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner’s story which did not interest me when it was published and still does not interest me now).  Now don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against Supergirl!  I loved the character on Bruce Timm’s animated Superman and Justice League shows.  But this desperate-to-be-hip reinterpretation has always smacked of desperation to me, and shoe-horning in Darkseid and his minions just robs those great characters of the focus they deserve.  Darkseid and the New Gods mythos were presented with far greater success in the afore-mentioned Superman and Justice League animated series.  This is just a sub-par retread of ground that has already been covered.  Skip this one at all costs, gang.

Superman/Shazam!  The Return of Black Adam — In addition to re-presenting the three DC Universe universe shorts that appeared on the three prior DVDs (with commentary tracks that are interesting but really should have been included on the original releases), this DVD collection includes the new Superman/Shazam short.  I say “short,” but it’s a good deal lengthier than the previous three shorts.  At almost 25 minutes, this is much more the length of an episode of one of the DC animated series.  And, indeed, this short feels just exactly like we’re watching a long-lost episode of one of those Bruce Timm DC Universe animated series.  That’s both good and bad.  It’s good in that the quality of the story-telling and the animation is high.  I find origin stories to be a little tiring, but I like this version of the Shazam/Captain Marvel mythos and I thought everything was presented in an effectively succinct, to-the-point way.  But it’s bad in that this felt pretty much like just another episode.  There wasn’t anything that jaw-dropping to see, and the story never reached anything near the apocalyptic heights glimpsed in the DVD’s terrific cover painting.  Also, as with the Darkseid stuff in the previous DVD, I felt that all of this had been done before, and better, in the old … [continued]

 

The Worst Movie Endings of All Time

A few days ago, Devin Faraci wrote a great piece over on Badassdigest.com (a really phenomenal site that I can’t recommend highly enough) about the terrible ending of the classic Bill Murray film, Stripes.

Mr. Faraci is right on the nose — the last 30 or so minutes of Stripes are really quite terrible.  Now, I must admit that I’m not a huge fan of the first two-thirds of Stripes, either.  I think I saw the film way too late in life to really connect with it the way other children of the eighties did.  Despite my long-held love for Bill Murray’s movies of the 1980′s (epitomized by my near fanatical worship of Ghostbusters), somehow I missed Stripes throughout my childhood — I only finally saw it when I was in college, and by then I just didn’t find it all that funny.

But Mr. Faraci’s article got me thinking about other good films undone by their endings… and wondering if there any films, as Mr. Faraci asks, whose first two-thirds are so good that I forgive their weak ending?

(Let me state that, obviously, SPOILERS LIE AHEAD for the films under discussion!!)

Let’s begin with some films that start off strong but are, in my opinion, completely ruined by their terrible endings:

No Country for Old Men — I was totally engrossed in this tense, beautiful film for much of its run-time, but the ending totally sunk my enjoyment.  After following the character of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) throughout the film, and totally investing in him, I couldn’t believe how that character was completely abandoned and ignored in the final few minutes of the movie.  The film’s title — No Country for Old Men — and the way the end of the film focuses on Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) indicates to me that the Coen Brothers intended the film to be the Sheriff’s story, not Llewelyn’s.  But the movie never earns that.  It never shows us the message given by its title, and Tommy Lee Jones’ monologue in the last scene.  What was it about the death of Llewelyn Moss that so affected Sheriff Bell?  For a man who had clearly been involved in other cases that involved murder and death, what was it about this particular event that shook the Sheriff so deeply?  We’re never told, and ultimately, as a viewer, I didn’t care too much about Sheriff Bell — I was invested in Llewelyn!  And having the end of his story be cut off by the finale really disappointed me.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence — Not that the first two-thirds of this film were so perfect to begin with, but had the movie ended … [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

This is a pretty funny assemblage of 1980′s movie references.  Don’t miss Topher Grace’s dynamite Marty McFly impersonation that comes at around 2:30.

I was sad to read of the passing of famed composer John Barry. He’s responsible for so many pieces of iconic James Bond related music, it’s staggering.  He wrote the scores for eleven Bond films, including Goldfinger and From Russia With Love.

In happier Bond news, is it possible that Javier Bardem will be the villain in the next Bond film?  James Bond vs. Anton Chigurh?  What an inspired idea!

In even-happier-than-that Bond news, comes this casting possibility.  I really hope these casting rumors pan out!  I’m very excited with the way Bond 23 looks to be shaping up so far…

Click here to read The New Yorker‘s fantastic profile of Guillermo del Toro.  It’s a lengthy piece, stuffed full of delicious tidbits of information on the many projects that he has in the hopper (and some — like The Hobbit with him as director — that sadly will never be).  I really hope that his adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness actually happens.

I’m a dreamer, and I dare to dream that someday we’ll get another awesome X-Men movie.  (I adored X-Men and X2, but was disappointed by X3 and thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.)  I’m starting to think it just might be happening when I read articles like this about The Wolverine, the upcoming film directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan), written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and based upon Chris Claremont & Frank Miller’s famous, amazing Wolverine mini-series from 1982, set in Japan.  My hopes are VERY high for this one, gentlemen.  Please don’t let me down!

The moment I knew was coming has arrived: Brandon Routh is officially not playing Superman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming film.  Readers of this site know that I am a fierce defender of Superman Returns, and in particular I thought Mr. Routh was phenomenal as Clark Kent/Superman.  I totally understand that Mr. Snyder wants to set his film apart from Bryan Singer’s film, but I’m still really disappointed that we’re not going to get a whole series of films with Mr. Routh in the lead.  It’s a big disappointment.

And, I must add, this rumor that Jessica Biel is up for the role of Lois Lane has me VERY worried.  Urgh, that’s a terrible idea.  But then I read that that Jessica Biel rumor is just that — a rumor.  OK, whew, I thought, bullet dodged.  But then I read … [continued]

 

New Comics! Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale and Dueling Versions of the Origin of Superman!

Here are some of the comic books I’ve been reading lately:

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale — This gorgeous hardcover graphic novel finally reveals the mysterious back-story of Shepherd Book, the enigmatic preacher from Joss Whedon’s dearly-missed TV series Firefly.  I always felt that the character, played to such perfection by Ron Glass, was one of the more intriguing members of the show’s ensemble.  This man of peace clearly had a great deal of knowledge of war, and about the inner workings of the Alliance, but we never got to know the character’s full story.  With Book’s tragic death in the film Serenity, and that film’s poor box office killing the hope of any further sequels, it seemed that Firefly fans would be left always wondering about the much hinted-at history of Shepherd Book.

Dark Horse Comics to the rescue!  The publisher has put out several Serenity comic books over the past few years, but The Shepherd’s Tale is the high-point.  Written by Joss Whedon and his brother Zack Whedon (a very talented writer in his own right, Zack was a key creative voice behind Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and wrote Dark Horse’s terrific recent Terminator series), this is the official, canon, straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth version of Shepherd Book’s story.  It’s a wonderful tale, presented in vignettes told in reverse chronological order.  In a clever touch, we begin with Book’s death (and, by the way, Book’s narration of the moment of his death is so perfect, so wonderful, that once again my heart aches at the demise of Firefly) and then work our way back through his life.  (I should note here that, as wonderful as the choice to present Book’s life in reverse chronological order is, its impact was a bit diminished for me since I have long held Star Trek Annual #3, “Retrospect,” published by DC Comics back in 1988, to be one of the greatest comic books I’ve ever read.  That issue, written by Peter David and illustrated by Curt Swan & Ricardo Villagran, presents the story of Scotty’s life-long love affair with a doomed woman in reverse order, from the moment he learns of her death back all the way to their first encounter as little kids.  It broke my heart when I first read it as a kid, and I have re-read it a thousand times in the years since.  But back to Serenity…)

Chris Samnee’s art is gorgeous, dense and atmospheric.  He’s not an expert at capturing the features of the actors from the TV series, but his art is so expressive that I didn’t mind a bit.  He totally captures the “feel” of Shepherd Book, and he’s an expert at creating a … [continued]

 

Have you heard that they’re making new Looney Tunes cartoons to show theatrically?  Check out this glimpse of the first new Road Runner cartoon in far too many years:

Battlestar Galactica lives on!  Rumors are that SyFy are working on an on-line BSG spin-off, tentatively titled “Blood and Chrome” that would depict a young Bill Adama during the first Cylon War.  I LOVED the glimpse at a young “Husker” Adama that we got in Razor, and would LOVE to see more.  I hope this comes to pass!

I’ve been reading for years about the Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow film series, in which famous films are screened in a location connected in some way with the film.  It’s always sounded like a cool idea, and these special posters for the upcoming tour are just phenomenal.  I love movie posters, and these are about the coolest posters I’ve seen in a long, long while.

If there’s one sliver of a silver lining from MGM’s financial woes forcing Guillermo del Toro to leave the in-development Hobbit films, its the announcement that he’ll next be directing an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness, a project that del Toro has been talking about for years.  Should be awesome.

As readers of the site are probably well aware, I am one of the few people on Earth who unabashedly loved Superman Returns.  So I wholeheartedly second this plea from CHUD that Brandon Routh be allowed to reprise his role as Clark Kent/Superman in the next Superman film.  I thought Routh was pretty much perfect, and I would be thrilled to see him continue.

Speaking of superheroes, I’m sure you’ve all heard about the official announcement of The Avengers‘ cast and line-up at Comic-Con last weekHere are some more details from the panel.  Pretty astounding cast, if you ask me, and I think Joss Whedon is a perfect choice as director.  Now please please please don’t screw this up, gang!!

Here are some fascinating reports from the Thor panel & footage from Comic-Con, as well as the Captain America panel.  I cannot wait to see some actual footage from these two films.  I really hope Marvel is able to pull these movies off.

Behold The Infinity Gauntlet!!  Awesome.

OK, enough Marvel, let’s talk DC!  I was very underwhelmed by our first look at Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern, but I love this peek at Sinestro.

Lost‘s Damon Lindeloff is re-writing the Alien prequel that Ridley Scott is directing? Pretty cool.

If they ever actually make another Judge Dredd movie, I love the idea of Karl Urban under the helmet.

Some interesting TV [continued]

 

Josh Reviews Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, the Latest DCU Animated Adventure!

OK, we’re getting closer!

We’re now six films into DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ exciting new endeavor to launch high-quality direct-to-DVD animated films masterminded by Bruce Timm, one of the key creative forces behind the amazing Batman: The Animated Series from the 90′s.  In my review of the fourth film, Wonder Woman, I wrote that I enjoyed the effort but that I was disappointed that, to that point, the DVD series wasn’t turning out as I had hoped.  I wrote:

The original announcement had seemed to indicate that the series would focus more on adaptations of classic comic stories as opposed to this sort of one-off origin story that isn’t based on any specific source material.  This is the sort of thing that most of the live-action super-hero films do, creating a new story that is sort of a “melange” of various bits of story-lines and background from the many years of the character’s history.  It’s not what I was hoping for from these DVDs.  (To my dismay, the preview included on the Wonder Woman disc seems to indicate that the next DVD, a Green Lantern adventure, will be exactly this same type of not-based-on-anything-specific tale.)  Where is my epic animated adaptation of The Great Darkness Saga?  Or Batman: Year One?  Or Kingdom Come?  How cool would that be?

I never got around to writing about Green Lantern: First Flight, which was released earlier this year.  It turned out to be a much stronger film than Wonder Woman, but it was exactly the type of totally-new, one-shot story that Wonder Woman was.  The latest animated film, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, is an entirely different breed of cat.  Like the first two DVDs (Superman: Doomsday and Justice League: The New Frontier), this is a direct adaptation of a comic book storyline: specifically, the first six issues of Superman/Batman, by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, released in 2003/4.  I love that we’re back to a direct adaptation of a specific comic book tale.  THIS is the direction in which I want to see this DVD series continue to go.

Other than my philosophical support of its premise, is Superman/Batman: Public Enemies actually any good?  Well, it definitely is, though like the rest of these new DVDs it does not match the heights of any of Bruce Timm’s animated DCU series (Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, etc.).

The story is simple:  Lex Luthor has been elected President of the United States.  He uses the discovery of an enormous fragment of Kryptonite that is on-course to impact with Earth (to what would be sure to be devastating consequences for the planet) as an excuse to … [continued]

 

Last week I wrote about some of the great comics I’ve read lately.  That list was just scratching the surface!  Here’s some more fantastic stuff that I’ve been enjoying recently:

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and BPRD: 1947 – The Hellboy saga continues in these two new wonderful mini-series.  In Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, things are coming to a head for the big red guy.  Cut off from his old friends and comrades in the BPRD, and hunted by the newly-resurrected Queen of Blood, things are looking grim for our hero!  Last month’s issue (#6) was jam-packed with astonishing revelations about Hellboy’s origin that I never saw coming, but that I thought worked absolutely PERFECTLY.  Meanwhile, BPRD: 1947 takes us through a rollicking tale of the second year of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense as Professor Bruttenholm struggles against vampires and a lot of other weirdness.  The Hellboy universe has really richened and deepened over these last few years, and I am really excited to see where things go from here.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man — The relaunch of Brian Michael Bendis’ take on Spider-Man (three issues have been published as of this writing) continues just where the previous 133 issues (plus a handful of annuals and other specials) left off.  Young Peter Parker must juggle his, um, interesting love-life with a boring job at a fast-food joint (since he lost his job at the Daily Bugle following the devastation of NYC in the truly awful Ultimatum miniseries) with, oh yeah, his crime-fighting escapades as Spider-Man!  Mr. Bendis is well-known for his witty, true-to-teenaged-life dialogue, but I think his real strength is the depth of characterization he brings to Peter Parker and all the rest of the extraordinarily numerous cast of this comic.  Mary-Jane, Flash Thompson, Aunt May, “Kong,” Kitty Pryde from the X-Men, Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four (and it is almost embarrassing how much more interesting Kitty and Johnny are here than in their “home” comics) and many more characters are all brought to amazingly real life in these pages.  I’ve been following Bendis’ run on “Ultimate” Spider-Man and I’ll be with the series until he leaves.  Spider-Man has never been done better (in my comic-reading life-time, at least!).  My only small complaint: I’m not quite taken with the overly stylized work of new series artist David Lafuente.  Let’s see if it grows on me any more after a few more issues…

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower — I fell way behind on this series of mini-series, adapting and expanding upon the back story of Stephen King’s seven-book The Dark Tower opus, but I was finally able to catch up last month.  Breathtakingly gorgeous art by … [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Have you seen this?  Jon Hamm (Mad Men) plays Lex Luthor in this short from Funnyordie.com, asking for bailout money for Luthorcorp.  Genius!

Out-there director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) is making a film of Maurice Sendak’s beloved childrens’ book, Where The Wild Things Are?  What an insane, inspired notion.  Check out this wondrous trailer.  This is a movie I need to see.

Speaking of trailers I really want to see, I didn’t know anything whatsoever about Sam Mendes’ (American Beauty) new film, Away We Go, before I saw this new trailer (mentioned at the Motion Captured blog over on HitFix.com).  It stars John Krasinski (Jim from The Office) and Maya Rudolph (from SNL), and now that I’ve seen the trailer I am very excited for this film!  

I love this new poster for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie.  I need this in my home.

Speaking of Trek, there’s been some interesting pieces posted on-line lately about the use of Bryan Tyler’s magnificent score for Children of Dune in the trailers for the new Star Trek film.  This article summarizes the confusion nicely.  I am fascinated by this stuff.  Tyler’s score was also used extensively in the first trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  I loved both of the Sci-Fi channel’s Dune mini-series, and it tickles me to hear snippets of the score being used all over the place these days!

Come back here tomorrow to read my thoughts on a terrific older film from director Guillermo del Toro, The Devil’s Backbone!… [continued]

 

“They only lack the light to show the way”

As an addendum to my list of my five favorite super-hero movies posted at the start of this week, here are three super-hero movies that I consider to be tremendously under-rated:

Superman Returns — I just don’t understand the almost universal apathy or even dislike towards Bryan Singer’s Superman relaunch. I love that this film has a somber, melancholy feel to it. I love that the story creates complicated character conflicts (the Clark-Lois-Superman-Richard love tangle) that aren’t easily resolved by the end of the film. (I was SHOCKED that Richard lived through the movie — and I really respect the filmmakers for not killing him off, thus providing an easy way for Lois and Clark/Superman to get back together.) I also love reverence the filmmakers showed for Richard Donner’s Superman movie — it really tickles me all the times the movie refers to Donner’s films, both visually (the design of the Fortress of Solitude, the use of Brando as Jor-El), and in the echoing of lines of dialogue in the script (such as Superman’s “statistically speaking, its still the safest way to travel,” and the reprise of Jor-El’s message to his son: “You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father and the father… the son.”) The film has weaknesses — there’s not enough action, and Lex Luthor’s plot is pretty stupid. But watch again the plane crash sequence in which Superman reveals his return to the world, and tell me that’s not a magnificent moment of pop-fantasy magic. I’d love to get a sequel to this film to see where Singer takes the story from here, so I hope Warner gets around to making one.

Daredevil – Here’s another movie that I seem to be the only one who likes. As with Superman Returns, there are weaknesses to this film, like some embarassingly dodgy CGI effects. But there’s so much that I enjoy about this movie. I love how down-beat it is. I love how the filmmakers differentiate Daredevil from a more selflessly heroic character like Spider-Man. (This is epitomized by the scene on the rooftop between Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Elektra, in which he hears someone in trouble — but when Elektra asks him to stay with her, he does. Peter Parker would never make that choice — and I love that.) Speaking of Murdock/Daredevil, I know that its a popular sport to make fun of Ben Affleck, but I actually find him to be extremely watchable as Matt Murdock. And the rest of the cast is strong as well — Michael Clarke Duncan, Joe Pantoliano, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, … [continued]