Friday, April 18, 2014

SPIDER-MAN Producers Crush Hopes of Marvel Film Crossovers

Spider-Man teaming up with the Avengers or the X-Men?  Pffft!  Fanboy, please.

In a recent interview with IGN, Spider-Man movie producers crushed any hopes that Marvel fans may have had of seeing the amazing Spider-Man joining forces with Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, The Human Torch or Wolverine.

"I think I’m probably a little bit of the militant here," said longtime Spider-Man producer Avi Arad.  "I think it will take a moment in which we’ve run out of ideas.  There's so much to tell about Spider-Man.  There's so much to tell about the Sinister Six.  The relationship between Spider-Man and Venom will bring a whole other world in."

It's no coincidence Arad seems more interested in The Sinister Six and Venom, considering there are spinoffs planned for both of those properties to develop a self-contained Spidermovieverse for Sony Pictures to compete against the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  According to Variety, both films are slated to be released before The Amazing Spider-Man 4 in 2018.

"We did it in the books.  We did team-ups all the time," he continued, referencing Marvel Comics' regular character interactions.  "Even with DC.  You know, we'd flip a coin, 'Okay, who's going to win, Batman or The Hulk?  We'll make a cover out of it.'  But we really feel very confident that we have so much to do […] Peter Parker is unique -- he's really different.  He's not an Avenger.  He's not an X-Man.  He's unique and we revere that.  And we'd rather work really hard to have the right ideas than -- you know in the toy business we used to make toys glow in the dark when they weren't selling well and it gave at least another Christmas.  We don't need it yet."

Arad's Amazing Spider-Man 2 co-producer Matt Tolmach seems to share the same fondness for isolationism.  "You know Avi always refers to that question as a stunt," he said.  "If you were to do that, you know, Spider-Man in the Avengers is a stunt.  And I get why everybody -- you know, fans and audience members and movie goers -- I understand it.

"When you think about the Sinister Six and you think about Venom and you think about Carnage and you think Spider-Man in whatever way you want in association with those movies, they feel like they're built for Spider-Man.  Like that's where his story needs to go and wants to go and it has to be about more than a stunt.

"Stunts can be cool but it's also a business, and so the other side of the answer is they're owned by different companies.  And there's a ton left in Sony's world.  There's a lot of business left because there's a lot of story left.  So for them to want to take this character and put it with Marvel and Disney is a huge undertaking and probably, as Avi's saying, isn't necessary until you feel like, 'Wow, we're sort of out of ideas.  What should we do?'  And we're far from out of ideas."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FLASH GORDON Approaching Return to the Big Screen

Gordon's alive!

Eighty years after his debut in a comic strip by Alex Raymond, science fiction adventure hero Flash Gordon may finally be making his return to the big screen.  According to Film Divider, Star Trek 3 screenwriters J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay are also writing a new Flash Gordon film with producer Jon Davis and are in the process of making a studio deal.

Their take on the character is more serious adventure, designed to "reclaim Flash Gordon from his current reputation in the way that Tim Burton redirected the public conception of Batman."  Although the classic character has appeared in various movie serials and TV shows, the 1980 film Flash Gordon starring Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Topol and Max Von Sydow remains the most widely remembered adaptation.

This movie by Mike Hodges was recently featured in Seth MacFarlane‘s Ted, with an appearance from Jones, referencing the film's campy, cult charm along with rock band Queen’s unforgettable score

Initially conceived by Alex Raymond as competition for the popular Buck Rogers, Gordon was a polo-playing Yale graduate who, with companions Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, journeyed into space to find the source of fiery meteors that were bombarding Earth.  Gordon soon found his arch-enemy in Ming the Merciless and the group's adventures on the planet Mongo included meeting Ming's daughter Princesss Aura, Prince Barin in the forest kingdom of Arboria, and Prince Vultan, leader of the flying city of the hawkmen.

Universal had director Breck Eisner linked to a new, big-screen Flash Gordon in the mid-2000s, which failed to happen.  The rights reverted to Hearst Entertainment, who then optioned them out to Sony, where Eisner remained attached as director.  Together with Dracula: Year Zero‘s Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, Eisner attempted to develop what would have been a lavish 3D feature film.

The character's last notable live-action adaptation was in the 2007-08 Sci Fi channel television series Flash Gordon, which starred Eric Johnson and Gina Holden and ran for just one season of 21 episodes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pierce Brosnan Has "No Desire" to Watch Himself as James Bond

And here you thought Die Another Day was a bad Bond movie.

In an interview posted yesterday by The Telegraph, former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan dismissed his own era as the famous British secret agent, calling his performances "never good enough."

Now 60, Brosnan starred in four James Bond films -- GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002) -- with each film arguably being worse than the one that preceded it.  During promotion for his fourth and final Bond film, Brosnan expressed interest in returning for a fifth, saying "I'd like to do another, sure. [Sean] Connery did six.  Six would be a number, then never come back."  But after former Bond Roger Moore received criticism for staying in the role until he was 58, fiftysomething Brosnan ended up announcing in 2005 that he was finished with the role.  Daniel Craig, 37 at the time, was announced as the sixth James Bond eight months later.

On this time as James Bond, Brosnan told The Telegraph.  "I felt I was caught in a time warp between Roger and Sean.  It was a very hard one to grasp the meaning of, for me.  The violence was never real, the brute force of the man was never palpable.  It was quite tame, and the characterization didn’t have a follow-through of reality, it was surface.  But then that might have had to do with my own insecurities in playing him as well."

When asked if he ever watches any of his Bond movies, Brosnan replied, "I have no desire to watch myself as James Bond, 'cause it’s just never good enough.  It’s a horrible feeling."

However, Brosnan apparently holds no animosity toward his successor, Daniel Craig.  In a recent article for ShortList, Brosnan was asked what he thought of Craig's recent Bond film Skyfall and if seeing Craig on screen is like watching him date an ex-girlfriend.  "It's all his," laughed Brosnan.  "He’s the man, he’s the dude.  There’s only one Bond and that’s him.  I didn’t see any of the others, but I loved Skyfall.  I thought what [director] Sam Mendes did was very rich and textured and had real balls to it – I was very impressed."

Friday, April 11, 2014

BATMAN: STRANGE DAYS Animated Short Released

Bruce Timm, we really missed you.

This past Wednesday, the much-anticipated Batman 75th Anniversary animated short Batman: Strange Days debuted during Cartoon Network's Teen Titans Go!  The three-minute short from Warner Bros. Animation celebrating Batman's 75th anniversary was produced by Bruce Timm, most famous for his work on the classic Batman: The Animated Series.

The DC Nation short features Batman, voiced once again by Kevin Conroy, tracking a mysterious giant who has kidnapped a young woman to the lair of Professor Hugo Strange, one of his oldest enemies.  Strange insists that the giant be careful with the young woman, because Strange needs every drop of her blood for his experiment.

We then see Batman, depicted in his original 1939 costume, swooping down from the sky in a vintage Batplane and firing tear gas cannisters at Strange and the giant.  The gas quickly overwhelms them, allowing the young woman to escape.  Switching the Batplane to autopilot mode, Batman leaps out and begins brawling with the giant, surrounded by clouds of mist.

Meanwhile, Strange recovers the young woman, threatening Batman to stay back or he will kill her with a medical scalpel.  Saying nothing, Batman moves forward, causing Strange to step back and fall down a steep cliff.  Batman fires a Batarang cable to save the young woman from falling, but allows Strange to fall (apparently) to his doom.

"Is it...Is it over?" asks the young woman.

"For now," Batman replies in vocal perfection that only Conroy can give.

Another short from Darwyn Cooke, celebrating the animated series Batman Beyond, is expected later this year.  You can view Batman: Strange Days in full below, thanks to the official DC Entertainment account on YouTube...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Peter Mayhew Reprising Chewbacca for STAR WARS EPISODE VII

At last we have the mighty Chewbacca...

The Hollywood Reporter confirms that actor Peter Mayhew will reprise his classic role of Chewbacca the Wookiee for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars Episode VII.  Mayhew, now 69, has been rumored to return for Episode VII ever since he canceled an appearance at the Texas convention Comicpalooza "due to filming."

Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn revealed last week that filming for Episode VII has already begun and that most of the cast is set.  "We have a lot of them [in place]," said Horn about the central cast, whose names have not been announced.  "We’re just not completely done yet."

Mayhew joins Adam Driver, announced in February as the film's lead villain, and original trilogy stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, who are expected, but not officially confirmed, to give their characters a proper sendoff.  Mayhew last reprised the character on film in 2005's Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Little has been revealed about the film's premise apart from that it will be set thirty years after Return of the Jedi and will introduce the next generation of Star Wars heroes, who will take over the franchise starting with Episode VIII.  "There will be some very familiar faces along with a trio of new young leads," said Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger during Disney's annual shareholder's meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Star Wars Episode VII is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on December 18, 2015.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Yes, here we are once again for another of my infamous movie reviews, this time on the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, based on the classic Marvel Comics character.  As always, if you haven't seen the movie yet and you don't want it spoiled for you, then please step back from your computer or whatever electronic device you're reading this on and stop reading now.  If, however, you're wise enough to know that movie reviews with spoilers are always more interesting than the ones without them...well...welcome to Level 7...

Although the previous Captain America movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, only made $176 million domestically, the $370 million worldwide total made a second Steve Rogers solo movie a no-brainer.  Moviegoers who weren't feeling the patriotic superhero in a World War II setting came to appreciate the character in the modern-day The Avengers, which set up a completely different approach to the Cap sequel.

Instead of bringing back director Joe Johnston, Marvel Studios went with Anthony and Joseph Russo, primarily known for helming several terrific episodes of the NBC geek sitcom Community.  Thankfully, the pair were fans of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting's superb storyline "The Winter Soldier" from the Captain America comics and wisely met with Brubaker to discuss his various thoughts about the character.

The Russos, working with a script from the returning Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, decided on approaching the film as a political conspiracy thriller, essentially a Marvel superhero version of classic films such as Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View and Marathon Man.  And just to emphasize that concept, they somehow managed to bring in Robert Redford, the legendary film actor who starred in, yes, Three Days of the Condor.

Picking up two years after the events in The Avengers, Steve Rogers is still trying to find his way in the 21st Century after nearly seven decades of being frozen in ice.  He continues working with the intelligence and espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and is quickly brought in to join a mission to free captured S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives from Algerian pirates led by none other than Batroc.  It's here we get our first hint that things aren't as they seem, when Steve discovers his fellow agent and Avenger Black Widow is more concerned with saving data from the ship's computers on a flash drive than kicking Algerian pirate ass.

From that point on, it's one S.H.I.E.L.D. trust fail after another.  Executive Director Nick Fury is blocked from accessing the data Black Widow extracted, then ends up ambushed by a bunch of fake cops and a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier on the downtown streets of Cleveland Washington, D.C.  Thanks to his trusty S.H.I.E.L.D. ride, Fury escapes and heads for Steve's apartment, hands him the flash drive and pulls a Fox Mulder by telling him to "Trust no one" before being gunned down by the Winter Soldier.

And if that isn't enough of the Worst Monday Ever, Cap is summoned by S.H.I.E.L.D. uber-bigwig Alexander Pierce to reveal what Fury learned and refuses, which results in Pierce branding him a fugitive.  With the help of Black Widow, Cap uncovers information that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been totally compromised by everyone's favorite comic book terrorist organization, HYDRA.  Joy.

The Russos keep things moving briskly, with heavy S.H.I.E.L.D. intrigue balanced well against seat-gripping action sequences and some zippy lines of dialogue along the way.  Henry Jackman does well enough with the score to heighten the tension at just the right moments, but ultimately pales in comparison to previous composer Alan Silvestri.  Unfortunately, the films biggest problem is cinematographer Trent Opaloch, who seems determined to turn Captain America into Jason Bourne with frustrating and confusing close-ups of action sequences, mixed with quick-cut editing and nauseating shakycam.

Despite those issues, the film's cast turn in some terrific performances with a lot of great character moments.  Here are some of the things that stood out:

CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS -- Now halfway through his reported six-film contract, Chris Evans continues to add considerable depth to his character.  You genuinely feel for Steve as a man out of time, struggling to adjust to life seventy years from what he knows.  He's desperate for something to believe in, which makes it all the more tragic when he's betrayed by what he believes in most.

BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF -- Scarlett Johansson proves once again how ridiculous it is that the Black Widow has never received a solo film.  For most of this movie, Natasha acts as Steve's full-fledged partner, casually flirting with him at times even though both seem to know nothing's going to happen beyond friendship.  And finally, we get to see Natasha's darker, secretive side in full display, giving her that morally grey distinction that makes her all the more fascinating.

THE WINTER SOLDIER/JAMES "BUCKY" BARNES -- Although he doesn't get much in the way of dialogue, Sebastian Stan is near perfect casting as the Winter Soldier.  Due to his facial mask early on and the minimal dialogue, Stan is forced to express his character through his eyes projecting everything from mind-controlled emptiness to tormented recollection of fleeting memories.  It's going to be interesting if Stan ends up taking over as Captain America when Evans leaves, as the Winter Soldier does during Brubaker's epic "Death of Captain America" saga.

THE FALCON/SAM WILSON -- Right from the start, Anthony Mackie nails his role of Sam Wilson without being obnoxious or wacky comedy relief.  Sam and Steve quickly form their bromance while running laps around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool, bringing to life one the best superhero friendships to come out of '70s comics.  Although we don't get to see him in full flying action until the third act, The Falcon more than proves his worth and I really hope we get to see him join the Avengers.

NICK FURY -- At 65, Samuel L. Jackson seems ready to let Nick Fury vanish into the shadows.  He finally gets a significant action sequence of his own, but there are some very symbolic moments at the end that strongly hint he won't be coming back.  Fury leaves his eyepatch behind in a burning fire, and then we get a shot of Fury's gravestone, which features a much-beloved Bible quotation from Ezekiel 25:17, made famous by Jackson in the Quentin Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction.  What better way for Jackson to go out on?

ALEXANDER PIERCE -- Robert Redford is another aging veteran at 77 and unfortunately, it shows all too well.  In an apparent nod to Brubaker's Aleksander Lukin, Pierce is ultimately revealed as the Big Bad mastermind serving HYDRA, but Redford seems too old to project the edge needed to make his character a truly menacing villain.  He comes off as just another Evil White Guy in a Suit, something we've seen hundreds of times in action movies.

MARIA HILL -- Once again, Cobie Smulders is supposed to be Nick Fury's number two but serves little purpose apart from helping Cap and Black Widow escape S.H.I.E.L.D. and to update the audience on how the Helicarriers are being disabled.  Perhaps she'll get more to do working in Stark Industries' human resources department.

AGENT 13/SHARON CARTER -- This was Emily VanCamp's introduction as Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers' love interest after her aunt Peggy.  It feels like Sharon's being saved for the third Captain America film, but she does get a nice sequence where she defiantly refuses to roll over for Rumlow activating the Helicarriers.

PEGGY CARTER -- After wowing fans with her Agent Carter one-shot on the Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray release, Hayley Atwell returns to give some much-needed modern-day closure between Peggy and Steve.  It's tragic she and Steve never got to have that dance, but hopefully the rumored Agent Carter television series actually happens.

CROSSBONES/BROCK RUMLOW -- Unfortunately, Frank Grillo doesn't assume his Crossbones identity in this film, but he's solid as Pierce's go-to henchman heading up the S.H.I.E.L.D. strike team.  He also gives The Falcon someone to fight while Cap's busy with the Winter Soldier.

BATROC THE LEAPER/GEORGES BATROC -- Former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre portrays one of Cap's oldest bad guys from the comics, now reinvented as an Algerian pirate.  The casting makes perfect sense, allowing St. Pierre to showcase Batroc's mastery of savate, a French form of kickboxing.

ARNIM ZOLA -- Toby Jones returns as Zola, albeit in audio form only now that his character's consciousness has been uploaded into a supercomputer.  We're one step closer to finally seeing Zola as a headless monster with his face projected holographically on his chest.  Can't wait.

JASPER SITWELL -- Maximiliano Hernandez reprises his role of Sitwell, showing us how deep HYDRA's corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D. runs and to inform Cap about Zola's data-mining algorithm.  Unless Sitwell ends up in that wonderful place known as Tahiti in a future episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this may be the last we see of him. 

SENATOR STERN -- The same goes for Garry Shandling, returning after his previous appearance in Iron Man 2.  However, Stern ends up arrested and not dead, so perhaps he'll end up cellmates with Trevor Slattery.

ED BRUBAKER CAMEO -- The co-creator of The Winter Soldier has a "Don't Blink" cameo as one of the scientists overseeing Bucky's mental conditioning.  Very appropriate.

OBLIGATORY STAN LEE CAMEO -- In a fun moment, we find Smilin' Stan serving as a security guard at the Smithsonian Institution, bemoaning that he's going to lose his job after Steve Rogers takes his original Captain America uniform.

BARON STRUCKER, QUICKSILVER AND SCARLET WITCH CAMEOS -- Thomas Kretschmann, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen appear in the mid-credits bonus scene.  Inside a HYDRA lab, we see Baron Strucker admiring Loki's scepter left over from The Avengers and two prisoners very familiar to Marvel fans.  The Avengers: Age of Ultron can't get here fast enough.

Overall, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a welcome upgrade over the previous two lackluster Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  It has the far-too-rare distinction of being a sequel that's better than the first film, with some genuine game-changing implications for future Marvel movies as well as ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.  It may be a little convoluted for someone who walks in cold with no knowledge of all the various characters and previous movies, but pay offs huge for those who are.

And for those who may be wondering, here's the updated list of my Top 20 Comic Book Films:

1. Superman (1978)
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
3. The Avengers (2012)
4. Man of Steel (2013)
5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
6. Spider-Man (2002)
7. Batman Begins (2005)

8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
9. Watchmen (2009)
10. Iron Man (2008)

11. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
12. X-Men: First Class (2011)
13: The Wolverine (2013)
14. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
15. X2: X-Men United (2003)
16. X-Men (2000)
17. Thor (2011)
18. Batman (1989)
19. Superman II (1981)

20. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer,


Friday, April 4, 2014

CONSTANTINE Pilot Script Details Revealed

It's been about a month since we got our first look at Matt Ryan in the NBC pilot Constantine, with only sparse information about the actual pilot itself.

Shock Till You Drop posted some interesting new details yesterday, claiming they've read the actual script by Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer.  They described the script as "a fun read" with "a bit of a playful edge to it" and made comparisons to Fox's Sleepy Hollow and The CW's Supernatural.  Without spoiling everything that happens, they listed these ten items of interest...
  1. The pilot takes place in and around New York City (which I don't think has been known about until now).

  2. When we first find John, we learn he has voluntarily checked himself into a psychiatric clinic. He's haunted by an incident in which he lost a 9-year-old girl to a demon who has dragged her soul to Hell. This incident has a significant impact on his life and it's that is driving him. He checks himself out of the hosptial after six months to find something sinister is afoot in the realm of the supernatural.

  3. John's a clever wise-ass. His business card reads "Exorcist, Demonologist and Master of the Dark Arts," but as he tells his doctor, he should replace "master" with "petty dabbler" because he hates to put on airs. He also doesn't like to talk much about his past; he masks his emotions with wry humor.

  4. We won't see John in his classic trenchcoat right away, but he gets there.

  5. An angel – Manny [Harold Perrineau] – has been assigned to John to help ease his soul into damnation. John hates angels.

  6. Liv Parsons [Lucy Griffiths], a young woman who works at a rental car facility, gets caught up in John's world when she discovers something is after her. Liv's deceased father, Jasper, knew John and John owes a debt to him.

  7. Papa Midnite – an imposing Cuban man who can dream the future – is ailing when we first find him. He's doing a lot of cocaine because he has to stay awake.

  8. Expect to meet "Chaz" [Charles Halford], John's driver who is a tall, sensitive, quiet type yet is quite knowledgeable about the supernatural himself.

  9. The pilot is brimming with possessions, ghosts (Liv discovers a way to see the dead) and demons and the story does an adept job at not losing its audience in the mythology. Liv is our conduit to John's world of rituals, pendants, black magic and more and handles the exposition well.

  10. The foundation is set for a long-lasting partnership between Liv and John. Now that she's aware of the world beyond ours, she wants to use her knowledge to help others. But is John willing to assist her?
As Hellblazer comics fans know, the incident involving the nine-year-old girl is a reference to Astra, an abused girl who conjured a monster that took revenge on the adults who tormented her but the monster refused to leave.  Constantine and several of his occultist friends attempted to destroy the creature by summoning a demon of their own, but the demon remained out of their control.  After destroying the creature, the demon tormented Constantine's friends and took Astra to Hell.  Constantine suffered a nervous breakdown as a result and was committed to Ravenscar Psychiatric Hospital.
Papa Midnite will be the "Big Bad" if the pilot is picked up for a full series.  The character was previously portrayed in live action by Djimon Hounsou in the 2005 film Constantine.