This is not the franchise my mother warned me about…

So a fourth Terminator film is on its way. No, really. And it stars Christian ‘B.A. Batman’ Bale as freedom fighter John Connor. It’s the first Terminator film actually set in the war torn future rather than the frankly boring present tense and it will feature lots of killer robots… and no Governor Schwartzenegger.

McG has been hunting for a major action film for years now. Bumped from Superman, he now finds himself with Terminator, the franchise once loved by many and now half-remembered by few. It’s all down to the third installment which was a great big so what for both fans and critics (this reminds me of Chris Nolan’s argument for not mounting a third Batman film). Faced with the prospect of reviving a concept that had lost its way, the Charlie’s Angels director went to the big guns, courted James Cameron (creator of the Terminator) and approached Bale to star. Neither were exactly sold on the idea, so McG refined the script until it appealed to them. He even enlisted brilliant monster designer Stan Winston who was a part of the project before he sadly passed. Now armed with Cameron’s blessing and one of the most celebrated action actors in the business today, he is determined to make this movie work. You can say a lot of things about the guy, but he’s going about this the right way. Personally I became interested when Bale signed on. Honestly, if Christian Bale were in GI Joe, I’d be first in line.

Trailer

The Terminator was once actually about something, believe it or not, and spoke not only to the horror and worry of nuclear annihilation but also to the the prospect of the future of humanity. McG apparently wants to go back to the idea behind the movie and ask ‘Where exactly are we headed and what will we look like when we get there?’ For a populace addicted to escapism through entertainment, pharmaceuticals or any number of things, you have to wonder if anyone will actually be living in the future at all or in their own private world.

“One of our big themes is asking, where does humanity lie?” McG said. “If you have an artificial hip, or an artificial heart, you’re still human, right? Well, where does that line end up being drawn? We’re flirting with the point now to where it’s not necessarily science fiction anymore. It’s a real issue and part of what this film does is explore that question.”

The latest movie is part one of three… if it works. When the coming soon list of movies is a rehash of films, toys or cartoons from the 1980’s, it’s difficult to know what to think about the future. It may shock young readers to learn that science fiction used to actually be about ideas, not just impressive digital effects (or remakes of better movies from the 50’s). With no flying cars, moon bases or treks into outer space slated for the coming decade, maybe it’s the perfect time to take another glimpse at the horror of science fiction.

Recommended:
The Terminator Dark Horse Omnibus, Vol. 1 (in the 90’s, these comics were quite something)
The Outer Limits Original Series Complete Box Set
(even if just to watch the episode ‘Soldier’ which Terminator owes a LOT to)
The Terminator (Special Edition)

Advertisements

Beware His Star Power…

greenlantern

There has been no sign of a development in either the Batman or Superman franchises for many moons now, and a recent rumor that DC Comics had put a stop on all feature film developments lead many to believe that Marvel was running the show on the super hero flick front. Well… that may not be the case.

There have been rumblings that James Bond ‘Casino Royale’ (the new one, not the classic 60’s one) director Martin Campbell has been approached by Warner Bros. to bring their next big comic book franchise to the fore. Finally, Green Lantern will be receiving the star treatment that many fans have been waiting for. An interesting choice, Campbell could bring the kind of gravity and importance to a Green Lantern film that it desperately needs. Keep in mind, at one time there were talks of casting Jack Black as the unlikely bearer of the magic green ring. Oh, my sides. But Campbell could bring that certain something to the project that may result in Green Lantern being a major property. Remember how badly off Batman was before Chris Nolan…

While the original Green Lantern was created in 1940 by Bill Finger and Martin Nodell, the current Green Lantern and star of this film would be Hal Jordan, a test pilot introduced in the Silver Age version of the series in 1960. A tough-as-nails loner with no fear and a defiant hairdo, Jordan has been regarded as THE Green Lantern by fans despite the DC Editorial’s numerous attempts at introducing replacements. Possessing a ring that is capable of nearly any feat the bearer can imagine, Jordan remains the most revered of the corps due to his fearless nature. A member of a galactic police force, Jordan has faced numerous threats including the strange freak of evolution known as the Shark, the robotic army of Manhunters, the mad yet brilliant Hector Hammond and many others. His former mentor Sinestro remains Jordan’s chief foe, a villain that stands against everything the Green Lantern Corps holds dear.

At one time Green Lantern was a bit of a joke and couldn’t hold a readership to save his publication life, but today the series is an enormous hit and a major pull for DC readers. Given the current state of his popularity and the unlikelihood of any other properties coming along, it is the perfect time to launch this character into a film franchise.

Let’s just hope they don’t cast Jack Black.

Recommended:

Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War, Vol. 1
Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War, Vol. 2
Green Lantern: Rebirth
Green Lantern: In Brightest Day

Joel Hodgeson’s ‘Jollyfilter’

Creator of the most inventive television program ever made, many people wonder what Joel Hodgeson did when he wasn’t making fun of really bad movies with his robot puppet pals. It turns out that he and both he and brother Jim were hard at work on a project that would breath new life into boring films to make them strangely watchable.

A project developed for the USA network in 2000, the Jollyfilter sadly did not come to pass as a full-blown reality, but the brief glimpse of the results is staggering. Just imagine any number of lousy movies made into entertaining experiences thanks to the insight of the Jollyfilter!

Fans of MST3K looking for a fix have a number of options from the Cinematic Titanic version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (available for direct download!), there’s a brand new RiffTrax for the Star Wars Holiday Special and the folks at cheepnis are also holding a holiday sale on their MST3K DVDs.

Enjoy!

Iron Man Sees Red in Sequel

Casting details have leaked on Iron Man 2, leading many to figure out just how the sequel is going to work.

The details read: (“30s, Eastern European, brilliant, gritty”), female lead (“20s, beautiful, speaks several languages fluently and is equally proficient in martial arts”), and a “bruiser” type (“Russian, 20s or 30s, at least 6’2″, able to perform own stunts, has the build of a MMA fighter”).

While many saw the hints of Iron Man‘s chief villain the Mandarin laid out in the first film, the production team may be hesitant to use such a racist character in a mainstream film (unless they massively change the walking stereotype in the Fun Manchu mustache).

If the above casting call is true, this leads many a comic fan toward the most obvious choice… Crimson Dynamo.
08_dynamo
Introduced in ’63 soon after Iron Man started off in Tales of Suspense, Crimson Dynamo is another armored walking tank character set to out-do Stark at his own game. A super villain indicative of the Cold War paranoia and obsession with ideological warfare between democracy and communism, the Crimson Dynamo was ultimately deprogrammed by Stark and even hired as an engineer in his lab. A large burly man, Crimson Dynamo could easily be viewed as “bruiser” type (“Russian, 20s or 30s, at least 6’2″, able to perform own stunts, has the build of a MMA fighter”).

Crimson Dynamo may seem like just another guy in a suit… because he is, but he also has something to offer in turns of character. The fact that he changes sides is one of those Marvel Comics devices that I’d like to see played up in the movies more. Just so it’s not similar to the nauseating transformation from blood-thirsty villain to saccharine buddy that we saw in Spider-Man 3.

There the two former foes got along… until the beautiful Black Widow arrived to assassinate the Crimson Dynamo for his betrayal to mother Russia.

bi26
Black Widow could easily fit the bill of female lead (“20s, beautiful, speaks several languages fluently and is equally proficient in martial arts”). A trained assassin from the KGB, the Black Widow is a smokey-voiced sultry killer who has been through so many changes through the years after her mid 60’s introduction that she could easily be the most versatile female character in comics. In truth, her look is pretty simple: red hair, skin tight uniform, gold bracelets. Another villain-turned-hero, the Black Widow of the comic book world eventually ends up working for S.H.I.E.L.D., which was name-dropped all over Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk films. One of the more interesting female characters in comics, I’m hoping she makes it into this franchise one way or another.

Sure, fans are somewhat disappointed that the next film could end up being a bit of a repeat of the first with its dueling robot jocks… but that’s like being disappointed that the next Batman film would feature another nutter.This is Iron Man, after all. If we get a third, maybe Fing Fang Foom or some such supernatural threat could be introduced.

Done right, a tag team of Crimson Dynamo and the Black Widow could be visually entertaining and just different enough to keep things interesting. Director Favreau has already show that he can make one of the more traditionally ‘boring’ super heroes stunning, so I don’t think viewers are in any danger of being bored at the cinema in 2010.

So who do you think (“30s, Eastern European, brilliant, gritty”), is?

The War Against Mars Gets Seasonal

There is a crisp cold bite to the air, the economy is in a tailspin and the war on ‘Merry Christmas’ is taken up anew. It must be holidays. Each year my soul experiences what can only be called existential shrinkage in the arctic chill of December.

santaclausconquersmartians

Just released from the folks at Cinematic Titanic is the perfect remedy for the seasonal blues… war. In Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, viewers will amaze and delight even the most grudgeful of Grinches.

Once again the creators of MST3K are back with another film but this time it’s special. The old team tackled this stink burger on Comedy Central with so much success that it was considered an ‘essential’ experiment in a DVD box set with the legendary ‘Manos, the Hands of Fate.’ This time things are different. Without censoring or time constraints, the CT version of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is longer and bolder.

So reserve your copy today and see why this direct sales DVD and download series has earned aplomb from Rolling Stone and the web community at large. It’ll make you laugh so hard you’ll blow candy cane trough your nose.

Download or order Cinematic Titanic-Santa Claus Conquers the Martians today!

Back to the salt mines for Spider-Man 4 and 5

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

bagge_spider-man

Nevertheless, Sony Pictures is going head first into a pair of sequels to their Spider-Man franchise while the iron is hot thanks to Iron Man and The Dark Knight. The reason that I opened with the statement on repeating mistakes is that there is no franchise to date that has managed to deliver three films in a row, never mind 4. Added to that the fact that both Spider-flicks are going into production at the same time (much like the two Back To The Future films) and you have a recipe for disaster.

Raimi recently confirmed that Toby Maguire will be returning to the part (despite the fact that he seemed bored with it in the latest installment) and Kirsten Dunst will be in Spider-Man 4. Personally if I never see dodgy-eyed Dunst in another film it will be too soon. The first two Spider-Man films are nearly perfect in all respects save for the failure to capture the character of Mary Jane Watson, a comic book starlet that everyone wants to know. A jazzy-dialogued hipster, MJ served a unique role that not many other supporting characters ever did, readers actually liked her. As opposed to Lois Lane who has struggled for a reason to exist since her introduction, MJ’s appearance in an issue of Amazing Spider-Man is enough to get readers interested.

Added to the MJ problem is a rising tendency for Raimi’s Spider-Man films to be light and fanciful, even to the point of several musical numbers breaking up the hastily assembled action sequences. Again, the first two Spider-Man films are exquisite melanges of mood and action whereas Spider-Man 3 is an exquisite corpse by morons. The script was passed around the room and each person added an idea… that failed to build on anything that the previous person added… until the result was a directionless mess. It is common practice to ‘up the ante’ in these sequels which will probably mean more than one villain, which raimi has already shown he cannot do. I’d love to be proven wrong (a film featuring Kraven would be brilliant!), but we’ll see.

It has also been announced that playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has been hired to write the script for Spider-Man 4, his first super hero work. I would prefer Michael Chabon who punched up the most successful of the Spider-Man movies, but we’ll see what this new guy can do. These things almost always end up being massively rewritten by committee anyway, so I’m not sure that it will matter.

The rumor is that Hollywood is anxious to duplicate the success of The Dark Knight (the film that saved the movie industry) and is interested in making Spider-Man 4 and 5 more character driven and brooding. The angle can work for Spider-Man but I maintain that the absurdity of Peter Parker‘s life is the best approach. The bit in Spider-Man where the Green Goblin dies and begs Peter to not tell Harry that his dad was a super villain is just movie gold. I feel that the removal of Spider-Man‘s secret identity secret from Mary Jane was done too soon as frankly I enjoy watching Peter Parker squirm in abject solitude, but the damage is done now.

What do you, the reader think of this news? What do you want to see in the next two sequels?

What to do with the Superman movies

DC Comics/Warner Bros is currently stalled in the production of a second new generation Superman movie. Rumor has it that after the unparalleled impact that The Dark Knight had with cinema goers, the producers want to follow suit with the ideas used in The Dark Knight for their boy in blue. This would conceivably mean darker Superman film with more serious plot elements.

This is, to my ears, a very bad idea. However, anything that perpetuates what we have seen thus far is a bad idea to me.

After seeing the 4 films in the 1970’s/80’s Superman movies and the more recent Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, I think I know how things can be ‘saved.’ The first two Superman films work quite well in their time (aside from the strange ‘Can You Read My Mind’ musical number). Seeing as how this was the only comic book film on the block at the time and special effects were still in an early developmental stage, the tagline ‘you will believe a man can fly’ could not have been more apt. That was the selling point right there. Anything else was icing. The producers had a golden opportunity with Christopher Reeves, a talented stage actor who perfectly sold the character of Clark Kent/Superman in a way we may never see replicated (and that’s okay, there’s a reason legends exist).

However, all 5 Superman movies to date share mainly the same ideas and plots recycled over and over (aside from Superman II featuring evil Kryptonian criminals which many still think of as the best one). I swear, if I see one more movie featuring Lex Luthor plotting an evil scheme I will shave my own head. This is in no way a judgment on either Hackman or Spacey‘s performance as both owned the character completely. I’m still overwhelmed with Spacey‘s amazing performance as Lex Luthor.

However, the idea of a man flying and a charismatic character actor do not a super hero film make. Times have changed and what was once an oddity is now a genre. Audiences are used to bigger explosions and effects, sure, but each successful comic book movie has its own flavor. Dark Knight is scary and high-art in its approach, X-Men is an ensemble film replete with adolescent angst, Iron Man is a fun and action-packed film that appeals to almost everyone, Spider-Man is a modern-day serial picture almost perfectly capturing the spirit of the original… so where does that leave Superman, formerly the only show in town?

Richard Donner recently suggested that his former assistant and current comic book wonder writer Geoff Johns be approached to write the next Superman film tentatively entitled ‘Man of Steel’ (currently in what is called ‘development Hell’).

While I do hold a very special spot in my heart for Geoff Johns’ comic books (his runs on Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman and Action Comics are absolutely superb), I think that having him on the next film would push the franchise down a path it does not need to go and frankly would not excel at- a dark action super hero flick.

One of the seminal super hero comic book characters in the industry, Superman remains unique in that there have been so many approaches to what makes him tick. From comedy to fantasy to hard sci-fi, big blue has seen it all. Most recently Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely collaborated on a series intended to entice new readers to the character called All Star Superman. A veritable love letter to the madly inventive tales of the 1960’s, the series is an utter success and has been hailed by comic book readers who would never have read a Superman comic otherwise.

This approach of ‘use what works’ had also been done as a one-off by Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and legendary Superman artist Curt Swan in ‘Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?’ (collected in DC Universe The Stories of Alan Moore) a story that is regarded as one of the absolute best the Metroplois Marvel has starred in.Replete with out of this world adventure and nail-biting drama, Alan Moore‘s story also honors the character for what he is and the talented British writer ignores the temptation to ‘make his mark’ or ‘fix’ anything. It is also a milestone as it serves as the last Superman story before John Byrne took the character over with Marv Wolfman in 1985 and transformed the title into an homage to the 1950’s run mixed with a hard-edged sci-fi feel.

This backdrop of madcap inventiveness and absurdity played against mundane everyday life is the character’s strength, in my opinion and could easily make Superman movies a force to be reckoned with.

If you must have Luthor in the film, keep him, but do something some of the best Superman writers have done, use him in a new way (rather than a simple mustache-twirling villain coming up with a half-baked scheme that Superman puts a stop to in the fourth act).

My idea would involve Superman in an off-world adventure that got him out of Metropolis and into an eye-poppingly odd environment where he can perform super feats. While he is away, Luthor would no longer have to worry about Superman‘s interference, allowing him to completely take over for the first time. Lois and Jimmy could try and stop Luthor and could hold him at bay until Superman returned from his other adventure and got to clean house. This formula would make what has become a frankly tired franchise new again and introduce new strengths to moviegoers that are tried and true concepts to comic book readers. A solid supporting cast of Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane and the oddball hyper-inventive ideas that could be used in a new setting would really make Superman pop out to moviegoers all over again, and honestly that needs to happen.

This is not rocket science, guys. I love the Superman films, but even as a kid was terribly disappointed by the fact that there wasn’t anything to really challenge him in any of the 5 movies. The filmmakers tried to compensate with the ‘feats of strength, speed’ etc that make him far hardier than a mortal man, but I don’t think that is enough for modern audiences.

We need a new Superman movie to make the guy on the street as excited to see it as he was to see Iron Man or Batman and that does not mean to imitate either. Superman is the blueprint for the superhuman hero and it’s for a reason. I just hope that the moviemakers don’t forget that.

Recommended:

DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore
All Star Superman, Vol. 1
All Star Superman, Vol. 2
Superman: Last Son
Showcase Presents Superman VOL 04 (Showcase Presents)

Dr Syn, Alias the Scarecrow

The autumn always makes me think of one thing, Dr Syn.

Why, you ask? Because it was Dr Syn who came up with the ingenious idea of dressing up as the horrifying Scarecrow. In a way, he’s kind of like an early alternate Batman. The actor Patrick McGoohan (of the cult series The Prisoner) played the character in the Wonderful World of Disney TV series… sadly doomed to remain out of our hands in any video format not purchased by a pirate. An  educated parson by day, terrifying and swashbuckling pirate ruling over his parishioners from behind a glowing visage of horror by night.

You can see why Disney has continued its efforts in expunging this film from memory.

However, that won’t stop the dutiful lads and lasses busily uploading material to youtube!

The character enjoyed a brief appearance in Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but is more or less an obscure remnant of half-remembered childhood nostalgia. But he remains an essential part of my ever hazier memory of whacked-out children’s TV.

A preview of Watchmen

Comicbookrsources.com recently sat down with director Zack Snyder and got a few tidbits of information on the upcoming Watchmen movie.

From the sound of things, the film is going to be a faithful adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon‘s incredible series. From the setting (an alternate 1980’s) to the visuals (Doctor Manhattan‘s stunning clockwork construction), this sounds like the real deal so far.

From a montage opening sequence set to Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ to a breathtaking array of key scenes.

Also screened was Snyder’s adaptation of the memorable fourth chapter of “Watchmen,” in which Dr. Manhattan relates his origin in his uniquely non-linear fashion. Save for Mars being not bright pink but rather a dull brown, the sequence of events plays out and is depicted more or less precisely as it is in Moore & Gibbons’ graphic novel, although certainly more graphically in moments where Osterman is moved to explode people. Also intact is Osterman’s stoic narration, although, interestingly, Dr. Manhattan speaks with no vocal processing whatsoever, despite his memorably blue word balloons. Snyder later explained that actor Billy Crudup has a “very calming” voice, and that he interprets Dr. Manhattan as trying to make everyone around him feel as at ease as possible, and would thusly not modify his voice. However, Snyder did note that careful listeners will hear recurring ambient sound effects in scenes featuring Dr. Manhattan, such as modified whale song in close camera shots.

The final segment to be screened was Nite Owl II and Laurie Juspeczyk’s daring rescue of Rorshach from prison. Though events play out as they do in the graphic novel — including a decidedly R-rated moment in which a naked Dreiberg and Juspeczyk formulate their plan, following what was obviously some exhaustive superhero sexing– and Snyder and his team amplify the jail break with intense, stylized fighting as Nite Owl and Silk Spectre make their way through the prison to find their comrade. The film diverges from the novel upon finding Rorshach, who is in full costume when he dispatches the Big Figure in the men’s room.

The presentation concluded with a montage of mostly action footage cut to “Take A Bow” by Muse, including Dr. Manhattan’s giant hand smashing through the ceiling of Adrian Veidt’s Antarctic headquarters and Nite Owl and Silk Sprectre kissing while an atomic bomb explodes in the distance.

The film will also serve as a kind of time capsule playing to the whims of nostalgia-hungry viewers… which ironically fits into the theme of the movie perfectly.

Paradoxically, had the “Watchmen” film been produced in the 1980s, Snyder and company feel it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, either. Snyder was keen to note that in 1985, ‘They never would have put [Nena’s] ’99 Luftballoons’ in the movie. But we certainly will!”

Um… I hope that the rest of the soundtrack is decent.

An adaptation of such a grand comic book has long been a near nightmare of most comic book readers and film makers alike simply due to the brilliance of the source material. A post-modern comioc book that makes a statement on super hero comics and modern American culture, Watchmen has remained one of the finest offerings in the comic book medium.

Can it be a good film, though?

Cinematic Titanic- Wasp Woman

The guys at Cinematic Titanic are churning out the releases with their third film, Wasp Woman.

Janice Starlin, purveyor of her own line of cosmetics, finds herself nearing middle-age (in a time when 38 was the new 94). A stranger with an accent and an unnatural love of wasps enters her life and promises her the elixer that will prolong her youth forever – until the wasp becomes the wasped.

A gem of its era, Wasp Woman is the perfect material for the CT team. full of nonsensical science, vague accents and yet another director with woman issues… this is the real deal.

The latest experiment is available for purchase or direct download here.