...because it's not about the popcorn. Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:47:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rope (1948) Tue, 11 Dec 2012 21:47:47 +0000 I’m watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1943)  this morning, and it’s odd how the lense of time has turned a lighthearted society thriller into an unlikely, Gay sitcom.

Rope is, of course based upon the Leopold and Loeb case in Chicago, during the ’20s of the last century. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two precocious University of Chicago undergrads (both 19 y.o.), who had taken Nietzsche too close to heart, and decided that the best way to exercise their new, Randian philosophy was to murder a 14 y.o. neighbor-boy, Bobby Franks, if only to determine if they could get away with it.

Though the Loeb case took place in Chicago in 1924, Hitchcock relocated his story to New York City, presumably in the late ’40s. The shocking thing here is how Gay the Leopold and Loeb characters appear by 21st c. standards. The villains in Rope are less monstrous than the real Leopold and Loeb because the two teenagers killed a younger boy; all of the characters in the Hitchcock film were adults.

Moments after Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) and Brandon Shaw (John Dall)  strangle David Kentley (Dick Hogan) with a short length of narrow rope, Morgan throws his head back, and rolls his eyes orgasmically. (I’ve never looked many homoerotic cues before in Hitchcock, but I’m now, sure as hell, going to look harder.) Now that they’ve actually murdered someone, they somehow feel required to flaunt it, so after throwing Kently’s body into a trunk, and serving a buffet for his family, friends and teachers atop it.

The story indicates that  Morgan and Shaw are Harvard undergrads, who share a Manhattan Penthouse, overlooking Central Park, both men are very well tailored and employ a seasoned maid, Mrs. Wilson (Edith Everhart), willing to run errands. (If your gaydar isn’t yet pinging, please take a moment to determine ifthe device is, in fact, plugged in.)

As the guests begin to arrive, the story segues into High Society intrigue, as we’re introduced to the victim’s fiancé and the pretty,, young blonde fellow who was competing for her. Jimmy Stewart arrives as Rupert Cadell, their Headmaster at Somerville, presumably their  New England Prep School.

The really admirable item here, noticed only well toward the 3/4 point is that Rope is a closed-room, single set affair; the entire story takes place in the penthouse apartment. Despite the spatial confinements, Hitchcock does create a remarkable sequence that advances the story and ratchets up the suspense, as Stuart, Granger and Dall argue and Everhart clears the buffet, coming very close to discovering Hogan’s body in the trunk.

The Leopold and Loeb murder is a grittier case that I’d expect someone like James Ellroy to handle properly, given the homosexuality, sociopathy, pediocide and antisemitism. Hitchcock and writer, Ben Hecht scotch the age of their victim and turn the story into a cautionary tale against absolutist referendums like Nietzscheism  Nazism and claims of Übermensch entitlement.

Rope eventually stops being a twisted, Gay sitcom and becomes an anti-Nazi tract, but it makes several interesting stops along the way.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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‘Appropriate Adult’ (2011) Tue, 29 May 2012 13:47:16 +0000 'Appropriate Adult' 2011 Appropriate Adult (2011) is a two-part dramatization of the life of  Fred West (1941–1995) a rural. British serial killer that operated in the British Midlands for over 30 years.

The twist is that the filmmakers concentrate upon the relationship between West and his Social Worker, Janet Leach, when he she is brought in to assist West in the mid-90s.

In the UK, the term ‘Appropriate Adult’ has been given to the advocates of mentally deficient citizens and children, much like a Social Worker.

Fred West was a piece of work — blue collar, illiterate and mentally impaired. West had been brought up in an abusive household where he was likely the victim of the sexual predations of both his parents. West also suffered numerous non-fatal head injuries that may have contributed to his disposition. Prosecuting West was difficult because most of his crimes had occurred 10 or 20 years beforehe wassuspected of anything and the accusations were often word-of-mouth. The Police went into the field in search of forensic evidence — and were sometimes successful at finding it — but the crux of the matter was that many of West’s victims had  become cold cases. In most cases. Only witness testimony could connect West to the murders of more than 20 women an children, yet many of the witnesses were either dead of natural causes or wiped-out by West and his 2nd wife (and co-conspirator) Rose.

Because of these constraints — a lack of both witnesses and victims to draw upon –   Appropriate Adult  is an in-your-head drama. Unlike American television, there are  no flashback scenes. The story is further handicapped by featuring only a sucession of 2-6 characters stuck in a room together, spinning conversations.

There are many little head games and unreliable witnesses. Monica Dolan scored a BAFTA win for her supporting role as Rose West, Fred’s chief antagonist, but her presence is mostly physical; I can’t recall single line of dialogue from her character. Dominic West (no relation,”The Wire”) and Emily Watson (‘Hilart and Jackie’) star here, as West and Leach, respectively.

Just this past week, both West and Watson were presented 2011 BAFTA Awards for Best Actor and Actress.This is old-school filmmaking, with no SFX, no explosions or bloodletting, yet it was interesting and vital. The West’s victims were so numerous that I began to lose count. I may have lost a few plot-pointts inn there , but Appropriate Adult is well worth watching.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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‘The Twelve’. Vol. 1 by J. Michael Straczynski Sat, 19 May 2012 15:31:53 +0000 The interesting thing here is that Marvel has taken an entire team of early Timely Comics heroes from the 1940s and Steve Rogers’d them. Instead of one guy caught in the ice and revived 20 or 30 years later, it’s 12 characters and 60 years.

Many of these characters’ abilities seem to overlap in and only half of them have actual powers, but this is a pretty good read. They’re all fish out of water and like Alan Moore’s  Watchmen , many of them have dark pasts. Unlike Moore’s super-team none of the characters anticipate contemporary Marvel or DC heroes — there is no Tony Stark, no antediluvian archers and there are no pantheon members or mythological figures.

What Straczynski DOES deliver in keeping with Moore’s precedent are dysfunctional characters trying to catch up with the present. This book has the feel of something that might have continued past the initial order, had  Joe Quesada, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, not run Straczynski out of the company after insisting on the controversial Spider-Man story-arc in  One More Day .

The Twelve  is good work by Straczynski, almost as good as the indy work that he did on  Rising Stars  and  Midnight Nation , before his exclusive contract with Marvel.If you’re tired of cardboard heroes and you’re looking for flawed, interesting characters, this is definitely worth checking out.
The first 6 issues are collected in a trade published by Marvel, but we’ll probably have to wait until the Fall before Volume #2 comes out in hardcover and another 3 or 4 after that before they issue a paperback trade. It’s neither as ambitious or meta as  Watchmen , but it is a good read. Highly Recommended.

[ rating:3/5]


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‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961) Sat, 24 Mar 2012 01:11:44 +0000 Dbreakfast at Tiffany's (1961) Has anyone ever appraised this films as anything but a sunny Audrey Hepburn vehicle? It’s one hour and 55 minutes of dissonance. Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard play two characters who are, by all appearances middle class yuppies living in Manhattan during the early ’60s. But this would be a mistake.

In the eponymous Truman Capote novella it is clear that Holly is a high-end call girl and Paul a gigolo. Blake Edwards’ film supresses the gauche details by making Peppard and Hepburn squeaky clean.

The juxtaposition between who these two characters appear to be and how they earn their money percolates in and out of focus as the story proceeds: Holly has gentlemen callers who surreptitiously pass her cash gifts outside of restrooms. A couple of days each month, she goes out to Sing-Sing to deliver messages to Sal Tomato, the mob boss, who still needs to communicate with his soldiers. Paul’s rent is paid by 2-E (Patricia Neal), his ‘decorator’. Paul is a writer, but it’s not uncommon for 2-E to pay a visit or send her friends over to visit Paul any time of day. It’s squick as hell, but somehow Hepburn and Peppard keep the whole thing sailing along like a generic romantic comedy.

Under other circumstances, this story of New York denizens would be executed by a Gloria -era John Cassavetes, a Taxi Driver -era Martin Scorcese or a Requiem for a Dream -era Aranofsky. Somehow, this sex-worker extravaganza has remained a genial G-rated feature for Turner Classic Movies all these years, despite the implicit subversion.

Todd Haynes should consider remaking it.

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To Have and Have Not (1944) Wed, 07 Mar 2012 00:54:10 +0000 Though this film bears the same title as Ernest Hemingway’s 1937  novel of the same name, it bears few similarities to its source material. I won’t fake any Hemingway scholarship here, only make a few observations:

The screenplay is written by Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, which feels like a bit of a tragedy, given that THaHN feels like most insipid kind of corporate, commercial film making. More on that later. Directed by Howard Hawks, it doesn’t seem to have a tonal center, as the noir elements don’t pay off.

Shot in 1944, while WWII was still raging and 2 years after  Casablanca (1942). THaHN is both an odd sort of  mirror and deconstruction of former. Bacall’s character, Marie ‘Slim’ Browning is definitely a person that you’d want to keep in front of you at all times.

Once again, Bogart is at the margins of WWII, this time in Martinique, rather than the Florida keys of the novel. The Cuban aspects of the story have been transposed by relocating the story into the Caribbean and making the Vichy French the Big Bad.

As a a longtime adherent of Casablanca , it’s interesting to see the producers’ fingerprints throughout this film, as the Selznicks were clearly trying to catch Jack Warner’s fire, with Bogart in another expatriate war-story.

Bogart’s Harry Morgan owns a fishing boat that he charters to disreputable American tourists. Meanwhile, the local Gaullists are looking for transport somewhere, while the indebted Morgan, like Rick Blaine before him, tries to stay above the fray of local politics.

A young Lauren Bacall falls into the plot, not as Bogart’s former lover, but as one of the port’s shady denizens — she is a con-artist and pickpocket, working her way back to the US, after a tour of Brazil . Much of the story is all well, good and banal until you get to the shoe-hornings. The producers seem to have made an extraordinary effort to make Bacall into a double-threat recording artist, by giving her several vocal numbers in Martinique’s ubiquitous bar dance-halls, staffed by expat African-American musicians.

Sidney Greenstreet is stronger as Sr. Ferrari in Casablsnca than the Laughton-like Marcel Dalio is here as Frenchy. But Bacall’s gold-digging Marie Browning is an interesting, if not antagonistic alternative to Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa. For a film that took such a tortured path to reproduce Casablanca ‘s iconic success, there’s very little on-screen chemistry between Bogart and Bacall. Rather, they seem to compete for top billing here, ironic, considering this is Bacall’s first film.

It’s disappointing to see a talent as great as Faulkner wasted on what amounts to a weak sequel and a star vehicle for Bogart. It’s no doubt how or why Uncle Bill became a harder drinker once he arrived in Hollywood.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

(And it’s not the Casablanca ride-along that Selznick had hoped for.)

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‘The Thing’ (2011) Thu, 03 Nov 2011 02:24:27 +0000 Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s ‘The Thing’ (2011) is nominally a prequel to the 1982 film of the same name by John Carpenter. Carpenter’s film was a remake of remake of Howard Hawks’ ‘ The Thing from Another World ‘ (1952), itself an adaptation of John w. Campbell’s novella, “ Who Goes There? ” (1938).

Despite the fact that 30 years separate both Heijningen’s prequel and Carpenter’s remake, that intervening 30 years was not enough time for Universal to figure out what made the first 2 films into the classics that they are.

Unfortunately, Heijningen’s film pales in comparison to its predecessors because it’s producers not only forgot the nature of their Monster, but also its social relevance.

Campbell’s novella, like Hawks’ and Carpenter’s horror movies were classic Cold War stories. Like the Body Snatchers, Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies that preceded it, The Thing walked and talked like it’s human prey. The threat was that these Shape-shifters — Zombies, Vampires, Body Snatchers and Werewolves –  were capable of achieving sufficient numbers to exterminate mankind and overturn human civilization.

The remarkable failure of Heijningen’s film and Eric Heisserer’s screenplay is that it fails to co-opt our period anxieties the way that it’s precedents did. Way, way back in 2007, ST:TNG’s Ron Moore had successfully relaunched the 70s relic, Battlestar Galactica , as a post 9-11 allegory. Universal was hopeful that Moore might somehow make their Cold War relevant again, and paid him a tidy sum for a first draft.

I have no idea how Moore’s original screenplay fell down, but at some point Heijningen and his producers determined that Moore’s screenplay required a rewrite. Thus, we somehow ended up with a prequel that features the notorious Norwegian camp of Carpenter’s remake, but also two visiting American scientists and an African-American pilot that were somehow ‘unmentioned’ in Carpenter’s original film. In the movie’s PR materials they make a big deal about Heisserer working in the tall shadow Carpenter’s greatness.

It’s a really fascinating way to construct a story because we’re doing it by autopsy […] we’re having to reverse engineer it, so those details all matter to us ‘cause it all has to make sense.

Eric Heisserer on writing The Thing (2011)

Yeah, whatever. The film’s greatest disappointment is it’s failure to capture the anxiety of our era. Hawks’ and Carpenter’s films appeared as book ends to the Cold War. Hawks’ film appeared just before Russia charged ahead with their Sputnik program. Carptenter’s film appeared only after Afghanistan had sent the Russians home,  their tails between their legs, and 2 years before Ronald Reagan demanded that Mikhail Gorbachev “Tear down this Wall”.

Given our post-9-11 anxieties about shoe-bombers, sleeper-agents and other terrorists, it should not have been a big stretch to fashion a paranoid tale of xenophobia down in the No-Man’s Land of Antarctica. In the years following 9-11, numerous production companies have tried — and failed — to bring back the alien invasion movie. Most regrettably, there was the Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig vehicle, ‘The Invasion’ (2007) a poor man’s remake of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. Then there was the  Cruise-Spielberg ‘War of the Worlds’ (2005). In both of these films, the star-power overwhelmed the plot, such that the end-product was paranoia without introspection, without emotional anxiety — the Cruise and Kidman never question their own motives or the systemic failure of the world around them, making the resulting movie almost entirely flaccid.

2011′s Thing has no stars and should therefore have been willing to make Red Shirts of the entire cast. No such luck –  the Norwegians (played by Norwegian actors, no less), are picked off like extras, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Who?), Joel Edgerton (Who?) and Ulrich Thomsen (What?) are left to hold down the Norwegian Camp from its internal, xenomorphic invader. May their sacrifice not have been in vain.

This Thing it is not so much of a prequel as much as a beat-for-beat recycling of Carpenter’s film. The effects may be better, but the plot is not.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

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‘Return of the Living Dead III’ (1993) Sat, 12 Mar 2011 17:04:53 +0000 Zombie girlfriends, rebellious teens, fast cars, motorcycles and gunplay. To spell it out that way, it almost sounds like some other movie. Some other, equally improbable movie.

Of course, it’s just the 3nd sequel to George Romero and John Russo’s Night of the Living Dead (1968)  but this film belongs to the dramedy fork of the franchise that Russo took when he and Romero went their separate ways.

Of course, RothLD 3 was written, directed and produced by ’80s low-budget schlockmeister and H.P. Lovecraft aficionado, Brian Yuzna . Unlike it’s predecessors, it abandons the full-on campy excesses of predecessors Dan O’Bannon ( Alien, Lifeforce, Total Recall )  and Ken Wiederhorn to inject the tragic pathos of teenage romance into the mix, and somehow it works marvelously.
Melinda Clarke ( CSI, Firefly, Nikita )plays the girlfriend who dies within the movie’s first 5 minutes. Devastated, her beau, Curt Reynolds ( J. Trevor Edmond ) sneaks onto the Top Secret military base where his father, Col. John Reynolds ( Kent McCord ) has been involved with the US Army’s experiments with the deadly, Zombie-activating Trioxin gas .

Given all of the OTT craziness, Yunza and Melinda Clarke really bring this one home. Between the script and the performance,  they create a devastating sympathy for Clarke’s tragic and slowly necrotizing Julie Walker. Clarke’s Walker really tries to go on with her life as though she never died, but the mortal coil fails her.

It’s Yunza’s triumph over a braindead horror-comedy formula that makes this film stand out. For a zombie flic, it’s not really about the brains or the eminent world-takeover; rather it’s about young people trying to separate themselves from their parent’s identity. For any movie aimed at the zombie teenage audiences of the early ’80s, this film is a major artistic achievement.

While this evacuate the Civil Rights-era messaging of the original Night of the Living Dead , Yuzna does a much better job of creating characters that we can actually care about. Beneath the surface of NothLD 3 , there’s a simmering coming-of-age story as Curt tries to claim some autonomy from Col. John; it’s just too damn bad that death and zombies get in the way.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

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Tentpole Genre Releases 2011 Thu, 20 Jan 2011 16:59:23 +0000 graves over at Nerd Blerp has put together a list of 2001 releases to anticipate and avoid.

The titles that stand out are as follow:

‘The Rite’ (January 28)
‘Captain America’ (July 22)
‘The Adjustment Bureau’ (March 4)
‘Thor’ (May 6)
‘X-Men: First Class’ (June 3)
‘Green Lantern’ (June 17)
‘Cowboys and Aliens’ (July 29)
‘Immortals’ (November 11)

Trailers are available on the Nerd Blerp site .

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‘Tron: Legacy’ (2010) in IMAX 3D Wed, 29 Dec 2010 14:40:00 +0000 There are a lot of cool and interesting things about ‘Tron: Legacy’: The visual updates on the conceptualization of the digital world first presented in the 1982 original; the sound design; the fact that a completely different production team got Jeff Bridges, who doesn’t normally do movies just for a pay check, to agree to appear in a sequel; the costume design; even the fact that a major movie studio (Disney) would take on a film that toys with something as box office toxic as moral themes. None of these things, however, are the coolest thing about ‘Tron: Legacy.’

The coolest thing about the film is the hooded coat that Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) wears in the film’s third act after he leaves his remote hideaway beyond the edges of “the grid” and returns to digital society to confront Clu (a digitally de-aged Jeff Bridges) and what Clu’s desire for perfection has wrought in the system Flynn asked him to construct.  Black as the darkest night on the outside yet glowing with pure light from within, this garment is the perfect metaphor for the movie’s themes, and also the perfect representation of one of the things wrong with ‘Tron: Legacy:’  The film tries to do too much.

Beginning with a backstory meant to catch the audience up on the 18 years since the first film, ‘Legacy’ opens in 1989 with Kevin Flynn putting his 7 year-old son Sam (Owen Best) to bed before he heads off to work.  Senior Flynn’s stories of the digital world he’s creating with Clu and with Tron entrance young Sam even as his father promises to show him that world some time soon.  Quickly we learn not only of Flynn’s disappearance but also, in a compressed, news-reel montage fashion, of all the things that have happened since the first film, including what must be the shortest courtship and quickest pregnancy in history leading to Sam’s birth and Kevin’s widower status; Kevin’s takeover of video game corporation Encom, and how the board plans to handle his disappearance.

Jump forward 20 or so years to now as Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), pays his annual visit to the Encom tower, breaks in, hacks the company’s servers, uploads the new version of Encom’s operating system to the Internet making it available for free just before the company’s stock is to premiere on the Nikkei Index, and base jumps off the tower.  After his release from jail, Sam gets a visit from Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), Tron’s original programmer and the only person currently on the Encom board to raise objections to the company’s direction.  Why, Bradley wants to know, if Sam cares so much about information being free doesn’t he take an active role in the company as its largest stockholder?  He’s not ready he tells Alan, and are they really going to do the surrogate father thing again?

Yes, hacking, base jumping, and living in a storage container with a view of the multi-billion dollar company in which he holds a controlling share but can’t be bothered to actually run is Disney’s ham-handed way of telling us that Sam Flynn is an anti-hero.

A page Alan received from Flynn’s Arcade from a phone number that has been disconnected for 20 years leads Sam to his father’s private office where he’s sucked into the digital world of “the grid” after reawakening his father’s still running computer system.

In revealing that he isn’t a program but a user, and a user named Flynn, Sam learns that things are not all as his dad described in the digital world.  Far from the utopia he envisioned, the grid is a world of savage games and neo-fascist order which Clu keeps a hold of with help from his enforcer Rinzler. The conflict between Clu and “the creator,” Kevin Flynn, becomes quickly apparent as Sam is rescued from the game grid, his life saved by Quorra (Olivia Wilde), his father’s protege.

Kevin Flynn, meanwhile, has withdrawn to the badlands beyond the grid in an effort to frustrate Clu and keep him locked inside the digital world.   In his withdrawal from the world he’s created, Flynn has embraced several concepts key to Eastern religions chief among them the idea that sometimes the best course of action is to do nothing, an idea that escapes Sam.

It is in this clash of concepts, action vs. inaction (doing vs. not-doing), as well as in the exploration the nature of identity, the value and meaning of life, the definition of perfection and whether or not we should strive for it, and how strength can be expressed that ‘Legacy’ gets bogged down in its themes as the writers try to jam too many concepts into the tech/action film wrapper that they’ve chosen slowing down the action just enough to be noticeable and open that exploration up for derision.  This is very bold type handling of what could have been an interesting discussion is the second of the films two biggest failings.

It’s biggest failing is a combination of authorial hubris and poor casting.  When making a sequel, particularly for a cult film like ‘Tron,’ it is vital that the writers of the succeeding film pay attention to theoriginal text — the original film.  Even though Kevin Flynn was a carefree, unattached bachelor in the 1982 world of the first ‘Tron’ movie, I could almost forgive compressing the time line presented by the first film to allow for Sam Flynn’s existence (Sam would have to have been born in 1982 to be 7 in 1989 when the film opens which is a pretty quick courtship, marriage, and pregnancy).

What I can’t forgive is the casting mistake that presents a 13 year-old actor as a 7 year-old character.  The cognitive dissonance created in the first 10 minutes of the film was enough to make it difficult to immerse myself in the story which is really a shame considering that the ‘Tron’ films are all about immersion in another world.

Too, it’s a bit disappointing that the film’s producers chose to take a jab at Microsoft by presenting Encom as a greedy company (Alan Bradley questions the release of the new operating system by asking “With what we charge schools and students, how is the new software any different?” to which Encom’s CEO replies “We put a 12 on the box.”) committed to closed source, proprietary systems without actually fully exploring the question of whether not information, and access, should be free, a debate that is raging all over the world even as this film is released.  It’s also a touch disappointing how they handled the idea of a Dillinger-related antagonist (Cillian Murphy in an uncredited role as Edward Dillinger, presumably the son of disgraced former Encom CEO Ed Dillinger (David Warner from ‘Tron’)).

Is ‘Tron: Legacy’ worth seeing?  For the visuals alone I’d say yes but don’t expect to be fully satisfied.

A note on IMAX and 3D

I chose to see this film in IMAX 3D having never seen a non-documentary release in IMAX before with 3D being the rider to that.  In IMAX this film’s presentation is super impressive.  The visuals are sharp and stunning as is the sound design.  The use of 3D is moderately well executed but over all it’s not necessary to see it in 3D.  Save a little bit of cash and see it in regular, 2D projection unless you’re real computer or film geek.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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5 Upcoming Genre Features, 2010-12 Fri, 05 Nov 2010 00:02:05 +0000 via

Captain America: The First Avenger ‘ (2011) • IMDb l ink Captain America:The First Avenger

This one’s a bit contentious — Joe Johnston, who directed The Rocketeer way, way back in 1991 should have been a good choice to direct a period piece about Marvel’s Captain America set during WWII. But then, Johnston turned in the pointless and unnecessary Wolfman remake this past year, and then cast Chris Evans ( Fantastic Four ‘s Johnny Storm) as Steve Rogers, rather than  Mark Valley , (‘Human Target’) an actor born for the role.

Understandably, Marvel and Disney are reaching for a younger actor for the role, but I really dobt that those 18-49 women should be the marketing department’s target. Rather, the target audience ought to be 4 generations of American men aged 7 to 70 that Marvel ought to be aiming for. That, and the fact that 25 year-old Evans will have to go up against 46 year old Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth and Samuel Jackson in ‘ The Avengers ‘ (2012) and make it somehow appear that they are peers.

Excalibur (2012) • IMDb links 1 , 2

Here’s one that I could not have anticipated, short of calling it sacrilige — an anticipated remake of John Boorman’s 1981 ‘Excalibur.’ I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning it here, but it turns out that therre may be TWO competing projects, BOTH set up at Warner Bros., one helmed by Bryan Singer (X-Men’) and the other from Guy Ritchie (‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’) written by comic book author Warren Ellis (‘Red’). One is said to center upon Guinnivere and Lancelot, the other a straight remake of the Boorman film.

I’m curious to see Ellis’ take on the legend, yet I can’t besmirch Singer. Release dates for the competing films have yet to be released. IF Warners does it right, they’ll separate the releases. I the meantime, who would have guessed that Arthur would be the new Superman ?

The Ring 3D ‘ (2012) • IMDb link

3D is a current fad, but horror lost something special when director Gore Verbinski abandoned the Ring franchise to make Pirates of the Carribbean for Disney. DreamWorks may have only had good intentions when they invited the original Japanese director, Hideo Nakata, to direct Ring 2, but the producers dropped the ball, by giving him a weak script. (FWIW, I’ve heard that Scott Frank’s uncredited contribution to ‘The Ring’ is what made it work and not the solo credit that the MPAA gave to Ehren Kruger.)

The franchise had legs, but rather than keep the memory of the first movie fresh in people’s heads by releasing a straight-to-video third film, they let it die. Starship Troopers got 3 sequels, The Grudge (2004) got 2 sequels and Jeepers Creepers (2001) got 2 sequels all within spans of 1-6 years for the immediate sequel and third films. It’s madness that DreamWorks and Paramount sat on this franchise for so long, especially given that the fans — both Americans and foreign J-Horror adherents were waiting — no, begging for the opportunity to be exploited.

In Asia, Ringu spun off into both film and television franchises in Japan and SE Asia. It is not as though there is a shortage of story ideas for an American franchise to poach or improve upon, it’s just that producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald stopped making product and abandoned the franchise.

We can’t expect to see another Ring film until 2012, muck less another featuring Naomi Watts or David Dorfman, so this one’s entirely up in the air.. The Ring was made in 2002 — that’s a decade ago, so it’s only possible to presumed that DreamWorks SKG has walked away from tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, especially if the inferior Grudge and Final Destination frnachises were able to make any money.

Runaways ‘ (2012) • IMDb link

Runaways is a Whedonesuque take on superheroes that even Joss Whedon failed at. Runaways is the fruit of scribe extraordinaire Brian K. Vaughan , who has conquered comics (Marvel and DC) , television (‘Lost’) and film (‘Runaways’, ‘Y: The Last Man’ and ‘Ex-Machina’),  during the 13 years that he’s been working professionally.

Runaways , first published in 2003,is part of  the 3rd Generation of comics creators that began with Alan Moore publishing Watchmen back in 1987. The premise here is that there super-villains with children who are unaware that their parents are super-villains. But then one day the veil drops and the kids of time-traveling villains, evil robots, mad scientists and mafiosi determine that they want to get away from their mobbed-up parents and do the right thing. They are all also teenagers.

The good here is that BKV has written the screenplay and is likely to be credited as a producer on this film because he served as co-producer on “Lost.” Word has it that Peter Sollett (‘Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist’) has been tapped to direct for Marvel Studios, now a subsidiary of Disney. Marvel’s control over the project should see that the project doesn’t turn into another camped-out version of the original idea (cf. ‘Wanted’, ‘Red’, The Fantastic Four’, etc.)

I Am Legend 2′ (2011) • IMDb link

Fact of the matter is that this could be good in ways that the former film didn’t deliver. Will Smith was never appropriate for this role and they got the book almost entirely wrong by turning it into a Will Smith action vehicle.

The implication in the novel is that our Neville has passed through the looking-glass and become the monster and the vampire/zombies that rove the world are the status quo , now afraid of him. A prequel could do some interesting things in the realm of Charleton Heston’s Omega Man flashback sequences, which are very Andromeda Strain -like. A ‘prequel’ of Legend could, possibly redeem both Legend and the 2008 remake of Andromeda Strain , given that it would be the same type of bio-apocalyptic scenario. The writers of this thing just have to be able to sell Smith as a scientist, as Neville was before he became a rugged, gun-toting survivalist.

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