As ‘Batman’ goes, so goes comic-book movies. When Tim Burton turned the Dark Knight into a retro-gothic hero, Hollywood followed suit with a slew of heavily stylized pulp throwbacks. (See: ‘Dick Tracy,’ ‘The Phantom,’ ‘The Shadow,’ etc.) And when Christopher Nolan turned the Dark Knight into, well, ‘The Dark Knight,’ it sparked a wave of “grim and gritty” movies, with serious superheroes doing and saying serious things in outrageous spandex costumes that had been reimagined as biker gear or body armor. (See: ‘Man of Steel’ [Or maybe don’t.]) There’s been some pushback, but we’re really only now coming out of the trend toward ultra-serious, uber-dark comic-book movies.
Back in October, it was reported that ‘Lucy’ and ‘Avengers 2’ star Scarlett Johansson had been offered $10 million to anchor the new, American (and live-action) version of the classic Japanese anime ‘Ghost in the Shell.’ It took a while for Johansson to decide (“Hm, do I really want $10 million? This is a tough one!”), but Variety now says she’s made up her mind: Johansson will star in the new ‘Ghost’ for director Rupert Sanders.
Dig this, blockheads: The ‘Peanuts’ gang, originally created by cartoonist Charles Schulz, have appeared in so many incarnations in their 65-year history. They’ve been a comic strip, a series of much-beloved television specials, a Broadway musical, greeting card staples, and even the successful pitchmen for life insurance. Now, for the first time, they’re becoming a 3D feature film, with this year’s ‘The Peanuts Movie.’
“Nothing is over!” These are the words of Col. John J Rambo, the hero of ‘First Blood’ (better known as ‘Rambo’) and then ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’ and then ‘Rambo III’ (the only one people call by its actual title and then ‘Rambo’ (better known as ‘Old Rambo’). After what basically amounts to a movie-long chase, ‘First Blood’ concludes with a heartfelt speech from star Sylvester Stallone, explaining how nothing (meaning the Vietnam War) is over for him; that his mind is too scarred from his brutal deeds and by the cruel treatment he’s received on the homefront. It’s a powerful (if occasionally incomprehensible) scene.
The trailer for ‘Strange Magic’ boasts that the film comes “from the mind of George Lucas.” That great big brain has dreamed up some of the greatest movies of all time. But it’s also produced its fair share of clunkers as well. (Apologies, ‘Radioland Murders’ devotees.) It’s unfair to write off a movie based on a 150-second trailer, but so far, ‘Strange Magic’ looks a lot closer to the latter than the former. Whoa, this looks insane.
In the fall of 2013, APCO Worldside surveyed 70,000 people about the world’s biggest brands. They measured their responses in eight different ways—“understanding, approachability, relevance, admiration, curiosity, identification, empowerment, and pride.” The number one most loved company out of 600 choices: Disney.
Full details are still forthcoming, but it looks like ‘The Interview’—Seth Rogen’s ultra-controversial comedy about an American assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un—will open on Christmas after all. Sony initially cancelled their planned December 25 release after hackers threatened theaters that dared to show ‘The Interview’ with terrorist attacks, and many of the biggest exhibitor chains in the country (including Regal and AMC) subsequently decided not to run the film.
I know one reaction I’ve had to the (allegedly) North Korean hackers and their attack on Sony and their movie ‘The Interview’ is “Why now?” Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are not the first American filmmakers to make fun of North Korea, or even its real-life leaders. ‘Team America: World Police,’ for example, featured a marionette-version of late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, who wants to destroy Western Civilization (but is also very lonely); the 2012 ‘Red Dawn’ remake actually changed its Asian invaders from Chinese to North Koreans in post-production because at the time that seemed like the more politically and financially safe choice. That’s not going to happen again anytime soon.
J.J. Abrams is famous for keeping secrets. His whole schtick as a director is the “mystery box”—finding pleasure in the unknown, and in the tease of that uncertainty. He didn’t show the monster in the trailer for ‘Cloverfield’; hell he didn’t even show the title of the movie in the trailer for ‘Cloverfield.’ If J.J. Abrams could release a movie without telling you anything about it, he probably would.
Having gone on an unexpected journey and endured the desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson’s bloated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ finally comes to ‘The Battle of the Five Armies,’ which is less of a climax to this trilogy than a distended epilogue. After spending two movies and 330 minutes building up the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) as the ultimate antagonist, he’s eliminated from the story completely in the first ten minutes. He’s literally gone before the title appears onscreen.
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