Friday, October 06, 2006

Hollywood: SERENITY Dies And The MASSACRE Continues!

The work week's over! Hope y'all are doin' well!

Every Friday brings with it new releases that will either entertain or annoy. Today's blog is inspired by a recent story that saddens me, and a plethora of upcoming releases that make today's news all the more frustrating.

Today, over at that wonderful movie site, an interview with Joss Whedon was posted. Joss Whedon, for those not in the know, is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel (Both unseen by me *ducks hail of debris*). He is also the mastermind behind a wonderful unknown, long-cancelled series called Firefly.

Firefly was mangled in 2002 by the Fox network, which aired episodes out of order and basically made the show difficult to find. It lasted 6 episodes. Strangely, however, Firefly became a cult hit and DVD sales of the existing episodes sold like gangbusters, leading to a big screen incarnation called Serenity at Universal. Hopes were high that Universal had the next Star Wars/Star Trek franchise on their hands and then Serenity fizzled out at around $40 mill. Well, the franchise seemed dead, but hey, maybe continued DVD sales would save it, right? The answer is no. Today's posted interview concludes that Serenity/Firefly is dead and buried.

Now, I'm gonna miss the spunky crew of the Starship Serenity and their adventures in the Alliance-dominated universe. But at least the film left the storyline semi-resolved and allowed me to move on, happy that I was one of the few who got to take the Firefly/Serenity adventure.

I hadn't thought much about Serenity's end until today. Joss Whedon's interview didn't surprise me. Rather it only confirmed my previously held assumptions... No, what really made me mad was realizing that Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning opened today. Why you ask? Well, I guess because when one watches something like Serenity they are seeing expert storytelling. A whole world has been created, with characters that possess emotional depth that leaves you wanting more. These are things that films like TCM:TB (I'm calling it that from now on! I refuse to dignify it with typing its 30+ letter title) have none of. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic. I'm not arguing that. But this film follows 2003's mediocre Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, which starred Jessica Biel's tanktop. That film was a low-rent slasher with little imagination and nothing memorable to show the audience. It relied on Biel's looks and excessive gore to tell its weak story.

When I see these endless sequels that no one seems to be particularly desperate for, it's frustrating. I'll admit, there's lots of gore hounds who will go see TCM:TB but were they demanding it??? Were the audiences demanding a Big Momma's House 2??? Or a sequel to The Mask??? The answer is no. They weren't. Serenity, on the other hand is a story that people want to see continue. They want to know the rest of the tale and see it through to a fitting conclusion. The problem is that they are a small minority. Theatre owners can fill more seats with Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift or The Grudge 2 (Don't even get me started on that one!). Studios have to look at the bottom line; it isn't smart to keep putting money into a losing cause.

I don't have an easy answer to end this posting on. Who am I to argue with profit? TCM:TB is going to make some serious dough this weekend (Though, I'm hoping none of you are going. I've got a much better alternative below.), so I shouldn't be surprised to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Leatherface Goes Hawaiian in a couple years. I guess incidents like this just make me mourn the loss of original fantasy/Sci-Fi (as in not based on famous comics, novels, etc) storytelling in Hollywood. I hope Serenity's failure to make an impact doesn't prevent Hollywood from taking risks on young directors with original visionary ideas. Eventually people are going to tire of re-makes, re-treads and pointless sequels.

In 1976, 20th Century Fox took a chance on a young director with dreams of droids, princesses and intergalactic war. One wonders if this had occurred today if George Lucas would have wound up directing Hostel 3 instead.


As I promised, I have an alternative to the brainless gore of TCM: TB! Do yourself a favor this weekend and get out and see The Departed. It's got a talented cast consisting of Leonardo DiCaprio (His post-Titanic career is really becoming admirable. More so than shipmate Billy Zane's, that's for sure. Poor Billy Zane...), Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and the king himself, Mr. Jack Nicholson. As if that cast isn't enough, you have film master Martin "Taxi Driver!, Raging Bull!, Goodfellas!" Scorsese at the helm! The reviews are raving that it's one of the best films of the year (thus far)! So this weekend try and convince your friends that maybe your money is better spent watching a master storyteller work his magic, than watching teenagers getting disemboweled. I know I will be, and I promise to have a review up Sunday night. I mean, c'mon...

If you're not gonna do it for me, do it for Jack!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Georgie-Peorgie, Quitting?, Goodbye?

Hardly. But word on the street is that trouble's a-brewin' down at old Skywalker Ranch...

...Or so Variety is reporting:

Basically the whole story boils down to this: George "Greedo Shot First!!!" Lucas is taking a few years off film to focus on TV. He is retiring from the Blockbuster game, but not from film in general. I say good for him. Geez, I figure making three Star Wars films in 9 years would be enough to send most directors running to Indie-film land (Though, the last three Star Wars films were technically independent... But you get my drift.), so why should George be any different?

I am, however, a little hesitant about this live-action Star Wars TV series he's got underway. Now, anyone that knows me knows I am a Star Wars geek (I have autographed photos of both Boba Fett AND Greedo... My family is very concerned...). It should also be noted that I loved the prequel trilogy (Minus "Wizard!", "Hold me like you did at the lake on Naboo", and Anakin's creepy "Sand isn't smooth like you" speech). So, if anyone should be excited for this it should be me, but I'm concerned.

Why? Well, for a few reasons. First, Star Wars is just too big to be shrunken down to a TV screen with a TV budget. I'm picturing Andromeda and Stargate SG-1 effects and that just won't do. Lucas has also stated that the series won't include any of the main characters from the films. Great, like that crappy Droids cartoon from the 80's, or the Ewok TV movies? I also don't want any more alterations to the continuity. I still have trouble accepting that Yoda and Chewbaaca were buddies long before Luke ever travelled to Dagobah... Or that Darth Vader made C-3P0... I'm of the stubborn (and useless!) opinion that the series starts and ends with the Skywalker clan. Let's leave it at that.

Now I sound all bitter and whiney. I better focus on the positive before I lapse into a profanity-fueled rant about the Special Editions and that recent DVD re-release. I'll tell you what I'm optimistic about! I'm really eager to see George's future film projects. People often forget that George made his name with American Graffiti (Kids, go rent it!), and I think it's time he went back and re-visited small character-driven films. I'm also intrigued by his long-planned Tuskegee Airmen project. In short, I want Lucas to remind people that he can be a great director of something other than space operas. Oh, and while I'm giving unwarranted advice: C'mon George, lets get Indy 4 out before Harrison Ford is confined to a nursing home.

I also would like an autographed copy of the above picture. Man, is it just me or is he evolving into an Ewok? Yub-Yub, Mr. Lucas, Yub-Yub. ______________________________________________________________________________________

Now is truly a great time to be a comic-book fan! They're cranking out films featuring every character to ever grace the page these days! The future will brings us new film adventures starring not only everyone from the A-list (Spider-Man, Hulk, Batman, Wolverine, Fantastic Four, Superman and Captain America) to B-list players like Ant-Man, Shang-Chi, Punisher, Nick Fury, Namor, Magneto and Iron Man (It's becoming a really sad, but gratifying, game to see in how many of these entries I can name-drop Iron Man). February is bringing another one to the multiplex and that would be Ghost Rider. The newest trailer has hit the web and you can check it out below:

What can I say, I'm sold. But then, I actually paid money to see Elektra so what do I know?


While I'm plugging trailers, this one's definitely worth a look. This was a project that wasn't on my radar at all but it's looking promising. Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City, Dark Knight Returns), 300 is "a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army". Actually, that's according to publicity materials (Yes, I actually do some sort of research on this half-assed effort!). All I know is that the visuals are unreal and will be amazing on the big screen. You can see what I'm talking about below:

Well, that's it for me folks. 3 major entries and counting and still no quoting Army of Darkness... Who'd a thunk?

P.S.: Props to my best friend Mark for coming up with the title of this entry. I'm sure George Lucas would thank you too.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Finally, Something "Wright" About DIE HARD 4!!!

Word Y'all!

Today's update isn't focussing on a project that I'm particularly optimistic over (Well not compared to yesterday's Iron Man love-fest), but I felt is worth mentioning due to a casting choice that is the first bright spot of this other-wise troubling production.

It all started a few years ago when a script for Die Hard 4 came around. It featured John McClane, aided by Ben Affleck (Or so it was rumored), battling terrorists in the jungle. The twist was that they had to rely on primitive weaponry, I guess because there are no gun shops in the jungle... Anyways, that script got scrapped. Then we heard rumors Britney Spears was going to play McClane's daughter. Many an action-fan wept. Finally, REAL progress was made with a final script (That was actually approved) titled Die Hard 4.0. Die Hard 4.0 was going to be unique since it would deal with ol' "analogue" McClane battling computer hackers trying to topple our nation's infrastructure or some nonsense.

There were director rumors abound... John McTiernan may return! Renny Harlin isn't allowed within 100 ft of it! Finally, however, the dust settled and a mighty name was announced from the heavens: "WE CALL UPON LEN WISEMAN!". Wait, who? Well, old Lenny is perhaps better known as Mr. Kate Beckinsale. Mr. Beckinsale is best known for bestowing upon mankind the defining saga of our time, Underworld... Yeah, those cheesy Matrix-ripoffs! The half-assed vampire vs. werewolf movies.

At any rate, once Lenny got involved, things started happening! Die Hard 4.0 was given a new super-cheesy title: Live Free Or Die Hard! He brought on a youthful computer-hacker sidekick for McClane played by Justin Long of Accepted and Jeepers Creepers fame! He hired Mission: Impossible III eye-candy Maggie Q. to play an evil hacker! I don't know about you, but I've never found computer hackers at all threatening. In real life, they can be a nuisance, sure, but in the movies they're only made cool by being played by master-nutjobs like Willem Dafoe or Jeremy Irons and given grotesque abnormalities... Lenny wasn't, however, able to convince any of actors from previous DH's to show up. What, are Reginald vel Johnson and Bonnie Bedelia that in demand? We also were taken aback when we found out that Bruce was going to play the role bald this time! Sacrilege! At any rate, things looked grim. Then... a light in the form of Jeffrey Wright was cast upon this potential disaster.

Jeffrey Wright is an actor with class! He's usually only associated with "quality" work like Angels In America, Basquiat or Broken Flowers, due to the fact he's an actor's actor. This is a guy who should be winning Oscars, not being on the receiving end of a "Yippee-Kay-Yay....."! Yeah, he'll be showing up in the next Bond film, Casino Royale as Bond's CIA buddy, Felix Leiter, but the Bond franchise has a higher pedigree than the long-dormant Die Hard franchise. The only other notable time Wright's participated in a pop-corn flick was his role in the Samuel L. Jackson (Pre-Snakes On A Plane) headed Shaft remake. Anyone who saw that mediocre film recalls Wright! He took a one-note drug dealer role and made him one of the most fascinating characters in mainstream film that year.

You're probably wondering what does this mean? (Other than that I have way too much time on my hands). Well, this means that there is actually something to look forward to regarding Live Free Or Die Hard! When I go see this flick (Which I still would have ended up seeing, even if they'd cast Will Ferrell in the villain spot) this is what I'll be the most excited about. So, rest easy Mr. Beckinsale, you've got my $10... But Jeff better be seein' some bonus pay!____________________________________________________________________

Well, that went way longer than I'd planned... So I'm gonna cut this section short and just draw our attention to a cool contest by our friends at Paramount! As you may or may not be aware, next summer brings us Michael Bay's Transformers movie, and the studio wants you to submit a line you'd like to hear Optimus Prime say. If you win, your line's in the movie. I was never a big Transformers fan as a kid (My loyalties lied with He-Man and Ghostbusters), but even I think this is pretty damn cool.

Enter your witty catchphrases here:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Well-Respected Character Actor Is Gonna Strap On Some Heavy Metal!

Here we are with the first "real" post, and I wanted to start with something big... and yet....

...This story ain't exactly fresh... Ah well, it's a good training run. Plus, I've got a more serious closing piece that'll leave you pondering life's many mysteries and frowning a lot. Well, hopefully not too much... But anyways, we'll start with the nifty looking model to your left... That's right y'all! I'm talking about IRON MAN!!!

Now, I know that a fair amount of you aren't familiar with ol' Tin-head here, but believe me, in summer 2008 you're going to be seeing his gleaming visage wherever you look! "Why, God, why?" you ask? Well, cuz Marvel Comics have just cast the lead in director Jon Favreau's (Dude who directed Elf & Zathura, as well as played Courtney Cox's chef/Ultimate Fighting boyfriend on that obscure 90's show Friends) super-hero epic! Now, first (to prolong the mininal suspense I've got going here) some background: Iron Man is Tony Stark, a millionaire industrialist arms maker, who creates a mighty armored suit to save his life following a life-threatening injury. Soon, Tony is forced into action against those who would do us, the little people, harm. Yeah, he's kind of a cult hero... Not well-known like Spider-Man or Batman... but I'm still excited. Favreau's promising a dark cyber-thriller and that's a relief!

Now, here's the real kicker: When you look at that photo who can you picture in that suit? Morgan Freeman? Jon Heder? Kathy Bates??? You're all wrong! Robert Downey Jr. has got the gig!

At first I was a tad apprehensive. Downey Jr. has this look that always seems to display a sense of ironic detachment regarding his surroundings. We need someone real, here! This is Oscar material dammit! That said, I think this is an unusual bit of casting that may pay off. I'll tell you why. See, Tony Stark, he's got demons! Big ones.... And so does Downey Jr.! Plus, Stark is an alchoholic! DING DING DING! Imagine what Downey Jr. can do with a character with so many skeletons in the closet! I'm now convinced this may shape up to be a great picture along the lines of Batman Begins. Rumors that Famke Janssen (X-Men trilogy, GoldenEye), and Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow, Crash) are looking to join only give this project more promise. So I hope I'll see some of you in May 2008 buying tickets to this, or else...

And by the way, go out and rent Downey Jr.'s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. It's a clever spin on the cop/mystery genre with a lot of laughs. I promise it's twice as good as Date Movie!
Now, to be serious a second, I just wanted to draw your attention to a news item that's been circulating today. I don't know how many of you are familiar with/recall the hilarious film Dogma? It caused quite a stir back in '99 with the Catholic League, despite being a pretty pro-faith movie... Anyways, it's a great movie, and director Kevin Smith (his blog is: is an influence of mine. It seems, however, the film, or rather an image from the film is causing quite a stir in Baghdad! The image, of a winking, smiling Jesus giving "the guns" is causing some serious chaos.

Read all about it here:

It's a sad reminder of how images viewed as ironic over here in pop-culture fueled North America can be seen as dangerous and offensive to different cultures. I hope they clear this mess up because no-one should be hurt by a film (unless it's Halle Berry's Catwoman, which brought tragedy to so many...). Dumb jokes aside, It's a tragic cultural misunderstanding that hopefully doesn't lead to any more upset or, God forbid, violence.

Now, HOW'S THAT for a solemn closing! And you thought it'd all be hijinx and Evil Dead references! Actually, that's tomorrow.

Good night, hope you enjoyed the episode!

P.S.: I've fixed the comment option so you don't have to register to leave comments. Good, bad, lemma have 'em! Something you wanna see me write me and lemme know!