05 December 2005
That's Frank Quitely's rendition of Hank McCoy--aka "The Beast"--shedding a tear for the less-than-impressive publicity photo released this past weekend from the League Of Evil Mutants at Fox, hoping to drum up some enthusiasm for the make-it-or-break-it "X3", due next summer. Now, when Kelsey "Fraser" Grammer signed for the role, I had just assumed that he was hired on the basis of his rich baritone, which is just about perfect to give voice to McCoy's cerebral, refined, and somewhat guarded, musings on art, science, and the plight of the blue-furred in today's intolerant society. Remember how perfectly suited his co-star, David Hyde-Pierce, was for "Abe Sapien" in "Hellboy"?
Instead, as evidenced in the photo above, Grammer's actually playing the character in the flesh (no CGI Hulk-outs, it would appear), in what amounts to little more than blue greasepaint, plastic fangs, and some mutton chops--basically, an outfit any of us could have slapped together this past Halloween for about a buck-oh-five. The cinematic incarnation of McCoy's got nothin' to worry about--his genetic condition is nothing that a shave and a healthy coat of CoverGirl "Buff Beige" foundation couldn't fix...
"The Beast" is one of my favorite X-Men regulars so this ranks as a Sentinel-sized disappointment...let's hope Ratner and co. come to their senses and use their pixels around into something the character, and the ever loyal fan base, deserve...no offense to Mr. Grammer...
19 November 2005
Comics artists never get any respect--think about it, the form demands that one be proficient in the drawing of figures and faces (human, animal, or otherwise), architecture, vehicles, costumes, foreign locales (earthbound and otherwise), and speculative design for characters and environments as yet unrealized (and then there's cramming in all of those insane balloons and sound effects, too). And yet there are many who feels that all these guys can doodle are big galoots in tights and capes. Well, Steven Gettis has been commissioning some of the giants of the field to render portraits of their favourite literary figures, or scenes from favorite literary works, and the results are amazing and should hopefully convince the woefully uninformed (but I won't hold my breath). "The Sandman"s Dave McKean does Salman Rushdie, "Spider-Man"s John Buscema gives us Mark Twain, and "From Hell"s Eddie Campbell interprets Hemingway, among many others. Check out this very cool gallery here.
18 November 2005
Okay, so it doesn't show much--that's why they call it a "teaser", Brainiacs. But "Superman Returns" is finally on its way (although it won't arrive in theatres until June 30 of next year), and the first official trailer made its debut today. What little is revealed is certainly promising: Alex Ross-influenced visuals, Williams' classic score, and Brando back as Jor-El--its only handicaps appear to be Brandon Routh's inexperience and director Bryan Singer's decision to make this one a sequel to the Reeve saga rather than a start- from-Kryptonian-square-one remake. Catch it with "Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire" this weekend, or, check it out here at the official site. And be sure to pick up the first issue of Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely's "All Star Superman" #1--state of the art comics storytelling at its very best.
13 November 2005
You've seen the movie more than once, bought the very fine Chip Kidd reissues of the original graphic novels, and will gladly double-dip for the upcoming DVD special edition (due Dec. 13). If you're that kind of "Sin City" fan (and if you frequent this location, chances are you've coughed nervously), then you might want to cash in some of your collectible Frank Miller originals for a plane ticket to Japan, where Miramax/Dimension has hatched the coolest merchandising spin-off I've ever seen: a fully-functional theme restaurant! Geez--whatever happened to bumper stickers and keychains?
The walls are covered with Miller art, monitors play the trailers, select scenes, and making-of spots, props and costumes are on display. On the menu, special drinks named after the characters: the "Marv", the "Miho" , and even a "Yellow Bastard". Read the drink menu here. Best of all, there's a strip club stage with dancers, but sadly, not a Jessica Alba lookalike in sight.
Set up in Tokyo's Kita- Aoyama to promote the film's fall release in Japan, the bar is reported to remain in business until year's end only. Perhaps Willis can talk his Planet Hollywood partners into considering a makeover...
12 November 2005
I'm not much of a flag-waving nationalist, but here's a bonafide Canadian treasure worth celebrating: Neil Young turned 60 on Saturday, November 12, after having only recently recovered from brain surgery. And losing his father. And having performed an entire week on Conan O'Brien. And having performed at Farm Aid. And Live 8. And a concert for Hurricane Katrina relief. And 2005 ain't over yet.
Official "Neil Young Day" is November 20 in Rome, Italy. But why not bring it all back home and celebrate true living genius right here?
08 November 2005
MIA for far too long, multi-award winning wordsmith extraordinaire (don't call him a science fiction writer!) Harlan Ellison is back in action. After some health problems and a lengthy lawsuit with AOL over copyright issues, Ellison has reportedly signed a deal via Dark Horse Comics to bring his anthology series "Dream Corridor" to the big screen. I don't care if he's writing commercial jingles or plots for the WWE--I'm just glad he's doing something other than reissuing anthologies under new covers.
IMHO, Ellison is among the 20th century's most brilliant writers--and sorely undervalued, much like his buddy Stephen King, due to his association with genre fiction (even though he cringes at the label). He's created some of the most unforgetable and ground-breaking works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror in virtually every medium from prose fiction ("Repent, Harlequin, Said The Tick Tock Man"), television and film (Star Trek's "City On The Edge Of Forever"), comics ("Dream Corridor", "Daredevil", "The Hulk"), and even videogames ("I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream"). He marched with Martin Luther King in 1965, once nearly slugged Frank Sinatra, and sued James Cameron for a screen credit on the original "Terminator". If you've ever had the good fortune to attend one of his live appearances, you'll be familiar with his abrasive wit and impassioned opinions on...well, just about everything and anything.
Check out Ellison's official homepage here. And here's a comprehensive fansite that chronicles his comics-related projects and appearances.
02 November 2005
Christmas season is almost upon us, and you know what that means (film wise, that is): Oscar bait! Which translates into: BIOPICS! One of the better ones is James Mangold's routine but still worthy look at the early career of The Man In Black himself. Read my TIFF 2005 review of "Walk The Line" here. And check out SOTA Toys' cool Johnny Cash action figure, due to hit shelves soon. The guitar's got real strings!
31 October 2005
This little spitfire is "Maggie", Minnie's new little sister. Maggie is a personable and spring-loaded tortoiseshell cat just like our dear, departed Molly, whom we never really intended to replace. But when Maggie's mother, "Star", and grandmother (!) "Daisy" started hanging around our house just a few weeks after Molly's passing, we thought the coincidence a little much. Daisy became pregnant, but we passed on the kittens, figuring it was too soon. Then Star became pregnant (the act for which I witnessed on our back patio, with "daddy" possibly being a randy orange stray I named "Pruneface", given his slight facial disfigurement that made me think of "Top Cat" by way of "Dick Tracy"). On August 23rd, upon returning from my belated b-day dinner at nearby Lee's, Lidia and I joined in on a search for Star's missplaced kittens and we found them only two doors over. One was a tortie--a vocal one!--and we decided we'd adopt her. "Maggie" joined us on Thanksgiving Day, and has been keeping all of us busy ever since. She's fast following Molly's footsteps as my "muse"--she's been pawing the screen the whole time I've been writing this.
25 October 2005
Those of you with the good taste to be fans of "Oldboy" are no doubt counting the days until the release of Park Chan-wook's final chapter in his "revenge trilogy", which began with 2002's "Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance". "Lady Vengeance", shortened from "Sympathy For Lady Vengeance", will be released sometime in 2006 but you can read my Toronto International Film Festival review here.
In the meantime, Lion's Gate will release "Three Extremes", an anthology featuring a segment by Chan-wook, on October 28th.
24 October 2005
Still confused by Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Worse yet: never seen it? For those of you who still bear this secret shame, to quote another ape (John Edwards): "Help is on the way". Some folks have put together a nifty, deconstruction/Coles' Notes (Canada's version of "Cliff's" same) version of the still greatest science-fiction epic/mind-shag of all time (okay, so the PanAm space lounge is horribly dated). Re-experience The Ultimate Trip here. But don't hold yer breath for Keir Dullea/Gary Lockwood cameos...and you'll have to hum your own Thus Spake Zarathustra...
20 October 2005
I don't wanna sound like another smug Canadian, but I don't think I can stand another two-plus years of That Idiot in office in that otherwise fine nation to the south. With Walken 2008 a hoax, and neither Pat Paulsen nor Larry Harmon in the running, our best hope for a New World Order might be another Texan--albeit an alien with anger management issues, who took up residence in Planet Houston. From his campaign lit: "I served with the military council of Krypton, where I devised a number of plans to overthrow the government and single-handedly rule the planet. I hope this assures you of my unquestionable honor, integrity, and service to country."
Hey, I'm convinced! Cast your vote here.
18 October 2005
"With Batman & Robin, everybody got really greedy...Adults think kids are too scared of Batman, so we had to make it more kid-friendly, make it funnier, make it lighter... I take full responsibility," says the director on the audio commentary of his much-loathed "Batman & Robin" (available today as part of Warner's "Batman Anthology" boxed set), the overwrought 1997 abomination that killed the series until it was resurrected this year by Christopher Nolan (whose wonderful "Batman Begins" was also released on DVD today).
So there. Now we can all stop bitching and get over it already....
17 October 2005
Lidia F's typically-thoughtful review of "Capote''--starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keenor--is now up at the Movieforum blog spot. I had to skip this one at this year's TIFF because of "Tideland", but based upon her review, I'll definitely add it to my "must see" list, when and if it ever opens in Toronto. She'll tell you all about it here.
Sure, he'll never be mentioned in the same breath as Bill Murray, or even Garrett Morris for that matter, but it strikes me as rather sad that one of the more-notorious "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" passed away last week, and his obit has received little coverage (as of this posting, his IMDB bio page lists him as still living). Charles Rocket, of the ill-fated and much-lamented 1980-81 season of "Saturday Night Live", died on October 7th in Connecticut at the age of 56. Sadly, the cause of death has been ruled a suicide--Rocket reportedly cut his throat with a knife. Rocket is survived by his wife Beth, and son Zane.
Rocket (formerly Charles Calervie)--a former news anchor and weatherman, was arguably groomed to be the new cast's Chevy Chase, with his blandly handsome features and sneering delivery. But he blew his chances at his own "Oh Heavenly Dog" by blurting out the once-shocking "f-word" during a parody of the "Dallas" "Who Shot J.R." episode. Rocket would claim it was an accident, but there are many who maintained it was a deliberate stunt to get himself fired from the show, which at the time seemed on the brink of cancellation (Dick Ebersol had taken over the producing reigns from creator Lorne Michaels, who eventually returned, of course).
Rocket continued on as a voice and supporting actor, appearing in such varied fare as "Moonlighting", "Earth Girls are Easy," "Dumb & Dumber", "Dances With Wolves" and "Max Headroom". He also played accordion in many bands, and performed on a tribute album to Fellini composer Nino Rota with "Blondie"s Deborah Harry and Chris Stein.
For more on the 1980-81 season, check out the excellent "Saturday Night: A Backstage History Of Saturday Night Live", by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad.
16 October 2005
In honour of this week's DVD release of George Romero's long-overdue (and most excellent, IMHO) fourth entry into his decades-spanning zombie allegory--that's "Land Of The Dead" to those of you "into the whole brevity thing"--here's one of the stranger homages to the second, and still best chapter, 1978's "Dawn Of The Dead". Undead Cozies!!! And here I thought I was a die-hard 'cause I've got a mint-condition copy of the TSR boardgame and the Starlog poster book (both signed by Romero, Savini, and Argento--and no, I'll never sell 'em). But this takes dedication to a whole new level (but don'tcha kinda wish you could buy one?)...
Check out what happens when ghouls fall into The Improbability Drive here.
14 October 2005
Well, like you haven't heard this about a thousand times today already, but it appears that for once, the fanboyz had it right and Daniel Craig will be the next James Bond. The news was leaked to the press hours before the studio's official announcement by Craig's...mother...who was probably just trying to call the neighbours but still hasn't gotten the hang of these new-fangled phones.
Carol Blond is obviously thrilled that her youngster (actually, 37) has been awarded the coveted role over the better-known Colin Farrell, Clive Owen, Ewan McGregor, and Pierce Brosnan--who I'm still not sure was in, out, or even willing to reprise the role. Sez Mom: "We're thrilled to bits. This has come at a very good time in his career. He has worked hard all his life and this will be his most famous part. It will be life-changing, but I think he is old enough and experienced enough to handle it."
Craig is a damn fine actor of impressive range and charisma. Chances are you've seen him as Paul Newman's trigger-happy lunatic son in "Road To Perdition". Chances are you haven't seen him in Matthew Vaughan's crime gem "Layer Cake", which you really should remedy--now.
The next installment will be yet another adaptation of Sir Ian Fleming's first Bond novel "Casino Royale", which was adapted for the first time in 1954 on live television (with American Barry Nelson as "Jimmy Bond", and as a notorious, problem-plagued and overblown madcap comedy in 1967. This take, presumably a straight one, begins in January under the direction of a returning Martin Campbell.
12 October 2005
Wookie warrior/navigator/Dejarik Holochess champion "Chewbacca" will become a U.S. citizen when Peter Mayhew takes the pledge in Arlington, Texas next Monday. The 60-year old British-born thesp is married to a native-Texan, so according to law, he'll be able to take the tests after having lived on American soil for less than six years. A good part of those years at comic book conventions.
"I am feeling very happy about it," said Mayhew. "I know that I have the best of both worlds with the dual nationality."
At least we know that this time, the big man (7 ft., 3 inches!!!) will walk away with a proper medal.
07 October 2005
Zack Snyder's adaptation of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's graphic novel "300" has quite the cast: "Variety" reports Lena Headey ("The Brothers Grimm"), Dominic West ("The Wire"), David Wenham ("Van Helsing"), Vincent Regan ("Empire") and Rodrigo Santoro ("Love, Actually") have joined headliner Gerard Butler ("Beowulf And Grendel") for this latest historical swashbuckler. Production starts in Montreal in about 2 weeks.
Butler plays King Leonidas, who led 300 Spartan warriors into a bloody battle with the Persian army at Thermopylae. Headey will play Leonidas' wife "Gorgo". Beyond that, there's no current word as to who plays who.
As with the adaptation of Miller's "Sin City", "300" will be shot entirely against a green screen with CG backdrops to be added later. Let's hope this one's as big a hit as "Sin City"--a film version of Miller and Darrow's "Hard Boiled" in the capable hands of someone like David Twohy or Kerry Conran would be a beautiful thing indeed...
04 October 2005
Canadian actress/activist (and now, director) Sarah Polley had her own "unique" reaction to Terry Gilliam's latest polarizing oddity "Tideland": she published a letter she'd written to the filmmaker upon hearing of his plan to shoot in Saskatchewan, which documented the alleged "traumas" she'd endured as a result of his demanding conditions when she appeared (at age 9) in his problem-plagued 1988 epic "The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen". So concerned was she for the health of "Tideland" star Jodell Ferdland, she called ACTRA (Canada's version of SAG) and urged them to keep an eye on the girl!
Claims Polley: "Basically, I remember being afraid a lot of the time. I felt incredibly unsafe. I remember a couple of trips to the hospital after being in freezing water for long periods of time, losing quite a bit of my hearing for days at a time due to explosives, having my heart monitored when one went off relatively close to me, etc. I remember running through this long sort of corridor where explosives went off every few feet, things were on fire, etc..."
Gilliam, obviously a good sport, responded with civility and some regret: "As far as the scars of Munchausen go, I had no idea that they were that deep...You seemed so focused, I had no idea you were having such a terrifying time." However, the director did question her memory as to what scenes she actually appeared in, and what were, in fact, the work of her double...
Here's a link to their exchange as published in The Toronto Star.
01 October 2005
Walter Hill's lean-and-mean 1979 thriller "The Warriors" turns 26 this year (wonder why Paramount dropped the ball in failing to award this enduring cult classic a proper silver anniversary last year...?). Very cool Mezco action figures hit shelves last month (a choice of two Baseball Furies, for completists), a new (and controversial) "special edition" DVD was released this week, and later in the month, Rockstar Games North will unveil a videogame incarnation for the PS2 and Xbox.
Pretty impressive legs for a low-budget film based on a largely unknown novel (by Sol Yurik--which I was once able to find buried in one of those 25 cent paperback bins in my hometown's Woolworth's) which was inspired by a little known Greek legend (hence character names like Cyrus and Ajax). Hill based his screenplay more on the tale, "Anabasis" by Xenophone, than on Yurik's book, and originally meant to open the film with a "sometime in the near future" subtitle to explain the film's decidedly unrealistic and underpopulated Manhattan (perhaps the opticals cost too much...?).
Seeing it today, it's hard to believe that this bloodless and ultra-stylized fantasy (the fight in Central Park is almost like "West Side Story" without the music) was once vilified by activists who blamed it for violent incidents that allegedly occurred at various screenings, which, of course, only upped its cache of "cool". No doubt in this post "Hot Coffee" era, the videogame will inspire much of the same hysteria.
It's still a great film, and one of the first I can remember seeing which seemed inspired by the language of comics (and it had one of the still all-time-greatest movie posters, for some reason, not included in the disc's packaging...). Walter Hill is a director long overdue for some serious AFI love...
30 September 2005
I've heard of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" interpreted as a vehicle for a homophobic agenda, and the original "Planet Of The Apes" as a metaphor for the Vietnam era, but who ever thought of Stephen King's "The Shining" as fodder for a sappy, Nora Ephron-esque romantic comedy?
An unnamed post-house held a competition where assistant editors were challenged to ‘re-cut’ trailers that would change the nature/genre of famous movies. This riff on Stanley Kubrick's classic 1980 adaptation of "The Shining" was the winner (all that's missing is the Motown sing-a-long and a shot of Shelly Duvall throwing up her arms in the rain).
Share the love here (and here are the other entries: "West Side Story" and "Titanic")
Want more? Here's "The Shining" again, but with bunnies...
Remember when Christian rock meant "Stryper"? No, I don't either, although I did find one of their albums in my condo complex's communal trash room last weekend (left it and took home the mint copy of Philip Michael Thomas' "Living The Book Of My Life" instead). Anyway, someone's went and recorded what probably is the most obvious song parody of all time, Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" as..."Walked On The Water" (we've all thought it at one time or another, right?). And while you're enjoying the righteous tuneage, check out some of my storyboard panels for the feature film "Gospel Of John".
29 September 2005
"Scream"--Canada's superb horror channel that you really should be subscribing to--will premiere Showtime's much-anticipated "Masters Of Horror" anthology series just in time for Halloween. Now you've got a legit reason not to answer the doorbell and turn off the porch light! Oh, sorry...too early...
The series will offer feature a baker's dozen of hour-long chillers from 13 of the genre's most acclaimed and influential directors: Dario Argento (Suspiria, Tenebrae), Larry Cohen (It's Alive, God Told Me To), Lucky McKee (May), Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep), Joe Dante (The Howling, Piranha), Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers, The Stand), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Innocent Blood), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Funhouse) and of course, my favorite, John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing, The Fog). Stories are either adapted from/or written by their original authors, including H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen King, Clive Barker, David Schow, and comics greats Steve Niles, Bruce Jones, and Bernie Wrightson.
Can this get any better? Yes it can--later in the season, Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi The Killer) will present his first U.S. production that will likely cause Michael Medved a massive coronary.
The first episode, "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" is from Coscarelli, adapted by Lansdale from his own short story, and yes, features Angus Scrimm (no word on a Reggie Bannister cameo, though). Series debuts October 29 at 10pm ET.
15 September 2005
Condolences to the family and friends of Hollywood legend Robert Wise, who passed away today of heart failure in Los Angeles at the age of 91. Wow, what a career this fellow had...
He was the film editor on Orson Welles' debut , the classic (and frequent winner in most of those "best film of all time" polls) "Citizen Kane" (1941), one of those rare films that almost single-handedly changed motion picture language and techniques.
Wise became a director with 1944’s "The Curse of the Cat People", after the original director fell too far behind schedule. Horror film icon Val Lewton hired Wise to direct another chiller, "The Body Snatcher" the following year. He directed 37 more films, among them some of the most acclaimed, influential, and beloved in the short history of the art form. Genre fans in an era pre-Lucas and Spielberg blockbusters marveled to his still-classic “The Haunting” and “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, as well as “The Andromeda Strain” and the underrated “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”. The Hollywood musical was forever defined by his “West Side Story” (co-directed with Jerome Robbins) and “The Sound Of Music”. He worked in almost every genre, including straight drama (“Somebody Up There Likes Me”), the war film ("Run Silent Run Deep"), historical spectacle (“Helen Of Troy”), and the Western ("Tribute to a Bad Man"). His last film was 2000’s “A Storm In Summer”, which he directed, incredibly, at age 85 for Showtime from an unproduced screenplay by Rod Serling.
Wise was awarded four Oscars during his career, as well as The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1966. He also received the D.W. Griffith Award from the Directors Guild of America in 1988. He served as both President of the Director’s Guild and President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was championed by seemingly everyone who ever knew and worked with him.
I had the pleasure of meeting Wise briefly when he came to Toronto in 1995 to promote the book “Robert Wise On His Films”. In a cramped memorabilia shop, he graciously took the time to speak to every one of his fans and sign materials despite the obvious ravages of age and road fatigue.
I'm not a huuuuge James Bond fan, really, but I've always dug the series as agreeable eye candy ever since I first caught "The Spy Who Loved Me" on a matinee back in 1977, on one of the rare weekends when Doug McClure wasn't headlining some cheap-ass Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation. Yes, call me sacrilegious but I'll admit that for most of my teen years, Roger Moore was the definitive JB for me (could be worse--for some, Cathy Lee Crosby is the definitive Wonder Woman...). Thankfully, it only took one screening of "Thunderball" on a dusk-til-dawn all-nighter to set me straight before graduation...
With Fleming's first Bond novel, "Casino Royale", pegged by the Broccolis as the next official adaptation and much talk of auditioning a younger replacement for the (reportedly) unceremoniously drop-kicked-out-of-the-series Pierce Brosnan, word has it this week that the former Remington Steele/Thomas Crown v. 2.0 is still in the running after all.
Sony, which now owns MGM, have rejected just about every serious candidate to date, from Daniel Craig to Gerald Butler (everyone's ideal choice, Clive Owen, has made it clear he isn't interested in the franchise). The casting is left to four people: Amy Pascal of Sony, series producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and director Martin Campbell, each of whom have their favorites. With Brosnan's four entries having outgrossed all previous films in the series as well as other attempted spy franchises like the "Bourne" and "XXX" capers, Sony may reconsider their policy on his age and alleged outrageous salary demands. Brosnan claims Sony has asked him to "come back", but whether he dons the tuxedo for a fifth time will be up to the series producers, who don't seem to know what they want (which would explain why "a-Ha" was once chosen to perform a title song). Sean Connery and Roger Moore had similiar feuds with the Broccolis during their respective reigns--Dalton and Lazenby probably would've returned for meal vouchers if asked.
"Casino Royale", as everyone probably knows, has already been adapted twice before: once, in 1954 as part of the "Climax!" live TV series, starring American Barry Nelson as "Jimmy Bond", and again in 1967 as a madcap spoof/debacle that starred three actors as JB (David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen), went through five directors, and is best remembered for its cloying Burt Bacharach score. Too bad the producers are such Octopussies and won't budge from the formula--Quentin Tarantino has offered to direct "Casino Royale" as long as he can set it in the 1960s and cast Daniel Day Lewis as the man with the license to kill.
13 September 2005
Just a brief detour from my rigorous TIFF 2005 shenanigans (which included my purchasing an annoying new cell phone--I gotta stop hanging out in shops between screenings and spend more time in bars arguing Eisensteinian montage) here with great news for horror buffs and discriminating film tastes (yes, they can reside in the same body, let alone latitude and longitude): John Carpenter's self-imposed hiatus from directing has come to an end with the announcement that he would be helming a segment of Showtime's upcoming "Masters Of Horror" anthology series entitled "Cigarette Burns". But we heard about that sequel to "The Thing ", "The Stars My Destination", and "Pincushion", too, didn't we? Well, now there's proof. Click here for some snapshots from the set of what will hopefully atone for the misfire (albeit an enjoyable one) that was "Ghosts Of Mars". This should be one helluva series, with other segments helmed by the likes of Dario Argento, John Landis, Tobe Hooper, Lucky McKee, Joe Dante, and Don Coscarelli.
"Cigarette Burns" was written by "Ain't It Cool"s "Moriarity", aka Drew McQueeney, with Scott Swan and promises a "twisted investigative thriller in the vein of 'Chinatown'". Jimmy Sweetman, a tracker of obscure film prints, is hired to unearth the lost "Le Fin du Monde". Legend has it that its one and only audience was driven into a murderous rage.
Hmmm, a little bit of Carpenter's "In The Mouth Of Madness", a little bit of Ramsey Campbell's novel "Ancient Evenings". The series debuts on October 28th, and hopefully, someone in Canada is working on the broadcast details.
07 September 2005
Production on Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns" is reportedly on hiatus for a few weeks--so much for "faster than a speeding bullet"...just when is this thing going to be ready? Supes' long-overdue screen resurrection has dragged through so many multiple screenplays (Kevin Smith, J.J. Abrams) and bailing directors (Tim Burton, Brett Ratner) you'd swear it was a Terrance Malick opus. The good news is that production stills are starting to emerge in legitimate media sources--the even better news is that the images look damn promising. I don't know how they're going to spin this one as a bizarro combo remake/sequel to 1981's "Superman 2"--most of us will buy the new young buck Brandon what's-his-name subbing for the late, great Christopher Reeve, and even Kevin Spacey for Gene Hackman, but how did New York City circa-1978 become 2005 Sydney? Will The Daily Planet reporters still be using IBM Selectrics? If anyone can make us believe a man can fly--again--it'll be Singer, who gave us two "X-Men" films far better than we probably deserved...
Sorry I've been scarce lately, but with the end of summer comes the massive chore that is planning for the annual Toronto International Film Festival. Having been screwed by the ridiculous "lottery" process for the third year in a row, my significant other and I have been scrambling to salvage the remaining tickets from our coupon book without having to settle for the three-hour Tibetan yak herding docudrama. Operating solo, I'll be covering the 10 day cinematic bacchanalia for my old haunt, the U.K.-based website Movieforum, offering (hopefully) informed and entirely prejudiced opinions on somewhere in the neighborhood of two dozen films including David Cronenberg's "A History Of Violence", Terry Gilliam's "Tideland", Lars von Trier's "Manderlay", Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble", Neil Jordan's "Breakfast On Pluto", Eli Roth's "Hostel", Roman Polanski's "Oliver", Park Chan Wook's "Sympathy For Lady Vengeance", Shane Black's "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" and of course, Sturla Gunnerson's "Beowulf And Grendel". Check out my daily coverage here at the Movieforum blog site.
28 August 2005
This year's Canadian National Comic Book Expo offered the usual embarrassment of riches for fans (insert obvious "geek" joke here) of every possible medium and splinter genre: sci-fi TV and film, fantasy role playing games, Japanese anime, cult horror, and of course, a certain four-colour medium still inching towards respectability. The top draw (rimshot) for your humble narrator was the rare chance to meet the great Neal Adams--probably the pop-culture figure with the most direct cause-and-effect influence on my career, since it was his work and only his work that I shamelessly copied as a youngster and through my student years held up as the penultimate standard of illustration excellence (I didn't say I was as good as Adams, but a mere mortal can have dreams...). The always- outspoken Adams was a young turk who not only revolutionized the look of Silver Age comics with his dynamic realism and experimental techniques, but he became a champion for artists' rights, crusading (and winning!) for increased rates, ownership of original art, reprint fees, medical coverage, and pensions. Thirty years after he stopped drawing "Batman" and left DC Comics to form Continuity Studios, his rendering of the character remains definitive. Click here to see the master in action as he creates the recently famous (even though he first drew him in "Batman" #232 back in 1971) R'as Al Gul step-by-step.
14 August 2005
Film snobs be damned, I really want to like Michael Bay. He's got a great eye and loves to entertain audiences--he's like H.B Halicki with an unlimited bank account. Too bad for every movie Bay's helmed that delivers on its premise (The Rock, Armageddon), he's hatched an excruciating turkey (Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys 2). But he redeemed himself with this summer's spirited clones-on-the-roam bomb "The Island", for which I seem to be a fan club of one.
The film's own weasely producers, Walter Parkes and his wife Laurie, won't be joining: incredibly, they're blaming the stars Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor for its poor showing. The Parkes' have staged a nasty smear against the esteemed thesps with Johansson's talents taking the biggest beating. According to the Parkes': "Those are superstars of the future, not superstars of the present. Even lesser television actresses, quite honestly, would have more connection to that audience." Like who, exactly? Daphne Zuniga? Markie Post? (what exactly is meant by that audience?). Read their feeble tirade here. And expect their next film to headline Edie McClurg...
They've caused me a few near-aneurisms since I first stood before a Defender console in the K-Mart foyer back in the Reagan era--but videogames have yet to kill me. Rather, the moral guardians of my youth thought "Fangoria" and "D&D" would kill off my generation first. Unfortunately, some obsessive sap in Seoul, South Korea (one of the most wired countries in the world) died of heart failure immediately after finishing his mammoth online gaming session in an Internet cafe--50 hours!
28-year-old "Lee" began his online battle game at a Taegu cybercafe on Aug. 3 and only left his spot over the next three days to go to the toilet and take brief naps. Lee had recently quit his job to spend more time gaming and after he failed to return home (to his mother, big surprise), former colleagues tracked him to the cafe. Lee promised he would finish the game and then go home. He died only minutes later. "We presume the cause of death was heart failure stemming from exhaustion," a police official theorized.
I must say, I've been scared straight by this story. Having just finished "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" this past week (I began it last December, so I'm well past Lee's fatal 50th hour), I'll be sure to pause for macrobiotic snacks, yogic meditation, and home-decorating shows (to slow my racing heartbeat) before committing myself to my next challenge: "God Of War".
03 August 2005
Sturla Gunnarsson's film version of "Beowulf" will make its world premiere at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, celebrating its 30th year. Adapted by Andrew Rai Berzins from the Old English poem (dated approx. 1100 A.D.--so expect some changes purists!) and focusing on the first half of the epic tale (the dragon will appear in the sequel), "Beowulf And Grendel" (full title) stars Gerard Butler, Sarah Polley, and Stellan Skarsgård, and was shot last autumn on authentic Icelandic locations and offers a grittier, meditative approach to what could have been an orgy of CGI (that'll likely come with the rival Zemeckis production, adapted by Neil Gaiman, due next year). Now, if that sounds a bit too arty (read: "boring"), know that several major action sequences were storyboarded by yours truly and there'll be no shortage of monsters and mayhem to go with this unique take. Check out the official site. An expanded gallery of my storyboards will be posted here shortly.
29 July 2005
Molly, our beautiful and utterly unique tortoiseshell cat, would have turned 11 today, had she not been stricken with a rare feline cancer that had her leave us on May 14, 2005. It's only been a few months and there still isn't a day when I don't ache for her adorable gurgle (she never really had a "meow"), hilarious antics (she always knew precisely how to cheer me up when I was down or too self-absorbed), and comforting paw. In her honour, I'm going to spring for that "cat hammock" that I'd often thought of buying but repeatedly put off, figuring I always had time...Minnie will enjoy it and I'm sure will miss sharing it with her big sister. BTW, this weekend, The Toronto Humane Society is waiving their standard $25 adoption fee, due to a surplus of more than 500 stray cats. So, GTA readers, here's the perfect time to save a new Molly's life and enhance your own in a big way (just don't forget to spay...).
27 July 2005
Nearly blew a gasket when I read that toy company New Adventures® will soon be releasing 12-inch, talking soft-bodied dolls of "Blue Collar TV" staples Larry The Cable Guy™, Bill Engvall™ , Ron White™ , and, of course, the inexplicably enduring Jeff Foxworthy™ . Press the left hand and each figure offers twelve unique phrases taken directly from their comedy routines (incredibly, 6 inch versions will also be available, with a mathematically-appropriate six phrases in their repertoire).
25 years since "A Clockwork Orange" was released and the toy industry has yet to offer a collectible "Alex The Droog". And Wave 2 of the "Sin City" figures will not include Carla Gugino--but I can easily acquire a Jeff-freakin'-Foxworthy to join Jake & Elwood, Chow Yun Fat, and Alex Ross' "Captain Marvel" on my office bookshelf? I saw a Donny Most action figure at the Snail today--just who's doing the market research on this stuff, and are they drunk on corn liquor? If they're gonna put out comedians, then why not Bill Murray as Nick The Lounge Singer, Steve Martin with bunny ears and his banjo, and Dennis Miller before he went all right-wing on us? Wouldn't a plushy Gilbert Gottfried doing "Ralph Kramden" in "Casablanca" be the ultimate office cubicle annoyance?
FYI--Jeff and co. require 3 triple-A batteries--and if you can't figure out which way they go in,you might be a...sensible person with a better grasp of financial restraint than I...
24 July 2005
"Watchmen" creator Alan Moore has to be the crankiest man in comics. Crankier than Harlan Ellison, who once wrote an article entitled "Why I Fantasize About Using An AK-47 On Teenagers"--back in the early 70s! That's cranky. Moore's been quite vocal in his disdain ("imbecilic") for the upcoming film adaptation of his 80s anti-Thatcher, pro-terrorist dystopian allegory "V For Vendetta" (co-created with artist David Lloyd). Granted, "The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen" movie was sub-Golan/Globus hackwork, and the stylish "From Hell" was ruined by a ridiculous happy ending (Mary Kelly survives?!) but "Constantine", IMHO, made for an enjoyable LA noir and retained some of the integrity of its source material, even though the purist in me is still twitching over the casting of Keanu instead of a proper Brit. Moore, who has severed all ties with DC/Vertigo, is peeved at Joel Silver's public claim that he has given "V4V" his blessing, and has asked for a printed retraction/apology, which has yet to materialize. His anger here, is perfectly understandable. But if Moore really feels the state of current cinema is worthy of his "dwindling respect", why does he repeatedly sell the option rights, especially since bad comic book adaptations go back to Lewis Wilson changing into his batsuit in the back of a saloon car? Much of Moore's own esteemed body of work consists of considerable liberties taken with the creations of others (H. Rider Haggard likely didn't envision Alan Quartermain as a junkie, and let's not forget "The Killing Joke", in which the Joker rapes and cripples Barbara Gordon, which I'm sure didn't go down too well with Bob Kane) , so to cry foul when other writers play fast and loose with his work displays a double-standard either naive or arrogant. J. Michael Straczynski has read the shooting script and has hailed it as "a work of freaking genius", and the trailer looks good. Check out bald Natalie and Hugo behind a Guy Fawkes mask here.
21 July 2005
So "Fantastic Four" stirs up a slumping box office and the suits learn all the wrong lessons: "Dark Horizons" (way cooler than "Ain't It Cool News", IMHO) reports that the geniuses at Paramount are teaming up with Nickelodeon to develop a CGI feature adaptation of "The Smurfs". Even worse--in 3-D! Can you take any more? Know then, that it's the first part of a planned TRILOGY! (if it's any consolation, the animated series ran 256 episodes) They'd better get moving, as the 50th anniversary of artist Peyo's original Belgian comic strip is only three years away. Ensuring mediocre results is the addition of a Ratner to pen the screenplay, but this is "Herb", not that other guy, so perhaps there's a chance this'll play painlessly (I was a paying customer for "The Garbage Pail Kids" movie, with Anthony Newley, so it's all perspective). The storyline, btw, is being kept "under wraps". So expect a major Palahniuk-style plot twist...
Go ahead, try out the Smurf Name Generator...
20 July 2005
With today’s sad news of the passing of Canadian war hero and pop culture icon James “Scotty” Doohan, I thought I’d skip the usual Roddenberry references and instead remind those of you “of a certain age” of one of his largely-forgotten forays into TV sci-fi beyond that “other” show…
Many of us reared on Mego action figures and Crazy Foam will remember the rotating logo of Filmation and its founders Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott before shows like “Ark 2”, “Shazam”, and “The Secrets Of Isis”- Saturday morning cheapies that rarely delivered on their promise of live-action spectacle but certainly weren’t lacking in heavy-handed morality lessons.
Doohan added gravitas (and his regular voice) as Commander Canarvin to 1978’s “Jason Of Star Command”, Filmation’s last live action venture. Initially a 15 minute segment during “Tarzan And The Super 7”, it chronicled the cliffhanger adventures of cosmic agent “Jason” (Craig Littler) who worked out of the “Space Academy” (an earlier series that starred another 60s sci-fi vet unable to escape typecasting: “Lost In Space”s Jonathan Harris) to defeat the evil “Dragos” (B-movie regular Sid Haig), who sought to conquer the galaxy and/or the usual thing. Other than Doohan, all I can recall from it is Haig’s eyepiece, some decent model work (except for the pocket-sized robot “Wikki”), and lots of dry ice. Doohan left after one season (presumably to shoot “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”) and the show expanded to 30 minutes, but I don’t think I stuck with it after that. It’s a shame that these aren’t on VHS or DVD, but I’m sure someone with a vintage Betamax—the same brainiac with the foresight to tape the “Star Wars” Holiday Special perhaps—has copies circulating through the gray market.
Meanwhile, Sid “Dragos” Haig lives on and is enjoying his long-overdue career resurgence, thanks to Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie. Check him out in this weekend’s ‘The Devil’s Rejects”, the sequel to the not half-bad “House of 1,000 Corpses”.
19 July 2005
Who knew that filmmaker, painter, composer, actor, cartoonist, furniture designer, transcendentalist, and former Eagle Scout David Lynch aspired to be the George Plimpton of wacked-out auteurs? Now L.A. residents, the hopelessly devoted, and the merely curious can check out his nicotine-fueled daily weather reports (So-Cal only, sorry) here on his official site. Thankfully, the feeds are free, which is more than can be said of most of the features on his rather pricey internet hub. Hopefully, Lynch's sudden fascination with all things meteorological won't hamper the completion of that long-promised "director's cut" of "Dune" on DVD, or his next feature, "Inland Empire", which he has reportedly shot on digital video in Poland with Jeremy Irons, Laura Dern, Harry Dean Stanton, and Justin Theroux.
06 July 2005
If there was ever proof as to the damage caused to the comics medium by the ridiculous crusade of Dr. Fredric Wertham, it's here at Superdickery.com, which chronicles the hilarious, and downright depressing, detour into mediocrity Siegel and Shuster's classic Übermensch was forced into until his eventual restoration to glory courtesy of John Byrne and Alan Moore (not to mention filmmaker Richard Donner). Suddenly, Krypto and Streaky (the supercat) look like the stuff of David Mamet compared to Kal-El's encounter with...Pat Boone!? To tide you over until the release of Bryan Singer's promising remake/sequel, check out Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's rousingly romantic epic "Superman For All Seasons", blare those songs from Crash Test Dummies, Five For Fighting, and Our Lady Peace, raid the DVD dollar bins for Fleischer Bros. compilations--anything to erase these images from your cranium...
05 July 2005
It's John Grisham meets Irwin Allen! The mission that sent the Deep Impact space probe smashing into the comet Tempel 1 kicked up more than cosmic debris--it also brought a lawsuit from a Russian astrologer. The newspaper Izvestia reported today that 45-year old clairvoyant Marina Bai is suing the U.S. space agency, claiming their successful mission "ruins the natural balance of forces in the universe " (NASA scientists hoped the mission would help in the understanding of how the solar system was formed--whoopsie!). Bai is seeking damages totalling 8.7B rubles (about $311M U.S.--the cost of the mission) for her "moral sufferings" and "deformed horoscope". She explained: "somewhere deep inside a voice told me the whole mission had to be stopped. I fear that it could have an impact on all humanity." NASA representatives in Russia could not be reached for comment--big surprise--but U.S. scientists have assured that the crash did not significantly alter the comet's orbit around the sun and poses no danger to Earth. Unconvinced, a Moscow court has postponed hearings on the case until late July...affording little time to train a team of gruff-but-loveable Black Sea oil workers to fly into space to undo the damage...
04 July 2005
Now you can convert your rumpus room into your very own Tatooine moisture farm--just like Uncle Owen (who looks like he'd had a lot of moisture sucked out of him between episodes 3 and 4...)! The Mr. Peabodys at Air2Water products have perfected an atmospheric water generator that extracts drinkable water from the air. The device pulls air through an electrostatic filter removing 93% of all air borne particles. The water harvested then drops into a tray and is passed throught UV light for 30 minutes, killing 99.9% of all germs and bacteria. The water is then pumped through a sediment screen and back through two solid carbon block 1 micron water filters, removing 99.9% of any volatile organic chemicals that may be left in the water. The water can then be safely dispensed to its thirsty (not to mention patient) consumers. Behold the miracle here. The obvious question is: does it speak "bocce"?
03 July 2005
A CanCon nugget so obscure to elude even "cult" status, "Strange Paradise" was The Great White North's response to Dan Curtis' supernatural daytime sensation "Dark Shadows", debuting on Sept. 1, 1969 and running for a lengthy single season of 195 episodes.
The initial story arc was set on the fictious "Caribbean island" of Maljardin (in actuality, Toronto's Casa Loma for exteriors and an Ottawa farmhouse studio for interiors), where various meddlesome characters became the prisoner of eccentric millionaire Jean-Paul Desmond, his zombie henchman Quito , and handmaid/voodoo priestess Raxl. When not becoming possessed-and-un-possessed by the portrait of his ancestor--the DeSade-ian Jacques Eloi Des Mondes--Desmond dabbled with cryogenics to revive his dead wife.
With that plan going predictably wrong, everyone dead and Maljardin burned to the ground, Jean-Paul, Quito, and Raxl somehow avoided incineration and woke up in the Desmond ancestoral home in Canada to begin a second, and even more confusing, serial.Miraculously, the entire run of the series survived, too, and Canada's "Drive-In Classics" channel relaunched it on an unsuspecting world in October of last year. I stuck it through five nights a week, without a single pre-emption, for the show's entirety (sorry Ken Jennings), which came to an end, mercifully (and appropriately), on Canada Day 2005.
Shot on videotape and starring Canadian vets Colin Fox, Jack Creley, Bruce Gray, and Cossette Lee, "Strange Paradise" was alternately as low-rent charming as the ambitious "The Starlost", or as laughably inept as a Coleman Francis director's cut, with wobbling sets, flubbed lines, and missed cues so de rigueur you'd start to believe they were intended with a knowing wink. This over-padded rubbish wore out its welcome by about episode...oh...100?...but ever the loyal genre nationalist, I stuck it out even thought by February I was slipping into my own empathic trance states along with poor, cursed Jean-Paul to make the weeks go faster.
Those intrigued can brave Drive-In Classics' re-re-broadcast of "Strange Paradise" starting this coming Monday, July 4th at 7:30 PM ET.
01 July 2005
...so who sez I'm a "poor patriot"? For the first time in recent memory, we're spending the Dominion Day long weekend in the GTA, where ordinarily, the pace would simmer down to just this side of "On The Beach" once the salarymen flee to Cottage Country. But then Sir Bob had an idea to host this little concert and, well, let's just all be happy that Roger Waters and David Gilmour are speaking again. I watched "Live Aid" waaay back in 1985 from a hospital bed in the Ottawa Civic Hospital, and am hardly nostalgic enough to put myself through that living hell again (wonder if my roommate ever finished that "Herman" treasury?) and having done SARSstock, have opted to leave the Barrie spectacle to the pierced and/or inebriated. Instead, we'll catch a matinee of "War Of The Worlds", bake in the sun at the CHIN picnic at Ontario Place, and stick it out for the evening fireworks. Anyone know the lyrics to "Waltzing Matilda" en francais...?
30 June 2005
Molly, our much beloved tortoiseshell cat, passed away shortly before her 11th birthday on May 14, 2005, after having been diagnosed with a rare feline cancer "cutaneous lymphosarcoma" only weeks earlier. Devastated by her painful but heroic struggle and our eventual loss, I poured my grief into an illustrated memorial to her, in the style of Patrick O'Donnell's delightful "Mutts" comic strip. Enjoy, and love your pets as much as we did our precious girl. I'll be talking about her a lot so get used to it.
29 June 2005
With George having finally completed his six-part space opera (although I'm sure he promised us 9 or even 12 chapters back in 1977) and vowing to return to those experimental films he's been talking about in every interview since the age of Meco, it seems that "closure" on the "Star Wars" saga is looong overdue for those of us way-too-old to not remember our sister's birthday but can effortlessly recall that the Millenium Falcon's docking bay number at the Mois Eisley Spaceport is "94". The charming Anthony Daniels--the very voice and form of series mainstay C-3P0--hosted a special concert in which he narrated a "Reader's Digest" version of the saga while the brilliantly capable Toronto Symphony Orchestra performed rousing musical cues from John Williams' scores under the sure hand of conductor Erich Kunzel. Some cheesy lighting effects and questionable musical choices aside (Jar Jar's theme over Padme's funeral?) it made for a wonderful evening of warm memories and that rare communal experience that didn't have me threatening to call for the manager. To steal a quote from someone else, for many film buffs of my generation, John Williams is what the movies sound like. and tonight's performance (witnessed from Orchestra row "E", not bad) reminded me of why I've devoted so much of my life to this nonsense in the first place.
28 June 2005
The trailer for Peter Jackson's "King Kong" remake rolled out last night in a variety of media and IMHO, it looks amazing. Of course, I'm biased: I've been nuts about the simian softee since I caught his 1933 debut projected in 8mm at my hometown's public library. I'll even stake my credibility on admitting a certain "affection" for the 1976 remake directed by John Guillerman. Just about everyone dismisses this Dino DeLaurentis production as an abomination the size of Fin Fang Foom, but it was the first EVENT movie that I ate, lived, and breathed until its Xmas release. Thanks to my patient folks, I had everything but the Levis belt buckle that came with a strand of Carlo Rambaldi ape-hair: the jigsaw puzzles of John Berkey's conceptual art, the soundtrack album of John Barry's score, and, in the dark ages before DVD supplements: the paperback of Lorenzo Semple Jr.'s screenplay and the notorious "Making Of Dino DeLaurentis' King Kong" book that essentially claimed that the ape onscreen was a 60 foot mechanical robot (Rick Baker and his monkey suit warranted nary a mention, and word has it he wasn't even invited to the film's premiere). My main quibble? They showed too much of the ape! Times have changed, sure, but those ambitious Wetans should downplay the pixels, play up the passion, and take a cue from Spielberg--who's given us teaser after teaser of A-listers staring mouth agape at something offscreen and it hasn't hurt his box office returns any.
So, you've happened upon my little soapbox--likely by accident (no offense taken) and are wondering: just what the hell kind of name is "Nadaland"? First up, perish the thought that I'm some sophomore hipster with a crappy black dye-job who just discovered Hubert Selby Jr. and Russian import cigarettes--rather, those in-the-know will have immediately recognized that your present location has been named for the blue-collar Everyman John Nada, as portrayed by (Rowdy) Roddy Piper in John Carpenter's 1988 paranoid classic "They Live". I'm hardly "blue collar" and don't fancy myself an "everyman"--but I do really dig John Carpenter's flicks.
After years as resident know-it-all to the likes of the dear-departed Compuserve entertainment forums, eDrive's Tapehead, and the moribund Movieforum, I decided to launch my own site where I could periodically pontificate on the woefully misunderstood world of genre film and its poor cousins, while shamelessly self promoting my "other" life as a professional broadcast designer and storyboard artist in the feast-to-famine world of Toronto film/television production.
Portfolio to come in bits and pieces. Do visit often and when you speak of me, speak well.