30 July 2006

Royal Cinema Saved

Toronto film buffs were dealt a harsh blow last month when three of the city's oldest and most beloved vintage repertory theatres were shut down: The Kingsway, The Revue, and The Royal.

I live near the Royal Cinema (just a few blocks' walk from Little Italy, but close enough) and while I never got out to it nearly as much as I'd like, I think it's a great place for its nostalgic facade (dig the marquee), elegant art deco interior (with reclining seats), and eclectic range of films. The Royal is a typical rep house in that it operates primarily as a second-run venue, but it's also hosted cool speciality programmes like "B Movie Thursdays", which afforded me the chance to see the likes of "The Evil Dead", "Flash Gordon" (1980), "Shivers", and "Dark Star" on the big screen. As well, the venue has hosted the Toronto runs of such offbeat Asian offerings as "Sympathy For Mister Vengeance", "Dead Or Alive", and "Uzumaki".

Good news, then, with the announcement that the recently-closed Royal has been saved from conversion to a big box store by the owners of "Theatre D Digital" on Mt. Pleasant Ave, who converted the vintage Regent Cinema into a combination post-production facility and public theatre and plan to do the same here, possibly as early as September.

29 July 2006


Happy Birthday, Molly (you would have been twelve today).

19 July 2006

"Help Me Make The Music Of The (Dark) Knight..."

Believe it or not, the concept of "Batman: The Musical" was not a Jonathan Crane-induced hallucination. I'd heard rumour of it over the years, but then again, I also once read that Garth Drabinsky's Livent planned to mount "Raising Arizona" on the Toronto stage.

Jim Steinman--rawwwwk n' roll's would-be Wagner behind the successful Meatloaf collaborations, the "Streets Of Fire" soundtrack, and--kreegah!--latter-day Celine Dion warbling, was to compose the song score, with David Ives writing the book. In 1998, Warners officially announced that none other than Tim Burton would direct the stage incarnation of the franchise he'd successfully (and how!) reinvented for a generation nearly a decade earlier. Unfortunately, Steinman's vampire-themed musical (with former "Phantom" Michael Crawford, perhaps biding his time for "Condorman: The Musical"?) proved to be a flop and the studio's momentum for "Batman" dwindled.

Jim Steinman, however, managed to record what came to be known as "The Batman Demos" at the historic (and now gone) The Hit Factory in New York, with vocals from Rob Evan as Batman, Karine Hannah as Catwoman, Elaine Caswell, and Steinman himself. According to a fan-site, Warner's theatrical wing is considering resurrecting the property (no doubt thanks to the success of "Batman Begins") so who knows? I hear there's a stage free in Toronto, now that "Lord Of The Rings" has folded. Take your time, fellas--remember that "Superman" musical from the mid-70s?

In the meantime, you can listen to Steinman's "The Joker's Song", here.

"Beowulf And Grendel" Now On DVD In Canada

Indulge me in some shameless self-promotion: Sturla Gunnersson's "Beowulf And Grendel" was released on DVD in Canada today, from Warner Home Video. The single disc edition features a nice transfer that preserves Jan Keisser's lush cinematography and the requisite director's commentary (with Sturla joined by screenwriter Andrew Rai Berzins). Extras include deleted scenes, a costume design gallery, on-set stills, and most importantly, and a too-brief sampling of storyboard art from yours truly.

Regrettably, the gallery features only two scenes--Scenes 1 and 15--which were already posted on the official site with the former never truly completed to my satisfaction (like the Icelandic weather, the scene's specifics changed often). I drew an insane amount of boards for this project, and the best of them didn't end up on the disc. You can check out Grendel's berserker rampage through Heorot on my still-under-construction online portfolio here.

And of course, if you're so inclined, you can order a copy of the DVD here.

Don't Miss "The Vader Sessions"

"Star Wars" fan spoofs have gone beyond merely "viral"--the sheer volume of them has arguably spawned an Internet pandemic. While I support the efforts of these youngsters, the sad fact is that most of these shorts aren't half as fun to watch as I'm sure they were to make--I hope that some of these crazy kids got ILM intern gigs for their troubles and obvious passion.

But this one is that rare killer-diller: the riotous "The Vader Sessions", which works in audio clips from some of James Earl Jones' other films (mostly "The Great White Hope", "Coming To America", and "Field Of Dreams") into "Vader" footage from the 1977 original. The whole thing manages to work--impressively ("most impressively"..) as a compressed "A New Hope" for the attention-span impaired.

But can someone explain to me what's up with all the Billy Joel tunes?