28 September 2006

"Pan" The Oscars

Guillermo Del Toro's brilliant fantasy "Pan's Labyrinth" won't up on these shores until the end of the year, but that'll be just soon enough for it to qualify to compete in the "Best Foreign Language" category for next year's Academy Awards, for which Mexico is submitting the film as its official entry into the race. With "Return Of The King" having swept the ceremony a few years back, perhaps the middlebrow old cranks who vote for these things are slowly coming around on their opinion of the genre, which for too long has been dismissed as juvenile FX fodder. Del Toro's new film--nothing less than a career legacy work--is a deeply personal and heartfelt work mixing Lewis Carroll with the grim realities of Franco's Fascist Spain. Plus--if I can appeal to your juvenile senses here (and god bless 'em)--it's got the coolest monsters since, well, Del Toro's "Hellboy" adaptation. Don't miss it.

19 September 2006

Happy Birthday, Adam West!

Adam West turns 78 today, and say what you want about the campy William Dozier series and the alleged "damage" it did to the legend of the Dark Knight, for most of us of a "certain age", West was Batman until Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil came along to set us all straight. I had the chance to meet him once in the 80s when I was a film student, and then again in the late 90s as a fledging "pro" on the TV series "Goosebumps", where he wore the outfit I helped design for his character "The Galloping Gazelle" (the episode was superhero-themed "Attack Of The Mutant", for which I also created the comic book art). I last saw West in a brief role in Mario Van Peebles' "How To Get The Man's Foot Outta Your Ass" aka "Badassss", and hope he never retires.

TIFF 2006 Review: "The Host"

I've posted a new review up at Movieforum--this one for the superb South Korean monster movie "The Host", which is a big hit in its native country and deserves to be an international blockbuster. The creature--essentially a giant mutant tadpole--is one of the finest CG creations you'll ever see and ranks with Weta's "King Kong" and "Gollum" and ILM's "Jurassic Park" reptiles (in fact, ex-ILMers and Weta contributed to the FX). Read the review here, and don't miss this unique take on a tired genre should you get the chance.

17 September 2006

TIFF 2006 Reviews: "End Of The Line"

TIFF 2006 has come to an end, and I'm exhausted. But, while the 25+ films I caught are still fresh in my head, I'd better get at the reviews. The first one--for the Montreal-shot horror film "End Of The Line"--is up now at the Movieforum blog, which you can access here (be sure to scroll on down to the bottom!).

02 September 2006

From Piper's Pit: The Real John Nada!

That's me and Lidia at at this past weekend's annual Fan Expo, which has grown (well, seemingly...) exponentially in scale each passing year. Unfortunately, the venue--Building 2 of the Metro Convention Centre--has not expanded to accomodate the crowds, or the growing roster of guests, and this year's was the worst organized event yet. Insane lineups and a lack of oxygen aside, there was a lot going on to keep an aging fanboy suitably bedazzled--"Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola, Marvel scribe Brian Michael Bendis, Carrie Fisher, Karen Black, and presumably, no shortage of suckers who'll pay 300 bucks to have their photo taken with William Shatner and/or Leonard Nimoy.

For a mere $20, we got our photo taken with the one and only John Nada--Rowdy Roddy Piper (in actuality, Roderick Toombs from Winnipeg, Manitoba), and got him to sign some memorabilia. I told him about this here "Nadaland" site and Roddy, ever the smooth pro, swore he was "honoured" (and I almost believe him)! We chatted about Norstar B-pictures we each had worked on (Roddy starred in "Jungleground" and "No Contest 2", both shot in Toronto) and Roddy talked about how he improvised the "I'm all outta bubblegum" line on the set of "They Live" only minutes before Carpenter called for lunch (and I almost believe this wasn't the 10,000th time he's told this story). It was a thrill to meet one helluva nice guy who obviously digs his fans. Check out Roddy's official site here.

FanExpo 2006: Hellboy-Zapoppin'

"Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola was one of the main attractions (for me) at this year's FanExpo combo sci-fi/comics/horror/anime/gaming convention held at Toronto's Metro Convention Centre. I first discovered Mignola's unique drawing style in the early 90s comic adaptations of Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" film and in Epic's limited series based on Fritz Lieber's "Fahred And The Gray Mouser" swashbucklers--and I've been copying him ever since . These days Mignola writes more than he draws, which is a great loss to comics fans but since he hand-picks such great illustrators as Guy Davis and Richard Corben to substitute for him, we really can't be too sorry.

During a Q&A Mignola fielded the predicted questions on the Hellboy movie sequel, solo, since his announced co-host (director) Guillermo Del Toro had to cancel his appearance due to a scheduling conflict with the Venice Film Festival. Basically, it is coming, with Universal on board after Revolution Studios bailed. Its current title is "The Golden Army", and the story isn't based on any particular published "Hellboy" comic, but rather an original concept by Mignola and Del Toro that will incorporate more of the pan-cultural folklore aspects that Mignola felt were downplayed in the first film. So expect a returning Ron Perlman to battle Malaysian ghosts and European baddies in their combined efforts to reclaim magic's reign over the mortal world. I liked his comparison of his supernatural baddies to displaced Native Americans, deciding to reclaim their land as their own, and that when writing, he always strives to identify with his antagonists' point-of-view and never truly sees them as evil.

Mignola said that there is an ending planned for his Hellboy saga, and that in future stories the "working stiff" aspect of the character will be downplayed and that Hellboy will undergo a change due to his recent death and increasing fatigue with his role as supernatural savior now that years have passed. He admitted that he didn't care for the romantic subplot in Del Toro's adaptation as prefers to see the male/female relationships in his comics as more "brother/sister" than anything romantic--as will be depicted in an upcoming story with a young, 80s-era Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien.

He also mentioned that at one time, Nicholas Cage was pegged to play "Hellboy", but then again, he's been attached to just about every comic book project imaginable at one time or another.

Mignola acknowledged that a "Hellboy" video game is in development (platform unannounced)--one that will be modeled more on the film's design and universe, but will feature "flashback" levels that will incorporate unique folklore elements.

The "Hellboy" cartoon will debut soon, as will a new series of spin-off novels in which he's allowed the authors free reign. Mignola himself has co-written and illustrated a novel, entitled "Baltimore", which is about vampires and which he describes as "very Roman Catholic". It's due next year.

Mignola stressed that for all the movie, animation, game, and prose spin-offs, he regards only his own "Hellboy" comics from Dark Horse as "definitive". An official Hellboy Encyclopedia was due to be published by now, but since he keeps adding material to it, its publication date can't be predicted.

His favorite story of his own? A recent collaboration with daughter Kate in Dark Horse's "Happy Endings" anthology, entitled "The Magician And The Snake", which she told to him on a ride home from school (and has since won an Eisner award).