Rango: March 4

Paramount Pictures unleashes this motion-capture comedy-fantasy, featuring the voice of Johnny Depp as the title character, a chameleon with an identity crisis. Gore Verbinski directed, working from a script by John Logan, derived from a story by Logan, Verbinski, and James Ward Byrkit. Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Olyphant, Ray Winstone, and Ian Abercrombie fill out the cast. We have not been particularly impressed by Verbinski’s live-action directorial efforts (except for the first PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN film), so we will reserve judgement on whether or not he and his crew should have been turned loose on a computer-generated movie.
Rango-Movie-Poster-2

Michelle Pfeiffer for 'Dark Shadows'?

MichellePfeiffer_PortAccording to The Hollywood Reporter, Michelle Pfeiffer (BATMAN RETURNS) is in negotiations to join the cast of DARK SHADOWS, the Tim Burton / Johnny Depp feature film version of the 60’s Gothic supernatural soap opera. 
Michelle Pfeiffer’s role would be that of  Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the matriarch of the Collins family,  which runs the major industries of  Collinsport, a secluded town on coast of Maine.
In the series, Elizabeth Stoddard (played by film star Joan Bennet) had become relcusive, rarely leaving  Collinswood, the family’s mansion, since the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Paul Stoddard.  
In the 1990’s NBC prime time revival, Jean Simmons played the role.
If Michelle Pfieffer signs, this would be the first time she and Tim Burton have worked together since she played Catwoman in the above mentioned BATMAN RETURNS (1992).
Already in the cast are Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, the melancholy vampire who returns from his 18th Century crypt to pose as his own decesendent.  He’s released by Willie Loomis, to be played by WATCHMEN’s Jackie Earle Haley.     
Australian actreess Bella Heathcoate is set to play Victoria Winters, a young woman with an unexplained tie to the Collins family, who becomes a focus of Barnabas Collin’s attention. However, there’s another woman in the equation, the witch who cursed Barnabas witch vampirism, Angelique DuPre. Eva Green (CASINO ROYALE) will be playing that role.

Joan Bennett, Jonathan Frid in period dress
Joan Bennett, Jonathan Frid in period dress

Sounds like a nice cast is being assembled for the project, which is being fueled in part by Johhny Depp’s long-time desire to play the tragic/heroic Barnabas, ever since seeing Johnathan Frid’s theatrical performance on the 60’s ABC series.  
DARK SHADOWS was created by Dan Curtis (with Art Wallace, Malcom Mammorstein, Sam Hall, and other writers contributing greatly). Dan Curtis made two 1970’s film with the daytime drama’s cast members, and produced the NBC/MGM Televison revival.

The new film is being made by Warner Brothers, which previously tried to relaunch the property as a new TV series for the WB Network.
The pilot for the rejected show has never been aired.

Pirates 4: On Stranger Tides – Trailer

From Walt Disney Pictures, the
Official Trailer for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 4: ON STRANGER TIDES, including a special introduction from Capt. Jack Sparrow himself. (Johnny Depp, matey…)
“Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Rob Marshall, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” captures the fun, adventure and humor that ignited the hit franchise—this time in Disney Digital 3D™.
Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed tale of truth, betrayal, youth and demise. When Jack crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz), he’s not sure if it’s love—or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.
The international cast includes franchise vets Geoffrey Rush as the vengeful Captain Hector Barbossa, and Kevin R. McNally as Captain Jack’s longtime comrade Joshamee Gibbs, plus Sam Claflin as a stalwart missionary and Astrid Berges-Frisbey as a mysterious mermaid. In theaters Memorial Day weekend, 2011.”

'Lone Ranger' Director Signs On

johnny_depp_piratesDeadline.com annouced that Gore Verbinski (PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN) has signed on to direct Disney’s THE LONE RANGER.
This will re-unite him with PIRATES star Johnny Depp, who also provides the voice of the starring lizard in Verbinski’s animated film RANGO. Depp, of Native American heritage, is set to play the Ranger’s trusted friend & partner, Tonto.
No start date or title character casting news has been announced as yet. Depp’s next project to go before the lens is likely DARK SHADOWS, with Tim Burton (SLEEPY HOLLOW).

Lone Ranger Director Ready to Ride?

LoneRanger_artAccording to Deadline.com, Gore Verbinski (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END)  is considering signing up to direct Walt Disney Pictures THE LONE RANGER.
Verbinski worked well with Johnny Depp on the PIRATES films, and Depp (of part Native American background) is signed to play the Ranger’s faithful ally in the new version of the classic Western team of heroes.
THE LONE RANGER, created by Fran Striker for George W. Trendle’s WXYZ first aired  January 30, 1933, on the Detroit, Michigan radio station. It soon became a syndicated hit, then went to the Mutal Network. In later years it was carried on NBC’s “Blue Network”, which became ABC. The series ran until 1954.
The Ranger was played by George Seaton (later to direct MIRACLE ON 34th Street), Earle W. Graser, and Brace Beemer. Graser, who was killed in a car accident, was the only actor who could do the Lone Ranger’s cry of “Hi-yo, Silver!” to everyone’s satisfaction, and a recording of his redition was used for the finales of Beemer’s episodes, and later tracked into all the Lone Ranger live action televison series.
 Stage actor John Todd played Tonto in most of the radio shows, sometimes “doubling” as another character, often a British gentleman.
THE GREEN HORNET was originally a spin-off of THE LONE RANGER, with Britt Reid being the son of Dan Reid, nephew of the Ranger’s murdered elder brother.
Over the years, the Lone Ranger also appeared in novels, Big Little Books, comic books and newspaper strips.
LoneRanger_SerialIn 1938, Rebuplic Pictures produced THE LONG RANGER serial, in which “Chief Thundercloud”  (Victor Daniels, a Native American actor) played Tonto, while dimunitive but deep-voice actor Billy Bechtler dubbed the voice of the Lone Ranger. Onscreen, the Lone Rager was played by several different actors and stuntman Yakima Canutt,  as the identity of the Ranger was a mystery; he was posing as one of a group of Texas Rangers.  I won’t spoil that little riddle. The mystery angle worked because the Lone Ranger wore a mask that covered the entire face. 
In 1939, they released THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN, in which Robert Livingston played The Lone Ranger, posing as a cowboy named Bill Andrews, Billy Betchler again dubbed the voice of the Ranger, while Duncan Renaldo (THE CISCO KID) played a Mexican ally of the heroes.
THE LONE RANGER was one of the first TV series to be shot entirely on film, begining in 1949, and starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. The show shot five seasons between `49 and `57. The 1952 season saw Moore replaced by John Hart, who had played radio hero Jack Armstrong in a Columbia movie serial. Clayton Moore would return for the fourth and fifth season, the final year shot in color.
Moore and Silverheels also starred in two color feature films, THE LONE RANGER (1956) and THE LONG RANGER AND THE CITY OF GOLD (1958).
Cartoon series Lone Rangers would include Michael Rye, who played Jack Armstrong on radio (and voiced Green Lantern on SUPERFRIENDS), and William Conrad (billed as Jay Darnoc).
THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER (1981) starred Klinton Spilsbury and the Ranger, with Michael Horse as Tonto. Christopher Llyod (STAR TREK III) played the villain Butch Cavendish. Spilsbury’s voice was dubbed by James Keach in this ambitous misfire.
Lone_Ranger_comicThe WB Network attempted a reboot of the Lone Ranger in 2003, garnering mostly derision from critics and fans of the character.
Hopefully, Disney’s version will be a respectful update of the hero, perhaps similar to the new comic books from Dynamite Entertainment. 
As announcer Fred Foy used to urge on radio and televison: “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear — The Lone Ranger Rides Again!”
 

Alice in Wonderland: Blu-ray Review

click to purchase
click to purchase

When released earlier this year, ALICE IN WONDERLAND immediately revealed itself as one of Tim Burton’s lesser projects. Burton is a great talent who alternates between more ambitious and personal projects that he develops to suit his own unique tastes (A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS) and big-budget studio blockbusters, which hopefully earn enough cash to induce Hollywood to keep indulging him on his less commercial projects.  Unfortunately, the studio-originated films tend to be  action flicks (like PLANET OF THE APES and this one); and rather like another eccentric visual stylist – the late, great Mario Bava – Burton has proven time and again that his forte does not lie in directing action set-pieces.
The Tim Burton sensibility is a perfect match for bringing Lewis Carroll to life; unfortunately, when the screenplay gets around to creating a story to take place in this world, it becomes awkward and dull, delivering exposition in a big information dump – a disappointing development, considering that screenwriter  Linda Woolverton previously scripted Walt Disney’s high-water mark in traditional animation, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1990). Although giving full bloom to Burton’s visual aesthetic, ALICE IN WONDERLAND ultimately opts for layering Lewis Carroll’s source material with an out-sized tea-kettle full of generic fantasy-action heroics that seemed lifted from the Harry Potter films and/or THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It is as if some nervous studio exec at Walt Disney Pictures realized that the original material would be great draw for little girls but but decided that soldiers, swords, and dragon-slaying were necessary to draw in the boys.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)This would not have been so bad, if Woolverton’s screenplay had been able to integrate the required elements, but they feel awkwardly shoe-horned into a narrative that can ill support them, leading to a generic, predictable quality lacking in much-needed surprises. Rather cleverly, the scenario suggests we are seeing a sequel to the familiar story, beginning with a prelude, set in the real world, which depicts the young Alice haunted by recurring nightmares of Wonderland; years later, Alice, now a young adult (Mia Wasikowska), is maneuvered into  an arranged marriage with an upper-class twit obviously wrong for a young woman of her unorthodox sensibility. This sequence has a nice Jane Austen feel that contrasts nicely with the later fantasy land stuff; it’s all about social conventions and marrying well. Will Alice do what is expected of her by her family and society, or will she rebel?
Alice in Wonderland (2010)Opting for flight over fight, Alice ends up down the rabbit hole again, finding herself in Wonderland – which, we are told, is actually called “Underland” by its inhabitants. Here, Alice once again finds herself expected to act in a certain way – in this case, to be a champion who will slay Jabberwock, a terrifying creature that keeps the Underland populace from rising up against the tyrannical Red Queen (Helana Bonham Carter, giving it her all).
ALICE IN WONDERLAND presents a direct parallel between the two sets of expectations that Alice faces, suggesting that she will defy them in the fantasy world as well as in the real world. Instead, the story builds to her doing the predicted thing, which seems to be a terrible miscalculation in terms of Alice’s character arc. The script tries to justify this by suggesting that Alice is learning to do the impossible (i.e, contravene conventions and take her own path), but it is too clear from the beginning that Alice considers herself (thanks to her late father’s tutelage) a defier of convention.
Flanked by the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Alice (Mia Waskikowska) suits up to slay the Jabberwock.
Flanked by the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Alice (Mia Waskikowska) suits up to slay the Jabberwock.

What the script really needed was to give us an Alice a little less sure of herself (currently, her only doubts are about the reality of Underland, which she initially dismisses as a dream), and once in Wonderland, the inhabitants should have paralleled their real-world counterparts more closely, by telling Alice that she cannot possibly be the champion who will slay the Jabberwock – that way, she could defy convention by proving them wrong, instead of in the end reluctantly accepting the role forced on her by circumstance.
Burton is renowned as a visual director, but that renown tends to miss the mark, praising him for form over content, when his real strength is the ability to create worlds in which the strange scenarios make sense or at least seem appropriate. That is certainly true for ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Realized with stunning computer-generated imagery (which extends not only to creatures and characters but also to the vast majority of the settings), Underland is an on-screen marvel well worth visiting. Though not totally convincing, the stylized unreality is perfectly appropriate for Wonderland, setting the perfect tone of the fantasyland. (The one exception is the Red Queen’s over-sized head, which is too ghastly to be enjoyable viewing.)
The Cheshire Cat
The Cheshire Cat

Not only is ALICE IN WONDERLAND technically beautiful. In spite of its fantasy accouterments, Underland feels real, or at least believable; across the board, the actor’s performances are pitched at the right level, one that makes sense in the context of the imaginative landscape in which the story takes place. The most perfectly realized character, in terms of design, effects, and performance, is the wonderful Cheshire Cat, whose smooth voice (by Stephen Fry) echoes the visual grace with which the cat glides, floats and disappears – some of the most splendid computer-animation ever seen.
In a film where Wasikowska is more or less the straight-man (excuse me, straight-person) role, the rest of the cast vies for eccentricity. This they manage to do without becoming overbearing, but of course the battle is lost before it begins, thanks to the presence of Johnny Depp and Crispin Glover, actors whose penchant for the unusual is perfectly suited to their characters (the Mad Hatter and the Knave of Hearts, respectively). Too bad the film could not be bothered to do something more interesting with this potentially wonderful on-screen pairing; the two share little screen time, which is mostly wasted in a generic scuffle or two, instead of a challenge to see who can one-up the other in terms of whacked-out zaniness.
Depp as the Mad Hatter
Depp as the Mad Hatter

Speaking of generic scuffles, there is a brief moment when the Mad Hatter, confronted by the Red Queen’s minions, defends himself by hurling rollers of silent fabric at the advancing soldiers. For a brief moment, ALICE IN WONDERLAND feels on the edge of breaking out of its generic rut and leaping to the next level of Fant-Asia style fight choreography, in which the graceful flow silken robes, colorful ribbons, and intricate tapestry are as important as (an in fact, sometimes replace) the swish of  sword. This was the kind of action exuberance that was needed to match the amazement level of the production and character design.
Too bad it’s a false alarm, and the film settles back into generic action mode, climaxing with an unconvincing confrontation between Alice and the Jabberwocky, which ends with a would-be Schwarzenegger-style bon mot. “Off with your head” is no match for “Hasta la vista, baby.” Worse, it makes no sense when delivered to the Jabberwock; it could only work if said to the Red Queen (whose signature line it is). There certainly would have been some satisfaction in seeing that awful, bulbous head severed from its mis-sized body. But that would have been a bit too horrible for a family-friendly fantasy film. As with much of the film, it’s another sign of good potential squandered.

BLU-RAY DETAILS

Walt Dinsey Home Video’s Blu-ray disc of ALICE IN WONDERLAND offers a beautiful 1.78 transfer that perfectly captures the surreal beauty of Underland. There are language and subtitle options for English (for the hearing impaired), French, and Spanish. The bonus features are divided into two categories: “Wonderland Characters” and “Making Wonderland,” each of which includes multiple chapters featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
“Wonderland Characters” includes these brief chapters:

  • Finding Alice
  • The Mad Hatter
  • The Futterwacken Dance
  • The Red Queen
  • Time-lapse: Sculpting the Red Queen
  • The White Queen

Alice in Wonderland (2010): Helana Bonham Carter as the Red QueenThe interviews contained therein are about what one would expect from traditional promotional previews, but the behind-scenes-footage of the actors cavorting about on green-screen stages (onto which Underland was later added by the special effects artists) is worth seeing on its own, providing a stunning glimpse of the extent to which ALICE IN WONDERLAND was created in the computer, despite the presence of live actors. The time-lapse application of the Red Queen’s makeup is interesting to watch, and it is surprising to learn that the Mad Hatter’s triumphant Futterwacken Dance was not a creation of CGI; it was performed by a dance double, whom the filmmakers had discovered on YouTube.
The “Making Wonderland” chapters include:

  • Scoring Wonderland
  • Effecting Wonderland
  • Stunts of Wonderland
  • Making the Proper Size
  • Cakes of Wonderland
  • Tea Party Props

Alice in Wonderland (2010): Crispen Glover as the Knave of HeartsThese chapters get a bit more into behind-the-scenes details of interest to fans with a yearning to learn the processes of film-making. Danny Elfman is a particularly good interview in “Scoring Wonderland.” As informative as the pieces are, some obvious questions are left unanswered, such as why some of the Underland cast (e.g., Helena Bonham Carter) wore actual costumes, while most of characters (such as Crispen Glover’s Knave of Hearts) were shot with the actors in green motion-capture leotards, onto which computer-generated costumes were added later. For those less interested in technical details, the “Cakes of Wonderland” is an amusing look at a pair of bakers hired to provided actual edible cakes scaled to different sizes, depending on how large or small Alice happens to be in each scene.
The Blu-ray disc is also BD-live enabled, allowing Internet access to additional features.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (theatrical: March 5, 2010; home video: June 1, 2010). Directed by Tim Burton. Screenplay by Linda Woolverton, based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Rated PG. Cast: Johnny Dep, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor, Paul Whitehouse, Timothy Spall, Marton Csokas, Tim Pigott-Smith, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee.
Alice in Wonderland (2010): Anne Hathaway as the White Queen Alice in Wonderland (2010): The Cheshire Cat Alice in Wonderland (2010)
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From The Set – First Look Photos Of Johnny Depp In PIRATES 4

Here are some on-set photos of Johnny Depp as the infamous Captain Jack in the upcoming PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES. Quick views of Kevin McNally, returning to his role of Gibbs, can also be seen. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES will be released May 20, 2011.
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First Look At Johnny Depp in RANGO

Many out there may not have heard of RANGO, Gore Verbinski’s computer-animated western about a chameleon with an identity crisis. But after seeing this brand new trailer, you’ll probably want to see more. The film features an all-star cast, including Timothy Olyphant, Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone, Stephen Root and Johnny Depp as Rango. RANGO is set to be released in theaters March 4th, 2011.
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Sense of Wonder: Favorite Nightmares from Elm Street

Welcome to Cinefantastique’s first mini-blog-a-thon. With the remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET currently in theatres, now is a good time to take a retrospective look back at  some of our favorite Freddy moments from the old films. Although the 1984 original was born during the slasher era, the franchise had much more going for it than yet another iconic killer of teens: the dreamscape of its premise opened up the gates for some wildly imaginative imagery that touched a primal, shuddery chord in the spine of trembling viewers. You could never completely trust what you were seeing – literally anything could happen – and frequently it did, usually with terrifying results for the on-screen victims. To assist in this little nostalgic exercise, I’ve asked several of our Cinefantastique staff to contribute their own favorite Freddy moments of various shapes and sizes, which you can find linked at the bottom. I’ll kick things off with my list of personal favorites in the various films.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

The original film remains the most satisfying overall, filled with so many good moments that it is hard to pick just one. I like the classroom scene wherein the quotation from Shakespeare, which references bad dreams, precipitates a nightmare. The vision of a previous victim in a body bag is not merely startling but deeply unnerving. The Freddy tongue in the phone is simple but shocking. The gloved hand rising from beneath the bath water is a stand-out. Freddy Krueger’s silhouette pressing through a wall above a sleeping victim is a wonderfully literal visualization of the “rubber reality” of the dream world (a scene horribly botched by CGI execution in the remake). But by far the most spectacular scene is the death of Johnny Depp’s character, dragged down into a bed, from which erupts a geyser of blood. The scene is way, way over the top, not just gory but delirious – one of the great scenes in any horror film. (Check out the video at top.)

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS (1987)

My favorite scene here is rather low-key, involving neither special effects nor Freddy himself. It comes when Nancy (Heather Langenkamp, returning after sitting out Part 2) talks her superior at a psychiatric hospital into prescribing a controversial new dream-suppressing drug to her troubled teen-age patients. As important as Krueger is to the ELM STREET movies, equally important is the generation gap between his victims and their parents, who are reluctant or unwilling to accept the danger faced by the teens. Nancy, somewhere in between the two age groups, goes to bat for her patients, putting her own professional reputation on the line: for once, an authority figure takes the danger seriously, instead of dismissing it. The scene also raises an interesting question about psychiatry: does having suffered from a particular problem disqualify you from trying to cure it in others, or does it give you a special insight and sympathy for your patients that makes you more qualified than other doctors?

FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991)

As the supposed finale to Freddy’s inglorious career of murder and mayhem, this cannot live up to what it promises, but I do enjoy Johnny Depp’s cameo spoof of the “This is your brain on drugs” public service announcements, in which an egg is identified as “your brain,” which is then cracked and fried as a way of illustrating the negative effects of recreational drug use. After Depp concludes the illustration by asking, “Any questions,” Freddy (showing more good sense than usual, whacks him over the head with the frying pan and replies, “Yeah, what are you on? It looks like some eggs in a pan to me.” I also enjoy the moment that deliberately seeks to break the fourth wall between audience and on-screen characters, when Lisa Zane dons her glasses in the dream world and tells viewers in the theatre to do the same. This is to set up the final-reel 3D-enhanced smack-down of Freddy; although the 3D itself was mediocre at best, the brief sense of following the protagonist’s lead lent an air of active participation in the film.

JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)

Freddy was supposedly dead, and Jason was supposed to be, too, at the end of this film, but the final shot lets us know that the rumors of their deaths have been greatly exaggerated: Freddy’s familiar knife-gloved fingers reach up from beneath the earth to grasp Jason’s hockey mask, pulling it out of sight. This final fade-out promised an on-screen match-up that would not materialize until a decade later, with 2003’s JASON VS. FREDDY.

WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)

new nightmareThis self-reflexive re-imagining of the ELM STREET mythos, with various reel-life cast and crew (including Wes Craven) playing themselves, is perhaps more intellectually interesting than viscerally horrifying, but it is filled with great moments, many of them deliberate echoes of the first film. What I like best about it is the new vision of Freddy Krueger. I had never particularly liked his back story as a child-murderer. When we first see him in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, he seems an inexplicable mystery, a dream demon; the revelation of his past turns him into a relatively garden variety ghost seeking revenge. NEW NIGHTMARE recreates Krueger, suggesting that the familiar movie character is merely the current version of an archetypal evil stretching back throughout the ages; the film visualizes this with actor Robert Englund looking familiar in the makeup and costume, yet bigger, stronger, and more menacing than ever before. It’s as if Kruger has finally become fully what he seemed to be in those early scenes of the first film – an evil too big to have been ever merely human.
So, those are my favorite Nightmares from Elm Street. What are yours?
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