The Dark Knight returns – in IMAX

JoBlo.Com points us to this nifty promo featurette, in which director Christopher Nolan and others discuss using IMAX technology to film THE DARK KNIGHT:

This sounds like incredibly good news. The IMAX format is truly impressive, and I cannot even begin to imagine what the action scenes with Batman and the Joker will look like splashed across the giant screen. More and more, we are seeing feature films screen in IMAX theatres (which used to be exlusively devoted to short, specialty films), but too often those features are shot in 35mm and then blown up for IMAX exhibition. Actually filming in IMAX should create some spectacular results.

Man of Steel goes to the dogs

Bloody-Disgusting.Com recycles some news gleaned from Comic Book Resources: Brandon Routh (star of SUPERMAN RETURNS) has signed to play Dylan Dog in DEAD OF NIGHT, an adaptation of the Italian “Dylan Dog” graphic novels by Tizlano Sclavi:

David Ellis, (Final Destination 2, Snakes on a Plane) is attached to helm from a screenplay by Joshua Oppenheimer and Thomas Dean Donnelly. Dylan Dog is a penniless nightmare investigator who defies the whole preceding horror tradition with a vein of surrealism and an anti-bourgeois rhetoric. The true monsters in many of these stories are human beings.

Hopefully, this will turn out better for Routh than CEMETERY MAN did for Rupert Everett. That 1994 adaptation of the Sclavi’s Delamorte Dellamore has long since disappeared from Everett’s resume (although, strangely enough, it is highly regarded in some cult cirlces).

Maguire swings from Spider-Man to robots

No doube inspird by the worldwide blockbuster success of TRANSFORMERS, actor Tobey Maguire has signed on to produce a live-action, feature film version of ROBOTECH, an ’80s anime series. Maguire will probably also play the lead role in the production, which is being handled by Warner Brothers.

“We are very excited to bring ROBOTECH to the big screen,” Maguire said. “There is a rich mythology that will be a great foundation for a sophisticated, smart, and entertaining film. 

Although it originated as a Japanese anime, ROBOTECH is, in a sense, an American creation, a combination of three heavily re-edited and re-dubbed series. The result was a popular tale of human using alien technology to build giant robots to repell futher alien invasions.

Zebraman – Film Review

I keep forgetting that Takashi Miike can do other things besides shoving needles into a whore’s gums (those guys at Showtime are a buncha pussies). ZEBRAMAN is more in the HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS mode, but going even lighter on the black humor. There’s still a bit of splooshiness here and there, but if what you know of the director is AUDITION and IMPRINT, his expansiveness here will surprise you.

Zebraman (2004)

Continue reading “Zebraman – Film Review”

Underdog (2007) – Fantasy Film Review

There's no need to fear - Underdog is here!Timmy, the imaginary five-year-old nephew I took with me to see this movie, opines:

I liked this movie lots and lots. The best parts were the parts I already seen, where they show you the parts of the movie before the movie comes out, but there was some other good parts too like the part where Underdog buries the bomb underground and the part where he flies in outer space. There was a part where a man dressed in a dress like a girl and that was pretty funny. I didn’t like the part too much where they put Underdog in the cage where the bad guy had his lab but that part didn’t last too long so it wasn’t too bad and it ended when Underdog got his Underdog powers and got out and the lab caught on fire but I couldn’t help wondering what happened to the other animals in the cages, I hoep they got out okay too.
The bad guy was little he was barely bigger than me but he could do lots of stuff and mayb if the mayor had listend to him none of this would have happened but big people never listen to little people cause they think we’re all stupid kids so they don’t listen and I just wish they had but they didn’t so the bad guy made Underdog by accident and then he made more super dogs and tried to blow up the city which was bad and it was kind of scary and the bad guy was kinda scary but I kinda liked him too cause he was little like me.
I didn’t like the part where Underdog was with Polly, that was mushy stuff like girls like but I’m not a girl so I don’t like it too much. I didnt understand why uncle Steve was laughing when Underdog and Polly were flying over the city, but he told me at least Polly doesnt talk bad poetry like Lois Lane. And I didnt get why uncle Steve was laughing too when Underdog and Polly were pushing a meatball with their noses and he said what’s the matter you stupid kid havent you ever seen lady and the tramp and I asked him what that was and he told me it was a cartoon like they used to make before they made computers which was a long time ago before I was born.
That reminds me i didnt understand the first part of the movie where it was like a cartoon, only like an old cartoon before they made computers, it looked all flat and funny not like cartoons nowadays look where they make them with computers. They showed underdog in the cartoon but it doesnt look like underdog really looks noawdays either. It was like they were telling me there used to be another underdog a long time ago before I was born but who cares about that anyways, I just like seeing underdog the way he looks nowadays. But I guess in the old days old people like the old underdog a lot and maybe that’s why they made the movie so I guess that’s okay too.

I should perhaps explain that, being imaginary, Timmy is not quite sure whether his intelligence level should conform to that of an actual five-year-old or expand to the level needed to make his current point. I’m sure he’ll work it out. You can read the rest of his comments below the fold. Continue reading “Underdog (2007) – Fantasy Film Review”

Spider-Man 3 spins a convoluted web – Film Review

Spider-Man 3 explores the superhero's dark side.

The third SPIDER-MAN film is a bit like a web that’s been hanging in a dusty corner for years: it’s so weighted down with sticky bits and pieces of past detritus that it’s in danger of being ripped apart by the struggles of the new prey caught in the strands. Fortunately, the franchise strengths remain strong enough to support this wobbly structure: SPIDER-MAN 3 is still about ordinary people whose ordinary problems are complicated by the burderns of superherodom.
The first half is a a slow-moving unruly mess that desperately tries to introduce new characters while simultaneously re-introducing continuing plot threads from the previous two films. Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) escapes from prison and turns into Sandman. Harry Osborn (James Franco) adopts the mantle of the New Goblin and tries to avenge himself against Spider-Man for the death of his father in the first film. Eddie Brock (Topher Grace) seeks to usurp Peter Parker’s position as photographer at the city newspaper; eventually, so late in the film it almost feels like an afterthought, he turns into Venom, a sort of evil version of Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, what should be the focus of the story appears only in bits and pieces: Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) lets being Spider-Man go to his head, first succumbing to the adultation of fans and later succumbing to his dark side when he uses his powers to extract revenge on Marko (who it turns out is the real killer of Parker’s uncle, who died in SPIDER-MAN). This plot thread is pretty thin at first, with Parker evincing disinterest at the plight of his long-time girlfriend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) when her Broadway singing career bombs; however, it kicks off to hilarious effect later in the film, giving Maguire a chance to show that, beyond playing a nerdy nice guy, he can really excell at playing a self-absorbed, arrogant dickhead. (The sight of him walking the street – a la John Travolta in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, dancing to the music in his head and obviously thinking he is the epitome of cool even  while everyone else is rolling their eyes – is a wonder to behold.)

Once the movie finally gets all its ducks lined up in a row, the later half does serve up the requisite action thrills, with Venom and Sandman teaming up against Spidey, who gets some help from an unlikely ally. As in the previous films, there is lots of comic book action rendered courtesy of computer graphics; it’s almost never convincing, and it’s seldom genuinely exciting, but it is colorful, and at times the drama of the situation helps us overlook the technical shortcomings (shortcomings to which the filmmakers themselves seem blissfully indifferent – they serve up webfuls of the CGI, especially of Spidey’s web-swinging among skyscrapers, as if no one’s going to notice how cartoony it looks).

Maguire gets to stretch out this time, thanks to Parker’s flirtation with the dark side. Dunst is lovely, but there is not much she can do with Mary Jane, who is a bit of a self-pitying whiner in this film. Bryce Dallas Howard barely registers as Gwen Stacy, the new woman in Parker’s life, and Topher Grace is a bit too wimpy to make a truly threatening villain, even with the help of the special effects, but Church pulls off Marko with aplomb (he actually sells the character’s last-reel change-of-heart, something the script expects us to accept on faith). And Bruce Campbell, veteran of many early Sam Raimi films, is terrific in a bit as a waiter in a French restaurant where Parker blows his attempt to propose to Mary Jane.

In the end, SPIDER-MAN 3 – at least in its later portions – stands alongside its predecessors reasonably well, evincing many of the same strengths and weaknesses. What lifts the franchise above most comic book fare is the wonderful way it focuses on Parker as a nerdy do-gooder, uncomfortable with his powers and how they impact his personal life. This creates an instant identifiability that makes the movies engaging – they have a ring of recognizable truth about them, even though they are about a guy who dresses up in a costume to fight crime. On the other hand, when Parker dons the Spider-suit and the special effects take over, the SPIDER-MAN films have yet to deliver a truly out-standing display of virtuoso superhero theatrics. Sure, there has been some fun stuff, but they have yet to deliver a scene as breath-taking as the jet plane rescue in SUPERMAN RETURNS.

Venom and Spider-man fight to the death.

The conclusion of SPIDER-MAN 3 features a confrontation between the hero and the villains in the skeleton of a building under construction. A similar setting was used for the conclusion of DARKMAN, director Sam Raimi’s attempt to create an original comic book-type anti-hero for film.
SPIDER-MAN 3 (2007). Directed by Sam Raimi. Written by Sam Raimi & Ivan Raimi and Alvin Sargent; screen story by Sam Raimi & Ivan Riami, based on the comic book character by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, James Cromwell, Theresa Russell, Dylan Baker, Bill Nunn, Bruce Campbell, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi Perla Haney-Hardine, Willem Dafoe, Cliff Robertson.

Superman Returns (2006) – Film Review

This attempt by director Bryan Singer to revive the Man of Steel for a new generation is honorable and often entertaining, but it falls short of BATMAN BEGINS, not to mention Singer’s own previous comic book adaptations, X-MEN and X-MEN UNITED. SUPERMAN RETURNS feels eager to please, and it frequently succeeds, but despite its best intentions, it seldom soars to the height of 1978’s SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. Perhaps the new film is too slavish to its predecessor; instead of standing on its own, it is the cinematic equivalent of a cover band, faithfully recreating the hits of yesteryear while adding little original of its own.
The set-up is that Superman (Brandon Routh) has been gone for years, on an interplanetary quest to find his dead home world, the planet Krypton. He returns to find Earth has moved on without him, particularly Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), who is now a single mom in a relationship with Richard White (James Marsden), son of Daily Planet editor Perry White (Frank Langella). Superman’s embarks on a dual quest: to prove he is still relevant and to rekindle his relationship with Lois. The former proves relatively easy when Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), paroled from prison, embarks on a new scheme of villainy that involves trying to rob Superman of his powers. The later proves more difficult: What good are superpowers when it turns out that the new man in Lois’ life is a decent guy who treats her well and can be there for her in a way that Superman cannot? Continue reading “Superman Returns (2006) – Film Review”

Batman Forever – Film Review

Click to purchase BATMAN FOREVER“Sugar” and “Spice” are not opposites. So why are they the names of Two-Face’s girlfriends (Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar), when everything about him is supposed to be split into opposing dichotomies? Apparently, “Leather” and “Lace,” the monikers used in the script, were deemed to suggestive for the family audience Warner Brothers was trying to placate after the horrifically demented BATMAN RETURNS (1992), so safer names were substituted at the expense of logic. It’s only one small detail, but it reveals the problem underlying the whole of BATMAN FOREVER: this is a film not designed to be the best piece of pop art it can possibly be, but calculated to draw the widest possible demographics in order to please WB’s merchandising partners, whether or not the result satisfies the actual audience.
Actually, if this film had come directly after BATMAN, it would have been an appreciable improvement. On a superficial level, Joel Schumacher is a better director of mindless action movies than Tim Burton is, and Schumacher also knows better how to negotiate his way through a production behemoth, serving up the requisite elements without much personal style or conviction to get in the way of the Hollywood hype. Continue reading “Batman Forever – Film Review”