Archive | August, 2011

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Clooney Drops Out Of Soderbergh’s MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Redo

Posted on 29 August 2011 by Rich Drees

George Clooney has closed Channel D.

It is being reported that the actor is in the process of bowing out of participating in Steven Soderberg’s big-screen adaptation of the 1960s spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The reasons are unclear in the report from Deadline, who broke the story, but Clooney will no longer be playing ace spy Napoleon Solo, the role that Robert Vaughn filled for four years on NBC. It seems odd though, considering that Clooney and Sonderberg have teamed as actor and director for six films – the three Ocean’s pictures, Out of Sight, Solaris and The Good German.

Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has recently finished the script for the film which reportedly keeps the show’s original 1960s setting.

Reportedly, Warner Brothers still wants the film to begin production next spring, so Soderberg has a bit of time to find a replacement. Will he he perhaps cast another actor whom he has worked with before, like Brad Pitt or Matt Damon? Or perhaps someone fresh. I think John Hamm might make a good fit with the part.

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Lionsgate Hires Writer For DIRTY DANCING Remake

Posted on 29 August 2011 by Rich Drees

Lionsgate’s remake of the 1980s hit Dirty Dancing has found its scriptwriter in the person of Maria Maggenti. Maggenti reportedly beat out a number of other writers vying for the high profile assignment on the strength of her script Monte Carlo for Twentieth Century Fox. The writer has also penned an adaptation of Before I Fall and My Name Is Memory for Fox 2000 and New Regency

This remake is set to be directed by Kenny Ortega, who served as the dance choreographer on the original 1987 film.

Made for a paltry $6 million, the original film starred Jennifer Grey as a shy girl who falls in love with a dance instructor, Patrick Swayze, at a Catskills resort in the 1960s and grossed nearly $214 million. It spawned two hit soundtrack albums and even a concert tour featuring the Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes who had a hit with the single “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” from the film. A 2004 sequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, bombed horribly.

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Nolte Joins GANGSTER SQUAD

Posted on 29 August 2011 by Rich Drees

Nick Nolte has joined the cast of director Ruben Fleischer’s crime drama Gangster Squad. Nolte will be playing incoming chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Bill Parker, who finds that his department is rife with corruption.

Based on the true story of the LAPD’s attempt to curtail organized crime in the 1950s, Gangster Squad tells how Parker, who received a Purple Heart for wounds he received during the Battle of Normandy, organized a special unit to specifically target the likes of known gangsters like Mickey Cohen.

Already in the cast are Sean Penn as Cohen, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Mireille Enos and Anthony Mackie.

The film is set to begin shooting next month.

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SIN CITY 2 Gets A Rewrite

Posted on 29 August 2011 by Rich Drees

For some time now we’ve been hearing that Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have been working on a sequel to their 2005 adaption of Miller’s noir graphic novel series Sin City. Earlier this month, Rodriguez stated that “Sin City 2 is going good, we’re just finishing the script for that… We’ve already got the budget, just waiting for the script.”

It looks like the next step in getting that script locked has been taken. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Heat Vision Blog is reporting that the pair have hired Academy Award-winner William Monahan to do some work on the screenplay. Monahan won an Oscar for his work adapting the gritty Hong Kong crime drama Infernal Affairs into the 2006’s The Departed. Monahan will be working from the most recent script draft from Miller.

After years of talk about the film, I’m taking the involvement of someone that isn’t Rodriguez or Miller as a positive sign that things are finally inching forward. At San Diego ComicCon last month, Rodriguez stated that they could be in production on the film by as early as the end of this year. And depending on how fast Monahan turns his draft around, I don’t see too much of a reason to doubt that, if everything else is in place. Since the first film, and presumably this one as well, was shot on a green screen stage to achieve its unique look, there wouldn’t need to be much physical pre-production work to be done. In the first film Rodriguez filmed some of the actors’ performances separately, depending on their availability, and then stitched scenes together in post-production. Presumably he would do the same thing here and thus not be dependent on a number of schedule’s lining up to get his cast all available at once.

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Child Actor Sybil Jason, 83

Posted on 29 August 2011 by Rich Drees

Sybil Jason, the child actor who Warner Brothers had hoped would become a box office rival of Shirley Temple, died on August 23 at her home in Northridge, Calif., of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She was 83.

Born Sybil Jacobson in Cape Town, South Africa in 1927, Jason hot her start as an entertainer on stage playing the paino and doing imprssions of Maurice Chevalier and Great Garbo through her uncle, Harry Jacobson, a then-popular London orchestra leader and pianist. By 1935, she had landed a supporting role in the British film draman Barnacle Bill. Her work caught the eye of Warner Brothers’ London studio chief Irving Asher, who offered her a screen test. At the time, studio chief Jack Warner was looking for a child actress who could replicate the box office success that rival studio Twentieth Century Fox was having with Shirley Temple and when he saw the results of Jason’s test signed her to a contract.

Jason would star in a handful of films for the studio, often opposite some of the biggest and best known talent. Her American studio debut was in Little Big Shot (1935) with King Kong‘s Robert Armstrong and directed by Michael Curtiz. She also starred in The Singing Kid (1936) opposite Al Jolson, The Captain’s Kid (1936) with Guy Kibbee and The Great O’Malley (1937) with Pat O’Brien and Humphrey Bogart. She also made two film with Kay Francis – I Found Stella Parish (1935) and Comet Over Broadway (1938). But despite a big publicity push from the studio, Jason’s films never matched the business that Temple was able to generate.

Ironically, after Jason left Warners, Fox would sign her to a contract and had her appear in supporting roles in two of Temple’s films – The Little Princess (1939) and The Blue Bird (1940). According to her 2005 autobiography My Fifteen Minutes: An Autobiography of a Child Star of the Golden Era of Hollywood, Jason stated that although she and Temple would become life-long friends, Temple’s mother Gertrude worked behind the scenes to ensure that her daughter’s one-time rival would never work in film again.

The Blue Bird would prove to be her last film. Soon after she had arrived in her native South Africa on a publicity tour for Fox, the United States entered World War Two. Jason stayed in the country and entertained Allied troops. In 1947, she married and retired from show business.

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Universal Puts WICKED LOVELY Adaption Into Turnaround

Posted on 26 August 2011 by Rich Drees

Universal Studios has decided to drop development of Wicked Lovely, an adaption of Melissa Marr’s best-selling series of novels. The film was the project of Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Picture Shows Productions and had Mary Harron attached as a director and Caroline Thompson working on the screenplay.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio was passing because it felt that “the project doesn’t suit their needs.” That’s a curious statement, as I think right now, the kind of project that Universal needs is one that would be a hit. Actually, it could use quite a few of those types of projects. And Wicked Lovely, with a story centering on a teenage girl who has the ability to see into the fairy world around us, sounds like it could appeal to the Twilight crowd who will be looking for something new after that film franchise wraps up later next year.

This is the second project that Universal has dumped this week. Earlier this week, they cut loose Ouija, one of the films being developed as part of a deal with toy manufacturer Hasbro. Other recent projects that the studio has passed on include Clue and Guillermo del Toro’s At The Mountains Of Madness.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Up, Up And Away.

Posted on 26 August 2011 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, we’ll cover the end of the serial era.

By 1947, the “Golden Age of Serials” was deemed to be at an end. This corresponded with the start of the period where superheroes were growing increasingly out of favor with comic book publishers, being replaced by war, romance, and horror genres.

Hop Harrigan was an aviator rather than a superhero, but he came into existence way before the fall of the superhero. The character first appeared in 1939 in All-American Comics #1, published by DC/National’s sister company, All-American Publications. The character was adapted into a radio program from 1942 to 1948. In 1946, the character made its way to movies screens in a 15 part Columbia serial of its own, titled, appropriately, Hop Harrigan.

The serial focused on Hop Harrigan facing off against a mad scientist called Dr. Tobor. Much like the comic character himself, the serial faded away into obscurity. No video evidence for the serial can be found.

Another DC Comics character hit screens the next year, but not the one you think. It boggles the mind that a rather obscure character such as the Vigilante could have been made into a serial before Superman, but he was. The Vigilante, like Superman, debuted in Action Comics, issue #42 to be exact. Essentially , he was a modern day cowboy whose secret identity was a Gene Autry-esque singing cowboy who wore a disguise to avenge his murdered father.

The Vigilante serial debuted in 1947 and with a few costume alterations notwithstanding, remained true to the comic. In the Columbia serial, The Vigilante must investigate a case of missing valuable gems smuggled into the country.

In the next year, Superman finally, at long last, came to movie theaters in a serial of his own. While Republic tried to get the rights to Superman as early as 1940, making a deal for the property was complicated by National/DC insisting on creative control and Superman being licensed to Paramount for a series of animated shorts (for more on the Fleisher cartoons, check out Rich’s write up on them here). This delayed Supes making the plunge into the live action film world.

By 1948, those rights had expired, allowing Columbia to finally bring one of the most popular comic book heroes to life on the silver screen with Superman. Kirk Alyn was cast as Clark Kent, Noel Neill as Lois Lane, and, in a marketing ploy certainly aimed at the kids in the audience, Columbia stated that there was no actor who could truly do Superman justice, so the Man of Steel played himself (Not to spoil it for anyone who had been holding onto that belief for 53 years, but, in reality, it was Alyn in the costume).

Due to National/DC’s influence, the Superman serial stayed close to the comics. Kirk Alyn made an excellent Superman/Clark Kent and Noel Neill did such a good job as Lois Lane that she would reprise the role on the small screen in The Adventures of Superman.

The serial’s plot involved Superman fighting the machinations of a villainess called The Spider Queen, played by Carol Foreman. The serial was enormously popular, garnering a sequel two years later with the same cast. But before then, there was one other comic book serial released that is worth mentioning.

Later in 1948, another National/DC character whose home was in Action Comics hit the world of the film serial. Congo Bill was a serial based on the strip that got its start in 1940 in More Fun Comics before moving over to Action Comics for a lengthy run. Congo Bill was a Caucasian explorer who relocated to the wilds of Africa to keep hius adopted home safe.

While Congo Bill getting a serial before other DC mainstays such as Green Arrow or Wonder Woman might make a modern day comic fan start scratching their head, at the time adapting a jungle hero was a no-brainer. Jungle stories were packing them in at the movies at the time, so Columbia must have naturally thought Congo Bill would have been an obvious choice to bring to the screen.

The serial deals with the character searching the African wilderness for a legendary White Priestess.

It’s a shame that the serial didn’t come eleven years later, as DC decided in 1959 to give Congo Bill the ability to swap minds with a golden gorilla named Congorilla. It would have been interesting to see how they would have translated that to the screen.

Atom Man vs. Superman arrived in theaters in 1950 and marked the first appearance of Superman’s arch enemy, Lex Luthor, in live action. Luthor was played by Lyle Talbot, who also gained fame by originating the role of Commissioner Gordon in the 1943 Batman serial, and would later become famous (or is that infamous) for his work with legendary shlockmeister Ed Wood, Jr, most notably in Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Kirk Alyn returned as Superman/Clark Kent and Noel Neill as Lois Lane.

In this serial, Superman must fight to keep the world safe from Atom Man (who was really Luthor in disguise) who has developed a “disinegration ray” to hold the world hostage. Atom Man/Luthor also develops a synthetic kryptonite, a plot point that would be revisited over three decades later in Superman III.

Remember how I told you last time that I would tell you who the Ryan Reynolds and James McAvoy of the serial was? That would be Kirk Alyn, because Alyn, like Reynolds and McAvoy, brought comic book characters from two different companies to life on the silver screen. Reynolds starred as Deadpool in X-Men Origins:Wolverine and Green Lantern in Green Lantern, McAvoy starred as Wesley Gibson from Top Cow’s Wanted and as Marvel’s Professor X in X-Men: First Class, and, as we’ve already said, Kirk Alyn was the first person to play DC’s Superman on screen and, in 1952, he brought Quality Comics’ aviator hero Blackhawk to the screen in his own serial, named Blackhawk.

Blackhawk and the Blackhawks first appeared in Quality’s Military Comics #1 in 1941. The Blackhawks were an international paramilitary force of flyers brought together by Blackhawk himself to right wrongs and fight evil. The flyers were from areas such as France, Sweden and China and were portrayed in the most stereotypical ways their nationalities could be portrayed.

The Columbia serial toned down the stereotypes and set up the Blackhawks as fighting the Communists. One of the Communist agents was a woman named Laska, portrayed by Carol Foreman. Foreman, as we read above, faced off against Alyn’s Superman as the Spider Queen in the first Superman serial.

Being that this was at the end of the serial’s life cycle, the production values were way down. Not exactly the best way to end the era of the superhero serial.

Interesting tidbit, DC Comics eventually bought out all the Quality characters and concepts in 1956 much like they would the Fawcett characters decades later. Blackhawk was one of the few Quality titles being published at that time, and DC continued publishing the series without a break in numbering.

Next time, we cover the foray comic books made into the world of television, and how one TV show affected the way superheroes were portrayed on the big screen even decades later.

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CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 Writers Talk Plans For Sequel

Posted on 26 August 2011 by Rich Drees

Even months before the release of Captain America: The First Avenger, we knew that Marvel Studios was already planning on a sequel and had hired the first film’s screenwriting duo of Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus to start working up a storyline. In a recent interview with NBC Miami’s Popcorn Biz blog, they talked about what they hope to bring to the follow-up with flashbacks to Cap’s World War Two years, a modern day love interest and a team-up with another hero. Here are the relevant quotes –

We certainly want at least a portion of the ’40’s, I think,” co-screenwriter Chris Markus tells PopcornBiz, and his screenwriting partner Stephen McFeely agrees: “The span of the movie is about two or three years, and there’s a few times in the film where you jump four months ahead, you jump six months ahead. So we did that with the intention of saying, ‘Okay, there are certainly unseen adventures that Captain America went on in that period that if we want to, we can go back and explore later.

It might be doing a disservice not to address the present day Cap, particularly because so much of the comic book run right now is present day Cap – that ‘man out of time’ is the icon,” admits Markus. “The Captain America that most people know is really from kind of the reboot, when Stan Lee brought him back in ’63 and ’64, frozen from a block of ice. So his biggest personality trait is that he’s this man out of time, and for us, we didn’t have the opportunity [to explore that]. This was a guy in the RIGHT time.

I want both [Sharon Carter and the Falcon]!” says Markus. “Sharon is meaty, almost to a point where you get a little uncomfortable because her relation to Peggy has shifted over the years, as time has passed. She’s the sister, she’s the cousin, she’s the niece. You have to walk a fine line there because it does seem like you’re dating your girlfriend’s daughter. Falcon is awesome. We can’t play with time so much to have Cap go back to Harlem in the ’70’s and clean up the streets, but it would be awesome to go straight up, like, ‘Shaft’ with Cap and the Falcon.

Sounds like they have some exciting plans in store. Will all of this talk make it into the final film? We’ll see when Captain AMerica 2 hits theaters sometime around 2013 or 2014.

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A Trio Of SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS Pics

Posted on 26 August 2011 by Rich Drees

There are a trio of new pictures from this December’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows that have shown up online thanks to the folks over at Empire. They’re not very spoilery. One is a scene from the film featuring Robert Downey Jr. as the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes, Jude Law has friend and associate Dr. James Watson and Noomi Repace as a mysterious gypsy woman. The other two are behind the scenes shots featuring the cast, which includes Jared Harris as Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty, working with director Guy Ritchie. The film opens on December 16.

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New Releases: August 26

Posted on 25 August 2011 by William Gatevackes

1. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (FilmDistrict, 2,760 Theaters, 99 Minutes, Rated R): If you are wondering why it took so long for Hollywood to come up with a film with this title, well, obviously, you’ve never seen the 1973 TV movie of the same name that starred Kim Darby.

Both films are haunted house flicks, only now instead of a young housewife (played by Darby) being taken over by demons, it’s a little girl (Bailee Madison) who is sent to live her father (Guy Pierce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes).

Of course, being that this is co-written by Guillermo del Toro, there will be some sick twists (the demons feed on human teeth in order to stay alive), but this is essentially a remake of a film that wasn’t all that original in the first place. Don’t know how that will go over at the box office.

2. Colombiana (TriStar, 2,614 Theaters, 107 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I am immediately distrustful of any revenge flick that is rated PG-13. I mean, who wants to see kid-friendly payback? But Hollywood being what it is, and wanting to make sure the teens can get in to see the film, this will be a PG-13 revenge flick.

Zoe Saldana plays a Columbian woman whose parents were murdered when she was a little kid. She has devoted her life to tracking down the people who killed her family, all the while working as an assassin for her uncle.

The fact that Saldana’s character is not an innocent adds a bit of flavor the the genre. Not that it needs flavoring, revenge films always are in demand. Should be interesting to see how well this one does.

3. Our Idiot Brother (The Weinstein Group, 2,614 Theaters, 90 Minutes, Rated R): Paul Rudd is an actor who is just as at home in goofy comedies such as The 40-Year Old Virgin and Wet Hot American Summer as he is indie flicks such as The Oh in Ohio  and  The Shape of Things. This film seems to fall somewhere in between.

Rudd plays the titular brother whose well-meaning intrusions into his family’s lives has unexpected results.

There is a pretty strong cast surrounding Rudd, but will it be enough to make the dual nature of the film work?

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