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Shane Black Directing THE DESTROYER

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Rich Drees

Destroyer

His name is Remo Williams, and Shane Black will be directing his movie adaptation.

Writer/director Black is already working on adapting the 1930s-era classic hero Doc Savage to the big screen for Sony, and he just signed on to direct an adaptation of the long-running men’s adventure novel series The Destroyer. Black will only be directing this one, working fro a screenplay by Fight Club adapter Jim Uhls.

For the uninitiated, The Destroyer started off in the 1970s as just another in a sea of novel series that saw their heroes through adventures that tried to out-James Bond James Bond. Created by Richard Sapir and William Murphy, the Destroyer was Remo Williams, a cop whose framed and sentenced to die as part of his recruitment into a super top secret spy organization consisting of just one other person and whose existence is known only to the president. Since he is needed to be the ultimate assassin, Remo undergoes continual training from Chiun, the Korean master of Sinanju, the martial art from which all others are derived. The first several books in the series are fairly standard stuff, but as the series progressed, Murphy and Sapir started addingd a commmical and satirical spin to the books that made them stand out against the crowd.

Deadline spoke with the project’s producer Charles Roven, who stated -

Shane has been a fan of the original Destroyer book series since its inception and he has an incredible vision for this film. [We] couldn’t be more fortunate to be working with this talented director on this material. The narrative Jim and James have created is incredibly rich and while it’s a story rooted in adventure, it is also very much character driven.

That Black and Uhls are concentrating on characters is good as much of the novel’s comedic tone stems from the relationship he has with Chiun.

There have been previous attempts to bring Remo Williams to the screen before. Back in 1985, Fred Ward starred as the titular hero in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Obviously, they were hoping to launch a franchise with the film, but Christopher Woods’ script was a bit too campy for audiences and critics, though the film’s fight on the Statue of Liberty, lifted from an unproduced James Bond script, is pretty nifty. The film did get an Academy Award nomination for Carl Fullerton’s makeup which transformed Joel Grey into Remo’s Korean mentor Chiun. A television pilot was produced a few years later that was hoped to bring Remo to the small screen on a weekly basis, but it was never picked up.

It’s been years, OK probably more like decades, since I’ve read a Destroyer novel, but back in high school and college, I devoured a goodly number of the first hundred or so in the series. (The series now sports 150 titles.) There were fun, breezy reads and I think Black’s sensibilities line up with the books fairly well. Should be interesting to see how this develops.

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First Official Still From ANT-MAN Released

Posted on 19 August 2014 by William Gatevackes

AntManLogo Marvel isn’t being stingy with the promotion for Ant-Man. Even though production began just yesterday, we have our first official image from the film. Perhaps they figure if they show us enough about this film, we’ll forget the whole Edgar Wright debacle.

The studio has released its first still from the film, showing a rather grungy Scott Lang (Paul Rudd):

rudd as scott lang ant-manNot to gush too much over a promo pic, but the down and out nature of the character really shines through in the image. from  the old beater Ford van in the background to the bandages on his eyebrows.

Ant-Man is set to open on July 17, 2015.

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Two Scripts Have Been Commissioned For An AQUAMAN Film

Posted on 12 August 2014 by William Gatevackes

AquamanI wonder if James Cameron will be doing this after Avatar.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog is reporting that Warner Brothers has commissioned two separate scripts for an Aquaman film. The thinking is the Warners will take the scripts, one by Gangster Squad‘s Will Beall and 300: Rise of an Empire‘s Kurt Johnstad, pull the best moments from each , and Frankenstein a movie out of it. Sounds perfect.

While Aquaman is one of the few comic book characters to be continually published in one form or another from the 1940′s to today, he is also considered somewhat of a joke in the world of pop culture, an opinion exacerbated by shows such as Robot Chicken and Entourage that poke fun at the character and its lame reputation.

This news might be the final nail in the coffin of the rumored line up of films that Nikki Finke provided back in June and that Kevin Smith confirmed a few weeks later. The first blow came last week when Warners came out with an official release schedule that didn’t match the dates Finke gave. And an Aquaman film was not listed in the films Finke put forth in June.  This might be enough to finally show that Finke was given faulty information or that Warners changed their plans as a result of her article.

Jason Momoa has not yet been confirmed as playing Aquaman but is almost universally considered to have been cast. No word as to when the film will be hitting theaters, but it looks like it is years away.

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EW: “Everyone Won” DAWN OF JUSTICE Date Shift, Which Was A “Brilliant Maneuver”

Posted on 08 August 2014 by William Gatevackes

entertainement-weeklyWhen Warner Brothers rescheduled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for May 6, 2016, which Marvel Studios had already staked claim to with an unnamed project, it was viewed as an act of war. Here was Warners, a studio with a deep reserve of superhero IP through their sister company. DC Comics, but one that they were never able to fully capitalize on, using the blockbuster success of Man of Steel to take on the master of the comic book film, Marvel Studios, on what would be close to the start of the summer 2016 movie season. It was a statement of how serious they were about starting to take their comic book properties and showed that they believed that they could stand up anything the competition had to offer.

Of course, many fans and journalists didn’t actually believe that both Batman v. Superman and Captain America 3, what Marvel eventually announced as their May 6, 2016 film, would actually come out on the same day. While comic book fans would probably see both if they had the chance, having them open the same weekend would pretty much guarantee that the opening weekend grosses for both would be lower than they should be. It seemed logical that one of the studios would swerve out of this game of chicken, and many were hoping that it would be DC/Warners that would blink due to their audacity at claiming a spot that already belonged to Marvel.

GuardiansOfTheGalaxyPosterWell, Warners did blink, moving Batman v. Superman to March 25, 2016. The Internet, being what it is, started proclaiming Marvel’s victory in this war. The release date move seemed like an act of cowardice on Warners part, especially considering it came after Captain America: The Winter Soldier surpassed Man of Steel in all-time worldwide grosses and Guardians of the Galaxy, a Marvel concept with little or no recognition amongst the general public, opened to a whopping $24 million over projections, tipping the potential clash ever so slightly into Marvel’s favor. To some, this added up to Warners tucking its tail between its legs and running after they realized that the pairing of Batman and Superman might not be enough to win that war.

Not so fast, claims Entertainment Weekly. With a column on their website today titled ‘Batman v Superman’ versus ‘Captain America’: The superhero showdown that everybody won, they quote a Warners executive and a film median analyst saying that the move was a “brilliant maneuver” and go on to devote column space to proving that point.

From media analyst Paul Dergarabedian:

There’s that perception [that Warner Bros. retreated], but I think at the end of the day, he who wins is just the one who’s smart. They’re going to have an incredible amount of playing time before the Marvel movie kicks off. Putting this movie on a non-conventional date is going to pay big benefits for Warner Bros., for the theater owners—who love films that have legs—and for the audience. [Customers] will have a really cool movie to go out and see in March.

From Warners’ president of domestic distribution, Dan Fellman:

The reality now is there really isn’t a bad week to open a movie. If you look at the summer box office this year, you can see that there were so many movies, one after the other. You can start with Spider-Man, two weeks later Godzilla, and then Maleficent, and then Edge of Tomorrow, and then Jump Street and Transformers. And the one thing they all had in common, not one of them did over $250 million. We’ll be the first one up [in 2016], which is very important, and we’ll have six weeks before Captain America comes in.

Nowhere in the text is any dissenting opinion that questions the date shift as anything less than genius, nor is there the typical disclaimer EW usually runs in Warners stories that they and Warners are both owned by parent company Time Warner. These omissions make the article seem less like a defense of a savvy move by Warner Brothers than a piece of corporately mandated spin propaganda.

If there was a little bit of even handed reporting, Dan Fellman’s statement might have been challenged a bit more. Such as:

  • The $250 domestic total as a marker of a hit  has some issues. For instance, domestic tallies alone to not make hits anymore. Yes, Transformers: Age of Extinction has made less than $250 domestically (so far, as I will discuss below) but has already made more than a billion dollars worldwide, quadrupling its budget.
  • Speaking of multiplying its budget, the true test of a films success is how much it makes over its budget, not how much it makes altogether. If the benchmark for success is making two times its budget, then all those examples Fellman cites can be considered a hit because they have all doubled their budget in worldwide grosses. Yes, even the “disappointing” Edge of Tomorrow. Heck, by this yardstick, 22 Jump Street is a smash success. It made five times its budget back.
  • Name dropping Malificent and Transformers: Age of Extinction is not something Fellman should have done. Both are still in theaters and are within striking distance of Fellman’s legendary $250 million domestic mark. Granted, the former is at $235 million and nearing the end of its theatrical run, so it passing the $250 plateau is slim, but Transformers: Age of Extinction is at $242 million and should be around for a few more weeks. It seems a given that it will surpass $250 before it leaves theaters.
  • That being said, there have been 83 films to make more than $250 million at the domestic box office to date. Of those 83, only 6 were released outside of the summer months (May through August) or the holiday season (November and December). Of those six films, 3 were released in March–the aforementioned The Hunger Games and Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Alice in Wonderland. So while it is possible to make $250 million domestically in March, it is a whole lot easier to do so when the kids are home from school.

So, while it is possible that Batman v. Superman will make $250 in its March release date, the date itself will have very little to do with its success. It will have to be a quality film that viewers want to see bad enough that they are willing to see and see again, scheduling it in when school is not in session if they want to bring the kids in. And Fellman’s argument that a summer release is no longer lucrative might save face, but it doesn’t really hold water.

batman-vs-superman-dawn-of-justice-logoWe do get an explanation from Fellman as to why Warners felt confident in scheduling Batman v. Superman head-to-head against Marvel’s film. It was because they didn’t think there would be a Marvel film to go head-to-head with:

In terms of going back and reviewing the situation, it looked to us—and maybe our reconnaissance wasn’t great—that they were not going to have a movie [ready] on that date. Just that they held onto it and they might not be able to deliver. But they took another position.

Yes, they took the revolutionary position of delivering on a release date they promised. Granted, holding firm to a release date must be a foreign concept in the halls of Warners (lest we forget that this is the third release date Batman v. Superman has had since it was first announced, not to mention the false starts and inevitable starts the Superman and Justice League franchises have had) and that Marvel did some release date shuffling early in their existence, this whole brouhaha came about because Warners mistakenly thought that a studio that had pretty much consistently met its release dates for over two years would not meet this one and allow Warners to win the staring contest by default. That is just beautiful, and typical of Warners logic when dealing with all things DC.

The one piece of actual news in the article is that Warners plans to supply names to go with those release dates they announced on Wednesday by the end of the month.

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES Finally Gets A Cast

Posted on 05 August 2014 by Rich Drees

PrideAndPrejudiceAndZombiesLike the shambling undead in its title, it just seems that the prospect of getting an adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride And Prejudice And Zombies onto the big screen seems to never truly die. After a number of attempts have fallen apart, it looks as if the film will be getting in front of cameras as early as this fall.

Deadline is reporting that heading up the cast for this latest attempt will be British actors Lily James and Sam Riley and Australia’s Bella Heathcote with Igby Goes Down‘s Burr Steers directing. James will be playing Elizabeth Bennett, Riley is set as Mr. Darcy and Heathcote will be Elizabeth’s sister.

The adaptation started life shortly after the book was published in 2009, with Natalie Portman in the lead role. Portman is still attached as a producer, but a number of actors being temporarily attached to the film. On the directorial side, the project has seen David O. Russell, Mike White and Craig Gillespie all saw time attached to the project before moving on.

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Sony To Spinoff Female Hero From SPIDER-MAN Franchise

Posted on 04 August 2014 by William Gatevackes

2944993-blackcatWhen Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to make $1 billon dollar and instead became the lowest grossing Spidey film Sony put out, it caused the studio to rethink and reorder its plans to spin the property off into a shared universe. However, it appears that some good is going to come from this reorganization.

Deadline is reporting that Sony is planning to spin out a female centric film out of the Spider-Man franchise in 2017.

There is no word as to who the female in question would be. The most logical choice would be  Black Cat, if only because her alter ego, Felicia Hardy, was brought to life by Felicity Jones in Amazing Spider-Man 2. Granted, she was just a personal assistant in the film, but at least she was introduced into film continuity. Other characters mentioned were the heroic Silver Sable and Spider-Woman and villains such as Stunner.

Deadline states that Lisa Joy Nolan will be scripting. Nolan is the wife of Jonathan and sister-in-law of Christopher, so she does have a comic film pedigree.

The film would be arriving in theaters the same year as Warner’s long-suffering Wonder Woman. It took Warners decades to finally get a film starring the world’s most famous superheroine announced (albeit unofficially). Marvel has a number of stron, female heroes–both that have already appeared on screen and waiting in the wings, yet they seem a long ways away from having one star in a film of their own. So Sony’s move is a bold and daring one.

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Don’t Go Mourning Studio Ghibli Just Yet

Posted on 04 August 2014 by Rich Drees

StudioGhibli

Late yesterday, news started to spread that the Japanese anime studio Studio Ghibli was closing its doors following the retirement of its main superstar director Hayao Miyazaki. But it appears as if those reports may be premature, stemming from a mistranslation of a statement from Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki.

In an appearance on the Japanese television news show Jounetsu Tairiku this weekend, Suzuki was reported to have said that the studio will be closing its doors and maintaining a small staff just to manage the company’s trademarks. The news came vie the anime tumbler fansite Oh-Totoro, but it turns out that their translation of Tairiku’s comments may have been misconstrued.

Asian geek media site Kotaku is reporting that Tairiku actually stated that the studio is considering restructuring their business, not definitively shutting down. If the studio were to be shutting its doors, it would have been all over the Japanese mainstream media due to the popularity and success of its films in the country.

In the interview, Tairiku does admit that Miyazaki’s retirement is “significant” and in light of that the studio does need to consider what its options are going forward. Tairiku stated that the copany would be taking “a short rest” but did not rule out “continuing to endlessly create like this” being “impossible.”

Granted, Tairiku does not preclude the possibility of them deciding to close their doors, it is just not a forgone conclusion yet. Studio Ghibli’s identity is so closely tied with Miyazaki that the two are often times referred to interchangeably. I could certainly see an argument for shutting down the studio in light of Miyazaki’s retirement. But I can also think of no better way than to honor the legacy of Miyazaki than to continue to create films inspired by his creative visions.

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Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Posted on 02 August 2014 by William Gatevackes

GuardiansOfTheGalaxyPosterIron Man and Thor had cartoons in the 1960s. Captain America has several movies made in the 1970s .  But the general public’s first exposure to the Guardians of the Galaxy would probably be this film. Therefore, Guardians of the Galaxy would have to bring its A game to measure up to the rest of  Marvel’s output.  A dodgy trailer made it look like it would be Marvel’s first flat-out comedy, featuring assassins and cold-blooded killers no less. But the trailer was misleading. What we get is movie that expertly balances humor, action and a surprising amount of sentimentality and presents us with an entertaining story.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was an Earth child who abducted into space at age 8 by a bounty hunter/treasure hunter named Yondu (Michael Booker). Yondu raises the boy and trains him a little bit too well in the art of deception, as an adult Quill decides to steal a valuable orb before Yondu can. After he steals the orb, Quill winds up in prison with Drax, a man looking for vengeance against the people who slaughtered his family  (Dave Bautista), Gamora, a woman called “Thanos’ daughter who is looking to reform (Zoe Saldana), Rocket, a raccoon bounty hunter looking to return Quill to Yondu (voice of Bradley Cooper) and his muscle–a walking tree called Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel). When it becomes apparent that a radical member of the Kree race named Ronan (Lee Pace) wants the orb so he can destroy an enemy planet full of innocent people, the five have to join together to keep it away from him.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-still 1Admittedly, I went into the film with low expectations,but even if I had high hopes, they would have been exceeded. This is solid film making resulting in a solid film from top to bottom. The tone works throughout. You’ll laugh out loud on a number of occasions, but you’ll never feel that the threat the heroes face is anything less than severe. James Gunn and Nicole Perlman create interesting characters that you will care about, and in the most simple and economical ways (How do we know Drax is one mean operator? Every other prisoner–some of the most dangerous scum of the universe– gets out of his way when he wants something).

Each of the main characters come together as a group in a believable way and goes through a character arc that puts them on the side of the angels without erasing their less-that-angelic nature. On the surface, bad guy Ronan has just a little bit more character development that the woefully underdeveloped Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, but that “little bit” goes a long way. The movie tell us again and again that Ronan is a Kree extremist who hates the Xandarians, but it also shows us exactly how extreme by showing us that he bathes in the blood of Xandarians. That really sells what he means to do to the planet, how far he is willing to go and ups the stakes just a little bit more. And the film is filled with moments like that.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-rocket-raccoon-slice1The acting is great from top to bottom. Pratt is perfectly cast but I was especially impressed with Dave Bautista. Typically, professional wrestlers aren’t exactly known for their acting skills, but Bautista came through in spades. There is a lot of layers and shading in his portrayal of Drax–you can see the pain and anger behind each and every one of his actions. And he is saddled with the most “comic book-ish dialogue”  but delivers it in such a natural way that it never seems all that out of place.

There is loads of fan service here as well. We get our first look at Thanos, a cosmic race of giants I NEVER thought I’d see on film and cameos from  people ranging from Lloyd Kaufmann to Stan Lee to a certain Marvel cinematic star of the 1980s.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a great film. I’m sorry I ever doubted that it would be. My only hope is that Marvel gives other little known characters in its IP warehouse a similar chance to shine in the sun.

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UPDATED: DEADPOOL Movie Test Footage Hits Web

Posted on 28 July 2014 by William Gatevackes

deadpool screenshot

[Updated with a new video embed and a tweet from the project's co-writer.]

While the general public might only know Deadpool as the Ryan Reynolds character from X-Men Origins: Wolverine or from his self titled video game of last year, he is one of the most popular Marvel Comics characters. He has a number of comic book series to his credit, and go to any comic con and you’ll see numerous cosplayers dressed up as him.

A film was long in the works for the character, but his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine , an interpretation that moved away quite considerably from way the character is portrayed in the comics, seemed to set the possibility of a Deadpool film back instead of move it forward.

However, in 2011, Tim Miller was hired to bring Deadpool to the big screen. Miller, who came from the world of visual effects, created test reel to show his take on the character. That reel is included below, but click fast because it might be taken down at anytime (see more about that below).

In case that footage no longer exists, let me give you a run down on it. The footage covers page 7 through 11 in Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s April 12, 2010 script for the feature, albeit with the violence and gore toned down a bit. The resolution isn’t all that great, but it appears the scene was “filmed” entirely in super-realistic CGI.  It starts with Deadpool, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, sitting on a highway overpass waiting for something. We soon see what as he steps of the overpass and falls into a SUV filled with sunglasses-wearing thugs.

Deadpool beats the crap out of the four occupants–shoving one out the door, breaking another’s neck–before inevitably causing an accident. The accident, which involves the SUV spinning end over end sideways down the highway, gets the attention of a lead, motorcycle riding thug. The biker thug gets off his bike and fires a machine gun at the SUV, which is barreling towards him. As the SUV passes over him, he watches Deadpool pull out a katana inside the car. The SUV lands and the scene ends with Deadpool using the biker’s head as a puppet to address the audience.

I am not the biggest Deadpool fan and therefore am nowhere near an expert on him, but from what I see in the clip, everything that makes the character popular is there on the screen. The inventive, fearless fighting style, the humor/craziness of the character, the witty quips (judging by the differences from the script, many possibly provided by Reynolds himself), the breaking of the fourth wall, everything that would make Deadpool fans scream “Shut up and take my money” is there.

Response over the web has been very positive, with everyone from iO9 to the Vulture to the character’s co-creator Fabian Nicieza to sing its praises.

Of course, Fox’s reply to all this popular press is to order the clip be taken down. Early reports on the footage were taken from a You Tube upload of the video that Fox asked to be taken down. The version I imbedded was a Vimeo clip, and was active at press time,  but odds are Fox will get around to having that one taken down as well at some point.

Cynical people might theorize the clip was leaked by someone to generate this type of interest. If so, hopefully Fox will take a hint and green light the Deadpool film at long last.

UPDATE: Co-writer Reese tweeted out the following picture of the shooting of the test footage featuring Ryan Reynolds in a mo-cap suit.

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Bruce Campbell Will Star In EVIL DEAD TV Series

Posted on 28 July 2014 by Rich Drees

BruceCampbellEvilDead

Over this past weekend, there was scant details about the just announced TV adaptation of the classic Evil Dead horror series except that it was being developed by creator/director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell. At the time we wondered if it was going to be a continuation of the (mis-)adventures of Campbell’s Ash character, if the series was going to spin off from last year’s remake or if it would strike out on its own.

Well, we have our answer, straight from one of the horses’ mouths. When one fan made their preference known as for what they wanted to see in the series, Campbell revealed exactly what the plan would be.

https://twitter.com/GroovyBruce/statuses/493274870193483777

Groovy? You bet. But as much as I am a fan, Campbell is a couple of decades separated from his prime years in the role, so I have to wonder if he will be as active, and taking as much abuse, as he was in the films. Perhaps he will be taking on a more mentor-ship role? We’ll see.

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