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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Man And Iron Man

Posted on 01 August 2014 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 cover the event that changed the world of films forever–the formation of Marvel Studios.

MarvelStudiosLogoIn 2004, films based on Marvel Comics characters were lighting up the box office. Once a laughing stock in Hollywood, where if a Marvel film actually got made it it was a flop, the Marvel characters became cinematic gold. However, through the deal Marvel made to get its characters on the screen, they did not have complete control of the films being made, only got a sliver of the profits and were at the whim of other studios as to when the films were scheduled. Marvel decided that it was time to take more control of its cinematic output.

MarvelCharactersMarvel brokered a loan with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. for $525 million dollars with the rights to ten movies as collateral. Today, this deal looks like a can’t miss proposition. But back then, it was incredibly risky. The main reason why it was so risky can be seen in the ten properties Marvel used as collateral/intended to make films out of. The biggest name of the ten was Captain America. The rest of the list were filled by B-list characters such as Nick Fury, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Cloak & Dagger, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Power Pack and Shang-Chi. The tenth concept was The Avengers, Marvel’s supergroup which likely would bear very little resemblance to comic book version of the team.

Why? Because at the time the loan was taken out, the rights a majority of Marvel’s most popular characters, including many longtime members of the comic book Avengers, were owned by other studios. Fox owned the rights to the X-Men and Marvel’s mutant characters, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil. Sony/Columbia owned Spider-Man, Ghost Rider and Thor. New Line held the rights to Blade and Iron Man, Lionsgate the rights to the Punisher and Black Widow and Universal the rights to the Hulk. And the nature of these rights agreements, signed by a Marvel that was desperate to see its characters in movies, was that the studios would hold the rights as long as they kept making films with the characters, unless they were willing to give up the rights or sell them back to Marvel.  This left Marvel with a catalog of little known characters and the prospect of and Avengers film that would not feature founding members Hulk, Iron Man or Thor.

Perhaps Marvel knew something the world didn’t, as the film rights to some of their characters started coming back to them. They got Iron Man back in 2005, Hulk and Thor in 2006, and Black Widow sometime after. While these weren’t Spider-Man or the X-Men, characters that might never revert back to Marvel Studios, they were characters that were more known by the general public than Hawkeye or Shang-Chi.

Marvel knew this and almost immediately put Iron Man into production. The film would be the first released through Marvel Studios’ distribution agreement with Paramount Pictures.

ironman-posterNot that Iron Man was a slam dunk option. The property had spent 16 years in development hell before Marvel got the rights back, being dumped from Universal to Fox to New Line in the process. Directors ranging from Stuart Gordon to Nick Cassavetes had been attached to the project, but no one could seem to capture the essence of the character. However, this all changed when Marvel got its hands on it.

The formula Marvel used to become a cinematic juggernaut is on display from the very beginning. It picked Jon Favreau for a director, whose limited resume at the time had fans complaining about the selection. For Tony Stark, a role that had caught the eye of such highly-paid luminaries as Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise, Favreau hired Robert Downey Jr., an Oscar-nominated actor who was in the midst of climbing out of the deep hole his noted drug abuse had left his career in. Before the film came out, these seemed like incredibly risky choices. After the film came out, they were seen as strokes of brilliance.

The film also establish the trend of casting actors with Oscar-pedigrees in supporting roles, in this case Jeff Bridges as villain Obidiah Stane, Terrence Howard as best friend James Rhodes, and Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow as assistant/love interest Pepper Potts.  It also established that while Marvel would be making changes to the source material to make a better film, it would keep the tone of the work intact.

ironmanThe film features arms developer Tony Stark in Afghanistan, demonstrating a new weapon he designed. Things take a turn for the worse when his caravan is attacked and he is kidnapped. In the attack, a piece of shrapnel is lodged close to his heart, and he has to design a reactor to keep it in place. This reactor, which he wears on his chest, also comes in handy when he needs to build a suit of armor to escape his captors.

Stark returns home a changed man. He decides to move his company away from building weapons of war while he continues to refine his armor to use as a weapon of peace. But doing away with weapons manufacturing does not sit well with  Stark’s mentor and partner, Obidiah Stane, especially since he was illegally selling arms to terrorist organizations around the world. Stane decides to build an armor of his own and confront Tony in order to finish the job the terrorists started.

The film also started another trend in comic book films–the post-credits button scene. Iron Man ended with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) telling Tony Stark about an “Avengers Initiative.” Regular audiences were intrigued and comic fans swooned.

The film was an enormous success, both critically and financially. It made $585 million worldwide against an $140 million budget, allowing Marvel to pay back a big chunk of that loan almost immediately. It also set the world on notice–Marvel Studios would be a force to be reckoned with.

incredible hulk posterThe next Marvel hero to get the Marvel Studios treatment was Hulk. Marvel got the rights for the character back after Universal missed the deadline to put a sequel to Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk film into production. Universal would still retain the distribution rights to the film, but the movie would become the second Marvel Studios production.

While Hulk made a profit of about $107 million, Ang Lee’s artistic choices did not sit well certain fans or Marvel executives. So Marvel decided to take the risky choice of doing a reboot of a film that had just released only five years prior.

Actually, The Incredible Hulk was less a pure reboot than an ipso facto sequel to the popular 1970’s TV series, with tone and plot elements similar to that work. The film also could work as a soft reboot/sequel, as the character is in hiding in a foreign land at the start of the film, which was where the character was at at the end of Ang Lee film. That is, if you were eilling to ignore the changes made to the origin to fit with Marvel’s shared universe.


Louis Leterrier stepped into direct and Edward Norton signed on to replace Eric Bana as Bruce Banner as well as take a pass on Zak Penn’s screenplay (this will become more important later on). Once again, Marvel looked to the list of Oscar winners and nominees to fill their supporting roles, casting Oscar nominee Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination and Oscar winner William Hurt replacing Sam Elliot as General Ross.

NortonHulkHeader1The film tells that Bruce Banner was experimenting with gamma radiation in order to replicate the experiment that gave Captain America his powers during World War II (an easter egg later deleted from the film showed the Hulk passing by a block of ice in Antarctica that looked like it had Cap in it). Unfortunately, an accident exposes Banner to a great deal of radiation, cursing him to become a large green behemoth every time his heart rate goes up. Banner goes on the run to try and find a cure for his condition, while General Ross chases after him to bring him back as he considers the Hulk to be government property.

Robert Downey Jr. turns up in the tag scene as Tony Stark, informing General Ross about the Avengers initiative, thereby officially creating the shared universe the Marvel films reside in.

The film was more of a conventional comic book film than Hulk–no split screens, no exploration of daddy issues–and was obviously intended to lead to a sequel. However it became the only Marvel film in release not to have one. The film was just about as much of a success as the 2003 version, and sequels were talked about, but none came from it as of yet.

Part of this was might be due Norton’s insistence on being involved in the writing. Norton was replaced in the role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers by Mark Ruffalo, and Norton’s wanting a hand in the creative side of the film was rumored to be the reason. However, Norton had company as being an actor that was replaced by Marvel.

IronMan2PosterIron Man 2 introduced James Rhodes’ alter ego War Machine into the films, but it was Don Cheadle, not Terrence Howard donning the armor. Marvel parted ways with Howard in October of 2008. Howard said in a 2013 interview, still stinging from the dismissal five years later, that Marvel came to him to force him to reduce his salary. Howard was the first person signed for the film, and therefore received the highest salary. He balked at the idea of a pay cut, so Marvel got someone else to play Jim Rhodes.

Howard blamed his ouster on a cash grab by Downey Jr. (“It turns out that the person that I helped become Iron Man, when it was time to […] re-up for the second one took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out,”he said in the above interview), but other sources claim that Jon Favreau, who reportedly did not like working with Howard, was the “villain” in this piece. But, in the end, Marvel simply replaced one Oscar nominee with another, with Cheadle providing more in the role than I think Howard would, in my opinion.

Cheadle was not the only new face in the film, and not the only one who would have a bigger role to play in the cinematic universe.

ironman2blackwidowIn this one, Tony is dealing with the repurcussion of announcing he was Iron Man at the end of the last film, a process made more difficult as he discovers that an element in arc reactor that keeps him alive is killing him. His life is further complicated by Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), the son of a former partner of Tony’s dad who blames the Stark family in his family’s misfortune.

Vanko is aided by Stark’s business rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) who hopes to eliminate his main competition. Luckily, Tony has some new allies on his side as well, including his buddy Rhodey in a version of Stark’s armor dubbed War Machine and a seductive S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow played by Scarlet Johansson. The tag scene begins what would become the trend in these sort of scenes from then on. It features Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) in the middle of the desert, finding what would be Thor’s hammer. From then on, the tag scene would act as a tease of the next film in the line.

The film didn’t do as well in reviews (although, it had a hard act to follow) but did well enough financially to get a sequel. We’ll talk about that in two installments, but next we wrap up Phase I when Cap and Thor join the party, and The Avengers are finally united.

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HISTORY OF COMIC BOOK FILMS: The Rise And Fall Of Frank Miller

Posted on 04 July 2014 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 cover the meteoric rise, and the controversial fall of the legendary Frank Miller.

Lionsgate Presents "The Spirit" Screening In New YorkYou can engage in a healthy debate as to what was high point of Frank Miller’s career. Some might say it was when he took over the writing chores on Daredevil in 1980, because that set up the legendary run that paved the way for everything else. Others might say that it was 1986, when his masterpiece, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, was released. A few might say it was in 1991 when he created Sin City, the creator-owned property that caught Hollywood’s eye.

Personally, I am leaning towards 2007. He was coming off two successful adaptations of his original properties and was tapped to do the unheard of–to write and direct a film adaptation of a comic created by one of his idols. However, this date is problematic because his artistic decline in the world of comics had started years earlier.

Frank_Miller youngYou can call Frank Miller’s rise in comic books meteoric. Yes, he got his start as many creator is the late 1970s did–doing art in anthologies and fill-in stories to help regular artists out. But while many creators languished in this freelancer hell for years before getting steady work, Miller was hired as the regular artist on Daredevil with issue #158 in under a year. Granted, when Miller joined the title, it was practically on life support. It was one of Marvel’s lowest selling titles, and was moved to a one every two months shipping schedule.

The book was flirting with cancellation when Miller to over the writing duties on the title to go along with his art chores starting with issue #168 under a year later. Odds are that if the book wasn’t in such rough shape, he might not have received this unprecedented chance. But he did, and he became a superstar over it.

Daredevil 168Miller turned a character that was essentially a poor-man’s Spider-Man, only with a negligible handicap (blindness, more than over compensated by a radar sense) and a less impressive rogue’s gallery, into something special. Miller turned the book in to a crime noir fable with Asian overtones. The character spent as much time fighting ninjas as he did crime bosses. But the stories Miller created fit his cinematic art style and lifted the character to a place in prominence. Without Miller, Daredevil would never have been made into a film, and most likely be a curiosity lining the dustbin of Marvel’s once popular characters.

After completing his run on Daredevil, Miller moved on to DC Comics and one of their most famous characters, Batman. His Batman: The Dark Night Returns featured an older, retired crime fighter who feels compelled to put the cape and cowl back on as the world slips into lawless anarchy.

If Miller’s take on Daredevil was comic book film noir, then his take on Batman was comic book film noir on steroids. And acid. With a little crystal meth thrown in for good measure. It was a shockingly daring deconstruction of the sacred DC institution, one that could not happen in the Intellectual Property focused world of today.

1-1The series was incredible influential. Along with Watchmen, it inspired a “grim and gritty” trend in comics, got a lot of attention in the mainstream press and inspired the cinematic versions of Batman that followed in its wake. If Daredevil made Frank Miller a superstar, Dark Knight Returns made him a legend–both in and out of comic books.

Miller used his newfound status and power to the fullest advantage. He first stepped his toes in the Hollywood pond by doing the screenplays to RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 in the 1990s, although that experience left a bad taste in Miller’s mouth.  That decade was also when Miller moved on to creator-owned fare.

Miller used Dark Horse Comics as the publisher of his original creations, and his first offerings were the thoughtful, if uber-violent Hard Boiled (which he did with Geoff Darrow art) and Give Me Liberty (which he did with Dave Gibbons on art). His third effort, which he did art as well writing on, was the one we’re talking about today.

Dark_Horse_Presents_Vol_1_51Sin City first appeared in serialized form in Dark Horse Presents #51, and showed what Miller could do with his noir stylings when not hampered by working on another company’s characters. Printed in black and white, which help accentuate Miller’s art work and his use of shadow and shading. Sin City told the story of Basin City, a corrupt and morally bankrupt town where even the good guys have a little bit of dirt on them and the women are as tough as they are beautiful. It’s a town where cops are easily bought, the prostitutes take care of themselves, and crossing the wrong people will inevitably lead to your death.

This was an example of world-building at its finest. It was a fun house mirror reflection of the graft and crime that plague American cities, with an element of the fantastic to it as well. Sin City eventually became a blanket heading for all the crime noir Frank Miller wanted to write. It was home to a number of different stories, and often times a supporting character in one story arc would become the lead in the next, and someone who appears in the background would prove to be very important later on down the line.

The series caught the attention of director Robert Rodriguez, who desperately wanted to make a film of the graphic novel. However, Miller, who was burned by Hollywood before, was reluctant to let his baby be fed to the Tinseltown Wolves. Rodriguez was insistent, and created a short film with his own money from one of Miller’s Sin City tales to show that he was going to be respectful to the original text. The short film became “The Customer Is Always Right,”  which became the opening segment of 2005’s Sin City. Yes, Rodriguez’s passion and dedication one Miller over, but I’m sure the offer of co-directorship helped too.

sin city posterThe test footage also got Rodriguez an awesome, all-star cast, including Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, and many, many more. It would be hard not to make a great film with the cast that Rodriguez had, and a great film he did make.

The film looked like Basin City was magically transported from the page and pasted to the screen. It was one of the first use of extensive green screen technology, and this helped Rodriguez create a visually stunning, realistic yet ethereal world for the movie to take place in. The film was co-directed by Miller and Rodriguez, with Quentin Tarantino on board directing one scene. The result was a film that looked quite unlike any other film ever made, and one of the most faithful comic book adaptations of all time.

The film made over $158 million worldwide at the box office against a $45 million budget. It seemed audiences were responsive to films that did a shot-by-shot, green screen backlot adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novels. This was good news the the producers of 300.

3001The film was based on Frank Miller’s 1998 miniseries retelling the historic Battle of Thermopylae from 480 B.C., where a small group of  Greek soldiers were able to hold off the vastly superior forces of the invading Persian army for three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The battle has been inspiration for or referenced in numerous poems, novels and movies over the centuries. Miller himself has often referenced the battle in Sin City so his choosing to build a whole graphic novel around it is not surprising. 

From an artistic standpoint, it was one of Miller’s best works. The story was presented in nothing but double-paged spreads–where the graphics are designed to spill out over two comic book pages and, unlike Sin City this one was masterly colored by Miller’s then paramour and go-to colorist, Lynn Varley.

However, critics were quick to point out the historical inaccuracies in the work (Alan Moore even famously quipped “You know, I mean, read a book, Frank.”) and made issue with certain homophobic statements by the characters.

300-posterThese criticisms did not stop filmmakers from wanting to adapt Miller’s version of the battle, especially Zack Snyder, who long wanted to helm the adaptation of the graphic novel. He would eventually get his chance when he was hired in 2004 to bring the comic to the screen. Snyder and Miller’s version beat  another movie about the battle that was spearheaded by director Michael Mann into theaters. Mann’s version has yet to come to fruition.

The film was shot almost completely on a sound stage in front of blue screens.   Snyder used the comic as a story board, with numerous scenes captured on screen almost exactly as they appeared in the comic book. It wasn’t an exact translation, however. Snyder did add scenes back in Sparta to flesh out the story more.

Snyder capture the grandeur and grittiness of the comic book. His film is incredibly stylized, and his “stop/go” slow motion technique employed here briefly became his trademark. Snyder definitely grabs your attention.

The film, like the comic before it, also spawned controversy. In addition to the questions of historical accuracy and homophobia, critics singled out what they thought was a fascist agenda, a negative portrayal of people disabilities and Iran was none too pleased with how the Persians were seen in the movie. However, none of this stopped the film from becoming a hit. The film made more than it’s $65 million budget in its opening weekend in America alone, going on to a worldwide gross of over $456 million. It jump started the careers of Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender and made Snyder a go-to director for comic book epics. It also spawned a sequel.

300RiseOfAnEmpireMondo300: Rise of An Empire was supposed to be based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller called Xerxes, named for the Persian leader. Only one problem, Frank Miller never got around to writing that sequel to 300, so producers had to come up with a sequel on their own.

Also missing were Butler and Fassbender (except in a flashback to the first film) and Zack Snyder handed the directorial reins over to Noam Murro, but still keeping a hand in writing and producing the film. The sequel acts as a counterpoint to 300, focusing on events that happened before and during that film as well as after. The main crux of the story is the battle of Salamis, a naval battle that set the stage for the Greeks finally repelling the Persian invasion. Sullivan Stapleton take over the lead as Themistocles of Athens.

You couldn’t help but feel that something was missing because, well, a lot WAS missing. But, nonetheless, even though it failed to earn back its $110 million budget in its US release earlier this year (earning just over $106 million), it tripled its budget worldwide with over $331 million in grosses.  No word if another sequel will be wrung from the Second Invasion of Greece.

After the one-two punch of Sin City and 300, Frank Miller was Hollywood’s darling. They weren’t sure what it was about him that resonated with audiences, but they knew it was something. So even though he had only a handful of screenwriting credits to his name and only one co-directorship under his belt, producers hired Miller in 2006 after the success of Sin City to write and direct the long-in-development The Spirit. The success of 300 made them feel much better about their decision

They really should have done their due diligence, because Miller’s comic book work at the time would have told them exactly what they were getting into.

220px-DarkKnightStrikesAgain1From 2000 on, Miller’s comic book work has been a case of diminishing returns. It all started with the ill-advised The Dark Knight Strikes Again, a sequel to The Dark Knight Returns. Instead of a tersely plotted examination of the mythos behind the heroes of the DC Universe that marked the original, one that balanced grim and gritty realism with a finely tuned sense of the outrageous, what the sequel delivered was Miller’s tone deaf characterization and a book where the outrageous and cartoon-like chased and sense of realism out the window. It was a sloppy presentation, and one that tarnished the original masterpiece it followed.

Miller wasn’t done with Batman yet. In 2005, he paired with superstar artist Jim Lee on All-Star Batman and Robin. I reviewed the first three issues here, and my opinion of how awful it was has not improved since that review was published. Once again, Miller loses the hold he had on Batman’s characterization, only this time he makes him a petulant and whiny child abuser who might just be clinically insane. The story went absolutely nowhere over the ten issues that were published, a fact not helped by the title’s chronic lateness (three years to publish ten issues). The series has been on “hiatus” since 2008, and it’s telling that no one has been clamoring for it to be completed.

Holy_Terror_coverMiller’s third attempt at doing a Batman story for DC is the one that sounded bad from the get go. Holy Terror, Batman! was Miller’s commentary on the War on Terror, using Batman as a surrogate, sending him after Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Eventually, according to Miller, he removed the project from DC Comics because he decided it went too far for Batman. I’m sure DC didn’t mind it leaving. So Miller took the cape off of Batman, gave him some guns and took the novel to Legendary Comics. The result, renamed Holy Terror, is a jingoistic screed filtered through Miller’s extreme right-wing views (he made the papers for his condemnation of the Occupy movement in 2011) that was as inflammatory as it was poorly written.

Miller, in interviews at the time, came off as a man who believed his own hype a little bit too much. Everyone called him a genius, so he was one. And everything he touches is automatically perfect because of this, no matter how poorly written it is. Unfortunately, this attitude was encouraged. His Martha Washington Dies, the coda to his Give me Liberty series, featured 17 pages of an elderly woman talking to a group of undefined soldiers on a battlefield, about to fight in an undefined war. After she is done talking, she dies. If a novice writer submitted this to a comic book company, the editor would put his name on a dry erase board marked ” Never Hire This Person.” Since it’s Frank Miller, they slap a glossy cover on it, charge $3.50 for it, as shill it to the fans.

But this was in the field of comics, where he paid his dues and made his legend. Certainly his attention to quality would be sharper in his feature film debut? Unfortunately not.

the-spirit-posterThe Spirit was a tough character to bring to the screen. Will Eisner created a character that could move freely from crime noir to whimsy to adventure. It was a tone that filmmakers from William Freidkin to Brad Bird couldn’t bring it to the big screen in a way that would please the studios. It seemed like that they would never find a creator who got the character and could capture its essence.

However, they thought they found one in Frank Miller. Miller was a friend and follower of Eisner (he was actually offered the job directing The Spirit at Eisner’s funeral). If he couldn’t bring the character to the big screen and do it justice, no one could.

Well, apparently, no one could.

Frank Miller’s The Spirit was relentlessly awful. It was aggressively awful. And not in a “so-bad-it’s-good” way either. It was bad in a “so-bad-why-am-I-watching-this” way.

For a man who was so protective of his own comic work, Miller certainly didn’t have any qualms about messing with Eisner’s most famous characters. Eisner’s Spirit was a charming man with a winning personality. Miller’s Spirit was was a bland cypher whose only flash of personality came when he spewed Sin City-esque doggerel. Eisner kept the Spirit’s nemesis, The Octopus, hidden to increase his mystery and allure. Miller put the Octopus front and center on screen, cast Samuel L. Jackson in the role and apparently only gave him one direction-chew as much scenery as possible. Jackson is probably still picking splinters from his teeth today.

Eisner’s women were legendary. They were sultry and seductive and you totally believe that the Spirit was tempted to join them on the dark side. Miller’s decided to put most of Eisner’s femme fatales in the movie, cast some of the most beautiful in the world, and makes each of them as exciting as expired toothpaste.  Eisner’s stories were filled with gentle wit and humor. Miller’s humor was crass, crude and campy. While Rodriguez and Snyder used the green screen to create a rich and fully realized world, Miller used the same technology to create a murky and muddled mess that looked like some one spilled a big pot of India ink over it.

In other words, The Spirit was a failure on every single level. Miller’s inexperience showed through, yet so did his arrogance. He thought he was creating art. What puzzles me is how it went through without anyone saying how horrible it was.

Miller has not made a comic book since Holy Terror, but he will have a chance to redeem himself cinematically as he reteams with Robert Rodriguez next month as the Sin City: A Dame to Kill For hits theaters.

Frank_Millers_Sin_City _A_Dame_to_Kill_For_17The film adapts two of Miller’s stories from the comics in addition to, and this is the worrisome part by Miller, two original stories written directly for the screen. A lot of the original cast returns, including Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, and Mickey Rourke, joined by newcomers such as Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Lady Gaga.

Perhaps going back to Basin City will be the best thing for Miller. Perhaps it will mean a return to quality for the legend. However, it will take a lot to over come the damage Miller has done to his legacy. This might not be enough.

Next time: Ghost Rider.

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Robert Rodriguez States That SIN CITY 2 Will Shoot This Summer

Posted on 15 March 2012 by Rich Drees

Robert Rodriguez is a guy who always has a lot of projects in development at any one time. While it is probably a good thing in that it always keeps him busy, it also proves frustrating that certain projects like Sin City 2 seem to get postponed in favor of other films. But Rodriguez has now stated that the much discussed sequel to his and co-director Frank Miller’s adaption of Miller’s brutal crime-noir graphic novel series will finally get in front of cameras this summer.

Rodriguez told Empire that after he concludes filming on the exploitation sequel Machete Kills, he’ll move right on to production of Sin City 2 even while simultaneously overseeing the editing for Machete Kills.

For some time Miller and Rodriguez have stated that their script for Sin City 2 (which William Monahan (The Departed) did a quick polish on last summer) would be made up partly of the graphic novel A Dame To Kill For and two new stories that Miller created specifically for the film. With A Dame in the mix we can look forward to the return of Mickey Rourke’s Marv character while Miller has stated that Jessica Alba’s Nancy will figure in one of the two new storylines.

My own nature makes me inclined to be at least a bit skeptical of Rodriguez’s claim that he’ll have the film in production, but since I really liked what he and Miller did with the first film, I want to believe that I’ll be seeing what they have in store for the sequel soon.

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IRON MAN 2 Trailer Goes Live

Posted on 16 December 2009 by William Gatevackes

IronMan2PosterIt might be safe to say that Iron Mansurprised hardcore comic fans not only with its success, but also with how good it was. The inevitable sequel  became one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2010. But the question does exist: will the sequel be as good as the original?

If the trailer is any indication, then the answer is yes. It features a flippant Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, a flirtatious Gwyneth Paltrow as  Pepper Potts and Mickey Rourke doing a spot on Russian accent. It is light on the Scarlet Johansson, but does feature a geek-out moment at the end.  Hopefully, the final product holds up to the advance hype.

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More New IRON MAN 2 Pics

Posted on 02 December 2009 by Rich Drees

Hot on the tails of the release of the first teaser poster for next summer’s super hero sequel Iron Man 2 comes four new pictures from the film. The first two show star Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire Tony Stark/ Iron Man doing what looks like science-y things and some home repair. Next up is Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, one of the villains of the film, examining his own handiwork. Note that some of the magazine covers hanging over his workbench were first seen in the first film. We end the quartet of photos with a new look at Scarlett Johannson in her full costume as the spy known as Black Widow. Click on each photo for a much larger look.

Iron Man 2 hits screens next May.

RASPUTIN

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New IRON MAN 2 Photos

Posted on 22 July 2009 by Rich Drees

IronMan2StarkA few more new photos for Iron Man 2 have shown up, this time courtesy of USA Today. (Click on any picture for a bigger version.)

The first picture is of star Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire industrialist-turned-superhero Tony Stark. As we saw by the cars in his garage in the last film, Stark has an affinity for sports and racing cars. Here we see him in a racing suit with some flaming wreckage around him.But take a good look at the stands behind him and compare them to the bleacher seating behind Mickey Rourke in the first picture we saw of him as the villain Whiplash. I think it is fair to assume that both these photos are from the same location, probably the same scene. And that would go a long way in explaining Stark’s none-too-pleased expression.IronMan2Natasha

Next up is a second look at Scarlett Johansson as Russian spy Natasha Romanoff, aka The Black Widow. Having been hired as Tony Stark’s new personal assistant, she is undoubtedly up to no good. First appearing in the comics during the height of the Cold War, the Black Widow was first an adversary of Iron Man but eventually defected from the Soviet Union to the United States. She would later join the superhero team, The Avengers. Not so coincidentally, Johansson was signed to appear in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Avengers feature when she was hired for Iron Man 2.

IronMan2PepperBut what of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Tony Stark’s very capable assistant in the first film? It seems that she has earned a small promotion to CEO of Stark Enterprises. And while there was some hints of a possible romantic involvement between Pepper and her boss in Iron Man, Paltrow is not sure how that will play out in the new film-

I still don’t know if I’m going to get a romance…One day they have me getting together with Tony, one day they don’t. It’s kind of cloaked in secrecy, even from me.

Iron Man 2 is scheduled to open next summer, but since Favreau is scheduled to make an appearance at the San Diego Comic Con this weekend, expect more news about the film in a few days.

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First Look: Rourke As Whiplash In IRON MAN 2

Posted on 09 June 2009 by Rich Drees

rourkewhiplashThe last time an Academy Award-nominated actor followed up their nomination for an Oscar with the role of a comic book villain, we got Halle Berry in Catwoman. Thankfully, I don’t think we have that problem with Mickey Rourke as he takes on the role of Whiplash for next summer’s Iron Man 2.

Director Jon Favreau tells USA Today, who also premiered the first picture of Rourke in costume at right, that Whiplash, aka Ivan Vanko, has built his own power suit similar to Iron Man’s, though his comes with a pair of powered whips. Favreau states, “The technologies are definitely related, and that’s part of the core theme of the film.” As to whether Vanko works for Tony Stark’s business rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), Favreau remained tightlipped.

whiplashThere are few additional story details except for that the fact that the picture is from a scene where Whiplash shows up at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. With Iron Man’s suit of armor being true to the comics, will we see Rourke don the leather domination gear of the four-color version of the character? Probably not, but I don’t think that fans will complain over that. Favreau has won himself a lot of cred with fans with the first film and I doubt he’ll blow it with the follow up.

Iron Man 2 hits theaters next summer.

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Rourke, And Johannson, In For IRON MAN 2… Honest!

Posted on 11 March 2009 by Rich Drees

mickeyrourke1Is he in or is he out?

That seems to have been the question as to Mickey Rourke’s participation in next summer’s Iron Man 2. Well, now it seems that he is back in, according to Nikki Finke. On her blog, the Hollywood business writer reportes that “after at first being low-balled by the studio to the tune of $250K, Rourke has signed on for the role of the Russian villain in the sequel after his agent David Unger got the quote up to a “significant” level.” Finke also reports that Marvel won’t officially announce anything until all the contracts are signed, so consider this all at the level of “reasonably reliable rumor.”

Finke also reports that Scarlett Johannson is being set to take role of Russian spy/costumed hero the Black Widow. As is her usual MO, Finke spends most of her post obsessing over whether Johannson’s agent got her a good deal or not. However, she does mention that that deal will include Johannson’s participation in The Avengers superhero team-up film set for Summer 2011.

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Oscar Nominations Post-Mortem: How Did We Do?

Posted on 22 January 2009 by William Gatevackes

oscarsEarlier this week, we here at FilmBuffOnline handicapped the Oscar race as we saw it. As we all know, the nominations have just been released. How did we do?  Well, let’s find out. And the nominees are…

Performance by an actor in a leading role-

  • Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
  • Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn in Milk
  • Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Number of Nominations We “Called”:  4 out of 5

The One We Didn’t:Do we get any credit for saying the academy might snub Leonardo DiCaprio? No, because Richard Jenkins should have been a no brainer. His performance was one of the most critically acclaimed of the year. This is what Jenkins had to say about the nomination:

“This nomination is such an unexpected honor and I am grateful to the Academy for the recognition. I’ve been awed by the work of my fellow nominees this year and am truly humbled to be in their company. Having been an actor for many years now, I am moved by the fact that something like this can happen at this point in my career, particularly for a film that has meant so much to me.”

 

Richard Jenkins, THE VISITOR

Performance by an actor in a supporting role-

  • Josh Brolin in Milk
  • Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
  • Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
  • Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road

Number of Nominations We “Called”: 4 out of 5.

The One We Didn’t: Nobody from Frost/Nixon got the call. Strangely, this was the only acting nod Revolutionary Road received. Shannon got good notices for his role, but was he the most deserving of the cast?

Performance by an actress in a leading role- 

  • Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
  • Angelina Jolie in Changeling
  • Melissa Leo in Frozen River
  • Meryl Streep in Doubt
  • Kate Winslet in The Reader

Number of Nominations We “Called”:  3.5 out of 5

The One Point Five  We Didn’t: We are taking partial credit for Kate Winslet. We predicted she would be nominated and that her role in The Reader should be lead. I think that should be good enough for a .5. Leo, like Jenkins, was an early year, yet still worthy performance that we goofed on not including. Althought ignoring Sally Hawkins was a major snub.

This is what Kate Winslet said on her nomination for The Reader:

“I’m extremely happy to have been nominated. And very fortunate. Playing Hanna Schmitz will always remain one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever been blessed with. I’m genuinely thrilled not just for myself but for the wonderful Stephen Daldry and David Hare. These nominations are a testament to their unwavering commitment to this film. And I’m also very happy for all the people in Germany whose hard work on THE READER, has been rewarded by these nominations. Surely Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack are smiling down on us today!”

- Kate Winslet, Oscar nominee for Best Lead Actress in THE READER

 Performance by an actress in a supporting role-

  • Amy Adams in Doubt
  • Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis in Doubt
  • Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler 

Number of Nominations We “Called”:  4 out of 5

The One We Didn’t: We were going to list Henson, but the Oscar’s not following the Golden Globes’ lead on putting Winslet in this category through us off. Yeah, yeah, that’s what happened.

Achievement in directing-

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher
  • Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard
  • Milk, Gus Van Sant
  • The Reader, Stephen Daldry
  • Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle
Number of Nominations We “Called”:  5 out of 5
Woo Hoo!!!:  Yes, we did think that Mike Leigh was “Almost Certain” to get a nod for Happy-Go-Lucky. But I guess the Academy didn’t like that film as much as the rest of the world did. But we said that all the nomininated directors had a shot. So, we are calling that a victory. 

Best motion picture of the year-

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Number of Nominations We “Called”:  4 out of 5

The One We Didn’t: In what is becoming a rare occurance, the Best Picture nominations match up with the Best Director nominations. This means that The Reader gets the nod over Revolutionary Road. And, yes, The Dark Knight and Wall-E too. But the Best Animated Film was created so the “real film” don’t have to mingle with the animated riff raff. And, really. A comic book movie? For Best Picture?

Stay tuned to FilmBuffOnline, because, as we get closer to the ceremony, the staff will bring you our Oscar picks.

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Oscar Nominations: Who Will Make The Cut?

Posted on 20 January 2009 by William Gatevackes

oscarIt’s that time of year again. This Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards.

Every year there are snubs and surprises, thrills and controversies. There is no way of knowing who will be nominated, but we here at FilmBuffOnLine, who believe the day nominations are announced should be a National holiday, are going to try and handicap the process for you.

We will try to tell you who we think are Almost Certain to get a nomination, who Definite May Be nominated, and whose nomination is a Outside Shot in the major categories (the four acting categories, Best Director, and Best Picture). We are trying to cover all bases, but don’t come to us if you lose money on your Oscar Nomination pool.

Best Actor:

Almost Certain:

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler; Sean Penn, Milk

Definite Maybe:

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Outside Shot:

Colin Farrell, In Bruges; Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino

It seems that this year, if Mickey Rourke didn’t win a Best Actor award, Sean Penn won it. Both men seem to be all but a lock for a nomination. Benjamin Button seems to be role that screams “nominate me,” so Pitt has a good chance. Langella won a Tony for originating the role of Nixon on Broadway, so it seem logical that he’d at least get a nod. The Academy might have something against DiCaprio, since he has been snubbed more than once in the past. That could work against him here. Farrell won the Golden Globe for this role, which gives him a chance. And the Academy might want to reward Eastwood for what could be his last acting role with a nomination.

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