Tag Archive | "Sam Raimi"

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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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SDCC: Sam Raimi Announces EVIL DEAD TV Series In Development

Posted on 25 July 2014 by Rich Drees

BruceCampbellEvilDead

Writer/director Sam Raimi revealed at San Diego Comic Con today that he is working to bring his signature horror franchise The Evil Dead to television. Raimi told a packed panel discussion that he and franchise star Bruce Campbell were actively developing/writing a TV series version of his iconic films.

Raimi didn’t divulge much details so we don’t know if it will follow in the continuity of the original trilogy of films in which he directed Campbell, if it will pick up from last year’s remake or if it will stand on its own. He also did not hint as to whether the tone of the series would be more straight-up horror of some of the entries in the franchise or veer towards the black comedy of other of the series’s films.

It strikes me as that the success of the Evil Dead films is due to their compactness. A single setting in an isolated location and the tension being ratcheted continually up makes for some gripping filmmaking. I am not quite sure how Raimi and Campbell will manage to broaden the story out to support a whole TV series. Of course, I thought that way when it was announced that Robert Rodriguez was expanding his film From Dusk Till Dawn into a 13 part series for his new El Rey cable outlet and that turned out to be pretty good. And this is Raimi, and if there’s anyone who knows the workings of the franchise, its him and Campbell. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: David Lindsay-Abaire: The SPIDER-MAN 4 Script Is NOT Mine

Posted on 31 January 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. We take a break from the parade of comic book films to update you on a previous entry.

David Lindsay-Abaire

David Lindsay-Abaire

Back on December 6th, as part of this feature’s look at the Spider-Man franchise, I discussed several scripts making the rounds on the Internet that were supposedly written for the abandoned fourth installment directed by Sam Raimi. In the column, I doubted the veracity of the scripts, and it turns out that I was right. How do I know? The author of one of the “scripts” let us know.

Pulitzer-prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire sent an e-mail to FBOL Head Honcho Rich Drees to let us know in no uncertain terms that the script found online was not written by him. As you can tell from the excerpt from his email below the script is most definitely not his.

Dear Rich –

David Lindsay-Abaire here.

I wouldn’t normally respond to an article like this, but things can linger on the internet for years. And if I’m going to take some knocks online, I’d like to think they were based on a script that I actually wrote instead of some fan fiction that someone tacked my name onto. With that in mind, I wonder if you could at least update the article to add some kind of note saying that it’s been confirmed that the script in question is not in fact by David Lindsay-Abaire. (For what it’s worth, my script was 122 pages, and featured Kraven as the villain.)

 

I am more than happy to help Mr. Lindsay-Abaire set the record straight. In addition to this post, I will be updating the original post to reflect his correction concerning that script. Hopefully, this column will come up when people search Google for Mr. Lindsay-Abaire’s Spider-Man script, so fans won’t waste time on the fake script.

This does seem to be the first time that Kraven was mentioned as a villain in the franchise. It would have been interesting to see Lindsay-Abaire’s take on the character.

We will return to our regularly scheduled History of the Comic Book Film post with our next installment.

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Shout Factory’s DARKMAN Special Edition Blu-Ray Brings New Special Features And An Ugly Cover

Posted on 06 January 2014 by Rich Drees

Darkman

Sam Raimi’s Darkman is a particular favorite here. A fun throwback film that of a multitude of pulp influences, Raimi’s ersatz Phantom Of The Opera-cum-superhero film was what I pointed to when people questioned the choice of the “Evil Dead guy” to direct Sony’s Spider-Man film. That seemed to work out well for everyone involved. Unfortunately, the blu-ray for the film that was released back in June 2011 was lacking in the special features department. But Shout Factory is going to make up for that when the release the film in a new special edition in April.

Unfortunately, their cover art is actually some of the worse I’ve seen for a home video release in a while, though I concede that I may be biased. Fortunately, the film’s original poster art will also be included on the reverse side. You can check out both covers below the list of special features that will be on the disc.

Shout Factor’s Darkman hits store shelves on February 18 and you can order it from Amazon here.

Special Features:

• New interviews with Liam Neeson (!) and Frances McDormand
• New interview with Larry Drake
• New interview with Makeup Designer Tony Gardner
• New interviews with actors Danny Hicks and Dan Bell
• New interviews with Production Designer Randy Ser and Art Director Philip Dagort
• Audio Commentary with director of photography Bill Pope
• Vintage “Making of” and interview featurettes featuring interviews with Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and more…
• Vintage full-length interviews with Sam Raimi, Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Galleries – Posters & production stills, Behind the Scenes, Make-up Effects and Storyboards

DarkmanBluNew

DarkManBluOriginal

Via Scream Factory’s Facebook page.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Off the Radar

Posted on 03 January 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. Today, the success of X-Men and Spider-Man send studios looking for adaptations at smaller comic book publishers.

By 2003, movies from comic books were a big deal. The success of the X-Men and Spider-Man films indicated that there was gold in bringing comic characters to life, and Hollywood wanted to get in on it.

Unfortunately, most of the big guns were taken. Sony had Spider-Man and Thor, Fox had the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil. Universal had the Hulk, and any DC Comics characters had to go through parent company Warner Brothers first.

Luckily for producers all over town, the comic book industry had expanded so there were a number of other viable companies putting out comics, all with characters ready to be brought to the big screen. Well, the powers that be might have thought they’d be ready. But as we’ll see, sometimes audiences thought differently.

BulletproofMonkBulletproof Monk, the comic, was a comic book by committee. The concept was originated by two men who never put fingers to keyboard, nor ink to Bristol board. Michael Yanover and Mark Paniccia created Flypaper Press and a content farm for their ideas, which they would hire writers and artists to flesh out and produce.

One of these concepts was one that would take the Asian Kung Fu film, move it to a city and add Star Wars type mysticism to it. They hired Michael Avon Oeming, who would later gain fame working on Powers, to do the art and asked relative newbie Brett Lewis and indie veteran R.A. Jones to do the writing. Gotham Chopra, son of Deepak Chopra, was brought in as a consultant on the Eastern mysticism in the story. And that story became Bulletproof Monk.

Yanover and Paniccia started shopping the concept to Hollywood before the second issue even came out. They got interest from John Woo, whose movies were an inspiration for the concept. Woo eventually agreed to produce the film. His frequent collaborator, Chow Yun-Fat, was cast as the titular monk. Heath Ledger might have made his comic book film a few years before his turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight, as he was in line to star as the Monk’s assistant, Kar. He dropped out to accept a role in The Order, and Seann William Scott took his place.

Bulletproof_Monk_8627_MediumIf Yanover and Paniccia were thinking they might have a Men in Black style underdog hit on their hands, they were sorely mistaken. The film opened to horrible reviews and only made $37 million worldwide against a $52 million budget.

Bulletproof Monk might have been committee designed to be a film franchise, 30 Days of Night was a comic book concept that went nowhere, was then proposed as a film idea and was shot down, before IDW Publishing decided to publish it as a comic. It is also one of the most inventive approaches to horror to ever come down the pike.

As the film Insomnia told us, parts of Alaska experience 24-hours of sunshine for weeks at a time. The flip side of this is that they also experience 24-hours of night for weeks at a time.

30-days-of-nightNow, consider if you were a vampire. You have to hunt your prey—humans—for food—blood—in the small window of time you are both awake. The sun is deadly to you, so you stay behind closed doors and windows in the day time when people are out doing their business. And most people stay indoors when the sun goes down, so your pickings are slim—from the late shift workers, college party crowd, etc.

For you, a month of darkness is a great thing. Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith thought so. That’s why they wrote 30 Days of Night, a comic about a cadre of vampires that relocate to Barrow, Alaska and use the small town as their personal smorgasbord.

The series sold loads of copies, spawned numerous print sequels, established IDW as a publisher of note, raised the profile of both Niles and Templeton (who were nominated for Eisner Awards, comic’s version of the Oscars, for the series), and attracted Hollywood’s attention. Yes, the concept that was at first unwanted as both a comic book and a film would end up being a success at both.

04934874_In 2002, Sam Raimi’s Senator International picked up the rights to the comic. Niles wrote the first draft of the script, which was rewritten by Stuart Beattie and then again by Brian Nelson when director David Slade came on board. Josh Hartnett played the town Sheriff, Melissa George his estranged wife, and Danny Huston played the leader of the vampires.

The film was a success, making $75 million worldwide against a $30 million budget. It was a huge success on home video, which led to a direct-to-video sequel and two prequel miniseries on FEARnet.com.

2-poster41You get the feeling that Disney was itching to get into the comic book film business for a long time, because in 2007 they purchased the rights to the Top Shelf miniseries, The Surrogates, a high-concept story set in the sci-fi genre, for its Touchstone shingle.

The story concerned the future of 2054, where everyone has an idealized, mind-controlled robotic duplicate of themselves that they use for everyday interaction while they stay home in their ugly flesh and blood bodies. When someone starts destroying the Surrogates, which kills the owners in the process, an anti-Surrogate cop needs to get to the bottom of the mystery behind it.

surrogates_movieThe film, produced in part by Elizabeth Banks, was directed by Jonathan Mostow and starred Bruce Willis as the cop. The cast also included James Cromwell, Ving Rhames  and Rosamund Pike, which would make for a pretty good film, you would think. Unfortunately, critics gave it mostly negative reviews. The film made $122 million worldwide, a disappointing figure when you think it cost $80 million to make.

Whiteout was another high concept comic book series. Published by Oni Press and created by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, it is a murder mystery set in the scientific stations of Antarctica. It centers on a U.S. Marshall by the name of Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who must investigate the murders of several scientists before she retires her post.

Whiteout_posterThe comic was nominated for a number of Eisner’s, but the 2009 film adaptation was not what you’d call award-worthy. Many would pin the blame for the film’s flopping ($17.8 million worldwide versus a $35 million budget) on it having a female lead. But the 7% fresh rating it got from critics couldn’t have helped. Pity poor Gabriel Macht. This film, in which he plays a UN agent, came at the end of a three year span of completely awful movies he starred in (joining 2007’s Because I Said So and 2008’s The Spirit).

Next, Kevin Smith’s favorite hero gets the big screen treatment, does well, and is never seen again.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: What SPIDER-MAN 4 Might Have Been

Posted on 06 December 2013 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. Today, we look at what the aborted fourth Raimi Spider-Man film might have looked like, and the answer isn’t pretty.

David Lindsay-Abaire

David Lindsay-Abaire

In January 2008, things were looking good for Spider-Man fans. Spider-Man 3 was the biggest hit of the franchise thus far, and Raimi, Maguire, and Dunst had all signed on to do a fourth installment, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. Sony was even planning a fifth and sixth installment as well.

Then the wheels fell off. Two years later, Raimi would be gone, taking Maguire and Dunst with him, and Sony would be rebooting the franchise less than ten years after it began.

There are two writings from this era that would give us hints as to how the fourth film might have worked out—if the writings are at all legitimate. The first is a First draft/Test draft supposedly written by Lindsay-Abaire, the second, a treatment by Raimi himself that was to contradict the Lindsay-Abaire script.  But there are enough red flags in each that calls their authenticity into doubt. (UPDATE: David Lindsay-Abaire has contacted us to say the script credited to him is NOT his.)

Let’s start with the Lindsay-Abaire script, which immediately raises two red flags. RED FLAG #1 is that the script is only 41 pages long. Each page of a script roughly equals out to be one minute of screen time, so this means Lindsay-Abaire’s script wouldn’t even be long enough to be a one-hour network drama, sans commercials.  RED FLAG #2 are the numerous grammatical and spelling errors in the script. Granted, it is a “first draft”, but you’d think that a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright would know the difference between “rite” and “right” and know that “Spider-Man” and “Daily Bugle” should be capitalized.

Dylan Baker finally would have become the Lizard

Dylan Baker finally would have become the Lizard

Lindsay-Abaire has the Lizard be Spidey’s only adversary in the script, but only gets his official film origin in a truncated pre-credit sequence.  I’ll call this RED FLAG #3, if only because Dylan Baker deserved better.

We pick up on Peter Parker in his new job as Assistant Editor of the Daily Bugle. How did Peter get this promotion? By faking a picture that looks like Spider-Man was stealing as per J. Jonah Jameson’s request. This is RED FLAG #4, for anyone who remembers Spider-Man 3. See, in that film, Eddie Brock is fired from the Daily Bugle by Jameson after Parker reveals that Brock doctored a picture of Spidey to make him look like a criminal. It’s a pretty big plot point. It’s the reason why Brock wants to kill Peter and be willing to become Venom to do so.  If Jonah was willing to have Peter fake photos, then Eddie’s faking photos wouldn’t have made that big of a difference and the last film would have been one villain shorter and that much better for it.

Anyway, the Lizard goes on rampages across the city and Spidey tries to stop him. In the mean time, MJ leaves Peter because he can’t give up being Spider-Man, so Peter starts getting closer to Gwen.

spider-man-vs-lizardPeter is still in the same ratty apartment he was living at in the other films (RED FLAG #5, if he got a better job, why not a better apartment? The script shows he’s been helping Aunt May with the extra cash, but still…) when he gets a call from the hospital. Aunt May has taken sick. She has an infection caused by radioactive isotopes in her blood and they need radiation (“like chemo”) to counter act its effects (which I’ll call RED FLAG #6. It mirrors a malady May experienced in the comics (Amazing Spider-Man #31 to #33, to be exact), but that was back before they knew exactly what radioactive particles in the bloodstream would actually do.)

Peter comes up with the only idea that will save Aunt May—injecting her with the Lizard’s blood! That will cure her! Um…RED FLAG #7: if she needs something like “chemo”, why not give her chemo? Or at least try chemo first before Peter goes after the Lizard? And RED FLAG #8, it’s pretty clearly established that the Lizard’s powers are cause by something he injected into his blood stream. Soooo, if Peter injects May with the Lizard’s blood, wouldn’t he be passing along his powers as well?

Spidey finds Curt Connors down in the sewer, working on a machine that will cure him of being the Lizard. Connors will give a blood sample if Spidey, who reveals his identity to a foe once again (RED FLAG #9), helps on his machine. Spidey asks what happens if the machine doesn’t work. Oh, there’s a syringe with the serum that could be manually injected (RED FLAG #10: Why not, you know, use the syringe instead of building a complex machine to do the same function?)

Of course the machine doesn’t work and Spidey has to chase the Lizard through Times Square to give him the serum, leading to the climactic fight scene. Spidey wins, Connors and May are cured, and we are on to the epilogues.

Lindsay-Abaire sets up the Hobgoblin as the villain for the fifth film.

Lindsay-Abaire sets up the Hobgoblin as the villain for the fifth film.

The first shows a man named Roderick Kingsley (who comic fans know as the Hobgoblin) entering the former Osborn mansion. It appears that he has bought the place. He notices the mirrored doorway that Harry broke in Spider-Man 2. Kingsley steps inside and notices all of Norman’s goblin paraphernalia. This brings us to our final RED FLAG # 11. I’m not schooled in the world of real estate, but you have to think that people would make repairs to the Osborn mansion before they sold it. And if they did, they’d notice the stash of goblin stuff in the secret closet. Which would be more likely: A) The realty company takes out all the goblin stuff and does something with it, B) a worker snaps a few pictures, sells them to the Daily Bugle and they get the scoop that Osborn was the Goblin, C) a workman steals the tech for himself, or D) they leave it as is, not even fixing the door, for the next owner to come in and do with it what they will. I pick anything other than D.

The second was Peter setting things right with Aunt May and the third indicated that Gwen Stacy would have been the romantic interest from then on out.

raimi writingEleven red flags are a lot, but the fact that the Lizard was the villain of the reboot does add veracity to the script. I can’t say the same for the “Sam Raimi Treatment,” which just might make 11 red flags by its second paragraph.

Like the Lindsay-Abaire script, the cover page doesn’t have a date (RED FLAG #1), but it goes into detail about how the script is not just for writers Gary Ross and James Vanderbilt and “executive in charge” Todd Black, but also that it is supposed to be considered over the Lindsay-Abaire script. This seems unnecessary because that fact should be obvious to all concerned (RED FLAG #2).

The four-page treatment also begins in the Daily Bugle. This is where the red flags will begin piling up.  Peter finds that J. Jonah Jameson is out as editor of the Daily Bugle, and is replaced a humorless man called Adriano Tombs. If you think that name sounds similar to the real name of Spidey villain The Vulture, you’d be right. Tombs is the Vulture in this film, the name changed from the comic’s Adrian Toomes (RED FLAG #3).

Why was the name changed?  Did “Raimi” simply forget how to spell it? Doubtful. But if he did, he probably had access to the source material at beck and call. Did they think Adrian was too wimpy a name? Tell that to the linebackers Adrian Peterson runs over on any given Sunday. Chose Tombs to act as a counterpart to Vulture? It’s too punny. There’s really no good reason to change the name (RED FLAG #4).

Get rid of this guy? Really?

Get rid of this guy? Really?

But there’s really no reason to get rid of J. Jonah (RED FLAG #5), who was the one consistently great part of the films to date. I know the films are built around Peter having a connection with the bad guy, but there were better ways to do it than getting rid of one of the franchise’s best characters, especially because there is another emotional connection yet to come.spiderman_vulture

It is also revealed that Tombs robs banks at night (RED FLAG #6). When the banks are closed (RED FLAG #7). As the Vulture, with a flying suit (RED FLAG #8). Yeah, that makes sense.

Well, Peter soon finds out that Tombs is the Vulture by examining the crime scene with his heretofore unseen utility belt (RED FLAG #9) which helps him find a feather that has Tombs’ DNA on it. Or in it. The treatment doesn’t specify.

Next we meet Mary Jane and she has a bombshell to drop—she has reconnected with her real dad (RED FLAG #10). Yes, the abusive father from the first film apparently was a step-dad? Adopted father? Anyhow, you’ll never guess who MJ’s real dad is? It’s Adriano Tombs! (RED FLAG #11)

Electro-Comic-BookThe Vulture makes the leap from robbing banks to stealing “nuclear power capsules.” (RED FLAG #12) In the process of stealing one from “Electro Corp,” (RED FLAG #13) he smashes a worker by the name of Max Dillon into a “nuclear power diode.” (RED FLAG #14) Instead of giving Dillon radiation powers, or, more likely, cancer, this accident gives him electrical powers. Thus enters the film’s second villain (RED FLAG #15), Electro.

Electro is so mad at the Vulture that he melts a Daily Bugle with a Vulture story in it (RED FLAG #16).

Meanwhile, MJ stumbles into Tombs’ secret lair and sees him fixing the mechanical wings on his Vulture suit. Let’s give the RED FLAG #17 for the lair being so easy to find, RED FLAG #18 for a newspaper editor being able to afford it, and RED FLAG #19 for having metallic wings when Spidey found a feather earlier in the treatment.

The next day, Electro attacks the Daily Bugle. The treatment doesn’t specify why, but it hints that either it’s because the Vulture’s pictures were in their paper (RED FLAG #20 for ripping off a plot point of the first Spider-Man) or to get Tombs/Vulture because he recognizes they are one and the same (RED FLAG #21 for not having anyone else make that connection, including the authorities. Come to think of it, Peter had scientific proof that Tombs was the Vulture since the third scene. RED FLAG #22 for him not acting on it).

Tombs escapes, but Electro tracks him down (How? Never said. RED FLAG #23). But now, instead of wanting to kill him, he wants to team up with the Vulture to kill Spider-man (RED FLAG #24 for Spider-Man 3’s plot point, which was dumb to begin with).

Next comes two emotional scenes from Peter’s private life.  First is a scene where he admits to Aunt May that he is Spider-Man (RED FLAG #25, because that completes the supporting character who knows his identity set) and that he feels bad for not helping save Uncle Ben’s life (RED FLAG #26, for once again going to a well that was used in an earlier film.)

Second is a scene with MJ where she tells him he was right about Tombs but breaks up with him over his self righteousness (What? RED FLAG #27). She claims to be going to Los Angeles.

Anne Hathaway was linked to the role of Black Cat/Vultress

Anne Hathaway was linked to the role of Black Cat/Vultress

A sullen Spidey is on patrol when he sees a female cat burglar with white hair breaking into a “diamond storage house.” Spidey tries to stop her, but she gets away after Peter gets all moony-eyed over her beauty. A chase ensues and the pair comes across an arms deal by the docks. The couple breaks this up and gets so hot and bothered they go back to Peter’s apartment to have sex, complete with a morning after joint shower with female nudity that is stressed in the treatment.  Peter then asks the cat burglar for help taking down the Vulture.

Ah, where to begin with the red flags. This, as any comic book fan will tell you, introduces the Black Cat into the film franchise. This also makes the number of villains in the film to 3, which is never a good thing for a superhero film (RED FLAG #28). And for a franchise that hasn’t had anything more sexual than an upside down kiss or anything more provocative that a wet T-shirt, we get a sex scene (RED FLAG #29) and a gratuitous nude scene (RED FLAG #30) one right after the other. Hook-ups like this seldom appear in real life without alcohol involved (RED FLAG #31) and for a man who wears a mask to hide his identity, Peter seems a bit too quick to let a woman he met while stopping her from breaking and entering into his circle of trust (RED FLAG #32).

The bad guys, meanwhile, decide to go after Spider-Man by targeting Peter because they ‘can sense it’ (Really, that’s what the treatment said. RED FLAG #33). “It” is a connection to Spider-Man which has already been established in the other films (RED FLAG #34). Of course, to get to Peter, they go through Aunt May, who they take captive. Because that is what bad guys do. Don’t go after the nebbish science geek photog who himself doesn’t appear to be much of a threat, take out his aunt instead (RED FLAG #35).

ultimate-spider-man-animated-electroSoon, the city is plunged into darkness. Spidey and the Black Cat go to the “Main Power Facility” and find a twenty-foot tall Electro (RED FLAG #36) fighting police officers.  Spidey needs him lured between two “energy pillars” so Black Cat lures him there by revealing some cleavage (RED FLAG #37), enticing giant Electro to follow. He does and when he is between the pillars , Spidey flips a switch and sends even more power into giant Electro, overloading him and causing him to explode “like a miniature nuclear bomb,” causing mass destruction along the east side of Manhattan.

Yes, not only did Peter willingly and deliberately kill the bad guy (RED FLAG #38), something he hasn’t done so far in the franchise (RED FLAG #39), but he does so in a way that, at the very least, the cops on the scene (RED FLAG #40) but most likely hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have the unfortunate luck to live within range of Electro’s blast radius, die as well (RED FLAG #41). I mean, even miniature nuclear bombs are massively destructive.

Peter shows some remorse, but not much before Black Cat shoots him with a tranquilizer dart she produces out of thin air (RED FLAG #42).

3024718-vulture-marvel_knights_spider-man#4-vs_black_catA chained Spidey wakes up in a warehouse to find the Black Cat and Vulture working together (RED FLAG #43). See, she had to do it, because the Vulture kidnapped her sister, in one of the most convoluted yet not at all telegraphed traps in film history! (RED FLAG #44). And there the sister is, tied to the same pile of explosives that Aunt May is! (RED FLAG #45). And the Vulture is holding the detonator! (RED FLAG #46) Spider-Man frees himself, webs the detonator away from the Vulture and Black Cat attacks the Vulture. The Black Cat does the lion’s share of taking down the bad guy (RED FLAG #47) while Spidey frees the hostages. Spidey does web up Vulture for the cops.

Black Cat and Spidey make up, and Peter leaves the task of protecting the city to her, a burglar who has shown little to no interest in helping the city at all to this point and whose one defining trait is that she can’t be trusted (RED FLAG #48).

After a heart to heart with Aunt May where she forgives him, he bumps into MJ (What? All fights to LA delayed? RED FLAG #49). She has changed her mind and wants to be with Peter, who refuses, because that is what their relationship has come to by this point (RED FLAG #50).

The film ends with Spidey on top of the Brooklyn Bridge, feeling a “sense of regret” for being Spidey all these years (and apparently, all the lives he saved as well. RED FLAG #51). He tosses the mask off the bridge, deciding to give up being Spidey once and for all, you know like he did for a half hour in Spider-Man 2 (RED FLAG #52).

Granted, all treatments are rough with holes to be filled in at a later date. But this one is awful. If Raimi did write this treatment,  the only reason for it being so awful that I am willing to accept is that it was a poison pill for the producers in order to entice them into accepting  another version of the script. “They want Black Cat? Oh, I’ll give them Black Cat…in the worst way possible!”

John-Malkovich-The-Vulture-Spider-Man.JPGIf that’s the case, it backfired. John Malkovich was signed to play the Vulture and New York magazine’s Vulture website listed a plot that sounded an awful lot like this treatment.

Or it could be fan fiction constructed by what was known about the film and scenes from the older films and made up the treatment from whole cloth. I am leaning towards this one, because I want to believe an even deliberately awful Raimi treatment would be better than this.

Regardless, neither script got made. The above article lists everything from Raimi wanting Avatar like special effects in the film to toy licensor Hasbro raising concerns that the 60-year old Vulture wouldn’t sell many toys in their toy line as a reason for Raimi’s exit. However, the official party line is that Raimi wanted more time to create a workable script than what he was given and Sony, wanting to keep the sequels previously announced release date intact, refused to give more so Raimi left.

This of course caused Sony to start from scratch on a reboot (a process which ironically necessitated Sony moving the release date back anyway). We’ll talk about that next time.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Spidey’s Rise And Fall

Posted on 22 November 2013 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. Today, we look at the highs, the lows and the grisly end of the first Spider-Man trilogy.

Spider-Man_2_PosterWith Spider-Man a resounding success, Sony’s decision to start work on the sequel before that first film came out turned into a prudent decision. Sam Raimi was back at the helm, with script by Smallville’s Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who were later joined by David Koepp. This script would have brought Spidey into conflict with Doctor Octopus AND the Lizard AND Black Cat. See, the villain cramming started almost immediately.

Novelist Michael Chabon was tapped to rewrite the script. He pared the villains down to just Doc Ock but made him more a contemporary of Peter and had him enter a love triangle for the affections of Mary Jane. Harry’s quest for vengeance would begin in earnest, having put out a $10 million bounty on Spidey.

Raimi worked with screenwriter Alvin Sargent to cull bits and pieces from various screenplays and molded them into the formula that was used in the first film. Doc Ock was the main villain, and once again, the bad guy was a sympathetic figure who was a mentor/father figure to Peter, albeit with an air of tragedy added to the mix. Doctor Otto Octavius goes mad after an experiment to create cold fusion goes haywire, killing his wife and fusing his prosthetic arms to him.

doc ockThe formula extended to the casting as well, as talented British actor Alfred Molina was cast as Otto Octavius over bigger names that were rumored to be up for the role such as Robert DeNiro or Ed Harris. Once again, the ploy worked out because we were allowed to focus on Molina’s great acting without any baggage another actor would have brought to the role.

However, we came close to having a new Peter Parker. Tobey Maguire made some noise about not returning to the role due to back problems, which was married to some complaints he had about his salary for the first film in comparison to the money the film made. Sony/Columbia went so far as to offer the role to Jake Gyllenhaal as a replacement before calmer heads and healthy backs prevailed and Maguire rejoined the cast.

The film also took notes from the comic books as Peter has problems with his powers (as he often did in the comics) which cause him to give up being Spidey for a while (as he did in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #50, which is referenced in a shot of Peter putting his Spidey costume in the trash).

Raimi seems to come into his own here. The surgery scene is vintage Raimi slapstick horror, and the emotional beats play better here that in the original. Bruce Campbell returns, this time as a snooty Broadway theater usher who refuses Peter late entry into Mary Jane’s play.

Spiderman-2This all resulted in a better film than the first one, in quality if not in grosses. It broke the record for one day grosses set by the first film with $40.4 million, but its domestic take of $373.5 million and $783.7 million worldwide lagged behind its predecessor.

But that haul was still worthy of garnering a sequel, and garner a sequel it did. And it was now that the wheels came off the franchise.

Spider-Man_3,_International_PosterOnce again, development of the film began before the prior film had even hit theaters, and almost immediately the production got off on the wrong foot. Raimi (along with a returning Sargent) was interested in bringing two villains, the Sandman and the Vulture, into the film to fight Spidey. As any experienced comic book film viewer can tell you, once you add more than one villain to the mix, you’re asking for trouble.

Worse than that, Raimi intended the Sandman to be a petty thief named Flint Marko, a man who steals to help his sick daughter, that got himself trapped in a particle accelerator and had his body fused with sand. Since this didn’t have the emotional pull it needed, Raimi decided to do a retcon and have Marko be the man who really killed Uncle Ben, albeit quasi-accidentally. This plot point is what irritated me the most about this installment. It was tacked on and it completely felt like it was. It was a cheap way to ramp up the emotional through lines of the film.

spiderman3-5Then Avi Arad got involved and convinced Raimi to change the Vulture to the more modern and more popular comic book villain Venom. Venom’s origin in the comic books is way too convoluted (it was an alien symbiote that Spider-Man picked up on an alien planet that he used as a costume until he found out it was sucking the life force out of him and he had to get rid of it. The symbiote then bonded with Eddie Brock, a man with an intense hatred of Spider-Man) so they simplified it for the film, slightly (it was an alien symbiote that came to Earth attached to a meteor that landed in Central Park, near where Peter was having a romantic rendezvous with Mary Jane. The symbiote managed to attach itself to Peter’s moped and followed him home, where it eventually became Spider-Man’s costume and began to negatively change his personality. Peter got rid of it and it attached itself to rival photographer Eddie Brock). Nonetheless, the character was a turn away from the “science gone wrong” villains the franchise had to that point.

spider-man-3-1You can almost see Raimi’s dislike of being forced to take Venom on in the casting for the villains roles. For Sandman, he cast Thomas Hayden Church, who was fresh off his Oscar nomination for Sideways, who brough weight and pathos to the role. For Venom, he cast Topher Grace, an actor with plenty of Teen Choice Award nominations to his credit, who seemed overwhelmed by the role, relying on smarmy and snark to get him by.

The producers also wanted to introduce Gwen Stacy (played by a redhead turned blonde Bryce Taylor Howard) into the mix to create a love triangle with MJ (still played by the blonde turned redhead Kirsten Dunst) for Peter’s affections. Harry also formed the corner of another love triangle for MJ’s affections, meaning the film had two competing love triangles, neither of which was as well formed or as well developed as one would have liked.

harryosbornSpeaking of Harry, it was in this film that they decided to bring his long simmering quest for vengeance to the forefront, creating yet another villain for Spidey to fight as Harry donned updated versions of his father’s Goblin gear.  Harry’s character arc goes from villain to supporting character (after he gets amnesia (?)) to villain to hero, without ever doing the due diligence the changes deserve.

Bruce Campbell makes his final cameo, this time as a maître d’ who helps Peter try to propose to Mary Jane.

All of this adds up to a jam packed, convoluted film that, in all honesty, isn’t quite as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Sure, compared to the two films that came before it, it was Plan 9 from Outer Space-bad. But compared to Catwoman or Ghost Rider? Miles above those two.

Even though many critics considered the film to be the worst of the lot, moviegoers didn’t think so. They made the film the highest grossing one of the trilogy, earning $890,871,626 worldwide. So, yet another sequel was in the making. Raimi, Maguire and Dunst all agreed to return for the fourth installment.

But it was not to be. We’ll talk about that next time, along with the reboot that took its place.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Up, Up And Away, Web!

Posted on 08 November 2013 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. Today, we look at one of the best superhero franchises, the first Spider-Man trilogy.

MV5BMzk3MTE5MDU5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjY3NTY3._V1._SX424_SY627_The years of stops and starts were behind it, and all the legal wrangling was a thing of the past. It was now finally time for Sony to bring Spider-Man to the big screen. The only question was who would be the director at the helm.

Sony was not messing around. When it began its search in 1999, its list of directors included Roland Emmerich ( three years removed from Independence Day and following up the critically lambasted yet still successful Godzilla), Tim Burton (the man who brought Batman to the big screen and was coming off Mars Attacks and a failed attempt to bring a Nic Cage Superman to the big screen), Chris Columbus (much in demand director of Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire who was coming off a hit with Stepmom), and David Fincher (who was still riding high from Se7en and was in the process of making Fight Club  at the time).

Each director would do well in capturing a quality of the character. Emmerich would do well with the bombast and spectacle of the character, Burton the quirky weirdness, Columbus the heart and sensitivity and Fincher the dark and morbid underpinnings (his proposal for the film? Start with the death of Gwen Stacy).  But the director they chose was able to capture all these characteristics of Spider-Man and more. That director would be Sam Raimi.

Spiderman - Sam Raimi directs Tobey Maguire and Kirsten DunstRaimi was at the time best known for the Evil Dead series of films, but was starting to move away from genre films with films such as A Simple Plan, For the Love of the Game, and the then in-production, The Gift. But Raimi was also a comic book collector with a focus on the Silver Age. So, Sony hired the perfect man for the job, someone who understood the character yet was a great director with a unique style and vision.

Once Raimi signed on, work began on updating the James Cameron scriptment to the big screen.   David Koepp replaced Cameron’s Electro and Sandman analogs with the more pertinent Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus. Raimi’s wish to play up the father/son triangle between Norman and Harry and Norman and Peter caused Doc Ock to become expendable. The character was removed in Scott Rosenberg’s rewrite.  Eventually, practically the only thing remaining in the final film from Cameron’s scriptment was the organic web-shooters.

tobey-maguire-1Raimi then set about casting the film. Even though the studio wanted a big name like Leonardo DiCaprio or Freddie Prinze Jr. (yes, for a brief period after I Know What You Did Last Summer and She’s All That, Prinze was a big name), Raimi insisted on Tobey Maguire for the role of Peter Parker. Casting Norman Osborn/Green Goblin was slightly more difficult, as first choices Nicolas Cage (thankfully) and John Malkovich (regrettably) passed on the role. Luckily, a copy of the script fell into Willem Dafoe’s hands and he began to lobby for the part. Eventually, he won Raimi over and was cast as the villain.

This was a boon for the franchise. Maguire was well enough known as an actor that he was recognizable, but was not so famous that he would overshadow the character. He also was a great character actor, playing Peter’s angst-filled and somewhat sad sack persona without ever becoming annoying. And Dafoe was a great fit for Osborn, creating the right note as a good man going insane. In other hands, the transformation would not be believable. In Dafoe’s it was.

the_original_spider_man_poster_that_was_pulled_after_911Of course, the casting was solid top to bottom, with everyone doing well in their roles. Kristen Dunst’s Mary Jane might not have been the sexpot she was in the comics, but she was the girl next door the script called for. James Franco did well as Harry in what he was given. But the greatest acting job of the entire cast was J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. Simmons totally captured the bluster and the bombast of the character to a “T”. Also, watch closely as you will see future stars Joe Manganiello (True Blood) and Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) as Flash Thompson and Betty Brant.

But even this time around, the path to the big screen wasn’t without bumps, this time provided by real world events. While teasing the film in the summer of 2001, Sony wanted to show that the film was set in New York and used an iconic New York City landmark in its publicity—the World Trade Center.  The Twin Towers feature prominently in the first posters for the film (look at Spidey’s eyes in the poster to the right for their reflection) and in the first teaser trailer.

Unfortunately, the events of September 11, 2001 turned the advertising’s respectful nod to a famous part of the New York skyline into a haunting reminder of the lives lost when terrorists attacked those buildings. The poster and trailer were both recalled and a scene with random New Yorkers added to the final film to reflect the spirit of cooperation citizens showed in the days after the tragedy.

The film itself follows in the formula established by X-Men two years earlier. It made changes to the story so that it would make a better film, but stayed true to the spirit if the original work.   Spider-Man is still a decent human being, horribly haunted by one poor decision that left someone he loved dead. The main differences are that he was bitten by a genetically altered spider and not a radioactive one. And his main nemesis dressed up as a flea market version of Iron Man instead of, well, a goblin.

uncleben2But overall, the film worked because it struck this balance. Uncle Ben still dies, but this time immediately after Peter negligently lets the robber escape. This allows for a powerful scene between Cliff Robertson (as Ben) and Tobey Maguire, as Peter arrives in time to spend a last few minutes with his uncle.

A similar, character-defining death scene occurred the same year in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones and the difference in quality is embarrassing. Anakin’s mother’s death is supposed to be one of first things that push him to the dark side. Unfortunately, compared to Uncle Ben’s death, it lacks emotional potency and seems hollow.

Raimi also employed some of his cinematic trademarks in the film. The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Raimi uses in most of his films became the Parker’s family car. And longtime collaborator Bruce Campbell has a cameo as a wrestling announcer who gives Spider-Man his name.

The film set records when released, including becoming the first film to earn $100 million dollars in its opening weekend. The $39,406,872 it made on its first day set a record for the highest opening day total. The film grossed $403,706,375 domestically and $821,708,551 worldwide, making the long road to the screen worth it. Obviously, it also meant that a sequel was in the making. We’ll talk about that next time out as we wrap up the Raimi era of Spider-Man.

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EVIL DEAD Remake Writer And Director No Longer Working On Sequel

Posted on 30 October 2013 by Rich Drees

Olds-Evil-Dead-Remake

Director Fede Alvarez and and his writing partner Rodo Sayagues had a monumental task in front of them when they signed on to remake Sam Raimi’s classic horror film Evil Dead. With a vocal fan base and a tagline that promised the original was the “ultimate experience in grueling horror,” they had a lot to live up to and for the most part they succeeded. Unfortunately, despite the film doing well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel, it looks as if these two won’t be the ones telling that next story.

Speaking with Gorosito TV (via DesdeHollywood and Bleeding Cool), Sayagues has confirmed that he and Alvarez are no longer working on the sequel. They still have plenty of other projects in the work, it is just the further struggles of Mia (Jane Levy) against the deadites isn’t going to be one of them.

I have to say that I am a disappointed by this news. Despite my initial misgivings, I found myself really liking the Evil Dead remake, and when I talked to Alvarez about the film at the time of its release, he seemed really stoked about doing more.

This does raise the question as to whether an Evil Dead remake sequel is still an active concern or has it been sidelined by Raimi’s reported return to the franchise for Army Of Darkness 2? We’ll see.

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Sam Raimi Confirmed To Direct ARMY OF DARKNESS 2

Posted on 28 October 2013 by Rich Drees

SamRaimi1

With Evil Dead 4/Army Of Darkness 2 apparently well on its way in development, it seems almost a silly question to wonder of the franchise’s creator Sam Raimi would be returning to direct the film. But still, someone asked Fede Alvarez, the director of this year’s remake of the first film in the franchise, if he would be taking the job and he tweeted this reply -

If anyone would be in the know, it would probably be Alvarez. In addition to surprising nearly everyone with his remake of Raimi’s original Evil Dead, which Raimi produced, he is currently working with the director on developing the sequel.

And speaking of the sequel to the remake, what fans really want to know is if the two franchises will eventually collide and team original hero Ash (Bruce Campbell) with the remake’s hero Mia (Jane Levy)? Back when his Evil Dead was opening, I spoke with Alvarez who did hint at that possibility by stating that the action of his film happens at the same cabin in the woods that saw the events of the first film 30 years earlier. Sounds like that could lead to something pretty groovy.

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