Midweek movie news

It’s quite late, or quite early, here on the west coast, so this edition will be swift.

* Captain America has got his girlfriend, and I’ve never heard of her! However, those of you who keep up with your TV may know Hayley Atwell, who’ll be playing Peggy Carter, Cap’s WWII era love interest. Among other shows, she was featured on the not-so well received AMC redo of “The Prisoner.”

* The folks over at Dreamworks have been busy beavers. First, they began the roll out of their “Kung Fu Panda” “virtual theme park” — basically a collection of Panda-based games for kids. Also, their gearing up for the May release “Shrek Forever After.” Today, CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) confab about, naturally, 3-D conversions on the first three “Shrek” productions and how they won’t suck like certain live-action 3-D conversions.

Still, there was a fly in the family-friendly ointment, and that was a photo spread that’s coming out in the glossy Vman Magazine that apparently caused some unhappiness at Dreamworks Animation. I could explain why, and you may definitely read the Paul Bond’s THR article about it. On the other hand, I don’t have to tell you how many words a picture is worth.

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Loose ends

Carlito's Way -- Al Pacino and Sean Penn

I haven’t been paying quite as much attention to the cinephile end of the movie blogosphere as I should lately, so we’ll start there.

*  It’s never too late to check out the Brian DePalma blogathon that wrapped up yesterday at Tony Dayoub’s Cinema Viewfinder.  I’m actually not a member of the DePalma cult that includes everyone from the late uber-critic Pauline Kael to Quentin Tarantino and probably 70% of the male cinephile population. I dig a few of his movies a great deal and the oddball horror/suspense musical satire, “Phantom of the Paradise” has a special place in my heart. On the other hand, I have serious problems with even some of his most well-regarded films including, or perhaps especially, especially “Blow-Out.” There’s a cheapness to his films and tendency to wallow in despair that I can’t support.

Of course, that’s just me and Dayoub wrapped up yesterday in grand style with a fairly personal piece about “Scarface” (vastly overrated by many; I’ll take the Howard Hawks “Scarface” over it any day) and “Carlito’s Way” (which I think is underrated and overall just a solidly good movie). Anyhow, stroll around the site and you’ll see pieces by some of the true superstars of cinephilia.

* Speaking of great film lovers, you won’t find detailed appreciations of DePalma coming from The Self-Styled Siren — nor of Michael Mann or Sam Peckinpah.  Her bailiwick is classic era films (ending roughly around 1965) with an eye towards melodrama and comedy. Though her identity remains a secret, her fans are legion and definitely includes your humble host.

Her latest post is an attention grabber: “Ten Melos the Siren Would Watch Instead of Mad Men” which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a fascinating list that males who want to expand their minds beyond the usual guy movie obsessions should definitely contemplate. And, yes, there’s a vigorous debate over “Mad Men” in comments, as well as an unsolicited cocktail recipe from me. If you’ve been looking for the inevitable backlash over the acclaimed series, which I personally love as much as anyone, there’ll be no more enjoyable place to find it.

Some news after the flip….

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Wrapping Comic-Con, if that’s even possible

Okay, so the big show has been over for more than 24 hours and it’s time to come to some grand conclusions. The thing is the only grand conclusion I can offer you is one that isn’t news, and really hasn’t been for many years now: Comic-Con is less and less about comics as a medium — a medium that is too frequently confused with a genre — and more and more about a kind of obsession in the media business with appealing to a young males with tales of butt-kicking monoliths and moderately dressed babes who bend over a lot, and now to young females with tales of forbidden love with troubled vampires who are more a lot more James Dean than Bela Lugosi or Max Shreck — not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, in theory. (I’ve never seen/read “Twilight,” hence my blissful tolerance on that score.)

Of course, there are plenty of bright spots and I’m fond of reminding the world of “Sturgeon’s Law,” the dictum uttered by science fiction great Theodore Sturgeon that “90 percent of everything is crap.” In other words, don’t expect greatness most of the time from any genre, whether it’s superhero funnybooks or Elizabethan plays (though the ones that survive a few centuries tend to be dandy).

And, as someone who bemoans the lack of emphasis that the still nascent art form of comics gets at its own convention, I need to get serious myself and read a few more of them this year. (If you’re curious about comics as a medium and how they relate to other media, including film which grew up alongside it, one of the best books about media ever created is a comic book, “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud.) For this kid who grew up dreaming of the day his comic book favorites would finally become major motion pictures, the phrase “be careful what you wish for” is certainly valid.

Before we go, we do have a few lingering con and geek related news items I should probably mention…

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “The Penguins of Madagascar”

Although I have a wonderful daughter, I would not begin to claim that she’s quite ready to embark on a regular schedule of seeing movies in the theater. She’s getting there, having successfully sat through both “The Simpsons Movie” and “Kung Fu Panda,” but she really burned me when we had to get up 15 minutes into “Horton Hears a Who” (she was big on Horton, but not so much on the Whos), and, unfortunately for her, it’s the latter experience that I tend remember when it comes to considering taking her out for an afternoon at the picture show. As a result, I’m not really up on my “Madagascar” mythos…well, except to know that David Medsker disliked the second movie so much that he gave his screener DVD to to my daughter just to get it the hell out of his house. But what can I tell you? The kid and I watched it, and maybe it’s just because I hadn’t seen the first one and had nothing with which to compare it, but I kind of enjoyed it.

I’m guessing, therefore, that I will also probably enjoy the new Nickelodeon spin-off series, “The Penguins of Madagascar,” since it seems to maintain the same general kind of humor as the films.

Jeffrey Katzenberg was proud enough of the series to turn up and introduce it personally, though he quickly made it clear that his only interest was to praise the show and the franchise which spawned it, because when he was asked if the show was perhaps a sign that TV and the movie industry were becoming more closely intertwined, he merely blinked and began, “So the reason why I’m so excited about ‘The Penguins’ TV series…”

Katzenberg quickly laughed, but his eventual answer wasn’t terribly illuminating. “‘Madagascar 2’ was the Number 1 film released in the last quarter of 2008,” he said. “It’s done outstanding business here and around the rest of the world, and I think we’re just excited about being able to broaden the franchise and move these beloved characters, these core characters of the penguins, onto Nickelodeon. I don’t think it changes our distribution opportunity.”

Boring, Jeffrey, boring.

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