I’m still recuperating a bit from last weekend’s insanity at Comic-Con and a busy week looms ahead, but the recent film news is just a little too interesting to ignore/gloss over.
* Mike Fleming broke the news this afternoon that Daniel Craig has signed on the line which is dotted to play the male lead in the upcoming American film version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” In case you never set foot in your local Barnes and Noble outlet, that’s the first novel in so-called Millennium Trilogy of mystery thrillers by the late Swedish author/political activist Steig Larsson. The series is becoming a sort of adult/non-geek HarryPotter for the Trader Joe’s set and the first U.S. film of it has attracted the powerhouse twosome of writer Steve Zallian and director David Fincher.
Judging from having seen the solid, but not excessively over-awesome, Swedish film version of the novel (which I’m really going to have to try and read at some point), Craig is probably a much better choice than the earlier floated Brad Pitt for the part. 007 or not, it’s just easier to see Craig as a down on his luck journo. Also, as Fleming points out, this puts Craig in the unique position of having at least two and, if you count a potentially huge “Cowboys and Aliens,” possibly three franchises to keep busy and well-compensated. Craig is not only an extremely good actor, he’s apparently got some very good agents.
I’m getting a very, very late start tonight/this morning so let’s see how efficient and brief I can be. Also, we’ll see how many utterly huge stories I’ll miss.
* I suppose the big news today is that it really appears as if there’s already an Edward Norton replacement after his departure as the Hulk from “The Avengers” was egregiously mishandled by Marvel’s Kevin Feige. The choice appears to not be Joaquin Phoenix but the first-rate, not nearly famous enough Mark Ruffalo. He is the deceptively low-key actor I’ve been rooting for since catching him in “You Can Count On Me” back in 2000. (It was my favorite movie of that year and also made me a life-long fan of Laura Linney.) Ruffalo is currently in the year’s probable indie-smash, “The Kids Are Alright.” As sussed out from various reports by Kevin Jagernauth of the Playlist, it appears he’s still in some pretty serious negotiations that are not yet really anything like a done deal. He’s a shrewd choice for Marvel and this would be a good way to salvage a thoroughly unfortunate situation.
* Joaquin Phoenix might not be the Hulk, but the probable mockumentary (or not) about him made by his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, has been picked up by Magnolia. I’m not looking forward to the already infamous “Cleveland steamer” scene. Just FYI, much as I admire John Waters, “Pink Flamingos” is on my short “never see” list, but that infamous final scene is a lot worse, I suppose. I get ill just thinking about it.
* The fascinating outlandish career of arthouse poet turned stoner-action-comedy specialist David Gordon Green may take another fascinating turn if he really does remake Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” — which, I somehow managed to sit through some fifteen years or so back despite my squeamish/scaredy cat ways, because, among other reasons, it’s so freaking beautiful. Also, I’ve always had the hots for Jessica Harper.
* Nathaniel Rogers didn’t get a mention, though he certainly deserves it. The openly actresexual blogger did, however, get a very nice interview with his idol, Julianne Moore, who I kind of idolize myself. More congratulations are in order.
* I suspect that those old Steve Reeves Hercules movies will wind up being a lot more watchable than whatever Brett Ratner makes of the mythical strongman. I’m sure he can’t top the Disney animated film, even if it wasn’t the greatest of the studio’s nineties animation output. Cue the “do you like to watch gladiator movies” jokes.
* If you’re wondering why the post two posts below this one has no video, here’s why. Somebody let me know if there’s a new version up, since the whole thing is a bit of a legalish technicality.
* Alison Nastasi has an interesting response to a fairly thoughtful rant by Dustin Rowles on the controversy around the new cover art for the remake of another film on my probably never-see list, “I Spit On Your Grave.” The poster is obviously in horrible taste, but isn’t that kind of the point?
* Now that a fourth tape is out, I wonder if Mel Gibson will get the message and give up the drunk dialing.
* I’m confused. If the planned film with Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane is in any way actually closely modeled on John Cassavettes’ “Husbands,’” as director Mark Pellington seems to say, then I don’t think it should be called a “thriller.”
* I’ll get to some actual criminal matters below, but to me Kevin Feige of Marvel Productions is being criminally weird and unintelligent in how he’s handled the issue of the re-casting of the Hulk for “The Avengers” superhero-team flick being written and directed by Joss Whedon. Whether or not the issue that led to the parting of the ways was strictly the failure of financial negotiations or some kind of fight between Feige and Edward Norton, there was simply no earthly logical reason for Feige to allude to that in a statement given to Hitfix with some rather nasty coded language, to wit:
We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H., Chris E., Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.
Given the fact that writer-director Whedon has a famously strong creative vision and is not known for loving it when his stuff gets rewritten, and Norton’s status as a strong-willed actor who often rewrites his films (and is pretty good at it), it would be easy to imagine that there was some kind of creative tussle predating this. However, that only creative conflicts appear to be mishegas that happened on Norton’s Hulk movie. According to an understandably angry response from Norton’s agent, the meeting between him and Whedon was a success and, as far as I know, no one has contested that point.
Regardless, even if the meeting had gone very badly indeed and even if Norton had made unreasonable demands, you still don’t talk about that stuff in a public statement. You simply say that an agreement was not in the offing, but that Norton is a fine actor and film-maker and you’re very sorry you won’t be working together this time around.
After Marvel was bought out by Disney at the tail end of last year, many comic book fans were concerned about what kind of effect it would have on their favorite characters. Would Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck suddenly be popping up in the pages of “The Amazing Spider-Man”? Or worse yet, would more mature titles like “Deadpool” be watered down? The powers that be were adamant that it was going to be business as usual at the House of Ideas, and for the most part, they were right. But while most of Marvel’s entertainment empire has remained untouched by Disney’s kid-friendly ideals, their new animated series, “The Super Hero Squad Show,” feels a lot like a Disneyfied version of the Marvel Universe.
It’s the kind of cartoon you’d expect to see on Saturday mornings – from the Mighty Muggs-like character designs to the low-brow humor and moral messages built in to each story. This is a show where the heroes live in a town called Super Hero City (with a mayor voiced by Stan Lee, no less) and the villains reside next door in VillainVille, but while it may be embarrassing to watch Mole Man struggle with above-ground flatulence or Doctor Doom pop bubble gum, the show does a pretty good job of servicing older fans as well. Although the core cast only includes Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Wolverine and Falcon (with recurring appearances by Captain America, Ms. Marvel, and a stupid new character named Reptil), there are cameos from over two dozen other Marvel characters in the first seven episodes alone. And it’s not just the A-listers either, which goes to prove that while “The Super Hero Squad Show” may not be intended for adults, it has just enough fan appeal that most parents could easily enjoy it with their kids.
Let’s face it, this superhero movie thing is in danger of getting out of control. On the DC side we have Batman, Green Lantern, possibly the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and, assuming the studio can move faster than a speeding lawsuit, Superman.
Marvel, of course, is moving faster still with movies about Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, possibly Nick Fury, and who knows what else leading up to an “Avengers” film to be directed by geek fave Joss Whedon, we think. (In April, Whedon and Marvel were in “final negotiations.” Now one of Whedon’s brothers has apparently told MTV that he has “tentatively agreed” to do it…is that even different?)
So, what’s the big deal? A few movies have been extremely successful and Hollywood follows its historic tendency towards repeating a winning formula until such time as the audience completely revolts. Is this any different? No, actually, but also yes. You see, I haven’t read a Marvel comic in a very long time, but even now my closet fanboy heart goes faintly pitty-pat at the thought of an “Avengers” movie incorporating the same actors from the other films. Why? It’s called “continuity.” What’s that? I could just say, “It’s a fanboy thing, you wouldn’t understand.” But now, thanks to some random guy with a little musical ability and more wit, action figures, and time on his hands, I have an explanation. In song.
It’s a pretty slow day in movieland with the main stories being non-stories like another possible slow down in the ongoing backstage drama involving the purchase of NBC Universal, which I’ve been ignoring because, I’m not sure how it would really change anything about the movies you’re seeing except who’s collecting the shekels (I’m sure I’m wrong about that in some way, however), and a venue change from the Independent Spirit Awards from Santa Monica to downtown L.A. That’s almost ten whole miles inland (which is like one mile in most cities).
Also, Jon Favreau won’t be directing the Avengers movie when that finally comes to be made, and the Hulk won’t be appearing in Iron Man 2. I wonder what else isn’t happening today? I’m sure someone, somewhere is “in talks” for a remake of something that will probably be not as good as the original, unless I’m wrong and it’s an improvement.
And, not yet a flashy superhero Ryan Reynolds may star in an untitled comedy which will have him in drag. How does “Van Tootsie” or “Some Like it Wilder” sound?
Anyhow, the lull is cool with me as I’ve got stuff to do, including tonight’s weekend movie preview, so I’ll catch you on the flipside. Until then, enjoy a non-eventful movie moment on me.
The second volume of Marvel’s new “X-Men” animated series may contain a few more episodes than the last DVD, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that anyone who wants to invest in the series will end up spending nearly twice as much as they would on a normal season release. I mention this not as a disgruntled fanboy, but as someone who believes that the show deserves much better. Like me, you probably had your doubts at first, but “Wolverine and the X-Men” is quickly shaping up to be just as good as (if not better than) the popular 90s cartoon. “Deadly Enemies” doesn’t feature an overarching story like the previous volume, but instead offers up five standalone episodes that longtime fans will appreciate. We probably didn’t need another Wolverine vs. Hulk match-up so soon after the release of the DVD movie, but we do get a cool Wolverine/Gambit team-up episode (“Thieves’ Gambit”), a story dedicated exclusively to Nightcrawler (“X-Calibre”), and the debut of fan favorite, Psylocke. If there’s one thing writers Craig Kyle, Greg Johnson and Chris Yost know, it’s how to please the fans with mutant cameos galore. Now if only we could enjoy them on DVD without having to worry about going broke.
There were quite a few surprises at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, but none as enjoyable as Marvel’s world premiere of “Hulk Vs. Wolverine.” As one half of the studio’s Hulk double feature, the film isn’t very long, but it actually works better than the full-length movies that Marvel has been putting out . Part of that has to do with the fact that “Hulk Vs. Wolverine” is more focused than the other animated films (it’s essentially just a 37-minute brawl), and when you throw four of Wolverine’s most famous enemies (Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, Omega Red and Deadpool) into the mix, well, it’s bound to be awesome. In fact, it’s Wolverine’s fight against the Weapon X crew (and not The Hulk) that proves to be the most entertaining aspect of the film, and with any luck, we’ll get to see a rematch sometime in the near future. If nothing else, it only reaffirms why Deadpool deserves a movie of his own, because even alongside such heavy hitters as Wolverine and The Hulk, he steals the show every time.
Unfortunately, “Hulk Vs. Thor” fails to do the same for the God of Thunder. Maybe it’s because the movie crawls in comparison, or that Thor has never really interested me as a character, but where “Hulk Vs. Wolverine” is riveting from start to finish, “Hulk Vs. Thor” is a bit of a bore. The last thing we didn’t need was another Avengers movie (especially after last year’s “Teen Titans”-esque “The Next Avengers”), but that’s exactly what it feels like. Still, despite the disappointing B-side, “Hulk Vs.” is hands down the best direct-to-DVD feature Marvel has produced, and they’d be wise to stick with this double feature format moving forward. It may not be ideal for telling the kind of epic stories that some of these characters require, but it’s the closest they’re ever going to get to bringing a comic book to life.
For anyone that loved Marvel’s on-again-off-again “What If?” series, you’ll probably enjoy their latest direct-to-DVD film, “Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow.” It plays out in much the same way, and in this alternate reality, the Avengers have fallen victim to Ultron. Tony Stark, the supergroup’s only surviving member, has taken it upon himself to raise the children of his former colleagues – James (son of Captain American and Black Widow), Torunn (daughter of Thor), Azari (son of Black Panther), and Pym (son of Giant Man and Wasp) – but when Ultron returns 13 years later to finish the fight, the young teens must fill their parents’ shoes in order to save the world. Despite the fact that this sounds more like a Saturday morning cartoon than something comic book fans would be interested in, “Next Avengers” is actually one of studios best animated films to date. The idea that all these superheroes would leave behind children to take over for them is an interesting concept, and the addition of an elderly Tony Stark/Iron Man and Bruce Banner/Hulk (who’s living in seclusion in the Savage Land) helps to give the project a little validity. Here’s hoping Marvel’s animated division continues cranking out these cool one-shots, because it’s only a matter of time before a “Marvel Zombies” film becomes a reality.