May 19, 2012

With the Success of The Avengers, Is a Justice League of America Movie Next?


Do we really need to look past the success of The Avengers, which is well on its way to becoming the highest grossing film of all time, for a reason to get a Justice League of America movie into the production pipeline? Give Marvel Studios, parent company Disney, and everyone else involved credit -- they played it perfectly. Beginning with the first Hulk movie, they introduced the characters, gave us the backstories, teased audiences, and most importantly, got us all emotionally invested in the individual heroes and franchises (The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America.) 




Part of the reason The Avengers is doing so well is because it was the result of a slow and well planned and executed build -- one character at a time; one movie at a time. And even as they were making gobs of money with the individual films, everything was being set up for a big team-up. We knew years ahead of time that a mega-movie featuring ALL of these characters was growing ever closer.



So can someone tell me why Hollywood isn't more aggressive in their partnering with DC Comics to achieve the same thing? Dating back to 1960, the Justice League of America is older and has FAR more backstory than The Avengers ever did. In large part, this is because the JLA has a deeper roster of characters with rich histories that predate (by decades) all of the Avengers -- with the exception of Captain America. And few would argue that the JLA counts among its members, two of the three single most recognizable comic book heroes in history -- Superman and Batman (the third would be Spiderman.) 



So why no JLA movie? 


Maybe because apart from the Superman movies and the two separate Batman franchises, the top DC characters have never really been given a chance on the big screen. Instead, we've inexplicably seen lesser characters like Catwoman, Jonah Hex, and Swamp Thing. Sure, we got Green Lantern last year -- but why no Flash movie? Why no Aquaman movie? How about Green Arrow and Black Canary? (They're at least as movie-worthy as their Marvel equivalents, Hawkeye and Black Widow.) And why no Wonder Woman? All are great characters, fully capable of carrying one (or more) films on their own. If Hollywood would do these movies right, and then put these characters together with Superman and Batman in a Justice League of America movie, you'd have a film property that could rival, perhaps even surpass The Avengers



Yet a quick search of the web for DC Comic movies gives us very little to hang our hopes on. Green Lantern 2 appears to be on track, but Aquaman can't seem to make it off the small screen. The Aquaman TV series that spun-off of Smallville a few years ago never got picked up by a network and was released on iTunes. A movie version (reportedly attached to Leonardo DiCaprio's production company) remains little more than a rumor -- one slated for 2015 at the earliest. 



Screenwriter David S. Goyer, to his credit, has completed scripts for both The Flash and Green Arrow and has fought to get them into production. Both are (or at least were) close to being official, but The Flash (if and when it is ever confirmed) now seems more likely to come from Green Lantern writer Greg Berlanti. And a Wonder Woman movie, despite tons of rumors about Megan Fox starring in the title role, also seems a long ways off. (Even the updated TV series got shelved.) Serious web searching finds the film in the always-vague "in development" stage. 



Maybe the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill and set for release next June, will do well and serve as the first step towards a JLA movie. All signs point to Man of Steel being a can't miss hit. Let's face it, if you can't get a hit superhero movie by teaming director Zack Snyder (Watchmen) with screenwriter Goyer and producer Christopher Nolan (the duo behind Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises) then there's just no hope. 


Odds are, with such a stellar creative team, and an all-star cast that includes Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon, Man of Steel WILL do well and hopefully jump start the aforementioned Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman productions. From there, it would make sense for Martian Manhunter to make an appearance in Green Lantern 2 and/or a Man of Steel sequel. Then, with the core members of the JLA having all been introduced, best case scenario, we could finally get a JLA movie sometime around 2017... 


One can only hope...



May 8, 2012

Proof That Even Really Bad Comedies Usually Have At Least One Good Laugh: Skin Deep Edition


Dueling condoms scene.


John Ritter, one of the best physical comedians and television actors we've seen, is best known for his role as Jack Tripper on Three's Company. Though he never really made it big in movies, if you're a fan, you should catch Real Men and this film, Skin Deep. Ritter plays a boozy womanizer who in this scene is about to bed yet another conquest while wearing a glow-in-the-dark condom. When the girl's boyfriend pays a surprise visit and then dons his own glow-in-the-dark condom, hilarious chaos ensues. Director Blake Edwards shot this scene with just the right mix of raunchiness and reserve.




Related Posts:
Proof That Even Really Bad Comedies Usually Have At Least One Good Laugh: Dude, Where's My Car Edition
Proof That Even Really Bad Comedies Usually Have At Least One Good Laugh: Coup De Ville Edition

May 6, 2012

10 OTHER Summer Movies You May Want to See


So maybe you're wondering where've I been the past 3 months. Sorry, but I've been doing rewrites on one of my screenplays. There's some encouraging things happening and I've made new connections that could perhaps lead to getting something sold and maybe even into production. I'm also about halfway through a new screenplay and that will be taking up most of my time -- probably until mid-summer. Still, I'll try to find time to blog and I want to start by talking about this year's crop of summer movies, which I think is unequivocally the best slate of summer films in more than a decade.


No exaggeration, Hollywood has outdone itself. I look at this lineup of summer releases and I see over a dozen films that I would put on my "Definitely Must See" list. I'm especially stoked for Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, The Avengers, Ted, Rock of Ages, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.


But for this blog entry, I'm not even gonna waste your time going over the list of hugely anticipated and hyped movies that you can read about on a thousand other websites. What I'm going to focus on here are some of the "under the radar" pics that won't have as much hype, expectation, or marketing push behind them as The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises or G.I. Joe: Retaliation, for example.


So here it is, a list I'm calling:


10 OTHER Summer Movies You May Want to See


May 4

Just dropped the grandkids off to see The Avengers? Don't worry old-timer, you can stick around and catch...

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Directed by John Madden (the guy who did Shakespeare in Love, not that fat football announcer) it's an English dramedy about a group of senior citizens who retire, move to India and find it's not all they thought it would be.

See it...

For its all-star cast of British film legends – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Peter O'Toole (Yes, he's still alive!)

May 18

Go ahead and see Battleship (the movie based on a 45-year-old board game) but also consider...

What to Expect When You're Expecting (the movie based on a 28-year-old pregnancy guide.)



Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, and Jennifer Lopez (Average age: 40... Just sayin') play expectant mothers in a film that traces several interconnected couples as they prepare to welcome their new babies.

See it...

For its ensemble cast that also includes Chris Rock, Anna Kendrick, Dennis Quaid, and Glee's Matthew Morrison.

May 25

Why force yourself to see Men in Black III -- you know the ship has sailed on that franchise. Instead, take a chance on...

Chernobyl Diaries

Fans of the Resident Evil and Walking Dead series might enjoy this horror flick about six tourists who visit the abandoned Soviet city of Pripyat (site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster) which turns out to be not entirely abandoned after all.

See it...

Because director Oren Peli's track record (Paranormal Activity, Insidious) shows he's definitely an expert in the thriller/horror genre.

June 8

Director Ridley Scott's Prometheus is a much-anticipated sci-fi thriller. But if you like your sci-fi mixed with comedy buy a ticket for...

Safety Not Guaranteed

Three magazine employees answer the following ad:

*WANTED* Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.




See it...

Because of the intriguingly amusing premise and because it killed at the Sundance Film Festival.

June 22

If you've already seen the film adaptation of the 80s jukebox musical Rock of Ages (scheduled for release a week earlier) then check out...

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

The Underworld movies, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Priest, Fright Night, Dark Shadows, Breaking Dawn... Still no end in site for all this vampire crap. But the historical backdrop this film is set against offers something different. Honest Abe fights to win the Civil War and reunite the nation... while battling hordes of vampires looking to take over the country.

See it...

Because it's one of those rare instances where there's no other information needed –- the film's title gives you the concept, the plot and the hook.

also June 22

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

With an asteroid about to destroy life on Earth, a man (Steve Carell) hits the road to find his high school sweetheart before the world ends.

See it...

Because it's the first (and likely the last) apocalyptic/road-trip/romantic-comedy you'll ever see.

July 6

What's that Mr. Pimply-faced teen selling movie tickets in the box office?... The Amazing Spider-Man is sold out?... Okay, then give me one for...

Savages

It's Scarface meets Blow with a smattering of Breaking Bad. A murderous Mexican drug cartel tries to move in on three friends running a small marijuana business.

See it...

If you're an Oliver Stone fan (he co-wrote and directed) and are in the mood for a WHOLE lot of killing.

July 13

The big release this week is the latest in the Ice Age franchise, Ice Age: Continental Drift. Or, you can ditch the kids and go see the adult comedy...

Ted

Mark Wahlberg stars as a grown man whose teddy bear came to life when he was a child...and hasn't left his side since.




See it...

To find out what Seth (Family Guy) MacFarlane can do when he's freed from the constraints of network television and allowed to sink his teeth into an R-rated feature.

July 27


Summer will be winding down and pickings will be slim, but you'll get at least one more chance at a decent comedy with...


Neighborhood Watch

Suburban dads who formed a neighborhood watch group as an excuse to get out of the house find themselves facing an alien invasion. 


See it... 

For the comedy pairing of Seth Rogen, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller.


August 17

Just when you thought The Expendables included every last action hero ever born, The Expendables 2 adds Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme to the cast. You can enjoy that one with the guys but take your wife to see...

Sparkle



American Idol winner Jordin Sparks hopes this remake of the black cinema classic will do for her what Dreamgirls did for Jennifer Hudson.

See it...

If you want to see the late Whitney Houston's final film performance.

February 14, 2012

Hollywood Increasingly Turning to Fairytales for Source Material

by Dave Crump

Since the early days of cinema, Hollywood has repeatedly looked to a variety of "proven" source material in favor of stories written directly for the screen. Many of the early silent-era classics, including Birth of a Nation (1915) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), were based on successful novels. But contemporary filmmakers now look beyond books for material on which to base what they hope will be their next blockbuster. Sources for highly-anticipated 2012 releases include Broadway plays (Rock of Ages), old TV shows (21 Jump Street), really old TV shows (Dark Shadows), comic books (The Amazing Spider Man, The Avengers), and even children's games (Battleship.)


Still, the source material of choice for Hollywood producers these days seems to be fairytales. It began in earnest in 2010 with the success of Tim Burton's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and continued last year with the release of Red Riding Hood and Beastly (a modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast.) Last fall saw the debut of two new TV series based on fairytales (Grimm and Once Upon a Time) and the trend seems to be peaking this year with not one, but TWO soon-to-be-released Snow White features -- the campy Mirror Mirror, and the darker, edgier Snow White and the Huntsman. (The spec screenplay for the latter sparked a bidding war in Hollywood and eventually sold for an astonishing $3 million, one of the highest figures ever paid for a movie script.) Both of the Snow White films are big budget productions starring Academy Award winners (Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron, respectively) and SWATH in particular is a summer release that's already being aggressively marketed, so the film's producers are clearly counting on it being a hit.


Also in the can and ready to go is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (which like SWATH, adds a vigilante spin to the traditional fairy tale) and Warner Bothers' Jack the Giant Killer. Other fairy tale-based movies in various stages of production include Enchanted 2, Pan, which turns the tables and casts Peter Pan as a kidnapper and Captain Hook as a police officer on his trail; Beauty and the Beast starring Guillermo del Toro and Harry Potter alum Emma Watson; and a new adaptation of Pinocchio with director Tim Burton and star Robert Downey Jr. attached. And just confirmed yesterday was Maleficent, a Sleeping Beauty retelling with Angelina Jolie in the title role as the evil queen.

You wonder what took Hollywood so long to begin what looks to be an exhaustive development of fairytale-based movies. Sure, they've been producing animated features for decades -- in Disney's case, for more than 70 years. But with a built in audience already familiar with the characters and stories, and with nearly all of literature's most well known fables and fairytales (including those by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson) now in the public domain (meaning producers are free to make movie versions without having to pay out licensing fees or royalties) it's surprising that Tinseltown hasn't begun pumping out live action versions in earnest until now.

February 8, 2012

Bruce Lee's 10 Most Memorable On-Screen Moments

With the new documentary I Am Bruce Lee about to hit theaters, it's a good time to recall Bruce Lee's 10 Most Memorable On-Screen Moments:

10. Bruce vs James Garner's office (Marlowe)

One of Bruce's celebrity students was screenwriter Sterling Silliphant. Silliphant, who won an Oscar for In the Heat of the Night, became good friends with Bruce and wrote a part for him in the 1969 film Marlowe. Bruce plays a heavy sent to warn private investigator Phillip Marlowe (James Garner) off a case. Bruce does this by demolishing the guy's office with a flurry of kicks and chops and a flying kick that takes out an overhead light. This scene was Bruce's first appearance in a feature-length Hollywood picture.




9. One on one against The Boy Wonder (Batman)

This one makes it purely on the novelty factor. The second season of the Batman TV series featured a crossover episode where the Green Hornet and Kato fought and later teamed up with the Batman and Robin (Burt Ward.) On the day this was filmed, Bruce (as a joke) pretended he was pissed off and intended to fight Ward for real. Ward repeatedly backed away from Bruce and tried to remind his opponent that it was “only a TV show”. Only after Bruce could no longer keep a straight face did he let the terrified Ward in on the gag.




8. Battling Chuck Norris in the Roman Colosseum (The Way of the Dragon aka The Return of the Dragon)

A classic fight against the world's second most famous martial artist, filmed in an incredibly unique and exotic location.




7. Slow motion hands (The Way of the Dragon aka The Return of the Dragon)

Okay, I know all they did was run the camera at a faster frame rate and slower shutterspeed, but 40 years later it still looks WAY cool.




6. Nunchaku showdown against Dan Inosanto (Game of Death)

In Game of Death, Bruce plays a retired martial arts champion forced to infiltrate a heavily guarded pagoda. Bruce fights his way up the five-story structure, facing off against a different martial arts master on each level. Incredibly, Bruce never had extensive training with “nunchucks” and had only learned to use them a few years earlier.




5. 1965 screen test

Hollywood “discovered” Bruce at the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships, where a producer saw him performing his famous “one-inch punch” and two-finger push-ups. This eventually led to this famous screen test where Bruce charmingly converses with his director and then explains and demonstrates kung fu. (By the way, couldn't they have found someone under the age of 80 for Bruce to demonstrate his moves on?)









4. Taking on entire an Bushido school (Fist of Fury aka The Chinese Connection)

In Fist of Fury (previously known in the states as The Chinese Connection) Bruce seeks revenge against a Japanese school that has insulted his people and poisoned his master. Here, Bruce takes out every last student and their sensei. The victory despite overwhelming odds, as well as the overhead camera angles and intermittent dance-like choreography in this scene is emulated in The Bride vs The Crazy 88 battle in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 1.






3. Tie: Owning Bob Wall (Enter the Dragon)...

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce warns his opponent, “Boards don't hit back.” Still I always feel bad for Bob Wall. He gets housed in several Bruce Lee movies but is particularly humiliated here. Look at him... face all cut up, kicked square in the nuts, can barely stand or defend himself, and then he gets stomped to death... Sheesh!



and Bruce vs Kareem (Game of Death)

Before he was “Roger Murdock” in Airplane, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of Bruce's students. When shooting wrapped on The Way of the Dragon, Bruce learned that Kareem was in Hong Kong and quickly arranged a meeting to film fight scenes for the yet to be scripted Game of Death. Bruce gave Kareem his first movie role playing the villainous Hakim, and from a physical standpoint alone, the fight between the 7' 2” Abdul-Jabbar and the 5' 7” Lee is astounding to watch. (You've gotta love that seated snap kick that leaves the giant footprint on Bruce's chest!)




The iconic yellow and black track suit Bruce wears has been replicated and paid homage to in everything from video games, to SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons, Sugar Ray's “When It's Over music video, and numerous films including Revenge of the Nerds, Kill Bill, and The Last Dragon.



















2. “Be water my friend.” (Longstreet)


Bruce's friend screenwriter Sterling Silliphant was executive producer of the 1971 crime series Longstreet, about a blind insurance investigator played by James Franciscus. Silliphant got Bruce a recurring role on the show as Li Tsung, an antiques dealer and martial arts expert. Much of the dialogue in the scenes between Bruce and Franciscus incorporates the principles of Jeet Kune Do, a new, less formal, more eclectic and flexible approach to martial arts that Bruce had recently developed. The “Be water” quote from one of the Longstreet episodes was later recalled in this interview Bruce did with Canadian reporter Pierre Berton and is now considered central to Bruce's ideaology and philosophical legacy.




1. Final fight against Han (Enter the Dragon)

The slashes across the face and chest, tasting his own blood, and of course all those cool mirrored reflections... It's Bruce's signature scene and still one of the best in any martial arts movie.




Read more about the new documentary I Am Bruce Lee

Related Links
Bruce Lee on IMDB
 
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