Thursday, December 31, 2009

Patrick Stewart Knighted

Patrick Stewart, best known for playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men films, has received a knighthood in Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year Honours List, BBC News reports.

So, let’s recap: the 69-year-old actor has been a captain, a professor and now he’s a knight. He was even a king in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Is there any title he doesn’t have?

Your move, William Shatner.

Happy 2010, Wortmaniacs!

Here’s wishing each and every one of you a very happy and healthy new year. In lieu of one of those laborious “Best of 2009” lists in which I would arbitrarily rank my favorite stuff from this past year, I’ll simply share with you my favorite viral video of 2009: “Happy in Paraguay” by The Dayjob Orchestra (DJO). I could explain why this Star Trek: The Next Generation overdub is so brilliant, but I’ll let you discover that for yourselves.

If you’re craving apple juice, cheddar cheese or fish heads during your New Year’s Eve festivities, you can blame me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wild Blue Yonder

Let me get my hyperbolic fanboy raving out of the way: Avatar is a groundbreaking technological achievement. Heralded as a cinematic game-changer that would forever transform the way we look at movies, James Cameron’s highly anticipated 3D sci-fi epic had a lot to live up to. Predictable storyline aside—if you’ve seen the trailer, you know exactly what happens—Avatar is satisfying in ways most big-budget blockbusters simply aren’t. Yes, Cameron places a heavy emphasis on visual effects wizardry. But those visual effects tell the story; they don’t replace it.

The Rodent Problem

While I’d hoped to see Avatar on its release weekend, weather and holiday-related scheduling conflicts prevented me and my friends from getting to the theater until Sunday, December 27. The place? City Center 15: Cinema De Lux in White Plains, New York. The time? 8:15 P.M. Beverage of choice? Diet Coke. It was on. Or was it?

Even though the movie had been out for more than a week, this screening was sold out, and my friends and I had to sit fairly close to the front of the theater when we got to our seats a few minutes before show time. We sat through the trailers as the remaining seats were claimed by grateful latecomers. But something didn’t seem right. The family-friendly coming attractions didn’t seem at all tailored to the type of audience Avatar would attract. We sat through an advert for a terrible babysitting comedy starring Jackie Chan. Another for a movie in which Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson becomes the Tooth Fairy called, you guessed it, Tooth Fairy. Then came the Twentieth Century Fox logo, while three prepubescent rodents started singing “You Really Got Me.”
No.

We were watching Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. We were in the right theater, but whoever was running the projector screwed up big time. An angry mob of movie nerds wearing oversized 3D glasses leapt from their seats demanding blood, or, at the very least, that someone fix the problem. We didn’t pay $15 to get jerked around while anthropomorphic chipmunk shenanigans played out on screen. Fortunately, the problem was fixed in a timely manner. We all put on our 3D glasses and began our journey to Pandora.

And what a journey it was.

The Movie

Avatar takes place in the year 2154, when a corporation called RDA has set up camp on Pandora, a moon of a planet called Polyphemus. On Pandora is a mineral called unobtainium, which is highly sought after by the corporation and its slimy administrator, Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). Standing in the way of RDA’s ravishing of Pandora’s landscape are the Na’vi, the moon’s nine-foot-tall, blue-skinned inhabitants.
To interact with the natives in the hope of learning from them and ultimately earning their trust, the corporation has created human-Na’vi hybrids called avatars, which are remotely operated from a laboratory. Each of the avatars is genetically matched to a human driver, but when one of the drivers is killed, his twin brother Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is called in to take his place. Jake, a former marine, is wheelchair-bound, lacking his brother’s PhD and formal training. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), head of RDA’s avatar program, has her doubts about this newly enlisted jarhead. But because avatars require a genetic match, she has little choice but to accept Jake into the program to serve as a bodyguard on an exploratory mission into the lush jungles of Pandora.

Linked up to his nine-foot-tall blue body, Jake relishes the ability to once again use his legs while exploring Pandora, but he soon runs afoul of some of the native wildlife and is separated from his group. He is rescued by a female Na’vi named Neytiri (Zoë Saldaña) who, after initial trepidation, brings Jake back to her tribe, where she is instructed to teach him the ways of their people.
Grace views Jake’s acceptance into Neytiri’s tribe, the Omaticaya, as a fantastic learning opportunity. However, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), head of RDA’s mercenary security force, sees things differently. If Jake can use his newfound influence to feed him military intelligence on the Na’vi and convince them to leave their so-called Hometree—which sits atop a massive deposit of unobtainium—then he’ll make sure to pull the strings necessary to get him his legs back. If the Na’vi can’t be convinced to move, the site will be bulldozed regardless.

So, with Neytiri’s help, Jake begins immersing himself in Na’vi culture, keeping in mind the infiltrative goal of his mission. But as he ascends the social ladder of the Omaticaya—and begins falling for Neytiri—life with the Na’vi becomes far more attractive than his relatively constrictive life as a human. When the corporation grows impatient and begins its assault on Hometree, Jake must make a choice: is he human or Na’vi? You already know the answer.

I should say at this point that Avatar might be seen as a bit heavy handed in its left-leaning political commentary and military demonization, but those same criticisms could be leveled at the original Star Wars. In fact, the similarities between George Lucas’ space opera and Cameron’s burgeoning sci-fi franchise (you know there will be sequels) are numerous: both are simplistic modern myths showcasing revolutionary visual effects for their respective time periods, and both have been criticized for being shallow by those who’ve missed the point entirely.
Yes, from a story perspective, Avatar is nothing new, but the familiar narrative hardly detracts from the overall experience. This film is all about falling in love with Pandora: its strange creatures, its exotic bio-luminescent plant life and its dreamlike, otherworldly beauty. The 3D technology—because that is the only way to see this movie—makes Pandora tangible, and the stunning motion-capture effects courtesy of Weta Digital make the Na’vi just as compelling as any flesh-and-blood actor. You never feel like you’re watching special effects, even though you’re immersed in them for the majority of this film’s 162-minute running time. The best visual effects are the ones that draw attention to what they bring to life: not how expensive they look.

As far as performances go, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Worthington. He didn’t exactly blow my mind in Terminator Salvation earlier this year, and I can’t say I necessarily looked forward to him carrying yet another multi-million dollar blockbuster. But Worthington is quite good as Jake, both as a pained, paraplegic human and a cunning warrior in his avatar form. He has genuine chemistry with Saldaña, who remains absolutely stunning even underneath all of that digital makeup. Not that I have a thing for nine-foot-tall blue cat aliens or anything.

The Final Word

At this point, it’s unclear whether or not Avatar will go down as the movie milestone Cameron has purported it to be, but is it one of the best movies of 2009? Absolutely. This is escapist cinema at its finest.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 Christmas Weekend the Biggest in Box Office History

It’s no secret that people love going to the movies during the holidays, whether it’s to share an experience with loved ones or to escape from all of that togetherness for a few hours. But, Variety reports, the 2009 Christmas weekend was the biggest domestic box office weekend of all time.

Weekend ticket sales reached an estimated record-breaking $280 million, led by James Cameron’s Avatar, which earned $75 million in its second weekend of release. The number two film was Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, which opened to $65.4 million. In third place was Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel with $50.2 million.

In other Avatar news, the film has earned $212.3 million domestically with a worldwide total of $617.3 million in its first 10 days of release. Having seen the film, I can safely say it’s earned every cent.

Look for my full Avatar review later this week.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from The Wort Report

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas. In honor of all those Christmas miracles happening around the world this week, enjoy this festive pile of fail.

Yes, it’s from The Star Wars Holiday Special. I never said I wasn’t predictable.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Quentin Tarantino Has Begun Scripting an Inglourious Basterds Prequel

If you’ve read my glowing review of Inglourious Basterds, you know I’m a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino’s long-gestating World War II fantasy flick. I saw it twice during its theatrical run and I’ve watched it twice since it was released on DVD last week. In fact, it’s on in the background right now as I write this. Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like scalping Nazis, right?

Understandably I got pretty excited when I came across a recent New York magazine interview with the director, in which he revealed he’s completed 40 pages of an Inglourious Basterds prequel. But, Tarantino explained, it won’t be his next film. His forthcoming project—which he plans on writing in a five- to six-month period—will be “smaller, less epic” and in a “different genre entirely.” What that genre could be is anybody’s guess.

Head over to New York’s Vulture blog for the full interview.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bryan Singer to Direct X-Men: First Class

Last week, Bryan Singer announced he would be returning to the X-Men franchise with X-Men: First Class, a move met with nods of approval from the geek community. While not without its flaws, Singer’s original X-Men helped to once again legitimize comic-to-film adaptations when it hit theaters in 2000, after Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin utterly destroyed the genre three years earlier. Singer’s X2: X-Men United, released in 2003, remains one of the best superhero films ever released. Unfortunately, Singer later abandoned the franchise to lesser directors, leaving us with the lackluster X-Men: The Last Stand and the downright sloppy X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Singer said that his return to the franchise came about during a recent conversation with Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman. “We not only concluded a deal, but I’ve got a pretty concise treatment,” Singer said. “There’s a story that I really want to tell.”

While he would not reveal the specifics of that story, he said “it’s basically about the formation of the X-Men. How they began and the relationship between a young Xavier and a young Magneto.”

As fans probably know, a Magneto prequel was thought to be in the planning stages alongside another Wolverine film and a Deadpool spinoff. However, it seems like First Class will incorporate elements that would have appeared in the Magneto film.

“This story would probably utilize some of the Magneto story because it deals with a young Magneto, so it might supersede that because this would explore that relationship between a young energetic professor and a disenfranchised victim of the Holocaust,” explained Singer.

But with all of these prequels and spinoffs, is the X-Men franchise spreading itself a bit thin? Singer doesn’t think so.

“The X-Men universe is boundless,” he said. “These are great characters. And as young characters, they are quite different than the characters we have seen in the contemporary movies.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

James Cameron’s Avatar Earns $242.5 Million Worldwide Over Debut Weekend

The self-proclaimed “King of the World” might have another titanic (tee hee!) hit on his hands. Variety reports that Avatar—James Cameron’s ambitious 3D sci-fi epic—raked in $77 million domestically in its opening weekend. Overseas, the film earned $165.5 million, bringing its worldwide total to $242.5 million.

These numbers are impressive, but Avatar failed to wrest the best December opening title from I Am Legend, which earned $77.2 million domestically in 2007. It did, however, earn a record-breaking $9.5 million on IMAX screens. Worldwide, the film generated $13.6 million on IMAX screens, beating the $11.3 million opening weekend record set by Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen this summer.

Experts say Avatar would have performed even better had a blizzard not hit the East Coast over the weekend. I know it prevented me from getting to the theater when it hit New York Saturday night. So, while I pretty much figured out the plot months ago after watching the first theatrical trailer, I’ll need to avoid potential spoilers for a few more days.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fan Posts Hilarious 70-Minute Video Review of The Phantom Menace

It would be an understatement to say that Star Wars: The Phantom Menace—which hit theaters ten years ago—was a colossal letdown. Heck, when I went to a Star Wars panel at New York Comic Con earlier this year, the mere mention of that movie elicited boos from an auditorium full of diehard Star Wars geeks. It’s still a sore subject.

In keeping with those ill feelings, Red Letter Media has posted a 70-minute critique of the film that’s as bafflingly genius as it is laugh-out-loud funny. It also gets kind of creepy, but I won’t spoil that for you.

“Where do I possibly start?” the reviewer, “Mr. Plinkett,” asks. “Nothing in The Phantom Menace makes any sense at all. It comes off like a script written by an eight-year-old.”

What makes this seven-part video review so great isn’t that it bashes the Star Wars prequel (who hasn’t by now?), but that it humorously dissects the movie on a film school level. The problems extend far beyond Jar Jar Binks and some wooden acting.

Watch the first part of the video below, and head over to Red Letter Media’s YouTube page (RedLetterMedia) to watch the entire series.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Iron Man 2 Trailer Now Online! (Update With Video)

Oh my. Iron Man 2 is going to be a damn good sequel.

Judging by the movie’s new trailer—which Apple debuted yesterday—director Jon Favreau is bringing the awesome and bringing it hard. We’ve got Iron Man and War Machine in a massive shootout with armored bad guys, Robert Downey Jr. at his scene-stealing best, Mickey Rourke as the badass—and suitably creepy—new villain Whiplash and Scarlett Johansson in skintight leather.

I could go on and describe everything that’s awesome about the trailer, but it’s probably best that you just watch it and geek out on your own. (Embed via Marvel.com.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Lord of the Rings Hits Blu-ray in April

By Gandalf’s beard! Peter Jackson’s breathtaking Lord of the Rings trilogy is finally making its way to Blu-ray on April 6. But, Den of Geek reports, the six-disc set will only include the theatrical cuts of the films. If you want high-definition versions of the Extended Editions—the only way to watch these films, in my opinion—then you might need to wait until the first installment of The Hobbit hits theaters in 2011. A smart move by Warner Bros., but a cash grab nonetheless.

Since I’ll likely have a Blu-ray player of some sort by April, I’m tempted. However, I already own both versions of these movies on DVD, and I’m not about to make the same mistake on a new format. I’ll pass for now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Confirmed for 2010

Taking the stage at the Spike Video Game Awards, Mace Windu himself, Samuel L. Jackson, announced that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II will be released in 2010. The reveal was accompanied by a brief teaser trailer showing the first game’s protagonist, Galen “Starkiller” Marek, fighting a gigantic monster in some sort of gladiator event.

Now, as anyone who played the first game knows, Galen died during the canonical “light side” ending of the first game, sacrificing himself to save the fledgling Rebel Alliance from the Emperor. Were reports of his death greatly exaggerated?

I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Force Unleashed when it hit consoles in 2008, mostly because of its occasionally sloppy combat mechanics. That said, the presentation and story were great, and it was pretty fun to play despite its flaws. If LucasArts takes the time to fine-tune the gameplay a bit this time around, this could be a must-have title for Star Wars fans.

Watch the trailer at StarWars.com.

Batman: Arkham Asylum 2 Trailer Debuts at VGAs

At this year’s Spike Video Game Awards, Batman: Arkham Asylum developer Rocksteady Studios took home a trophy for Studio of the Year. But what lies ahead for the North London-based game makers? How does a sequel sound?

During the December 12 broadcast, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment gave fans a taste of the tentatively titled Batman: Arkham Asylum 2, which promises to take the action to the streets of Gotham (or, at the very least, a brand-new location). While the game will surely feature some as-yet-unseen members of Batman’s infamous rogue’s gallery, the Joker’s back, voiced once again by Mark Hamill. After getting his pasty ass handed to him last time around, the Clown Prince of Crime isn’t looking so good these days despite whatever maniacal intentions he might have. But he’s still got Harley Quinn by his side to look after him, for what it’s worth.

The first Arkham Asylum came out just a few months ago, and one wonders if this sequel announcement is a bit premature. Nevertheless, we’re getting a sequel to the best superhero game of all time a lot sooner than we thought.

You can watch the trailer on the game’s website, arkhamhasmoved.com.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Natalie Portman to Star in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I’m sure you all know about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Jane Austen mash-up that, as the title suggests, adds a healthy dose of the undead to the literary classic and transforms its heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, into a zombie-killing martial artist.

Since the book hit shelves last Spring, there have been rumblings of a film adaptation. This week, Variety reports that Natalie Portman—who already established her geek credibility in the Star Wars prequels and V for Vendetta—has signed on to star in and produce the Victorian-era monster mash.

“Natalie and I are longtime passionate fans of Jane Austen’s books and this is a fresh, fun and thought-proving way to approach her work,” says Portman’s producing partner Annette Savitch. “The idea of zombies running rampant in 19th Century England may sound odd, but it lends a modern sense of urgency to a well known love story.”

New Iron Man 2 Poster Features Mickey Rourke as Whiplash

And the Iron Man 2 images keep coming! Apple has debuted a pretty awesome poster featuring Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, complete with badass energy whips and, judging by the newspaper clips in the background, an unhealthy obsession with Tony Stark. I was worried about how this character would work onscreen, but it seems as though director Jon Favreau and his crew have the right idea. Rourke is going to own this role.

Iron Man 2 hits theaters May 7, but, according to Film School Rejects, a trailer for the anticipated will be attached to Sherlock Holmes, which also stars Robert Downey Jr. That film opens Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Comes Early for DC Comics Fans

DC Comics’ official blog, The Source, has been posting some major announcements this week about the company’s plans for 2010. Next year, readers can look forward to new beginnings for Batman and Superman, a massive war between Earth and New Krypton and the return of Bruce Wayne.

Oh, and we get to see Batman dressed up as a pirate. Confused? Read on.

Superman: Earth One (J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis) and Batman: Earth One (Geoff Johns, Gary Frank) are graphic novel retellings of the heroes’ earliest days in an entirely new, shared continuity. So, in essence, DC is rebooting these characters for new readers without disrupting established canon.

Batman: Earth One allows Gary and I to break the restraints of any continuity and focus on two things: character and story,” said Johns.

Straczynski will take a similar approach.

“What I’m trying to do is to dig in to the character and look at him through modern eyes. If you were to create the Superman story today, for the first time, but keep intact all that works, what would it look like?”

War of the Supermen, which promises to shake things up considerably for the Man of Steel, kicks off May 1, 2010—Free Comic Book Day.

War of the Supermen is the culmination of literally years of stories in the Super-books, all building to a destructive conflict which can have no victors,” said DC’s Superman Group editor Matt Idels. “This Free Comic Book Day #0 issue is going to show the readers that no cows are sacred, and that they don’t want to miss this event.”

The Caped Crusader and his swashbuckling duds tie into Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, which kicks off in April. Presumed dead after Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne is lost in time, and is fighting his way back to present-day Gotham City. It sounds cheesy—and it pretty much is—but keep in mind that Grant Morrison, who has done tremendous work on Batman and Robin, is writing this six-issue mini-series. The Dark Knight’s in good hands.

Click here if you want to see Bruce Wayne as a caveman, which actually makes some sense considering his history with, well, caves.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

David Lynch on Turning Down Return of the Jedi

So, apparently, Star Wars creator George Lucas approached David Lynch—known for offbeat films such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr.—to direct Return of the Jedi. I can only imagine how that film would have turned out with Lynch at the helm.

In a November 15 interview posted on FORA.tv, Lynch recounts venturing to Northern California to meet with Lucas about the film, in which he had “next door to zero interest.” “But,” he adds, “I always admired George. George is a guy that does what he loves, and I do what I love. The difference is, what George loves makes hundreds of billions of dollars. So I thought I should go up and at least visit with him.”

Lynch goes on to describe what would become a headache-inducing ordeal, during which he was introduced to “these things called Wookiees” before taking a ride in Lucas’ Ferrari to a restaurant that only served salad. He would later decline the offer, suggesting to Lucas that he direct the film himself.

“But he doesn’t really love directing,” says Lynch. Relatively unknown Welsh director Richard Marquand would ultimately direct Return of the Jedi, while Lucas would later direct all three Star Wars prequels.

The clip is pretty brief, but it’s a cool bit of Star Wars history. Watch it below.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some Spider-Man 4 Casting News?

Got a few grains of salt handy? You’ll need them.

According to Movieline, “sources close to the film” have divulged that John Malkovich and Anne Hathaway are in talks to play villains in Spider-Man 4. Malkovich is being eyed to play the Vulture—a classic Spidey adversary who made his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #2 in 1963—while Hathaway might play Felicia Hardy who, in the comics, is the webslinger’s morally questionable costumed love interest Black Cat.

Malkovich is certainly creepy enough, and I doubt I’m alone in loving the idea of Hathaway in spandex or skintight leather. This is great news!

But here’s where this story gets a bit suspect.

Movieline reports that director Sam Raimi’s version of Felicia Hardy isn’t the Black Cat. Instead, she’ll “become a brand-new superpowered figure called the Vulturess.”

Wait, the Vulturess? Are we kidding? That doesn’t even sound good. If this is true, Raimi’s lost it completely.

Here’s hoping this news turns out to be completely false and that Sony Pictures makes some official casting announcements soon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tony Stark Doesn’t Seem All That Happy in the Iron Man 2 International Poster

Just days after the first teaser poster for Iron Man 2 hit the Web, Empire unveiled the film’s international teaser poster, which shows Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) suited up, unmasked and pissed off. This poster is likely meant to reflect the sequel’s darker tone, but let’s be honest: superhero angst is where it’s at these days.
It’s not quite as cool as the domestic teaser—which gave us our first look at James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) in his War Machine armor—but it does the job. After the success of the first Iron Man, it’s not like the sequel is a hard sell.

Iron Man 2 hits theaters May 7.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Peer Pressure Prevails, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Dragon Age: Origins

I’m not quite sure I should be telling the world that it took a healthy dose of peer pressure for me to buckle down and purchase one of the year’s best video games, but I finally picked up BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins this weekend after a strong recommendation from a friend. I suppose the abundance of top-tier titles being released this holiday season isn’t exactly a problem for gamers, but damn, the hobby gets expensive this time of year. After Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I thought I was all set with video games for a while (and so did my wallet). But I’m the highly suggestible type…or so people tell me.

At dinner, prior to a marathon Lego Rock Band session last night (another fun game), my friend Morgan told me that if I was into Mass Effect, also developed by BioWare, then Dragon Age would be right up my alley.

Now, if you’ve been following The Wort Report with any regularity over the past three years, you know that I’m a major BioWare role-playing game fanboy. I loved Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (not just because I’m also a notoriously unapologetic Star Wars nerd), I played through Mass Effect several times and I’m counting down the days until Mass Effect 2’s January 26 release date. If Dragon Age was anything like Mass Effect, I needed to own it, despite already having far too many games to play right now. Again, not the worst of problems for a gamer.

There was a Target nearby, and everyone in the group was keen on going there after we were done eating. Okay, I thought. In all likelihood, the game would be sold out and the burning desire to buy it immediately would subside by morning. Damn, they had it. Double damn, there was a salesman nearby. And when he brought the game to the register, it was on sale for $39.99. Triple. Dog. Damn. I couldn’t even argue over the price! So, it was mine…the only trouble would be finding the time to actually play it.

While I haven’t gotten the chance to sink my teeth into it fully, I really like Dragon Age thus far. I’m still getting the hang of some of the micromanaging and combat mechanics (it’s a bit more like SW: KotOR than Mass Effect on that front, which isn’t a bad thing whatsoever), but I dig the medieval fantasy setting, the voice acting and the character customization thus far. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to finish the game and write up a detailed review anytime soon—if at all—but most of the reviews out there already are positive overall and seem mostly in line with my own thoughts. Click here to check out Dragon Age’s Xbox 360 Metacritic page.

And thanks, Morgan. Now I need to somehow invent a moderately healthy alternative to sleep.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Production Delayed on The Hobbit

Peter Jackson has announced that production on the two-part film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit will start in the summer of 2010—a few months later than expected, Variety reports. The Lord of the Rings prequels, helmed by Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro, are slated for release in December 2011 and December 2012.

But what on Middle-earth is the hold up? Jackson, an executive producer on the film, said that he, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and del Toro are still working on the second Hobbit script, and aim to have it finished early next year. After the script is completed, the film will be budgeted and shooting can begin in New Zealand.

I have faith in Jackson, and I doubt we’ll be seeing the first installment of The Hobbit any later than 2011. But whenever it does hit theaters, rest assured: geeks will be there…and back again.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Iron Man 2 Teaser Poster Hits the Web

On November 30, Yahoo! Movies unveiled the first teaser poster for Iron Man 2, which hits theaters next May. There’s not much to say about it, except that it gives fans their first real glimpse of Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) suited up as War Machine. He looks, well, like War Machine should look. Good stuff!

What do you think, Wortmaniacs?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ryan Reynolds: Green Lantern Won’t Be a Typical Origin Story

Green Lantern star Ryan Reynolds told MTV’s Splash Page recently that while the upcoming film intends to introduce mainstream audiences to Hal Jordan, the titular DC Comics character, it won’t be like most drawn-out superhero movie origin stories. Rather, it will cut to the chase pretty quickly.

“It is [an origin story] to a certain degree, but it’s not a labored origin story, where the movie [truly] begins in the third act,” he said. “The movie starts when it starts. We find out Hal is the guy fairly early on, and the adventure begins.”

Reynolds also drew comparisons between this film, directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), and Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, saying that some of the best parts of the film don’t necessarily involve the Green Lantern saving the universe with his super-powered ring.

“I think you walk away from this first film, and the moments that you remember and the moments that mean so much to you, not unlike Iron Man, are the moments where the guy’s not in the suit,” he said. “That to me is the tough thing to get right. And that's something that they did get right [in Iron Man]. You see why this guy’s in the suit, and that’s what’s interesting to me. Not that he is in the suit, but why."

I was never the biggest Green Lantern fan growing up, but I’ve been thoroughly enjoying what Geoff Johns has been doing with the character over the past few years—especially Green Lantern: Rebirth and the phenomenal Blackest Night. This could be a major ongoing franchise for Warner Bros. if they play their cards right. Casting Reynolds was an excellent start.

Meanwhile, Reynolds will also star in a Deadpool film after playing the fan-favorite Marvel Comics character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The spin-off has yet to enter production.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Zombieland 2 in 3D?

Recently, Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer told Moviehole that the sequel to the zombie survival comedy will likely be in 3D. Yep, that means blood and guts, right in your face. Sounds fun, right?

“The genre really lends itself to 3D,” said Fleischer, who confirmed that not only is Sony Pictures gearing up for a follow-up, but the original cast—Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin—is also eager to return.

Emerging as a surprise hit earlier this year, Zombieland arrived at a time when I was getting pretty tired of zombie movies, and the film was so freshly entertaining that it completely reignited my interest in the sub-genre. While Fleischer told Moviehole that the film is a few years away, I’m assuming that this and other 3D film projects will be fast-tracked if James Cameron’s Avatar is a success. But with one anonymous early reviewer calling the anticipated 3D sci-fi epic “alienating,” “weird” and “literally vomit inducing,” 3D technology could be a hard sell in the years to come.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s wishing each of you out there a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

In celebration of all things turkey, pumpkin pie and football, here’s a video we can all be thankful for: the Muppets performing “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

As awesome as this is, I’ve secretly got my fingers crossed for more Muppet/Queen mash-ups. Kermit the Frog singing “Fat Bottomed Girls” couldn’t possibly be more appropriate.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Michael Bay: Megan Fox’s Character Won’t Be Killed Off in Transformers 3

While the tension between Megan Fox and her Transformers director Michael Bay is the stuff of legend at this point (she has reportedly compared him to Hitler), the explosion enthusiast rushed to his leading lady’s defense at a recent Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

“She called me [after the Hitler comment] and goes, ‘It’s all bullsh—t, Mike,’” Bay told USA Today’s Andrea Mandell. “The press, they just like to prey, and stalk, and pounce and find a good little juicy thing. But she’s always wanted to do these crazy comments. That’s just her. She’s great.”

As for those rumors that Bay’s going to kill off her character, Mikaela Banes, in the next Transformers sequel? “No, no, no,” he said. “She gets enough of that already.”

The USA Today piece points out that Bay directs commercials for Victoria’s Secret, which is a bit of a shock. That being the case, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more pyrotechnics and giant robot genitals in our lingerie ads.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Wort Repose

I’m taking a much-needed break from my full-time job, and while I thought this would mean I’d be posting more updates than usual this week, I’m probably going to be taking it easy until after Thanksgiving. With so many great new video games currently in my grasp (Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii), I’m going to be preoccupied for the next few days in a very good way. Plus, I do sort of need to sleep in and relax for a change.

Even if I don’t blog, I’m still writing my weekly reviews of Heroes and Star Wars: The Clone Wars for the good people at Broken Frontier, so check those out on the odd chance that you’re jonesin’ for James Wortman. And, if you are, you should probably know that there are far better things to be addicted to—elective surgery, for example.

11/24 Update: Well, that break sure as heck didn’t last! I'm like the Jay-Z or Brett Favre of mildly popular nerd bloggers...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Star Trek Hits DVD and Blu-ray

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot is, hands down, one of the best films of 2009. It’s funny, there’s a ton of action and it makes Star Trek accessible to general audiences for the first time in a long time. I’m not an obsessive Star Trek fan (although I do own the original series and the first six movies on DVD), but I saw this film twice in theaters and have since watched it twice at home. I’ll still probably watch it at least once more before Thanksgiving rolls around. Yes, a Star Wars geek is fawning over Star Trek. Deal with it.

Since I haven’t made that jump to Blu-ray just yet (reminder: Christmas is next month), I picked up the two-disc DVD set on Tuesday, and I’m surprised how well this movie holds up on repeat viewings. And while surely not as in-depth as the Blu-ray, I dig the DVD special features, which include a few making-of featurettes and deleted scenes. My favorite sequence that didn’t make the cut? When the film’s Romulan villain Nero (Eric Bana) is captured by Klingons. Abrams and crew will probably revisit the Klingons in the sequels, and I can live with that.

Speaking of sequels, SCI FI Wire reports that we will likely be seeing the next installment in the revamped Trek franchise in 2012. At the November 16 DVD/Blu-ray launch party, Abrams and his crew also let loose with some minor spoilers. According to producer/writer Damon Lindelof, the sequel might feature some time shifting.

“One of the things we like to do as storytellers is drop you in the middle of something,” Lindelof said. “And the question that you're asking yourself is: Where am I in relation to the last time I left these guys? Could this be something that predated even, perhaps, some of the adventures that they had in the first movie? Does it happen five years later? Is it happening two seconds later? Who knows? So we’re not going to tell you.”

Abrams also hinted that the film will deepen the romance between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and successfully dodged a question regarding the possibility of revisiting iconic Trek baddie Khan Noonien Singh.

“We’re not even at that stage yet, but the fun of where we are on the sequel is we could use some of what was done before in a new way,” Abrams said, to which co-writer Roberto Orci added, “That’ll be kind of a groupthink decision.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 Sells Almost Five Million Copies on Day of Release

It might be old news to many of you fellow gamers out there, but I felt it was important to acknowledge that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sold an estimated 4.7 million copies in its first 24 hours on sale. According to gaming blog Kotaku, Call of Duty publisher Activision is calling Modern Warfare 2’s November 10 release “the biggest launch in history across all forms of entertainment,” raking in $310 million in the United States and the United Kingdom alone. Incredible.

I’ve been debating whether or not it’s necessary for me to write an in-depth review of Modern Warfare 2 at this point, especially since most people who are interested in this title probably own it already. I could talk about how its campaign storyline is better than that of just about any recent Hollywood war film. I could wax poetic about its exhaustive multiplayer options, phenomenal graphics and gritty realism. I could even tell you that it might be the best game of 2009. But I won’t. Or maybe I just did. Whatever.

Bottom line? Modern Warfare 2 kicks all kinds of ass.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season One Explodes Onto DVD and Blu-ray

I’m always surprised when I run into a Star Wars fan that isn’t watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but I certainly don’t blame them for being skeptical. When the feature-length premiere was released theatrically in August of 2008, it was thoroughly savaged by audiences and critics (myself included) for its bizarrely stylized character designs, awkward pacing and poor attempts at humor. When that movie opened, as Obi-Wan Kenobi might say, it was as if millions of geeks suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

But then the television series debuted on Cartoon Network that fall, and it started off pretty good. Then it got really good. Today, as its second season rolls on, it might be one of the best pure action-adventure shows on television.

So, yeah, it’s worth checking out.

While smaller compilations of Clone Wars episodes have been released in the past, Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season One, now available, collects all 22 episodes in a single set, including seven director’s cuts as well as companion featurettes for each installment. The set is also packaged with an exclusive 68-page production journal. Exclusive to the Blu-ray set is an interactive Jedi Temple Holocron Vault with more than three hours of additional content.

Since this set hit shelves, I’ve gotten the chance to re-watch each of these episodes, many of which I haven’t seen since they originally aired. Save for a few misfires—namely the Jar Jar Binks-centric “Bombad Jedi”—this entire season holds up incredibly well, particularly the later episodes. The Clone Wars has also introduced some pretty cool new characters, namely plucky teenage Padawan Ahsoka Tano and the sinister bounty hunter Cad Bane, who made his debut in the incredible season finale, “Hostage Crisis,” my favorite episode thus far.

Supervising director Dave Filoni and his team should be congratulated for crafting a show for young audiences while at the same time appeasing longtime fans of the franchise. If you love Star Wars, you pretty much need to own this set.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Activision Blizzard Announces the Call of Duty Endowment to Benefit Veterans

If you’re a gamer, you know that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is available as of midnight last night. But if you’re an American you also know that Veterans Day is tomorrow, November 11.

Acknowledging that this hotly anticipated title will likely be among the biggest releases this year, publisher Activision Blizzard has established the Call of Duty Endowment (CODE), a non-profit benefit corporation that will direct resources to groups helping American soldiers transition to civilian careers. The publisher will use proceeds from sales of the game to fund the endowment.

At the November 10 launch of the initiative in Washington, DC, Activision Blizzard pledged to raise and donate millions of dollars to bolster awareness of veteran unemployment through CODE. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 500,000 unemployed veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 currently living in the United States.

Additionally, CODE announced a $125,000 grant made to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), an organization that offers career services to veterans with disabilities, especially those with spinal cord injuries. The grant money will help underwrite the cost of a new PVA Vocational Rehabilitation Services Center in Boston.

As pumped as I am about Modern Warfare 2, I’m even more excited knowing that the money I’ve spent on it will benefit the real-life heroes on whom this franchise is based. For more info on CODE, visit callofdutyendowment.org.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Will Khan Return in the Next Star Trek Movie?


Like most New Yorkers, I’m pretty stoked about the Yankees’ 27th world championship win last night, but allow me to remove my baseball cap for a moment and put on my rubber Vulcan ears. I’ve got a Star Trek sequel update! 

Director J.J. Abrams recently told MTV News that while the next installment in the rebooted series is still in the writing stages, he’s not averse to including Khan, the franchise’s fan-favorite baddie played by the late Ricardo Montalbán, in the anticipated film. Introduced in first-season Star Trek episode “Space Seed,” Khan emerged as a sci-fi icon in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, widely regarded as the best film in the series.

“Now that we are in a parallel existence with what fans of the original series love so much, we could introduce any number of characters, settings, references and situations that the original series introduced,” Abrams told MTV’s Josh Horowitz. “Dealing with Khan would certainly be a challenge, but we had an equal challenge in finding our crew of the Enterprise.”

Fortunately, whether or not Khan features prominently in the next film or in future sequels, Abrams isn’t planning on rehashing what we’ve already seen. Smart move. Having said that, my fingers are crossed for more tribbles and half-naked green women. A man can dream.

“While I don’t want to approach the second film as a remake of episodes we’ve seen in the past...nothing is off limits in terms of what we’re discussing,” said Abrams.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pondering Paranormal Activity

I finally got a chance to see Paranormal Activity over the Halloween weekend, and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it quite a bit. While a vocal minority has dismissed the low-budget thriller as a lukewarm Blair Witch Project rip-off, I think it accomplishes quite a bit in the scare department without resorting to cheap, blood-and-guts shock tactics. It even succeeds as a teaching tool. Confused? Read on.

Shot in a faux-documentary style and presented as recovered footage, Paranormal Activity, written and directed by Oren Peli, is about a young couple plagued by what seems to be a demonic spirit. In response to a series of strange occurrences in the house, much of which is directed at his girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston), Micah (Micah Sloat) decides to buy a video camera in an attempt to record these phenomena. But as Micah’s fascination with this supernatural presence deepens, the entity’s actions become far more dangerous.

While terrifying in its own right, Paranormal Activity is also an effective morality tale. Its message? Try not to be such a douchebag. If you think you know more than a demonologist when it comes to dealing with an evil spirit, you don’t. If a psychic tells you that trying to contact a demon with a Ouija board is a bad idea, it is. If verbally challenging a demon only intensifies its malice toward your girlfriend, stop. Bad things will most certainly happen.

Learn from Micah: don’t be a dick. Ghosts (and most people, believe it or not) tend to hate that.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What Do You Do With a Drunken Ewok?

Happy Halloween, Wortmaniacs! On yesterday’s edition of the Today show, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and the rest of the gang dressed up as Star Wars characters, which was pretty cool in and of itself. But when a pair of boozed-up Ewoks started getting a bit out of control in the middle of a segment, hilarity ensued.

Apparently, after knocking back a few martinis, Ewoks are prone to fighting, moonwalking and humping Al Roker’s leg. But, then again, who isn’t?


Friday, October 30, 2009

Sir Anthony Hopkins Joins the Cast of Thor!

Okay, so it’s not necessarily Halloween news, but Sir Anthony Hopkins is perhaps best known for playing cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter. So yes, this is totally holiday appropriate.

Variety reports that Hopkins will play Odin in Marvel Studios’ Thor, which hits theaters in 2011. As comic book fans and mythology buffs probably know, Odin is the king of Asgard and the father of the titular Norse god of thunder. So yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.

Chris Hemsworth (James T. Kirk’s dad in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek) will play Thor, while Natalie Portman has signed on as Jane Foster, Thor’s love interest. Thor’s brother and nemesis Loki will be played by British actor Tom Hiddleston.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Star Trek Bonus Footage Hits the Web

Like many geeks out there, I’m pretty pumped about the impending November 17 Blu-ray/DVD release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.

To whet our appetites, Paramount has released a deleted scene from the franchise reboot, showing the film’s time-traveling Romulan bad guy Nero (Eric Bana) being interrogated by Klingons. It’s a pretty cool sequence, and I kind of wish it made it into the final movie. But, I’m guessing Abrams is saving the Klingons for the sequel.

Watch the clip below (via SPIKE.com).


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to Feature Acts of Terrorism

The Call of Duty series rarely pulls punches when it comes to realistic depictions of the horrors of war, but the latest installment, Modern Warfare 2, may spark some controversy by including scenes of terrorism.

An Activision representative told gaming blog Kotaku that, early on in the campaign, players reach a mandatory checkpoint “in which they are warned that an upcoming segment may contain disturbing elements and they can choose not to engage in the gameplay that involves this scene.” The segment is part of the game’s infiltration-focused storyline, which requires players to earn the trust of a Russian terrorist bent on bringing the world to its knees.

According to The Associated Press and other media outlets, illegally leaked footage from the game reveals that the sequence in question allows players to shoot innocent civilians in an airport during a terrorist attack.

I think it’s smart that Activision and developer Infinity Ward are making player participation in this segment entirely optional. While actively trying not to offend sensitive players, they aren’t compromising content. This title is rated M for Mature—any halfway intelligent adult gamer should be prepared for whatever this game dishes out. That said, we should all prepare ourselves for a firestorm of negative publicity.

Modern Warfare 2 hits stores November 10, but look for the inevitable Fox News stories about a “terrorism simulator” poisoning our nation’s youth to follow shortly after.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Care for a Stroll Through “Siren Alley?”

Released in 2007, BioShock remains one of the most groundbreaking and satisfying first-person shooters of this console generation. Needless to say, we’re all expecting quite a lot from its sequel, due for release early next year.

To tide fans over ‘til then, 2K Games has released a gameplay trailer titled “Siren Alley,” giving us a peek at some of the new weaponry and locales this new underwater adventure has in store. The clip also informs us that a “worldwide embargo” on BioShock 2 will be lifted on October 29. Wait a sec! That’s this Thursday! 2K Games, you sly devils.

My interest. It’s piqued. Watch the clip below (via GameTrailers).


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Refrigerators. Very Dangerous. You Go First.


When I heard that Sideshow Collectibles was releasing an Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull action figure set based on the aged archaeologist’s escape from a nuclear explosion in a refrigerator, I assumed it was some kind of elaborate joke. After all, who would want to pay $174.99 to own and display a constant reminder of one of the most ludicrous and unintentionally hilarious moments in modern cinema?

The answer? At least 600 people. According to Sideshow’s website, this limited-edition 12-inch figure is already sold out, and it doesn’t even ship until early 2010.

Wow.

Click here for more info.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lucasfilm Debunks Star Wars Sequel Rumors

As a lifelong Star Wars fanboy, I was pretty excited when I learned that MarketSaw, a blog focused on 3D movies and technology, ran an exclusive story on October 21 revealing that Lucasfilm is readying a Star Wars sequel trilogy to be filmed in 3D, a la James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar.

No Bothans died to bring us this information, but it allegedly comes from a reliable but anonymous source who said that Star Wars creator George Lucas would not be directing, and that Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola may take the reins of a new trilogy set after Return of the Jedi.

This story quickly began making the rounds online. But like many so-called “exclusives” citing unnamed but “trusted” sources, this was all too good to be true. Quint at Ain’t It Cool News squashed this rumor almost immediately, firing off an e-mail to Lucasfilm’s public relations department. The company affirmed that there are no new theatrical Star Wars films heading our way—3D or otherwise.

I’m not surprised, but I think this speaks to one of the prevailing issues in the blogosphere: it’s just way too easy for outright bullshit to spread quickly. When it comes to Internet movie rumors, keep those salt grains handy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nickelodeon Nabs the Ninja Turtles for $60 Million

On October 21, Nickelodeon announced it has purchased the intellectual property rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Mirage Studios and 4Kids Entertainment for $60 million. That can buy a lot of pizza.

As part of the deal, Nickelodeon—part of Viacom’s MTV Networks—will revitalize the property by developing a computer-animated TMNT television series, which is slated to debut in 2012.

Also in 2012, Viacom’s Paramount Pictures—which has turned fellow 1980s children’s properties G.I. Joe and Transformers into movie franchises—will release a new TMNT feature film. Nickelodeon has also acquired merchandising rights to the Turtles, and will continue working with Playmates Toys,  producer of Ninja Turtles action figures and accessories since 1988. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you accumulated quite a few of those growing up.

While Nickelodeon will likely play up the kiddie appeal of these heroes in a half shell (as they should), part of me hopes this 2012 relaunch of the Turtles will retain some of the edginess of creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s black-and-white comic books, which debuted in 1984. But, then again, the kid-friendly, cartoonish version of the Turtles brought us the timeless Vanilla Ice classic, “Ninja Rap.” So that’s...something.

He Ain't 'fraid of No Ghosts!

Wow. This video pretty much sums up everything I love about the Internet. For your viewing and listening enjoyment, here is sure-to-be YouTube sensation Matt Mulholland performing a multi-track acapella rendition of the Ghostbusters theme.


Monday, October 19, 2009

What Does Obi-Wan Really Think of Mos Eisley Spaceport?

I came across this clip on Topless Robot this morning and I just had to share. If this audio edit cracks you up as it did me, thank actor/writer/comedian Peter Serafinowicz, who was the voice of Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace (hence the Star Wars connection). Enjoy!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Sam Raimi Promises Less Villains in Spider-Man 4

Like most comic book geeks with a keyboard and a digital soapbox, I have a hard time writing about anything related to the Spider-Man movies without first mentioning what a missed opportunity Spider-Man 3 was. So let me get this out of the way early: Spider-Man 3 sucked.

There. That felt good.

I should add that I in no way blame director Sam Raimi for how that film turned out—the end product reeked of studio meddling that was likely out of his hands. Fortunately, Raimi is well aware of the fan backlash and, as reported by the Coventry Telegraph, he’s going to make sure that film’s mistakes are not repeated in the next installment.

The one misstep Raimi is addressing up front is the number of villains. Last time, Spidey took on three baddies —Sandman, Green Goblin II and Venom—and the film suffered as a result. But, on a positive note, more characters helped Hasbro sell a lot more action figures.

“I think having so many villains detracted from the experience. I would agree with the criticism,” said Raimi. “I think I've learned about the importance of getting to the point and the importance of having limitations, and I'm hoping to take that into a production where I'm actually allowed to explore with more of the tools to pull it off with a little more splendour.”

He added, “I hope I don't lose that edge that I've just found. That would be my approach to Spider-Man 4: to get back to the basics.”

Spider-Man 4 goes into production next year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Star Wars Gets Spooky

Today, October 13, horror-themed Star Wars novel Death Troopers hits store shelves. Penned by Joe Schreiber, the book revolves around a contagion that kills quickly and revives its victims. Those victims then feast on the flesh of the living.

Folks, Star Wars and zombies are together at last.

I don’t care much for these Expanded Universe novels, mainly because too many of them read more like generic sci-fi than genuine continuations of the Star Wars films. That said, I love the idea of a zombie story set in that galaxy far, far away. I’m in.

Death Troopers
retails for $24.00.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Journeying Through Zombieland

In spite of pop culture’s ongoing obsession with vampires, spurred by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books and accompanying feature films, zombies (the other undead) haven’t lurched out of the limelight just yet. While not the first zombie comedy—the 1980s Return of the Living Dead films and Shaun of the Dead immediately spring to mind—Zombieland is an uproariously funny and relentlessly gory trek through post-apocalyptic, zombie-ridden America.

The main character is Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg doing his best Michael Cera impression (these two are going to be fighting over the same roles for years). Serving as the narrator, Columbus explains that his neurotic tendencies have been key to his survival, inspiring him to come up with a list of rules to avoid falling victim to the undead. His rules include traveling light, “double tapping” seemingly incapacitating zombies (always shoot them twice) and to beware of public bathrooms. Anyone who’s read Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide is sure to get a kick out of these zombie survival rules, which crop up humorously throughout the film.

Columbus (everyone is nicknamed after their hometown) crosses paths with Tallahassee, a Twinkie-loving badass zombie killer played by Woody Harrelson. Harrelson seems to be enjoying himself whenever he’s onscreen, and his chemistry with Eisenberg provides much of the film’s comedy that isn’t derived from creatively massacring—or running from—the living dead. The pair soon stumbles upon con-artist sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who round out this film’s makeshift and eventually somewhat functional family unit. Once they all learn to get along, the group heads west to Pacific Playland, an amusement park that’s rumored to be zombie-free. If you’ve ever seen a zombie movie before, you already know those rumors are complete bull.

As if director Ruben Fleischer’s genre mash-up wasn’t awesome enough—finding a tremendous balance between horror and comedy—a brilliant cameo toward the end of the film sends Zombieland right over the edge. I won’t spoil the surprise here, but it’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a movie in recent years.

With franchise written all over it (likely smeared in blood), Zombieland is an instant comedy classic.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ivan Reitman Confirmed for Ghostbusters 3

While the specifics are still unclear, veteran Ghostbusters producer/director Ivan Reitman has been “straight up confirmed” for Ghostbusters 3, according to Bloody-Disgusting. This could mean he will be attached to the film as a consultant, producer or even a director. My fingers are crossed for that last one.

The piece goes on to reveal that the story will involve the ‘busters reopening for business after being closed for an extended period of time.

Reitman’s involvement may not be all that surprising, but it’s great to see this project actually moving forward in a tangible way after all these years. Hopefully, the script by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (The Office) makes this film worth the wait.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Venomous Spidey Spinoff May Have a Writer

After arch-villain Venom was unceremoniously shoehorned into Spider-Man 3, Columbia Pictures is readying a spin-off film for the character, Variety reports. Fresh from rewriting the script for Spider-Man 4, which goes into production in 2010, Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) is in talks to pen the script. He may also direct.

Do I think Venom could work in a movie? Sure. He’s one of my favorite Spidey villains. But I just don’t see how a standalone Venom film would work if it’s attached to the existing Spider-Man franchise. All fanboy conjecture aside, Venom/Eddie Brock (played by Topher Grace) is quite dead at the end of Spider-Man 3. So this movie already has that going against it.

Also, and let’s be honest, the Venom subplot is easily the weakest aspect of that film. Since the studio essentially forced director Sam Raimi to work the character into the story somehow, the entire film suffered and left a lot of fans disappointed. Spider-Man 3 came out in 2007—I’m not sure if those wounds have healed just yet.

If Ross does sign on to this project, he has his work cut out for him.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Final Countdown: Writing Begins on Arrested Development Script

No, it’s not a trick. As renowned illusionist George Oscar Bluth II (Gob) has taught us, those are what whores do for…you know the rest.

Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz and co-executive producer James Vallely have officially begun writing a screenplay for the anticipated film continuation of the popular (but criminally short-lived) Fox series, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

With Hurwitz stipulating that he wouldn’t begin scripting the film unless the entire cast agreed to return, it’s safe to say that each of the Bluths is on board.

Ta-da!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Transformers 3 Set for 2011

This may not necessarily be the most awesome news for those of us who sat through the barely coherent (albeit pretty) Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but director Michael Bay announced October 1 on his Shoot for the Edit site that he has a “great Transformers 3 story,” and that the release date of the sequel has been moved up to July 1, 2011 from 2012.

According to his blog, Bay has already had a five-hour meeting with visual effects powerhouse Industrial Light & Magic in San Francisco, and is in talks with Transformers toy manufacturer Hasbro about new character designs.

Bay ends the post with a shot at franchise star Megan Fox, who has described him in the press as being “like Hitler on the sets” among other widely publicized insults. Despite this apparently rocky professional relationship, she will be returning in the next installment.

He writes:
P.S. Megan Fox, welcome back. I promise no alien robots will harm you in any way during the production of this motion picture. Please consult your Physician when working under my direction because some side effects can occur, such as mild dizziness, intense nausea, suicidal tendencies, depression, minor chest hair growth, random internal hemorrhaging and inability to sleep. As some directors may be hazardous to your health, please consult your Doctor to determine if this is right for you.
Ouch.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Wii Turns to the Dark Side


He finds your lack of Mario Kart skills disturbing.

In a perfect storm of downright geekery, StarWarsShop.com is offering a Darth Vader Nintendo Wii Sensor Bar Holder, which can be yours for $49.99. While a bit costly, some Star Wars fans would argue it’s a small price to pay to have the Dark Lord of the Sith guard one’s entertainment center.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Trailer for the Elm Street Remake Hits the Web, Haunts Your Dreams

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a proponent of the current wave of reboots, remakes and reimaginings—save for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and a few other standouts—but I’m liking what we’ve seen thus far from the new take on A Nightmare on Elm Street that’s hitting theaters next year. After watching the trailer, which has been posted on MySpace, you might too.

In the teaser, we get our first look at Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children) as razor-gloved supernatural killer Freddy Krueger. While former Freddy Robert Englund will certainly be missed, director Samuel Bayer seems to be making this character truly frightening for the first time since Wes Craven’s 1984 original.

The Michael Bay-produced remake is scheduled to open April 30, 2010.