Sunday, May 31, 2009

Alien Prequel Film Confirmed

Please make it stop. Apparently, 20th Century Fox is planning on a reboot to its Alien franchise, which would take place prior to Ridley Scott’s 1979 original.

In an interview with Collider.com’s Steve “Frosty” Weintraub, Ridley’s brother Tony Scott (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3), revealed that relatively unknown director Carl Rinsch is in line to helm the project.

Another Alien movie makes sense from a financial standpoint, I suppose. Scott’s film and James Cameron’s 1986 follow-up, Aliens, are two of the most revered science fiction films of all time. Since then, however, sequels have ranged from mediocre (Alien: Resurrection) to downright terrible (both Alien vs. Predator movies). Fox hasn’t known how to properly handle this property for over two decades, so why would anyone be the slightest bit excited about a prequel, of all things?

Furthermore, one of the things that made the original Alien so cool was that we knew absolutely nothing about this terrifying creature. A prequel film would shatter that mystique. And, knowing Fox, it’ll be rated PG-13 to cement lucrative tie-ins with 7-Eleven and Taco Bell. I bet you can’t wait to taste the Facehugger Fiesta Bowl.

Random Bloggery for May 31

Wow, I can’t believe it’s almost June. Sooner than we’d all like to admit, we’ll be talking about the great “Summer of 2009” in the past tense. I’m not too sure I’m prepared for that.

This weekend, Pixar’s Up and Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell hit theaters, and should prove to be a nice change of pace for everyone who’s already getting tired of big-budget franchise blockbusters. If you’ve seen either of those movies, I’d love for you to share your thoughts.

I’m also excited about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which hits U.S. theaters on June 24. While fairly mindless, Michael Bay’s original Transformers ably tapped into what it means to wow summer audiences in a satisfying fashion. Sure, it’s loud and heavily dependent on special effects, but it’s hard to feel cheated after watching Transformers. McG should take notes if he winds up helming additional Terminator flicks. A lot of folks might despite him, but Bay certainly has style.

On August 7, another Hasbro property makes its big-screen debut with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. After Transformers turned out surprisingly well in 2007, I was oddly confident that Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) might have a hit on his hands. This likely won’t be the case. This movie looks friggin’ awful. If you need proof, watch the clip below.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Trouble with Terminators

Remember how I said in my last post that I’d deem Terminator Salvation a success if it delivered “robots and explosions” and “a minimum of facepalm moments”? Well, the movie had plenty of robots (check) and a ton of explosions (double check). As for facepalming stupidity, well, they went overboard (check times three).

Don’t get me wrong, there are those of you out there who might enjoy Terminator Salvation and I won’t hold it against you if you think I’m being harsh toward this mindless summer popcorn flick. But summer movies don’t have to be this mindless—particularly when they’re cashing in on a beloved property like Terminator. To add insult to injury, the phenomenal television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was canceled just days before this overwhelmingly average sequel opened.

However, scorned fans can take comfort in the fact that Terminator Salvation opened in second place at the domestic box office over the Memorial Day weekend with $51.9 million, trailing behind Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. The Associated Press reports that the Ben Stiller comedy toppled the machines, earning over $70 million.

If you’re still unsure as to whether or not Terminator Salvation is worth your cash, check out my review at Broken Frontier. If you’re clamoring for a night at the movies, you’re better off seeing Star Trek again.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Random Bloggery for May 23

Memorial Day weekend came just when I needed it. My stress level has remained fairly high over the past week, and spending my free moments listening to Eminem’s Relapse and reading the latest Chuck Palahniuk novel, Pygmy, has probably only made me even more unhinged. Well, more unhinged than usual.

Despite overall mixed reviews, I’m pretty pumped to see Terminator Salvation this evening. As much as I appreciate fine filmmaking, I’m always partial to robots and explosions. As long as this movie delivers both with a minimum of facepalm moments I’ll deem it a success. I’ll post a full review on Broken Frontier after the holiday. In the meantime, check out the trailer below.

That’s it for me this week. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Relapse: A Wort Report Review

After nearly five years of semi-retirement, Eminem is back with a vengeance. His new album, Relapse, is a welcome return to form for the controversial rapper after sounding decidedly bored with his Slim Shady schtick on 2004’s Encore.

Fueled by horrorcore influence and backed by head-bobbing Dr. Dre beats, Em does a lot of venting on the album’s 15 songs (plus five skits) about his life-threatening addiction to prescription pills and other personal demons that have kept him out of the spotlight for the last few years.

While his ex-wife Kim is spared from a lyrical lashing this time around, Em goes after his mother fairly early with “My Mom,” on which he places the blame for his drug addiction squarely on her shoulders. In the next track, “Insane,” Em accuses his step dad of molesting him as a child. He starts it off saying, “I was born with a dick in my brain/Yeah fucked in the head/My stepfather said that I sucked in the bed.” Wow.

That line between disturbing fact and even more disturbing fiction is often blurred in Relapse, which is likely completely intentional. In the opening song, “3 A.M.,” he recalls wrapping up his cousin in Christmas lights, throwing him in a bathtub, chopping him up and proceeding to drink his bloody bathwater. There’s an autobiographical element to this album, to be sure, but the layer of fictionalized serial killer brutality in his lyrics recalls a hip-hop version of Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight (and, yes, the late Ledger and the circumstances of his death are brought up more than once in Relapse). This is twisted stuff, but we’re nevertheless intrigued.

In the album’s more introspective songs—namely “Déjà Vu,” in which he poetically recounts how his drug addiction impacted his relationship with his daughter Hailie—Em’s inner turmoil is far more tangible as he turns his trademark rage on himself in ways unseen since his 2000 sophomore album, The Marshall Mathers LP.

He gets particularly emotional in the self-produced and stripped-down “Beautiful,” which is a weirdly touching and borderline inspiring break from Em's usually violent, homophobic and misogynistic lyrical content.

Does Relapse ever go too far? Absolutely. Em spends too much time on this disc indulging in chilling, over-the-top rape and murder fantasies without the necessary South Park-esque satirical wink. It should be dark comedy, but often it’s just dark.

Em also takes aim at the late Christopher Reeve in “Medicine Ball,” which at this point is not only unfunny but played out. Em shrugs off such criticism, rapping, “Now everybody is pissed at me like it’s my fault/His name rhymes with so many words. Geez!” He then takes the role of the late Superman actor and allows Reeve to have the last word before challenging Em to a breakdancing contest.

While the bulk of the album is solid, lead-off singles “Crack a Bottle” and “We Made You” just aren’t very good and don't seem to fit with the rest of the album's material, particularly the latter. Yes, it's another goofy celebrity diss, but it's never a good sign when many your targets (Amy Winehouse, Sarah Palin) bowed out of the public eye months before the album's release.

It offends, sure. But that’s the point. Relapse isn’t Em’s best album, but his jaw-dropping, head-turning and at times stomach-churning rhymes are oddly refreshing in the artistically stagnating world of mainstream hip-hop.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fanboys: A Wort Report Review

While it may not be the most joyous anniversary for some hardcore Star Wars fans, The Phantom Menace hit theaters 10 years ago today on May 19, 1999. To commemorate the infamous occasion, the Star Wars-centric comedy Fanboys hits DVD after a brief stint in select cities earlier this year.

Directed by Kyle Newman and starring Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel and Kristen Bell, Fanboys is billed as a love letter to the film saga and its fans and in many ways it succeeds at that. At its best, this film is a decent road comedy peppered with Star Wars references that taps into the communal power of fandom. However, non-fanboys need not apply. These aren't the laughs you're looking for.

Set in 1998, Fanboys follows a group of Star Wars geeks on a cross-country journey to Star Wars creator George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to catch an early glimpse at a work print of the highly anticipated (and later widely reviled) prequel film. One of the characters, Linus (Marquette), is dying of cancer, adding an element of urgency to the whole affair. In all likelihood, he won’t live to see the film premiere.

Fanboys’ cancer subplot was a major point of contention prior to the film’s release, with studio execs fearing that it would cast a shadow over an otherwise fairly lighthearted goofball comedy. Fortunately, the subplot is handled delicately—as cancer is never funny—but it seems unnecessary and cheap. When the fanboys tangle with a group of frothing Trekkies, we should be chuckling. Instead, we’re reminded that one of the characters has just months to live. It just doesn't feel right for this kind of comedy, and makes the entire film tonally uneven.

For Star Wars fans—Fanboys’ one and only audience—there’s a lot of fun to be had. Unfortunately, whenever this film isn’t mining Lucas’ franchise for laughs it’s just a paint-by-numbers, occasionally raunchy comedy. The premise is great, but Newman never delivers on it fully.

That said, the cast does a great job with the material they’re working with and makes the film watchable if not entirely memorable. Fogler (Balls of Fury) is entertaining as the sex-crazed Hutch, while Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder) brings an awkward charm to the bespectacled Windows. Huntington (Detroit Rock City, Superman Returns) and Marquette (Just Friends) give some dramatic weight to the story as two estranged childhood friends, and the adorable Bell (Heroes, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) plays every geek’s dream girl as Zoe. She also shows up at the end of the film in Princess Leia’s metal bikini from Return of the Jedi. Take note, ladies: That’s the way to a fanboy’s heart.

Fanboys isn’t a bad film, but it’s not all that inspired. Rent it, get your geeky friends together, grab some brews and enjoy it for the Star Wars nods, the barrage of cameos and an amusingly accurate depiction of what it was like to be a Star Wars fan in 1998. Just set your expectations low—advice that would have probably been far more useful in the months before Jar Jar Binks reared his orange, floppy-eared head in that spring of 1999.

But then again, I saw The Phantom Menace nine times in theaters that summer, so I'm really not one to rant about how disappointing it was. All I can say is that fanboys work in mysterious, befuddling and sometimes embarrassing ways.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Phasers & Demons

Ron Howard’s Da Vinci Code sequel Angels & Demons topped the U.S. box office this weekend, earning $48 million in its first three days of release, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek came in at a close second with $43 million, bringing the franchise reboot's domestic total to $147.6 million since its May 7 release.

Star Trek earned $75.2 million in its opening weekend, excluding Thursday night showings, with attendance dropping only 43 percent in its second week of release.

According to Don Harris, Paramount’s executive vice president of distribution, word of mouth for Star Trek has been incredibly strong. While most audience members were men over the age of 25 in its first week, the film has attracted a broader assortment of moviegoers since then.

“We did surveys in the same theaters as last weekend and found that we're getting more parents, we're getting younger and we're getting more women,” said Harris.

Women flocking to Star Trek? Now that’s science fiction.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

21st Century Breakdown: A Wort Report Review

A follow-up to Green Day’s Grammy-winning, multi-platinum American Idiot (2004), 21st Century Breakdown is yet another grandiose concept album that infuses the trio’s pop-punk sensibilities with classic rock influence and a heavy dose of power balladry. If you liked the politically minded American Idiot, you'll be delighted to know that this spiritual sequel is more of the same. Arguably, it's even better.

21st Century Breakdown is a three-act story revolving around two young characters, Christian and Gloria, who are finding their way in post-9/11 America and contending with war, poverty and misguided leadership. They’re hurt, confused and, in keeping with Green Day’s punk rock origins, they’re pissed off. Never is this more apparent than in the song “Horseshoes and Handgrenades,” when frontman Billie Joe Armstrong screams, “I’m not fucking around!” We believe him.

But 21st Century Breakdown isn’t all cynical rage and despair. Among its 18 tracks are some of Green Day’s best tunes, including the infectious “Know Your Enemy,” the epic “¡Viva La Gloria!” and the haunting “21 Guns,” on which Armstrong displays an impressive vocal range. While there are plenty of great standalone songs on this album, it’s best enjoyed as a beginning-to-end experience. It’s refreshing that Green Day is championing concept albums in the iPod age. We need more of these.

They’ve matured a great deal since their 1994 breakout album Dookie, but Armstrong, drummer Tré Cool and bassist Mike Dirnt have never been more relevant or more ambitious. With American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day has successfully made the transition from bratty pop-punkers to larger-than-life, socially conscious stadium rockers. And they’re only improving with age.

21st Century Breakdown is an operatic, fist-pumping triumph.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spielberg Debunks E.T. Sequel Rumors

The National Enquirer recently reported that director Steven Spielberg and actress Drew Barrymore were secretly discussing a sequel to E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial. Thankfully, this just isn’t true. Your childhood memories are safe—for now at least.

As pointed out by Slash Film, the director guest edited the 20th anniversary issue of Empire magazine—now on sale—and said he has absolutely no interest in a sequel to the 1982 film. He writes in the letters to the editor section, “I’m never going to make E.T. IIE.T. is a closed story. It had a beginning, middle, and a definite ending, and we had nowhere to take it except to go home with him. Nor did I want to bring him back to Earth for a second time.” That's sound reasoning if I ever heard it.

Slash Film notes, however, that Spielberg was at one point interested in an E.T. follow-up called E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears, which would involve E.T. rescuing Elliott and his friends from evil aliens. Spielberg decided against this idea, saying it “would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity.”

So yeah, the National Enquirer was wrong. Shocker, right?

Random Bloggery for May 15

Happy Friday, Wortmaniacs! I hope you all have awesome plans for the weekend, whether they be going out for a few drinks, taking a road trip, hanging out with friends or marveling at Tom Hanks’ computer-generated coif in Angels & Demons, which opens today. Wait, that’s a practical visual effect? Could have fooled me.

I'll most likely be spending a lot of time sleeping off a cold that I caught a few days ago. Fun, I know. But speaking of things I picked up this week, I bought the latest Green Day album, 21st Century Breakdown, and I really like what I’ve heard so far. Stay tuned for a Wort Report Review.

On the gaming front, I finished X-Men Origins: Wolverine-Uncaged Edition for Xbox 360 last weekend. While it’s by no means a perfect action game—the enemy AI is pretty stupid and some of the stages seem to go on forever with little sense of pacing—it’s incredibly satisfying overall. The game is refreshingly violent and visceral in ways Hugh Jackman’s film character could never be without jeopardizing a “family-friendly” PG-13 rating. In short, this is one of the rare cases where a video game adaptation is far better than the movie it’s based on. Give it a try even if you couldn’t stand the cringe-inducing Wolverine film.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When IMAX Isn’t IMAX

Apparently, not all IMAX screens are created equal. On May 12, comedian Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation, I Love You, Man) wrote on his blog that after paying an extra $5 to see Star Trek: The IMAX Experience at an AMC Theatre in Burbank, California, the screen in question wasn’t an IMAX screen at all. While slightly larger than a regular movie screen, it was nowhere near the 72-foot IMAX standard. A rip-off? You bet.

As it turns out, screens at national theater chains such as Regal and AMC are bearing the IMAX name and charging a higher IMAX price for a decidedly non-IMAX experience. Sounds like false advertising to me.

Click here to read Ansari’s vitriolic blog post about this "FAKE IMAX" deception.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek: D-A-C Hits Xbox Live Arcade

Okay, so you’ve seen the new Star Trek flick. What now? You could brush up on your Shakespeare with The Klingon Hamlet or, if made-up alien languages aren’t your thing, you can download Star Trek: D-A-C on Xbox Live Arcade.

Inspired by the new J.J. Abrams film, Star Trek: D-A-C is a top-down space shooter that allows Xbox 360 gamers to wage war as either the Romulan Empire or the Federation in a variety of online competitive or co-op multiplayer game modes. Team combat supports up to 12 players at a time.

Players can choose between three ship types from each faction, including flagships, bombers and fighters. Federation players will be able to take the helm of the all-new U.S.S. Enterprise featured in the film.

Star Trek: D-A-C will run you 800 Microsoft Points ($10), which seems like a pretty good price for this type of shooter. But what do I know? Damn it, I’m a blogger, not an economist!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Terminate Your Arteries!

Wow, the new Terminator movie sure is cheesy. Warner Bros. Pictures is teaming with Pizza Hut to offer fans exclusive footage from the highly anticipated Terminator Salvation, which hits theaters May 21. The five-minute sneak peek is available on pizzahut.com from May 11-30.

The clip shows one of Skynet’s monstrous Harvesters in action and is pretty badass if you’re into giant robots and explosions. It also gives us a glimpse of a young Kyle Reese, played by Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin.

What’s even cooler is that on the day the film hits theaters, Pizza Hut is offering a free medium one-topping pizza to anyone named John or Sarah Connor. All you’ll need is a government-issued I.D. This promotion is too bizarre not to be considered universally awesome.

Free pizza at first seems like an odd way to support the future savior of mankind. Then again, I know that I’m never quite up to fighting for humanity without a slice or two.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Trek Boldly Tops the Box Office

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek earned $79.2 million in its four-day opening weekend, The Associated Press reports. This was nearly $3 million more than Paramount Pictures had anticipated.

Judging by the film’s overwhelmingly positive word of mouth, Star Trek could go on to be one of the biggest movies of 2009. Hardcore Trekkies, casual fans and people who can’t tell the difference between a tribble and a tricorder are all singing its praises.

And who could blame them? It’s hard to imagine even the most casual fan of science fiction—or film in general—not eagerly anticipating the further adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise after watching Star Trek for the first time. Simply put, this is an incredibly fun movie that warrants repeat viewing.

Let’s hope this film and the franchise continue to live long and, well, you know the rest.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Random Bloggery: Star Trek Edition

It’s finally here. Wowing audiences and far surpassing most critical expectations—earning a 96% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing—J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated Star Trek reboot is finally in theaters. In all of my years of being a devout Star Wars nerd, I can safely say that I’m beyond excited to see this film. Blasphemy, I know.

I’d always appreciated Star Trek to some degree. I grew up catching episodes of the original series and The Next Generation here and there, and I’d seen a handful of the feature films. However, I never felt like it was something I was a part of. While Star Wars felt like home—I’d practically memorized The Empire Strikes Back before I was four years old—Star Trek remained foreign to me. As the years went on, I seemed to explore just about every aspect of geek culture, but I never truly latched on to Trek. It was, in many ways, my “final frontier.”

However, in preparation for the new film’s May 7 release, I decided months ago to educate myself on all things Trek. I’ve now seen all of the films featuring the original crew—already placing The Wrath of Khan among my favorite science fiction films of all time—and have finally seen every episode of the original series. I thankfully stopped short of purchasing an English-Klingon dictionary, but I now have a far greater appreciation for Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic view of the future. We could all use a bit of that hope for tomorrow at this point in history.

I’ll be reviewing Star Trek on Broken Frontier this week, but I’d love to hear what Wortmaniacs think of it. Feel free to post your thoughts on the franchise relaunch in the comments section below.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Deadpool Solo Film Confirmed

Didn’t like X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Neither did a lot of people. However, one of the film’s few bright spots was the brief appearance of Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, the “Merc with a Mouth” known as Deadpool. If you’ve seen the movie you know that despite Reynolds’ pitch-perfect portrayal of the character early on, he’s later reduced to a silent remote-controlled science experiment with swords protruding out of his forearms in the film’s finale. Spoiler alert: He also gets decapitated. So would you believe that 20th Century Fox is developing a Deadpool spinoff?

Variety reports that Reynolds will star in a solo film centered on the fan-favorite character who, according to one of Wolverine’s secret endings, may not be entirely dead after all.

Fox is also developing a direct Wolverine sequel which, according to star Hugh Jackman, may take the character to Japan. The studio is also planning a Magneto film—focused on the villain played by Ian McKellen in the earlier X-Men films—as well as X-Men: First Class, which would take place during the team’s formative years.

So that’s four X-Men projects in the pipeline after Fox managed to screw up a sure thing with a solo Wolverine film. Why don’t they just focus on one movie at a time, hire decent writers, get a competent director on board and honor the source material? Perhaps the studio’s mutant ability is pissing off its core audience.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Marvel Team-Up: Eminem and the Punisher

In anticipation of the May 19 release of Relapse—his first studio album in five years—Eminem is invading the Marvel Universe for Eminem/Punisher: Kill You, a comic book teaming the controversial rapper with Marvel’s bullet-spraying antihero. The first half of the comic is in the June issue of XXL while the second half is available on Marvel.com. The comic is penned by Fred Van Lente (Amazing Spider-Man) with artwork by Salvador Larroca (Invincible Iron Man).

The story itself is pretty much what you might expect. After a concert, Slim Shady is betrayed by a former friend named Barracuda, who has been hired by a censorship group to murder the controversial rapper. The Punisher, literally, is assigned to protect Eminem from censorship. It’s silly, it’s short and it’s kind of dumb, but it’s all in good fun. Plus, we get to see Eminem kill someone with a chainsaw. That’s always a plus, right?

Eminem takes that shocking level of violence to a whole new level in the video for his latest single, “3 A.M.,” which is incredibly bloody and even quite disturbing at times. However, it’s nice to see that Eminem is still pushing boundaries after all these years. It doesn’t hurt that his lyrical construction and delivery are incredibly solid on this track, a major improvement from his previous and decidedly lame effort, “We Made You.” If “3 A.M.” is an indication of things to come, Relapse could be one of the best rap albums in years.








Friday, May 1, 2009

Random Bloggery for May 1

In the spirit of Friday, here’s a hilarious video I came across on Topless Robot, which features commentary track highlights from the Conan the Barbarian DVD. In the clip, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes some of the funniest observations I’ve ever heard on a DVD commentary.



Speaking of DVDs, I picked up the first volume of the animated X-Men series (released this week) as well as the first season of Chuck, a show that I sincerely hope NBC picks up next season. I’ll be watching plenty of both this weekend.

A Wolverine Sequel in Japan?

X-Men Origins: Wolverine hits theaters today—and if you’re like me, you saw it at midnight—but star Hugh Jackman told MTV News that he’s already thinking about a sequel, which would take the character to Japan.

Apparently, the film would loosely adapt Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s Wolverine mini-series, which ran in 1982.

“There are so many areas of that Japanese story,” Jackman said. “I love the idea of this kind of anarchic character, the outsider, being in this world—I can see it aesthetically, too—full of honor and tradition and customs and someone who’s really anti-all of that, and trying to negotiate his way. The idea of the samurai, too—and the tradition there. It’s really great.”

Unfortunately, despite Jackman’s continually excellent portrayal of the character, the first Wolverine effort never comes close to “really great.” If Jackman is serious about continuing this franchise, the second film needs to be approached very differently.

As I mentioned on my Twitter page just moments after returning from the theater, Wolverine isn’t necessarily terrible but the third act is a total mess. Judging by the chorus of boos following the screening, I’m not alone in my assessment.

Read my full review on Broken Frontier.