Friday, July 31, 2009

Confirmed: Ridley Scott Returns to Direct Alien Prequel

After months of speculation, Variety confirmed on July 30 that Ridley Scott—who directed the 1979 sci-fi classic Alien—will return to the series to helm a prequel film. Twentieth Century Fox has hired Jon Spaihts (Passengers, St. George and the Dragon) to write it.

The film will apparently take place before the original, in which the crew of a commercial space ship is terrorized by a toothy, acid-blooded monster.

Do we necessarily need another Alien movie? Not at all. The series peaked in 1986 with James Cameron’s breathtaking sequel, Aliens, and unless this “reboot” aspires to that level of filmmaking there’s no real point in going through with it (save for the obvious exploitative monetary benefits). It’s also yet another prequel from the studio that brought us the half-assed X-Men Origins: Wolverine earlier this summer, which proved that adhering to established continuity is not only completely optional in doing these backstory films, Fox seemingly discourages it. That’s the only plausible explanation for how that film turned out.

However, with Scott now officially attached, consider my skepticism subdued.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Marvel and Capcom Square Off on Xbox Live Arcade!

It’s about damn time. Arguably one of the most popular titles among hardcore fighting game fanatics, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is now available on Xbox Live Arcade. The cost? 1200 Microsoft Points ($15.00). The updated title features competitive online play, widescreen support and enhanced HD graphics.

But why is this re-release of a nine-year-old game so hotly anticipated? That can probably be attributed to its robust character roster, featuring 56 fighters from the Marvel and Capcom ranks, pitting Street Fighter brawlers such as Ryu, Chun-Li and Guile against comic book icons such as Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man. Coupled with three-on-three tag-team gameplay and a control scheme that is as simple to learn as it is difficult to master, it’s easy to see why Xbox 360 owners have been clamoring for an update.

If you’re a longtime fan and aren’t too keen on spending more cash on a game you already own, consider that Capcom is likely testing the waters to see if the demand is there for a brand-new third game. After Street Fighter IV turned out better than we were all expecting, I think we can all get behind the idea of more Capcom fighting goodness.

PlayStation 3 owners will be able to purchase the title through the Playstation Network on August 13.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Star Wars Concert Series Begins October 1

It may not be the Star Wars news that fans are waiting for—like, for an example, an update on that live-action television series we’ve heard so much about—but Lucasfilm announced July 23 that a national concert series featuring music from all six films will begin on October 1 in Anaheim, California. The production premiered at London’ s O2 Arena in April, and is conducted by Dirk Brossé.

Star Wars
: In Concert is narrated live by C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, and features a full symphony orchestra and choir. Specially-edited footage from the films will accompany the production, displayed on a three-story high-definition LED screen, delivering a feast for the eyes as well as the ears.

“Creating the music for the Star Wars films has been an exciting and wonderful experience for me, and I therefore have derived particular pleasure in assembling a compendium of themes from all of the films to be presented in Star Wars: In Concert,” acclaimed composer John Williams said in a statement. “The editors at Lucasfilm have created original film montages to accompany each of the musical selections, and in the process, I believe that a singular and unique Star Wars experience has been born.”

Star Wars
: In Concert will also feature an exhibit of Star Wars costumes, props, artwork and other artifacts from the Lucasfilm Archives.

I’m confident that Williams’ extraordinary music is one of the major reasons why the Star Wars saga is so beloved by so many people, and it’s exciting that his work—arguably some of the best in film history—is being showcased in this fashion. For more information on the production, including tour dates and venues, visit StarWarsInConcert.com.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stark Raving Mad: Iron Man Steals the Show at Comic-Con

Based on the exhaustive Internet coverage of last weekend’s Comic-Con International, those of us who couldn’t make it to San Diego really didn’t miss out on all that much as far as movies go. James Cameron screened footage of his mysterious 3D sci-fi epic Avatar, while some fans caught a glimpse of Tron Legacy, the long-awaited sequel to Disney’s 1982 cult classic starring Jeff Bridges. In addition, Twilight enthusiasts were treated to two scenes from New Moon, which hits theaters November 20. Nothing all that groundbreaking or unexpected.

But the big news coming out of the con is that Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2 is shaping up to be every bit as awesome as its 2007 predecessor, and that comic book geeks have plenty to look forward to as we near its May 7, 2010 release date.

Favreau and stars Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow) and Don Cheadle (Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes) were on hand to premiere about five minutes of footage from the anticipated film, which showcased Samuel L. Jackson reprising his role as Nick Fury and Johansson slinking around as the sexy Russian spy. Fans also saw Mickey Rourke wreak havoc as the evil Ivan Vanko/Whiplash as well as shots of Rhodey suited up as the fan-favorite War Machine.

But Iron Mania certainly isn’t limited to the live-action film these days. Marvel Animation/Madhouse unveiled a trailer at Comic-Con for the upcoming Marvel Anime: Iron Man, penned by acclaimed comic book scribe and novelist Warren Ellis. Check out the clip below, and be sure to pick your jaw up off the floor when you’re done.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gary Oldman Says Next Batman Film Could Begin Shooting Next Year

While promoting his new film The Book of Eli at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 24, Gary Oldman—Commissioner Gordon himself—said that the next Batman film could begin shooting as early as next year for release in 2011, Entertainment Weekly reports. “You didn’t hear it from me,” he added. Warner Bros. has yet to comment.

However, Quint over at Ain’t It Cool News later caught up with the actor, who clarified that while he’s sure the studio is readying a sequel to The Dark Knight, it may take two or three years. This sounds like studio damage control to me.

Given the success of The Dark Knight last year, it’s odd that Warner Bros. is being so tight-lipped about the inevitable sequel. That said, it’s clear they’re not rushing things for the third film, which is usually where these superhero franchises start going south.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sam Raimi to Direct World of Warcraft Film

I can’t see this as being a very good idea— then again, I’ve steered clear of the dangerously addictive game—but Sam Raimi is going to direct a live-action World of Warcraft film, Variety reports. He will begin shooting the project, based on the popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), after wrapping up Spider-Man 4.

“At its core, Warcraft is a fantastic, action-packed story,” Raimi said in a statement.

That may very well be true, but I’m having a hard time picturing a Warcraft movie turning out as anything other than Lord of the Rings Lite. It’s also got the whole game-to-movie adaptation thing going for it. Those tend to suck relentlessly.

However, with Raimi at the helm, Warcraft could break that trend. The filmmaker just needs to brings his Evil Dead charm to this franchise and keep those mopey Spider-Man 3 sensibilities in check.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Watchmen: Director’s Cut Arrives on DVD and Blu-ray

Most comic book aficionados have had July 21 marked on their calendars for some time now. If you haven’t, and if you’ve somehow missed all of the television and online banner ads, Watchmen: Director’s Cut arrives today on DVD and Blu-ray disc. This version features 24 minutes cut from the theatrical release along with a few video journals and a featurette called The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics.

However, if you’re a completionist (as most geeks surely are), there’s the Watchmen Ultimate Collector’s Edition on its way in December. That 5-disc set will include the director’s cut with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter woven in, as well as new commentary by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons and film director Zack Snyder. It will also include Under the Hood—a faux documentary featured on the standalone Black Freighter disc already on shelves—as well as the complete Watchmen motion comic. If you haven’t purchased any of the supplemental Watchmen material released thus far, this seems to be the better deal.

While it performed poorly at the box office, I think Snyder should be commended for bringing this hard-to-film story to the big screen. It’s not perfect, but it’s a stirring deconstruction of superhero mythology that’s worth seeing whether or not you’ve read the graphic novel.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Latest Harry Potter Sequel Breaks Midnight Sales Record

Muggles rejoice! The sixth chapter in the Harry Potter saga, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, earned a record-breaking $22.2 million in midnight ticket sales on July 15, the Los Angeles Times reports.

I came into the whole Harry Potter phenomenon relatively late. I didn’t really get interested the movies until Prisoner of Azkaban hit theaters in 2004, and it wasn’t until the final book was released in the summer of 2007 that I actually read the series.

That said, I think Harry Potter—in book and movie form—is a great example of approachable fantasy storytelling. While the mythos hardly rivals that of J.R.R. Tolkien’s more complex Lord of the Rings trilogy, J.K. Rowling has crafted an appealing fantasy world that both children and adults can appreciate. Plus, it’s really hard not to respect something that’s getting millions of young people around the world hooked on reading. That makes it the best kind of gateway drug.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Natalie Portman Cast in Thor Movie

Harvard-educated and Academy Award-nominated geek goddess Natalie Portman (Star Wars, V for Vendetta) is about to take on another nerd-friendly property by starring opposite Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek) in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Thor adaptation, which hits theaters in 2011. Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Hamlet) will direct.

Portman will play Jane Foster, the titular Norse deity’s first love. A nurse employed by Thor’s alter ego, Dr. Donald Blake, Jane made her debut in 1962 in the pages of Journey Into Mystery.

The film also stars relative unknown Tom Hiddleston as the villainous Loki, Thor’s adoptive brother and arch nemesis.

It’s great that Marvel continues to attract top-tier talent to these projects, and I can’t wait to see what Branagh does with this lesser-known Marvel icon. It’s also exciting to watch this united cinematic Marvel Universe unfold in future films. Iron Man 2 arrives in theaters next May, The First Avenger: Captain America hits June, 2011, and The Avengers—which will bring together all of the heroes under the Marvel Studios banner—will be released in May, 2012.

For more info, head over to Marvel.com.

Watch Ms. Portman spit rhymes in the clip below (via Hulu/YouTube).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ryan Reynolds Is Green Lantern in Upcoming Film

Warner Bros. has chosen Ryan Reynolds to star in its upcoming Green Lantern film after an exhaustive casting process, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The studio had also screen tested Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Jared Leto (Alexander) and singer Justin Timberlake. The film debut of the popular DC Comics character will be directed by Martin Campbell, who rejuvenated the James Bond franchise in 2006 with the stellar Casino Royale.

Reynolds, no stranger to comic book adaptations, recently stole several scenes in the otherwise disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine as fan-favorite mercenary Deadpool. He also appeared as Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity (2004).

It is not yet known how the Green Lantern film will impact the Deadpool solo film, currently in development.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Do You Like Your Toast on the Dark Side?

The Star Wars merchandising juggernaut rolls on! In anticipation of Comic-Con International—from July 23 through 26 in San Diego—Wired.com reports that Lucasfilm is introducing a new tie-in product that is as strange as it is awesomely geeky: the Darth Vader toaster.

Now available for pre-order on StarWars.com for $54.99, the toaster bears the Star Wars logo and is appropriately shiny and black. Not only does this appliance look cool (well, about as “cool” as a Star Wars-branded toaster can be), but it actually burns an image of Vader’s imposing visage right on the toast. Breakfast has never been this evil.

Says the product description, “Force power not required to operate toaster!”

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Spider-Man 4 Script Changes Hands Once Again

In terms of Marvel superheroes, we’re probably all anticipating Iron Man 2 (2010) just a bit more than Spider-Man 4 after the web-slinger’s last cinematic adventure two years ago disappointed pretty much everyone in the known universe (or at least anyone who’s ever picked up a comic book). But, Variety reports, Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios are preparing to redeem this franchise in the hearts and minds of movie fans with the next installment in the blockbuster series, which is slated to begin production early next year. Sam Raimi will return to direct with Tobey Maguire reprising the title role.

The Spider-Man 4 script was originally penned by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and later turned over to David Lindsay-Abaire (Robots, Inkheart) for rewrites. According to Variety, the script will be rewritten again by Gary Ross, who directed Maguire in Pleasantville (1998) and Seabiscuit (2003).

We still have zero idea who Spidey will be squaring off against in the next installment, but I think everyone is in agreement that when it comes to villains in these movies, less is more. Shoehorning Venom—one of Spider-Man’s most popular villains in the 1990s—into Spider-Man 3 wasn’t fan service: It was insulting, and the already crowded film (introducing Sandman, Green Goblin II and Gwen Stacy) suffered as a result. After the phenomenal Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004), this series deserves far more than what it got last time around. Let’s hope this apparent attention to the script pays off.

Spider-Man 4 is scheduled for release in 2011.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ice Age 3 Ties Transformers 2 Over Holiday Weekend

Over the Fourth of July weekend, box office newcomer Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs tied for first place with blockbuster smash Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, with both films earning $42.5 million domestically since Friday, July 3, according to studio estimates and reported on by the Los Angeles Times. Dawn of the Dinosaurs grossed $67.5 million since its Wednesday opening, with Revenge of the Fallen raking in $65 million during that same time period. Overall, the Michael Bay-helmed Transformers sequel has earned $293.5 million in U.S. theaters since its June 24 release.

Michael Mann’s Public Enemies—starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale—came in third with $26.2 million for the weekend and $41 million since opening Wednesday.

Worldwide, Revenge of the Fallen has earned a staggering $591.4 million, making it the biggest movie of the year in domestic and foreign markets. I think Bay just bought a new country: Explodistan.

7/6 Update: Actual studio figures released on Monday morning showed that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen narrowly beat Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs for the top spot at the box office, earning $42.4 million compared to the latter film's $41.6 million (via The New York Times).

Okay, Now They’re Doing a View-Master Movie

It’s been a surreal Fourth of July weekend thus far. On Friday, my 1999 Subaru Legacy finally kicked the proverbial bucket (busted transmission, I’m sure). It’s pretty sad that I’m losing my first “real” car (not counting my dad’s Toyota Corolla that I learned to drive on), but the incident has finally given me the push I needed to go out there and get a new vehicle. The search begins on Monday, and I’ll keep you posted on my quest for the Wortwagon Mark II. Yep, I just called it that.

While my much-needed four-day weekend has allowed me to indulge in my dual love for barbecues and exploding stuff (thankfully not the aforementioned car), there was a news item that caught my eye late last week that I can’t seem to shake. I didn’t want to blog, write or do anything work related over the long weekend in an attempt to preserve my sanity, but the fact that someone out there is actually considering making a full-length movie about the friggin’ View-Master has only served to drive me further into the depths of madness.

Coming Soon reports that Fringe co-writer/producer Brad Caleb Cane wrote on his Twitter page that a film based on the iconic toy is in the works. Star Trek/Transformers scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman will be involved. Kane describes the film as being “like the old Amblin movies: Goonies, Young Sherlock…in that vein.”

And I thought an Asteroids movie was a bad idea. At this rate, someone’s going to fast-track Slinky: The Movie to capitalize on this trend of idiocy. I can hear the trailer now.

“Alone or in pairs…this summer…one metal coil springs into action.”

Friday, July 3, 2009

Live-Action Star Wars TV Show Enters Pre-Production Down Under

It’s certainly been a long time coming, but George Lucas’ live-action Star Wars television series is moving forward in Australia, according to SCI FI TV. The site notes that producer Rick McCallum has approached several well-known Australian writers to work on the project, which is still reportedly slated to begin airing in 2010 (although that seems unlikely at this point). The series will also be shot in Australia.

I know that it’s gotten pretty popular to rag on all things Lucasfilm post-Return of the Jedi (and even that has its fair share of critics), but I was pleasantly surprised by The Clone Wars when it began airing on Cartoon Network last fall. The computer-animated series is a lot more fun than the prequel films, and captures that swashbuckling space opera spirit that turned many of us into Star Wars geeks in the first place. Hopefully, this new live-action series will similarly expand on the best parts of the mythology.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Universal Wins Bidding War Over Asteroids Adaptation

Wow. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal won a four-studio bidding war over the movie rights to Atari’s Asteroids. You know, the 1979 arcade game where you control a triangular spaceship and blow up giant rocks. Pardon me while I facepalm for a moment.

...Still facepalming...

Okay, I’m going to ask the obvious question: Why does this need to be a movie? With no plot or characters to speak of, this is one of the most cynical attempts at brand exploitation I’ve ever seen. Can we soon expect Missile Command and Pong movies? I’m personally holding out for the Frogger trilogy and the Tetris prequel saga. Blech.

The producer behind the Asteroids film is Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who’s responsible for recent Eddie Murphy bomb Imagine That and the critically thrashed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. So you know it’ll be awesome! [Ed. note: Sarcasm]

Click here for the full story.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sigourney Weaver Has No Plans to Appear in Upcoming Ghostbusters, Alien Films

There is no Dana. Only…who? Actress Sigourney Weaver, who played the paranormally troubled Dana Barrett in the first two Ghostbusters films, told TVSquad.com that she will not be joining co-stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson in the upcoming third film. Weaver was also noticeably absent in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, which hit store shelves June 16, and was replaced by Alyssa Milano as Peter Venkman’s new love interest, Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn.

“I think they're trying to create something new completely with the Ghostbusters, although I know Bill is in it,” she said. “I hope my little son Oscar [from Ghostbusters II] is a Ghostbuster! ... I don't expect to have anything to do with it, although I wish them well.”

That’s a shame. The actress added that she also has no intention of returning to the Alien franchise, after 20th Century Fox revealed that it would be rebooting the series. Not only would her appearance in the film not make sense—it is rumored to be a prequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 original—but she’s really had enough of the series and her toothy, acid-bleeding co-stars. She also said she wasn’t very happy with the two Alien Vs. Predator films, but, then again, who was?

“I never saw them, but one of the reasons I died in [Alien] 3 was to not have anything to do with those,” she said of the 1992 film directed by David Fincher. She returned to the franchise five years later as a cloned Ripley in Alien: Resurrection.