Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'The Empire Strikes Back' Deemed Not Scruffy Looking by the Library of Congress

On the same year Star Wars fans celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back—considered by most to be the best film in the saga—the acclaimed sequel reached another illustrious milestone in 2010 when it was added to the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

Also among the 25 films honored was George Lucas’ student film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4 EB, which joins Empire and Lucas’ previous inducted works Star Wars: A New Hope and American Graffiti on the Library of Congress’ list of films considered worthy of preservation.

Empire’s induction comes just weeks after the death of its director, Irvin Kershner.

Other films added to the National Film Registry this year include Airplane!, The Exorcist, The Pink Panther (1964) and Saturday Night Fever.

For the full list of 2010 inductees, click here.

'Spider-Man' Musical a Spider Short

After suffering a concussion during the first preview performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Nov. 28, actress Natalie Mendoza is officially leaving the production, The New York Times reports. She played Arachne, a villainess that plays a key role in Spider-Man’s origin story.

To be more specific, Arachne—an original creation by Lion King director Julie Taymor—is the spider that bites Peter Parker and gives him super powers. And she sings!

Spider-Man was to be the Broadway debut of Mendoza, 30, a film and theater actress and musician who is perhaps best known for her lead role in 2005 horror flick The Descent.

“Thank goodness I had such a brilliant neurologist who made sure I recovered properly,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Nice to be almost back to normal … almost anyway haha! Thanking God for peace, real friends, love and health and healing.”

Chris Tierney—a Spider-Man stuntman who fell roughly 20 feet to the stage during a performance last Tuesday—is still recovering from multiple injuries, including a hairline fracture in his skull, four broken ribs, a bruised lung and three fractured vertebrae. Two other actors have suffered serious injuries due to the show’s complex (and clearly unsafe) stuntwork and effects.

The show’s opening night was recently pushed back four weeks to Feb. 7 to give Taymor, the producers and composers Bono and The Edge time to streamline the show before critics review it.

Click here to read the full story.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Tron: Legacy' a Superficial Triumph

It seems like just about every movie studio is gussying up their most beloved intellectual properties to capitalize on the ongoing 3D craze at the cinema—and few studios know how to cash in on nostalgia quite like Disney. More than 28 years after the release of the original Tron, a poorly received sci-fi curiosity that helped usher in the age of computer animation, the House of Mouse unveils Joseph Kosinksi’s Tron: Legacy, yet another sci-fi curiosity that similarly pushes the boundaries of visual effects.

But is it any good? Well, if you’re one of the many technophiles that fell in love with the original cult classic, there’s no reason why you won’t appreciate Legacy’s story, which ties into the original while at the same time setting the stage for future adventures in the Tron universe. For everyone else, however, Legacy is a string of gorgeous set pieces that just happens to be loosely held together by a narrative that is as simple as it is needlessly convoluted.

What’s Old Is New Again

Sure, Legacy is a sequel, but it’s less about continuing the story as it is about introducing the franchise to a new audience in the hopes that they’ll stick around for the sequels, animated series, comic books, video games and whatever else Disney has in store. In other words, seeing the original Tron will enhance your enjoyment of Legacy, but it’s not necessarily a requirement. In fact, Disney allegedly stopped printing DVDs of the original Tron so younger audience members wouldn’t skip Legacy due to its predecessor’s now-dated visual effects.

At the beginning of the film, we learn that software engineer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the protagonist from the first film, has created a new “digital frontier” called The Grid, a virtual domain separate from the computer world in the first Tron. One night, when he returns to his office to continue his work on The Grid, he vanishes completely and is presumed dead. Two decades later, his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is still haunted by his father’s disappearance, but when Kevin’s colleague and friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) receives a mysterious page from Kevin’s office, Sam investigates. Could his father still be alive?

As one might expect, a trip to dad’s old stomping grounds inadvertently transports Sam to The Grid, a world that is hardly as idyllic as his father had intended. Overseen by the maniacal Clu—a program the elder Flynn created to help him build his digital frontier—The Grid is a dangerous place, and it’s up to Sam to evade Clu’s clutches, track down his father and find a way home.

The story serves its purpose, but it’s really just an excuse to bombard the audience with dazzling visuals (as was the case with last year’s Avatar). Having said that, the special effects are worth the hefty price of a 3D screening. From the fast-paced Light Cycle match to a thrilling climactic chase sequence, Legacy is determined to make sweet love to your eyeballs.

Flynn Abides
No one really expects much in terms of acting from these big-budget 3D extravaganzas, but Legacy’s cast is seldom lost amidst the CGI chaos. Channeling the “Dude” of Big Lebowski fame, Bridges brings to The Grid a healthy dose of humanity as its messianic creator. Hedlund, a relative unknown, rises to the task as the film’s in-over-his-head hero, while the stunning and talented Olivia Wilde provides eye candy of a different sort entirely as the mysterious Quorra. Clad in skintight leather and latex, Wilde often draws attention away from the digital wizardry around her, but I doubt you’ll be complaining.

Even a creepy, computer-generated and de-aged Bridges pulls off an excellent performance as the calculating baddie Clu. We’re approaching the uncanny valley, folks.

With a Twist
As visually impressive as this film is, even its most ardent supporters would admit that the story nearly falls apart in the third act as it races toward its conclusion, largely due to a fairly major “twist” that never feels as important as it’s clearly supposed to be. Without going into spoiler territory, I’ll say that a character that was supposed to be dead, well, isn’t. The reveal is cheap, and this character’s fate serves only to set up a sequel.

Tron Is Serious Business, Apparently
Although the original Tron was pretty goofy—especially for those of us who were introduced to it long after the fact—Legacy takes itself completely seriously. As a result, it’s loaded with moments that should be a lot more fun than they actually are. The core concept behind the Tron films is preposterously cheesy, and it would have better served the film to treat the material with a bit more levity. Not everything needs to be dark and gritty, even though that is the trend these days.

Aural Fixation
Electronic music duo Daft Punk composed the soundtrack for Legacy, and it’s one of the things I loved most about the film. It’s remarkably similar to Hans Zimmer’s work on The Dark Knight score, with a welcome smattering of synthesizers added to the mix. Daft Punk’s tunes wonderfully complement the eye-popping visuals in Legacy, giving The Grid an otherworldly feel.

End of Line

Tron: Legacy will leave you hungry if you go to the theater craving a good story, but it’s a veritable feast for the eyes. Grab your 3D glasses and indulge.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Muppets: Ringing of the Bells

Enjoy this Christmas classic, courtesy of Muppet Studios.

Merry Christmas from The Wort Report!

Here’s wishing each of you Wortmaniacs out there a Merry Christmas. And, for my Wookiee readers, Happy Life Day!

And with that, you probably know what’s coming. Grab some egg nog and consider yourselves warned.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

OSHA, Department of Labor Could Squash 'Spider-Man'

Enough is enough, Julie Taymor.

Following yet another serious performer injury—this brings the total to four for everyone keeping track— the Lion King director’s $65 million Broadway catastrophe Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is under investigation by both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the New York State Department of Labor, The Wall Street Journal reports. The show’s producers have agreed to enact more rigorous safety precautions in light of the string of on-set accidents.

Additionally, the Actors’ Equity Association “is working to ensure that performances will not resume until back-up safety measures are in place,” as noted in a statement released by union representatives. This is the first good news about this show I’ve heard since its inception.

According to the article, Spidey stuntman Christopher Tierney, 31, fell more than 20 feet off a platform during the final 10 minutes of Monday night’s preview performance. Reportedly, “someone missed their cue” and forgot to anchor a tether to Tierney’s harness.

As reported by BroadwayWorld, Tierney has suffered several broken ribs and bleeding, and is hospitalized in serious but stable condition.

So let’s recap: This is the most expensive show in Broadway history, the cast (and the audience) is clearly in danger due to an apparent inability to pull off the show’s complex stunts and, based on early reviews, the music sucks (thanks Bono!). Is Turn Off the Dark really worth all of the damage its caused thus far? Do the show’s producers actually need an actor to die onstage before they realize this thing is a bad idea? How about an audience member getting mortally wounded when a stunt goes awry?

The show’s official opening date was already pushed back to Feb. 7 before this latest accident, but these persistent safety issues could push that start date back even further.

Monday, December 13, 2010

'Mass Effect 3' Gets a Trailer, Release Window

At the Spike Video Game Awards on Saturday, Electronic Arts and BioWare unveiled a trailer for Mass Effect 3 as well as a holiday 2011 release window for the final installment in the acclaimed Mass Effect trilogy.

Judging by the world premiere Mass Effect 3 teaser trailer, which you can watch below, Commander Shepard must defend Earth from a Reaper invasion.

I’m disappointed that we’ll have to wait another year to finish the story, as I was under the impression that the gap between the second and third games would be far shorter than the two-year gap between Mass Effect and its sequel. However, based on how the first two games turned out (especially Mass Effect 2), the wait will be worth it.

As for the trailer…meh. I’m a huge fan of this series, but there’s not a whole lot to latch onto in this clip. As a matter of fact, the Earth setting and the alien invasion premise make the Mass Effect universe seem a lot smaller than it actually is. Oh well.

(Via GameTrailers.com)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dr. Hugo Strange Knows the Dark Knight’s Secrets in 'Batman: Arkham City'

I made it a point to have something—anything—better to do than stay in on Saturday night and watch the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards. But I have to admit, some of the trailers that debuted during the show were actually pretty cool, including a revealing trailer for anticipated Batman: Arkham Asylum sequel, Arkham City. As the title suggests, the action this time takes the Caped Crusader off Arkham Island and onto the streets and rooftops of Gotham City.

An earlier trailer revealed that the Joker will return from the first game, as will his deranged gal pal and henchlady Harley Quinn. Other Batman villains set to play a role in Arkham City include Mr. Freeze, Talia al Ghul, Two-Face, Catwoman and Dr. Hugo Strange who, in the trailer below, notes that he knows the Dark Knight’s secret identity and will use it against him.

On a sadder note, IGN reported earlier this year that Arkham City will be Mark Hamill’s final portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime. “This will be my last, there’s no question about that” he said. “But it’s the last hurrah.”

Hurrah indeed. Arkham City hits stores next fall. Watch the VGA trailer below.

(Via GameTrailers.com)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett Return for 'The Hobbit'

Deadline is reporting that Orlando Bloom is expected to reprise the role of Legolas in The Hobbit, the forthcoming two-part prequel to Peter Jackson’s Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy. This news follows confirmation that Cate Blanchett will be returning to the J.R.R. Tolkien film franchise as Galadriel.

It should be noted that neither Legolas nor the Lady of the Wood explicitly appear in Tolkien’s original text, but I wager Jackson will have little trouble weaving them into the core narrative.

For the full story, click here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Watch 'Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime' in Action

Having seen this trailer for Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime, a brand-new adventure available for download next year, I can’t say I’m all that excited about the thing. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be much of a story to this semi-sequel to Atari’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game, and since the original cast won’t be returning, I doubt it will have any of that dry Ghostbusters humor. Still, you’ll be able to bust ghosts with your pals for just a few bucks. And, as Ray Parker Jr. is quick to remind us, bustin’ makes us feel good.

(Via Wired.com)

"Who Gives a S**t About Points!?"

Video game comedy site Dorkly has posted an amusing Ninja Turtles-themed video that more than a few beat-em-up fans can relate to. It gets bonus points not only for being set in Turtles in Time—one of the most fun licensed video games of all time—and an expletive-laden reference to world champion video game player Billy Mitchell (of The King of Kong fame).

Enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

New 'Ghostbusters' Game Available for Download Next Year

It might not be the full-fledged sequel to 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game that we were hoping for, but it’ll have to do. USA Today’s Game Hunters blog revealed that Atari and Sony have teamed with developer Wanako for Sanctum of Slime, a four-player co-op game available for download in the spring for Playstation Network, Xbox Live and Windows PC Download.

Unlike the first game, which was a third-person shooter, Sanctum of Slime is a top-down adventure similar to Konami’s arcade-style downloadable game Zombie Apocalypse. Also unlike the first game, this new title will not feature the voices of original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. Players will again assume the role of the mute “Rookie” Ghostbuster from the first game, who after helping the original team save New York City, was offered the opportunity to open his own Ghostbusters franchise.

Making its first appearance in Sanctum of Slime is a new vehicle called the Ecto-4WD, which players will be able to drive. The USA Today piece notes that this is the first time we’ll be able to get behind the wheel in a Ghostbusters title, but I distinctly remember driving the Ecto-1 in the original Nintendo game. Hooray for research!

For the full story, click here.