Thursday, December 27, 2012

‘Star Trek’ Director J.J. Abrams Explains Why He Declined Disney’s ‘Star Wars’

It’s common knowledge at this point that Lost creator and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams declined an early offer to be involved with Disney’s forthcoming Star Wars sequel trilogy, but a new interview in Empire Magazine reveals that Abrams was initially toying with the idea of trekking from “where no man has gone before” to “a galaxy far, far away,” and even had meetings on the matter with Star Wars’ new overseer, Kathleen Kennedy. However, the lifelong Star Wars fan felt strongly that he’d rather enjoy the new films from a distance.

“I quickly said that because of my loyalty to Star Trek, and also just being a fan, I wouldn’t even want to be involved in the next version of those things," Abrams told Empire. “I declined any involvement very early on. I’d rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.”

The first of Disney’s Star Wars sequels is slated to hit theaters in 2015, while Abrams’ follow-up to his 2009 Star Trek reboot, titled Star Trek Into Darkness, will be released on May 17, 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

First Look at Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Desolation of Smaug’

 In a move that tells fans absolutely nothing we don’t already know about Peter Jackson’s next Hobbit film — but nevertheless sends us into a speculative frenzy — the trilogy’s official Facebook page released this first look at Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, slated to hit theaters Dec. 13, 2013.

In the photo, Bilbo is wearing some fancy new duds on a massive pile of gold, no doubt during his confrontation with the dragon Smaug within the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo could also be doing his Scrooge McDuck impression, but I don’t remember that from the book.

Three Reasons to Love ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

 It shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise that, yes, I really enjoyed the first film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. But rather than bore you with a long-winded and hyperbolic explanation as to why An Unexpected Journey is worth your cash this holiday season, here are three reasons why you geeks out there should see it in theaters, whether in 3D, 48 FPS or otherwise.

1)  Martin Freeman is a perfect Bilbo Baggins
Before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I admittedly knew very little about the work of Martin Freeman, save for his starring role in the middling 2005 film adaptation of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Now that I’ve seen him as Bilbo Baggins, I can’t picture anyone else playing the overly cautious son of Belladonna Took. He captures Bilbo’s polite outrage incredibly well at the beginning of the film as the dwarves invade his pantry, and his transformation to unlikely action hero during the film’s climax is pretty convincing (even if it is a bit abrupt). On top of all that, Freeman even looks at times like a young Ian Holm, who plays the older Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings films and the prologue to An Unexpected Journey.

2) The Riddle Game sequence lives up to expectations
The entire Lord of the Rings saga hinges on Bilbo’s discovery of The One Ring and the ensuing Riddle Game with its previous bearer, Gollum, so it’s only appropriate that the fifth chapter of The Hobbit is among Tolkienites’ favorite pieces of the lore. Fortunately, Peter Jackson is one such Tolkienite, and made Bilbo’s tense battle of wits as creepy in this film as we all imagined it would be. Kudos to the Weta Team (and returning actor Andy Serkis) for reminding us why Gollum is one of modern cinema’s finest digital creations.

3)  The Hobbit films are better Lord of the Rings prequels than the book
This isn’t a knock on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, but the original children’s story was never really intended to be a prelude to the far more epic story that would be its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. In fact, the author went back and rewrote portions of the book’s fifth chapter “Riddles in the Dark” (which features the aforementioned Riddle Game), to better match up with the The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien allegedly intended at one point to rewrite The Hobbit entirely as a more serious story to supplement Bilbo’s more childish retelling of his Lonely Mountain adventure.

Since that never happened, Jackson was tasked with making The Hobbit “fit” with the mythology established in the previous films. As a result, many of the darker elements of the story are tied more directly to the imminent return of Sauron, and portions of Middle Earth’s history are culled from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings appendices and supplemental writings. Making the story feel “bigger” not only serves to connect The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings (which benefits fans), but also allows the story to be spread over three films (which benefits the studios).

So, there you have it! If you disagree with any of the points made here, let me know on Twitter by following me @JamesWortman.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

‘Fantastic Four’ Reboot Release Date Set for 2015

Determined to cling to the rights of one of Marvel’s most beloved properties, Fox has announced that The Fantastic Four  —  a reboot of Tim Story’s misguided film series starring Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch and The Thing  — will hit theaters on March 6, 2015, Collider.com reports.

Details on the upcoming film are nearly nonexistent, but we know that it will be helmed by Josh Trank (Chronicle) and written by relative unknown Jeremy Slater. Other Marvel films on Fox’s slate include The Wolverine (July 26, 2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23, 2014).

I don’t want to wish ill on The Fantastic Four, but this is one franchise that would flourish with the fine folks over at Marvel Studios, and aside from X-Men: First Class, Fox hasn’t produced any worthwhile Marvel films since X2: X-Men United nearly a decade ago. Will Trank’s reboot be a film worthy of Marvel’s First Family? Or will we have another X-Men Origins: Wolverine on our hands? Stay tuned.

For the full story, click here.

Stephen Colbert Talks Tolkien with ‘Hobbit’ Director Peter Jackson

Most geeks are feverishly anticipating the Friday release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, including Comedy Central political satirist Stephen Colbert. On the Dec. 6 edition of The Colbert Report, Colbert — who has already seen the first installment of the Hobbit trilogy — had a geekified discussion with Jackson about all things J.R.R. Tolkien, including the author’s retconning of certain events in his 1937 children’s fantasy novel The Hobbit after the completion of The Lord of the Rings and the author’s abandoned plans to rewrite The Hobbit entirely.

Check out the video below, and be sure to pre-order your tickets before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters this weekend.

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The Pundit: Or Colbert and Back Again - Hobbit Week Night Four
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‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Teaser Explains Very Little

If there’s anything to be said about J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s that Paramount is taking an economical approach to its marketing. We still have no concrete information as to who the antagonist will be — even though many signs point to Khan Noonien Singh — and even the first trailer that’s been making the rounds online raises more questions than answers.

In any event, check out the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer below.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Is Disney Pondering ‘Star Wars’ Spin-Offs?

Disney’s plans for the Star Wars franchise could extend far beyond merely releasing three more installments of the core saga, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

We know that Toy Story 3 scribe Michael Arndt has been tapped to pen Star Wars Episode VII, while acclaimed screenwriter and producer Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) has signed on to return to the franchise. We also know that Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes) has also been hired to write and produce a separate Star Wars film. With that, the assumption was that Kasdan and Kinberg would complete the sequel trilogy after Episode VII hits theaters in 2015. Yet, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Although Kasdan and Kinberg’s screenplays could become “Episodes” of the nine-part Star Wars saga, sources have told THR that the stories could also be transformed into spin-off Star Wars films that aren’t tethered to the main Skywalker story. Disney CEO Robert Iger has already expressed interest in releasing a new Star Wars film “every two to three years,” so it isn’t entirely out of the question that there are more than three new Star Wars films on the way. Neither Disney nor Lucasfilm has made any official confirmation as to the specifics of Kasdan and Kinberg’s screenplays, so please be sure to take this speculation with a grain of Kessel’s finest glitterstim. (Look it up.)

Releasing a new Star Wars film every couple of years is an ambitious endeavor, but I’ve always been open to side stories set in George Lucas’ expansive universe. This is probably why I read so many Star Wars novels of questionable quality in my youth. Read into that what you will.

For more on the future of the Star Wars saga, head over to HollywoodReporter.com.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

James Bond Will Return in ‘To Have and To Gold’

Hey guys. I’m not having the best week for a variety of reasons, but this video from Funny or Die cheered me up quite a bit. Check out the lost James Bond film To Have and To Gold, which was written directed and starring Gil Edmundberry.

(He’s still better than George Lazenby.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lucasfilm Confirms Writer for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’

In a move that will surely quell complaints about Disney’s impending resurrection of the Star Wars film series, Lucasfilm has announced that Toy Story 3 scribe Michael Arndt will write Star Wars: Episode VII.

Remember how the ending of Toy Story 3 got you all teary-eyed behind your 3D glasses? This is the guy you can thank for that. Arndt also previously won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for penning Little Miss Sunshine.

If you’re not excited about this, you should be. For the latest updates as Episode VII pre-production begins, check out StarWars.com.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Harrison Ford ‘Open’ to Reprising Han Solo Role in ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’

Just as he returned to don Indiana Jones’ trademark fedora in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 70-year-old actor Harrison Ford could once again choose to play rogue smuggler Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode VII, Entertainment Weekly reports. The Star Wars sequel, announced alongside news that Disney purchased Lucasfilm, will hit theaters in 2015 — more than three decades after Return of the Jedi premiered.

“Harrison is open to the idea of doing the movie and he’s upbeat about it, all three of them are,” an unnamed source told EW.com, referring also to Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia). What’s odd is that of the three main stars of the original trilogy, Ford has been the most vehement about distancing himself from the Star Wars franchise. What changed his mind?

It’s important to note that it is not yet known whether Episode VII will feature Luke, Leia and Han at all. Still, if this anonymous source is telling the truth, it’s nice to know Ford isn’t averse to the idea of becoming everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder once again.

For more on this story, click here.

By the Power of Grayskull! I’m on He-Man.org!

I normally don’t blog about work, but I couldn’t resist sharing that the kind folks at He-Man.org are now featuring a WWE.com story I wrote on their homepage. The piece includes interviews with WWE Superstars such as Sheamus, Wade Barrett, Dolph Ziggler and Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston talking about growing up with Mattel’s Masters of the Universe toys in honor of the brand’s 30th anniversary. Fun stuff, and it’s cool to get that kind of recognition from the MOTU fan community.

To read the story on WWE.com, click here.

To read what the He-Man.org forums are saying about this MOTU/WWE crossover, click here.

My Thoughts on Disney’s Lucasfilm Purchase

About a week ago in, well, this galaxy, the Internet was abuzz in reaction to shocking news that The Walt Disney Co. had purchased Lucasfilm, Ltd., for a whopping $4.05 billion dollars. As if that bombshell wasn’t enough to send the geek world into a tizzy, The House of Mouse revealed that it would be bringing Star Wars: Episode VII to theaters in 2015

This was a lot to process — especially considering the fact that many of us on the U.S. East Coast were dealing with the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, which left millions without power (myself included). Nevertheless, it seems as though just about everyone has an opinion about Disney’s latest acquisition, including the belief that Disney will forever tarnish the legacy of one of the film world’s most beloved properties. Will Mickey Mouse ruin Star Wars?

To answer that question, no. If the prequels didn’t ruin Star Wars forever, the franchise can withstand anything.

Jokes aside, though, I firmly believe that Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm is the best thing to happen to George Lucas’ empire in more than a decade. The 68-year-old filmmaker’s decision to hand the keys to his kingdom over to the caretakers of the Magic Kingdom will no doubt allow for fresh, new creative minds to play in the sandbox the Flanneled One created nearly four decades ago. By essentially relinquishing control of the franchise and serving as “creative consultant” on this new trilogy of films, Lucas has ensured that Star Wars will live forever.

That’s the big thing that seemed to be lost on many people hearing this news last week: a new director (or directors) will helm the next Star Wars trilogy. When Episode VII hits theaters in 2015, we will witness the first-ever live-action Star Wars film directed by a fan. There’s an entire generation of talented directors that was weaned on the classic films, and all of them are surely anxious to take the Star Wars franchise into hyperspace. As we’ve seen with Dave Filoni’s work on the stellar animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network, modern Star Wars is at its best when fanboys are in charge.

But what about the other stories to be told in Lucas’ far, far away galaxy? Will we finally get that Star Wars live-action series we’ve been hearing about all these years? What about some traditional 2D Star Wars animation? Can we expect Han Solo and Chewbacca to join Woody and Buzz Lightyear in the next Toy Story film? We can only speculate on the future of Star Wars at this point, but I feel we can rest assured that it will be a bright one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

‘Iron Man 3’ Trailer Hints at Dark Third Chapter for Tony Stark and Co.

Looks like shawarma doesn’t cure all ills. Still reeling from this battle alongside Earth’s Mightiest Heroes against an invading alien force in the conclusion of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) faces new enemies and his own demons in Iron Man 3. The debut trailer for the Shane Black-helmed sequel has hit the web, giving fans their first look at Ben Kingsley as iconic Iron Man villain Mandarin and some hints at the perils that Ol’ Shellhead must overcome this time around.

There’s certainly a lot riding on Iron Man 3, as it is the first post-Avengers film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After Stark joined forces with such fantastical characters as Thor, Captain America and Hulk to take on a maniacal demigod and hordes of snarling aliens, the onus was on Black to rein in the narrative and tell a grounded, more human story. Will he succeed? Watch the trailer and judge for yourself.

Iron Man 3 blasts into theaters in April 2013.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

‘Ghostbusters 3’ News Continues to Slime the Internet, Baffle Fans

I could hardly contain my excitement upon realizing that my return to the blogosphere coincided with yet another exhausting piece of Ghostbusters 3 information that’s got a lot of people talking … or facepalming, I’m not sure which.

As reported by Deadline.com, veteran Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman is expected to film the highly anticipated third movie in the Sony Pictures franchise next summer without its biggest star, Bill Murray. Take this for what it is, but it’s clear among Hollywood brass that Ghostbusters 3 is at least a possibility, and evidently isn’t the joke that everyone else seems to think it is.

So, Ghostbusters 3 is still a thing that might or might not happen, but someone, somewhere is taking it seriously. Yay?

For the full story, click here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A New Beginning

An English professor at the University of Connecticut once told me that one of the most important exercises for a writer is to keep the pen moving. Now, aside from the multitude of wedding cards I’ve signed over the past few weeks, I haven’t gotten all that much use out of physical pens. Nevertheless, the advice is still pertinent: A writer should always be writing.

Fortunately, my career as a digital media producer has afforded me ample opportunity to write extensively just about every day. However, that dedication to the craft forced me to make some sacrifices, and I begrudgingly made the decision to close up shop on The Wort Report after maintaining it for the better part of six years.

Since my attention has needed to be focused elsewhere, I just couldn’t bear to allow something I cared about to kinda-sorta exist “just because.” As such, on Sept. 24, 2012, I hit the “publish” button on what I believed at the time to be my final blog post.

Well, looks like it wasn’t.

 With my fandom for all things nerdy reaffirmed at New York Comic Con this past weekend, I’ve come to the realization that blogging about the things I care about is very much a part of who I am.  With that, I’d like to officially welcome you all back to The Wort Report.

*Allow me to reintroduce myself:
  • My name is James Wortman. I’m a digital media producer in the sports-entertainment industry. My writing is sometimes known for its excessive, outrageous and aggressive alliteration.
     
  • Comic books are kind of my thing.
     
  • I frequently play video games. Minecraft terrifies me ... too many sharp edges.
     
  • I own many action figures. A friend of mine recently got me into Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics line, which will no doubt lead me down a dark path lined with Battle Cats and Moss Men. Tempting, right ladies?
     
  • Coffee? I like it.
     
  • Bustin’ makes me feel good.
Well, there you have it. For better or for worse, The Wort Report has returned. Check back here for updates and random thoughts from my shiny dome, and be sure to follow me on Twitter (@JamesWortman) for 140-character nuggets of nerdiness.

*You read that in Jay-Z’s voice, didn’t you?

Monday, September 24, 2012

To Be Continued ...

Hey everyone. You've probably noticed that updates on The Wort Report have been few and far between these days. If you know what I've been up to with work these days, you know why.

However, in the event that you don't know where my career has taken me, I'll simply state that my job leaves very little time for outside writing at the moment. I'd like to say my absence from this blog is temporary, but I also don't want to be a liar. I just don't know.

In any event, I wanted to take the opportunity to come out and say that this blog is officially on hold for the time being. I just can't bear to limp on with sporadic news-based posts once every two weeks, which is unacceptable in my book. I'd like The Wort Report to be more than that, and it's just not possible at this juncture.

On a lighter note, you can follow me on Twitter (@JamesWortman) if you aren't already. And if you've been reading along on The Wort Report for the last six years, thank you.

Stay nerdy,
James

Thursday, August 30, 2012

‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ TV Show Gets the Green Light!

Remember how excited we were when we learned that Avengers director Joss Whedon was working on a TV series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Remember how we all hoped it would focus on the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, mercifully shortened to S.H.I.E.L.D.? Well, as confirmed by the Los Angeles Times and a host of other multimedia outlets this week, the top-secret government group headed by Agent Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson in the films) will be coming to ABC.

Although Whedon will co-write the pilot for S.H.I.E.L.D., he is not its showrunner. Given the fact that he’ll be wrangling Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and other Marvel luminaries in the Avengers sequel – set for release in 2015 – it’s safe to say he’ll have his hands full.

Since the series will revolve around S.H.I.E.L.D. and its agents, it’s unlikely the films’ superheroic heavy hitters will be appearing very often if at all (fingers crossed for at least a handful of Nick Fury cameos). However, it’s entirely likely that we’ll be seeing plenty of Agent Maria Hill, played by How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders.  If you saw how amazingly she filled out a S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform in The Avengers, you know how awesome this is.

Depending on where this series is set chronologically in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we could also see Clark Gregg return as fan-favorite Agent Coulson. If it takes place after The Avengers, well, that could prove difficult.

For more on the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, head over to the L.A. Times website by clicking here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

‘Avengers’ Sequel Gets a Release Date

Marvel.com has confirmed that the Joss Whedon-helmed sequel to this summer’s blockbuster smash, Marvel’s The Avengers, will be hitting theaters on May 1, 2015.

The website also stated the following in the announcement:
“In addition to the Marvel's The Avengers sequel, Marvel Studios will release a slate of films based on the Marvel characters including Iron Man 3 on May 3, 2013; Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013; Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014; Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014; and Ant-Man.”
Looks like lots of cool Marvel Studios goodness is on the horizon. For more info on Marvel Studios’ upcoming crop of films, head over to Marvel.com.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Joss Whedon to Return for ‘Avengers’ Sequel

Whedonites rejoice! As confirmed by Walt Disney executives during a conference call earlier this week, geek icon Joss Whedon will once again direct Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the sequel to this summer’s runaway blockbuster The Avengers. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly helmsman is also working with Marvel Studios and Disney to bring an unnamed “high-concept cop show” set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to ABC.

Whedon will be hard-pressed to top his first go-around with Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk and the rest of the gang, but one of the main things he accomplished with that first Avengers film was inspire confidence among all of us True Believers out there. Not only has Marvel Studios been steadfast in putting out the best superhero films possible, but they’re hiring the best storytellers possible to keep that momentum going for years to come.

For more on this story, head over to MTV News.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

‘Ghostbusters 3’ to Enter Production Within the Year?

In yet another vague update on the status of Ghostbusters 3, Dan Aykroyd recently told Metro that the film is indeed moving forward and that Bill Murray will not be involved at all.

“It’s sad but we're passing it on to a new generation,” Aykroyd said of Murray’s refusal to participate in a second Ghostbusters sequel. “Ghostbusters 3 can be a successful movie without Bill. My preference would be to have him involved but at this point he doesn’t seem to be coming and we have to move on. It’s time to make the third one.”

Says Aykroyd the film has a new screenwriter and could be in production “in the next year.”

Mr. Aykroyd, with all due respect, I’m NOT ready to believe you.

For the full story, click here.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ to be Split into Trilogy

 I know I’m probably the last person to comment on this, but I’ve just learned that Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit has gone from a two-part Lord of the Rings prequel to a full-on trilogy. I can’t say I’m surprised by this news – there’s money to be made in telling the story across three films – but I’m also concerned that the “unexpected journey” of Bilbo and his dwarven buddies just isn’t robust enough for a trilogy on the scale of The Lord of the Rings.

Jackson broke this news on his official Facebook page on Monday, confirming speculation that Warner Bros. and MGM were interested in a Hobbit trilogy. Quoting J.R.R. Tolkien himself, Jackson noted that The Hobbit is “a tale that grew in the telling.” Let’s hope it grew for the right reasons.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ an Imperfect but Triumphant End to Nolan’s Trilogy

Although director Christopher Nolan’s 2008 Batman epic The Dark Knight was met with near-universal acclaim, reactions to its sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, have been relatively muted to say the least. Perhaps it’s the sobering realization that Nolan’s vision of Gotham City has come to an end, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s now seemingly impossible to speak of this film without bringing to mind the terrible tragedy that occurred during a midnight screening in Colorado. Or we could all be coming to grips with the notion that The Dark Knight Rises—as good as it is—never quite lives up to its much-lauded predecessor.

Having said that, I don’t honestly think there was any way that Nolan and his crew, after four years of feverish anticipation from fans around the globe, could have possibly delivered a film that would live up to the hype. Let’s just be glad that Nolan clearly made the film he wanted to make in the third and final installment of his Batman franchise without having to deal with the studio meddling and last-minute directives that muddled other third films such as Spider-Man 3  and X-Men: The Last Stand. Nolan concluded his Batman trilogy on his own terms, and regardless of how Warner Bros. aims to revive or reboot this franchise in the years ahead, Nolan’s take on the Caped Crusader remains intact throughout this film’s lengthy 165-minute running time.

Since we’re all increasingly sensitive about spoilers these days—and rightfully so—I’ll refrain from recapping the entire plot. Essentially, the film opens eight years after The Dark Knight and Gotham is a very different place. Organized crime is virtually nonexistent thanks to the Harvey Dent Act, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired as Batman and has become somewhat of a recluse while Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is free to spend a great deal of time combing his luxurious mustache. However, as we soon learn, there’s a new villain in town named Bane (Tom Hardy), who has some sinister plans in store for dear old Gotham that will force Batman out of retirement. And, as the Joker might say if he were around for this installment, “It’s all a part of the plan.”

And what a plan it is! Fortunately, Batman and Gordon are aided in their fight against Bane and his minions by brilliant tech-savvy Wayne Enterprises executive Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) his stalwart butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and the intuitive Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who, like Wayne, was orphaned as a child. Complicating matters for our hero is Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a seductive cat burglar who slinks into Bruce’s life during a lavish dinner party and—true to form—doesn’t leave the compound empty handed (or, in her case, clawed). 

The Dark Knight Rises is a crowded film, yet one never gets the sense that Nolan is overwhelmed in dealing with such a large ensemble cast. Gordon-Levitt shines as Gordon’s stalwart, incorruptible ally in the fight against crime, while Caine and Freeman continue to keep our masked hero grounded in reality even as he races through the skies of Gotham in an aerial assault vehicle code-named “The Bat.” Perhaps the most surprising performance comes from Ms. Hathaway as Selina/Catwoman, who gives even Batman Returns alumnus Michelle Pfeiffer a run for her catnip.

When we first meet Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, we see a man defeated, older, hobbled and essentially a shadow of his former already-shadowy self.  After taking the rap for the late Harvey Dent’s sadistic actions in The Dark Knight, the Batman has vanished while Bruce has locked himself away in his palatial manor. Think Howard Hughes with shorter fingernails. When he’s spurred into action and returns to the streets as Batman, we see a transition in Bruce that is instantly reminiscent of the character’s post-retirement resurrection in Frank Miller’s 1986 mini-series The Dark Knight Returns. Bale conveys this transformation incredibly well, even though he still sees fit to give Batman’s voice the same time of gravel-throated intonation that would make Cookie Monster blush.

But our hero is only as good as his adversary, so let’s talk Bane. Making waves among the comic book community in the 1993-1994 Knightfall story arc for “breaking” Batman, Bane is among the Dark Knight’s most feared foes, and with good reason. On screen, he’s a wholly different antagonist than this series’ previous primary baddies—Batman Begins’ Scarecrow and The Dark Knight’s Joker—and it’s fitting that Nolan saved Bane for last. The character, who speaks in a bizarre accent muffled by a mask, had the potential to come across as goofy (which is exactly how he was portrayed in Joel Schumacher’s 1997 farce Batman & Robin), but Hardy and Nolan injected Bane with the appropriate menace.

The film is relatively light on action, featuring a couple of chase sequences and some brutal close-quarters combat between Batman and Bane, but Nolan’s economical approach to set pieces results in a slow burn of a film that relies more on escalating tension than dazzling spectacle. However, there are some awe-inspiring city shots captured with IMAX cameras that more than warrant a viewing on an IMAX screen. 

The Dark Knight Rises unfortunately, isn’t a perfect conclusion to Nolan’s Batman trilogy. There are a few gaping plot holes that I won’t get into here, and the film has a tendency to drag in the middle act as it sets up a conclusion that is telegraphed just a tad too blatantly. Yet, I can’t help but find myself continuing to dwell on the many aspects of the film that I flat-out loved. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t quite as good as The Dark Knight, but it comes damn close.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

‘Indiana Jones 5’ Unlikely

Acclaimed producer and longtime Steven Spielberg collaborator Frank Marshall has all but confirmed that a fifth film in the Indiana Jones franchise isn’t in the cards.

“I say, for me, [Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is] the last hurrah,” Marshall told Collider.com. “I know that yes, we talk about it, but there’s no idea, there’s no MacGuffin.”

Phew. That’s a relief.

For the uninitiated, a MacGuffin is a plot device that motivates the protagonist. In the case of the Indiana Jones series, the MacGuffin is an artifact Indy must find or recover, represented in previous installments as the Ark of the Covenant, the Sankara Stones, the Holy Grail and, finally, a Crystal Skull. Since there’s no concrete idea for a fifth installment, and with franchise creator George Lucas announcing recently that he was done with Lucasfilm—naming Marshall’s wife Kathleen Kennedy as his successor—it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Harrison Ford don his trademark fedora onscreen ever again. And based on how Crystal Skull turned out, this is awesome news.

To check out the full story, click here.

Remember How I Wanted to Blog This Weekend?

Sorry, everyone. I made some serious progress on a lengthy review of The Dark Knight Rises, but since life keeps getting in the way of my frivolity, it’s nowhere near ready to post just yet. In lieu of that review, enjoy “50 Shades of Grayskull,” courtesy of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

‘Justice League’ Slated for 2015

Aside from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, it doesn’t appear as though DC Entertainment has any clue how to properly translate its most iconic heroes to the big screen. However, according to a recent Variety report, the publisher and its parent company, Warner Bros., are readying the entire Justice League for a movie team-up in 2015.

No doubt spurred by the unrivaled success of Marvel’s The Avengers, Warner Bros. is hoping to team DC’s most celebrated heroes for an ensemble film in three years, but is it too little too late? After all, it’s not like last summer’s Green Lantern lit up the box office, and it’s yet to be seen whether Zack Snyder’s The Man of Steel will resurrect Superman’s appeal at the box office next summer. Will DC Entertainment be able to replicate the success of the House of Ideas? Let’s hope they surprise us.

For more on this story, click here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ to Spin New Trilogy

 I’ll admit, The Amazing Spider-Man is a lot better than I expected it to be. Considering the fact that it’s a completely unnecessary reboot of a franchise launched just one decade ago—retelling an origin story that we already know by heart—the movie’s action sequences are superior to anything in the Sam Raimi trilogy, and the film sets the stage for even better Spidey films.

Speaking of those better films, Sony Pictures has confirmed that The Amazing Spider-Man is the first of a trilogy. A post on the film’s official Facebook page stated the following:

“It's finally here! The Amazing Spider-Man is the first installment in a movie trilogy that will explore how our fave hero's journey was shaped by the disappearance of his parents.”

If you’ve seen the film, you know that Peter Parker’s parents play a much larger role than they did in Raimi’s trilogy. That said, what do you think the remaining films will reveal? Furthermore, who will Spidey be squaring off with next? My money’s on the Green Goblin, especially since filmmakers went to great lengths to hide what Norman Osborn actually looks like in the first film.

To learn more about where this  franchise is headed, “Like” The Amazing Spider-Man on Facebook by clicking here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

‘Jurassic Park IV’ Gets Writers

There have been a lot of rumors and speculation about a fourth installment in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park franchise, and according to Deadline.com, the project is finally moving forward in a major way. Universal Studios is reportedly setting Rise of the Planet of the Apes writers Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver to scribe the next installment in the dinosaurs-chase-humans series, with Spielberg onboard to produce alongside Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall.

I caught Rise of the Planet of the Apes long after it debuted in theaters, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I cared about the titular primates who might or might not have risen up against their human oppressors by the end of the film. Keeping that in mind, I’m curious to see what Jaffa & Silver have in mind for Spielberg’s time-displaced theme park monsters run amok. And although I’m not the biggest proponent of 3D filmmaking, there’s a lot that could be done with this series using the technology.

It’s encouraging that Jurassic Park IV has writers, but the big question remains: Who will direct?

For more on this story, head over to Deadline.com by clicking here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Blogging, Movies and Other Things

It’s officially summer, which for most people means vacations, barbecues and lazy weekends by the pool. And while it’s entirely likely that I’ll be able to enjoy at least one of those things in a few weeks, right now my nose has been to the grindstone working on a variety of different projects for work. That being the case, finding time to blog consistently has been borderline impossible, so here’s a quick update:
  • I saw Prometheus, and while I enjoyed it for the most part as I was watching it, I dislike it more and more the more I think about how the characters acted throughout and where the story ended up. 
  • As critical as I’ve been about Sony rebooting the Spider-Man franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man – retelling Spider-Man’s origin a mere decade after the Sam Raimi original – the more I see from the film the more impressed I am. In fact, director Marc Webb and his team might have made the best Spider-Man film yet. Look for an article on that very subject very soon right here on The Wort Report.
  •  I finished Mass Effect 3, and I join the legions of gamers online who were dissatisfied with the ending. I’ve invested a lot of time into this series since 2007, and I expected a bit more payoff when I saved the galaxy from utter destruction. I know that BioWare is putting out a downloadable epilogue on June 26 that will give the trilogy some necessary closure, but that’s something that should have been considered when the game was released back in March. For shame, BioWare.
  •  Comic books are a necessity when you travel as much as I do, and I’m really enjoying a lot of what I’ve been reading lately. My “must-reads” at the moment include Mark Waid’s Daredevil, Greg Rucka’s The Punisher, Matt Fraction’s The Invincible Iron Man and Scott Snyder’s Batman.
That’s all for now. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for bite-sized nuggets of Wortman, and check out my photo-centric Tumblr, “Wortmania Unleashed!” by clicking here.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Is George Lucas Really Retiring?

In a press release this week, Lucasfilm Ltd. Announced that George Lucas is moving forward with retirement plans, with [Steven Spielberg’s longtime producing partner] Kathleen Kennedy becoming co-chair of Lucasfilm. The Star Wars mastermind will continue to serve as fellow co-chair while Kennedy acclimates herself to this role, and will continue as CEO of the company. Micheline Chau will remain as president and COO of Lucasfilm, and, according to the release, will “continue to focus on the day-to-day operations of the business.”

What does this mean for Lucas? Freed up from corporate responsibilities, he would have time to helm those smaller and more personal films he’s always wanted to make. Lucas said as much in a recent interview with Empire, stating the following:
“I’m moving away from the company, I’m moving away from all my businesses, I’m finishing all my obligations and I’m going to retire to my garage with my saw and hammer and build hobby movies. I’ve always wanted to make movies that were more experimental in nature, and not have to worry about them showing in movie theatres.”
For more on this story, head over to /Film.

My Thoughts on the Delay of ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’

Late last week, it was reported that Paramount Pictures had decided to delay big summer tentpole film G.I. Joe: Retaliation until March 29, 2013. This shocking revelation came just five weeks before the G.I. Joe sequel was scheduled to hit theaters. The official reason for the delay was that the film would be converted to 3D, however reports surfacing this week have unearthed new details regarding the nine-month delay of the film’s release.

According to Paramount insiders speaking to Deadline.com, the decision to convert Retaliation to 3D was certainly part of the reasoning behind the delay, but was not the sole deciding factor. If you’ve seen the trailers, it’s fairly evident that Channing Tatum’s character Duke dies in a Cobra attack early on the film, leaving Roadblock (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and a group of Joe survivors to rally together and bring down the terrorist organization in an act of—wait for it—retaliation. Although many fans of the property applauded the filmmakers’ decision to “wipe the slate clean” and distance Retaliation from 2009’s middling The Rise of Cobra, test audiences felt that the friendship between Duke and Roadblock wasn’t adequately developed fully in the original cut. Also, since Tatum has had a successful 2012 thus far with 21 Jump Street and The Vow, the studio is beefing up his role in this film and shooting additional scenes. Channing Tatum, in Paramount’s eyes, means profit.

I’m not necessarily a fan of 3D conversion, but I’m also aware that not distributing a 3D version of a blockbuster in today’s cinematic climate is akin to leaving money of the table. Plus, with The Avengers continuing to perform well as The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises stand poised to dominate the summer 2012 box office, it’s not unwise for Paramount to reposition Retaliation and pit it against less formidable opposition. After all, a March release date did wonders for The Hunger Games this year.

Having said all of that, I can’t help shaking the feeling that Paramount is setting itself up for failure. After being delayed for nearly a year, is there any way G.I. Joe: Retaliation could possibly live up to the hype, 3D or otherwise? For the sake of this franchise—which I feel has some true potential—I hope it does.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Audiences Continue to Assemble for ‘The Avengers’

Peter Berg’s ill-conceived board game adaptation Battleship might be threatening the world’s collective intelligence this weekend, but it’s doing little to threaten Marvel’s The Avengers as the reigning box office champion of 2012. Deadline.com reports that Joss Whedon’s superhero team-up flick has attained more than $1.07 billion globally, combining a $402 million domestic take and a $668.7 million international box office.

It’s a little early to say whether The Avengers will challenge James Cameron’s Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time, especially considering the multitude of big-budget blockbusters still on the horizon this summer. The film will likely be facing some stiff competition in Men in Black III (May 25), Prometheus (June 1), The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) and, of course, Marvel’s resident web-slinger in The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3). Regardless of whether The Avengers’ box office domination continues, its success is proof positive that audiences are hungry for the further adventures of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

For more on this story, head over to Deadline.com by clicking here.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Five Reasons Why ‘The Avengers’ Blew Me Away

 It’s redundant to point out that director Joss Whedon knocked it out of the park with Marvel’s The Avengers, with bloggers, critics, comic book geeks and general audience members gushing vocally band unabashedly about the massively ambitious superhero team-up flick. Yet, even though you all have probably figured out that I join the vocal majority in loving the hell out of The Avengers, I still feel compelled to extol the film’s many virtues here on The Wort Report. Therefore, here are five specific reasons why The Avengers made for the most satisfying theatrical experience I’ve had in years.

1) Joss Whedon Kept it Simple
Let’s face it: Bringing together Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and The Hulk onscreen has all the makings for a cinematic disaster. Despite the fact that each of these characters’ solo adventures took place in a shared universe, Whedon was tasked with a lot of heavy lifting in bringing all of these heroes together as a team and giving them a reason to stand together. As complicated as this film could have been—essentially weaving four separate mythologies into a singularly coherent narrative—Whedon told a relatively simplistic alien invasion/take-over-the-world story with Thor’s brother Loki as the antagonist. Loki’s presence on Earth shakes things up, prompting S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to call together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to quell his plans for world domination and save the day. That’s about as complicated as the core plot gets.

Because the actual story wastes so little time unraveling itself, we’re allowed to enjoy Cap/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Iron Man/Tony Stark try to figure out how they’re going to work together as a team despite their clashing egos. We’re also given the opportunity to see Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) –both of whom had minor roles in previous Marvel Studios films—flex their muscles as they share the screen with their more iconic team members as they fend off Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his enlisted alien army known as the Chitauri.

2) The Hulk Steals the Show
Talk to anyone as they’re walking out of a screening of The Avengers and the first thing out of their mouth will probably involve the words “Hulk,” “awesome” and an enthusiastic expletive or two. Bruce Banner has been a character that, for whatever reason, has never worked in a feature-length production…until now. Ruffalo is an example of perfect casting, making all of us (hopefully) forget about Eric Bana’s dull portrayal of Banner in Ang Lee’s Hulk and Ed Norton’s wiry, angsty and decidedly not nerdy Banner in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk—the character’s introduction in the Marvel Studios canon. Ruffalo’s Banner is tortured, sure, but he’s also got a dark sense of humor about the monster living inside him and that’s refreshing.

And when he transforms? Damn. The Hulk is amazingly fun to watch during the film’s final battle and, without spoiling anything, he’s responsible for two of the film’s best comedic moments. Ruffalo is reportedly signed on for six future films in the cinematic Marvel Universe, which means we’ll be getting plenty more of this version of Banner/Hulk. Let’s hope other filmmakers follow Whedon’s example and continue doing this character justice.

3) The Post-Credits Sequences Pay Off (in Different Ways)
Ever since the “Avengers Initiative” was unveiled in a post-credits sequence in Iron Man back in 2008, it’s become tradition for Marvel Studios to reward fans with the fortitude (and bladder control) to remain seated once their films have ended. In this case, we get an exciting glimpse at where this franchise is headed as well as one of the most hilariously “Whedon-esque” sequences in the film.

4) The Final Battle is Full of “Wow” Moments That Give Each Avenger Time to Shine
Once Loki uses the Tesseract (Cosmic Cube) to open a portal that unleashes swarms of Chitauri upon Midtown Manhattan, The Avengers jumps into high gear as we get to see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes kick all kinds of extraterrestrial ass. You never really get the sense that these characters are in any real danger, but thanks to some great visual effects and some really inventive action beats, the battle’s still a blast to watch. Plus, it’s also home to those two Hulk moments I mentioned earlier.

5) There’s Much More to Come
This franchise is already six films in and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Along with a confirmed sequel to The Avengers, we can also look forward to Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2 and logically, considering the overwhelmingly positive response to The Hulk in this film, another solo outing for Ol’ Jade Jaws as well. Although it’d be presumptuous to say that The Avengers will own the summer of 2012—it’s barely even begun, after all—I  think it’s safe to say that Marvel Studios has cornered the market on superhero films for the foreseeable future...and this is a good thing.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Continues to Surprise Us All

As cool as Marvel’s The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises will probably be this summer, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore just how awesome G.I. Joe: Retaliation is looking as we near its June 29 release date. Now, I was notoriously easy on its predecessor, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, when it was released in 2009, but a lot of my enjoyment of that Stephen Sommers schlockfest came from its aggressive determination to be as loud and as gloriously dumb as possible. Hell, the formula worked for Hasbro’s other big toy-to-movie franchise, Transformers.

This time around, however, director Jon Chu actually looks like he’s interested in telling a good story with these characters. And yes, this is the guy that directed the Justin Bieber documentary that hit theaters last year.

Check out the latest international trailer below.

This Honey Badger Keeps Me Stable

With a hectic schedule and a career that requires me to travel every week, sanity often comes in small doses. Sometimes it’s a conversation with a friend, sometimes it’s an episode of Game of Thrones and sometimes it’s a brief play session of Mass Effect 3. This week, however, solace comes in the form of “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger.” Apparently I’m the last person on the internet to learn about this video, but screw you guys, I’ve been busy.

If you haven’t checked out this clip, no description I can provide can do it justice. Watch it below (via czg123 on YouTube).

Friday, April 6, 2012

‘X-Men: First Class’ Sequel to Film in January, Avoiding ‘Hunger Games’ Conflict

She was relatively unknown to mainstream audiences when she donned the blue body paint as Mystique in last summer’s X-Men: First Class, but after The Hunger Games took the moviegoing world by storm last month, Jennifer Lawrence is in high demand.

Because the Oscar-nominated actress will be shooting Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire in the fall, 20th Century Fox – the studio behind the X-Men movie franchise – has agreed to hold off on shooting the next X-Men film until next January. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lionsgate originally wanted to “hold” all Catching Fire actors for seven months, however critics of that demand – including Fox – convinced the studio to change its mind.

For the full story, click here.

‘Captain America’ Sequel Set for April 4, 2014

We’re all eagerly awaiting the release of Marvel’s The Avengers on May 4, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start getting ourselves hyped for the further adventures of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the years ahead. As reported by Deadline.com, Disney has confirmed that a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger will hit theaters on April 4, 2014.

Although details are scarce at this point, the film is said to focus on Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) continuing his affiliation with Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and coping with contemporary life.

For the full story, click here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Promo Art Featuring the Lizard Hits the Web

As conflicted as I was initially when I learned that Sony would be rebooting the Spider-Man movie franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man – hitting theaters on July 3 – I’m actually giving it the benefit of the doubt as its release date approaches. The trailers have been surprisingly good, and I honestly think Andrew Garfield will do a great job as the Wallcrawler based on what we’ve seen thus far.

I’m also shocked how much I like this promotional image of the Lizard that’s been making the rounds online recently. I know we’re all accustomed to the fanged and drooling Lizard that Todd McFarlane made famous in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but this design harkens back to the art of character co-creator Steve Ditko and I dig that.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments section below, or feel free to weigh in on Twitter using the hashtag #WortReport.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Michael Bay, ‘TMNT’ and Why We Shouldn’t ‘Chill Out’

I needed something huge to drag me out of blogging semi-exile, and I think Michael Bay’s revelation that the adolescent reptiles in his forthcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feature film won’t be mutants at all – but rather creatures from an “alien race” – is just what I needed.

To brief those of you who aren’t obsessively scouring the internet for reasons to hate on Michael Bay, here’s the skinny: During a recent Nickelodeon presentation, Bay said the Turtles in his upcoming film “are from an alien race, and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny and completely lovable.” This means that Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael will come from outer space for some reason, abandoning their established origin story of being pet turtles mutated transformed by mutagenic ooze.

Fans were pissed – can you blame them?

Never one to shy away from stoking the flames of fanboy rage, Bay issued the following statement on his official website, Shoot for the Edit:

“Fans need to take a breath, and chill. They have not read the script. Our team is working closely with one of the original creators of Ninja Turtles to help expand and give a more complex back story. Relax, we are including everything that made you become fans in the first place. We are just building a richer world.”

That original creator is Peter Laird, who said that Bay’s outlandish alien plan for the Turtles “might actually work.”

“The reason I say it could be a ‘genius'’ idea is that – for the first time – someone has come up with a way to have as many freakin' Turtles as they want," Laird continued. "I mean, if the TMNT are actually members of an alien race, there could be a whole PLANET of them!”

Sigh. 

Now, I was one of those people that defended Bay when he mucked with established character designs and story points in his original Transformers film. I thought he was altering the characters for the sake of making them more believable on film. Was I giving him too much credit? Probably. But I still enjoy the original Transformers film in spite of its narrative flaws.

That said, I refuse to chill out about Bay’s inexplicable creative decision here. This is change for the sake of change, and is proof positive that Bay really doesn’t care about this franchise or its rich pop culture legacy. Yes, I said legacy. The Turtles franchise was a phenomenon the 1980s and 1990s, and when you decide that the Turtles are aliens – thus negating the “Mutant” in their name – a LOT of people are going to notice and react accordingly.

I’m not going to say that the Turtles’ origin story isn’t untouchable. In fact, IDW’s new TMNT comic book series makes substantial changes to established canon – including the Turtles’ relationship with April O’Neil and where they came from – and it still works. Do you know why? BECAUSE THEY’RE STILL MUTANT TURTLES.

I’m usually someone that thinks we overreact about filmmakers allegedly sodomizing our childhood memories…but you know what? I’m cool with the uproar this time. Rage on, my fellow nerds.

For more on this controversy, head over to The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Max Landis presents ‘The Death and Return of Superman’

This is the most poignant and hilarious deconstruction of DC Comics’ decision to kill off (and quickly resurrect) The Man of Steel back in 1992. Enjoy! (Via darosthemovie on YouTube)

Movie Trailers, ‘Star Wars’ in 3D and New Things to Buy

Hey, everyone. I’d love to write lengthy posts about all of the geeky goodness that has been coming our way recently, but the whirlwind that is 2012 thus far is preventing me from doing that. As such, here’s a rundown of the big nerd news that’s on my radar these days.

-Marvel Studios’ trailer for The Avengers debuted during the Super Bowl, and there was much rejoicing. Five years ago, could you have ever imagined that we’d be getting a live-action movie starring Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk and other Marvel luminaries? Or that it would be watchable? May 4 can’t come soon enough. Check out this extended trailer, and be sure to “like” The Avengers on Facebook for exclusive content.



-A new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man has making the rounds online (because I refuse to say it’s “on the web,”) and as much as people have been sour on the idea of rebooting the Spider-Man movie franchise just 10 years after the first installment (myself included), I don’t completely hate what Sony is doing here. In fact, I love that Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is a bit of a smartass when he’s in the suit, and the casting of Denis Leary as Captain Stacy is inspired to say the least. You can check out the trailer at the movie’s official site by clicking here.

-This isn’t necessarily “news,” since most sites have commented on this already, but I can’t ignore the fact that Playmates has some incredible toys on the way for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans of all ages. The company is readying a slew of toys based on the new Nickelodeon cartoon, but what’s got me (and most children of the 1980s-turned-manchildren of the new millennium) really excited is the introduction of the TMNT Classics line. Check out the articulation on Raphael! Head over to MTV Geek for all the latest on Playmates’ entire TMNT lineup.

-Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released in 3D this weekend, reigniting all kinds of nerdy fanboy debate (and fury) about the film and the entire prequel trilogy. I saw it last night, and while the use of 3D is impressive at times, one of the main reasons I’m not especially enthusiastic about 3D conversions is that I honestly stop noticing the 3D until I really force myself to pay attention to the depth of field. Still, Star Wars is back on the big screen, so that’s something. Oh, and if you loathe Jar Jar Binks, seeing him in three dimensions won’t alter that sentiment.

That’s it for now. Until next time, be sure to follow me on Twitter for more nuggets of nerd from James Wortman… now in a convenient travel size!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

George Lucas Says ‘Nuking the Fridge’ Was His Idea

Remember how Steven Spielberg claimed full responsibility for having our favorite adventuring archeologist escape a nuclear explosion by hiding inside a refrigerator in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Well, as it turns out, George Lucas is now willingly shouldering the blame for that much-criticized sequence.

In a recent New York Times profile detailing the Star Wars creator’s retirement from blockbuster filmmaking, Lucas said the questionable scene was his idea from the beginning.

“He’s trying to protect me,” Lucas said of his longtime friend and collaborator’s confession that it was his choice to “nuke the fridge.” Quite the contrary, it was Speilberg who “didn’t believe” that Indy would be able to survive the ordeal. To counter the director’s skepticism, Lucas reportedly provided a lengthy dossier detailing why the scene would make sense. Lucas affirmed that if the refrigerator was lined with lead, if Indy didn’t break his neck and if he were able to get the door open upon landing back down to earth following the explosion, there’s a chance he could survive.

“The odds of surviving that refrigerator—from from a lot of scientists—are about 50-50,” Lucas said.

Well, there you have it. For the full story, click here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

George Lucas Announces Retirement

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Star Wars creator George Lucas revealed he’s done with big-budget filmmaking, and that Red Tails—now in theaters—is his final epic filmmaking endeavor.

“I’m retiring,” Lucas told the Times. “I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.”

Although he’s given himself an “out” clause should a fifth Indiana Jones film go into production, the 67-year-old visual effects pioneer has vowed that his self-funded and distributed World War II Tuskegee Airmen biopic will be his last major blockbuster.

Directed by Anthony Hemingway (The Wire), Red Tails has been a story Lucas has wanted to tell for the last 23 years. Although one might think that someone with the money-making pedigree and industry clout of Lucas would have no difficulty in getting a World War II epic in theaters, but the film’s predominantly black cast reportedly made the studios nervous, with a majority of their profits coming from overseas.

Now that Red Tails is released, Lucas will concentrate on smaller, more personal projects—something he has tried to do for years.

“Once this is finished, he’s done everything he’s ever wanted to do,” said Rick McCallum, who collaborated with Lucas as a producer on the Star Wars prequels as well as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. “He will have completed his task as a man and a filmmaker.”

The Times piece is a great read, going into detail on the production of Red Tails as well as how Lucas deals with fan criticism over the alterations he’s made to the Star Wars films over the years. Check it out by clicking here.

Sex and Violence? In MY Comic Books!?

I caught this news report from a Washington, DC, Fox affiliate about an hour ago on Topless Robot, and I’ve been nerd ragin’ ever since. In it, inept “journalists” wag their fingers at DC Comics for the company’s recent “New 52” relaunch and all of the sex, violence and adult themes publishers have unleashed on the youth of America ever since.

“Batman and Catwoman having sex on the rooftop!” “A drunken Bruce Wayne!” “Blood-spattered battles with heads whacked off!” How dare DC Comics market overt sex and violence to children—clearly the audience that DC is targeting these days! After all, it’s not like Batman hasn’t dealt almost exclusively with adult themes since 1986, right? Wait, what year did The Dark Knight Returns come out?

Oh, by the way, Bruce Wayne isn’t drunk on the page featured in the report…he’s faking it and it says as much on the panel itself. Research, amirite?

According to one critic in the piece, Neil Bernstein, PhD, DC Comics is evidently selling “fictionalized Playboy for kids at its worst.” Keep in mind that the report acknowledges that many of the relaunched titles are responsibly marked as “Teen” or “Teen-Plus,” meaning that they’re NOT for kids and thus making this whole thing a non-story.

Furthermore, if these “fictionalized Playboys” are such an issue, why not go to the source and interview the editors at DC Comics and ask them about the company’s creative direction? Maybe this Fox affiliate could have some actual reporting and found out that kids aren’t even interested in comic books and instead gravitate toward superhero cartoons, films and video games? I know fact-finding is more difficult than manufacturing controversy, but it’s kind of what journalism is.

Anyway, here’s the report in its entirety.

Relaunched Comics Using Sex and Violence To Sell: MyFoxDC.com

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rick McCallum Sheds Light on ‘Star Wars: Underworld’

At the Red Tails premiere after-party in New York on Wednesday, Entertainment Weekly caught up with Lucasfilm executive producer Rick McCallum to get some concrete answers about the highly anticipated live-action Star Wars television series, which was originally announced nearly seven years ago.

McCallum confirmed that the series currently has the working title Star Wars: Underworld, and that it will focus on characters that were relatively minor players in the films’ primary storyline following the rise, fall and redemption of Darth Vader.

“Expect a lot of smugglers, gangsters, bounty hunters and a few Wall Street-type power brokers,” McCallum told EW. “Nothing about Luke or the Skywalker saga.”

When can fans expect this series to premiere? Well, it’s still a few years off.

“I think we don’t have the technology yet to be able to do it for the level of money that it would have to be done,” McCallum explained. “Plus, the world of television is imploding. No one knows whether you should make a network show or a cable show. I’m really excited about it though, and I hope George does do it. I really do.”

For more on this story, click here.

Happy Birthday to Me

Since my life has become a whirlwind of sorts due to extensive work-related travel, I’m rarely afforded time to sit back and really soak in my experiences. One night I’m driving from San Antonio to Corpus Christi, TX, the next I’m embarking on a 3-hour journey to Laredo to stay at a hotel that literally hugs the Mexican border. I’m constantly in motion, and my free time is typically spent either planning my next move or fulfilling social obligations that I refuse to let fall to the wayside.

Fortunately, a YouTube-related work project has stationed me in San Francisco for the past few days, giving me the chance to not only reflect on the great places my career has taken me—both physically and mentally—but to truly enjoy what I do. Of course, when your work takes you to Lucasfilm and Skywalker Ranch, that enjoyment comes easy.

For reasons I can’t disclose here, this week I was able to tour the Lucasfilm offices and see firsthand where Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) has crafted some of the most spectacular visual effects of all time. Additionally, I was afforded the opportunity to visit Skywalker Ranch—the epicenter of George Lucas’ multimedia empire and arguably the Mecca of nerddom. As trite as it is to call my trip to Lucasfilm a “dream come true,” it really is the best way to describe it. I mean, come on: the original Yoda puppet! The Holy Grail from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade! A life-sized remote-controlled R2-D2! Such iconic relics from my childhood seemed to present themselves to me at every turn, and even as I write this blog entry two days removed from that tour, I’m having a difficult time wiping the smile from my face. Then again, why would I ever want to?

It was only appropriate that my trip to the hallowed halls of Lucasfilm and the lush landscape of Skywalker Ranch came on January 12—my 28th birthday. It was nearly 25 years ago to the day that my parents introduced me to the original Star Wars trilogy, turning me into a hardcore geek at an early age and instilling in me a passion for science-fiction and fantasy storytelling that has only grown in the quarter-century since. In a weird way, my first (and perhaps only) visit to Lucasfilm was a homecoming of sorts for me, reminding me why I love these films so much and why they helped turn me into the person I am today.

While looking out over “Lake Ewok” at Skywalker Ranch’s main house—where Lucas’ personal offices are housed—I couldn’t help but whisper a quiet “thank you” to the man that introduced the world to “a galaxy far, far away” on May 25, 1977, as well as all of the people and circumstances that made the trip possible. Heck, I’m still thanking them.