zondag 26 april 2015

Today's News: Joker visits mass

This week's news, second batch:

Eerste trailer Black Mass

Another weirdo on Johnny Depp's resumé. But this one proves less amiable than the likes of Willy Wonka, the Mad Hatter or Jack Sparrow. This is as creepy a psychopath as they come. It's not the first time Depp plays a notorious criminal - his take on John Dillinger in Public Enemies springs to mind, not to mention singing serial killer Sweeney Todd - but this isn't a charming rogue, this is a sinister killer with a clear talent and love for ruthless violence. A fact well illustrated by the dinner scene running through this trailer. It's hardly the first time a crime boss character intimidates an underling on film by questioning his loyalty after confiding him with whimsical information, but Depp plays it eerily enough to make you forget that feeling of déja vu. I'm quite convinced Black Mass will prove an effective, chilling mob thriller, mostly thanks to Depp's penchant for playing offbeat, quirky characters, the murderous sort or otherwise.

Eerste trailers The Visit

I'm not so sure this creepy film will hit all the right notes though. Maybe it has something to do with the abyss of flops M. Night Shyamalan is sliding ever more deeply in, though I'm still willing to cut the director of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable some slack. The Visit at least appears a return to form of sorts, after engaging in more otherworldy fare with The Last Airbender and After Earth, which proved a bad call. It's horror that established the name M. Night, so maybe it's horror that puts him back on track. That said, it's stated that this is supposedly a 'horror comedy', which isn't something I would quickly discern from these trailers, which seem to focus mostly on the horrific aspect. Then again, the notion of two old people terrorizing their grandkids in the manner illustrated in these trailers does emit an undeniable feeling of absurdity. I would have felt better if The Visit was a full bred horror film, preferably one that didn't overutilize the home video/social media filming format. Even though Shyamalan hasn't made use of that before (at least not for a full movie), it feels he's a little late to that party, considering how often it has been applied in recent years, particularly in the horror genre. For now I'll refrain from getting my hopes up too much for Shyamalan's potential comeback, but I won't be so quick to denounce him as a directorial quack as most other people are. After all, I'm one of those rare folks that actually liked The Village.

Jared Leto's Joker onthuld

A different kind of Joker, as was to be expected. Heath Ledger's take on the Prince of Chaos is not easily outdone, so Leto and Ayer probably didn't bother to try. Sensible move. So the look has changed, to something resembling a Goth rocker. Tattoos are the Joker's new bodily statement of choice. That said, it's obvious the madness remains and it is likely played up a notch. Since the upcoming DC movies stick closer to the source material of the comics, it's not wrong to make the Joker resemble his comic book counterpart a bit more. Aside from the tattoos, which I've never known the Joker to carry (but then, as a Marvelite I'm not much into DC lore anyway). But hey, I doubt Leto is running around topless for the entire duration of Suicide Squad. Say what you will about the Joker, he always dresses smartly, or what goes for smart dressing in his dubious philosophy. This picture is obviously just a publicity shot to get people talking about this new incarnation of Batman's prime nemesis. It's very likely the final look will still differ from what's illustrated here, though now we at least know in what direction we can expect the character to go in a visual (non)sense. And hey, maybe the Joker's just having a laugh here knowing Batman won't appear in this film to demolish the rest of his teeth.

zaterdag 25 april 2015

Today's News: Fantastic rogue pirate quest

This week's news, first batch:

Nieuwe trailer Fantastic Four

Hardly a fantastic trailer. Of course many things are still under wraps, so it's by no means a fair representation of the final product, but it simply looks bland at this point. From what I gather, it's supposedly an adaptation of the first few volumes of Ultimate Fantastic Four, which did deserve the moniker more than most FF stories I've read. It just doesn't look nearly as elaborate, grandiose and colourful as the story told in those issues, but more like a darker, grittier take on the previous films. No giant portal to the N-Zone, no fabulous barren universe ravaged by an anti-life overlord, no Mole Man with his monster men annex mushroom manipulations. Just a fancy looking device reminiscent of Captain America's soldier serum chamber slinging our quartet to a retread of Thor's Dark World, and then they get their powers and fight Dr. Doom again and bladiblah. I'm also really skeptical about the casting. Each of these actors has proven themselves on their own, but I'm less comfortable seeing them as this small ensemble. I'm just not feeling the chemistry. I know this is the 21st Century and I shouldn't think in such reactionary terms, but I'm particularly ticked off by the political correctness of casting a coloured guy as Johnny Storm, just for the sake of representation. That wouldn't be so bad per se, if Storm didn't have a sister who has still remained white, thus needing to explain it all away as adopted family. At least they had the guts to make their father black, which isn't the usual order of things (which rather tends to see white people adopting kids of colour). Maybe I'm just biased towards this entire project because it's only been so recently since the previous iteration of the FF. Kinda like what happened to Spider-Man, and look at how that turned out: chaos and mishandling of the character, and an eventual return of sorts to the Marvel fold. If that's what in store for us with the Fantastic Four, I'd say just skip a few steps and let Marvel handle its First Family properly from the get-go.

Details Star Wars: Rogue One bekend

Sounds intriguing, but also marred by the same flaw that characterized the Prequel Trilogy: we already know the outcome. The mission was a success, the plans were stolen and the Death Star destroyed. Yay rebels, yay Rogues. However, it's not like every story of which we were familiar with the ending made for a dull film. Plenty of examples to prove the opposite, and who knows, Rogue One might be counted among them in the future. Not to mention, we get to enjoy the good ol' days of Imperial rule, when Darth Vader was still the exquisite bad guy we fell in love with in the first Star Wars film. Just no Jedi in this scenario, but that makes for a decent change of Force enhanced fisticuffs. I have no doubt a war movie type of flick set in that galaxy far, far away could make for a smashing picture. Didn't the grimy battles of Yavin and Hoth make for some of the finest moments in the classic trilogy? I'll admit I'm less keen on the opportunities offered (likely not so coincidentally) of a crossover between this film and the story of the new animated Disney show Star Wars Rebels, set roughly around the same time frame. If this is truly a standalone film, as we were promised, make sure it does indeed keep itself from tie-ins to other stories in different media, so the story doesn't become muddled with references to characters and plot lines we may not all have seen. Well, that's just the Disney way and we'll have to live with it, I suppose.

Eerste foto Johnny Depp in Pirates 5

Aaarrrhh! That's right, me mateys! Tie that pirate to th' mast and squeeze 'im of all 'is treasures! Ironic that Disney would debut this particular picture first, as it so blatantly expresses the philosophy of milking the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise dry for every piece of eight the audience has left. Johnny Depp sure looks gloomy reprising the role (though admittedly, he's in character here) and I'm sure some second thoughts must have sailed through his mind when he experienced that injury on set that kept him from filming for a month. From what we know about the plot of Dead Men Tell No Tales, it follows the set formula strictly. A new supernatural pirate threat is let loose, Captain Jack Sparrow must once more team up/deal with the treacherous Barbossa and navigate his crew of butch buccaneers through the dangerous waters of the High Seas and rum abuse on a quest for some legendary artifact to save their sorry skins. Apparently, Dean Men Tell No New Tales, they just regurgitate old ones. Oh heck, it's probably good for a laugh or two, and I doubt anyone thinks this is gonna be inspired stuff beforehand. Javier Bardem gets to play an evil pirate, that's something worth seeing on the big screen at least. But few will deny Sparrow's shenanigans are getting old.

Galaxy Quest wordt TV-serie

Somebody may have taken the motto 'Never give up, never surrender!' a bit too literally. Sure, Galaxy Quest was a great movie, but its story matter just doesn't seem applicable to a TV-show. It was a one-shot. A story about television veterans haunted by the popularity of that one cancelled TV show, finding the need and strength to embrace its legacy in defense of people in need of the help of their characters, and thus finally embracing the characters themselves. End of story. You can adapt that story into a miniseries for a limited number of episodes if needs be. But a regularly running multiple season show? I don't see that potential in this premise. Besides, it's a spoof of Star Trek. I would find it ironic to say the least a cancelled TV series would spawn a spoof series, almost fifity years after the fact. Though it does say something about the longevity of Star Trek as a popcultural phenomenon. But I can guarantee you, a Galaxy Quest series would suffer a similar fate as the original Trek series sooner rather than later. There's just so many jokes you can distill from Trek before people get it and warp on.

dinsdag 21 april 2015

Today's Column: anybody want a Dark Claw movie?

This month's column went up early. Superheroes again. They keep me talking it appears.

Disney, koop DC alsjeblieft!

Of course the tone of this piece is meant somewhat sarcastically. Sure, I'd love to see a Dark Claw movie or any other feature related to the wonderful Amalgam universe, but it's definitely not gonna happen. Ever. And I don't think all movie studios owning superhero copyrights joining together, either out of their own volition or because they're bought up by a larger corporation, would be a preferable solution. One studio owning all the superhero franchises isn't a monopoly we would want. Say what you will about various studios owning various pieces of the various superhero universe puzzles, it guarantees some diversity. If Marvel hadn't sold the rights to Spider-Man and similar large, popular and well known properties, we likely wouldn't have gotten Iron Man, Thor or Guardians of the Galaxy, and seeing as how well that turned out, that clearly would have been a great loss. Now that Spider-Man has returned to Marvel's fold, we have yet to see whether he's not gonna reap too much of other characters' glory, even though the fact Marvel is still working on titles like Captain Marvel, Inhumans and Black Panther is reassuring to some extent, as they seemingly mean to keep the diversity flowing.

But what about the fanboys' dreams of 'interpublisher' crossovers between characters belonging not only to rival studios, but also to rival publishers? They'll stay dreams. I doubt that would change even if a major player like Disney managed to buy the rights to the DC characters after all. Which certainly isn't inconceivable, considering the various properties they bought up in recent years. It often feels with all these companies buying companies, you'll one day end up with one humongously big fat supercompany on top, controlling every franchise. Maybe that'll be Disney in the not too distant future (they don't own the business genius of Scrooge McDuck for nothing, you know). But seeing as how they have yet to do crossovers between Indiana Jones and Marvel, or between more similar brands like the Muppets and Disney's own iconic characters, I doubt they'd go so far as to do a DC/Marvel crossover, let alone Amalgam. (Then again, there already is a comic book which serves as a crossover between Star Wars and Indiana Jones, courtesy of Harrison Ford's presence in both of them.) But if it ever happened, would it be good? An Amalgam adaptation, maybe. It's hard to mess up a fabulous hybrid notion like Dark Claw. A giant crossover between the Avengers and the Justice League? No way, far too many characters and their assorted baggage to make for a sensible plot line. Only the hungriest fanboys would understand it completely, but general audiences couldn't make heads or tails of it all. Let's see whether DC knows how to join its own characters together with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice first. Not to mention it has yet to be determined whether Marvel can pull a similar trick with having more than one group share the screen, as will be the case when the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy join forces in Avengers: Infinity War Parts I & II.

And otherwise, let's just keep dreaming about these little fanboy fantasies of ours. I'm still dreaming of the release of more than only two Dark Claw comics...

zondag 19 april 2015

Today's News: Jurassic's wonder posters

It was a good week for Jurassic imagery, but not so much for the production of Wonder Woman.

Nieuwe poster Jurassic World

Wederom nieuwe poster Jurassic World

That's what I'm talking about! Less logo (awesome and iconic though it may be) and more striking visuals to entice folks from visiting the new park. Two down, one more to go, and the second trailer just around the corner. Even though the creature is wholly incorrect from a scientific viewpoint, I cannot help but drool over the Mosasaurus one-sheet. The thought of a giant marine reptile - not a dinosaur, as the studio would like you to think - in a tank is such a simple concept, but it totally works. I feel as excited as the little boy on the poster beholding this critter. The shark, less so, I imagine. From what I hear from the script going round, these fish have to be cloned to serve as the Mosasaur's food, since they're on the endangered species list. A fun little side notion with little to no plot consequences, but also a delightful little inside look at the awkward logistics of a dinosaur theme park. The I-Rex poster serves as a decent reminder of the whole man versus nature dichotomy, basically the franchise's philosophical routine. I like the set-up, though if it was applied to hide the appearance of the Indominus Rex, it's a wasted effort, considering the merchandise and I-Rex action figures are already available in many stores around the globe. Of course, the general audience may not be aware of that fact (yet), but it's also not very courteous to misdirect them into thinking the I-Rex is as large as suggested on this poster, as it actually isn't judging from the trailers. But hey, it's a fantasy creature, so some artistic license are allowed, not to mention copyright is installed on the creature's name and likeness. So what's on the third poster? It's gotta be the T-Rex. I guess many fans will still feel it needs to reassert its dominance as the Tyrant Lizard King after JP III, even though that's a moniker bestowed on it by man rather than by nature. Obviously the T-Rex is gonna kill the I-Rex in some spectacular climactic battle, as it doesn't take kindly to people cloning rival superpredators. So it does deserve a poster of its own, and tomorrow we may find out whether JW's plot and promotional campaign are that predictable. But it's gonna be awesome regardless.

Regisseuse Wonder Woman stapt op

And then there's this less predictable story. Sucks too, as I considered Michelle MacLaren the finest choice to direct Wonder Woman, if a female director is obligatory. Someone who helped make The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones to be as great as these shows are would have been a damn fine asset to this picture. But of course, the studio had to screw it up by restricting her input over the story. The usual creative differences ensued, and the best choice departed the project. So who did they pick as her replacement? Patty Jenkins of all people. Ironic to say the least, considering she herself walked off the set of Thor: The Dark World a few years ago because of the same creative differences. Who's to say Jenkins will know any greater liberty directing for DC than she did for Marvel? Then again, she likely knew this when she signed up for WW, so maybe she has finally grown to accept the restrictions placed on the creative input of directors picked for these pieces of the larger superhero cinematic universe puzzles. Man or woman, when working for Marvel or DC, a director must know his or her place, subject to the whim of the studio. No room for emancipation here.

zaterdag 18 april 2015

Today's News: A threesome of trailers

Trailer! Trailer! Anyone want a trailer?

Tweede teaser Star Wars: The Force Awakens

With every little bit of info released, the hype for this film is building. Though so far scepticism reigned supreme in my case, I cannot help but now feel a rising level of optimism as well, against my better judgment. There's only so much iconic imagery of the original Star Wars movies against the backdrop of an intriguing new setting you can give a guy before he breaks. That shot of the downed Star Destroyer just looked too cool to ignore. The first teaser lacked such sweeping images, but now that the release date is approaching, successively splendid shots will be revealed. Still, I'm not too high on some other old cards being played. An aged Han Solo doesn't get me nearly as excited, even though I love(d?) the character. It's just exemplary of the rehasing of old glory that's currently driving Hollywood, usually to lackluster results. Whether it will work for Star Wars is very much the question. At least Ford is still a capable actor we can take serious, but what of the likes of Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, who've made a career making fun - lovingly, but still - of their characters of old? That's the good thing about Chewbacca or R2-D2, they don't really rely on the people inside them to convince us. So for the moment, I revel more in the visual effects than in the acting, but that's a Star Wars staple anyway. The old stuff aside, what to make of the elements new to the Star Wars series? A mysterious chrome Stormtrooper, a beach ball Droid, novel characters and locations we need to learn to love (or not)... There's still plenty that can go wrong, but I can't help but feel there are definitely things going right.

Eerste trailer Scream: The TV Series

You gotta admit, this trailer is quick to make the statement most people will when they see it: 'you can't do a slasher as a TV series'. Doesn't stop this show from trying though. Being selfreflexive is of course one of the trademarks of the Scream series of movies, so it's good see this quality wasn't lost on the producers. But it's going to take spectators a little more than that to convince them to bother to watch this show. In all other respects, it doesn't seem to have much going for it, at least nothing the movies didn't show. Teens, murders, humour, that sort of thing. On the big screen, it worked well enough to spawn three sequels over the years, but on a TV show, even for a single season, you risk getting repetitive pretty darn soon. Unless the series still has cards to play this trailer doesn't reveal. Even if it does, as we are currently living in the Golden Age of Television, we have plenty of excellent programs to pick from, and I doubt many would opt for a slasher series based on a worn out series of movies. Unless it's raining very often and hard outside on those dreary afternoons.

Nieuwe teaser trailer Ant-Man

Posted above is the actual trailer for Marvel's latest flick, rather than the teaser mentioned in my article. At the moment of posting, I didn't take the different time zones State side into account, so the full trailer wasn't released the next day, but rather a few hours later, making my bit of news redundant even sooner than I had anticipated. But then, redundancy is the key term for teasers of trailers anyway. Other than the true Internet nerds who will end up seeing the movie in theaters anyway, nobody will really bother to watch such teasers, certainly not the paying "general audience" as it has come to be known as. In my mind, there really is little point to crafting trailers into events of their own in this manner, as trailers are a means to an end rather than the end itself, which is the final film. Where will this madness end? Teasers for teasers for teasers for trailers for movies? I'm making a stand to put a stop to this. Give me a teaser, then a trailer or three and then release the damn film. Release a bunch TV spots too, if needs be, but nothing more in the audiovisual department. As for this full lenth trailer for Ant-Man, as is the case for Star Wars I'm progressively liking what I see. It's always a hard blow when one of your favorite directors - Edgar Wright, in this scenario - departs a project, but in this case, the successor took a hint or two in terms of humour, resulting in at least one hilarious Wrightian gag (you'll know it when you see it). Hopefully the final film will echo more Wright, though I wouldn't expect the new director to ignore his own personality entirely, that would be unfair to him. And even if there's little more Wright to discern, it's a Marvel film, how bad can it be? *cough*IronMan3*cough*

vrijdag 17 april 2015

Jurassic Park III CamoXtreme: Jungle Spinosaurus

Year of release: 2002

Description: this Spinosaurus features an overall reddish brown paint job with black stripes and shapes all over its body (most notably on the legs), while its underside (belly, base of the tail and throat) is painted beige. On the legs, especially around the feet, a darker shade of brown is mixed in, giving those parts of the animal a muddy feel. Most of the upper jaw and facial area, as well as the neck, tip of the tail and sail are coloured black. On the head, around the eyes and mouth, as well as on the sail, blue lines are found in a symmetrical pattern. The creature has small yellow eyes, white teeth and the inside of the mouth is painted pink. Its claws on both hands and feet are black, while a white JP III logo can be found on its left upper leg. A dino damage wound is located on the left flank, showing white bones and red muscle tissue. A small button is found in this wound: when pressed, the figure emits a high pitched shrieking snarl. Another button is located in the throat: pushing this button makes the mouth of the creature open and produces a vicious attack roar.
The Spinosaurus stands in a bent pose, as if stalking prey, or waiting to jump on its victim. The tail, which is rather short, is bent to the left, as is the head. The animal has large arms with very nasty big claws. The snout is quite elongated and resembles a crocodile’s head. The figure is very thin and has little body mass. It’s also out of proportion: the head and especially the arms are too big compared to the body.

Analysis: another medium sized electronic dinosaur figure that benefited from Hasbro's creative juices and wild paint schemes in the CamoXtreme line is the Spinosaurus, which, like the Rex and Raptor figures of the line, makes for a vast improvement over its predecessor, which featured a rather bland paint job by comparison. Though the original disappointing features of the sculpt remain (i.e. the dino damage wound, its awkward tiny body and silly short tail compared to its huge arms, and its impractical button to activate the attack roar), at least the figure looks great this time around.
It has a much more 'natural' paint scheme; the muddy feeling the legs give and the successful interplay between brown and black makes for 'butch' predator. Details like claws have not been omitted. The blue lines, which do add some colour and diversity within this paint scheme, do seem out of place on a jungle figure where blue isn't that common a colour: green would have seem more logical, but it's a nice touch regardless. The one thing that feels awfully out of place is the white JP III logo, but considering the more usual black version would have been hard to spot this is an understandable though unfortunate addition to the overall fantastic paint job. Incidentally, this figure could also have worked as a Lava Spinosaurus: the black and reddish brown paint job does also have a bit of a 'lava flow' feeling to them.

Repaint: yes. This figure was originally featured in the JP III toy line. Surprisingly, it would not be repainted again, despite Spinosaurus' rising popularity.

Overall rating: 7/10. This figure proves that a great paint job can make an otherwise lousy figure much more appealing. Despite its many shortcomings, this Spinosaurus got a nice makeover making it seemingly more impressive than its rather dull coloured predecessor. The CamoXtreme Jungle Spinosaurus is not always an easy find. You can still find them at times on eBay for various prices. This figure was also imported in the Benelux in decent quantities, making it easier to find there.

maandag 13 april 2015

Yesterday's News continues Today

Having binged GoT (hell yeah!), I'll pick up where I so shamefully left off:

Wilde terug voor Tron 3

Neither good nor bad news to me. Olivia Wilde is a gorgeous gal and her acting was okay (though not mindboggingly compelling or anything), but it's not what I watch TRON movies for. Unlike most movies (though less so for summer blockbusters), TRON is all about the visuals. Of course those from the first movie were a lot more revolutionary than the effects of its late sequel, but Legacy too definitely delivered some cutting edge vistas. However, this time the question of the plot is more important, considering visual effects won't have developed so intensely since the last film (from 2010), compared to the gap between the first and second film. Not to mention where the story of Legacy left us. And then there's more room to consider Wilde's character. She's the first character from TRON's digital world to have made it to our everyday reality, as opposed to vice versa. The bad guy apparently has been destroyed and the good guy returned home after an arduous ordeal. So why would the good guy and his girl return to TRON's world of pixels? Aside from offering us more visual goodies, of course.

Johansson gewild voor Black Lagoon

Naturally Universal wants Scarlett, everybody wants her. She has grown to be one of Hollywood's most bankable and popular actresses. With that status of course comes the freedom to pick any project she likes, and I doubt a remake of a Fifties' horror classic counts among those. Especially one that already is a soft retreat of similar fare, repackaging a familiar Beauty and the Beast tale in an only moderately different guise. Plus, considering all the 'shared universe' business Universal is proposing for the various remakes of their horror flicks - which is not necessarily a rip-off of Marvels cinematic universe, considering Universal pulled off the same scheme to attract audiences 70 years ago -  it's not unlikely Johansson would have to sign for multiple pictures, repeating her Marvel contract. I doubt she's be willing to do that, now that she's a mom. That is, assuming the studio wants her in the role of the blond babe chased by the horny, oh so misunderstood prehistoric creature. It's not a given that is what the studio wants her for. Maybe it's just what our conservative mind suggests in case of this casting. Considering Johansson isn't only hot but quite talented as well, maybe we got it all wrong. This is the 21st Century after all. Could it be she'll play the creature itself? A female creature falling for a handsome human male, perhaps, in a wonderful reversal of roles? Or a female creature with the hots for a female human, to deliver some sizzling sexual situations to entice bi-curious audiences? Yeah, that's so not gonna happen. But hey, Joss Whedon just accused Universal's Jurassic World of sexism in traditional gender roles (based on a single clip, which may not be the smartest idea), so maybe someone at the studio was listening and decided the time was right to switch sexes around for a change and surprise us all. I'm sure that would attract Johansson a lot more than following age-old movie routines.

Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts?

Notice the question mark there. Only a few weeks ago I posted the news that Matt Smith likely nabbed the lead role in this Harry Potter spin-off. Now it turns out Eddie Redmayne is the new favourite, and Smith's name is nowhere to be found. Other names also keep floating around, which suggests the deal with Smith fell through after all, despite both parties seeming eager to start filming. So yeah, I need to post more question marks in the case of casting rumours like these, since unless contracts are signed, they're always just rumours. So now I may have falsely gotten people's hopes up and those that yearned for a cult series actor playing Newt Scamander might face the harsh reality that's not gonna happen, as he has likely been replaced by a recent Academy Award winner. Sorry, folks. But hey, Eddie Redmayne is a good actor at least, so he, too, is a decent choice for this new lead character we know next to nothing about. As for the actor, he's very British, that's as good a sign as any. Only Englishmen have a shot at playing in a J.K. Rowling based flick, after all. But even among British actors, some Brits are better than others. And personally I think Redmayne is a safer bet than Smith. But then, I've never seen Smith in Dr. Who.