Valued Villany

With expensive movies, you would normally wait until you get a successful box office opening until you start signing up your cast for the sequel. It’s a bit of hubris to automatically expect a great box office, but with the big Fantastic Four coming out, I guess the movie studio thinks they have a lock on a return audience. Hey, it’s their money, sometimes gambles pay off. Announce your next movie early and lock up some prime real estate for the next summer season… I get it.

Here’s the rub: They re-signed the villian.

“I’m signed on to do the sequel, but I really have to be honest with you, the way that I would look at it if I was Fox and those guys, it depends on how well Von Doom is received and how well you could fit him back in again.”

Julian McMahon (Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom in the new Fantastic Four)

So, here we have a villian that obviously survives the climax of the first movie and has the audacity to come back in the second. (Hey, it worked for X-Men!)

 

But here’s the issue:
A comic book based hero (heroic team) is sometimes only as good as the villian(s) they do battle with. Superman fighting Lex Luthor? You bet! Superman fighting lame ass Richard Pryor and smarmy Robert Vaughn? Eek! So, this recycling of villians is tried and true in the comic book biz, PLUS it has the advantage of giving the audience a bad guy who they already know.

(It also helps give a better sequel when the rest of your cast is not that uh, dynamic.) In the mythos of the comic book (which I quit following around 1970… sorry, Marvel!) The Fantastic Four have had more “Final Showdowns” with Dr. Doom than the Rolling Stones have had retirement tours… and that’s a lot!

What I’m getting at here are two things, primarily. One, if you’re going to have an action-adventure movie, make sure it’s got a great villian, and if you’re going to have a sequel, make sure it’s got a great villian, BUT ALSO make sure that the SECOND movie is not just a continuation of the FIRST movie. If your audience smells that, they will feel like your hero(es) are not uh, quite “super”. After all, you’re only as strong as those you defeat. If you don’t defeat your enemies, you’re not strong at all.

If Dr.Doom’s villiany is not deemed “villianous” enough, there’s no reason to watch the second movie. THAT’S the big risk here. You need to have your bad guys be… BAD. I mean, you could support a Dr. Doom character in a second movie with other bad guys, but that would be a bit like the fourth Superman movie where they brought Gene Hackman back. Don’t remember that clunker? Don’t worry, nobody else does either.

So, the success of the Fantastic Four movie depends not on the main characters, but on the the guy they’re trying to defeat.

My Oscar Rant (Part the First)

Well, the Oscars are over except for the bragging rights, As a fellow who has been reviewing movies for the past 15 years or so (check out some of my more recent reviews here) I have to tell you that I love watching the Oscar telecast, and this year was no different. While many reviewers like to make Oscar predictions, and to rank movies, that’s not what I’m all about as a reviewer. I mean, how can you compare the gut-wrenching drama of Saving Private Ryan with the flat-out silliness of Airplane (perhaps the funniest non-Marx Brothers film ever made). While some of you might look at Toy Story and see an entertaining kiddie animated flick, I saw a top-flight buddy film on the order of Lethal Weapon (except, ya know, funnier)

So, given all this, what did I think of this year’s Telecast? Great! At the risk of being both redundant and trite, Chris Rock Rocks! His opening monologue was perhaps the funniest Oscar opening monologue I have ever heard (and I’ve been watching this show for as long as I can remember). So when he started trashing not only specific movies (Pootie Tang—in which Rock himself stared) but specific stars (Jude Law) as well I was hysterical. I mean, you just never do that kind of thing at the Oscars (I was reminded of Bobcat Goldthwaith’s bit at the first MTV Awards, all the presenters were doing “safe” comedy bits, and Bobcat comes out and trashes The Monkeys who were in the middle of their third (fourth?) revival — He did a bit where he said “hey, did anybody see The Monkeys? Man don’t they look old!” Then he grabbed a stool that was onstage and using it as a walker began to sing “Here we come, walking down the street.. Man, I wish my mother invented Whiteout (Former Monkey, Mike Nesbith’s mom had something to do with the invention of White Out and he was now so wealthy that he was passing on joining the new tour, which the other members needed to pay the bills).

Anyway, since I don’t pick winners, I’m never really disappointed with who wins (except for last year when Bill Murray was robbed of his best Actor award for Lost in Translation). Still, having said all of that, I was extremely pleased that Spider-Man 2 won for Special Effects, and (unlike our man, Walt) quite pleased that The Incredibles won for best-animated film. Yea you could make the argument that The Incredibles was derivative, but any crank can claim that anything (film, book, TV show, etc.) is derivative of something else (I know one such individual who insists that every film made since The Wizard of Oz is somehow derivative of that classic. I don’t know how, but that’s his claim, but all you have to do is ask him, and he’ll tell you).

Sure, sure it borrowed heavily from Marvel’s The Fantastic Four, and from DC’s Superman and Batman mythos, as well as from virtually every other superhero comic ever written. Who cares? I know that I certainly don’t. By tapping into this uniquely American, enormously rich, and entirely (and unfortunately mostly overlooked) vein, Director, Brad Bird cobbled together a thoroughly enjoyable story forming an entertainingly rich tapestry. Plus, given that these two films (The Incredibles and Spider-Man 2) came away with Oscars proves (to me at least) that comicbooks aren’t just disposable kiddie fare. That they are indeed legitimate entertainment and that I’ve been right about this all along (I’ve been reading comics since the early ‘60s, and have never been embarrassed that I — even at my advanced age — am still reading them.

OK, I’ll give you that Catwoman was crap, that the Joel Schumacher Batman films were ghod-awful, and that Hulk, Daredevil, and Electra all could have played better (I have longer rants on these last three films that I will get to another time, be patient, I actually do this stuff for a living, so I have paying clients that I have to get to first, plus, I unlike some in this particular arena, I do have like a life and stuff, ya know). If you wer to ask me (and yeah, I know that you didn’t but you are still reading, aren’t you?) The problem with Catwoman was that it completely departed from the source material (that and it was badly done, woodenly acted, and horribly animated the “action” sequences).

As for the Schumacher Batman films, they were just badly done (to the actor’s credit, Val Kilmer was them most athletic of the three actors who portrayed the Darknight detective (and thus closer to the comicbook incarnation, making him my personal favorite) George Clooney looked the best in the Batman suit, and Michael Keaton was actually the best Bruce Wayne. (I’m going to wait until Christian Bale’s turn in Batman Begins hits the screen later this year to go through my entire rant on this series, leave it to say now that Shumacher’s Batman was more like what he remembered Batman in the comics to be than what it actually was.)

The biggest problem with comicbook translations that make to the big screen (and why they mostly blow) is that the writers of the comics take the material, the medium, and the characters very seriously, while the writers of the movies, and TV shows don’t, and treat the source material as disposable pabulum crap. Only what they always fail to realize is that if the thing is popular enough in its original incarnation (and popular enough to be picked up as a movie or TV show) that it obviously does work as originally conceived, so why dick around with it? But they do, and when it fails miserably, everyone goes “See, I told you that this stuff was crap.” And then they go on to write and produce more crap based on respected works.

The Perfesser

Best Picture

I won’t bother you with my picks for best picture from the nominees.

Simply put, I don’t agree with the movies chosen as nominees. Which one of the movies up for “Best Picture” would I enjoy seeing a second time?

— None.

There are movies from 2004 that I’ll happily rent, and perhaps even purchase, but none of the them are movies nominated for “Best Picture” and certainly not the winner of the Os*ar for Best Picture.

One of my favorite movies did win an Os*ar, though.

INCREDIBLES won for Best Animated Picture.
Steal from one, Plagerism; Steal from many, Genius.
It was a fantastic mosh of some of the best tidbits, and it had plenty of originality — (though you’d have to be a stickler to separate the ideas they’ve borrowed from the original items on the screen) overall, it was a great and coherent work.

I don’t know if I liked THE INCREDIBLES better than any other picture last year.

I can say I like THE INCREDIBLES as a movie better than any picture up for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. It was written more along the lines of the classic traditional “Writer’s Journey” and as such, I knew when I had left the theater I had finished watching a movie.

With THE AVIATOR, the movie kind of just, well, ended. I wasn’t impressed, I wasn’t excited. I knew it was time to leave because the credits were rolling. Interesting bio-pic, crappy ass ending. Scorsese might be considered a brilliant director, but I for one wish he’d save all the boring crap for the Director’s Cut, and let me go home with an intact bladder.

Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom

Well, it’s official!!

I was previously sworn to secrecy, but now the news is out!

Julie Kenner announced this yesterday on her blog and especially here.

and here’s the official Hollywood Reporter piece:

Brothers Kevin and Dan Hageman have been hired to adapt Julie Kenner’s upcoming novel “Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom” for Warner Bros. Pictures. 1492 Pictures partners Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan and Mark Radcliffe are producing. “Demon,” set to hit bookstores in the summer, is an action-adventure tale about a stay-at-home mother with a demon-hunting past who is called back into action to rid her small California town of monsters. Jenny Blum is overseeing for 1492, which is housed at Warners. Jeff Clifford and Geoff Shaevitz are overseeing for the studio.

Yes, you CAN guess the general plot. Soccer Mom… Demon Hunting… Thoughts of Buffy come to mind and I’m sure that’s the inspiration…

But knowing Julie Kenner’s work it’s going to have some really strong twisty hooks!

Julie really started a great sub-genre when she began weaving SuperHeroines and Romance together with Aphrodite’s Kiss and then got stronger with additional books in the same vein. (I have to confess I only read the first two)

Carpe Demon the book comes out this June, and hopefully we’ll hear more about the progress of the movie!

Side Note on the movie: While looking up domain names, I noticed that Julie Kenner picked up the domain for www.carpedemon.com some time back, but it seems that Warner Brothers themselves picked up www.carpedemonthemovie.com just this week–shortly before the public announcement — which tells me that someone at Warner Brothers is VERY serious about this project.

I’m REALLY looking forward to this movie!

Congrats, Julie!

Miramax’s MOVIE TSUNAMI

Harvey Weinstein has had this nasty tendency to shelve movies that he didn’t feel he could market successfully. This caused some movies to be held back at the studio long after they were shot.

But with the Weinstein brothers separating out from Miramax Studios (and the real cause of the separation, the self-destructing Disney behemoth), this leads to all sorts of complications. What to do with all those movies?

Well, we’re sure it’s not going to kill anyone, but apparently there’s going to be a flood of movies come this late-summer.

As early as last October, one Hollywood agency circulated an internal memo showing that Disney had waived its rights in more than two dozen Miramax projects in development, and that the Weinsteins planned to let go of at least a third of them, including a high-profile remake of the musical “Damn Yankees!” That project’s producers, Craig Zadon and Neil Meron, declined through a spokesman to comment.

But the most visible sign of the Weinsteins’ departure will be the unusual number of Miramax releases this year, including a few that have been gathering dust for some time. The sudden activity will probably be a boon to some filmmakers, who have seen their projects languish; but others may be concerned about the company’s ability to support their films with advertising and publicity in a period of transition.

New York Times article link

How many movies are going to be flooding your Cineplex? The linked article says something like 22 movies.

How many of them will actually be worth the price of admission? Hard to say at this point. I mean, they released “JERSEY GIRL” and held back some of these? ew. Things don’t look promising.

BE COOL – My Hate Affair With John Travolta Continues

BE COOL is a sequel about, well, making a sequel. And as the first scene in the movie tells us, sequels always suck. Apparently, the first reports from the real world on this one suggests exactly that. Apparently, everyone is phoning this one in, including author of the source material, Elmore Leonard.

BE COOL

Reportedly, the only standout in this one is TheRock, playing a gay Samoan bodyguard. Yeah, that’s him in the pic with the baseball bat.

Now, I’m no fan of Travolta. I personally believe him to be one of the larger acting frauds ever put upon the land of Hollywood. But even folks that enjoyed him in movies have suggested that this particular role makes him look old, and ineffectual.

Hmm… maybe the part WAS written for him, after all!

As always, I haven’t seen the movie, so your mileage will vary.
Rent GET SHORTY again.