23 December 2006

Superheroes on Screen - Logos A-Go Gos

Official websites have launched for both the sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the Iron Man movie. Check them out by clicking their logos.

The Many Foes of Spider-Man - Kraven the Hunter

Spidey's foe with a sense of style Kraven the Hunter

Kraven was a maniacal big game hunter who sought to defeat Spider-Man to prove that he was the greatest hunter in the world. Unlike other hunters, he typically disdained the use of guns or bow and arrows preferring to take down large dangerous animals with his bare hands even though he often made elaborate preparations to weaken a quarry before hand. He also used a mystical serum to give him similar strength to Spider-Man, but even without the serum he was a threat to the wall-crawler. However, Kraven's continual underestimation of the superhero's resourcefulness made him a frustrating quarry.

In "Kraven's Last Hunt," his aggravation with his inability to run the superhero down further destroyed his sanity. With that, he hatched a scheme that actually defeated Spider-Man, and seemingly and uncharacteristically shot him dead. Considering his enemy effectively dead, Kraven buried him. After this, Kraven donned a copy of Spider-Man's costume and sought to prove that he was superior at his enemy's activities. This culminated with his successful singlehanded capture of a minor supervillain, Vermin, whom Spider-Man needed the help of Captain America to defeat. After that triumph, Spider-Man revived from the tranquilizer dart he was actually shot with and dug his way out of the grave. Kraven greeted him and explained that he had made his point about defeating his enemy. Then he released Vermin and told Spider-Man to pursue him. At this point, having no further purpose, Kraven committed suicide while Spider-Man captured the villain on his own.

Kraven's allegiances and relatives in life were, for the most part, revealed only after his death. The Chameleon was the person who initially gave Kraven the idea of hunting Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #15. After Kraven died, the Chameleon was revealed to be Dmitri Smerdyakov, Kraven's half-brother, personal servant, and the victim of Kraven's abuse, and yet, according to Smerdyakov, the two were best friends nonetheless. Kraven's lover, the voodoo priestess Calypso, manipulated the Lizard against the wall-crawler in the first issues of Todd McFarlane's best-selling Spider-Man series. It was later revealed in a story arc concerning Ka-Zar that Kraven was trained as a hunter largely by a mysterious man named Gregor, a mercenary who battled the Lord of the Jungle.

Villain Profiles:

the Beetle
Black Cat
the Chameleon
Doctor Octopus
the Green Goblin
J. Jonah Jameson
Jack O' Lantern
the Kingpin
Kraven the Hunter

Spider-Man 3 debuts in 132 days!

The 12 Days of Bookmas Countdown - #3

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy - While this Chronicle has the least to do with the rest of the Narnia series, it is a great book. There is a plot to invade Archenland, the sister nation and ally of Narnia. Should Archenland fall, Narnia would be next. The boy Shasta and his horse Bree must race to the kingdom of Archenland to prevent the war. The story takes place during the time that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy ruled Narnia, but they are very small characters to the story, and Shasta is a native to the magic land, so there are no mentions of our world. What I liked most about this book was that the symbolism of Aslan is downplayed. He is in the book, and helps out, but unlike his appearances in some of the other books, he is more of a guide than a deus ex machina. Sadly, of the 7 Narnia books, this one is probably the least likely to be made into a film, which is a shame. It would stand alone quite nicely, and it offers a more intimate story than the other books, as it focuses on Shasta rather than larger groups of heroes.

Countdown So Far

#3 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy
#4 - Ender's Game
#5 - Disney War
#6 - His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass
#7 - The Earthsea Cycle: The Farthest Shore
#8 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew
#9 - The Earthsea Cycle: A Wizard of Earthsea
#10 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
#11 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
#12 - The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

22 December 2006

The 12 Days of Bookmas Countdown - #4

Ender's Game - This is a successful movie franchise just waiting to happen if done correctly. It is more or less Harry Potter in space (with a dash of The Last Starfighter) but with meaner kids. I guess thats not completely fair since this one came out long before Potter. The titular game involves Ender training and developing war strategies while at a battle school for young "soldier's of tomorrow" to fight an alien "bugger" race. While Ender's freindships and school are interesting, the greatness in this book involves the fallout at the end resulting from Ender's final test. Though this series now has like 8 books or so in it (way too many) I very much look forward to reading its sequel Speaker for the Dead.

Countdown So Far

#4 - Ender's Game
#5 - Disney War
#6 - His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass
#7 - The Earthsea Cycle: The Farthest Shore
#8 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew
#9 - The Earthsea Cycle: A Wizard of Earthsea
#10 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
#11 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
#12 - The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

21 December 2006

Silver Surfer First Look

Here he is from USA Today:

USA Today

22 December 2006

The Silver Surfer surfaces in 'Fantastic Four' sequel

It's surf's up for next year's Fantastic Four sequel.

In June, the Silver Surfer jumps from page to screen in The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

With computer-generated imagery techniques similar to those used to create Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, the slippery Surfer, voiced by Doug Jones, "will look somewhere between gun metal and fluid metallics so you can see the body motion, the breathing, the muscle tone, the mood," says Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad.

The Surfer's mood is key to the story. After striking a deal with the evil Galactus to save his planet, the once-human Surfer wreaks havoc throughout the cosmos. "He is a highly emotional being, trapped inside fluid metal," Arad says.

Audiences will get a first look at the Silver Surfer this weekend in trailers before Night at the Museum.

Fantastic Four DVD

Yar! Captain Keith Sparrow

It's the first look at Keith Richard's as Jack Sparrow's papa, and for some reason, that little guy is wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt.

Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

And confirmed by Bloomsbury.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Hmmm. Not sure I like that title, buts that what it is.

Radar Blips - Krull

The Year: 1983 (July) - 2 months after Return of the Jedi

The Players: Staring Ken Marshal and Lysette Anthony with small roles by a pre-Hagrid Robbie Coltrane and a young Liam Neeson

The Take: A paltry $16.5 million

What's a Krull: Krull is the name of the planet on which all the action takes place

Why you should see it:

The DVD case of this movie boasts the quote from Variety, "Excalibur meets Star Wars. Lavishly mounted." One's reaction to this film will likely hinge on how cool such a "meeting" sounds. This movie has swords that shoot lasers, a cyclops, giant spiders, magic, and aliens that scream when they die. Not least of all, the film has a bladed boomerang-like shuriken called the Glaive that can inflict some serious damage on the enemy Beast. The movie follows the standard quest format, but its quite entertaining. Also, it has a great soundtrack (click here for sample tracks). This is a film that every self respecting geek has to see.

Watch the trailer now:

Krull (Special Edition DVD)

20 December 2006

Their War, Our World - The Transformers Movie Trailer

Here it is

Or you can check out all the images of the "bots" here.

Support SERVEwithCHIPS:

The Transformers - The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition)

The 12 Days of Bookmas Countdown - #5

Disney War - My one non-fiction pick was pretty insightful. This book was about Michael Eisner's rise and fall within the Disney Empire. To be fair, Mike did some great things at first. Disney was hurting when he came on board, and he helped revitalize the brand... but he pushed it too far with countless Disney Stores, endless sequels to animated classics, and continual confrontations with other Disney Execs including Roy Disney, and Jefferey Katzenberg who left to form Dreamworks animation. Eisner's tiff's cost Disney hundreds of millions of dollars in contract breeches and settlements. When Katzenberg left for example, Eisner held out on paying him revenues due on a figure that Jeffrey had agreed to and justly deserved for his part in The Little Mermaid, and other huge Disney hits. A lawsuit eventually rewarded Jeffrey 3 times as much as he had previous agreed to accept. When Eisner hired his personal friend Michael Ovitz as President of Disney, Eisner immediately began to look for ways to get the guy fired. Ovitz's 1 year stint cost Disney over $100 million in settlement. Eisner just has a way of ticking off his "friends."

The book also gives little nuggets of trivia about the behind the scenes happenings on many Disney movies including some of the numbers in Fantasia 2000 (Pomp and Circumstance was supposed to accompany the Disney Princess strutting about with their post honeymoon babies) and The Little Mermaid (Part of His World was cut from the movie for a time due to a fidgety kid in a screening). Lastly, it mentions some of Eisner's biggest mistakes (not supporting Pirates of the Caribbean, passing on the TV show Survivor, paying way too much for Fox Family channel, and EuroDisney) Its an interesting read for fans of Disney with a good look at how the company really operates, but at 600 pages, it is too long.

Disney War

Countdown So Far

#5 - Disney War
#6 - His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass
#7 - The Earthsea Cycle: The Farthest Shore
#8 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew
#9 - The Earthsea Cycle: A Wizard of Earthsea
#10 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
#11 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
#12 - The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

19 December 2006

Ink Blots XLIII - Oliver & Company

When I think of Disney Animated movies, one of the last ones I remember is Oliver & Company. This in spite of Oliver being one of the Disney movies I saw theatrically as a kid. Its not too funny, the animation isn't too great- in fact it has a dirty grungy look. Oliver isn't that cute, the music isn't too memorable. You can see where this is going. Oliver is not a bad film, its just so plain all the way around.

Oliver (voiced by Joey "Whoa!" Lawrence) is an orphan cat that finds himself in the company of a bunch of dog thieves including the Piano Man Billy Joel as Dodger and Chihuahua Cheech Marin (Bette Midler also voices a rich "female dog" later in the film). But even though the dogs are thieves, they aren't bad, they are trying to help out their master (Fagin) who has gotten in too deep with some loan sharks. It probably all seems familiar if you have read Oliver Twist, on which this is based. Oliver is adopted by young Jenny, but good things in Disney movies never last (except for the happily ever afters). The dog pack "rescue" Oliver from the nice home he had found and then are offended that Ollie preferred the mansion to the dog's New York dump. Fagin decides that Oliver could bring in a nice ransom so he sends his demands to "the very rich cat owner person." Will she pay the ransom? Will Fagin turn over a new leaf? Will the loan sharks break Fagin's knee caps? I'll never tell...

Earning $53 million in 1988, this film was considered a pretty big success for Disney (at least until The Little Mermaid made huge waves in 1989). Surely songs by Billy Joel, Bette Midler, and Huey Lewis helped fuel the film's box office. Actually though, I found that while the songs are pleasant enough, I won't soon be humming them while riding the subway, or even remembering them for that matter. There are just far too many Disney movies with far better tunes. Having said that, there is nothing here that offended my senses or totally sucked either and that's worth something. So, if you love Disney you better check this one out too, but if you are just looking for a good film to watch, there are probably better ones out there. Sorry Ollie, you get a C.

Oliver & Company (Special Edition)

18 December 2006

Introducing a New Feature - Radar Blips

My loyal readers (both of you),

I don't know what keeps you coming back to this humble blog, but I hope you enjoy my features. Every Tuesday has been Ink Blots day featuring reviews of animated films or shorts. Periodically, I have Superheroes on Screen stories posted as the news come in, and for the most part I have posted a monthly Superheroes on Screen Retrospective focusing on a year in Superhero media. Every Saturday it is time for The Many Foes of Spider-Man which profiles the web-slinger's foes as we count down the time until Spider-Man 3 (Don't despair I already have a plan for the post-SM3 release). For some bloggers, this would be enough. But not for me.

I am developing a new feature to be called Radar Blips. This will probably be a Thursday feature with a small profile of a Sci-Fi or Fantasy film. I say probably, because I welcome your feedback and ideas. What would YOU my readers like to see in this feature? I probably won't have time to write full fledged reviews, but I want to list interesting tidbits about production, budget and box office, and a few thoughts from my brain. So, come back tomorrow for blots, and then on Thursday come check out my first edition of the blips.

The Current State of Fantasy Films (or Has Eragon Come and Gon?)

Until recent years, the fantasy genre has really struggled at the box office. In the 1980's movies like Krull, Dragonslayer, The Princess Bride, and Legend all failed to break the $20 million mark. Only 1988's Willow managed to bust through the $50 million glass ceiling. The 90's had less attempts and just as little success with fantasy creating such films as Dragonheart. Even the early entries in the new millennium struggled. Reign of Fire, and Dungeons and Dragons both attempted to cash in with CG dragons with little effect. Then came Lord of the Rings and everything changed. To be fair, a little series known as Harry Potter and its success also gave fantasyphiles hope for the future. Especially after Return of the King virtually swept the Oscars, it seemed fantasy had finally become mainstream.

2005's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe was the first copycat to cash in on the established winter holiday success found by Rings and Potter, though the Narnia book series was well known by broad audiences so its success was not a real surprise. So, along came Eragon, 2006's entry in the new tradition of successful holiday fantasy flicks... only Eragon did not get the huge reception of the previous years hits. This opening weekend, Eragon mustered up about $24 million, and the $90 budgeted film will need strong business over the Christmas break to reclaim its investment.

So, what does this mean for the genre? First off, why didn't Eragon do better? Well, The Eragon novel doesn't have nearly the fanbase of Lord of the Rings, Potter, or Narnia. Also, a mere 90 some minute runtime makes it difficult to give a film a real epic film which fantasy requires. In addition, Eragon lacks the directorial talents of a Peter Jackson. This was Stefen Fangmeier's first turn in the director's chair, and lead actor Edward Speelers' first role. The 14% freshness rating on RottenTomatoes.com isn't exactly a ringing endorsement either, much of the poor rating being attributed to Eragon's beat for beat similarities to Star Wars Episode IV (better to copy Episode 4 than The Phantom Menace... right? ). I think it is safe to assume that a better film, or at least better marketed film would have performed better. So, while Eragon's performance (or lack thereof) probably doesn't help the genre, it may not really be a sign of things to come. After all, it was not a bomb, and there are plenty of other fantasy films under production. At least a couple of them have to be better than Eragon, and they will be the real test of the current state of the fantasy film genre.

2007 has 3 big entries to offer up in the fantasty genre. Up first is July 13th's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. If there is any such thing as a sure fire hit, this is it. Though not my favorite in the series (3 and 6 are tied for my favs) this Potter should be a another good adaptation. Also, it features a confrontation between the boy wizard and Voldy. I just can't see this film doing anything but succeeding. Unfortunately, being part of the already established successful fantasy films list, Potters success does little to help the genre as a whole.

Later in July comes the highly anticipated (at least by me) Stardust. Its got romance crossed with adventure in a fantastic world. The closest film to this I can think of is The Princess Bride. Though Stardust may not bring in $200 million, I believe it can be a hit. The now acclaimed Princess Bride made only $31 million back in 1987, so a big take for Stardust may reveal that fantasy still has a broad appeal.

What about next winter? His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass has claimed the Christmas season fantasy slot. With armored polar bears, magical creatures, and Nicole Kidman this one should be a hit. The Golden Compass is based on a fairly popular book (also known as The Northern Lights) in a trilogy by Philip Pullman giving it a built in audience. With a budget of $150 million, the suits are banking on this one being a hit, and a flop here could sadly spell trouble for our new winter fantasy film tradition.

Further down the road, we can count on many more quality fantasy films. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (winter 2008) as well as Harry Potter 7 are all but sure things. Also, the Narnia sequel Prince Caspian in currently in development for Summer 2008. If it is also a hit, then expect Narnia films of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair to follow shortly thereafter. If The Golden Compass does well, there are 2 follow ups that could be made (The Subtle Knife & The Amber Spyglass). While it seems that a follow up to Eragon based on the book sequel Eldest may be a stretch, MGM has made an announcement that will make us forget about this series. MGM announced that there is an upcoming Hobbit movie or two. These Lord of the Rings prequels should be huge, especially if they get Peter Jackson back along with Ian McKellen as Galdalf the Grey. Lastly, Peter Jackson has optioned the Temeraire saga for production. If you are unfamiliar with this series (as I was) it is a historical fantasy saga that reimagines the Napoleonic Wars only with a dragon air force.

With many projects underway, its premature to say the fantasy is dead, or even dying. Consider Eragon the inevitable bump in the road that occurs when studios get greedy and forget that there is more to box office success than a simple formula of "1 part based on a book + 2 parts winter release date = $$$." The fantasy genre is alive, and we can count on many more films of the genre, good and bad, to grace the big screen for at least the next few years.

17 December 2006

Superheroes on Screen - That Leaked SM3 Trailer

While that last Spider-Man 3 trailer was pretty good, this leaked and unfinished one is even better. Can't wait for next May!

The 12 Days of Bookmas Countdown - #6


His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass - Another read inspired by an upcoming film. This just may be next winters big fantasy film. It stars Nicole Kidman and the new James Bond and includes scenes of what got me interested about this book - large ferocious armor wearing polar bears fighting. The book is set in an early 1900's England, only in an alternate universe where everyone has a little animal shaped daemon that is connected to each person's soul. This book takes a more scientific than fantastic angle at the supernatural elements. As for the "golden compass" it is a device not unlike a Ouija board that guides people who know how to read it. It should be an interesting film with a distinctive look. Parts of the books move slowly, but still, part 2, The Amber Spyglass is on my to-read list.

Countdown So Far

#6 - His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass
#7 - The Earthsea Cycle: The Farthest Shore
#8 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew
#9 - The Earthsea Cycle: A Wizard of Earthsea
#10 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
#11 - The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
#12 - The Restaurant at the End of the Universe