19 July 2008

HOLY Opening Day Record Batman

So, we knew The Dark Knight would do well, but it is blowing away all expectations with an estimated $66 million dollar opening day. That figure is more than Batman Begins made in its entire opening weekend. This figure puts the Dark Knight as the largest opening day and largest single day earnings ever, dethroning last years Spider-Man 3. By tomorrow we shall have an idea if The Dark Knight can also overthrow the weekend record, also set by Spider-Man 3, of $151 million. Also, it looks like The Dark Knight may end up being 2008's champ upsetting Indy and Iron Man. Yowzers!

18 July 2008

Super Lame Harry Potter 6 Trailer is Live

I guess they figure that by now people are either going to see the next Potter movie or they are not, because this teaser doesnt even try to "tease."

The Knight Has Come

Will this Batfilm rule them all? I am counting on The Dark Knight to set the Batfilm Box Office record, but adjusted for inflation can it topple Batman '89? Mmm, maybe not. But wouldn't it be cool if it did. Anyways, the movie is here, go see it and report back.

17 July 2008

Superheroes on Screen - Retrospective 1992

Though the givings were few, they were of lasting quality back in


In the summer of 1992, after 3 long years, Batman was back. Having taken down the Joker in 1989, Batman needed a worthy adversary to fight in Batman Returns. He got two. Tim Burton transformed the gentlemanly tuxedo wearing Penguin into a grotesque flippered sewer dwelling mutant and Catwoman was imagined as an introverted woman liberated. The movie has some similarities to Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas as the costumed trio converge during Christmas celebrations. The movie was fairly well reviewed, but took a lot of parents by surprise with its gothic mood. The movie went on to earn $163 million - about $90 million less than the first installment. More significantly, the pendulum was swung to the other extreme for the next sequel, Schumachers Batman Forever, which replaced grotesque and dark with neon and nipples and kept the mupltiple villains approach.

The year's greater contribution to Batman was with the Emmy award winning Batman: The Animated Series which ran for 109 episodes and spawned spin-off series featuring Superman, The Justice League, and Batman Beyond. The series, inspired by the music and style of 1989's Batman set The Detective in a Gothic, but timeless Gotham City. The series gained much praise for its sympathetic reimaginings of many of the villains including Mr. Freeze, The Mad Hatter, and The Clock King and created new fan-favorite Harley Quinn.

Also debutting in 1992 was the X-Men Animated Series which faithfully adapted many of the comic book series best and most epic tales through its 76 episodes. The team consisted of Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Beast, Gambit, Jubilee, Jean Grey, and Professor X though many other favorite mutants appeared in an episode or two including Colossus, Nightcrawler, Emma Frost, Forge, Havok, Polaris, Cannonball, Banshee, Iceman, Archangel, Longshot, Dazzler, Sunfire, Psylocke, Cable, and Bishop. Between Batman and X-Men, my childhood need for Saturday morning cartoons was well met.

And that, my friends was what 1992 graced us with.

The Babylonian Captivity - The Coming of Shadows (2x09)

This episode shares its title with Season 2, marking it as "important." Also, I read that this episode won the Hugo award in 1996 beating Apollo 13, Toy Story, Twelve Monkeys, and the excellent episode of Deep Space Nine, "The Visitor." So basically I was expecting a lot. And though winning the award may have been a bit undeserved given the competition, this was a really good episode.

Basically, the dying Featherhead leader wants to apologize to the Lizard Faces for their past oppressions and wars. Lizard Face G'Kar, so moved by the apology, dropped his previous plan to assassinate the leader and reaches out a hand of friendship to Featherhead ambassador Londo. Little did G'Kar realize that Londo was at that very moment making a play for power. In order to insure that he and his cronies rose to pwer when the emperror died, he called in another favor from his mysterious buddy, who summoned the Shadow ships and destroyed a Lizard colony. The episode ended with Lizrd war being declared against the Featherheads.

I was really impressed at the payoff here. Its been a long time coming and this was a pretty compelling story that should affect the series for a long time to come. And was it my imagination, or were the effects actually a little better? Last years commander also made an appearance, so I guess he is still part of the show. We will see how big a part he still has to play, but for now he is a leader of a speacial forces group, undercover on B5.

Good stuff all around 5/5.

16 July 2008

Superest Sequels

With the arrival of The Dark Knight, its time for people such as myself to assemble the obligatory "Top Superhero Films" lists. I thought I would put a little twist on the topic by ranking the Top Superhero Sequels. Many filmmakers say that once the origin story is "out of the way," they can dive into the meat of the character and deliver movies that improve on the original. We shall see. One asterisk, since I have not yet seen Hellboy 2, the big red guy is ineligible. Here we go:

10. Superman 3

Although Superman 3 really doesn't have any business being on any Top 10 list, there really aren't THAT many superhero sequels. Besides, the movie is not completely devoid of redeeming moments. After 2 films focusing on the relationship between smoker-teeth hag Lois, it was great to see Superman going for the upgrade in Smallville with Lana Lang. The main villain of the film being a plain old computer as opposed to Brainiac is a let down, but when the computer turned the villianess Vera into a cyborg... that was some scary stuff. The fight between Clark Kent and Evil Superman in the junkyard was also one of the great Superhero clashes in any movie - even if it doesn't really make sense. When that Superman theme chimes in at the end, you can't help but feel excitement! (Better than Superman? - No)

9. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer did all he could to save this sequel from disaster. I am not sure he was successful, but the character was easily the greatest part of the film steeling every scene he was in, and looking "fantastic." If only the Fantastic Four had had someone to fight other than a cloud or a Ferris wheel, this movie may have been better received. I must also admit to enjoying the power swapping scenes, and the super powered Johnny that takes out Dr. Doom. In spite of everything, the movie gets marks for improving on the original - even if the bar was set awfully low. (Better than The Fantastic Four? - Yes)

8. Batman Returns

Now I know that some people praise this movie as being the greatest Batman movie ever made (or at least they did until Batman Begins came along) but there are a lot of things wrong here. Its just a little too goofy thanks to Tim Burton's "wild imagination." The 1989 Batman set up a great world, but this movie seemed to slip into an alternate fantasy dimension. Also, pretty much every Penguin related subplot was awful. I mean, why are Emperor Penguins living in the Gotham City sewers? I have to admit though, I think Penguin is one of the worst supervillains ever made, so I am a bit biased. On the other hand, Catwoman was incredible. As far as I am concerned this take on the character can never be topped, and her portrayal alone makes this a worth watching film. (Better than Batman? - No)

7. Superman Returns

What a gorgeous movie this was. It plays homage to the first two Superman films and includes the memorable Superman themes. The airplane rescue was jaw dropping, but unfortunately, one amazing scene does not a great movie make. All of the Super-stalking and bastard child subplots sullied the hero. The lack of a superhero throw down was also disappointing. Sure, we saw plenty of heavy lifting, but zero punches and that is criminal. After Superman 3 and 4, this was a pretty good return to form for Superman, but they probably should have freed themselves of the 30 year old film baggage and gone for a reboot. (Better than Superman? - No)

6. The Incredible Hulk

This might be a bit of a cheat because Marvel call this a reboot, but to me it seemed like it could just as well have been a sequel. Hulk end with Bruce Banner speaking Spanish in Central America, and The Incredible Hulk opens with him a bit farther south, still on the run from Thunderbolt Ross and the Army. Finally, we got to see the Hulk fight a real enemy. Watching him thrash tanks is also fun, but once the Abomination showed up, Hulk actually had a non-canine challenge. Though I enjoyed the dark, slow, physiological build of Hulk, a lighter more action packed follow-up is just what audiences wanted. (Better than Hulk? - Yes)

5. Spider-Man 3

Though this film had far too many coincidences and handled Venom poorly, it was overall pretty good. The Sandman character was handled great, and I even enjoyed the dark Peter Parker, who try as he might, would never be cool. Venom wouldn't have been that bad either except Eddie Brock's face kept popping out. And while this chapter could have been stronger, the movie resolved elements from previous films, such as the Goblin story, and wrapped up a strong Spider-Man trilogy. (Better than Spider-Man? - No)

4. X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Even if it had been better than this, no X-Men 3 movie could ever have been as good as people were hopping - which is a testament to the brilliance of X-Men 2. Having said that, this film is greatly under appreciated. The additions of Beast, Shadowcat, and Juggernaut were excellent and the whole ending sequence with Jean / Phoenix was pretty amazing. Maybe it could have been better, but this movie avoided the steep decline in quality that befell other 3quels (see Batman Forever, Spider-Man 3, and Superman 3). (Better than X-Men? - Yes)

The top 3 movies were the cream of the Superhero crop. Oddly, they were all "part 2s" with "2" in the title.

3. Superman 2

General Zod and his crew were a viable threat for the Man of Steel. They easily stole the show from Lex Luthor and gave audiences a reason to cheer for dude that is practically perfect in every way. The movie has an interesting story as well with Superman deciding if he really wants to be a the hero. The fight on the Streets of Metropolis was high stakes and my vote for the best Superhero fight on film. "Kneel Before Zod" is an all-time great movie line and seeing Zod bested is a delight everytime. (Better than Superman? - Yes)

2. Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 kept it simple. It didn't try and give us twice the villains or twice the explosions, it just built on the foundation of Spider-Man. We got to see the characters grow and Doc Ock was a better villain than the original's Green Goblin. The clock fight / train sequence stands out as an action highlight. But the best aspect of this film is that we can really identify with Peter Parker . Spider-Man 2 stole a page from Superman 2 with the hero finally embracing his powers and responsibility. When Peter finally catches a break from MJ at the end, we get to cheer for him. and not just for his alter-ego. (Better than Spider-Man? - Yes)

1. X2: X-Men United

X-Men was good, but no one was prepared for the epic X2. The film seemed like it could be overstuffed like many sequels are, but the additions of Nightcrawler and Lady Deathstrike did not rob the other heroes of their moments. The opening scene of Nightcrawler's White House infiltration is a perfect action sequence and Magneto's plastic prison escape was also awesome. Though the subtitle "X-Men United" is awfully cheesy, seeing the X-Men have to team up with Magneto, and then be betrayed by him, was great. The film's cliffhanger ending was a perfect final note for this near flawless sequel. (Better than X-Men? - Yes)

Radar Blips - Transformers

The Year: 2007

The Players: That Shy Beef guy, and many robots including Optimus Prime (voiced by Optimus Prime), Megatron (voiced by Elrond), Bumblebee (voiced by a radio), Jazz, Starscream, Ironhide, Ratchet, Frenzy, Blackout, Barricade, Scorponok, and Bonecrusher.

The Take: $319 Million

Wait, why are there so many human actors? In order to construct a plot, albeit a lame one involving map etched glasses, several characters were introduced in subplots that eventually converged. Sadly, a lot of these lam-os got more screen time than the titular bots.

Why you should see it: Well, don't watch it if you want a good story or much Transformers dialogue. On the other hand, watching the cars transform into robot in live action is a thrill that can hardly be matched. The opening sequence of Blackout taking out an army base is incredible as is the attack of Scorponok. Bumbleebee talking via radio actually is pretty clever as well. Last but not least, the final battle is great - even if a bit too shaky- including Optimus Prime beheading Bonecrusher with a sword. One of the greatest aspects of this film is hearing the original voice of Prime coming out of the live-action Bot.

The Babylonian Captivity - A Race Through Dark Places (2x08)

The guy played by Checkov returned to bust up an underground railroad for unregistered psychics. The lead psychic freaks me out. I can't tell what his deal is, but there must be something genetically wrong with the actor. A fair episode.


The Babylonian Captivity - Soul Mates (2x07)

I am starting to enjoy this Londo guy. He started off as kind of a goofball, but now he is turning out to be a real power tripping bastard. In this episode he gets to dump a couple of his wives. Frankly, they were all hags, but maybe they were hot for their species. Enjoyable enough.


The Babylonian Captivity - A Spider in the Web (2x06)

More hints at conspiracies as people are being resurrected and reprogrammed to carry out covert operations. Fairly forgettable.


15 July 2008

I'm Independently Owned By My Creator Who Distrubutes His Work Through Dark Horse

Ink Blots - Kiki's Delivery Service

One of Hayao Miyazaki's masterpieces, 1989's Kiki's Delivery Service tells the story of a teenage witch trying to find her way in the world. She goes off to an oceanside town and starts up a delivery service. Each delivery has Kiki making new friends that will play important roles as the story unfolds. The story also shares a theme with Spider-Man 2, as Kiki begins to lose her witching abilities while she searches for inspiration as to why she really wants to have those powers. There are also themes similar to the non-fantastical Whisper of the Heart, which also has a teenage girl trying to decide who she wants to be.

Maybe this sounds dull, and while the film is "good old fashioned clean entertainment" (as long as you arent some anti-witchcraft in movies nut), it is actually quite engaging. Like other Miyazaki films, Kiki's Delivery Service contains beautiful flying sequences, a female protagonist, and a leisurely pace. And while the film spends time introducing characters and building relationships rather than trying to stuff in one extra action sequence, there are also some suspenseful moments.

The American dub features the voice of Spider-Man's own MJ as Kiki and of The Simpson's Troy McClure as her cat Jiji. Both of these voices work quite well as does the character played by Janeane Garofalo (who I don't really like in live action, but she was also good in Ratatouille). While not the tip top cream of Miyazaki's crop (a pretty high standard), Kiki is still a gem worthy of an A-.

14 July 2008

Radar Blips - Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The Year: 1986

The Players: Crew of "Trek Classic," and the mom from Seventh Heaven (oddly the Dad was in Star Trek TMP).

The Take: $110 million, the only one to crack $100 million.

Is this the Whale one?: Yep. This was the Trek that crossed over in to mainstream for having an environmental, though not heavy handed, message about "saving the whales."

Why you should see it: People can't get enough Star Trek Time Travel. This one has it, to 1980's Earth. Sure, this is as much a comedy as an action sci-fi... actually, it is probably mostly comedy, but so was the classic Trouble with Tribbles. They managed to walk the comedy line without mocking the characters and though the story is outrageous, its still fun. Of the 10 trek films, this one is the lightest and most accessible for non-trekkers. It may not be the best trek on my list, but its near the top. Also, this is the the last installment of what I call the Trek Trilogy that began with Khan. I think that those TNG movies would have benefited from a more ambitious multi film arc like this.

13 July 2008

Fishy Weekend Win

That little red demon from hell and his fishy friend did it! They took the weekend with $36 million besting Hancock in ts second week, and openers Journey to the center of the Earth and the BOMBastic Meet Dave (just 5.3 mil). Seriously, Eddie Murphy should retire from showbiz with the exception of his Donkey voice. That job should more than pay his bills, especially if they keep making Shreks for years to come. With this weekend, hopefully Hellboy can keep some momentum and end up around $90 million. A 50% improvement is pretty good for a sequel.

Indy is closing the gap, and it looks like he will inevitably take his place as the number one film for the year, which is what most people predicted (unless Batman goes bananas). Its a shame, it would have been cool for the Iron one to have gone down in history as the years biggest.

Hancock has already zipped up to the number 4 spot, proving that Will Smith can do no ill.

Kung Fu Panda continues to impress, passing the $200 million mark. The real surprise is that the race for top summer toon is going to be close with both Wall-E and Panda doing quite well. Panda just may win this showdown.

Wanted cracked the list, but hopefully by this time next week, we will have a Dark Knight on the list. Did I mention that Batman opens this week? It will have a monster opening, though I actually will be a little surprised if it makes the list right away. In any case, Wanted's days on the list are numbered.


#1 Iron Man - $313,413,000
#2 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - $310,477,000
#3 Kung Fu Panda - $202,043,000
#4 Hancock - $165,034,000
#5 Wall-E - $162,772,000
#6 Sex and the City - $148,227,000
#7 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - $139,077,570
#8 The Incredible Hulk - $129,815,000
#9 Wanted - $112,045,000