Entertainment Today and Beyond

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THE STRANGERS sequel now a reality

The Strangers -1Intrepid Pictures has announced that it is planning a September production start on a sequel to its hit horror film, The Strangers. Director of the original Bryan Bertino, has written the script for this follow-up but the directorial reins will reportedly be handed over to French new comer Laurent Briet. At this point there’s no word on the storyline as it’s being kept under wraps.

Released in 2008, the original film starred Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a young couple terrorized by masked assailants at their remote summer house. It was shot for $9 million and grossed a very profitable $80 million worldwide. The trailer cut for the film was easily one of the best of the year and helped generate buzz for the film weeks before its release on May 30, 2008. If rumors are true that Liv Tyler will be back, it clearly would set up this sequel as a revenge story. At this point it’s just a rumor. I can’t say that this follow-up is necessary but when a movie pulls in almost ten times its production cost you’re going to get one.

I thought Bertino created some great suspense for the first half of The Strangers but certain scenes in the film’s latter half go on too long and that hurt the overall movie. Still I liked it as it was a pretty solid film in its genre. It’s also no secret that many in the mainstream crowd were turned off by its very bleak ending. It will be interesting to see if they can turn this into a long running franchise. Here’s a LOOK at the great trailer to the original The Strangers. 


July 31, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | | Leave a comment

Iron Man 2 Has Many Writers Dating Back to 1963


By: Michael Cooper, contributing editor

I just watched a segment from the San Diego Comic Con’s Iron Man 2 panel (see below) and it prompted me to make sure history wasn’t too badly trampled by an overenthusiastic fan and a not so humble writer and artist.

52-1I was really bothered by the fan’s statement that Iron Man’s true writer is none other than Bob Layton. Bob came out of the audience at this past weekend’s panel and spoke briefly, taking his dues but also not mentioning the creators who had come before him. That to me wasn’t quite right so I’m here to set the record straight.

While indeed Bob contributes much of the storyline used in this upcoming movie, the real history of Iron Man and his lineage goes back 20 years before Bob ever plotted his first Iron Man story in the early 1980’s.  

Tales of Suspense #39, which introduced the Grey Goliath in 1963, was the brainchild of none other than Jack Kirby. Kirby nearly single handedly created most of the Marvel universe from the Fantastic Four,170-1 Thor, Hulk, The X-Men, to Iron Man and many more. He handed the reins to Don Heck who, along with writing partner Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s brother), and inker Chic Stone introduced Iron Man’s first female nemesis, The Black Widow, in the spring of 1964 (Scarlett Johansson brings her to life her in Iron Man 2).In that 45-year-old story, Russian spy and former German Assassin Natalia Romanova (whose name evolved into Natasha Romanoff in later years), is introduced. She is believed to be a relative of the Romanoff’s, the last ruling czars of Russia.

During World War II a Nazi assault on Stalingrad set the building she was in on fire. Her mother threw her into the arms of a Russian soldier named Ivan Petrovich before being consumed by the flames.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson

The Black Widow’s first encounter with Iron Man came when she was ordered to slay Anton Vanko, the creator of the Soviet Crimson Dynamo armor (the first Russian version of Iron Man) who had defected to America. Natasha attempted to distract Tony Stark while her partner Boris Turgenov used the Crimson Dynamo armor to destroy Stark’s plants. Turgenov and Vanko wound up dying in battle, and Natasha remained in America to find some way of regaining the K.G.B.’s favor. It was the KGB who named her “Black Widow”.

mickey-rourke-as-whiplash-5In late 1967 the writer and artist in charge of Iron Man was Gene Colan and he created Mickey Rourke’s character, Whiplash.

Whiplash a.k.a. Mark Scarlotti served the Maggia (The Marvel Universe’s version of the Mafia), well establishing his reputation early on by battling Iron Man to a stalemate with his electronic whip. In later years he was eventually caught and sent to Ryker’s Island Prison to serve time for his various crimes.

TalesofSuspense97Bob Layton eventually brings Whiplash back with a new storyline. Whiplash is freed from Ryker’s Island by criminal financier Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2) who gathers a small army of costumed criminals. Hammer’s plan is to finance their operations in exchange for a share of their profits. Hammer provided Scarlotti with the funds and facilities to totally revamp and update his arsenal.

ironman128covNow some of you out there are going “hey, what about the face of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee” and my response is “so what about him”! Lee, at best, was an editor who filled in some creative gaps and, at worst, was the spoiled nephew of the Marvel Comics publisher who took credit for the works of Kirby, Steve Ditko, Heck, Colan and many more. But I digress. 

When Bob Layton came to Iron Man in the 1980’s the character had well over 200 adventures under his belt but was in need of a creative tune up.  Layton did the job by turning Stark into an alcoholic

The two Jim Rhodes - Terence Howard & Don Cheadle

The two Jim Rhodes - Terence Howard & Don Cheadle

who could no longer don the armor. In comes Stark aide Jim Rhodes who becomes the new Shell Head until Stark can recover. Later Rhodes teams up with his old pal wearing a new Stark armor calling himself “War Machine.”

Iron Man 2 will feature elements dating back over the entire 46 year history of The Golden Avenger as director John Favreau cherrypicks  from the 1960’s through the iron_man_2821980’s. Let’s give credit to all the creators who planted the cherry tree to begin with, Kirby for Iron Man, Heck, Lieber and Colan for the creations of The Black Widow and Whiplash and setting the tone of the universe two decades before Bob Layton drew his first Iron Man panel.

Bob, please don’t take any offense but you’re part of a team and they deserved a mention during your time in the spotlight at Comic-Con “09”.  As for the young fan who started this whole thing – Study your Iron Man history a little closer!

July 30, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | , , | 4 Comments

TRUE BLOOD Season 2 Trailer shown at Comic-con

HBO unleashed this exclusive look trailer for its hit Sunday night vampire show True Blood, unfolding the events for the rest of season two. While I really enjoyed the first season, the program has really hit its stride. This year True Blood is wilder, more mysterious and certainly more suspenseful. It just feels bigger and badder.

One of the fun things about its success is seeing a cast of relatively unknown actors (other than Anna Panquin) get to shine. Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton), Alexander Skargard (Eric Northman), Rutina Wesley (Tara Thorton), Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte), Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse), Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette Reynolds) and Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica Hamby) have all contributed solid work, making True Blood the television water cooler show of the moment. Veteran actress Michelle Forbes’ character, Maryann Forrester, has really opened up the storyline. Her character’s mysterious nature has fostered much intrigue as things continue to move forward. This show is now on a serious creative roll.

The interesting thing about True Blood is that I can’t make an argument that it works in any one conventional way, simply because the show is not conventional at all. As I said before, it reminds me of David Lynch’s cult phenomenon Twin Peaks which aired two decades ago on ABC. Like Twin Peaks, True Blood is different, very different, from standard TV fare and it fascinates week after week.
As for this new trailer- it’s excellent. Take a LOOK.

Plus here’s the panel discussion with the cast at Comic-con last week.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | | Leave a comment

DEXTER Season 4 trailer

DEXTER (Season 2)Showtime has released the trailer to its upcoming fourth season of the serial killer drama, Dexter. Clearly one of television’s best programs, season four looks to up the ante as Dexter (Michael C. Hall) now has a new edition to the family, a baby boy which should add a little more complexity to an already very complex show. When Dexter holds his baby in his arms and says “Do you want to know a secret, Daddy kills people”, that’s all I needed to get that ‘can’t wait’ feeling. Add new cast mate John Lithgow (as another serial killer) to the mix and you have must see viewing on Sunday Nights starting Sept 27, 2009. Take a LOOK

July 27, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | 1 Comment

TIM BURTON’s Alice in Wonderland trailer and a look at his overall body of work behind the camera

MAd-HatterWith Disney releasing the trailer of the Tim Burton directed Alice in Wonderland (Trailer) I thought I would take a look back at the film’s Burton has helmed and give my opinion on one of my very favorite filmmakers. Admired by many, hated by some, Burton, now 50 years old, has left his mark in film. Never a conventional storyteller, Burton has put many images on screen that burn in ones brain forever. While most of his work is flawed, it still carries weight in emotional impact that cannot be disregarded. Here’s my look at his directorial body of work which now spans almost 25 years.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure 1985- The only Burton directed film that I didn’t see in a theater. Paul Ruebens (Pee-wee) handpicked Burton to direct this film after seeing his terrific short film Frankenweenie. Burton and Ruebens were a perfect creative match and the film was a blast if you were a fan of Pee-wee at the time. It was obvious from this outing that Burton had a unique flare for being a little unusual, a trait that hasn’t changed to this day. ***1/2 out of *****

beetlejuice-1Beetle Juice 1988- I remember seeing this for the first time and having a somewhat mixed reaction (because it was so visually unique) but there was something fascinating about it and I wound up seeing it numerous times at the theater and having a great time with it. Michael Keaton’s work in this film is now legendary. Every time he came on screen as bio-exorcist “Beetlejuice” I couldn’t take my eyes off him; clearly one of the most inventive and unique comic performances ever put on film. It also revived the career of Keaton who would soon be cast as the Caped Crusader in Burton’s version of Batman. Like many Burton films, Beetle Juice is flawed storytelling but there’s so much good stuff in it that as a whole it really works. Plus Keaton is brilliant here. **** Out of *****

Batman 1989- Since Tim was still fairly new to the game this was more of a studio film than a standalone Burton project, although there are many elements of his unique vision on display. The one scene that comes to mind is Jack Nicholson’s Joker having a conversation with a corpse after he has electrocuted him via a handshake. Clearly a film that gave Burton immense influence in the industry. **** Out of *****

edward-promo-006Edward Scissorhands 1990- My favorite Burton work and his first collaboration with actor Johnny Depp. In many ways a reflection of Burton himself who perceived himself as sort of a strange outsider growing up. While not perfect in storytelling the movie all comes together and is a very moving experience that has real beauty in each and every frame. There’s real power to the film’s last 20 minutes. It’s one of my all time favorite movies. ****1/2 out of *****

batman-penguinBatman Returns 1992- Many people feel this is much more of a Tim Burton film than an actual Batman movie. Compared to the first Batman film, they are right. As a Burton fan I’m a big supporter of this sequel to his 1989 smash hit, especially because of the true undercurrent of sadness in his exploration of 3 misfits, Batman, Penguin and the Catwomen. Like the character of Edward Scissorhands, Burton’s take on Danny Devito’s Penquin was focused on his rejection by society, so in many ways he’s similar to that character only the other side of the same coin. His story arc was actually very moving and my favorite aspect of the movie. **** Out of *****

Ed Wood 1994- Terrific film depicting the life of Ed Wood Jr, a filmmaker who many called “the worst director of all-time”. Johnny Depp hit all the right notes as Ed Wood and Martin Landau was nothing short of brilliant as Bela Lugosi. He would go on to win the Oscar for best supporting actor. One of Depp’s very best performances. ****1/2 out of *****

Mars Attacks 1996- I thought this parody of Alien invasion films was a lot of fun but it had the bad luck to come out a few months after Independence Day, which became one of the biggest box-office hits of all time. While all of it doesn’t work (every scene with Pierce Brosnan) I found it funny, visually interesting and a good time at the movies. ***1/2 out of *****

Sleepy Hollow 1999- Tim Burton’s very enjoyable take on the classic Washington Irving tale of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman. The film featured great art direction and effects. Johnny Depp was clearly having a lot of fun as the offbeat Crane who’s a detective with an interest in forensic science in this story (and not a school teacher like the novel). **** Out of *****

planet%20thadePlanet of the Apes 2001- From the get go I never thought Burton would be a good fit for this genre and he was clearly not. While the film has its bright spots, including the terrific performance by Tim Roth as General Thade, the overall film was a huge letdown compared to the classic 1968 original. I hated the fact that Burton decided to film most of it on soundstages instead of on location which would have given the movie a more authentic feel. Considering how many ideas, scripts and talent (Oliver Stone, Philip Noyce, James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger who was slated to star at one time) that had been attached to the project before Burton stepped in, it’s hard to believe that this re-boot of the famed franchise crashed and burned in reviews. Despite being a financial winner, in retrospect Burton never should have taken on this project. It was like mixing oil and water. **1/2 Out of *****

Big Fish 2003- A very moving father and son story that had Burton’s blueprint all over it while still telling an involving tale about a man whose life might be a bit of an exaggeration. Offbeat but still involving and quite emotionally powerful with a GREAT last 15 minutes. Solid work from Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney. **** Out of *****

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005- This film was an interesting but very disappointing misfire in my opinion. While I loved the first 40 minutes with the Charlie character being set up, the film took a turn for the worse when Johnny Depp’s ultra strange Willy Wonka enters the picture. For whatever reason Depp and Burton pushed the envelope too far in terms of weirdness as Deep’s interpretation couldn’t hold a candle to Gene Wilder’s superior take. Still most critics liked it and it was a solid hit. Have to be honest- Depp ruined the film for me. **1/2 out of *****

Sweeny Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 2007- Burton received the best director nod from the National Board of Review for his work on this feature film adaptation of the dark and edgy stage musical. Burton was a nice fit for this somewhat demented material and Johnny Depp received an Oscar nomination for his fine work. ***1/2 out of *****

After Burton finishes his work on Alice in Wonderland he will reportedly team up with Johnny Depp once again for a feature film version of the 1960’s Daytime Soap, Dark Shadows. It seems like a great fit once again.

July 26, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News, Reviews | , | 2 Comments

Jake Lloyd 10 years after Star Wars The Phantom Menace

jake_lloyd2The Sci-Fi Australia blog caught up with the now 20-year-old Jake Lloyd who played the 10-year-old Anakin Skywalker in the much maligned George Lucas prequel. Now in between college and doing the convention circuit he talks about how that part will stay with him forever, and it appears he’s not very thrilled with that prospect. The interview is actually a fascinating look at Lloyd who, like a majority of kid actors, find themselves on the outside looking in where fame and career are concerned.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | | 3 Comments

The Book of Eli Trailer

Book of EliThis is the trailer to the post-apocalyptic film, The Book of Eli, which is directed by The Hughes brothers (From Hell). Going by this footage, in some ways this film looks like Waterworld on land with Washington in the Kevin Costner role and Gary Oldman as the Dennis Hooper villain. Unlike I Am Legend with Will Smith, I think this film will be a tougher sell to the masses although it does have some striking visuals and an interesting premise.

Synopsis:  In The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington stars as a lone warrior named Eli who fights his way across the desolate wasteland of near-future America to realize his destiny and deliver the knowledge that can bring civilization back from the brink of destruction and save the future of humanity. Look for The Book of Eli to land in theaters Jan 15, 2010. Trailer

July 24, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | , , | 2 Comments

WHITEOUT trailer

katebeckinsale-whiteoutWarner Bros has released the trailer to Whiteout, an interesting looking thriller where the elements are as much a character in the film as the actors are. Kate Beckinsale stars as U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko who ends up investigating the very first murder in the Antarctica. Beckinsale, who I like, has certainly proven to be an actress who can carry a film, especially given her terrific work in Rod Lurie’s little seen but excellent Nothing But the Truth. Since I’m a fan of films that take place in the cold; John Carpenter’s The Thing, 30 Days of Night and Cliffhanger, I’m looking forward to this. Whiteout is produced by Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard). Bring a coat and stay warm when it hits theaters Sept 11, 2009. Trailer

July 24, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | , | 2 Comments