Movies

Shooting doesn’t start until next week, but we are getting some promos early.  I expect they want to head off any leaks and give the AC crowd enough content to be satisfied throughout the production.

Looks a little complex to me, but lots of visual interest and enough of the source material to be satisfying. video game adaptions are hard so let’s hope they pull this off.  Storytelling > video game references.

Source: First Look at Michael Fassbender in the Assassin’s Creed Movie! – ComingSoon.net

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Without directly knowing, Mike Ploog has been with me my entire life. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that Mike has intersected with the things I love from childhood to the present day.

There are a variety of images I could have chosen as the lead for this, but I think simple demonstrates his talent best. Mike Ploog seems to effortlessly display movement. When you look at a Ploog sketch you intuitively know what is going to happen after and what has happened before. You can feel Werewolf by Night’s mouth open in close in a menacing growl, his shoulders roll and his hands moving towards you. You instinctively feel that you are in danger. It takes a great talent to convey that.

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Mr. Ploog was in the marines for a decade before working for the mighty Filmation and Hanna-Barbera and then with the great Will Eisner on the Army’s Preventive Maintenance Monthly. During Marvel’s horror era Mike Ploog was the artist for the creation of Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night. He drew some of the most dynamic versions of the Man-Thing and several other titles.  His career in the film industry is nothing short of astounding working on design, illustration and story boards for Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards and Lord of the Rings, Heavy Metal, The Thing, The Dark Crystal, Superman III, Supergirl, Return to Oz, Disney’s forgotten Black Cauldron, Young Sherlock Holmes, Little Shop of Horrors, The Witches, The Tick television series, The Prince of Egypt, Titan A.E. and 2000s X-Men.

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Ploog’s early comic work drew me to his style in the seventies, even when I didn’t quite understand who he was but then he followed me throughout my teenage years by working on and influencing some of the greatest fantasy ever put to film.  Almost without exception, if I was obsessed with a fantasy film Mike Ploog was behind the scenes laboring on it in some fashion.   Carpenter’s The Thing is my favorite horror film, Superman III inspired me to become a software engineer (weird, but true), I fought with my parents because they were going to see Lord of the Rings without me, I can sing most of the songs from Little Shop of Horrors and Young Sherlock Holmes is a bizarre masterpiece that also introduced the world to John Lasseter, now Disney and Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer.

I’ve passed these loves down to my children and I hope they do the same.  There is something special about each and every one of them and Ploog’s contributions large or small resonate still.

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After almost fifty years of working in creative industries Mike Ploog is releasing an art book filled with his life’s work.  This will be 320 pages of illustrations and examples from his career. The Kickstarter will run through July 16th of 2015 and I highly recommend you pick it up. In my mind, supporting a man who has given so much to what we love is an important thing to.  His work draws you in and seeing it together like this will pull you back into worlds of your childhood and inspire creatives of the future.

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When discussing yesterday’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer I mentioned to a few folks that there were a lot of adults who shed a tear or at the very least got goosebumps when they watched it for the first time.

When people ask me to define the word ‘geek’, I tell them that geeks are people who are unapologetic about the things that they love.  What they love isn’t important, it can be anything.  What is important about the things they love is that they are inspired by them and it causes them to experience joy. Just like all humans, if it makes us feel something good we then pursue it.  Star Wars is an almost universal example of this for a couple of generations.  The trailer yesterday turned us all into six year olds watching Luke Skywalker battle evil for the first time.  It reduced us to the raw emotions we felt on that day and everything else melted away.

Below we have your average American male, Matthew McConaughey, viewing yesterday’s trailer for the first time.  I think it is fair to saythat a lot of us recognize every single emotion that washes over his face.  Celebrity or not, some things make us all six years old inside.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=PYHdQUyOunA?w=640

 

I won’t go into much detail because you just need to watch it. The first trailer was not impressive, this one turned me into a bumbling nostalgic idiot. Enjoy.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=JsC1XSroHwY?w=640

A bit of a warning for those of you that are coming here excited. This is only a twenty second teaser and very little is revealed. The most you are probably going to get out of this is a slightly better look at the top half of the batsuit. The batsuit itself seems a little odd, like patches of kevlar glued together in an uneven fashion. I assume this was done to make the suit look a little more organic and realistic, but I am not sure I like the choice.

I am actually deeply worried about this movie, but I hope all my fears are unfounded.  I like Zack Snyder quite a bit, but I think he is being asked to do too much.  There are too many characters and I feel like they may be forced in to the universe that Zack and his team are created ending with something that feels pasted together rather than the careful golden and silver age inspired feel of the Marvel/Disney movies.

Twenty seconds isn’t enough time to make any judgement, so I guess we will have to wait until the full trailer is revealed on April 20th to get any definitive impressions.

Update: If you can’t see the embedded video.  Click this link to view the original post.  

Update: If you can’t see the embedded video click this link to view the original post.  

swampthing

Since 1982 I’ve seen Swamp Thing about a dozen times and I have never seen the poster above.  Hulu is using this as the thumbnail for the movie in search.  I can’t find anything about the poster online either which is a bit unusual.  The depiction of the creature looks a good deal like the actor who played him, the late Dick Durock but the illustration of the iconic Barbeau is really odd.

Durock played the heavy in a wide range of films and television. Check out his filmography here.  Durock also played a memorable ‘old man Hulk’ during the Incredible Hulk tv series in a two part episode titled “The First”.

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The scenery chewing Louis Jourdan is also here adding gravitas and cartoon villainy. It is an early comic book movie and if I didn’t have eight layers of nostalgia distortion in front of my eyes it may be unwatchable, but since I am not inclined to think critically about such things it is just like a hot cup of cocoa on a snowy day.

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I seem to have this pattern that repeats itself over and over.  I hear the details of a Disney based Marvel movie as it leaks out over time and I start to get concerned, are they messing with the formula too much, have they peaked, are they changing a beloved character to where they are unrecognizable?

The the first teaser comes out and all my fears melt away.  Listen to James Spaders’ voice over as Ultron and tell me it isn’t perfect.

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No doubt that Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge and unexpected hit this year, so there was bound to be Halloween costumes and a million kids (and adults) dressed up as the characters.  The costume for Drax the Destroyer though has me a bit confused.  Somewhere in the depths of someone’s design department is a Barney Miller fan.

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Man, I am dragging today.  I needed something to inspire me for a long day of work when I remembered Convoy.  The only Peckinpah directed, Kris Kristofferson and Ernest Borgnine starring movie about salt of the earth truckin’, CB using guys fighting the Man based on a country song that I can think of.

I ask you all to remember Rubber Duck and his quest to right wrongs and deliver his goods, I hope it gives you that wee bit of energy to get you through your day.

trouble-title (Custom)

As with all my fan theories, take them with a grain of salt. My theories are generally poorly thought out, brought on by consuming too much genre film and diet soda.  Bear with me though, at the very least it is something to discuss on our Facebook page or in the comments.

Big Trouble in Little China takes the form of a classic Yellow Peril film. A stereotyped Fu Manchu villain (played by the amazing James Hong), a white hero who is so American that he apes John Wayne, a mystic and martial arts.  All the right pieces of dozens of offensive films that came before it.  I think John Carpenter was being a little sly though when he released this gem to the American public, it plays like your average buddy film sprinkled with a good bit of gonzo storytelling so if you are not paying too much attention it is easy to digest, if not it is delightfully odd and refreshing compared to other movies of the time.

Egg Shen (the late Victor Wong) in the beginning of  the movie states that Jack Burton showed great courage, and to be fair, the character did, but after the umpteenth viewing I have a couple of thoughts:

Jack Burton

  • As the hero, he basically does nothing.  He does eventually defeat the big baddie, but mostly by luck.
  • He pretends to have wisdom, which boils down to meaningless quotes with no practical application.
  • He attempts to be a ladies man, mostly fails, chickens out in the end.
  • Jack doesn’t really have any income prospects outside of the truck, he gambles, doesn’t really have a home and is most likely an alcoholic.
  • In a film centered around Chinese lore Jack is wearing a Japanese t-shirt.  Possibly to show how disconnected he is.
  • Jack gets knocked out for most of the main fight.
  • Jack continually increases the danger of several situations more than necessary because he is an idiot.
  • He more than likely becomes wild man lunch after the credits.

Despite the above I think Jack is terrific and loads of fun to watch. When I was growing up I thought he was impossibly cool, but I think the point that Carpenter may have been trying to make was that the typical Yellow Peril protagonist is a fool and the local community never really needed him.  In fact, he probably made things worse in the end.

Egg Shen

  • Pretends to be a lowly tour bus driver, but is much more.
  • He is the only one who really knows what is going on.
  • Egg has trained his entire life to defeat Lo Pan.
  • He looks out not only for his companions but is there to protect all of China town and the world.
  • Egg has magic and supplies ready that he has gathered for years in preparation of the coming threat.
  • His wisdom is actual wisdom, when he speaks his words carry weight and meaning.
  • No one would have survived without him.

Compared to Jack, Egg is the real deal.

When I originally saw the sequence in the beginning when Egg is speaking with his lawyer I had thought that it was a bit of exposition tacked on to the movie to guide the audience through some difficult concepts.  Now I think that the sequence was originally planned.  Egg does a couple of interesting things here.  He continually pushes for Jack to be recognized as a hero but takes no credit for himself.  Egg seems to want to cast Jack as the savior even though Egg watched him bumble through the entire adventure.

During the lawyer sequence he demonstrates his magic ability to the skeptical attorney.  If you notice, the powers that Egg displays are similar to the lightning powers of the deities that Lo Pan controls throughout the movie.  I suggest that after the enemies were defeated that Egg Shen inherited the powers of the Three Storms and possibly Lo Pan himself as a guardian of the city. (as opposed to one who exploits it like Lo Pan)  From what I remember there is no other place in the film where Egg displays these types of powers, if he had them you would think he would use them in the final battle.

Egg may have been trying to protect Chinatown from outsiders and interference, but his full motivations are a bit of a mystery.  In my mind Mr. Shen is the hero of the film and he does everything he can to stay in the background.  When there is no more to do he quietly slips away. (I assume to be captured later to have meetings with lawyers) Little China is safe and his job is done.
big_trouble_beholder (Custom)

 

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You are looking at a pic of Jeremy Renner in his Hawkeye suit with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow stunt double mask from the set of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

I’ve seen these mask before and they are pretty frightening (I think they are 3d printed) doubly so here as the Widow is all veiny.  I’d apologize for this, but best you see it here before stumbling upon him in a dark alley.

 

 

 

matrix_reloaded

I am not as hard on the Matrix sequels as most.  I think that as a whole, it is an interesting mythology and the failures can be blamed on two creative filmmakers given too much money and freedom.  If you are one of the few who has seen the Animatrix then the trilogy makes more sense as a whole.  There is a lot of talented digital work, set design, fight choreography, costume design, etc, but it could probably be edited down to a single film and be better for it.

Enough with the film criticism though because we have a beautiful video of a fight scene with the sound replaced with 8-bit samples.  Sounds like mostly Punch-Out, but it has been a while, enjoy.

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SPOILERS: Seriously, if you haven’t seen Guardians yet do not read until you have.

Guardians was very fast and entertaining. So fast that I didn’t have time to consume a lot of the little nods and easter eggs that were left for Marvel fans scattered throughout the movie.  I’m just now slowly going through threads and gathering info about all the background minutiae.

The screenshot you are seeing above is from Thor: The Dark World.  In the post credits scene we get our first intro to the Guardians universe and the space Liberace lair of The Collector, an obscure and ancient character in the Marvel universe.   Notable in this scene is the gooey cocoon above.  If the internet is correct, and by gosh everything on the internet is always correct, the above cocoon contains the regenerating form of Adam Warlock.

I’ve known about Adam Warlock since the seventies and always appreciate when Marvel gives due to some of the older Silver Age characters.  I have no idea how far this is going to go or if Marvel is going to pursue this at all, but supposedly during Guardians of the Galaxy you can see the broken, open cocoon.  I am unsure if this is during the post credits scene or during the movie.  I’m looking for more photo evidence now.

Adam is significant because he possesses one of the Infinity gems that Thanos is looking for, specifically the Soul Gem.   For those unfamiliar with the infinity gem saga this is what I expect the plot of Avengers 3 will be about, with the Infinity gems being at least part of the plot for every Marvel movie going forward.  If anyone can confirm this, give me a shout or feel free to discuss it on our Facebook page.

Bonus: The Marvel Cinematic Universe lore is getting so dense it is difficult to predict where they are going to go.  Here is a nice little pic of Adam Warlock from the animated Planet Hulk feature.

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The Guardians make a couple of cameos in this feature as well.  Significantly one of the main alien races in Guardians of the Galaxy were the Sakaarans, from the planet Sakaar, which is the setting for Planet Hulk.

avengers2_concept

Over the last few days Marvel has been releasing a large, painted Avengers 2 concept poster in pieces featuring all of the major characters. I talked a bit about the poster on Facebook yesterday, but missed a crucial detail in the upper left corner.   Check out tiny, distant vision from the back slightly obscured by the grimy dust of the Ultron scuffle.  For months I was hoping that we would see our beloved Agent Coulson become The Vision, but alas that was not to pass.  Paul Bettany who has been voicing Iron Man’s JARVIS landed the role (unsure if it is just a voiceover or if he did motion capture) which probably means that JARVIS has obtained some kind of sentience.

Agents of SHIELD casting disappointments aside I am excited to see that Marvel looks like they are keeping to the Vision’s original design.  We can’t see much detail here and they are probably still working on the effects, but it is fairly clear that their vision looks marvelously silver age.  Check out the detail below and let us know your opinion.

avengers2_vision

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Trailers can betray you, but sometimes a good trailer can make all of your fears melt away, especially when it comes to how a group will treat a beloved franchise.  I haven’t heard a lot of people worried about Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson in the Mad Max role, but I have been concerned about story and production design.   From the below trailer it looks like the main inspiration is The Road Warrior, which is fine by me and it looks pitch perfect.  Judge for yourselves.

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Last time we talked about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman I ranted a little, which is a bit unlike me, I tend to be a geek optimist.  My favorite incarnations of Wonder Woman always look like warriors and Gadot as a model didn’t really match my expectations.  If Gadot can pull off the aggression and warrior attitude I will admit that all will be forgiven.  I know she is working hard at the role and I even dig the muted costume, although like a lot of fantasy female armor it is designed for attractiveness rather than protection.  A good arrow would take her out if she didn’t have close to Superman’s strength.

Overall, I give this a thumbs up.

starlord

I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about Marvel comics characters, although if I put some thought into it I haven’t voraciously read comics since high school.  I first encountered Star Lord in Marvel’s animated adaption of Planet Hulk where he makes a little cameo.

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Just like the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy I was all “Star Lord, who?”.  Star Lord had me a little confused.  Marvel already had a space team of adventurers that I had known since I was ten or so, they were the Starjammers.

starjammers

The Starjammers have pretty much the same elements of the Guardians, with maybe a bit more Errol Flynn thrown in.  They have a heavy, a witty irreverent leader, a femme fatale and a member who is borderline insane due to his desire for revenge.  Just like the Guardians the lineup has changed a lot over the years, but the parallels are clear, it seems like a duplication of efforts.  I can see that Guardians may be a bit more ‘new reader’ friendly which is not a bad thing, plus they have a talking raccoon.

I don’t really have any complaints about the Guardians.  Gunn is a terrific director (Slither is one of my very favorite horror movies), the cast is fantastic and the writing seems snappy and fun.  It also promises more Marvel cameos than any other Cinematic Universe film before it.  I am praying for a little ROM the Spaceknight or Micronaut cameos, but that may be stretching the bounds of what Marvel is capable of.

We won’t see Guardians until next Friday, but here is the newest clip to get you ready.

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J.J. Abrams gets some fair and unfair criticism.  When you put yourself in the position of being the gatekeeper for a lot of the most beloved intellectual property in the world this is bound to happen.  One thing he is doing right is connecting with his audience.  I think Abrams understands that fans shouldn’t drive the creative process, but they should be part of the process.

We see an example of him doing that here, promoting the Star Wars: Force for Change initiative.  Give the fans something they want, use all that energy for a good cause, and be witty about it at the same time.  Pretty much a win for everyone.

avengers2_ultron

We have had massive speculation about what Ultron will look like in the new Avengers film due out next summer.  For the record Ultron is not my favorite villain, he is almost like a Power Rangers baddie where once you defeat him he can gain new magical powers and up the ante every time the story requires it.

The more fragile Ultron is the more interesting he will be in the new film.  For those that don’t know Ultron at least in this incarnation is an Iron Man suit gone rogue, the beginnings of this can be seen in some unfilmed story boards from Iron Man III where Jarvis, the Iron Man suit AI, starts to go a little batty.

It looks like they toned down some of Ultron’s more cartoony features and in my mind it makes him infinitely more menacing.    I’ll be there opening weekend, hopefully you will too.

Star_Wars_Logo

J.J. Abrams gave us a nice little treat today in the form of a promo video for Star Wars: Force for Change, a new initiative in support of the UNICEF Innovation Labs.  This is a worthy cause, so check it out here.

The reason you are here though is to check out some very serious Star Wars creature action.  Play the video below to feel like you are seven years old again.

Summary: No CG, puppets and a little bit of whimsy.  I am satisfied.