'Thunder' rumbles past 'Dark Knight' with $26M
It took four of Hollywood's biggest stars to take down Batman. The DreamWorks-Paramount comedy "Tropic Thunder" — with Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black and Tom Cruise — debuted at No. 1 with $26 million, bumping "The Dark Knight" to second place after four weekends on top, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Warner Bros. Batman flick pulled in $16.8 million to raise its total to $471.5 million. "The Dark Knight" passed the original "Star Wars" ($461 million) and now stands as No. 2 on the all-time domestic charts, behind only "Titanic" ($600.8 million).
Taking inflation into account, "The Dark Knight" trails both movies in actual tickets sold, however. "The Dark Knight" would need to gross about $900 million to match the number of admissions for "Titanic" and about $1.2 billion to equal "Star Wars."
Warner Bros. expects "The Dark Knight" to top out at about $530 million domestically, said Dan Fellman, the studio's head of distribution.
"The Dark Knight" managed to fend off another "Star Wars" movie this weekend. The animated tale "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," also released by Warner Bros., opened at No. 3 with $15.5 million.
Families made up two-thirds of the audience for "Clone Wars," Fellman said. "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, who has an executive producer credit on "Clone Wars," intended the movie as an introduction to his "Clone Wars" TV show debuting this fall on the Cartoon Network.
"It was targeted to a specific audience for specific reasons," Fellman said. "We accomplished that mission, and it will continue in another medium."
"Tropic Thunder" was the third R-rated comedy to open solidly in recent weeks, following "Pineapple Express" and "Step Brothers." Most summer comedies are rated PG-13, since an R rating limits the audience by requiring anyone younger than 17 to come with an adult.
R-rated comedy hits tend to open in the $20 million to $30 million range, lower than their PG-13 counterparts, but often have a longer shelf life in theaters as audiences spread the word. R-rated movies such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" all opened around those levels and went on to become $100 million hits.
"We're thrilled, quite frankly. It played out exactly how we hoped," said DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan.
Stiller directed and co-wrote "Tropic Thunder," in which he stars with Downey and Black as pampered actors who find themselves in a real combat situation while shooting a Vietnam War epic in the Asian jungles. Cruise co-stars as a bald, egomaniacal studio boss.
"Tropic Thunder" raised its total to $37 million since opening Wednesday.
The 20th Century Fox horror tale "Mirrors," starring Kiefer Sutherland as a security guard whose family is terrorized by spirits, opened at No. 4 with $11.1 million.
Woody Allen returned to commercial form with his Spanish romance "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," which opened at No. 10 with $3.7 million.
The movie played in narrower release, 692 theaters compared with 3,000-plus for "Tropic Thunder" and "Clone Wars." Still, it opened far wider than most Allen films, which usually start in a handful of theaters and gradually expand.
"You never can predict how something's going to do, but we felt that the movie is so strong, we just needed to get it out there," said Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. released the movie under its distribution agreement with MGM. "The audience reaction is terrific."
Summit Entertainment's "Fly Me to the Moon," a 3-D animated tale about three flies that tag along on the Apollo 11 moon landing, debuted in 452 theaters and took in $2 million, finishing at No. 12.
Best. Disneyland. Photos. Ever!
Here’s a few Kodak Moments that I’ll bet Disneyland would rather soon forget.
Several blogs and news agencies are posting these photos of Disney characters being arrested during a protest rally this week at the Anaheim resort. Hotel workers there are demonstrating for a new contract that would allow for health care. It would be nice if “The Happiest Place on Earth” were also “The Healthiest.”
(Thanks Buzz Dixon and Scott Shaw!)
Marvel Animation Roundup
The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series will remain on The CW 4Kids for at least the short term, according to a representative of 4Kids.
The series is currently airing at 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
According to sources, the second season of Spider-Man likely will not air on The CW 4Kids. Season 2 is expected to launch sometime around March.
An announcement on The CW 4Kids' upcoming lineup is expected to be made next week.
In other Marvel animation news:
* The first three episodes of Nicktoons' upcoming Wolverine and the X-Men, which were screened at Comic-Con International last month, are titled "Hindsight."
* Steve Blum, left, who does the voice of Wolverine for the series and the upcoming Hulk vs. direct-to-DVD movie, said working on the movie took a physical toll.
"It was pretty brutal. The fight scenes are really taxing on the throat," he said. "I would usually need to rest a day before I could do anything else, and in some cases two or three days."
Blum is also the voice of the Vanisher in Wolverine and the X-Men and Green Goblin in Spider-Man.
* Look for John Jameson to play a larger role in Season 2 of Spider-Man.
First Look: 'Iron Man' Deleted Scene
Access Hollywood has your first look at a deleted scene from the upcoming 'Iron Man' DVD
'Punisher: War Zone' getting neutered?
According to LatinoReview Lionsgate is now looking to sterilize the 'Punisher War Zone' movie to a PG-13 cut.
No on-record sources are given and the article goes on to speculate that the studio is trying to emulate the success of another dark, violent, yet teen-rated film: 'The Dark Knight.
Another interesting item of note: in the wake of the alleged dismissal of Lexi Alexander from the project, the director has apparently removed all references to 'War Zone' from her site. Her current note to fans discusses her affection for actor Dash Mihok and watching him work side-by-side with actor Colin Salmon. This is apparently a reference to their work in the Marvel movie, yet she doesn't specify the movie by name.
All in all this doesn't bode well for a movie fans are already down on. 'Punisher War Zone' is due in theaters this December.
Animated Features That Killed Studios
Over at OMGlists.com is an article on Seven Films That Killed Studios. Two on the list are animated features.
There is no denying that the box office reception to Titan A.E. and Final Fantasy ended further production at their respective studios. Whatever the individual artistic merits of a project are, the truth is that hit films keep our medium going, box office bombs can have a devastating effect.
What other animated features sunk the prospects of their Hollywood producers? Treasure Planet? The Secret of NIMH?
Newsarama Begins "Clone Wars Weekly" with Dave Filoni
Newsarama's Animated Shorts has begun a new feature called "Clone Wars Weekly," inaugurating it with a chat with director Dave Filoni. Filoni discusses his way up in the animation industry from Mission Hill to Avatar the Last Airbender to Star Wars. Filoni also discusses the link (or lack of one) between this Clone Wars movie/series and the original animated micro-series that aired on Cartoon Network from 2003.
Justin Marks Talks Green Arrow, He-Man
MTV posted an interview with screenwriter Justin Marks this week that was split up in a few parts on their sites. You can check out his quotes on the tentatively-titled Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max here. In it, he says the following:
"It's a very, very awesome prison. I majored in architecture in college, and design is how I actually started in. For 'Super Max,' designing that prison, it had to be the kind of thing that was a character in and of itself," Marks said. "We're in a world where instead of just trying to contain a guy who's really big, you're trying to contain a guy who can — in the case of Icicle — who can freeze things. What kind of a cell would a guy like that need in order to have his powers neutralized? So to escape from Super Max they have got to go through the most elaborate heist we've ever seen, involving superpowers. Because the prison itself kind of has superpowers!"
He adds in this part that Black Canary won't be making an appearance in the film, that will include cameos from the Riddler, Lex Luthor and the Joker.
Marks also talked about his upcoming He-Man adaptation here, where you'll find the following quote:
"The script is very true to the characters — we're not talking about putting nipples on the Trapjaw suit. But we had to come up with a reason again why Trapjaw would actually not just be something that's totally absurd, but why he would need those bionic parts added to him," Marks insisted. "Which gives a sort of sense of where [the movie] is going in some way."
Stay tuned for more on these two projects as news comes in.
Robert Downey Jr. on Iron Man Sequels
Iron Man and Tropic Thunder star Robert Downey Jr. visited "Live with Regis and Kelly" Friday morning to promote the latter, but he was asked by Regis Philbin about Iron Man 2.
Downey Jr. would only confirm that it is happening and said he thought they would end up making a trilogy of it. He did, however, hint that he was willing to make more films beyond a trilogy!
Downey Jr. will soon start filming the Guy Ritchie-directed Sherlock Holmes and will then shoot Iron Man 2 for an April 30, 2010 release
New Release Dates for Bolt, Potter
Disney’s upcoming CG-animated family flick, Bolt, will hit the screen sooner than anticipated, while Warner Bros. will leave Harry Potter fans waiting a bit longer for the next magical adventure. Daily Variety reports that Bolt is getting bumped up a week from Nov. 26 to Nov. 21, filling a spot vacated by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which moves to July 7, 2009. In its new window, Potter provides some unexpected competition for Land of the Lost, which may end up shifting as well to avoid Potter fever.
Directed by Chris Williams and Byron Howard, Bolt tells the story of a canine TV star (voiced by John Travolta) that is inadvertently shipped from Hollywood to New York City. During his cross-country journey home to his owner, Penny (Miley Cyrus), he makes the surprising discovery that his TV super powers don’t work in the real world. He his joined in his adventure by a jaded, abandoned housecat named Mittens (Susie Essman) and a TV-obsessed hamster in a plastic ball named Rhino.
Pushing Potter back gives Warner Bros. a more robust summer slate, which included few heavy hitters due to the writer’s strike. Terminator Salvation starring Christian Bale promises to revive the franchise, but the studio apparently has less confidence in fellow summer releases Shorts from Robert Rodriguez Shorts and Final Destination 4 3-D.
The Harry Potter franchise began as a Holiday event, but has also proven to be potent during the summer. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix opened last July and grossed roughly $938 million worldwide. The last book in author J.K. Rowling’s saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will divided into two parts on the big screen. The first part will premiere in 2010 and second in the summer 2011.
Warner Bros. Brings Back Banana Splits
Over hill and highway the Banana buggies come again. Warner Bros. Consumer Products is re-launching the classic ’60s Hanna-Barbara TV property The Banana Splits, which had costumed characters Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky introducing cartoons such as The Three Musketeers and the live-action adventure serial Danger Island. The Banana Splits returns on Tuesday, Sept. 2 with all-new comedy shorts and music videos on Cartoon Network and Boomerang. The multi-platform revival will also include a new website, DVDs, live entertainment and music CDs.
The show is being updated to appeal to modern kids, but promises to deliver all the same elements that made the original show a hit with youngsters. The silly rock band composed of various animals return to the Banana Pad to tell eye-rolling jokes and star in goofy music videos and more than 130 comedy shorts that will air on Cartoon Network and Boomerang Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The show will also appear on Boomerang, beginning September 2.
Universal Records will debut a CD and DVD featuring 13 new Banana Splits pop and rock songs. The music and videos will also be available on www.bananasplits.com, iTunes and amazon.com. In addition, The Banana Splits website will allow visitors to decode secret messages, join The Banana Splits Club, attend virtual meetings, hear Banana Splits jokes and play exclusive games.
Warner Bros. Consumer Products has teamed with Hard Rock Park to produce a live show and play-land dubbed Banana Splitsville. Located in the Born in the USA environ, Splitsville features rides designed for children, including the popular “Sole Train” and “Dune Boogie,” as well as “Mount Splitsville,” a sand sculpture play area. The live concert “The Banana Splits Live," is performed multiple times a day at the park.
Scholastics Horrible Histories Going Interactive
Chorion has signed a worldwide licensing agreement with computer games publisher Slitherine Strategies to develop video games based on the Scholastic book series Horrible Histories. Brokered by AT Brands, a division of AT New Media, the deal will see the games released for PC, DS, Wii and other platforms in the spring of 2009.
“Extending our line-up of interactive games based on History to new frontiers is our main objective,” says Marco Minoli, director of Marketing at Slitherine. “Exploring this very specific sector to bring a different type of fun and entertainment to this great brand through video games is one of our most exciting ventures for next year. This is a great opportunity to show how we are able to work with such a powerful property.”
Written by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown, the Horrible Histories books have sold more than 20 million copies since 1993. Like the publishing brand, the video game will aim to entertain kids while covering the ‘nasty bits” of history often overlooked in the classroom. The property is also becoming a live-action television series to be produced by Lion TV for broadcast on BBC next Spring. For more information on Horrible Histories, go to www.horrible-histories.co.uk.
Pink Slips to Fly at DIC
Following its acquisition by Canada’s Cookie Jar Ent., DIC Ent. could be facing job cuts, according to The Hollywood Reporter. DIC’s corporate office in Burbank, Calif., which has already been taken over by Cookie Jar, is expected to be hit the hardest as Cookie Jar CEO Michael Hirsh is quoted saying that an “integration plan” is expected to be announced by the end of August.
In June of this year, Cookie Jar agreed to pay approximately $31.5 million for all issued and outstanding equity in DIC in a transaction valued at approximately $87.6 million. DIC will continue to operate as a subsidiary of Cookie Jar, which will remain a private company. DIC founder Andy Heyward has signed a new contract to stay involved with company. Reportedly, the firings of up to 200 DIC employees would eliminate positions already served by Cookie Jar personnel.
The merger between Cookie Jar and DIC has created one of the world’s largest independent children’s entertainment and education companies with an animation library consisting of nearly 6,000 half-hours of programming. Cookie Jar also acquires merchandising and licensing rights to such successful brands as Inspector Gadget, Horseland, Cake, Mommy & Me and American Greetings’ Strawberry Shortcake, which has earned $3 billion at retail since DIC re-launched the brand in 2004.
Sunny weather at Rainmaker as revenue rises 20%
Vancouver-based animation studio Rainmaker Entertainment Inc. credited DVD production volume increases Wednesday for a 20% increase in revenue for its second quarter, which ended June 30.
Second-quarter revenue was $11 million, an increase of $2.2 million from $8.8 million in the second quarter of 2007. Revenue for the six months ended June 30 rose 20% ($4.5 million) from the same period last year.
Rainmaker Animation reported a revenue increase of $4.9 million to $16 million in 2008 from $11.1 million in 2007. Rainmaker credited most of the revenue hikes to more animation production work in its DVD division and on feature films.
Rainmaker Entertainment -- formerly Mainframe Entertainment -- employs more than 350 persons who specialize in everything from modeling and lighting to feature films and character animation. Although internationally recognized for its work on brands like Spider-Man and Popeye, Rainmaker Entertainment also produces original properties such as ReBoot and the forthcoming animated feature films Escape From Planet Earth and The Nutty Professor for the Weinstein Company.
Net loss for the quarter fell to $1.3 million from $2 million, although higher production volumes in its animation division causes expenses to increase to $7.6 million from $4.2 million in 2007.
Net earnings for the six months ended June 39 increased $12.4 million from the same period in 2007.
Recently, Rainmaker reconverted to a corporation after operating as an income trust since 2002.
Shares in Rainmaker ranged from $2.15 to $2.39. Rainmaker's 52-week high was $2.98, while its 52-week low was $2.02.
"Popeye and Friends" Vol. 2 Cancelled
According to Warner Home Video via TVShowsonDVD.com, Popeye and Friends Vol. 2, which was scheduled for 9/30/08, has been cancelled, as "Popeye has such a strong appeal to collectors, so we're focusing on that." This cancellation doesn't affect the release of Popeye the Sailor Volume 3: 1941-1943, however; that is expected on 9/30/08 as planned.
Latino Review has given an A+ to Justin Marks' Voltron: Defender of the Universe script.
What is so damn cool about the script is that it pays homage to both incarnations of the Voltron cartoon – the American and Japanese versions. GoLion came out back in 1981 in Japan, three years later in America. GoLion was considered too hardcore for American audiences so it was edited down into what would be Voltron. Wikipedia nailed down the differences of Voltron and Golion in an awesome article and expose of the Voltron phenomenon, check it out.
The script has the tone, edge and dark elements of GoLion.
Voltron is a post apocalyptic movie and a f'ing awesome one at that too. Just the way it should be because that was the setup of both cartoons. A little bit of Road Warrior, a little bit Independence Day, a little bit War of the Worlds, a little bit of Escape From New York, a little bit of The Terminator, and a little bit of The Matrix with some Stargate thrown in for good measure!
Bloody Disgusting reports Mercy writing duo, Vince Di Meglio and Tim Rasmussen will be writing Dimension Films' adaption of Tomie.
The frequently adapted Junji Ito manga looked at the murderous influence of an immortal teenage girl.
In contrast, Bloody Disgusting describes the plot
In the film, following some trauma in her past that has since been repressed, a young woman is trying to recover her memories with the help of a psychiatrist. During her hypnosis sessions, she repeats the name "Tomie" but is unable to recall where she knows it from. Meanwhile, a police detective is investigating a string of brutal murders, where he also runs across the name "Tomie." How are two connected?
Via Anime News Network, KFCinema reports that the news out of Korea is that Chris Nahon's live action adaptation of Blood: The Last Vampire is scheduled to open 2,000 screens in North America next March. The film stars Gianna Jun (Ji-hyun Jun of My Sassy Girl) as Saya, the vampire hunting, vampire school girl.
France's Pathé and Hong Kong's EDKO Film plan to distribute the film in other countries around the world simultaneously. Pathé lists a June 2009 release date for France, but the current Korean release date has not been announced.
New English Miyazaki Book
Palgrave Macmillan is scheduled to release Andrew Osmond's Spirited Away: BFI Film Classics in America on August 19th, following its recent British release. The book discusses Hayao Miyazaki's Best Animated Feature Oscar award winning film's themes and explores its production history, as well as offering quotes from Miyazaki and his colleagues and more than sixty color stills.
Osmond, a freelance film journalist published in Sight and Sound, Empire and SFX, has also written 'Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist,' scheduled to be released by Stone Bridge Press this fall.
Amazon has the book for order here
Osmond's Sight and Sound piece on Howl's Moving Castle can be read here, and his feature on Spirited Away can be read here.
Saber Riders NA Bound
Anime News Network reports that VCI Entertainment announced plans to release 80's sci-fi anime Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs (originally Star Musketeer Bismarck), starting with a 16 or 17 episode DVD set on November 18th. The remaining portion of the anime will be released across two additional sets. Only the English localized audio will be included, but clips of the Japanese original ill be used as extra features.
Worth Checking Out...
A look at the "It's a Rumic World" Rumiko Takahashi exhibition
Gundam Expo 2008 photos (a collection of more links can be found here and here)
Broccoli Books' preview of Natsumi Mukai's Nui!
Robert of notable anime retailer Robert's Anime Corner reacts ADV Films' Otakon announcements, the industry and the rest of the industry in general here
Otakon's photos of their convention
Bang Zoom! Entertainment has launched a site tied to their Adventures In Voice Acting instructional/documentary DVD.
Matt Alt on Hanzaki Matsuri Dakara - In the land of the amphibian, a fifty-pound salamander is king (part 2)
Rivkah (Steady Beat) juxtaposes inking methods
Frightening Anime-eye contacts
Paul Robertson presents Kinuko's Farm
Viz is looking for fall interns
Japamerica's Roland Kelts on Batman: Gotham Knight
about.com:manga offers interviews with Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail) and Tite Kub (Bleach) from Comic Con
let's anime looks back at the Anime and Manga APA zine
Alethea and Athena Nibley talk translation in Words of Truth and Wisdom: Meow
Newsarama spoke to OEL artist Tania del Rio
A look at Death Note follow-up Bakuman
A preview of Marvel's new manga inspired title Big Hero Six
The Mamoru Oshii/Hayao Miyazaki mutual criticism has continued, as presented in Nausicaa.net's quotes from Oshii's commented on the Ghibli Asemamire radio show.
"The individual episodes are very interesting, but it is not formed as a movie. Miya-san's delusion is enumerated. His delusion blows up. You did not touch this work this time, didn't you?"
GhibliWorld has a more entensive translation here
Speaking of Oshii, Ryuganji reviewed Oshii's new Sky Crawlers
If "The Sky Crawlers" is really Oshii Mamoru’s stab at making something more accessible and commercial than the challengingly dense and philosophical films we’ve come to expect from him, then he really needs to get out more. For better and for worse, with an emphasis on the latter, it doesn’t stray far from his comfort zone at all.
Oshii been quoted as saying he’ll quit directing if this doesn’t succeed at the box office, but after opening in 7th well below the chart-topping trio of Ponyo, Pokemon and Naruto, he could have done worse.
AniPages Daily inspects Gotham Knight
If I am wrong on all counts, then this film adopted a truly strange production style the likes of which I've never seen before. If I'm right, then it strikes me as being egregiously disrespectful of the supposedly "revered animation filmmakers" that they couldn't even be bothered to list their credits right.
The blog also looks at Bonobono.
Not only was the show very funny, but it was totally unlike other anime in terms of its humor an the look of its characters, and that immediately attracted me.
- very moment oriented, detail oriented, rather than dramatic and forward-driven.
Cliff Chiang has collected his 'Atomic Bombshells' reworkings of classic animated heroines
the OVA 26th episode of Dragonaut - The Resonance
Space Adventure Cobra
The trailer for the Casshen revival
Warner Bros. on the DC Comics Properties
Variety talked to Warner Bros. Pictures President and Chief Operating Officer Alan Horn, Production President Jeff Robinov and Gregory Noveck, Senior VP of Creative Affairs for DC Comics about the challenges of turning more DC properties into movies besides just the "Batman" and "Superman" franchises. Here are a few clips from the article:
Warners and DC (both Time Warner entities) have labored in vain over another Superman, and launches for Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Arrow and Green Lantern. It's maddening for fans as rival Marvel Comics has successfully begun financing its own slate of pics, first with "Iron Man," then a reboot of "The Incredible Hulk" this summer.
That could soon change, as Warners is readying to revamp how DC's properties are developed -- changes that could be announced within the next month.
Check out the full article here which talks about how the "Justice League" movie and a third Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movie as well.
Check This Out: Awesome Fan Made Dark Knight Sequel Poster!
I just got an e-mail with an interesting attachment - a poster for the sequel to The Dark Knight called The Dark Knight Returns. I'm pretty damn sure its fake, but it looks impressive, so I thought I'd put it up anyway. Not only is the Riddler not the official villain for the third movie, but a third movie hasn't even been announced! If indeed Warner Brothers has put out a poster for a movie three years out that hasn't been officially announced - that might be groundbreaking in and of itself. However, I'm guessing this is just a brilliant fan creation that deserves to be mentioned simply for the aesthetic and design fundamentals. Bravo to whoever created this. And if I'm wrong and this is real, then even I'll be shocked!
No need for any further introduction, let's just get down to it. Thanks to reader "Hilander" for send this.
I think it's an interesting idea and I would be all for the appearance of the Riddler in a third movie, I just want to actually give the writers time to write the movie first. This might have all stemmed from our contest for the best story for a Dark Knight sequel. Most of the winners featured the Riddler in some fashion, which I quite enjoyed. The reason why I think the Riddler could be an amazing choice for a villain comes from Christopher Nolan's background. Imagine the intricate story full of twists and turns in The Prestige implemented into the dark and visceral world of The Dark Knight. The Riddler starts asking riddles throughout the movie and it takes the story to an even deeper level. Thoughts?
By George, Give Up!
One critic begs and pleads for George Lucas to PLEASE stop already ...
Yoda in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"
By Jim Emerson
Special to MSN Movies
If George Lucas had given up directing after his first theatrical feature, "THX 1138," we would not have had "American Graffiti" or "Star Wars" as it existed when fanatical masses were camping out to see it (again and again) in the summer of 1977. Then again, we wouldn't have had "The Phantom Menace" (aka "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace") either, so there's always a bright side.
If Lucas had given up producing (or, more accurately, "executive producing," which could mean anything from developing a project to slapping his name on an already finished film), we might have been spared "Howard the Duck," but we wouldn't have had the "Indiana Jones" movies. The seriousness of the trade-off there largely depends on whether you've actually tried to watch "Howard the Duck."
Ever since the very first (er, fourth)"Star Wars" movie, Lucas has been talking about getting back to making those "small, personal" movies he claims he's always wanted to do. But for his last 30 years as a producer he has devoted himself almost entirely to "Star Wars"- and "Indiana Jones"-related projects: "The Ewok Adventure," "Ewoks" (animated TV series), "Droids" (animated TV adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO), Star Tours (Star Wars-based Disney amusement park ride), "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones" (TV), "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" (TV series), "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones" (home video), "Treasure of the Hidden Planet" (set between "Star Wars" Episodes III and IV), "Star Wars: Clone Wars" (animated TV series, 2003-2005), "The Clone Wars" (another animated TV series), "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (2008 video game), "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (soon-to-be-released animated feature film), "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" (video game), "Untitled Star Wars TV Series" (live action, scheduled to begin in 2009). He also reportedly plans to reprocess all the "Star Wars" films with Industrial Light and Magic's Dimensionalization software and reissue them yet again in "3-D" versions.
That's not all of them, but you get the picture. After 22 years of product management, Lucas returned to directing with the unfortunate "Phantom Menace," and completed the prequel trilogy with "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" between 1999 and 2005. Were these the "small, personal" films he'd been waiting all this time to create? Apparently not. He's still talking about an urge to get small, get personal, with his movies.
One word of advice for Mr. Lucas: Don't.
Two words: Please don't.
First of all, given Lucas' obsessive, single-minded devotion to the comic-book mythology and minutiae of what is commonly referred to as "the Star Wars saga" (we won't even go into the "extended universe"), what at this point could conceivably be more "personal" to Lucas, or offer more profound insight into his innermost psyche, than Star Wars? He directed two films before "Star Wars" -- "THX 1138" (1971) and "American Graffiti" (1973) -- and for the rest of his adult life, from his 30s into his 60s, he has committed himself to comic-book and storybook fantasies, including "Labyrinth," "Willow" and "The Land Before Time."
Secondly, Lucas' talents as a director have eroded dramatically over the years. Let's put things into perspective. Between 1971 and 1977, Lucas directed "little" movies. "THX 1138" felt like an expanded student film (which it was), set in an overexposed, dystopian science fiction universe, and is now best known for providing the name of Lucasfilm's sound design system/certification. "American Graffiti" was the closest thing to an autobiographical Lucas movie, a poignantly nostalgic ensemble comedy about the adventures of a group of teenagers on the last night of summer. Not only was it a gigantic hit (and the inspiration for TV's long-running "Happy Days"), but it was also hugely influential, triggering a wave of 1950s nostalgia, pioneering the use of the licensed-song scores (and best-selling soundtrack albums made from repackaged hits), and introducing (or at least popularizing) a technique that would be copied and parodied for years: the closing series of titles that spells out what happened to the characters in later years.
Here's the problem: After "American Graffiti," "Star Wars" was, directorially speaking, a significant leap backward. The state-of-the-art technological effects served a Buck Rogers mentality. And that was perfectly fine, because (for all the allusions to Joseph Campbell and Akira Kurosawa Westerns like "The Hidden Fortress") that's exactly what it is. Critics who actually "got" the movie in 1977, whether they went along for the ride or not, weren't proved wrong. They were proved irrelevant, shouted down by cheering crowds and Dolby zaps, roars and explosions (in the vacuum of space, no less!).
Influential New Yorker critic Pauline Kael wrote: "Maybe the only real inspiration involved in 'Star Wars' was to set its sci-fi galaxy in the pop-culture past, and turn old-movie ineptness into conscious Pop Art. And maybe there's a touch of genius in keeping it so consistently what it is, even if this is the genius of the plodding. Lucas has got the tone of bad movies down pat: you never catch the actors deliberately acting badly, they just seem to be bad actors, on contract to Monogram or Republic, their klunky enthusiasm polished at the Ricky Nelson school of acting." But while Kael recognized that the movie was "synthesized from the mythology of serials and old comic books" -- "THX 1138" began with an actual trailer for a Buck Rogers serial -- generations of "Star Wars" fans had no idea what she was talking about.
But even the quaint pulp zippiness of the early Star Wars trilogy was completely overwhelmed by digital artificiality by the time of the prequels. Returning as writer-director for the first time since "Episode IV -- A New Hope" , Lucas seemed dwarfed by the intricate mythology he had created. He dutifully carried out his mission, but with the evident enthusiasm of a battle droid mindlessly going through preprogrammed motions. OK, so Kaboo Wingtang was a Plebian Underlord who lobbied for excessive trade tariffs. Not even Lucas seemed to care, but he felt obligated to include the information, like a fifth grader cramming his book report with irrelevant plot details. (I don't think there's a Plebian Underlord named Kaboo Wingtang -- I could be wrong -- but that doesn't matter. But the trade tariffs do kick off the whole saga.)
Lucas' return to directing only confirmed what had been apparent for many years: He's a mogul, not a director.
"I've enjoyed 'Star Wars' enormously," Lucas told Wired magazine, "but it's great to be able to look forward to projects that I've wanted to do for a long time. I get to go back to what I was doing before this big thing happened." That was in 2005. Nobody believed it then, either.
By 2008, Lucas was telling The New York Times that "Star Wars" kept distracting him from writing those other things he wanted to write. Just when he thought he was out, it pulled him back in. Like a black hole. Still, if anyone could afford to make whatever movie he wanted, even if it's only for himself, it's Lucas.
"Maybe it ends up in a festival somewhere," he said. "Maybe it ends up in half a dozen theaters around the country for a couple weeks." Then again, in reference to his friend (and longtime executive producer) Francis Ford Coppola's "little, personal movie" from last year, "Youth Without Youth," Lucas asked the Times rhetorically: "Did you see it? Uh, no. Did you even know it came out?" Clearly he remains ambivalent about self-expression on a less-than-intergalactic scale. As the Times headline proclaimed, Lucas was "Free to Follow His Heart Right Back to 'Star Wars'."
But let's say, for the sake of argument, that Lucas did come up with something more personal than Luke (christened after his own high school nickname) Skywalker. His last film to acknowledge adult concerns (adult sexuality, adult emotions) was "THX 1138," co-written with sound designer Walter Murch and directed when he was 26. Any signs that he has grown up since then? Or did Kael's description of those who were hailing "Star Wars" as the film of the year apply even more so to Lucas' arrested development, which "goes way past nostalgia to the feeling that now is the time to return to childhood"?
Think of it this way: Do you want to see Jerry Bruckheimer's "small, personal" films? Michael Bay's? Rupert Murdoch's?
George: Stick to the moneymaking, which is what your empire does best. Leave the moviemaking to somebody else.
Batman and Joker Simpsonized
What it would look like if some of our favorite superheroes and villains were to show up in random episodes of The Simpsons? Cinematical points to Springfield Punx Blog, where they Simpsonize a number of our most beloved fictional characters in movies and TV, including the Batman and Joker.
Wall-E on DVD in November
UpcomingPixar reports that Walt Disney Home Entertainment has announced the release of Wall-E on DVD and Blu-ray on November 18. The Blu-ray will be a two disc release, one disc being the feature presentation and special features, and the second being a digital copy of the film. More details on the specific content and special features for each release are expected on August 22.
Yahoo Users Tup-Rated Sci-Fi Flicks
With George Lucas' animated epic Star Wars: The Clone Wars launching this past week, Yahoo compiled ratings from Yahoo! users to rank the top sci-fi flicks of all time. Is your favorite movie on the list? Click ahead to find out.
(Ed. note: There's 31 entries but I'll leave you with the top 10 - make of it what you will...)
10. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
The oldest film on the list, this 1951 sci-fi classic is a chilling cry for world peace at the height of the cold war. It also features one of cinema's first cool robots: Gort. A remake starring Keanu Reeves is coming this December.
9. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL
Steven Spielberg channels the pain of his parents' divorce into this intergalactic fairytale about Reese's Pieces, flying bicycles, and mug-faced aliens with glowing body parts.
8. THE MATRIX
The Wachowski brothers wowed audiences everywhere with this movie featuring an unusual combination of cool effects, philosophical dialogue, and some of the best Kung Fu this side of the Pacific.
7. BACK TO THE FUTURE
Part of what makes this movie great is that the science fiction elements are essential to the story without ever overwhelming it. Watching it you realize that all teenagers could relate to their parents if they just had a time machine.
James Cameron takes the Ridley Scott's original intergalactic fright fest and adds a lot more guns, explosions, and chest-bursting, acid-bleeding aliens. The result is a pure sci-fi adrenaline rush.
5. RETURN OF THE JEDI
George Lucas brings his first "Star Wars" trilogy to a rousing end with this archetypical tale of familial redemption -- and the awesome military might of cute fuzzy Ewoks.
4. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
The middle chapter of George Lucas' hugely influential space opera is also his most human in spite of the fact that one of its most important characters is a bat-eared puppet.
In this film about giant evil robots that can turn into cars battling good robots that can also turn into cars, Michael Bay does what he does best -- wreck vast amounts of property with really cool explosions.
The first and best "Star Wars" has the sweep, characters, and action of some of the best tales ever told. And that's why after 30 years, it still captures the imagination of audiences all over the world.
1. IRON MAN
The combination of good direction, great acting by Robert Downey Jr. and a seriously cool story has launched this summer blockbuster to the top of the charts.
Briefly: Mac-less "Madagascar;" New Shows on FUNimation Channel; CN in Taiwan
* USA Today has taken a look at Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, noting how the recent passing of comedian Bernie Mac lends an unexpected poignancy to his scenes as Zuba, father of Ben Stiller's zoo-bred lion Alex.
* According to its online schedule, the FUNimation Channel will begin airing several new series starting September 1, 2008, including Mushi-Shi, School Rumble, Tsubasa, BECK Mongolian Chop Squad, and Basilisk. [via TZ member jlaking]
* Turner Broadcasting Systems Asia has signed an agreement with iScreen to distribute, market, and promote Cartoon Network-branded mobile services in Taiwan. [World Screen]
Disney Funds Research and Development Labs
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Walt Disney Corporation will be funding two research labs at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in Switzerland. The labs will do work in "computer animation, computational cinematography, autonomous interactive characters, robotics and user interfaces" that will be used by Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Disney Parks & Resorts, Disney Media Networks, ESPN, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Disney Interactive Media Group. Disney has made a five-year commitment to both universities to fund a director and seven to eight principal investigators, plus professors, academic interns, consultants, and collaborators.
R&B Songwriter Ne Yo Developing "What the Bear" for Cartoon Network
R&B singer/songwriter Ne Yo has entered into an agreement to develop an animated series for Cartoon Network. The show is titled What the Bear, and Ne Yo described it as, "a cartoon for adults, like Family Guy." The show comes from Ne Yo's own illustrations about a rude bear who has been in jail in another dimension, and will feature original music produced by Ne Yo.
Suck It Up, Tate!
It always delights me when animators do their own thing, like publishing sketchbooks, comics, and creating their own characters outside the studio system. Supervising animator Michael Surrey, who has played major roles on such Disney films as Home on the Range, Atlantis, Tarzan, Hunchback, The Lion King (supervising Timon), Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin (animating on the title character), is presently doing just that. Currently working on both Rapunzel Unbraided and The Princess and the Frog for the studio, he’s also teamed up with screenwriter Ron Harner outside the Mouse House to create a series of children’s books that gently impart valuable life lessons to kids. The first one, Suck it Up, Tate!, was inspired by a Thanksgiving dinner discussion between Harner and his three sisters:
“They all have kids, and they told me I needed to write a different type of children’s story – one that wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops – a story where a kid screws up and has to deal with it.”
Suck It Up Tate! is available for sale at www.ronharnerbooks.com. Harner and Surrey are currently working on two additional books featuring Tate and his pals, which are scheduled for release later in 2008.
Kevin Smith says Snyder "pulled it off" with 'Watchmen'
From his myspace blog Kevin Smith talks about a whole bunch o' stuff, including a cut of 'Watchmen' that he screened:
"I saw 'Watchmen.' It's f'ing astounding. The Non-Disclosure Agreement I signed prevents me from saying much, but I can spout the following with complete joygasmic enthusiasm: Snyder and Co. have pulled it off.
Remember that feeling of watching "Sin City" on the big screen and being blown away by what a faithful translation of the source material it was, in terms of both content and visuals? Triple that, and you'll come close to watching "Watchmen." Even Alan Moore might be surprised at how close the movie is to the book. March can't come soon enough."