Monday, February 9, 2009

New York Comic Con News....

NYCC2009: "Wonder Woman" Sets the New Gold Standard

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell of the movie
of that Woman skilled in all ways of contending,
and her wanderlust, borne for years on end
after she was formed of clay and given life
on the proud shores of Themyscira.
She saw the towers of Man's World
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered much oafish wooing
for her valiant heart, while she fought only
for her Sisters, to defeat the God of War.
But not only by will nor valor will she save them,
but through the might of her thews and the skill
of the doughty animators of Warner Brothers
who have given her life and brought Wonder to
screen to set hearts racing for beauty
and the lust of battle.

For those Philistines among you who slept through The Odyssey in high school, I'll give the modern English translation: the new Wonder Woman direct-to-video animated movie Kicks Ass. Hard. It is a gloriously exhilarating, operatic spectacle that sets a new and impossibly high standard for direct-to-video movies and superhero cartoons alike.

Wonder Woman begins with a bang, kicking us straight onto a battlefield in ancient Greece where the God of War Ares (voiced by Alfred Molina) and his forces battle against Queen Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen) and her warrior Amazon sisters. These scenes set the tone for the rest of the movie, with pulse-pounding action sequences that quickly and efficiently communicate a lot of information about the characters and the story. When Ares is finally defeated, the gods of Olympus task the Amazons to keep Ares imprisoned for the good of humanity, gifting them with eternal life and youth on the hidden island paradise of Themyscira, where they sequester themselves from Man's World for centuries. The only new life on the island comes when Queen Hippolyta forms a child of clay, naming the girl Diana after the figure is given life in a scene of surprising power. This youngest Amazon (Keri Russell) grows up to a coltish, independent woman that chafes at the boundaries keeping the Amazons as imprisoned as Ares. When a dogfight over Themyscira brings Col. Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) to the island, events are soon set in motion that will result in Diana leaving Themyscira to return Trevor to current-day Man's World and try to avert worldwide armageddon.

The easiest thing to focus on in Wonder Woman are the wonderful action sequences. Between Marvel's Hulk Vs. and Wonder Woman, it is a glorious time to be a fan of more mature action animation. We are treated to a great variety of creatively staged action sequences: the intimate, small-scale training duel between Artemis (Rosario Dawson) and Diana, the almost comical fight between Diana and a group of would-be muggers, the subsequent beatdown between Diana and Ares' thuggish son Deimos, the thrilling dogfight sequence that puts Trevor on Themyscira, and the massive, cast-of-thousands battles between armies of Amazons and nightmarish mythical monsters. The climactic battle scene is simply marvelous, set in an extremely familiar, real-world setting that gives the property damage real emotional weight, with the setting of one scene in particular adding a subtle but palpable emotional poignancy. Make no mistake, though: Wonder Woman pulls no punches in its powerfully kinetic battles. The battles are much more violent than any we've seen before, with an early cut of the movie earning an R-rating and the final cut still on the high-end of a PG-13. However, one of the things that Wonder Woman really gets right is the warrior culture of the Amazons that can glorify martial prowess without slipping into bloodthirst for its own sake, and that balancing act in the writing is probably why the violence in the movie never feels gratuitious or unnecessary. This is simply a different playing field than the ones we've been subconsciously conditioned to accept through the restrictions of Saturday morning cartoons.

No matter how great the action sequences are, they would be simple exercises in pointless violence without a good story, and Wonder Woman excels at this as well. It's story is a perfect fit for the DTV's 75-minute run time, especially compared to something like the excellent but maddeningly abridged Justice League: The New Frontier. The story carries zero excess weight, keeping things moving without ever dragging or getting sidetracked into boring digressions. It also does an excellent job at injecting just the right amount of humor into the movie, keeping the movie from getting overly dramatic or sinking into excessively dark mythical mud. The animation is sumptuous from start to finish, and would easily earn kudos on technical merit alone. The most nitpicky fans might complain that some elements aren't explained (like the invisible jet), but that would be like eating the finest gourmet meal you've ever had and complaining that that the silverware wasn't shiny enough. Even if the criticisms are factually true, they're also also completely irrelevant and seem to entirely miss the point of the exercise.

The characters of Wonder Woman are vividly realized through their story arcs, their character animation, and their absolutely pitch-perfect voice acting performances. The fans who expressed concern at Keri Russell's casting as Diana may rest easy: her spirited performance is perfect for the role, giving Diana a youthful free spirit that's backed by a steely, indomitable determination. She also gets a perfect foil in Steve Trevor, decidedly not the mansel in distress of the Lynda Carter TV show whose only function was to screw up and get rescued by Wonder Woman. Trevor is a chauvinist pig with a heart of gold who can definitely hold his own against Diana, and the nimbly written role seems tailor made for Nathan Fillion's wonderful performance. Steve and Diana are a pair right out of the finest film romantic comedies, and the movie does an excellent job of integrating their battle of the sexes into the larger narrative. Among the supporting characters, Alfred Molina's deliciously evil Ares proves that it really is more fun to be the bad guy, while Rosario Dawson as the Amazon's Amazon Artemis channels the entertaining macho swagger of Toshiro Mifune in his many samurai roles.

It is common for pop culture analysts to claim that superheroes are our modern-day myths. The claim may have some vague truth on the surface, but most superhero stories simply can't withstand that kind of scrutiny, collapsing quickly under that heavy metaphorical burden. Until now. In the end, Wonder Woman comes off as less of a superhero story and more like a modern-era fairy tale, tapping into the same deep, poetic vein plumbed by other pop culture works from Star Wars to The Matrix to the best of the Disney animated features. If there is a criticism to be leveled at Wonder Woman, it is only that it inadvertently makes all its predecessors look so bad by comparison, despite their considerable strengths, and that it sets a high-water mark that will be incredibly difficult for its successors to top.

Wonder Woman arrives on 1-disc and 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray disc on March 3, 2009.

NYCC: Bryan Lee O’Malley Says ‘Scott Pilgrim’ Movie Animation Rumors ‘Blown Out Of Proportion’

Last week, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” actor Brandon Routh had the online world buzzing when he said the upcoming big-screen adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s much-beloved series would be a “great mix of real people and drawn animation.” How would the two styles blend in director Edgar Wright’s vision for the film? Would O’Malley’s hand be providing the aforementioned animation?

MTV News sat down with O’Malley during New York Comic Con to talk about just those subjects — and his response shed a little more light on what “Scott Pilgrim” might end up looking like on the big screen.

“I think what he said was kind of blown out of proportion by the rumor mill,” said O’Malley of Routh’s description of the film. “It’s not going to be like half the thing is hand-animated, like they’re saying on the Internet lately.”

O’Malley told MTV he believes Routh was explaining “more about special effects and incorporating some hand-drawn doodling and stuff.”

“It’s not going to be a hand-drawn Michael Cera,” he added.

As for whether he’d be the one providing that animation, O’Malley told MTV it was still early to weigh in on his level of involvement in that area.

“I might be involved a little bit,”
he hinted, “but it’s still kind of early on that.”

NYCC: McG Goes Christian Bale On His Audience

If McG didn't know going into New York Comic Con that his audience would only care about Christian Bale's well-publicized freakout, he knew it as soon as he mentioned his star's name. On hand to present new footage from Terminator: Salvation, McG heard the snickers when he mentioned Bale's intensity, and gave a knowing smile when the mic gave feedback and someone from the audience shouted "That's f***ing unprofessional!"

But we only learned just how much he's willing to play along when someone from the audience asked him about how Bale's meltdown will affect the film. You can see his answer, along with his actual thoughts on why it's not really that big a deal, in the video below.

(Thanks cinema blend)

NYCC2009: J.J. Sedelmaier's It All Started Here</span>

J.J. Sedelmaier and Howard Beckerman were at Comic Con to promote an exhibit in White Plains, NY that explores New York's place in animation history. A solid assortment of animated shorts and commercials/promos were screened, which directly counter the common notion that all innovation in animation came from California. The majority of materials viewed at the panel were provided by Tom's Vintage Film (Website/Blog ) or came from the collection of Tony Eastman.

Shorts Viewed:
Enchanted Drawing (1900), How a Mosquito Operates (1912), Bobby Bumps, Chef (1917), Hearts and Horses (1918), Felix Gets Broadcasted (1923), Forbidden Fruit (1923), Where Am I? (1925), Sweet Adeline (1926), Dinner Time (October 1928), Sunshine Makers (Van Buren, 1935)

Commercial/Promos/Interstitials Viewed:
Ajax (Shamus Culhane, 1948), Maypo Oat Cereal (the Hubleys), Piels, Jell-O (with "Chinese-type baby"), Prudential Insurance - The Lion and the Mouse (the Hubleys), two 5th Avenue Candy Bar commercials, Piper Slacks by H.I.S. (Gene Deitch Associates), Alka-Seltzer (R.O. Blechman), General Mills' Country Corn Flakes with Rice, Wyler's Lemonade, Clairol's Herbal Essence, Burlington Industries, Crest commercial featuring the Crest Team and Cavity Creeps, a Nickelodeon promo, Hawaiian Punch, Chock Full 'o Nuts (Blue Sky), CBS holiday interstitial (R.O. Blechman), MTV promo (Sedelmaier), Nicktoons (Blue Sky), Sugar Delight, Nike Shox Celebrity Deathmatch commercial, Volkswagon GTI commercial with Speed Racer (Sedelmaier), Sundance Film Festival 2000 promo (MTV Animation), Starburst, Cluckin' Chicken skit from Saturday Night Live (Sedelmaier)
"It All Started Here!" was curated by Sedelmaier and Beckerman, with support from Blue Sky Studios. The exhibit will be open until February 18th, and is free and open to the public. Address and Directions below.

The Arts Exchange
914-428-4220 x 223
31 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10601
Tuesday-Saturday 12-5pm
Directions from the Metro North

(Thanks ToonZone)


"Iron Man: Armored Adventures"

There was cause for celebration amongst the men on the dais at the Marvel Animation panel Saturday afternoon at the 2009 New York Comic Con. Marvel Animation President Eric Rollman, Director of Development Cort Lane and all around Marvel PR guru Jim McCann rolled out news of a successful launch for the Marvel Entertainment unit's latest TV debut "Wolverine and the X-Men" as well as advances looks at upcoming projects "Marvel Super Hero Squad" and "Iron Man: Armored Adventures."

Two weeks into its run on the cable network Nicktoons, "Wolverine and the X-Men" increased the channel's viewership by 808% from last year in its first episode and 1055% in its second. A DVD of the series' first arc will see an April 21st release, subtitled "Heroes Return," and a second season of 26 episodes has been green lit for the show. On the other side of the TV coin, Lane reminded the assembled crowd of casting announcements made earlier that day about the upcoming Marvel "Black Panther" series on BET, which adapts the first arc of Reginald Hudlin and John Romita, Jr.'s run with the character as an 8-part series. Actor Djimon Hounsou will portray the lead character with Alfre Woodard playing the Queen Mother of Wakanda.

In 2009, the company plans to release both the long in production computer-animated series Iron Man series and a series based on the popular toy line and web comic "Marvel Super Hero Squad." While a network hasn't yet been announced, plenty of concept art and character designs from the kid-friendly Super Hero Squad series were shown by Lane, as well as a rough cut of the opening theme with music by Nerf Herder frontman Parry Gripp (who famously wrote the theme music for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). Headed up on the writing end by "Justice League Unlimited" scribe Matt Wayne and "Angry Beavers" creator Mitch Schauer, the cartoon will take advantage of the entire Marvel Universe and feature a team led by Iron Man and featuring Hulk, Thor, Falcon (and Redwing), Wolverine and Silver Surfer.

"There is a reason in this story for this group of characters to be part of a team and to save the universe from some really bad guys," Lane said, noting that the show drew comedy inspiration from the classic Marvel series "Not Brand Echh." "These guys don't always get along. They argue. They have sensitive's really funny to see these characters interact. Wait until you see Wolverine and the Silver Surfer together."

"Wolverine and the X-Men" promo art

Supporting cast for the team of heroes includes Captain America (a mentor figure), Ms. Marvel (the resident S.H.I.E.L.D. rep) and a brand new teenage character created for the show called Reptil who will also debut in the comics Marvel Universe in an upcoming issue of "Avengers: The Initiative." Lane also showed images of the Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, Wasp, Hawkeye, Storm and the Heroes for Hire). On the other side of the series is a cabal of villains known as the Lethal Legion whose member ship includes (brace yourselves) leader Dr. Doom, Magneto, Abomination, Fing Fang Foom, Sabertooth, Loki, Juggernaut, Mole Man and M.O.D.O.C. (with additional support from Toad, Dormammu, Klaw, the Wrecking Crew and Screaming Mimi). The characters operate out of an eyeball-shaped base known as Villain-Ville where Doom was seen stewing in a bathrobe and a pair of lizard slippers, while the heroes rent their own personal S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier.

"We felt that this year, there was room for something a little different. Maybe something with some humor. Maybe something a 4-year-old could watch too in addition to fans, " Lane explained. "Everybody's very curious about this show because it's so different. It represents a lot of firsts for Marvel, and that's really exciting for us to move into new areas."

A series much closer to release is "Iron Man: Armor Adventures" which premieres on Friday, April 24th on Nicktoons. Rollman took the opportunity while talking about the show to note that the theme song performed by indie rock outfit Rooney would be one of the first digital releases from Marvel Music, an entire new unit of Marvel Entertainment soon to get a full web launch. However, a song alone didn't seem like quite enough to appease the crowd, so Lane and Rollman unveiled an entire episode of the series (the fourth in the first season) featuring a young version of the Mandarin and a story by Chris Yost.

The episode served as a solid tease for what full story lines will develop over the first season, including young Tony Stark investigating his father's past, Mandarin searching for his fabled rings of power, a gang war that the kids get enveloped in and a cabal of villains led by Count Nefaria and featuring redesigned B-Listers like Unicorn and Killer Shark.

As for future projects, Rollman confirmed that the studio is exploring the possibility of making a Thor animated series after their currently in production "Avengers" cartoon, and even though the upcoming "Planet Hulk" is the last contracted Direct-to-Video DVD under their initial contract with Lion's Gate, they are interested in doing more and called on fans to support the series. When asked whether or not the "Vs." series of dual feature DVDs with established Marvel characters fighting as in the recent "Hulk Vs." release, Rollman did say the possibility was on the table.

(Thanks CBR)

NYCC: Early Reaction to First 45 Minutes of Pixar's Up

Tonight at the New York Comic Con, I caught a special presentation of roughly 45 minutes of Pixar's latest film, Up. This footage was first shown at AICN's Butt-Numb-a-Thon, but hasn't otherwise been publicly screened anywhere else until today. We've seen trailers and early footage from the San Diego Comic-Con last year, so we know what, and who, the story is all about. But let me just tell you, there is so much more in Up that we don't know about. Pixar has done a fantastic job of keeping things secret. And I'm going to reveal some of what I saw, because I think it's worth it, so you've been warned about spoilers below!

I've though long and hard whether or not to talk about some of the currently unrevealed parts of Up. But what convinced me was when I thought back to the reaction that my Pixar-loving friend had after the SDCC last year. I showed him the photos of Carl and Russell and told him about the story of Carl and how he always wanted to travel to South America with his wife Ellie. But the problem is that Carl just isn't as lovable as Wall-E at first glance. And there wasn't a hook with the story that WALL-E had. I was officially worried when I heard him say this and have been frantically searching for something to convince him otherwise.

Up kicks off with Carl as a kid. He's watching the video of an adventurer who traveled to Paradise Falls in South America and returned claiming to have discovered a new species. Scientist thought it was a hoax and he was discredited, but Carl was hooked - he wanted to be an adventurer, too. He eventually meets Ellie, who has the same adventuresome spirit, and we see a montage of their life together until Ellie has passed away. Here's where we pick up again - Carl is now 78 years old and grumpy. We all know what happens next, considering we've seen the trailer. We meet the annoying Russell, then away he goes in his house.

So what happens after that? Well after hitting a storm and being spun out of control, the two wake up not knowing where they are. After eventually working their way to the ground and tethering the house behind them with to drag it along in the air, they discover that they're already at Paradise Falls. But in their walk through the jungle, they first encounter a giant, colorful bird with a long red beak that Russell nicknames Kevin. The bird doesn't speak, but it's really goofy. It befriends Russell but doesn't like Carl too much. It's a huge bird and is quite acrobatic, throwing Russell around and provoking lots of laughs.

But it gets better. A few minutes later we hear another voice. At first Carl thinks its another person, but we soon see it's a talking dog named Doug. That's him seen to the right on the newest poster, and the bird is hidden in there too - his head is sticking out of the right side of the house. Let me explain - Doug has a collar around his neck that his master made for him that allows us to hear his thoughts. It's not as crazy as it sounds and believe me, it works, and it works very well. It's exactly like if you were to give a voice to a domesticated dog, meaning he even stops every so often and exclaims "squirrel!" out of nowhere. He's probably the funniest part of the movie I've seen so far. Soon afterward we're introduced to three more dogs, two of which are bulldogs, one of which is a doberman pinscher.

That's as much as we saw and I'm not going to really go into the importance of the characters for the sake of not spoiling any more of the story. But from that intro alone, you should know that Carl and Russell encounter some pretty crazy characters once they've landed in South America. I've got an idea where the story is going, but like WALL-E, I could be completely wrong and it could go in an entirely different direction. As always, Pixar does a fantastic job of keeping the second half of their stories completely secret until we see the full movie. I'm sure that won't change with Up and I'm sure this was only a small glimpse.

So do I feel that this will convince my Pixar-loving friend? Unquestionably! Well, he needs to see the same footage I saw, but when he does, he'll be convinced. This footage has that same magical feeling that Monsters Inc does (and every Pixar movie does), and that's of course thanks to director Pete Docter. I just know that when we eventually get to see Carl overcome his grumpiness and love life again, it'll be such an emotional moment. And while I was annoyed by the character of Russell at first, I'm delighted to say that Doug and Kevin even out the dynamic and deliver some one-of-a-kind Pixar entertainment.


NYCC 09: New Black Panther Footage Debuts

New information on Marvel guest stars and what's to come in the upcoming animated series.

At the Black Panther panel today ay New York Comic Con, Reggie Hudlin, the writer of the Black Panther comic book, who is also producing the series, had this to say about actor Djimon Hounsou, who is voicing the lead character - "He is the Black Panther. He's a very big man. He's big and strong and very enthusiastic about doing [the show]. We've had a great time doing the first record session." Said Executive Producer Denys Cowan, "He was a very powerful presence in the booth!"

A behind-the-scenes video was presented, showing Hounsou and his fellow voice actors Kerry Washington ("Princess Shuri"), Alfre Woodward ("Dondi Reese" / "The Queen") and Stan Lee himself ("General Wallace"). In the piece, Woodard said she was very aware of the "legacy you step into" doing Black Panther, while Washington praised the "socio-political awareness that the comic has."

Hounsou clearly has a lot of energy in the role, as we saw him in the recording booth swinging punches and giving a lot of passion to lines we heard him say, including "Focus on Juggernaut. Pound him with missiles until he drops!" Lee meanwhile noted that his character is "Very narrow minded and very bigoted." We saw Lee bellow, in-character, "We're the United States of America! Where do a bunch of savages get off telling us they have a no fly zone?"

The art in the Black Panther animated series is based off of John Romita Jr.'s designs for the Marvel Comic book

We were shown a clip from the premiere episode, which Hudlin stressed was a "Very, very rough piece." The animation reinforced how the series is directly based on John Romita, Jr.'s artwork for Hudlin's first few issues of the Black Panther comic, in a scene in which an earlier incarnation of the Black Panther faces down a group attempting to raid his people – quickly proving he has superior technology, which causes their weapons to backfire. While there wasn't a lot of movement in the animation, it was notably detailed and fans of Romita Jr. will definitely enjoy seeing his distinctive style. And Cowan reiterated, "That was rough animation – we're just getting started." Hudlin said that when it came to the style, he agreed with fans who always ask, when watching an animated version of a comic, "Why can't it look like the comic?" He noted that here, "We took the art, the panels that John Romita did and we're bringing them to life."

Hudlin said that the series was "Exactly true to the comic. It's everything in the comic and then some," adding the eight episode Season 1 of the show will be an adaptation of the "Who is the Black Panther" story, and that if you have that trade paperback "that is what the first eight episodes will be."

Regarding what notable Marvel guest stars and villains to look for in the series, Hudlin said that most of those seen in the "Who is the Black Panther" story will appear, including Captain America. He noted, "This is triangle shield cap. World War II Cap will be having a showdown with T'Challa's ancestor." Following up on the bit of dialogue we heard Hounsou record, he also noted, "Juggernaut will be a major villain in the piece" and that Radioactive Man and Batroc the Leaper will also be seen.

He added that there were "characters we're waiting final approval on," and that he "Wrote in some additional super hero guest star appearances" beyond characters seen in the comic.

Black Panther will premiere this summer on BET.

(Thanks IGN)

NYCC 09: Black Panther Movie Discussion

Could the man behind the comic book and animated series direct the film?

Reggie Hudlin, who will writes the Black Panther comic book and now is helping guide the Black Panther animated series, is also a successful filmmaker, having directed House Party and Boomerang, and also episodes of Everybody Hates Chris and The Bernie Mac Show. On top of that, the voice cast for the Black Panther series boasts several film actors, including Djimon Hounsou as the Black Panther, along with Alfre Woodard as the Panther's mother and Kerry Washington as his sister.

Today, at New York Comic Con's panel for Black Panther, a fan asked Hudlin if he'd like the opportunity to direct a Black Panther movie, should such a project come to fruition. This caused Hudlin's fellow panelist John Romita Jr. to turn and ask Hudlin if he was casting the series with thoughts of a film in mind, noting that the actors all seemed like naturals to appear in a live-action version. Hudlin said that when it came to the character of Black Panther, "I'd like to be involved in it in every medium," but added, "I don't know if they'll ever be a movie that I'll be involved in," saying the decision was not in his hands.

Marvel Comics' Axel Alonso noted that it was thanks to the Spider-Man animated series and the live-action Hulk series that many non-comics readers came to know those characters, and said he could see how excited Hudlin was by the character, and that if a film came about, Hudlin has "put himself into the running for top consideration." He added that when it came to Hudlin's writing of the comic book, "Black Panther is where Black Panther is because of Reggie" and that he hopes the new TV series "is the oxygen for the explosion of the movie."

Marvel Animation's Eric Rollman brought up that before the highly successful 1990s X-Men series, those characters were "mostly unknown" outside of comic book readers, and that they saw the Black Panther series as an opportunity to introduce this character to a wider audience. Based on how successful the show is, Rollman said "Then we'll look at it very seriously for the next evolution" and that he thought there was a good chance "Reggie would be a part of that." Hudlin smiled and remarked, "We'll see."

(Thanks IGN)

NYCC 09: Venture Bros. Season 4 Hints

The show's creators talk about the cult series.

The creators of Adult Swim's cult hit The Venture Bros., Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, held a decidedly "adult" panel to promote the Season 3 "uncensored" DVD and Blu Ray release of the show and to bring their wild and crazy brand of humor to the fans at Comic Con. The DVD and Blu Ray will hit stores on March 24th and is the very first Adult Swim show to be released in the Blu Ray format.

Joined by The Venture Bros. voice actor Michael Sinterniklaas, the duo answered questions from the crowd (with tongue firmly in cheek most of the time), and screened deleted scenes included on the Season 3 set. Also included on the Blu Ray version is a 20-track CD including all of the music from Season 3 - although they did mention the music would be available separately for non-Blu Ray customers as well.

As for the upcoming season, the duo is currently in production and didn't have any new footage to show. However, they were confident that new episodes would debut later this year. They also mentioned a few guest stars whose voices we can look forward to hearing in Season 4 including John Hodgeman (The Daily Show), notable stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt and the voice of Batman himself, Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series).

To lay to rest any confusion, the creators reitrated that Henchman 24 is definitely dead, Baron Underbite is definitely alive and that Colonel Hunter Gathers will be "all over" Season 4. They also joked that because of the crowd's unilateral hatred of The Murderous Moppets, they were even more excited about possibly bringing them back.

(Thanks IGN)

NYCC 09: Astro Boy Touches Down

IGN moderates the Summit Entertainment panel.

IGN Movies editor-in-chief Eric Moro moderated Summit Entertainment's panel today at New York Comic Con, where fans got a chance to see footage from the company's upcoming releases Astro Boy, The Hurt Locker, and Knowing.

The panel began with two first look scenes from Knowing, introduced via video message by director Alex Proyas. Nicolas Cage stars as a professor who stumbles on terrifying predictions about the future — and sets out to prevent them from coming true. Cage discovers that the contents of a time capsule left behind in 1958 includes an encoded message predicts with pinpoint accuracy the dates, death tolls and coordinates of every major disaster of the past 50 years. As Cage further unravels the document's chilling secrets, he realizes the document foretells three additional events—the last of which hints at destruction on a global scale and seems to somehow involve Cage's character and his son. When his attempts to alert the authorities fall on deaf ears, he takes it upon himself to try to prevent more destruction from taking place.

Judging from the two scenes screened at NYCC, Knowing will be one of the most intense thrillers you'll see this year. Both scenes involve vehicular accidents, mass carnage and high body counts. In the first clip, Cage's character is stuck in a traffic jam on a rainy day. He gets out of his car to investigate the scene when an airliner roars into frame and crashes just off the highway. In one long tracking shot, the camera follows Cage as he attempts to save survivors who are screaming in utter agony as they burn alive. If you weren't scared of flying before, you will be after seeing this scene.

The second clip showed Cage's desperate attempts to prevent a man he suspects is a terror suspect, which leads to a foot chase aboard a crowded city train. But it's a red herring as an oncoming train derails, jumps the tracks and crashes through a parked train car, killing passengers and those waiting on the station platform. The visual effects are incredibly realistic in both sequences, which only makes these disaster scenes all the more frightening.

Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, a thriller set against the backdrop of the Iraq war, is an intense portrayal of elite soldiers who have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world: disarming bombs in the heat of combat. When a new sergeant, James (Jeremy Renner), takes over a highly trained bomb disposal team amidst violent conflict, he surprises his two subordinates, Sanborn and Eldridge (Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty), by recklessly plunging them into a deadly game of urban combat. James behaves as if he's indifferent to death. As the men struggle to control their wild new leader, the city explodes into chaos, and James' true character reveals itself in a way that will change each man forever.

Attendees watched a roughly fifteen minute long sequence showing James, Sanborn and Eldridge in action. James, encased within his bomb disposal armor in the stifling Middle Eastern heat, must investigate and disarm a potential car bomb. A suspicious Hyundai is parked on a side street. As James approaches it, a sniper on a neighboring rooftop shoots at the car, sparking a fire but the car doesn't fully explode. Sanborn and Eldridge open fire on the sniper, who flees inside a top floor room.

James approaches the car, opens the trunk and sees enough explosive canisters to "blow us all to Jesus." Saying if he's going to die it'll be in comfort, he strips off his armor and goes to work finding the triggering mechanism hidden somewhere inside the car while Sanborn and Eldridge stand guard, growing increasingly tense as they spot potential threats beginning to line their perimeter. While I won't tell you how the sequence ends, I will say that The Hurt Locker is one extremely intense movie that you won't want to miss.

Locker star Jeremy Renner spoke with IGN's Eric Moro about working on the film before fielding questions from the crowd. Renner said he doesn't believe the film will suffer the same grim commercial fate as other Iraq war movies since it's non-political. He also recounted his grueling training with real military bomb disposal technicians.

Finally, Eric presented brand new stills and concept art images from Astro Boy; several of these images are now available exclusively here at IGN. An exclusive first look at footage from Astro Boy was then screened.

The scene showed Astro Boy's first attempts at mastering his rocket boots as he sputtered all over Metro City, barely avoiding colliding with monorails but faring less well with buildings. Astro Boy (voiced by Freddie Highmore) finally gets the hang of it, soaring up into the clouds above Metro City. It was a sweet clip, and very reminiscent of Tony Stark's clumsy maiden voyage in his armor in Iron Man.

(Thanks IGN)

NYCC 09: Robot Chicken Runs Wild on Comic Con

Seth Green and his collaborators hint at what's to come.

Fans of the Adult Swim show Robot Chicken on Cartoon Network were treated to a raucous , profanity-laced panel (no surprise) that answered questions about the show's creative process as well as providing a few details of what we have to look forward to in the future. In a style that can only be described as controlled chaos, the show's co-creator and executive producer Seth Green and writer/actor Breckin Meyer led the panel and told humorous stories about how the show is put together.

The panelists didn't want to give away many details about the second half of season four, however they did reveal that the show had just purchased a big box of MASK toys, which should make for a very entertaining sketch.

Seth Green also revealed that he had seriously batted around ideas for a feature-length Robot Chicken film, although nothing was currently in the works. On a related note, when asked if there were any more themed episodes (like the popular Star Wars specials) coming up, he answered a definitive "maybe."

The good news is that they did screen the opening credits for the upcoming "Robot Chicken Full-Assed Christmas Special " to accompany the "Robot Chicken Half-Assed Christmas Special" done a few years ago. The very funny credits were a parody of a James Bond film's credit sequence, but with toy character silhouettes instead of the usual Bond babes.

Currently in the midst of its 4th season, the show will aired its final new episode Sunday (February 8th) before taking a short break. Robot Chicken will then return on April 26th with the first of 10 new episodes.

(Thanks IGN)

NYCC: Joe Quesada Describes His ‘Thor’ Movie Meeting With Kenneth Branagh

The “Thor” movie — and director Kenneth Branagh’s vision for it — has been quite the topic of discussion among comics fans since the veteran Shakespearian actor and director was first rumored as likely helm to project, then confirmed his involvement to MTV News back in December. After Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and the publisher’s primary architect, Brian Michael Bendis, revealed last week that they’d met with Branagh to discuss the “Thor” movie, MTV's Splash Page grabbed Quesada for a quick recap of that meeting during this weekend’s New York Comic Con.

“We spent seven or eight hours with Kenneth where he meticulously took us through the beats of the ‘Thor’ movie along with [Marvel Studios head] Kevin Feige and our friends at Marvel West,” Quesada told MTV. “We just sat there, and it was almost like he acted out the entire movie.”

As Quesada and Bendis shared with fans via Twitter last week, the pair had no shortage of compliments for Branagh’s willingness to get to know the Marvel universe.

“You just thought, ‘Wow. This guy has immersed himself in the Marvel culture — not just in Thor — but in the Marvel universe in general,” said Quesada. “He knew a lot of stuff — some things that I didn’t even know.”

“He was reciting Thor stuff from the past, continuity events, quotes from different books, little bits and pieces from stories that he really found fascinating — whether they were old [Jack] Kirby and [Stan] Lee stories or [Walter] Simonson stories or modern stuff that we’re doing,” continued Quesada. “He really got it.”

NYCC '09: Dr. Shroud

If you have yet to hear of the animated series DR. SHROUD, get ready, because the Doctor is coming...

Mistress Bekah checks in with a report from the New York Comic-con, where she caught up with Robert Feldman, the man behind the animated series currently infecting mobile phones, and coming soon to a certain horror website.

(Thanks Fangoria

NYCC 09: Batman's Brave Future

The Brave and the Bold panel reveals several upcoming DC guest stars, as a new episode is debuted.

There was clearly a lot of fan enthusiasm in the audience for the Batman: The Brave and the Bold panel at New York Comic Con today, with plenty of applause for many aspects of the show – probably the very funny portrayal of Aquaman more than anything else.

Producer James Tucker, an alum of several previous Batman series, recalled that his first instinct was to say no when offered the job on the show, feeling too many people had put their own stamp on the character. However, when he heard it would be Brave and the Bold, he changed his mind, thinking "that's a whole other animal."

"I wanted to do a fun, throwback Batman show that had a lot of action and a lot of humor," Tucker remarked, adding that he "wanted to draw a show that looked like the show I thought I was watching as a kid," referring to his memories of Super Friends, which he acknowledged is a lot more simplistic when viewed as an adult. For the visuals, he went for "An old school, simplified '50s look of the character" that looked "Hand-inked, like an old school '50s comic."

Story editor Michael Jelenic said a lot of influence for the show came from wild comic book covers from the past, noting that this was a show where you had "Gorillas riding pterodactyls, stealing a boat," but that even in these ridiculous situations, "The characters take it seriously."

DC Comics' Ivan Cohen said that when it came to The Brave and the Bold's guest stars, "The chance to have characters who people don't really know that don't read the comics was very excited." He noted that when Blue Beetle appears on the show, "More people saw [him] than ever read a comic book called Blue Beetle."

Actor Phil Morris (known for his role as Martin Manhunter on Smallville) will be playing Jonah Hex in an upcoming episode. He explained that this version of Hex has a funny reaction to Batman because "he doesn't get the whole Bat getup thing. He's a very real kind of character and Batman to him seems almost foppish." Morris said a lot of humor came from seeing Batman dealt with "in a way people don't [usually] see Batman dealt with. Batman to him is a little bit silly." Morris did a quick example of his gruff Jonah Hex voice, saying "There's a little Sam Elliot in there and some other guys."

The conversation turned to Aquaman and Jelenic noted that while the show is aimed at kids, "you're trying to write something that makes you laugh. Aquaman started sort of serious but kept getting pushed." The audience laughed when he revealed that Aquaman "is depressed in the next episode."

Tucker recalled that originally, he didn't intend to make Aquaman as broad, until it was suggested to him to make the character like a god, a la Hercules. Said Tucker, "I thought, 'Wow… Steve Reeves. He just looked pompous.' That gave me a visual and most of my ideas cane from the visual and then I can come up with a personality." He said once he had the image of how Aquaman would look the rest, "really came fast." He noted that they still took a little while to figure the character out completely, recalling, "The first script had a lot of fish puns that didn't make the show, thank god." Tucker said one important aspect to Aquaman is, "he doesn't know that people thought he was lame. In his own mind, he's a hero. I think he needs his own series myself, now."

We were then treated to a an early screening of the February 27th episode of the show, called "Deep Cover Batman!" Without giving too much away, I'll say that this episode deals with parallel Earths and Batman encountering the Red Hood – a character who obviously has a lot of significance in the DC Universe. The way the Red Hood and his allies and enemies are portrayed is very satisfying and the crowd reacted strongly to the episode, which is part one of a two-parter.

Afterwards, the panel took audience questions, and when a female fan asked why more female characters aren't on the show, Tucker said, "We'll be getting girls," with Jelenic adding, "We have an episode coming up that is very, very dirty. It's amazing that they're going to let us air it." He added that in the second season, "you'll see a lot more women," and said Huntress and Black Canary would both be introduced.

Jelenic revealed another episode would introduce the Terrible Trio, with Phil Morris playing the voice of Fox, in an episode that also teams them with Bronze Tiger. Tucker said that Batman, the Terrible Trio and the Bronze Tiger will be shown as having once been "Part of a group like the Deadly Vipers in Kill Bill," in an episode that would include "a lot of flashbacks of Batman training as a kid."

A fan asked if some of the more obscure Batman comic book villains might appear and Tucker answered with a firm yes, adding, "We have no villain too lame to make an episode [about]."

(Thanks IGN)

NYCC 09: Clone Wars Sneak Peek

IGN gets a glimpse at the upcoming Ryloth trilogy.

The Force was strong at this weekend's New York Comic Con.

On Saturday, Lucasfilm's Steve Sansweet presented Star Wars fans with a look at two projects of interest to them: the Phantom Menace valentine flick Fanboys and a sneak peek at footage from upcoming episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Sansweet introduced the
Fanboys panel, which included star Dan Fogler and director Kyle Newman. Clips from the long-anticipated comedy, which is now playing in theaters, were shown, after which the guests recalled when they first became Star Wars fans.

But the real highlight of the
Star Wars panel was undoubtedly the first look at upcoming episodes of the TV series The Clone Wars. A trailer had been assembled featuring quick glimpses of scenes from the forthcoming "Ryloth" trilogy of episodes: "Storm Over Ryloth," "The Innocents of Ryloth," and the final chapter, "Liberty on Ryloth."

- Lucasfilm Ltd./Cartoon Network

The Cartoon Network will broadcast "Ryloth" episodes March 6, 13 and 20, respectively. The trilogy begins with "Storm Over Ryloth," wherein Anakin Skywalker must teach his teenage padawan Ahsoka Tano a lesson after her disobedience causes her to lose most of her squadron.

"The Innocents of Ryloth," the Republic discovers that the Separatists have enslaved the Twi'leks, the inhabitants of Ryloth.

"Liberty on Ryloth" chronicles how the Republic's campaign to liberate the Twi'leks from the Separatists with the fate of the planet hanging in the balance.

The trailer for the
"Ryloth" trilogy was heavy on epic action, particularly showcasing Mace Windu in battle against the droid army. An epic space battle was glimpsed, with the payoff shot showing one star destroyer crashing into another one.

Overall, the trailer was good but pretty much what you'd expect from any
Star Wars
trailer: quick cuts of good guys fighting bad guys with either lightsabers or blasters, space battles, vistas of exotic alien worlds, and all of it set to John Williams' classic score.

(Thanks IGN)

NYCC2009: W!LDBRAIN on "Team Smithereen" and "Yo Gabba Gabba!"

The W!LDBRAIN panel at the 2009 New York Comic Con was hosted by Chief Marketing Officer Mike Polis; Marge Dean, head of W!LDBRAIN's animation studio in San Francisco; and Bob Higgins, head of creative in New York City.

Higgins began with a quick rundown of his career from his start at Warner Bros. Entertainment to his current position at W!LDBRAIN. He was brought on to define a general creative philosophy for the studio from properties like Yo Gabba Gabba! and Kidrobot, which was summarized (in much more direct and unprintable terms) by Kidrobot's Frank Kozik as: "I like cute stuff and messed up stuff, and Kidrobot makes both" (Click here for the complete, unexpurgated quote from Higgins, which is definitely not something you'll hear DJ Lance Rock saying). Higgins aptly described Yo Gabba Gabba! as really cute and really messed up, avoiding what other shows like Dora the Explorer do and not being afraid to be different, and added, "If you see something on TV that's a little screwed up, hopefully it says W!LDBRAIN at the end of it."

Higgins showed the audience a few shorts from "Team Smithereen,"
a new series of Internet shorts that will be attempting to use the same business model as Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Comedy project. "Team Smithereen" was created by Dan Clark, and Higgins described the teen/tween series as "Mr. Bill Meets Jackass." The audience quickly found out what he meant with three separate shorts of little hand puppets daring each other to do really stupid stunts. The series will be hitting computer screens this Spring.

Entertainment products was the next topic discussed, starting with the designer toys and vinyl collectible art of kidrobot. Polis discussed the many collaborators with Kidrobot, and also mentioned that the great thing about having an animation studio and Kidrobot under one roof is that it leads to lots of fabulous collaborations between the two.

Dean showed off a reel demonstrating the versatile work that the animation studio has been doing in advertising. W!LDBRAIN's animation studio is still largely known as an animation style, although they do get some feature film work and always have some TV works in progress at the time. Dean commented that the commercial work meant that the studio had a wide variety in style, ranging from traditional hand-drawn animation, CGI, stop-motion, and even the puppets of
"Team Smithereen." Among the many ads that were showcased at the panel were an entertainingly flippant Virgin Atlantic safety film, an Erin E-Surance ad, and a Lunchables street derby ad. Dean also showed off Zombie World, their entry into motion comics.

The rest of the panel was almost entirely about
Yo Gabba Gabba!, the kids show on Nick Jr. that has been acquiring a following of kids, teens, tweens, and adults, thanks to its manic energy and aesthetic sense to it. The panel took pride in noting that Yo Gabba Gabba was the only kids' show in Time's Top 10 New TV shows in 2007, right next to Mad Men and Flight of the Conchords. New episodes will debut in April, with guest stars including Jack Black and Amy Sedaris, with music provided by the Shins, Sugarland, the Roots, and Supernova. A montage of season 2 highlights and a behind-the-scenes video was screened for the audience.

New initiatives for
Yo Gabba Gabba! include a toy aisle blitz and a comic-maker application on-line, and they hope to have a comic book deal in place by this year's San Diego Comic Con. They are also setting up a YouTube channel for behind-the-scenes videos. The big news is that they are also beginning work on a Yo Gabba Gabba!
feature film, which will have a full 90-minute narrative following Brobee, Foofa, Muno, Toodee, Plex, and the very orange DJ Lance Rock as they explore the backgrounds of all the characters and bust out of the 4 worlds on the table that have been seen on the show. W!LDBRAIN is also hoping that they'll be able to pack the movie with celebrity cameos as they do on the show. A soundtrack CD is available on iTunes, as well as all the TV episodes produced so far. 2 more DVDs are slated for this year, and a soundtrack CD has been in discussion for some time, but iTunes has been very popular and easy for Yo Gabba Gabba! fans seeking to own music or TV episodes.

At this point, the panel paused for a dancing competition to see who could out-dance DJ Lance Rock, with a DJ Lance magic hat hanging in the balance. There were two brave takers: Melissa (below left) and Francis (below right), the latter of whom writes for and is a Friend of Toon Zone. Francis clearly loves his daughter very, very much. The two got a big hand from the audience, and both went home with a magic hat.

The following subjects came up during the Q&A session:

* - Danny Antonucci started working with W!LDBRAIN on January 1, 2009, and is developing a few shows to be pitched for the teen and adult space.

* - In response to the statement that the best way to make kids' animation was not to make animation for kids, Higgins said that his 20 years in the business have taught him, "Kids are not stupid small people." They have personalities and really good taste, and will tell you very fast when they don't like your show. He said his philosophy was not to make a show that you think kids want to watch, but that you needed to make a show that's funny and entertaining and age-appropriate.

* - Dean said that the down economy is affecting them, since there is less money coming in from ad dollars, but they are getting more requests for Internet animation and games. Polis added that W!LDBRAIN's diverse skill set was helping as well, since they can deliver for the web as well as TV.

* - In response to a question whether they do commercial stuff to support their personal projects, Dean said that work-for-hire is the studio's bread-and-butter that keeps the lights on and the 50 staffers paid, but that they care about everything they do and put in the same talent and energy no matter what the project is.

* - Kidrobot does not have a formal solicitation process for finding new artists, and that they often meet new artists through older Kidrobot artists.

* - When asked about season sets of Yo Gabba Gabba! rather than the mix of 4 episodes per DVD, Polis commented that iTunes was just more convenient for parents and that kids don't buy season sets of anything. DVD producers are reluctant to put out a DVD boxed set until there's nostalgic demand for it, which is why all the episodes are available on iTunes.

(Thanks Toon Zone)

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