Monday, May 11, 2009

News - 05/11/09...

Star Trek takes No. 1 with $76.5M, exceeding expectations

J.J. Abrams' Star Trek exceeded expectations at the May 8 weekend box office, beaming up a whopping estimated $76.5 million, the Associated Press reported. That includes $72.5 million for the Friday-Sunday period and $4 million from preview screenings on Thursday.

Paramount Pictures had estimated that the movie would make about $50 million for the weekend, but figured that strong reviews helped carry it to the bigger opening. The film, which had a $140 million budget, should gross more than $200 million total this summer, even against such competition as Terminator: Salvation, coming on May 21, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, arriving in theaters July 15, the AP reported.

The fact that Star Trek haul improved from $26.8 million on Friday to $27.4 million on Saturday is a good sign, suggesting the film will have "legs," analysts said.

Last week's top grosser, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, came in second place, with an estimated $27 million. The prequel has made nearly $129.6 million in two weeks.

Meanwhile Beyond the Seas ...

Star Trek makes a smaller splash in foreign markets, largely because it debuts on fewer screens in fewer places:

The foreign launch of "Star Trek" beamed up a solid rather than spectacular $35.5 million at over 5,000 playdates in 54 markets, winning in 23 territories in its opening weekend.

"Trek" topped the second frame of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which slid 59% to $29.7 million at 8,978 in 102 markets.

The revamped
"Star Trek," which had never seen significant international traction in its 10 previous incarnations, scored a respectable $7,100 per-location average ...

Unlike the last couple of DreamWorks offerings, Monsters Vs. Aliens is running behind the feature's domestic totals by a considerable margin. The foreign totals come out to $143 million, 43.3% of it worldwide collections.

I donno. Maybe foreign eyeballs don't look kindly on San Francisco.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

The Princess and the Frog Trailer

The full trailer for Disney's "The Princess and the Frog". This trailer aired during "Wizards of Waverly Place" on Disney Channel on May 9, 2009.

And via Ain't It Cool, reviews from test screenings are already coming in -

Now - take a look at these reviews - but watch out for spoilers - though that trailer certainly seems to have a doozy of a spoiler!


I can't believe that nobody has posted a review of this yet! On Tuesday, the Bridge Cinema Deluxe hosted two preview screenings of
"the Princess and the Frog." Bottom line is that "Princess and the Frog" is really good, even though the film was not completely finished. They said about 80% had been animated, while 30% was final and colored. The missing 20% was in storyboard form.

The premise of the film is a great twist on the classic "Frog Prince" story.


Prince Naveen has been cut off from his family's wealth, although nobody really knows this yet. His greed leads him into dealing with Dr. Facilier, a voodoo doctor with evil plans for New Orleans. Facilier basically curses Naveen, turning him into a frog.

Tiana's dream is to own a restaurant. Just when this dream seems within reach, somebody outbids her on the building she has been saving money for. At a ball, dressed in her best, Tiana meets the frog. Both are familiar with the classic tale and Naveen assumes that if Tiana kisses him, the spell will be broken. In return, he will buy Tiana her restaurant.

So, they kiss...

...and Tiana turns into a frog. The two frogs are chased out of the ball and begin a journey through the bayou, looking for an old witch that can turn them back.

This movie is really good. It's not perfect, but its strengths certainly outweigh its weaknesses. The biggest flaw is that when Naveen and Tiana inevitably fall in love, it doesn't feel like Naveen has earned it. It feel like we're missing the scene where he wins her heart. All of a sudden he likes her and she likes him. Although it takes them a while to admit this love, we still don't know exactly why they fell in love in the first place!

That said, every "love" scene they DO have works brilliantly! They really nailed that feeling when you like someone, but you're afraid to say it because you just don't know how they feel about you. It is just perfect.

I personally had no issues with the ending, and I actually quite liked it. I only bring this up because many of my friends didn't like the last 10 minutes, so I thought it was worth mentioning as a "flaw."

But enough with the problems.

The major strength of "the Princess and the Frog" is the cast of characters.

Tiana is one of the most awesome Disney "princesses." They've tried the strong and independent woman thing before, but Tiana could run circles around Belle or Pocahontas. She holds down three shifts at work and still finds time to design a restaurant and cook on her own. Once she's on the bayou adventure, she has no trouble fending for herself and babysitting the silver-spoon fed Naveen.

The talking animals in this one are fantastic as well. Ray is a heart-of-gold firefly that joins the crew after they get a bit lost. Louis is a croc with dreams of playing jazz. Each is hilarious and pretty well rounded, and both will certainly capture the audience's heart.

Dr. Facilier, the film's baddie, is a fantastic love child of Michael Jackson and Baron Samedi. He is smooth and sly with a mean streak that's backed by minions of "the other side." His scheme is dastardly, but not exactly original. It's a pretty standard "take over town" sort of motive. Oh, except that once he takes over New Orleans, he's giving everyone's soul to his "friends on the other side." That's pretty awesomely dark.

Speaking of dark, what really stands out about this film is that it has BALLS. Dr. Facilier's minions, evil shadow demons, are NOT incompetent Battle Droids. They can be down right scary. Even more shocking is that some characters don't make it through the film. I have a hunch that kids (and parents!) will be teary eyed at the end of this one.

I guess the bottom line is that "the Princess and the Frog" is a strong comeback for 2D animation. It is definitely the strongest Disney animated film in years, and although it doesn't surpass masterpieces like "the Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast," it reminds you why, as a kid, you looked forward to Disney's animated films.

Even though they didnt give us any NDA forms, if you post this call me "the Screenwriting Wizard's Apprentice"

then there's this one:

Hey Harry,

Its funny you posted that new clip earlier today since tonight there was an early test screening for Disney's new film
The Princess and The Frog. And I was lucky enough to go. There were two showings actually, an early one for parents and young kids and then one for the older crowd. I attended the later one, which was pretty packed. First thing though is when I say early, I mean early. We were all quickly informed that only 20% of the film was in color and that some scenes were even just the storyboards. The crowds reaction to this was interesting as I'm pretty sure they weren't ready to hear that. But on with the movie now.

I enjoy Pixar but I've wanted Disney to have a comeback on their own for a long while now and I'm very happy to say that they have done it! There will be some slight spoilers here (though I doubt anything in the movie would shock anybody since Disney films can still be rather predictable), but the film takes place in New Orleans in the 20s or 30s, I have to be honest I'm not fully sure what exact year they were aiming for. We are introduced to two characters a young white rich girl named Charlotte and a young black girl named Tiana. They are best friends but one is rich and Tiana is poor and lives with her mother (a dressmaker who makes all these Disney princess dresses for Charlotte) and father. Interestingly enough, Charlottes family is shown as spoiled and stupid and Tiana's family is wise, loving and hard working. Tiana's mother reads both the girls a story about a princess kissing a frog, having the frog turn into a prince and then all ending happily. Charlotte loves the story and Tiana hates it, we enter our first song (a number about the magic of New Orleans) while we meet Tianas family and neighborhood. Then opening credits and we fast forward to when they are both teens. Tiana is a hard working waitress trying to save up for a reastuarnt of her own while Charlotte has grown into basically what happens when a spoiled dumb girl is raised on Disney. Kind of like
Enchanted, the film pokes fun at itself and the typical fairy tale in pretty clever ways. A Prince is coming to New Orleans to marry Charlotte (though he's never met her). I couldn't find anyone in the theater who knew where he was supposed to be from exactly but Prince Naveen seems to be from some Middle Eastern Country. He arrives (there is a big masquerade ball ready for him) and goes off instead searching the town *SPOILERS* instead he meets our villan, an evil fortune teller who does voodoo, gets turned into a frog and then tries to find a princess to kiss, he finds Tiana (dressed like a princess) at the ball and kisses her, but instead she turns into a frog also then many adventures occur, fighting with eachother, rednecks and crocs in the swamp and the evil voodoo man all the while trying to turn back human *SPOILERS END* Love and songs happen throughout.

First, I Loved the movie, in fact I think it's one of the best animated movies Disney has ever made. I enjoy the 3D stuff but 2D just has a certain feeling to it. Even though most the movie wasn't finished being colored the few parts we saw looked beautiful. Can't wait to see what it looks like finished. The story/characters/writing is the highlight of this film though. Tiana is one of our most interesting princesses, think Mulan mixed with Belle, believes in hardwork and doing stuff for herself, has some attitude. Charlotte is probably the most over the top female characters in a Disney flick, in fact sometimes its overboard (she calls her dad "Big Daddy" a few times and its rather weird). The Prince is probably the first prince with depth (unless we count Aladdin I guess) , he believes in girls, money and music, plus he actually is charming unlike most prince charmings. We get a goofy trumpet playing croc and a very cajun firefly to round out our talking animals quota. Some deep in the swamp deliverance like rednecks who eat frogs. A blind magic lady with a pet snake and of course a small fat guy who plays henchmen (Disney loves the small fat guy don't they). The writing is fast and clever and a damn good share of jokes that are aimed at the adult crowd which I was surprised at but enjoyed. Then there is the songs, these were almost all in the storyboard form but they seem like they'll look good. They aren't as memorable as some classic Disney songs but they are really well done (though some of them seem to end before they really begin). Each one being very Jazz or gospel influenced. Speaking of which New Orleans itself is a character and probably the best setting in any Disney film, you feel New Orleans at its high point by the end of the movie. The movie is fast-paced and never drags. My only real problem with the film is the Villian I'd say, you never really get to understand his motivations and if you blink you'll miss the ending climax with him. He is in it just enough to scare the characters and move the plot forward but thats really it. Keith David does a great job with him though.

I do think its interesting that there has been some talk about the races in the film ("why can't there be a black prince" or some such talk), but it's also rather funny that the white people in the film get the worst of it and everyone else gets represented really well. Half my theater was African-American and they all loved it more then me so just thought I'd throw that out there.

All in all, this is Disney's return to form, can't wait to see it completely finished. If you used this just call me LAshadowman.

So with that, SIGN ME UP - I want to see this NOW!

Potty Mouths

Click on the image for a larger view

Ah. Now we know why Disney wanted all the women sequestered in Ink-and Paint back in the day.

All those nasty in-betweeners who swore like stevedores and carried on like sailors on shore leave were causing delicate ears to burn.

From the January 1939 memo:

Attention has been called to the rather gross language that is being used by some members of the IBT Department in the presence of some of our female employees.
It has always been Walt's hope that the Studio could be a place where girls can be employed without fear of embarrassment or humiliation.

Your cooperation in this matter will be appreciated.

The Diz administrators were looking out for the girls ... and wanted everyone to know it. That's a good thing, yes?

But we've traveled a long way. I didn't really learn to swear with piquancy and punch until my wife taught me how.

She was, of course, a long-time Disney employee.

(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)

Pixar in Vancouver

The Vancouver Sun is reporting that Pixar will be opening a studio in Vancouver.

The studio will hire 75 to 100 people, most of them Canadians, and will make all of Pixar’s three-dimensional, computer-animated short films, which usually run three to five minutes. All Pixar theatrical features will continue to be made at its main studio in Emeryville, Calif., which employs almost 900.

This is not the first time that Disney (which owns Pixar) has set up in Canada. Earlier, Disney opened two studios, one in Vancouver and one in Toronto, to produce direct to DVD sequels. Those studios were both closed during the period when Disney was shedding studios (in Florida, Japan, France and Australia) at a dizzying pace.

At present, anything that increases employment opportunities is a good thing. However, past experience shows that satellite studios tend to stay satellites. Rather than regard the satellites as minor league teams, where talent is developed and then moved up to the majors, the satellites are walled-off as facilities for lower budget work. Disney already has two studios turning out cgi features and there's no shortage of cgi family films. Furthermore, with rumours that John Lasseter is treating Pixar's studio more favorably than Disney's, it's unlikely that a Vancouver studio will be allowed to compete on a level playing field.

The reason for the new studio is convenience and cost. Vancouver is fortunate to be located in Pixar's time zone, but the other incentives are the cheaper Canadian dollar and various tax incentives.

No doubt that the people hired will have opportunities to learn techniques and sharpen their skills. They'll also have a credit that will improve their future job prospects. However, no one should apply to the Vancouver studio with the hope that it will be doing features. Where many artists see Pixar as their ultimate destination, Vancouver, at best, will be a way station.

(Thanks Mark Mayerson)

New Images And Video Clips From Upcoming “Batman: The Brave And The Bold” Episode

The World’s Finest has new clips and images from the upcoming Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode "The Color of Revenge!"

Cartoon Network has passed along the episode synopsis, video clips, and over thirty new images for the upcoming Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode "The Color of Revenge!" To get a closer look at the images, click on the thumbnails below.

Click Here For More Images, Videos & Details!

Cartoon Network has also provided three clips from the episode, which are available to view here at our Batman: The Brave and The Bold subsite. The all-new Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode “Color of Revenge!”, scheduled to air at 8:30pm (ET) on Friday, May 22nd, 2009, is described as follows.

Batman and Robin team up again, but it's not like it always was--there was a reason Robin left to go work on his own. As Crazy Quilt comes after Robin for revenge, all the dirty laundry comes out between the dynamic duo!

Details on the cast and crew can be found at the link above. Further information on the episode is available at our our Batman: The Brave and The Bold subsite. Stay tuned for further episode details and exclusive content.

Disney’s All Aboard Christmas Carol Train

Disney announced today that the studio is going full steam ahead with a special 40-city train tour to promote Robert Zemeckis’s upcoming holiday feature A Christmas Carol. This special promotional event, which will feature exclusive sneak peeks of the 3D film footage as well as summer time snow, will begin in Los Angeles on May 22 and is expected to cover over 16,000 miles.

Starring Jim Carrey and directed by Oscar-winnning filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, Disney’s A Christmas Carol opens in theatres November 6 in Disney Digital 3D and in IMAX 3D and will utilize state-of-the-art performance capture technology. Carrey plays seven different characters in this new adaptation of the beloved Dickens tale. The movie also stars Colin Firth and Gary Oldman.

The big train tour extravaganza will be set against a snowy backdrop and showcase carolers, Christmas carolers, giveaways and “some surprises”—underwritten by HP as title and technology sponsor and driven by Amtrak. The family event will be free to the public.

(Thanks Animation Magazine)

Linda Dangcil, 67, voiced drummer Raya on "Jem"

Dancer and actress Linda Dangcil, the voice of Holograms drummer Carmen "Raya" Alonso on Marvel Productions' 1980s Jem series, died Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 67.

Dangcil had battled throat cancer for eight years.

In the syndicated Jem series, Raya was the sole Holograms member from a traditional family and whose parents were still alive.

Dangcil played Sister Ana on the 1967-70 ABC series The Flying Nun. She appeared in 37 episodes alongside Sally Field as one of the nuns in Convent San Tanco near San Juan, Puerto Rico.

She was also in the voice casts of Hanna-Barbera's A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Foofur, as well as DiC Entertainment's Captain Planet And The Planeteers and H-B's The New Adventures of Captain Planet. She guested on the 1993 Batman: The Animated Series episode Paging The Crime Doctor.

On live-action TV, Dangcil portrayed Elena on the bilingual PBS kids' series Villa Alegre
. She was also a regular on The Judge and The Young and the Restless.

She guested on numerous TV series, including
Here Come the Brides (as an Asian woman opposite Bruce Lee), Rawhide, The Rifleman, Stagecoach West, The Judge and The Bold Ones

Born in San Francisco on June 19, 1942, Dangcil was first onstage at age three, when she appeared in an act with her pianist brother Mel.

She was chosen as one of the principal dancers in the 1961 movie musical West Side Story by co-director Jerome Robbins. As a teenager, she made her Broadway debut in the the mid-1950s Mary Martin company of Peter Pan, appearing on the TV version soon afterward.

Other plays and musicals included The King and I, Flower Drum Song, The Uprooted, Blood Wedding and The Lesson.

Her film credits included The Young Savages, The Magnificent Seven, Eldorado and And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him.

She sang and danced several roles (including Diana) on stage in the First National Tour of A Chorus Line at the Shubert Theater in Los Angeles. Her last Los Angeles stage role was Sally in the East West Players production of Follies.

Dangcil attended Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, later choreographing and assisting in many productions at her alma mater. An active member of several Screen Actors Guild committees, she directed several new productions for Los Angeles Play Festivals.

Linda Dangcil is survived by her husband, jazz musician Dick Hamilton, as well as daughter Linda Michele, son Sky Hamilton, brother Mel Dangcil, granddaughter Ameleia, and many nieces and nephews.

Memorial services are pending.

New and Upcoming in North America

ADV Films
Anime Vice reports that following Central Park Media's bankruptcy, ADV films picked up Grave of the Fireflies - Isao Takahata's classic look at a child's experience in World War II
MD Geist - so bad it's good violence
Now and Then Here and There - Akitaro Daichi's dark take on child conscriptions, staged as a boy transported to strange land narrative
World of Narue - goofy aliens in mundane school comedy

These titles will all be released on DVD in July 2009.

Disney Ponyo trailer is scheduled to hit July 4th notes Amazon lists Blu-ray releases of
Princess Mononoke
Spirited Away
Howl's Moving Castle

Discotek Media
Discotek Media has revealed information on their upcoming releases

Jailhouse 41 will be remastered and the subs will be removable. - More extras are being obtained

Uzumaki will have a couple new extras including narration from the director and probably a new interview.

Crying Freeman (anime) will have the English dub and the Japanese language and English subtitles. Extras are being determined

The Hana Yori Dango Final has tons of extras, its going to be a 2 disc set.

FUNimation has confirmed the upcoming release of Gonzo's sci-fi anime OVAs Vandread Integral and Vandread Turbulence.

Image and Toykopop
Image and Tokyopop will be reviving King of Cats in twelve 32 page chunks starting on August 19th. The first six issue will reprint what was put out in the Tokyopop graphic novel, in the monthly comic sized format.

Via Anime Vice and geekerywithandre

The anticipated entrance of Japanese manga publisher Kodansha into the North America market has aparently begun.

Ghost in the Shell and the first volume of Akira are being listed on from Kodansha Comics for a October 13, 2009 release.

Both manga had previously been released in North America by Dark Horse (a colorized version of Akira had been released by Marvel before that.

Anime Vice says "Marketing Coordinator Aaron Colter informed that while he couldn't comment on any license expiration, he could confirm that Dark Horse wouldn't be publishing either of those titles in the future, so if Kodansha says they're reprinting them, then they probably are."

Simon & Schuster
Comic Book Resources notes that "Frankie Pickle And The Closet of Doom" from Eric Wight, creator of the lamentablely cut short "My Dead Girlfriend," is out this week.

On the fate of My Dead Girlfriend, from the Comic Book Resources piece...

As for whether or not Eric Wight will ever be able to go back to his highly praised "My Dead Girlfriend" series, which saw one volume released by TOKYOPOP in 2007, the creator remains hopeful that some day he will do more with the characters, although currently the rights were tied up with the manga publisher. "It was a rough experience. They approached me because of my work on 'The O.C.' to help them 'reshape the face of manga,' and I was really excited to do that. I did 'My Dead Girlfriend' for them, and it was very successful for them. But unfortunately, I think their vision of success and my vision for fairness were not on the same page. With everything else happening in the economy, it's hurting everybody, but unfortunately we're in the situation now where I feel like my creation is being held hostage and they're not willing to allow me to do anything with it, whether it be by having another publisher acquire the rights or whatever."

The Business

Anime News Network relays the content in an article in which The Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) managaging director Yasuo Yamaguchi described the anime industry as a "bubble several years ago that burst. The marketplace is on a falling curve due to declining birth rates and the recession." Noting the rise in annaul anime productions from 124 in 2000 to a historic high of 306 in 2006, Yamaguchi predicted further restructuring of the industry. Already, the number of productions fell to 288 in 2008.

The Japan Video Software Association (JVA) reported that domestic sales of Japanese anime releases (on DVD and laserdisc) brought in 97.1 billion yen (about US$982 million) in 2005 and dipped to 95 billion yen (US$960 million) in 2006. In 2007, domestic anime DVD sales fell further to 89.4 billion yen (US$904 million). Even when DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and HD DVD sales are added together, sales of domestic anime releases dropped to 77.9 billion yen (US$787 million) in 2008.

The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) estimated that the Japanese anime marketplace in the United States (including character goods) peaked in 2003 at US$4.84 billion. It then fell to US$2.829 billion in 2007. The sales of just anime DVD and videotape releases peaked in the United States in 2002 at US$415 million.

The Japanese government has announced a Contents Overseas Development Fund to support the expansion of Japanese media — particularly Japanese animation and films — around the world.

According to Japan's Cabinet Secretariat, overseas revenues accounted for 1.9% of the Japanese media industry's overall revenues in 2004, compared to 17% for the American media industry. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to raise the percentage of overseas revenues so that it rivals what the American media industry earns abroad.

Canned Dogs continues their translation of Satou Shuuhou 's breakdown of business of manga

The Angry Otaku looks at the de-cartooning of Cartoon Network, and tracing it to events like the Boston Aqua Teen Hunger Force event

Adventures in anime outsourcing

Upcoming in Japan
Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance streaming trailer


Takehiko Inoue told told the Nishi Nippon Shimbun paper that he thinks his award-winning Vagabond samurai manga will end "within one or two years."

Not Coming To North America

The Studio 4°C animated Sakura short that was attached to Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li's Japanese theatrical run will not be included on the American or Japanese home video release of Chun-Li

Yoshinori Kitase, producer of Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII has confirmed that the North American Blu ray of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete will not be packaged with a Final Fantasy XIII as the Japanese DVD did.

Capcom's Seth Killian has confirmed that Tatsunoko vs. Capcom will not be released in the us because 13 different companies hold the American rights to Tatsunoko's library of characters (Gatchaman, Tekkaman, Yatterman, etc)

Worth Checking Out...

A must see of the week is A Rare Look At Miyazaki's & Takahata's Never Released "Pippi"

Back in 1971 Miyazaki Hayao left Toei for A Pro together with Takahata Isao and Kotabe Youichi. There he co-directed six episodes of the first Lupin III series with Takahata and shortly after they also began pre-production on Pippi Longstocking, The Strongest Girl In The World. In order to come up with ideas, Miyazaki made his very first trip abroad and went location scouting in the port city of Visby on Gotland Island, Sweden. Unfortunately after meeting with the original author, Astrid Lindgren, their permission to complete the project was denied. Pippi got cancelled.

Also on the Ghibli front, Castle in the Sky - Miyazaki's Imageboards
Cels - Princess Mononoke
Cels - Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Cels - The Last Unicorn

Kurutta looks at Osamu Tezuka's adaptation of Crime and Punishment and Fantastic shojo: Kaze to Ki no Uta

on Same Hat! (now on Twitter)
Amazing Animation Of Tsuge's Nejishiki

Comixology presents a preview of Blood+: Adagio

New Blood: The Last Vampire live action trailer


Set Apart: Exploring the Christian Faith Through Japanese Animation by Daniel Cronquist

A couple looks at Isshoni Training: Training with Hinako, "first muscle training animation ever," are online.

Review: Aragorn's untold adventure is precious in The Hunt for Gollum

Once upon a time, "fan films" meant grainy flicks of not much better cinematic quality than the stag movies you used to find in the attics of recently deceased male relatives who smelled funny, and whom you really didn't like to hug at family gatherings. But now we live a world in which George Takei stars as Sulu in a fan film that (albeit controversially) gets nominated for a Nebula, and in which the Batman vs. Aliens vs. Predator fan movie Batman: Dead End is boatloads better than the Alien vs. Predator movies the studios have been giving us.

So now we have the Lord of the Rings online fan flick The Hunt for Gollum ... Chris Bouchard's 40-minute mini-epic based on material peppered throughout Tolkien's much bigger epic about Aragorn's tracking of Gollum just before the events of Fellowship of the Ring. The movie went live May 3, 2009, and can be seen on and

As a fantasy film, The Hunt for Gollum looks and sounds and feels better than a lot of professionally made fantasies of the 1980s, like the disco-scored Hawk the Slayer (which featured Jack Palance wearing a +10 Helm of Overacting) and Sword of the Valiant, starring Ator the Invincible himself, Miles O'Keeffe, as Gawain of Arthur's court. At times, The Hunt for Gollum looks as good as certain shots in really great fantasy movies like Excalibur and Dragonslayer, and it deserves major kudos for that.

The great flaw of The Hunt for Gollum is that it's a very fine Chris Bouchard movie, but it's not a very good Peter Jackson movie.

When Bouchard copies Jackson—and I don't mean just in terms of look and design and color scheme, I mean right down to Jackson's editing style—The Hunt for Gollum is as hollow as an abandoned mithril mine. Bouchard even copies aspects of Jackson's direction that really didn't work for Jackson#&8212;those montage scenes that are over-scored and chock-full of quasi-telepathic dialogue, like the exchange between Elrond and Galadriel in The Two Towers. It's a flawless re-creation of flawed filmmaking. It's frustrating impersonation, not performance.

But when Bouchard lets himself off his own leash, there's some damned good filmmaking in
The Hunt for Gollum. This is especially true in a lot of the scenes filmed at night in forests ... shoots during which I guess being on location prevented Bouchard from having all the resources on hand that let him shoot like Jackson, and which forced him to come up with new shots and use his own style. There's real talent here, and it's a shame Bouchard didn't use the talent that's truly his for the entirety of the movie. One of the great achievements of Jackson in his adaptation of Lord of the Rings was his willingness to change things here and there, to compress narratives, switch things around and punch up the drama as the medium of film required. Bouchard should have copied this aspect of Jackson's approach and been more willing to take stylistic chances.

As a drama in and of itself,
The Hunt for Gollum is OK, and fun for Tolkien fans. It's a little glimpse of the bigger epic that is Lord of the Rings
, and hopefully it's a little glimpse of bigger and better things from Bouchard, who's got the chops to be a good fantasy feature director once he ditches his self-imposed Jackson-like training wheels.

New Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Poster!

Paramount Pictures has released a new poster for the upcoming sequel "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen".

Directed by Michael Bay, the sequel stars Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Isabel Lucas and Rainn Wilson.

The film hits theaters on June 24, 2009.

Check out the new poster below.

Decepticon forces return to Earth on a mission to take Sam Witwicky prisoner, after the young hero learns the truth about the ancient origins of the Transformers. Joining the mission to protect humankind is Optimus Prime, who forms an alliance with international armies for a second epic battle.

Blade Runner gun auctioned for $270,000

Harrison Ford's hero blaster from Blade Runner nabbed a winning bid of $270,000 to top the items at an auction of Hollywood memorabilia last week. That's considerably higher than the pre-auction estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.

An original Frankenstein movie poster, meanwhile, went for $216,000; the original Creature From the Black Lagoon hero Gill Man mask from Revenge of the Creature scored $84,000; and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze costume from Batman & Robin drew a $72,000 winning bid, Profiles in History announced.

A total of $4.2 million worth of props, costumes, movie posters, photos and other items were picked up by collectors around the world.

Other highlighted items included a screen-used hero aerial Hunter-Killer from The Terminator ($66,000), Derek Meers' Jason Voorhees costume from the new Friday the 13th ($54,000), two velociraptors feeding on a triceratops from Jurassic Park ($51,000) and Ray Park's Darth Maul fighting lightsaber from Star Wars: Episode 1—The Phantom Menace ($48,000).

Bidders also competed vigorously for items from the Forrest J. Ackerman Estate Collection, including Metropolis' Maria robot, which sold for $48,000, and Bela Lugosi's vampire cape from The Raven, The Return of the Vampire, The Whispering Shadow and his final performance in Plan 9 From Outer Space, which sold for $39,000.

President Obama to boldly screen Trek in the White House?

(Image from

Trekkie-in-chief President Barack Obama reportedly wants to beam a special screening of Star Trek into the White House, POLITICO reported, citing several anonymous sources.

Various media outlets have speculated on whether Obama is a fan of the sci-fi series. A headline in Salon said that "Obama Is Spock: It's Quite Logical." Newsweek reported that "Spock's cool, analytical nature feels more fascinating and topical than ever now that we've put a sort of Vulcan in the White House," POLITICO reported.

For his part, Leonard Nimoy, who plays Spock Prime in the new movie, said that he's met Obama and recognized something in him. "I've met him twice," Nimoy told the site. "The first time was a couple years ago, very early on, when he had just announced his candidacy. He was in Los Angeles, speaking at a luncheon we were invited to. ... We were standing on the back patio, waiting for him. And he came through the house, saw me and immediately put his hand up in the Vulcan gesture."

During a campaign stop in 2008, Obama told a Wyoming crowd: "I grew up on Star Trek," adding: "I believe in the final frontier."

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