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Remember When Tim Burton Almost Directed Nicolas Cage as Superman?

Friday, April 24th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Years before Bryan Singer’s X-Men made comic book superhero films cool again, there was a dearth of quality entries in the genre. Director Tim Burton had created a notable exception with 1989′s Batman.

With Burton’s success came an opportunity to reimagine the Superman mythos. The project, known as Superman Lives, was loosely based on the “Death of Superman” story arc from the comics. It would have starred Nicholas Cage as the man of steel, and followed a script first authored by Kevin Smith.

Now, director Jon Schnepp takes viewers on a journey behind the scenes of the film that might have been in The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? Schnepp interviews Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, and several others involved in the development of this odd comic book film which never came to fruition.

The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? hits select theaters on May 1st, and will see wider release on July 9th.

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Profit from a Glimpse of TomorrowLand

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

This featurette evoking the creative futurism of Walt Disney, which took one form in his Epcot Center and will take another in this year’s feature film Tomorrowland, reminds us how vast the entrepreneur’s vision truly was. He clung to an optimistic view of the future where urban planning would improve the quality of life for new generations.

When we consider such past visions of the future, like that of 2015 imagined in 1989’s Back to the Future, Part II, we clearly see how much they deviate from our modern reality.

Why is it so difficult to predict future developments, and what lesson should we take away from that observation? Technology futurist Daniel Burrus relates in the clip below how we tend to focus on the wrong things when predicting the future. He provides some insights into how to focus on the right things, and profit from it.

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Wonder Woman Loses Director: Was She Hired for the Wrong Reasons?

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Not long after it was announced that Warner Bros. and DC Comics would be producing a Wonder Woman feature film starring Gal Gadot in the title role, the studio made clear their intention to hire a female director for the project. In November, they secured Michelle MacLaren, whose credits including episodes of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul.

Now, MacLaren has departed the project over “creative differences.” AMC Movie News editor-and-chief John Campea expresses his concern in the above clip.

Adding to his observations: was MacLaren hired first and foremost because of her gender? Could these “creative differences” have been avoided had the creative vision taken precedence from day one?

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Who’s That Villian in the New Bond Trailer?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Last weekend, we got our first solid glimpse of the upcoming fourth entry in Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond. Retaining creative and narrative elements from the highly successful Skyfall, the new film will continue to mine the character’s previously unspecified past while setting up a future for the franchise rooted in its classic formula.

Titled simply Spectre, this Bond film will finally restore 007′s most persistent and lethal foe, the titular terrorist organization which surpasses the capabilities of nations. Hopefully, this continuity will build up to the return of Bond’s all-time arch nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Could it be that Christoph Waltz’s “Oberhauser” is really that classic mastermind?

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What Will Shock Fans in the Next Star Wars Trailer?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

From Collider comes news that the next trailer for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed will be attached to every copy of Avengers: Age of Ulron. The anticipated Marvel blockbuster hits theaters on May 1st. However, some of us will get to see the new Star Wars trailer even sooner than that.

The new trailer will first premiere at the Star Wars Celebration convention, which runs from April 16th to 19th, and Age of Ultron’s international release starts rolling out on April 22nd, so the question is when Disney/Lucasfilm will decide to put the Star Wars trailer online to avoid a low-quality version hitting first…

That seems likely. Certainly, releasing the trailer ahead of any bootlegs would be in keeping with previous choices Disney has made, such as when the first teaser for Age of Ultron was leaked online a few days before schedule.

The Star Wars teaser, which landed in December a full year prior to the film’s scheduled release, surprised fans with its reveal of a Sith cross-saber. The weapon generated more than a little controversy. What other surprises does director J.J. Abrams have in store?

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Will Alien Nation Reboot Include Amnesty Propaganda?

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

As Hollywood continues to rake recent decades for old material to tell in new form, The Hollywood Reporter reveals that 1989′s Alien Nation will be remade soon:

The original was set in a near future where humans and a race of aliens are forced to co-exist, tenuously, as humans keep the newcomers mostly segregated and without rights. The story then told of the first alien police officer, who is paired with a racially insensitive partner. Soon, however, a case comes along that brings the two together in friendship and respect.

Alien Nation managed the feat, rare for its time, of combining science fiction elements with an otherwise relatable human story. While promoting a clear social agenda, it remained entertaining and engaging, and didn’t feel too overwrought or preachy. Will a modern retelling model similar restraint?

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The Ghostbusters Revival Just Got Weird

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

You’ve probably heard by now that director Paul Feig will helm a rebooted Ghostbusters film starring an all-female cast. From his previous work on the highly successful Bridesmaids, he’s bringing over Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. They will be joined by SNL performers Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

The official announcement came after many years of perennial rumors, mostly driven by original Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd. The actor desperately sought a revival of the franchise in the form of a third sequel to the original film. The elder cast would perhaps hand the reins over to a group of younger paranormal investigators. With last year’s untimely death of actor Harold Ramis, who also co-wrote the original, the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3 seemed to fade.

Sony Pictures’ choice to reboot the franchise entirely, to dispense with established continuity and begin fresh with an all-female cast, seemed odd enough. Now we get even weirder news.

Not long after Sony announced a deal with Marvel Studios enabling Spider-Man to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and endure yet another reboot), it was also announced that Captain America: The Winter Solider directors Joe and Anthony Russo had signed a deal with Sony to helm projects there. Given the Russo brothers’ history with Marvel Studios and the recent MCU deal, the conventional wisdom among observers was that the Russos were taking over the Spider-Man franchise.

As it turns out, the Russos’ first project with Sony won’t be Spider-Man or a related property. Entertainment Weekly reports:

[Sony], along with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd, is establishing Ghostcorps, a company that will develop movies, TV, and merchandising around the Ghostbusters…

After the female-led Paul Feig movie, the first task for the company will be a film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, who recently signed a deal with Sony. The Russos will produce along with Reitman, Reid Carolin, Peter Kiernan, and Channing Tatum, who is being eyed to star.

Deadline first reported on the company and the film. “We want to expand the Ghostbusters universe in ways that will include different films, TV shows, merchandise, all things that are part of modern filmed entertainment,” Reitman told Deadline. “This is a branded entertainment, a scary supernatural premise mixed with comedy.”

Absent further details, the whole thing sounds a bit odd. Are there going to be multiple Ghostbuster teams running around? Is the Tatum/Russo project going to follow the continuity of the original films? It seems strange that the same studio would be pursuing two different projects within the same franchise utilizing completely different creative teams.

Are you interested in either of these projects? Or should Ghostbusters rest in peace?

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Fifty Shades of America’s New Dark Ages

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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This year you could spend your Valentine’s Day in a theater full of middle-aged women oozing over a hot-bodied twenty-something whipping his blindfolded secretary to the point of striking blood in the name of “love.” Daytime television loves to play up to the Soccer Mom demographic (a title first dubbed to describe Clinton fans, ironically) seeking fantasy fulfillment in the form of sexual fiction. It was corny enough when shirtless Fabios graced the covers. Now that the most popular sex trilogy focuses on a woman who willingly allows herself to be sexually abused, is pop culture humoring those bored housewives too much?

While the majority of Fifty Shades fans are typical middle-aged marrieds dissatisfied with their partners (or even themselves), anywhere from 5-25% of Americans “show affinity” for BDSM (Bondage/Domination-Discipline/Sadism/Masochism) in the bedroom. On an issue that poses a particular sexual threat to women, feminists are split 50-50 between being against sexual abuse and for a narcissistic “if it feels good, do it” sexual ethos. Hence, a pervert who trolls Fanfiction.net (the original home of Hobbit-inspired Elvish/Dwarf porn) can turn her twisted sexual fantasies into an overnight sensation. After all, it’s all about love in the end. Or is it?

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Ranking These 9 Super Bowl Movie Trailers

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

#9. SpongeBob Square Pants: Sponge Out of Water

It’s SpongeBob. He wears square pants. This time, he’s coming out of the water.

Have fun kids. Daddy will be next door watching Ted 2.

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Pivoting from American Sniper: Are Drone Attacks Immoral?

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

“A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot.” So reads the synopsis of the upcoming film Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke and Mad Men’s January Jones.

Hawke plays Tom Egan, the drone pilot in question, offering a brooding portrait of self-loathing. Such is the proper attitude of a man toward killing while facing no personal danger. The film’s tagline reads: “If you never face your enemy, how can you face yourself?”

“Don’t ask me if this is a just war. It’s not up to us,” Bruce Greenwood advises as Hawke’s grizzled commanding officer. “To us, it’s just war.”

“I am a pilot, and I’m not flying,” Hawke bemoans. “I don’t know what it is that I am doing. But it’s not flying.”

Evoking recent comments directed at the late Chris Kyle, Hawke continues, “Everyday, I feel like a coward, taking potshots at somebody halfway around the world.”

While overt characterizations of American military action as cowardice may be confined to Hollywood and the halls of academia, they proceed from a theory of war which has dominated American foreign policy since World War II.

So-called just war theory emerges from a bastardization of Christian doctrine which prescribes sacrificial combat. According to the doctrine, war should not be fought strictly in self-defense, but in service of some “higher” goal – like the freedom or relief of others. Shedding American blood for something like “Iraqi freedom” is considered a superior motive to fighting strictly for American sovereignty or American lives.

A critical component of just war theory is “proportionality,” the idea that a retaliatory response should be restrained and remain comparable to the threat faced. The tenet of proportionality would have rejected the dropping of two atomic bombs on Imperial Japan, for instance.

From such a perspective, it’s easy to see how one might judge a role like sniper or drone pilot to be cowardly. After all, the explicit purpose of such roles is to engage in highly disproportionate combat, to maximize lethality while minimizing risk. That doesn’t jive with a sacrificial agenda. To be “just,” combat must present similar risk to all combatants. You must “face your enemy.” On a larger scale, “just war” must be fought not to win with overwhelming force, but to save an enemy population from themselves.

Just war theory is anything but moral. A truly moral war policy, which you can find articulated here, would not derive its righteousness from sacrificial risk-taking. Rather, the morality of military force would be judged solely on whether it was retaliatory in nature. The objective would not be to “fight fair,” but to achieve unquestioned victory through the utter destruction or unconditional surrender of the enemy.

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What’s With That New Lightsaber in The Force Awakens Trailer?

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

We’ve all seen it a few dozen times by now, the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. For the most part, it looks quite good. Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and hiring of Abrams signaled a clear advancement of the franchise from the malaise of the prequels to something better resembling the original trilogy. Indeed, this trailer’s aesthetic looks a lot more like classic Star Wars than anything we saw in Episodes I through III.

There’s only one major hiccup, and it’s quite concerning. While the TIE fighters look like TIE fighters, the X-Wings look like X-Wings, and the Millennium Falcon looks better than ever, what’s up with that new lightsaber?

lightsaber

With Abrams’ direction setting the tone for the plethora of Star Wars films due in the next six years, his creative choices prove definitive and therefore important. We can look to his previous efforts in the Star Trek franchise for clues into how he will approach it.

One thing that seemed very clear from Abrams’ approach to Star Trek was that he wasn’t shy about drastically altering the aesthetic of the universe. Everything from the way phasers work to the look of warp drive to the Apple store-themed bridge of the Enterprise was a sharp deviation from the franchise’s established look and feel.

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The Top 10 Movie Trailers Released in October

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Movie trailers released throughout October preview some huge titles coming to theaters in near weeks and months. Everything from quirky independent romance to blockbuster action adventure is represented here. Which trailer came out on top? You’ll be surprised.

#10. Life Partners

A narrative born of modern themes, to be sure, Life Partners follows the relationship between two female friends, one of whom happens to be gay. As each wind their way in and out of romantic entanglements with others, the relationship between them is tested and reevaluated.

It will be curious to see how sexual orientation is handled in this film. If these two friends end up together in spite of one of them being straight, which certainly seems to be the trajectory drawn in this trailer, doesn’t that kind of run up against the militant “born that way” narrative?

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: Official Main Trailer

Thursday, November 6th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Movie Trailer Review

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DC Film Suicide Squad ‘a Dirty Dozen with Supervillains’

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

The Warner Bros. announced slate of films based on the DC Comics universe will differ significantly from the Marvel Cinematic Universe by quickly introducing a multitude of characters to be explored in latter films. For instance, the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will see cameo appearances by Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg, each of whom have solo films slated for later in the decade.

The same holds true for the DC Comics supervillains. The next film scheduled for release after Batman v Superman is Suicide Squad, directed by Fury auteur David Ayer. Speaking to Empire, Ayer expressed enthusiasm regarding the prospect of “world creation” with ample time and money:

Money and time he’ll have plenty of – Suicide Squad is scheduled as the second DC behemoth to hit the big screen, following Batman V Superman in two years’ time – and, although he couldn’t say much, his vision for the movie should reassure fans. “I can say that it’s a Dirty Dozen with supervillains,” he said. “Then I can ask the question, ‘Does a movie really need good guys?’”

The studio is reportedly in talks with several “A list” actors to star in the film. Rumors include the likes of Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Ryan Gosling, and The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie. The latter performer seems a good candidate to play Harley Quinn, a popular consort of the Joker originally conceived for Batman: The Animated Series who has yet to be portrayed on film.

The choice to introduce several characters right away, rather than meter them out in a phase of origin stories, indicates that Warner Bros. wants to quickly live up to the scope achieved by Marvel Studios. Whether that proves wise in the long-run is yet to be seen.

Should a character like Harley Quinn be introduced to audiences without the Joker? Will we care about a bunch of lesser known villains in a Dirty Dozen type scenario? Is Warner Bros. right to skip the origin stories and get right to the action in their cinematic DC Universe? Let us know in the comments section below.

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10+ Superhero Films Announced in Cinematic DC Universe

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Last week delivered the motherlode of comic book movie news. First, on Tuesday, Variety reported that Marvel Studios is negotiating with Robert Downey Jr. to reprise the role of Iron Man in the third Captain America film. The new story will reportedly launch the “Civil War” arc from the comics, in which Cap and Iron Man find themselves leading opposing superhero factions after the government mandates all super-beings register their powers and enlist as agents.

Then, on Wednesday, Warner Bros. held a stockholders meeting during which they announced a 10 film slate in their planned cinematic DC Universe, to be produced through the balance of the decade. From Wired:

The already announced Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice serves as the starting point in 2016, with the nine subsequent movies setting up a cinematic DC Universe to rival Marvel’s onscreen efforts. Fans can expect to see Suicide Squad first, due the same year, then Wonder Woman in 2017, The Flash and Aquaman in 2018, Shazam in 2019, and Cyborg and Green Lantern in 2020. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Justice League movie, which contrary to earlier reports of an Avengers-style team marquee film will instead be released in two parts, in 2017 and 2019.

By Thursday, a studio source clarified that additional solo Superman and Batman films will be peppered throughout that schedule. If the production slate holds true, we could have several years in which three DC films hit theaters. That’s in addition to the two which Marvel Studios has averaged, adding up to five potential superhero films a year until 2020.

“It’s an age of miracles,” film director Jon Schnepp swooned to his AMC Movie Talk cohort while contemplating this moment in cinematic history. Ten years ago, who would have thought that the superhero genre would be as prolific as it has become. From Marvel Studios adaptation of their rich comic book story arcs to Christopher Nolan’s transcendent Dark Knight trilogy, the genre has undergone a thorough makeover in recent years. Now, it’s set to dominate for a generation.

Will the market get saturated? Will interest wane? Can Marvel maintain the quality that they’ve put out so far? Will DC ever catch up? Post your thoughts below.

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Let’s Count Down the Top 9 Must-See Films of the Fall

Friday, September 5th, 2014 - by John Boot

9. Big Hero 6 (Nov. 7)

Disney’s big animated film of the season is a Japanese animation-influenced tale of a boy and his comically inept friend the inflatable robot who form an adorable team of superheroes and save the world. The combo of humor and action looks reminiscent of The Incredibles.

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The Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies Coming in 2015

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Next year stands poised to break box office records. So many successful franchises have highly anticipated releases in 2015 that you may need to make a category in your budget just for tickets and concessions. It’s going to be huge, due not just to the franchises themselves, but the circumstances under which many of them have returned.

Expectations are high and, with this much competition, damn well better be met. Here’s our top 10 most anticipated movie releases coming in 2015.

10. Pan

Hugh Jackman has done a bang up job of building a career beyond his bread and butter role as X-Men’s Wolverine. Next year, he goes full bad guy in Joe Wright’s take on Neverland, Pan. A prequel to the classic we know, Pan will tell how the titular boy adventurer came to be. Tron: Legacy’s Garrett Hedlund will play an up-and-coming James Hook. It sounds like he may have a rival/mentor in Jackman’s Blackbeard.

In the above interview, actor Nonso Anozie tells about his experience working with Jackson, Hedlund, and Wright. He also offers some insight into his new character, Bishop.

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Kevin Smith’s Read on the Future of Star Wars

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Tabling for the moment how lackluster the prequel films were, recall both the anticipation leading up to The Phantom Menace and the sense of finality which accompanied Revenge of the Sith. For me, those two moments — waiting for the Episode I reel to roll and, six years later, contemplating that I was about to see a new Star Wars film for the last time — define the bittersweet agony of Star Wars fandom in the Lucas age.

For decades, Star Wars was three movies released years apart with contradictory spin-off stories scattered throughout an “Expanded Universe” of books, comics, and video games. When the prequels were announced, it gave fans a reason to live. I remember actually thinking, “Please God, let me make it to 2005 to see this thing through. Then I can die.”

Perhaps that heightened sense of anticipation, fostered by a long drought of new adventures, magnified the disappointment of the prequels. Maybe fans would have endured Episodes I through III with more grace if they knew they might someday get more.

That’s the point writer, director, and big-time Star Wars fan Kevin Smith makes in the above interview with IGN alongside friend and frequent co-star Jason Mewes. He points out the stark contrast in development between when Lucas owned Lucasfilm and the property now under Disney.

They got the right idea now. Instead of treating it like champagne – like, “We’re gonna bring it out once every hundred years, a new cask of Star Wars” – these [guys] are like, “We’re gonna milk it to death.”

Let’s say they make twenty, and ten of them are great, and five of them are okay, and five of them are dog shit. F— it dude, that’s twenty more Star Wars movies than we were ever going to have in this lifetime.

Some of the best Star Wars storytelling and cinematics have come out of video games like The Old Republic or The Force Unleashed which were not personally directed by Lucas. It stands to reason that similar success will eventually grace the screen among Disney’s many planned films in the franchise. With something new consistently on the horizon, the stakes for each installment will be lowered. That may enable us to enjoy them more.

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DC Vs. Marvel: Why This DC Fanboy Believes Marvel Already Won

Monday, May 12th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Will the Justice League film be able to compete with The Avengers? That was the tagline for this post, inviting readers and contributors to debate whether DC or Marvel has created the more compelling fictional universe. The formally proposed question was:

Who will ultimately triumph in the superhero battles to define the genre? Does Marvel with Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men set the standard? Or does DC with Batman and Superman provide a better model for aspiring comic and superhero creators?

As a lifelong rabid fan of both Superman and Batman, I want those properties to succeed. However, if I am going to be objective about it, I have to concede that Marvel not only will win the battle to define the comic book film genre – they already have.

Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery. If we make our assessment based upon who imitates who, then Marvel leads the day. DC seeks desperately to clone the achievements of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. It can be seen in the rush to cram as many characters as possible into the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman, ramping up quickly toward the debut of the Justice League. Would DC be so eager were it not for the massive success of The Avengers? In a business where there’s one Deep Impact for every Armageddon, probably not.

This modern relationship is ironic considering that DC predates Marvel and retains the oldest characters with some of the most tried and true narrative conventions. Spider-Man creator Stan Lee has confessed that he was inspired by Superman. But today, the Man of Steel seems to follow where Lee’s creations lead.

A decent popcorn flick, Man of Steel was certainly the most entertaining Superman film in decades. But that’s not saying much. Once the comic book king of the silver screen, Superman graces scant few films on any “best of” list. Batman has fared much better, but has remained largely sequestered from other heroes. Particularly in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Batman works because he could be anybody.

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Star Wars Casting: Is Disney Pulling a Jedi Mind Trick?

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson
Star Wars new leading lady, Daisy Ridley,

Star Wars new leading lady, Daisy Ridley,

We might be witnessing one of the most clever viral marketing schemes of all time. Could there be method behind the madness surrounding the casting of Star Wars Episode VII?

Lucasfilm, now a subsidiary of Disney, dropped their big casting announcement on Tuesday. Along with “the Big Three” of the original trilogy – Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford – the cast of new characters included several men and only one woman, the virtually unknown Daisy Ridley. By Wednesday, Movieplot was reporting on a wave of anti-patriarchal indignation rolling across social media. A sample:

Eliza Thompson at Cosmopolitan wrote:

There is absolutely no reason why there can’t be new characters added to account for the lack of women in the original trilogy and the newer trilogy.

Annalee Newitz at IO9 quite elegantly wrote:

Myths are powerful things, because we learn who we are by telling stories. When are we going to let little girls and kids of diverse races have fantasies as powerful as those given to white boys?

Here’s the rub. Wednesday also saw a second announcement from Lucasfilm indicating that a second female cast member was yet to be revealed. This proves noteworthy not just in light of the backlash over too few women in the cast, but because previous casting rumors indicated a very different direction than Daisy Ridley. The Huffington Post expounds:

Daisy Ridley appears to have nabbed the role that at one point had Lupita Nyong’o in talks with director J.J. Abrams, as she and Carrie Fisher are the only actresses announced for the movie. More recently, British newcomer Maisie Richardson-Sellers was also reportedly tied to the part, which was described as a “young black or mixed-race woman who may be a descendent of Jedi Knight Ben Kenobi.”

What if HuffPo has it wrong? What if the role Ridley secured was different than the one Nyong’o and Richardson-Sellers were considered for? With “Star Wars Day” approaching on May 4th, are we about to see confirmation of a young black woman in the next Star Wars?

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If so, this could be one of the most brilliant viral marketing moves seen in a while. It would have been preconceived to exploit the knee-jerk reactions of progressive culture warriors. Intentionally release news of a male dominant cast. Get the headlines from the announcement. Foster buzz from social backlash. Then announce a black female cast member days later, on a Sunday no less, and dominate Monday with a fresh set of headlines. If someone’s doing this on purpose, they’re a Jedi master of earned media.

Director J.J. Abrams is well known for playing elaborate tricks on fans as part of his marketing of projects. Could he be the force binding this scheme together?

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Lucasfilm to Partially Reboot Star Wars

Saturday, April 26th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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While growing up, I had the good fortune to live in two consecutive homes that were each a block away from their town’s respective libraries. From fourth grade through junior high, I had easy access to books, tapes, videos, and even video games available for check out. I spent a lot of time in the library, browsing and grazing, checking out volumes piled higher than I could ever read in the time allotted.

Among those many books were the Star Wars novels of Timothy Zahn. Now known as “the Thrawn trilogy,” they began with 1991′s Heir to the Empire. Set several years after Return of the Jedi, the Thrawn trilogy continued the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo as they fought the remnant of a collapsing Empire and confronted a new disturbance in the Force.

Zahn’s novels triggered an explosion of new Star Wars fiction spanning books, comics, video games, and more. In 1996, collaborators went so far as to develop a “movie without the movie” called Shadows of the Empire. The idea was to create merchandise around a story as if promoting a film. There was a Shadows novel, a video game, and even a fully orchestrated soundtrack for a film which was never actually produced. The story connected the events of The Empire Strikes Back with Return of the Jedi.

In later years, the timeline of this Expanded Universe became jam packed with stories detailing the fates of “the Big Three” along with their friends and offspring. Jacen and Jaina Solo, twin children of Han and Leia, joined their brother Anakin and their nephew Ben Skywalker on perilous and transformative adventures which spanned several stories across many mediums.

So when Disney acquired the Star Wars brand in 2012 and announced plans to produce Episodes VII, VIII, and IX set in a time period well covered by the Expanded Universe, obvious questions emerged. How would they work around the existing stories? How would they present the offspring of Luke, Han, and Leia? How would they tell consequential new stories without trampling upon established lore?

Lucasfilm has finally provided an answer, and it comes in the form of a soft-reboot. Precedent can be found (perhaps not coincidentally) in J.J. Abrams previous major sci-fi refurbish – Star Trek.

With Trek, Abrams and his writing team devised a way to have their cake and eat it too. They used the plot devices of time-travel and parallel universes to effectively reset the Star Trek universe, enabling future stories to take creative new directions without adhering religiously to established canon.

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The Director of The Goonies Never Says Die!

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

the-goonies

Here’s some news that will either make Gen Xers excited or appalled: apparently director Richard Donner is ready to make a sequel to the classic ’80s film The Goonies. TMZ has the scoop:

Corey Feldman just got awesome news – Richard Donner told us he’s making a sequel to “The Goonies” … and wants to bring back the entire cast.

Donner was signing autographs in Bev Hills when he dropped the bombshell  … genuinely surprising our photog.

What Donner didn’t say … whether he’ll recast the main characters and bring in Corey, Josh Brolin, Sean Astin and Data for cameos, or if these guys will actually play the same roles 28 years later.  A gnarly but interesting thought.

Goonies never say die!

But hold on before you go lining up to be the first to buy tickets. Donner has announced a Goonies sequel a number of times in the last decade. He said in 2010 that a sequel was a “definite thing,” while in 2007 and 2008 he mentioned a musical adaptation as an idea he was “fairly passionate” and “confident” about. Will this time be the charm for a sequel to The Goonies? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Jar Jar Binks Confirmed for Episode VII

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson
Return of the Chaos

Return of the Chaos

Director J.J. Abrams promised a new hope for the Star Wars franchise when tapped to continue the saga in next year’s Episode VII. That hope may have just faded like the cryptic spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Producers today announced that wayward Gungan klutz Jar Jar Binks will return to the series, playing “a significant role” in the 2015 release. This from the official Star Wars website:

Disney and Lucasfilm are excited to announce that Star Wars: Episode VII, directed by J.J. Abrams, will welcome the return of children’s favorite Jar Jar Binks…

“We think there’s more story to tell,” said Abrams. “His arc was never fully resolved in [Revenge of the Sith]. Every other major character either died, went into exile, or otherwise positioned for their role in the original trilogy.”

Since Jar Jar did not appear in George Lucas’ original films, the creative team behind Episode VII felt that an opportunity presented to reprise the character in a new setting.

“We understand that for many older fans who experienced the prequels in adulthood, Jar Jar wasn’t the most popular character,” confessed executive producer Kathleen Kennedy. “But kids liked him. They really did. And these films have always been directed primarily at a younger audience.”

Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who returns to the series with a pedigree penning The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, indicated that Jar Jar won’t be precisely the same Gungan we remember. “It’s been 50 years since last we saw him. Even a creature like Jar Jar matures in that amount of time. He has the same heart, but a little more grace and wisdom.”

So what do you think? Has the new trilogy just jumped the sarlacc?

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Noah Set to Flip the Biblical Script

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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As a Christian and a fan of Hollywood’s past biblical epics, I got excited upon viewing the first trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. The story of Noah and his ark has resonated through every culture of man, yet has never been the subject of a major Hollywood motion picture.

Alongside my enthusiasm, skepticism lurked. Modern Hollywood producing a biblical epic adhering to the written narrative and theological themes seemed unlikely given a culture increasingly opposed to the source material. That doubt grew with last month’s report that a disclaimer would be attached to the film’s marketing explaining that “artistic license has been taken.”

Any adaptation requires artistic license. Certainly, narratives were added to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments which fleshed out the characters and layered the world in which Moses lived. Adding Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri to spice things up between Moses and Rameses is one thing. But you don’t add or subtract commandments from the ten. In the case of Noah, the disclaimer added by Paramount addressed criticism from Christian groups who claim that the film deviates substantively from the biblical narrative.

A clue to Aronofsky’s approach emerged alongside reports that actress Emma Watson had become sick during production after the director banned bottled water from their location. Watson told Wonderland magazine that the ban comported with the “pro-environmental message” of the film. The Telegraph recalled that Aronofsky called Noah “the first environmentalist” in a 2011 interview.

Now we have begun to see clips from the film. The one above revealed Aronofsky’s revised reason for Noah to build an ark. “Our family has been chosen for a great task, to save the innocent… the animals,” Noah tells his family.

When one of his sons asks what makes the animals innocent, Noah’s daughter beats him to the punch: “Because they still live as they did in the Garden [of Eden].”

From this we may infer that God regards animals as morally superior to human beings. In the clip, Noah adds, “I guess we get to start over too,” as if the involvement of his family were an afterthought secondary to God’s purpose.

The Bible tells a different story. All creation shares the curse of sin, including animals. The flood surged as judgment against that sin, and Noah’s family was preserved in fulfillment of God’s covenant to provide salvation for mankind.

By turning the story of Noah into an environmental tale, Aronofsky has missed the point. Beyond artistic license, he seems to have defiled the story’s essence. Imagine a film about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which portrayed the hijackers as Hindu, and you understand the difference between artistic license and fraud. If Aronofsky’s Noah ends up as divergent as the above clip, it will trivialize something sacred, the treasured relationship between God and mankind.

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