8 MIND-BLOWING Secrets About the X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Trailer

OMG! Here we go! A full seven months away and Bryant Singer dropped a BOMB on us today with the new Trailer for X-MEN: FIRST CLASS 2: DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED.

The whole world is losing their minds, and JUST when you thought you couldn’t hyperventilate any more about the pure awesomeness of the whole 2 minute, 18 second trailer, I’m about to drop the eight biggest secrets about the trailer that you PROBABLY missed!

X-Men: First Class 2: Days of Future Passed

X-Men: First Class 2: Days of Future Passed

Let’s get right to it! Potential SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!!!

1) There might be more than two Professor Xaviers.

Oh sure, both James McAvoy and Sir Patrick Stewart are playing the same character from two different time periods, but there was a JAW-DROPPING three seconds where the TWO Xaviers are both played by Stewart. Don’t believe me? Then who is the guy in the foreground talking to?? I suppose the post-credits sequence of the third movie can let us assume more than one clone of Xavier was made.

"You're handsome." "No, you're handsome."

“You’re handsome.” “No, you’re handsome.”

2) Iceman has a multi-colored-hair fetish.

What?? Ellen Page is back as Kitty Pryde, and she’s sporting a brand new hairdo. Check it out!

Your hair is so hot right now

Your hair is so hot right now

As you recall from X-MEN and X-MEN 2: X-MEN UNITE, Bobby Drake courted young Rogue through her tumultuous years at “Mutant High,” and she absorbed physical traits from Magneto at the end of the first movie, e.g. his white hair. (GROSS OUT ALERT: Now that Michael Fassbender plays the character Magneto, technically that means Rogue could have absorbed his well-known monster dong, too. Bleck!) So Rogue sports brown hair with a white streak for two movies. And here, IN THE FUTURE, Iceman is comforting Kitty Pryde, who is strutting around with brown hair with a red streak (possibly to honor the now-dead Jean Grey?). At least the guy knows what he likes!

3) Wolverine’s mutant powers might be gone in the future.

As we saw in X-MEN ORIGINALS: WOLVERINE, Logan grew into a full sized adult in the 1860s and lived another 130-140 years without changing much, physically speaking. In this trailer, he has gray hair on his temples (possibly to honor the now-dead Jean Grey?), which demonstrates that the film takes place no more than another 15-20 years from the end of X-MEN 3: X-MEN STANDING. After all, Xavier and Magneto are still alive, putting them both in their 90s. But how would Logan suddenly be much older and have gray hair if his healing factor was still with him? If you didn’t see this past summer’s X-MEN 4: THE WOLVERINE, this is an even greater mystery.

4) Christian Slater and SNL star Bobby Moynihan have cameos as future versions of themselves.

The next great buddy teamup!

The next great buddy teamup!

More like, PUMP UP THE AWESOME, am I right? Singer must be a huge fan of both of them to give them supporting roles, or maybe they’re such huge fans they begged for a seat at the table. Either way, we likey some Slater and Moynihan!

5) There is a cadre of NEW MUTANTS featured.

Go, Go, Power Rangers!

Go, Go, Power Rangers!

If you sneezed, then you might have missed them. Bishop, Warpath, Sunspot, and Blink, two of which are known EXILES of their own time periods, show up in the post-apocalyptic setting. Anyone familiar with the comics knows these characters are FORCES to be reckoned with. Aside from our core cast, we haven’t really seen a band of mutants of such a CALIBER. And with all these mutants being featured, this is looking more and more like a GIANT SIZE movie. Without a doubt, the scope of Bryant Singer’s story is nothing short of ASTONISHING.

6) In the 1970s, Logan’s veins are literally 3/4 inches in diameter.

Barf!

Barf!

Holey sha-moley. That can’t be healthy!!

7) The X-Men of the future travel to a place outside time and space to accomplish their mission.

Snowy mountaintops? Looks like the Himalayas! Funky stone carvings? Looks Egyptian! Stained glass chapels? Looks European! Perhaps in the Nexus of Time, different geographies and cultures will merge. Maybe we’ll see a Burger King in the background of one of the reverse angles! Who knows what Bryant Singer has cooking for this epic!!!!

8) Mystique, who clearly prefers to go without clothing, wears a wristwatch.

How else could young Magneto scrape her along the concrete with his powers over magnetism? Conveniently, her wrists are out of frame for this cut of the trailer, but it has to be there. Her wearing a wristwatch would also fall in line with Singer’s use of motif. Much like his use of a Southwestern motif in X-MEN 2: X-MEN UNITE, this film’s motif is obviously going to be Time itself. Look for clocks all over this thing.

Come to Magnus

Come to Magnus

We’ll be spending the next few weeks combing through this trailer frame by frame to find out more secrets about the new movie. We’ll be sure to update this page with our findings. Stay tuned, X-fans!

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS 2: DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED, directed by Bryant Singer, opens May 23, 2014.

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Batman 3 Dark Knight Sequel, Casting, Title, News and Rumors

Batman!Welcome back, kids! This post will serve as the authoritative source for all things related to the next Batman movie, so keep it bookmarked!  The Innernet’s been abuzz about some definitive news coming out of Hollywood about the final chapter in the Batman Begins Thrillogy Trilogy. Director Christopher Noland has let loose some facts to finally add to the dearth of info and quash some rumors that have circulated since 2008’s cash-swollen earner, “Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night.” Warner Brothers must have put the pressure on him after he spent two years crafting the commercial and artistic flop that was this past summer’s “Inception.” So when the boss starts hounding you, you get to work!

Let’s start by getting to the meat of what we do know.

OUT! Joseph Gordon-Levitt so far has not been cast as the Riddler, and Noland has rejected all rumors about the Riddler showing up in the movie. But I’m still holding onto hope that he’s handing out red herrings and we’ll get an appearance by a more cerebral and reserved Riddler, rather than the cartoonish version Jim Carrey brilliantly portrayed in the Burton/Schumacher Fourpeat Quadranglogy. Now I’m just spitballing here… as a nod to that series, Riddler could have a connection to Two-Face, like they were brought together in a Big Brothers program years ago and Harvey Dent mentored a young Edward Nigma.

Tom Hardy and Joseph Godron-Levitt

Badass. Now put them both in a Batman movie!

IN! Tom Hardy, who made a name for himself in 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis,” has been cast in an unnamed but pivotal role. Rampant nerd speculation favors him to be playing one of three different roles: Mister Freeze, Mad Hatter, or Joe Chill. The underdog favorite, of course, is Nightwing. Some have said he could play Alfred’s son OR Alfred from 40 years ago, but I don’t know if Noland is ready to introduce time travel into the series. I figure the time-traveling Pennyworth angle is bunk, because Noland probably wants to get away from the sci-fi aspect, like in the second film with Joker’s overuse of teleportation.

MAYBE! Speaking of… there has been no talk of the Joker whatsoever, and Noland has stated the third film will feature a new villain taking center stage. Seeing as Scarecrow showed up in the first act of The Dark Night, though, might we see a Heath Ledger cameo in the third movie? The director has been mum on that so far, but let’s not waste too much time on it just in case he has a surprise in store for the fans. Bringing the Joker back would be nothing short of legendary.

RUMOR! Gene Hackman returns as Lex Luthor! Well, “returns” might be a stretch, since he was never in a Batman movie, but the idea that Noland could shoehorn his epic Batman series into the same universe as the Richard Donner Superman films is three parts mind-blowing, two parts mega-ballsy, and one part extra-brilliant. Hackman’s camp has so-far denied any committed involvement in the franchise, but actors have to play coy until they actually sign the contracts. I just don’t think there is a better way to reintroduce audiences to Lex Luthor than by having him set up shop in Gotham in the next Batman movie, played by the man who redefined the character for the ages!

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor with Christian Bale as Batman

If only!

TITLE SPECULATION! I guess we can rule out the long-running favorite title, “Batman Begins 3: Trial of the Riddler,” for obvious reasons. I still think Christian Bale’s Batman on the Prosecution team trying to put Riddler behind bars would be epic, because it would be a battle of wits never before seen on film. Imagine the Riddler going all In Propria Persona up against the Batman while Gotham’s protector growls that in stopping Riddler from destroying the city’s financial infrastructure, breaking his collar bone was de minimis. Anything’s possible… so why can’t a Batman movie be a courtroom drama? And you know the judge would have to quiet him every time a witness swore the oath. “Swear to mmmmeee!!!!”

The other popular title that’s been preferred by 2 out of 5 geeks is, “Batman Begins 3: Nightfall,” where the story could feature Bane (Tom Hardy??) breaking the back of Gotham’s hero, only to see Azrael (Tom Hardy in a dual role??) step in an take over the mantle of Batman, just as we saw in the comics in the early 1990s. To do this story right, Christian Bale would probably only be featured in the film for maybe 20-30 minutes total, maybe just bookending the movie in the first and third act. The franchise is getting kind of old and audiences are growing tired of Bale’s Batman, anyway, so using Azrael would allow for the franchise to continue with a fresh, new Batman in place. That way, Bale and Noland don’t have to worry about making more installments together. Don’t tell anyone, but I probably wouldn’t mind if Commissioner Gordon was transferred to Coast City or somewhere in between the second and third movie so we can move on from that character, too.

Other titles that have made the rounds but Noland and Warner Brothers won’t comment on is “Batman Begins 3: Enter Clayface,” “Ventriloquist Rising,” and “Revenge of Killer Croc.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal

T-.5 seconds to awesome

OTHER THOUGHTS! “Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night” was a pretty bland Batman movie, but it did have some great scenes like the Lower Wacker Drive chase and the explosion of Maggie Gyllenhaal. Audiences came in droves and plunked down big money to watch Gyllenhaal get obliterated in IMAX, so a third movie was inevitable. But how does any filmmaker top the demolition of the old Brach’s Candy factory (A U.S. landmark if there ever was one, which also doubled for Gotham General Hospital), Gyllenhaal’s funeral pyre, and a teleporting psychopath in white facepaint? The Batman rogue’s gallery is full of fun and interesting villains, like the Penguin, Poison Ivy, and Calendar Man, plus great supporting characters like Robin, Batgirl and Catwoman. It has to be incredibly difficult for an auteur like Christopher Noland to decide which ones to include on his probable final entry in the franchise. Does he bring in Talia Al Ghul and pick up where the first movie left off, or does decide to move production to Rome and again pretend the exterior of Gotham City is the same as the other movies? Will he keep the story closely related to the Batman mythos, or does he play ball with Warner Brothers and let Ryan Reynolds make a cameo to bridge the release of “Green Lantern 2: Green Lantern Lives,” the purported sequel to next summer’s inevitable smash hit, “The Green Lantern?”

More news is certainly going to be coming down the pipe in the next few months, so stay tuned for all the latest Batman talk while we sort through the news and rumors! Don’t forget to post your theories and wish-lists for the next film. And be sure to check out my original review of BB2: The Dark Night when you get a chance. Thanks for stopping by!

Slumdog Millionaire: A Touching Fairytale

Warning: This review contains extensive spoilers!! So if you have not seen the movie and you don’t care if you find out about major plot developments, like who lives, who dies, and that head-scratching twist ending, READ ON!

Run, Latika, Run!

Run, Latika, Run!

Well folks, it’s that time of year again, Academy Awards Season. And while I’m sitting here at the 1-hour cleaners getting my tuxedo dry cleaned for my big Oscars viewing party that I host every year, I thought I’d whip out my brand new MacBook and put together a review of the film I saw yesterday. Because I’ll be honest, since seeing Slumdog Millionaire, I can’t stop talking about it. I’ve been going on and on about it to my friends, co-workers, and doorman. Sha’nandra, the checkout girl at the A&P, also got an earful from me today about how amazing this movie is.

Never before has such an uplifting and beautiful tale been presented on celluloid. Without a doubt, it is a masterpiece that pulls at the heart strings and reminds you about the best parts of youth and humanity.

Slumdog Millionaire is about a young Mexican man’s battle with poverty, sibling rivalry, love, and game show hosts. It opens with a ringside seat to a young contestant’s final trivia question on a particularly popular game show. How does he win the big bucks? How did he get here? What will he do with those winnings? But before we learn the answers, we are whisked away to a Mexican jail, where the same young man is, how would say…exposed to enhanced interrogation techniques. Superstar director Danny Boyle isn’t afraid to get right in your face immediately with some inhumane acts. Fine, you think to yourself, you’ve got my attention, Mr. Boyle. Now impress me. And for the next 117 minutes, he does just that.

The jailed victim is Jamal Malik, a young man being held on suspicion of cheating on Mexico’s most popular game show, “Who Wants To Be Un Millonario?” We learn that even the brightest minds in the country — scholars, philosophers, and scientists — never make it past a handful of questions. But Jamal has made his way to the top, one final question away from 20,000,000 rupees. The police sergeant has some questions for Jamal about how he could know the answers to such a wide range of questions. What is so odd about Jamal defying all the odds? He comes from the poorest area of Mumbai, Mexico, which is not known to produce geniuses with extensive world knowledge or the technological know-how to cheat on a game show in this day and age. As Jamal and the sergeant watch the show taping from the night before and go through each question, Jamal describes how he knows about famous actors in India, Native American poets, ingredients in a Shepherd’s Pie, the original members of the Justice League, and so on. Many amateur storytellers forget the sage advice passed down from their creative writing professors and acting coaches, “Don’t tell me, SHOW ME,” but not Boyle, who neither forgetful or an amateur. He shows us exactly how a young Mexican ‘slumdog’ knows so many amazing disparate trivia questions by taking us back to events in Jamal’s childhood where he picked up this information. (Slumdog, by the way, is a Spanish word imported from the British term “slimedigger,” which is — as we all know — a term commonly used to refer to poor street urchins who used to scrape the slime from underneath roadway cobblestones to sell to soapmakers for 2 bits and a slap in the face.) Each answer in Jamal’s mind is not simply a trivia fact he picked up on the back of cereal box or a discarded New York Times; each bit of information has its own backstory, replete with drama and explosive character development. Boyle uses the flashbacks, in a tip of the hat to TV’s LOST, to weave together a complete picture of our protagonist.

Lens Flare, or something else entirely?

Lens Flare, or something else entirely?

We see Jamal as a young child and a preteen, growing up on the streets with his brother Salim and their companion Latika. Like thousands of other poor Mexican youths, they must survive with only a few tools at their disposal: one part cuteness, three parts wit, and probably a dash of health insurance with a presumably high deductible. Boyle keeps the tone mostly light, but with a hastened pace. The kids grow before our eyes and their inner natures become heightened. Latika always does what’s necessary to survive. Jamal enjoys more and more the companionship in his life. But Salim derives too much pleasure from manipulating strangers and his younger partners. In one pivotal scene, after a hard day taking advantage of ignorant American tourists, they celebrate the spoils of their work, enjoying burritos and nips of alcohol. Now older and enjoying the taste of greed, Salim, once his brother’s rescuer, betrays Jamal’s desires and sends him away.

You root for Jamal and Latika to reunite after being split apart twice by Salim’s machinations. Salim’s actions were once to protect his hermano and they later devolve to only protect his own interests. But Jamal is unable to not love his brother, and the power of his optimism and capacity for compassion is what brings Salim to finally act in Jamal’s interest. After the hardships they all endure, each of them finds redemption, whether in becoming a game show champion, or in the arms of their soulmate, or in an artistically over-the-top death in a bathtub full of cash.

We Can Dance If You Want To

We Can Dance If You Want To

It’s a fairytale about young love, set against the backdrop of the Mexican streets where survival means taking advantage of all opportunities as they come along. Well, for as long as they have the means to beam it onto a giant screen, you will have the opportunity to see this uplifting story for anywhere from five to twelve dollars per viewing. Please do yourself the favor and run, don’t walk, to the theater!

And yes, it’s not a perfect movie. Like any work of art, it has its problems. For example, the uniquely designed narrative structure lifted from the popular television show LOST that I mentioned earlier is cheap, but forgivable. The utterly strange native dialect that I couldn’t pick one word out of, despite four years of high school Spanish, takes you out of the story a little bit. Oh, and the big twist ending that had everyone in the theater texting WTF? Turns out, they were all ghosts.

Anyway, my tux is ready. After the Oscars, be sure to come back to check out my wrap-up special and sign my letter of petition to get Paul Blart: Mall Cop onto IMAX screens. See you next time!

They Ruined My Script for Airplane!

You know, as a young man, I never would have even believed that I could ever become a bitter individual. I always believed that you get dealt your hand dealt in life, and sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes the other guy’s ahead. I was never the type to begrudge someone else for their artistic success. That is, until Airplane! came along. Curse Jim Abrahams and those Zucker brothers!

Back in the 60s and the 70s, I wrote some of the most memorable dramas in Hollywood. Love Letters From Spain, Love In Madrid, The Spaniard Said He Loved Me, and Delicatessen Love, just to name a few. The Zucker brothers came to me and told me they wanted to give heavy drama a try; they wanted a love story they could sink their teeth into. So for $20,000, I wrote the first draft of Airplane! (it was called Love On An Airplane, then) for those idiots two years before it was released. But to put it simply, they took my script and destroyed it. You won’t see my name anywhere near that movie; once shooting began, I had my name redacted. The first draft is largely what you saw in the final product, except the Zucker brothers turned my serious drama about a young couple’s attempt to rekindle their diminished love amidst a potential airliner disaster into a pie-throwing farce. Just about all of my characters can be seen in the movie, but the Zuckers turned them into cartoons, their personal tragedies transformed into supposedly humorous situations.

What kind of airline is this?

What kind of airline is this?

Ted, the Air Force veteran-turned-cab driver races to the airport to find his love Elaine, who is ready to leave him after years of unhappiness. He catches her before she boards the flight bound for Chicago as a flight attendant (we would have called her a stewardess in those days), and she rejects his plea to give him another chance. Realizing how his life has taken a bad turn since his decisions during the war led to the death of his entire squadron, Ted Striker seeks to find the happiness Elaine’s love once gave him, but she cannot wait for him forever to get over the sins of his past. It’s the classic love story, but Abrahams and the Zuckers perverted the story and used it as a device for silly gags and “ironic” jokes to ensue. The characters’ flaws were exploited as a way to get cheap laughs that didn’t even make much sense. Okay, Ted is long-winded. He tries to sort out his post-traumatic stress and neurosis by talking to other passengers, but how could a woman just hang herself in the cabin? And where did that one fellow get a gasoline can? Ludicrous.

True Love.

True Love.

Captain Rex Kramer, Ted’s foil played by Robert Stack, was a man filled with tragedy and a bloated sense of self-hatred. That is why I chose to depict him rejecting religion and social issues as he walked through the airport. His self-loathing is so strong that he believes it will never change. He believes he cannot save himself, but he ends up guiding our protagonist Ted through the difficulty of saving that plane full of people. But Kramer was not supposed to strike out at his potential saviors, he was supposed to feel utterly defeated by the time he reached his destination and ignored his chance at finding redemption. Only then was he supposed to put up his air of confidence, a flawed leader in disastrous times. But the Zuckers clearly could not stand Robert Stack exemplifying this tragic figure through his acting, oh no. They had him beat all of those people up as some sort of joke. Simply ridiculous.

Unnecessary.

Unnecessary.

My script had it all. The hardened doctor (Leslie Nielsen) who tried to keep the passengers and crew together in times of crisis. The child traveling for a heart transplant, who represented that even the innocence of humanity can be victim to a cruel hand of Fate. I actually had the jive-talking woman, played by Barbara Billingsley, in there. But in my original draft she used her knowledge and abilities to bridge the cultural differences between the plane full of white people and a couple of negroes. But what did the Zuckers do when the passengers lose control and scream themselves silly at the thought of their own doom? They go ahead and flash naked breasts on the screen! Lunacy! The representation of man’s realization of his own flaws and resistance to his inevitable demise before he can fix his life’s mistakes cannot be – nay, should not be – obscured by hot tits!

What??

Surely, you can't be serious!

McCrosky, played by Lloyd Bridges, had a serious drug problem in my original script, just like you saw on the screen. But it was an internal battle, not something that he openly and repeatedly mentions to his co-workers. What you didn’t see was which of our heroes on the ground was enabling McCrosky during the crisis, and guess what? You’ll never know! What’s the point on that big reveal, anyway? A strong ensemble was originally developed to help our flawed heroes in the air make safely to Chicago. But all of the characters are played for laughs, forcing some of Hollywood’s most well known and respected dramatic actors to do vomit jokes and act like buffoons.

Johnny had the darkest backstory of all

Johnny had the darkest backstory of all.

I can’t say for sure if it was the Zuckers’ intent all along. Perhaps it was always their goal to take a brilliantly written screenplay about two powerful themes, love and inevitability, and transform it into a bunch of gags that I’m sure got heavy applause from their fraternity brothers. It makes me sick to think my art was turned into that wildly successful comedy that grossed over $80 million back in 1980. Christ, if only I didn’t take my name off that script I would have been rolling in it. But to protect the integrity of my profession and my art, I cannot live with that regret. Besides, $20,000 went a looong way back then.

I suppose, though, just like I could never ever write a childish screenplay like that or The Naked Gun, perhaps the Zuckers could never really embrace heavy drama. Perhaps they tried to force some personal growth on themselves and later realized they could not fight their true nature, as immature pot-smoking manboys who will always play and never take life seriously. We cannot fight who we are, it seems. But that still doesn’t change the fact that they ruined my script for Airplane!!!

Review: The Dark Knight

Yesterday I put together a particularly scathing review of Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night, but I thought I was maybe a bit too harsh, so I waited to publish it. After reflecting further, I realized the film had some strengths. I thought it deserved a second chance, so I went to see it again last night. The weekend hype was over, the media has moved on to putting out countless stories about that other summer blockbuster coming up, Swing Vote, and now I could settle in and just be a regular filmgoer and maybe relax into it a little bit. And I have to admit, my view of BB2: The Dark Night has changed quite a bit. I now believe it is, in fact, one of the worst Batman movies ever made. And while the crime story was compelling, it was basically the characters and the acting that sunk this film.

Honestly, where do I even begin? First of all, the protagonist of our story, Batman, is this brooding, lonely hero(?), but director Christopher Noland did not even bother to tell the audience why. No details of his origin can be found in this film, eschewing the standards of all previous Batman movies since Tim Burton launched the franchise. Not one mention of his dead parents. No flashback of young Bruce Wayne watching his parents get shot. Not one scene with star Christian Bale looking directly into the camera and saying, “And that’s when I decided to become Batman.” I felt a little lost without these crucial scenes that I’m used to seeing.

The Dark Night"

Promotional still of Christian Bale as Batman in "Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night"

Noland decided that his lovelorn Wayne could either sit around in his fabulous penthouse apartment and be sad about his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal), dating the new District Attorney, or he could go out and be the gravelly-voiced Batman and solve crimes. As Wayne, Bale has playful interaction with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart while they wear fabulous outfits and eat expensive dinners. The scenes were barely saved only by the talent and charm of the actors, but what is this, a romantic comedy?

One thought about Gyllenhaal. Is anyone else missing Katie Holmes, here? Where does the indie star get off completely changing the character to be this tall, pasty red-head? She could have at least tried to use some of the standards set by Holmes from the last movie. I guess when you’re an indie actor, you can make choices that defy convention and buck the standards and everyone should just be happy she’s bringing her indie cred to a big blockbuster film.

Of course, no one can talk about Batman without mentioning his nemesis, the Joker, played beautifully by Aussie sensation, Heath Ledger. I think we should have seen more of the Joker, but Noland really dropped the ball here for more reasons than just that. We got three different versions of where the scars on his face come from! I know films do rewrites to scripts as the filming goes on, but holey shamoley, the continuity is way off. These glaring errors may not have been so bad if it was written like he was intentionally lying, but it’s clear that Noland went way overbudget and they couldn’t afford to do reshoots. Did they really think we wouldn’t notice? Plus, I was interested to learn more about Joker’s powers and where they came from. The Joker obviously has the power to teleport, because he shows up exactly where he needs to be absolutely out of nowhere in ten different freaking scenes. Noland notoriously used practical effects where CG effects would have been completely fine (the truck flip scene, Gyllenhaal sliding down a building, etc). I guess a glowing ball of energy teleporting around town would have taken us out of the reality of it? If you say so, Noland.

Heath Ledger as Joker

Heath Ledger as Joker

Another word about casting. Heath Ledger really brought the darkness to the Joker, making him everything Jack Nicholson showed us the Joker should be from Tim Burton’s Batman. But he really pushed the envelope to give us the scariest nihilist to ever wreak havoc on the silver screen. He also had some of the funniest lines in the movie, even once referencing other projects in Ledger’s career, like when he played the little boy in Jerry MacGuire 15 years ago. I suppose I can give him a pass for not winking to the camera and really knocking the line, “You complete me,” out of the park, but only because the rest of his performance salvages this nightmare of a film. I really look forward to see what Ledger will do with the Joker in the rumored next film of the trilogy, Batman Begins 3: Trial of the Riddler.

Speaking of characters, just what happened to the ‘character’ of Gotham City? Apparently in one year (of movie time), the city dismantled its elevated train system, tore down the Wayne building in the middle of town, sank the Narrows neighborhood into the ocean, and put street cleaners on duty twenty four hours a day. Oh, and everyone lives and works in tall glass skyscrapers. I can understand modernizing Gotham (see Joel Shumacher’s brilliantly designed neon-kaleidoscopian Gotham from Batman & Robin, for example), but Gotham has never looked so bright and clean! It’s like I was visiting Chicago. Oh that’s right, I was. I’ve lived in Chicago for awhile now, and I truly don’t know how non-Chicago residents felt about this ‘new’ Gotham, but for someone who recognized every exterior shot it was quite distracting. I was definitely taken out of the movie during every scene. What’s also interesting is that all the citizens of Gotham can fit onto one ferry boat, while all the prisoners of Gotham fit on another. They have just as many criminals locked up as they have citizens! Strike two for trying to be “realistic,” Noland.

I swore I would keep this review under 350 words, and I’ve already gone waay over that. I haven’t even mentioned Two-Face (Eckhart), Jim Gordon (played by Gary Oldman), and Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman), but I’ll be brief. They all sucked.

I hope Christopher Noland can make some improvements with this mess he’s got himself into. I barely tolerated Batman Begins, but BB2:TDN is clearly way off the mark of what a good Batman movie should be. The third installment of the series should be interesting, to say the least. But I swear if Gotham City ‘resembles’ Los Angeles next time, I don’t care if they get Malkovich to play the Riddler, I’m walking the hell out of there.

Watchmen Trailer: First Look

I saw Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night over the weekend (Don’t worry, the review is forthcoming!) and the audience was treated to an interesting trailer. It seems that fans of the comic book movie genre will have an intriguing little movie to see next year. “The Watchman” hits theaters on March 6, 2009 (or 03.06.09. Oh, CLEVER use of multiples there). I thought I would offer my first impressions on the trailer for you, my loyal readers.

What is going on here?

What is going on here? Only in a comic book movie!

First, yes, this clearly looks like a comic book movie. There are nicely designed costumes, bright colors, hand-to-hand combat, fire and explosions, and funny looking set pieces, so you immediately know what you’re getting into. And even though that point is clear, it looks completely derivative. I’m there watching this trailer thinking, “Haven’t I see this before?” And it’s not that I’ve seen it in one movie, but just about every comic book movie that came before it.

We’ve got some guy in a cape and head gear who’s either a squirrel or an owl, clearly an *ahem* homage to Batman, who also happens to be cleaning up the Hollywood box office this summer. We also meet a guy wearing a sock over his head with ink stains on it. How would he be able to see in that crazy getup? Whether he’s naturally without sight or if the mask completely blocks out his vision, we certainly have our standard “blind superhero” here, based off of the archetype Daredevil, famously portrayed by Ben Affleck in 2003’s flawless Daredevil.

The Batman "Homage"

The Batman "Homage"

And we’ve got a hero who is, get this, basically naked, completely blue-skinned, and got his powers from some sort of radioactive accident. I guess I didn’t see that before in Ang Lee’s masterpiece Hulk from four years ago or The Incredible Shrinking Hulk, that came out in June and starred Ed Norton. Sure the Hulk is GREEN, so I guess it’s not a total rip-off. And sure, the blue guy can split himself into three, but then again we do have two Hulks running around. I’m looking forward to the rumored upcoming Hulk movie where Eric Bana’s Hulk does battle with Ed Norton’s Hulk and some other as-yet-unseen Hulk! But nice try with the blue Mr. Clean, Hollywood! We almost didn’t catch that!

Let’s talk about casting for a minute. Just who are these people? Not one Hanks or Pitt or Hathaway or Fanning in the bunch. And while I’m sure this cast of complete unknowns are fine actors in their own rights and they will handle their parts with grace and nuance, one big question remains. How do you sell a derivative comic book movie to the public, in WINTER, without a superstar headlining the cast? I guess the boys in marketing will have their work cut out for them!

I will make one note about one of the characters, who looks like he’s being played by Robert Downey Jr’s stunt double. It’s like they hired an actor that would resonate with folks because he resembles the biggest summer draw this year. Just take a look at this cigar-chomping ne’er-do-well, and compare him to Downey’s look on two recent projects, Iron Man (which will top out with around $316 million in U.S. grosses) and the upcoming Tropic Thunder (which will easily make somewhere around $100 million).

Interesting Coincidence!

Interesting Coincidence!

One, two, buckle my shoe. Ten, twenty, you’ve got Downey! Is it just a coincidence that Iron Man was the hottest comic book movie in recent memory AND that it came out only two short months ago? And now this new supposedly event comic book “film” has a guy that is basically Downey’s long lost twin brother? I think audiences will see through this, but it may not stop them from going to satisfy their unending lust for psychotics running around in spandex and leather kicking the crap out of each other. I, of course, will still be there opening night!

The trailer is not without some merit, and it does manage to put together a short narrative so non-comic book fans may find a reason to go. I will try to tell the story from what I remember. There is a world where superheroes were once the big thing but now don’t have a place in society. It looks like 9/11 didn’t happen, probably thanks to the superheroes wiping out the terrorists and winning wars in the past. I think one scene is a flashback; the large blue guy is fighting in Vietnam and literally atomizing people with his blue death touch. (Okay, so maybe the Hulk he isn’t, exactly.) But the heroes seem to know something really huge is coming and they’re all bitter about it and maybe when regular people look to them for hope and salvation, the heroes will say, “Ah, too bad, so sad.” The plot, I suppose, is not very conventional. I mean, just imagine superheroes turning against the people they’ve sworn to protect! But I swear I’ve seen this, probably in something from Shakespeare, where I guess all great stories come from.

Cool!

Cool!

But let’s see what positives we can find. There were some great other sequences that give us a taste of the action we will be in for: A dude gets knocked out the window of a skyscraper, some alien-looking ship comes out of the ocean, a superheroine crashes through a burning building, the aforementioned Vietcong getting atomized on a battlefield. These all point to a movie that will at least live up the standards of what can sell a comic book. There seems to be a love story tied into the plot, so there’s obviously something there for all the nerds’ girlfriends (oxymoron?) who will be dragged to the theater on 03.06.09 (Now I’m falling for it!).

“The Watchman” is definitely an effects-driven movie, also. I suppose most critics will say it’s a “stylistically fascinating treat,” as we see the accident that caused the origin of the blue man, the atomized Vietnamese fellow (boy, I can’t talk enough about that!), teleporting, and an exploding storefront! Wow, so much going on!

Not a selling point.

Not a selling point.

I don’t know, I don’t really think I can get too excited about this thing. At least with Spider-Man and Batman you know what to expect. This seems to be some director trying to turn the whole genre on its head. I guess it makes sense that humans are flawed, and superheroes are all human, so therefore all heroes are flawed, but don’t I go to the movies for escapism? I don’t want my heroes to be flawed! I want them to be beacons of hope! I want to look up to them! I want them to keep me safe and not have extra-marital affairs with the neighbors and cry about their problems. Those types of things are for schmoes like me! The trade papers and the Internet will have more information for us as we approach that oh-so-memorable release date, so keep your eyes peeled. Not all first impressions are accurate, especially mine! So don’t forget, people! “The Watchman” 03.06.09.

Anyway, I’m going to put together my review of Batman Begins 2: The Dark Night, so be on the lookout for that. And here’s a not so subtle hint about my verdict: Save your money!

Ciao for now!

Pro Tips: How Not to Make an Indie Movie!

Okay producer! You’ve got the budget finalized, you’ve hired your production staff, casting is complete, location contracts are signed. You’ve spent months on these pre-production details, making endless changes to multiple drafts of the script, hiring the department heads, negotiating with dozens if not hundreds of different individuals, hiring some people for a pittance or no pay at all, and appealing to the creative people to stick with you for an entire month and shoot 135 pages in 24 days in and around Chicago or some other metropolis. Your independent movie is about to shoot!

And while you think you’ve got everything squared away, you’re still getting that nagging feeling in the back of your mind. You may be asking yourself what are some things you should avoid doing to help you be a better filmmaker? Here some ideas that you should stay away from:

1) When you’re working with a crowd of extras, absolutely do not speak to them as a group and make them feel as part of the production. Say virtually nothing, instead of attempting to make them feel like they are contributing to something most of them have never even done before (making a movie, being on a set, meeting C-level celebrities). Completely turn people off of the idea of making movies or doing anything with a collaboratively artistic bent.

2) Hire craft services that will consistently underestimate the amount of water needed on location, especially on hot summer days. Be sure to give them an extremely limited budget to feed the cast and crew who will be working for you for 12+ hours per day. And certainly be okay with the fact that caffeine is not provided most days.Making Movies!

3) If you’re the executive producer, be on set and give orders to department heads. Make certain that you give direction to people on their staff while they are in the midst of doing other things. Do not attempt to understand that you’re meddling with the flow of the production staff, especially when department heads or your assistant director confronts you about it and asks you to stop.

4) While shooting is well under way, be sure to come up with and express good ideas that can only be easily implemented if you thought of them during pre-production and not on day 15.

5) Absolutely refuse to tolerate the needs and directives of the assistant director, whose job is to run the set, keeping everybody on track and on time.

6) Alienate everyone who does not think just like you by making zero effort to understand their point of view, especially because you hired them to do their job well just to make your film.

7) Constantly end conversations, disagreements, creative differences, and arguments with phrases like, “Well, that’s your problem,” “Do a better job of keeping me on time,” and “I understand, but I’m in charge and this is how we’re going to do it.”

And remember, you can make movies and do any or all of the above, but if you do, you’re a complete dick.

So, congratulations, champ! Go out there and shoot that movie!