DVD Verdict - Entertainment News
Drawing a picture of Dreamworks' future...
With 10 movies in production and around eight others in various pre-production stages, key members of the Dreamworks team talked in a San Diego Comic-Con panel Thursday mainly about three of them, including Rise of the Guardians, about a super-team of Jack Frost, Santa, The Easter Bunny, and The Tooth Fairy, and The Croods, a prehistoric story.
"Does the Easter Bunny know Santa Claus?" A child's question led to a book, and then to a movie that made warriors out of some familiar characters for Rise of the Guardians. Production designer Patrick Hanenberger described creating recognizable swords for each character in keeping with their image, even as they became action heroes.
The Croods, set in a fictional "evolutionary puberty," will have an array of animal "mashups" to suggest an as-yet-undiscovered stage of evolution, said Dreamworks Chief Creative Officer Bill Damasche. Supervising animator James Baxter said the animated voice performances of actress Emma Stone as a cave girl yielded expressions that will find their way into the film.
Madagascar 3 director Tom McGrath noted that The Penguins of Madagascar will be a sequel to the Madagascar films. He also discussed generally the work involved in managing an animation team that could involve 700 people, comparing it to Tom Sawyer getting people to paint a fence and noting that he has to pitch the stories to the people working on them. "It's not a dictatorship; it's inclusive," he said.
Asked about whether hand-drawn animation will make a comeback, Baxter noted a 2-D sequence in The Croods and Damasche noted a mix of 2-dimensional work and CGI in the upcoming Me and My Shadow. The panelists agreed that the material dictates the form the animation takes. "Is this film going to taste better when it's animated?" is the standard Baxter described, noting that many animated films could also be live-action.
Sing along with Psych...
Psych, the USA network comic mystery going into its 100th episode, may have ended last season on a cliffhanger with the shooting of Henry Spenser (Corbin Bernsen), but the cast has something to sing about.
At a crowded San Diego Comic Con panel Thursday, stars James Roday and Dule Hill broke into two songs they've made up on-set: "The Boom from the Bottom Song," about the boom operator's job, and "We Are Out of Here," which goes with the last shot on an episode.
The show will get even more musical this season with a double-length episode to be shot in October entirely in song. In comments after the panel, Roday described it as something "we've been talking about for a very long time." Hill is looking forward to the "change-up" after 100 episodes. The cast will all be singing--something Maggie Lawson expressed a note of nervousness about--although Roday mentioned the possibility of dubbing for comic purposes. Creator Steve Franks told the panel he wouldn't mind seeing it wind up on Broadway.
Other coming episodes mentioned at the panel and afterwards included a Bigfoot story told entirely with "found footage" (which, from clips shown at the panel, looks like it could be the show's strangest moment), a trip to Mexico (shot in the show's usual Vancouver filming locale, Franks notes), a Clue parody for the 100th episode, and, of course, the cliffhanger resolution ("I don't know if I have a job," Bernsen, wearing a question mark T-shirt, says, although I don't know that many fans believed him). Guests will include Kristy Swanson, Cybill Shepherd, Garrett Morris, Leslie Ann Warren, Jeffrey Tambor, and Steve Valentine.
The romance between Shawn and Juliet will slowly continue. How far is yet to be determined, but Franks said he wouldn't be worried about it leading to the altar--story-wise. "It's not the central relationship of the show; the central relationship is Shawn and Gus," he said. Lawson teased that Juliet and Lassiter will develop their relationship "in ways you can't imagine. There is a bubble bath involved." Hill will also have a romantic storyline this season, and Chief Vick's husband will appear.
Are the actors anything like their characters? In panel discussions, they do sound a bit like their TV counterparts, with Roday even appearing to shoot Lawson a look as she mentions how handsome guest star John Cena is.
"There is certainly a dark, serious side to Tim that is used by Lassiter," Timothy Omundsen says, noting that he and Lassie share ego and "enjoy shooting stuff." Huh? Marksmanship training is a part of his preparations for playing permanently wired cop Clayton Lassiter, and he was even noting the shooting skills of a journalist during interviews. "I'm okay. I'm not going to say I'm super-good." Omundsen says he'd also wanted to try tap dancing, a skill Lassiter pursued on the show.
At the panel, Hill told a fan that Burton "Gus" Guster's "stealth mode" was something he utilized in real life, and the cast noted that Hill is fussy about people handling his food (Can't you imagine Gus doing that?). Hill says he's not quite as geeky as Gus, but said he believes "every level of geek has some coolness in them" and vice versa.
"In my head, I have a fabulous life," Kristen Nelson, the show's authority figure as Chief Vick, says. On the panel, she ruminated about her character's VCR choices, including The Big Bang Theory, The Closer, and nineties music videos.
The panel also included fans vying on Psych trivia as the cast sipped pineapple juice, referring to the show's pineapple cameos.
Comic Con gets off to a tragic start
The 2012 San Diego Comic-Con began on a somber note. A 53 year old New York woman and rabid TWILIGHT fan, camping out in line for the film's Hall H panel, was struck and killed by a car in front of the convention center Tuesday morning. She was apparently crossing against the light, tripping and falling into the busy street that separates the convention center from San Diego's famed Gaslight District and was struck by a passing car. She was taken to Mercy Hospital but was unable to survive her injuries. Twitter quickly exploded with the news and rallied to support the deceased woman and her family, with fellow TWILIGHT fans now sporting black arm bands in memoriam. One wonders if this will not lead convention officials to reconsider allowing fans to congregate so far in advance of these popular panels, which have grown considerably in size and scope in recent years. Those of us who have been attending Comic Con for years, if not decades, remember not too long ago how easy it was to step in an out of the ballroom events without having to line up hours (or days) in advance.
Comic-Con 2012 Coverage
Welcome to DVD Verdict's coverage of Comic-Con 2012. Our esteemed editor Jim Stewart is live on site and will be providing updates throughout the weekend. We'll also be keeping you abreast of other developments from a variety of news sources, so as Stan Lee would say... "Stay tuned, true believers!"
--Chief Justice Michael Stailey
Director Ken Russell is off to see the Pinball Wizard
Controversial director Ken Russell passed away in his sleep over the weekend at the age of 84. Born 3 July 1927 in Southampton, England, filmmaking was not his first profession. Having served in her majesty's army, trying his hand as a dancer, and a photographer, he eventually began to dabble in short films before getting into television in the early 1960s. His BBC series Monitor and Omnibus garnered a great deal of attention and acclaim, but it's films like Oscar-nominated Women in Love (1969), the Cannes favorite Mahler (1974), The Who's rock opera Tommy (1975), and cult classics Altered States (1980) and Lair of the White Worm (1988) for which he will be most remembered. He is survived by his fourth wife Lisi Tribble, five children by his first wife, costume designer Shirley Russell, and one unreleased film still in post-production -- Invasion of the Not Quite Dead, in which he stars and executive produced.
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Bond gets a new Q
Succeeding the late Desmond Llewellyn and the great John Cleese in the role of James Bond's go-to gadget guy is 31 year old Ben Whishaw (The Hour, Layer Cake). While not much is known about how director Sam Mendes, and writers John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade will utilize their version of "Q," the pressure is on, as Whishaw inherits the mantle of a beloved 007 character.
James Bond returns in Skyfall on November 9, 2012.
Brett Ratner quits OSCARS telecast as controversy around him continues to swirl
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPS) has just announced they are parting ways with producer Brett Ratner for their next Oscars telecast. Despite a vote of confidence in him and his position yesterday, an official press release was released this afternoon contradicting their previous statements...
This morning, Brett Ratner submitted his resignation as a producer of the 84th annual Academy Awards to Academy President Tom Sherak. Ratner then issued an open letter to the entertainment industry in which he explained his decision.
"He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself," Sherak said. "Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent."
Ratner's troubles began late last week with an appearance on G4's Attack of the Show in which he made derogatory remarks about the show's former co-host Olivia Munn. Then, following a dismal showing of his new film, Tower Heist at the box office, a press screening Q&A went south when his response to a question about rehearsing his actors came out as "Rehearsal is for fags."
Ratner himself is accepting full responsibility for the media storm. "Having love in your heart doesn’t count for much if what comes out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted. Being asked to help put on the Oscar show was the proudest moment of my career. But as painful as this may be for me, it would be worse if my association with the show were to be a distraction from the Academy and the high ideals it represents. I deeply regret my actions and I am determined to learn from this experience."
Review -- J. Edgar
The most powerful man in the world. The most boring biopic in history.
As a lifelong political junkie, dramatized biopics -- from the ridiculous (JFK) to the sublime (Frost/Nixon) -- play right into my wheelhouse. Talented filmmakers feast on the bones of these high profile figures and deconstruct their careers for enlightenment and entertainment. So how do you go about tactfully criticizing Clint Eastwood? The man is a bona fide Hollywood legend who has crafted some incredible films. Sadly, J. Edgar isn't one of them.
A diligent young government agent, John Edgar Hoover, rises through the ranks of corruption and political turmoil to become the most powerful man in U.S. Government. Consumed by ambition and high ideals, his innovation and tenacity revolutionized crime fighting while opening the door to civil rights violations we continue to struggle with today. Hoover is the poster child for what can happen when unparalleled authority and a warped sense of right and wrong go unchecked. This is his story... or at least one version of it.
Dustin Lance Black's screenplay uses the dictation of Hoover's memoir in 1972 as the backbone for the film, allowing us to float in an out of key events in the man's career. At times poignant and other times annoying, Eastwood attempts to leverage its non-linear style to build a slow boil which culminates in Hoover's death. I say "attempts" because it's difficult to invest yourself in the life of man who is both unlikable and unsympathetic. In fact, the only real emotion we feel is pity, for people like his longtime secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) and lifelong partner Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer, The Social Network) who are sucked into Edgar's raging whirlpool of ambition and are never able to escape. It's hard to imagine how this man engendered such loyalty when he treated everyone but his mother (Judi Dench, Quantum of Solace) with arrogant disdain.
The performances here seem to be the tipping point. DiCaprio has become a highly intense actor on the order of DeNiro, Pacino, and Sean Penn. But to craft a living breathing character, one has to go beyond the surface intensity and discover a light to balance the dark. And that's where this performance and the film itself falters. Eastwood has made a career of finding humor in even the darkest of circumstances and there's very little humor here, which makes everything seem so self-important. There are far too many moments that read as "Look at me, I'm acting!" which is the last thing you want an audience to think.
The subtle devious manipulations of Dame Judi Dench as Edgar's mother and the simple detached reactions of Naomi Watts as Ms. Gandy are in stark contrast to DiCaprio and Hammer who force their interactions in all but the most quiet of moments. One scene in particular -- which both men admit had very little rehearsal and very few takes -- finds Tolson and Hoover's relationship reach its boiling point. What should be a moment of profound realization is undermined by over-the-top bad acting choices. Armie was shooting for Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virigina Woolf? and wound up with Susan Lucci in All My Children. The same can be said for DiCaprio in Edgar's inability to deal with his mother's passing. The scene nods to Hoover's rumored crossdressing, but screams of Norman Bates in Psycho.
For as much time as these men spend together on screen, you'd think our investment in their relationship would be significant. And yet once these characters reach their twilight years, you can't help but feel we're watching a college theatre production of Waiting for Godot with twenty-somethings in heavy elderly makeup "acting" like senior citizens.
Shot in only 39 days, J. Edgar is a period piece of the highest technical order, one which perhaps overwhelms its narrative. The hair, makeup, costuming, sets, and lighting are meticulous for the near 50 year span in which the story operates. And yet the post-production team seems to have taken it all a bit too far with a past history color correction scheme that leaches life from the frame, leaving us a whitewashed history that flies in the face of a tale that attempts to lay bare the history of a man who no one really knew beyond what he wanted them to. To make matters worse, Eastwood's mastery of music and passion for quiet understated Jazz sabotages the film. The sleepy piano driven underscore only amplifies the lifeless visuals to drag everything down.
Of the industry people I viewed the film with, I have no doubt there will be some who will fall all over themselves praising the film. I just can't share that enthusiasm. In fact, my disappointment with the experience seems to grow with time and distance. Save for Judi Dench, Naomi Watts, and an impressive production team, there's just not much to relish about J. Edgar. Those expecting a late season Oscar juggernaut will be sorely disappointed.
Guilty of criminal ambivalence.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: All Access
Hollywood played host to the cast and crew of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Wednesday night. The Cinerama Dome was full but not overflowing with fans and media types awaiting the arrival of co-creators David Eick, Ron Moore, and actors Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff. Planting myself in the first row, in front of the AICN boys, I knew I was out of my element. While the gathered mass wasn't all decked out in BSG attire ala a Trek convention, most if not all of the assembled were huge fans of the show. Until that morning, I hadn't seen a single episode. Yes, I admit I'm late to the party of this one, but I had seen the broadcast run of the original series and owned the full line of action figures and ships, so I wasn't completely in the dark. And yet I couldn't help but feel like I slept through most of the semester. Playing catchup I downloaded several episodes off iTunes including "The Story So Far" and the two-part Season Three finale, both of which were enough to give me a baseline knowledge and whet my appetite for more. Combined with Judge Eric Profancik's reviews of the mini-series and the first two seasons, I was ready for anything.
With trusty journalistic digital recorder in hand, the festivities opened with a montage of the first four years on the big screen (quite impressive) and the introduction of host Lucy Lawless (Number Three). At this point, they put the kibosh on any recording devices and the vigilant eyes of the dome's security team made sure people complied. So I covered the event old school with writers cramp and seven pages of barely discernible notes. Lucky for you I can read my own half-baked writing.
The first question to Ron and David was the recent announcement that the show would be ending with Season Four -- a thought that was on the minds of everyone in the room. David admitted this plan started taking shape during Season Two and was cemented with the discovery of The Temple of Five in Season Three's "The Eye of Jupiter." At this point Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama), referred to the rest of the evening as Eddie, jumped in to say when he was originally approached about the project back in 2001, Ron and David said this would be a finite run. What cemented that plan were several issues including the flawed Neilsen ratings system (which does not calibrate for minorities) and that most of the fans download the show rather than watch it broadcast on SciFi Channel. Lucy then went around the group and asked for their thought's on the series final season...
Jamie Bamber (Apollo) jokingly said he could care less about the show ending, as he was "tired of being David and Ron's bitch."
Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin) commented "it's hard to contemplate giving it up," but each scene they film from here on out takes on a much greater emotional significance.
Eddie made the point of saying "the powers-that-be won't understand what the show means until 20 years from now," and that he's blessed to have been part of a series whose mirror of modern society has been so profound. "You will never see another program like this in your lifetime."
Moving on to favorite moments, Lucy -- who is just as big a geek about the show as anyone in the room -- said hers was seeing how Jamie's penis can hold up a towel all on its own. Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) had two: the day she learned of Kara's death and one of her favorite nude scenes when she took off the pasties only to have paint slathered on her breasts to hide the nipples. Hey, I didn't say this was going to be a family friendly report.
The conversation then turned to Ron and David regarding the origins and development of the series, rebooting Glen Larson's original vision. David reiterated the strong support of the network in "wanting it different from all other space shows." Interestingly enough, Battlestar is the only '70s adventure series David has not seen. Ron underscored the point by saying "it's still the same franchise." In fact, he went back to the three-hour pilot of the original series for inspiration, making it about the truth of the today's world while not turning it into a political soapbox. They were simply "fearless" in their approach to the storytelling and the fans picked up on it. Now, with "two chapters left to go," they are headed to Earth -- "whatever that may be." For this final season, it's about "having a plan, but making it flexible." David and Ron are providing "the big picture" and letting the writing team run with the ball to fill in the blanks. There may be more stories to tell in the Galactica universe (Ron has written the pilot for a Caprica series), but this story -- the one that started in the mini-series -- is coming to it's natural close.
Other interesting responses to Lucy's questioning of the team...
* Eddie gave copies of Deva Premal's "Gayatri Mantra" to the entire cast and crew during the mini-series and Mary believes it gave the series its soul.
* David said musical plays an integral part in the series, getting to the "primal guts for the birth of a civilization."
* Eddie and Mary are seen the role models for everyone involved in the show, each "owning" the worlds they inhabit.
* Eddie was originally drawn to the project by Ron's three-page prologue (aka The Bible) which was nothing more than a sales document to cut against potential knee-jerk reactions of the title of the pilot script.
With four standing mics in the audience (two on the main floor and two in the upper level), Lucy opened the floor to questions...
Q: Is there anything you'd like to see happen before the show ends?
Q: What was the significance of using Bob Dylan's "Along the Watch Tower" to underscore the big reveal in Season Three?
Q: What's the deal with Jamie's weight?
Q: I'd like to congratulate Mr. Olmos on his ALMA award.
Q: Is there a reason we didn't see much in the way of Baltar/Head Six mind games in Season Three?
Q: Were there any tough acting moments you encountered?
Q: Did you base your characters on people in real life?
Q: Can you talk a little about the unique production design of the show?
Q: Will you resolve all the loose ends, like "Where are Boxey and Bulldog?"
Q: What are your literary influences?
Q: Will Adama ever get laid?
Q: Will you introduce any queer sexuality before the series ends?
Q: Can you tell us about 'Razor'?
Q: Do you believe in happy endings?
Q: Was it a difficult decision to end the series now?
Q: How much production time remains?
Q: What will you miss?
Q: What is the legacy of Battlestar?
And with that, the gang said their thank you's to the audience, requested applause for the writers and production folks seated in the audience -- including director Bob Young -- said their goodbyes, and we all saw a quick preview of "Razor" which features the Pegasus and one of its commanding officers played by Michelle Forbes who many will remember as Ensign Ro from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unfortunately, I missed out on pre-event showing of the Season Three finale and the VIP reception that followed, only because our contacts at NBC/Universal didn't tell me they would be taking place. However, I am heading up to Vancouver at the end of June for SciFi Channel's press tour and will bring you even more Galactica info direct from the set.
• Thomas Jane talks about dialogue--and its absence
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