Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Catching up on MOVIE Dweebing

HOBBIT is 4 Years Off
Oscar winner Peter Jackson told the BBC News that he is definitely interested in making THE HOBBIT into a film. He explained though that, "I think it's gonna be a lot of lawyers sitting in a room trying to thrash out a deal before it will ever happen."


Berry Talks X3
XMenFilms had a quick chance to talk with actress Halle Berry about the current status of X-MEN 3.

Berry told XMF that she has not read the script yet, but if she is to return as Storm the character would need to be much closer to the comic book character or she is not interested in being in the film. She said, "I love Storm, and really want to be part of the last film." EDITOR'S NOTE: PICKY PICKY PICKY. I WOULD THINK SOMEONE WITH HER, SHALL WE SAY, LIMITED SKILLS WOULD BE GLAD THEY ARE JUST ASKING HER TO ESSENTIALLY POSE AND LOOK TOUGH. (AND SHE STRUGGLED WITH THE 'LOOKING TOUGH' PART, AS I RECALL)

Swank Looks to Star in Supernatural "Reaping"
Warner Bros. Pictures and Dark Castle Entertainment are in final negotiations with Oscar winner Hilary Swank to star in "The Reaping."

The supernatural story centers a myth debunker who travels to a small, religious town in Texas to investigate occurrences that appear to be the ten biblical plagues.

The film is based on an original script by Brian Rousso, which was rewritten by Chad and Carey Hayes. James Cox will direct.

"Spider-Man's" VFX Wizards Heads to "Hot Wheels"
John Dykstra will not return to SPIDER-MAN 3 as the visual effects supervisor but will rather take on that role for McG's HOT WHEELS for Columbia Pictures.

Dykstra considers Columbia Pictures' WHEELS to be a "great opportunity" which will allow he to "explore the language of cars -- from NASA Formula One, to tuners, hot rods, classics, dinosaur cars, monster trucks and so on."

FANTASTIC Looking Poster
Here's a look at 20th Century Fox's FANTASTIC FOUR poster. The film hits theaters July 8th.
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Marvel's fearsome foursome
By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
Since they formed a dysfunctional superhero family in 1961, the Fantastic Four have grappled with all forms of treachery and villains such as the power-hungry Dr. Doom, the bionic soldier Super-Skrull and the planet-devouring Galactus.

But they never faced the League of Nerds. EDITOR'S NOTE: DWEEBS, IF YOU DON'T MIND! Or its doomsday weapon: the Internet. Or an Oscar-winning animated film that beat the superheroes to the big screen.

Those foes arise July 8 when Fantastic Four arrives in theaters amid weighty expectations. And although the world may not be at stake, Hollywood's comic-book universe will be watching how one of its most beloved titles fares on the big screen.

A lot is riding on the film. Distributor 20th Century Fox already has committed to at least one sequel and has hopes for an X-Men-style franchise. More than 60 companies have merchandise tie-ins, producing everything from Fantastic Four video games to toothbrushes and beanbag chairs.

Many also see the film as a chance to invigorate a genre that has sputtered of late. Though comic-book sequels such as Spider-Man and X-Men have been hits, new adaptations have struggled. Catwoman and Elektra were unmitigated flops. The $100 million Constantine opened to a strong $34 million but dropped 64% its second weekend. EDITOR'S NOTE: ONCE SATAN'S SPELL WORE OFF.

The genre, says Rob Worley of comics2film.com, could use a hero — or four.

"People have been waiting for years for this movie to be done right," Worley says. "The comic book is so loved, I think fans just want something that pays respect to the stories they grew up on."

But will respect be enough? The road to theaters has been a bumpy one for Marvel Comics' first superheroes.

Hollywood has been tossing around scripts for decades. A campy 1993 movie was made but never released. Director Peyton Reed (Down With Love) left the current film in 2003, citing creative differences.

Newer challenges face the superhero family. Internet buzz has been mixed for the film's trailer, and some devotees are incensed at the film's departures from the original story line. The movie had to surrender its original July 4 weekend debut so it would not compete with Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds, which opens June 29.

And a little cartoon already has stolen some thunder from Mr. Fantastic and company.

The Incredibles, which won an Oscar last month for best animated film and raked in $259 million, was a thinly veiled parody of the comic book.

Fantastic Four filmmakers concede they had to alter their movie, even cutting one scene that was too similar to one in The Incredibles.

After The Incredibles opening, "the first couple of weeks there were a lot of four-letter words thrown around," Fantastic Four director Tim Story says. "Add that to the crazy shooting schedule, and it's felt like everything about this movie has been on the fly.

"But in the end, I think we're going to have the goods. Fans are going to see it was worth the wait. And I'm hoping we can turn non-fans on to Fantastic Four."

Legend to the rescue
To hear Stan Lee tell it, there almost was no Fantastic Four.

The 82-year-old writer for Marvel Comics had been with the company since the 1940s and had grown tired of stories about vampires and mutants.

"We weren't doing comic books about superheroes back then," he says. "They were romances and mysteries and stories for very young children or adults who didn't have high IQs. I was tired of it and was going to quit."

His wife suggested he do one more comic book, his way. "If I got fired, so what?" Lee says.

Around the same time, rival DC Comics, which was then known as National Periodicals, was seeing huge success with its Justice League of America, a team of heroes that included Superman, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern.

Martin Goodman, publisher of Marvel (then Atlas/Timely), asked Lee to attempt his own super team. Lee joined artist Jack Kirby and created Fantastic Four, based on four astronauts who are zapped by cosmic radiation on their way out of the Earth's atmosphere.

Lee created less a team of superheroes than a family of oddballs. Team leader Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic, is a brilliant scientist who has the consistency of Silly Putty and can stretch his body to extreme lengths. Reed's best friend, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, is a living pile of orange rocks who possesses great strength — and sarcasm. Susan Storm, or the Invisible Woman, can disappear on demand. And her kid brother, Johnny Storm, i.e. the Human Torch, has a penchant for flames, which fly from his body.EDITOR'S NOTE: GIGGLE. SNORT.(SORRY....BAD QOTD. BAD BAD).

The team was, and remains, an anomaly in the comic-book world. Initially, the four did not wear costumes. The group doesn't hide its powers from the public and enjoys some level of celebrity. The four bicker, tease one another and occasionally struggle with their place in the world. Over the years, members have quit the family only to return. Reed and Susan are married and have a child, Franklin, whose telepathic powers are emerging.

The comic was an immediate hit, but fans wrote Lee with one complaint. They hated the street-clothes look. In the third issue, the Fantastic Four donned their blue costumes.

"I've never understood it," Lee says. "For as long as I've been doing comic books, fans have insisted their heroes be in some kind of get-up. That's the only reason The Incredible Hulk has green skin. It was the only costume I could think of for a guy who doesn't wear a shirt."

The outfits did wonders for Fantastic Four. The comic has sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. It remains one of Marvel Comics' top 10 sellers.

Danny Fingeroth, author of Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society, says that Fantastic Four captured readers with its take on family.

"Before then, comic-book heroes were the Boy Scout and Girl Scout type, very two-dimensional," he says. "But these characters don't always get along. There's a real sense of humor — sometimes at each other's expense. They are dealing with emotions like guilt, remorse and anger. But in the end, when the chips are down, they are there for each other, just like most families. That's why they've appealed over the decades."

Appealing at the box office is a harder sell. It's one thing to draw a man on fire. Getting Johnny Storm to throw fireballs EDITOR'S NOTE: FROM HIS REAR, NO LESS. (GIGGLE) that will impress a film audience already jaded by spectacle is another matter.

In 1993, Constantin Films had to produce a movie to keep its film rights to the property. The company cranked out a $1.5 million film, produced by Roger Corman, full of 1960s camp and crude special effects that included a mechanically extended arm for Mr. Fantastic. The hokey film was never released, though bootleg versions are floating around the Internet.

Though Fox has more money and technology to throw at this film, it also faces a skeptical fan base already concerned that the script is straying too far from the source. Some bloggers are taking the film to task for its treatment of the villain Victor Von Doom, aka Dr. Doom. In the movie, Doom is a fellow astronaut of the Fantastic Four, a vast departure from the comics.

"I've stopped looking at the Internet," director Story says. "I've been nerding out, trying to learn as much about the comic book and the characters as I can. But I'll never know as much as those guys. And I realize I'll never please them all. I knew the hard-core fans would be on me for every little detail. I just have to look past that to get the spirit of the characters."

Challenges all around
Some of that spirit, filmmakers and executives concede, was usurped by The Incredibles. The Pixar film has a father with great strength, a mother who can stretch, a daughter who can become invisible and a son with superhuman speed.

"Some of The Incredibles is lifted so clearly from the Fantastic Four" story, says 20th Century Fox president Hutch Parker.

"But that is an all (computer-generated) movie. Ours is a pretty different enterprise. I don't think it will hurt us. If anything, the success of one fantastical tale helps open the door to another."

Try telling that to Marvel Studios chief Avi Arad. Arad managed a ticket to The Incredibles premiere "and snuck in undercover." He left feeling less than incredible.

"I have no legal proof they lifted anything" from the comic book, he says. "Let's just say great minds think alike."EDITOR'S NOTE: BITTER. PARTY OF ONE?

Filmmakers cut a scene in which The Thing rescues a cat from a tree because it looked too similar to a scene in which Mr. Incredible does the same thing.

"That had been a part of the comic book, but they did the scene first," Arad says. "And they made a great movie. Our challenge is to make just as great a movie."

Story says he can. And he is aiming beyond comic-book fans. "The person I really want to reach is the girlfriend who has never heard of the comic but tags along with her boyfriend. If she likes it, too, we'll have made a good movie."EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS A LOT OF PRESSURE ON ME. I MEAN, NOT ONLY DO I NEED TO LIKE THE FILM, BUT I HAVE TO GET A BOYFRIEND TO TAKE ME TO IT?

'Perfume' for Hoffman, Rickman
Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman are set for the feature film adaptation of Patrick Suskind's international best seller "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer."

Constantin Film is producing the project, for which the two actors have been touted since the fall.

Hoffman will play Guiseppe Baldini, the perfume maker, and Rickman will be Antoine, the merchant father of a young woman who becomes the subject of obsession for Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the central character in the film, to be played by British actor Ben Whishaw.

Grenouille's obsession turns to murder when he seeks to bottle the scent of the beautiful young virgin.


Eckhart joins 'Dahlia' force for De Palma
Aaron Eckhart has booked a starring turn in Brian De Palma's "The Black Dahlia," which Millennium Films and Signature Pictures are producing.

The movie is an adaptation of James Ellroy's 1940s-set novel about two LAPD cops who investigate the real-life case of the murder of fledgling actress Elizabeth Short.

Eckhart will play one of the officers. Josh Hartnett portrays the other cop.


Shooting takes place next month in Bulgaria. Josh Friedman wrote the adaptation. Eckhart recently finished starring in three indie films: Room 9's "Thank You for Smoking," with Robert Duvall and William H. Macy; "Conversations With Other Women," opposite Helena Bonham Carter; and "Neverwas," with Brittany Murphy. He also appeared in "Erin Brockovich" and "In the Company of Men."

Steven and a Shark Tale
It's all about COURAGE & STUPIDITY

Writer/director Darin Beckstead has recently created a 25 minute film "inspired by Steven Spielberg and his early years as an up and coming filmmaker" -- specifically during the filming of JAWS.

The comedy is "set in the early 1970's, Steven has a major studio deal to direct a movie about a killer shark and is confident that his experience will be a breeze.

Conflicts arise after Steven and his pal George (based on George Lucas) accidentally destroy the movie’s main prop--a mechanical shark. The next day, the giant fish sinks to the ocean floor and it looks as if the director's career has gone with it. Steven must stop the film's producers from pulling the plug and find a way to make his monster movie without a monster. Although inspired by public information, the truth is that Mr. Spielberg has never harmed nor would he ever harm a mechanical fish.

COURAGE AND STUPIDITY stars Todd Wall, Aaron Fiore, Kahil Dotay, William Allison, Tom Bitler, and Johnny Biscut.

The Columbia Pictures Release Stars Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman

PARIS, March 07, 2005 - Production begins this week on Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, about France's iconic eighteenth century Queen.

The Columbia Pictures release is produced by two-time Academy Award® nominee Ross Katz, through American Zoetrope. In addition to serving as director, Coppola is also one of the film's producers and has written the screenplay, which is loosely adapted from Lady Antonia Fraser's noted historical account Marie Antoinette - The Journey. Fred Roos, Francis Ford Coppola and Paul Rassam serve as executive producers.

Kirsten Dunst, who previously appeared in Coppola's drama The Virgin Suicides, portrays the young Austrian princess, who, as a teenager, becomes Queen of France. Jason Schwartzman portrays her indifferent husband Louis XVI.

Other members of the ensemble, portraying various members of the elitist court of Versailles include Rip Torn (in the role of King Louis XV), Judy Davis (as the Comtesse de Noailles), Steve Coogan (as Mercy), Asia Argento (playing the Comtesse du Barry), Marianne Faithful (Maria-Teresa), Aurore Clement (Duchesse de Chartres), Molly Shannon (Aunt Victoire) and Shirley Henderson (Aunt Sophie). EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT ONLY IS THIS A BIZARRELY MIXED AND WONDERFUL CAST....IT HAS SHIRLEY HENDERSON!!!! WOOHOO!

The director of photography for Marie Antoinette is Lance Acord, who previously collaborated with Coppola on Lost in Translation. Oscar® winner Milena Canonero (Barry Lyndon, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) is designing the costumes and KK Barrett (Lost in Translation, I Heart Huckabees, Being John Malkovich) is the production designer.

Marie Antoinette will be shot entirely in France, with much of the 11-week production schedule centered at the Palace of Versailles, which has granted the production unprecedented access.

Reeves to Play "Sinbad"
Director Rob Cohen and producer Neal Moritz have cast Keanu Reeves to star in "The 8th Voyage of Sinbad" for Columbia Pictures. EDITOR'S NOTE: HERE'S HOPING IT'S A ONE-WAY TRIP?

The story will be set in eighth-century China, Sinbad (Reeves) and his shipmates embark on a quest to find the Lamp of Aladdin. Along the way, they meet a beautiful empress and battle fantastical creatures as well as a rebellious Chinese general who threatens the kingdom with his supernatural powers. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND WITH ONE OF THOSE POWERS HE GRANTS REEVES THE ABILITY TO SPEAK CLEARLY? (HE'S PROBABLY NOT THAT POWERFUL).

Diesel to "Rockfish"
Vin Diesel and his production company are teaming up with Blur Studio to make a sci-fi action CGI feature film based on Blur's short film "Rockfish."

Diesel will lend his voice to the lead character. Tim Miller, who wrote and directed the short and will direct the feature film.

The short film is about a man on an alien planet trying to catch a giant "rock fish" that lives underground and disrupts the planet's miners.

PHANTASM in New Lines Future
New Line Cinema is in final negotiations with filmmaker Don Coscarelli to bring the cult horror film PHANTASM back to the big screen.

The original story revolves around a young boy and his friends, who face off against a mysterious grave robber known as the Tall Man and his killer flying spheres. The creator of the PHANTASM series Don Coscarelli would serve as a producer on the new version.

In the new version the Tall Man travels from town to town turning the dead into his own army and using his deadly spheres against anyone who opposes him. EDITOR'S NOTE: I WORKED WITH A SHORT MAN LIKE THAT.....

Fox Hears A "Who"
20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios have won a bidding war for the rights to Dr. Seuss' HORTON HEARS A WHO. As planned the project will be a CGI film.

Blue Sky Studios is Fox's digital boutique company which released it's second feature ROBOTS this past Friday.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

It took Fox nearly two years to acquire the rights to Dr. Seuss' children's book. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS BUMP OFF THE AUTHOR TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Lawrence comes to an 'Awful End'
Francis Lawrence, who directed "Constantine" for Warner Bros. Pictures, is reuniting with the studio to helm a feature film adaptation of Philip Ardagh's children's fantasy novel "A House Called Awful End."

Weed Road's Akiva Goldsman, Circle of Confusion's Jason Lust and Lawrence Mattis and Erwin Stoff are producing the adaptation, which will be titled "Awful End."

"Awful End" tells the story of an 11-year-old British boy who finds himself in the questionable care of Mad Uncle Jack and Mad Aunt Maud when his parents become ill. The relatives turn him over to St. Horrid's Home for Grateful Orphans, where he stages a breakout with other orphans.

The book is the first of the "Eddie Dickens Trilogy." The second book is titled "Dreadful Acts"; the third is yet to be published. Matthew Huffman adapted the book. The movie will involve both live action and animation. Warners' Polly Cohen is overseeing for the studio. Before branching out into film, CAA-repped Lawrence directed music videos for Britney Spears, Sarah McLachlan and AerosmithEDITOR'S NOTE: RARELY A GOOD SIGN WHEN THE DIRECTOR IS AN EX-MUSIC VIDEO GUY.


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