Friday, January 07, 2005

Harry Knowles gets it right sometimes

Cool SCANNER imagery
Website gets its paws on three new images from sci-fi animated film

Ain't It Cool News received three new images from A SCANNER DARKLY, Richard Linklater's upcoming film of Philip K. Dick's science fiction novel. Keanu Reeves, Winona Rider and Robert Downey Jr. star in the film, which uses rotoscope animation over filmed images to achieve its look. (Linklater also used this technique on his 2001 film WAKING LIFE.) EDITOR'S NOTE: VERY COOL-LOOKING ARTWORK.

As it stands right now, Warner Independent Pictures has slated a September 15, 2005 release date for the film.



HITCHHIKER`S Marvin finds his voice
And there's a whale!

The Planet Magrathea website reported on a half-dozen previously unannounced casting decisions for supporting roles in THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY movie, including the revelation that Alan Rickman will provide the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android. Rickman, who has appeared in the three HARRY POTTER films as Professor Snape, was also memorable in GALAXY QUEST and as German terrorist Hans Gruber in the first DIE HARD movie. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND IN JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING HE'S EVER DONE. (THE MAN CAN TURN THE SMALLEST TURN INTO A 3 ACT PLAY....BRILLIANCE)!

Planet Magrathea also reports that BLACK BOOKS star Bill Bailey will provide the voice of the whale that's eager to make friends with a planet (fans of the novel and mini-series will understand that one); and also cast in the film (but in parts that are presently unknown) are ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS's Jane Horrocks, Miriam Margolyes, Chris Emmett and Rula Lenska.


UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: I just watched this trailer. The GOOD news? Dweebpal Becky was right; the trailer rocks. The BAD news? My beloved Jason Isaacs dies in the very first reel of the film (and sporting a boring American accent to add insult to injury). Ah well.....The film has Jennifer Garner, and it's directed by X-Files alum Rob Bowman. (And no Ben Affleck). So it should be pretty good,even minus sexy Lucious Malfoy.

ELEKTRA teases you for five minutes
Clip of the movie's opening scene now available for download

Yahoo Movies is treating its audience to the first five minutes of ELEKTRA, available in either Windows Media or QuickTime format. Out in theaters in just a week, the Jennifer Garner starring vehicle begins shortly after DAREDEVIL, with the sai-wielding assassin for hire breaking off all her ties from former friends and employers save for her mentor weapons master Stick (Terence Stamp). She then takes a job to kill a man but has a change of heart, resulting in killers from the criminal organization known as The Hand to be dispatched after her. EDITOR'S NOTE: I GATHER (THANK YOU DWEEBPAL BECKY) THIS EXTENDED TRAILER VERY MUCH ROCKS.

Grab the clip from here.




RoseArt Gets Revenge

RoseArt's new Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith products on tap for later this year. Kids of all ages will have fun with crayons, pencils, figure stampers, posters, and various other arts and crafts. EDITOR'S NOTE: I HOPE THEY BRING BACK THOSE COOL TATTOOS AGAIN!!! (WHY I ENDED UP GETTING A REAL ONE, TRUTH TO TELL).


POA on list of top family films of the year

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made the US Catholic Film Office's list of the top family films of 2004. Proof that not all Christians think Harry Potter is satanic. EDITOR'S NOTE: WE LIVE IN HOPE, AND CLING TO THE LITTLE THINGS.....


ABC adds four drama pilots with fall hope

Basking in the success of its red-hot new drama series "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives," ABC is prepping its fall drama hopefuls. The network picked up four one-hour pilots Thursday from producers J.J. Abrams, Rod Lurie, Steve Pearlman and John Wells' John Wells Prods.

"What About Brian," from Touchstone and Abrams' studio-based Bad Robot, centers on a thirtysomething single guy surrounded by his married friends. Feature writer Dana Stevens ("City of Angels") penned the script. She is executive producing with "Lost" and "Alias" exec producer Abrams. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL THIS PILOT DOESN'T SOUND NEARLY AS DWEEBISHLY FAB AS "LOST" OR EVEN "ALIAS". BUT IT'S ABRAMS, SO HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL.


Morrissey has 'Instinct' for Stone sequel

British actor David Morrissey will star opposite Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction" in which Stone will reprise her role as the seductive novelist Catherine Tramell. Morrissey will play Dr. Andrew Glass, a psychiatrist who becomes entangled in her cat and mouse game. Principal photography will begin in March in London. To be released by MGM, the sequel follows Tramell from San Francisco to London, where she again finds herself in trouble with the law. Glass, a criminal psychiatrist, is appointed by Scotland Yard to evaluate her. EDITOR'S NOTE: GUESS I'LL HAVE TO BREAK DOWN AND SEE THE FIRST ONE NOW.


DGA nominates newbies and vets

The DGA welcomed two younger directors into the ranks of its nominees Thursday and honored three experienced helmers as it unveiled its shortlist for outstanding directorial achievement in a feature film. The first-time nominees are Alexander Payne, who directed the rueful comedy "Sideways" and Marc Forster, who helmed the tear-jerker "Finding Neverland."EDITOR'S NOTE: SNIFFLE/YUMMY. They join Taylor Hackford, earning his second DGA nomination for "Ray," Clint Eastwood, becoming a three-time nominee for "Million Dollar Baby," and Martin Scorsese, securing his sixth nomination for "The Aviator." The winner will be announced at the 57th annual DGA Awards dinner Jan. 29 at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. The DGA trophy often serves to predict who will win the Oscar for best director Feb. 27, because in 50 of the past 56 years, the DGA winner has gone on to earn the Academy Award for best director.


Academy to fete bluescreen whiz Widmer

Arthur Widmer, a motion picture pioneer who helped usher in Ultra Violet and bluescreen compositing processes, EDITOR'S NOTE: SO NOW WE KNOW WHO TO BLAME. will receive an award of commendation for lifetime achievement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Widmer will be honored at the Academy Awards of Scientific and Technical Achievement dinner, which precedes the Oscar ceremony by two weeks. "Art's pioneering work has had a profound impact on the film industry," said Richard Edlund, chair of the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee. "In fact, many of the films we hold dear would not have been possible without his contributions to image compositing technology."


Lois, Lex lock into Superman
Superman has found his Lois Lane and his Lex Luthor. Kate Bosworth is in negotiations to play the Man of Steel's plucky fellow reporter, and Kevin Spacey is set to play the superhero's nemesis in Bryan Singer's Superman movie for Warner Bros. Pictures. EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT EXACTLY AWFUL CASTING NEWS, HUH? (I MEAN BOSWORTH IS REALLY THIN AND REALLY BLOND....A COMBO WHICH ORDINARILY FILLS ME WITH LOATHING AND DISGUST....BUT SHE SEEMS TO ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO ACT, SO I GUESS SHE GETS TO LIVE).The comic book movie would reunite the two actors, who currently appear in Spacey's "Beyond the Sea" as Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin. The casting of Bosworth was a long process that ultimately rested on a chemistry test between the actress and Brandon Routh, who is playing Superman, sources said. Bosworth reportedly beat out the likes of Claire Danes, Linda Cardellini and Michelle Monaghan.


UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Uncle George must have gotten tough with the website posting the cool pics. When I went back to try to download them for my screensaver, I got either a blank webpage, or a pornsite link. (Either way...NOT what I was looking for). Ah well.....even Uncle G. has a right to his coterie of lawyers, I guess. (Keeps em off the streets).

Bothan spies tease us with EPISODE III images
More REVENGE OF THE SITH shots...that we can't show you

It appears that Lucasfilm isn't willing just yet to reveal all they have in store for us concerning EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH. Two days before New Year's Eve five images of scenes from the new STAR WARS film were leaked onto the internet, specifically first at the Millennium Falcon website (which is now offline.) A couple of these shots indeed contained some spoiler material about key moments in the film, which some STAR WARS fans have speculated about (indeed, what significance does the image labeled "theend.jpg" mean?) EDITOR'S NOTE: AND THANKS TO INTREPID DWEEBPAL/CORRESPONDANT CHEWYANDY, WE GOT TO SEE THOSE PICS. (AND MORE THAN JUST 5 OF THEM, TOO)!

Now it appears Lucasfilm has another hole to plug. 25 new high resolution images to be used for promotional purposes for EPISODE III have spilled onto the digital domain of dotcom showing views of Darth Vader, Yoda, and a clonetrooper in action; four nice views of planets we'll see in the film (including a certain lava world where a new Dark Lord of the Sith is forged); and three lovely shots of Obi-Wan and Anakin, nearly in full silhouette, locked in lightsaber battle.

STAR WARS websites that chose to run the images, such as The Psychotic, EDITOR'S NOTE: WEB ADDRESS = are probably in danger of receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Lucasfilm, and so we must err on the side of caution and chose not to run them. Still, we can certainly emphasize with these sites and the STAR WARS fans who want to see these things, and release this request into the void: Would someone working in the PR department at Lucasfilm please release some new stills of this film so we can promote your film? That teaser poster just doesn't cut it.

We spoke to one of our sources who told us that this latest crop of images were indeed promotional images for EPISODE III, to be used by third-party companies and not intended to be seen by the general public. Oops! Guess another secret bites the Sith. EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL, POOP ON THAT. WE ARE NOT 'GENERAL PUBLIC'; WE ARE DWEEBS!! BUT BECAUSE THESE PICS ARE HUGE (AND GORGEOUS), THEY ARE TOO MUCH TO DISPLAY HERE IN THE HUMBLE DWEEBLETTER. BELOW IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES TO LURE YOU, ENTICE YOU....(LIKE YOU NEED ANY HELP, FELLOW DWEEBISH TRAVELLER). GO TO THE WEBSITE ABOVE TO SEE THE REST. THEY REALLY ROCK!!!


Image of a GEISHA
Promo image sets the stage for MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

The first piece of artwork for DreamWorks' MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA has surfaced at the DreamWorks Fansite.

In production now and scheduled for release come December 2005, this adaptation of Arthur Golden's novel focuses on a young girl named Chiyo living in 1929 Kyoto, Japan and who is sold by her destitute parents to a geisha house. The film chronicles Chiyo's turbulent adolescence and young adulthood as she is trained to be one of her countries most attentive and beautiful geishas. The film stars Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeog, Ken Wantanbe, Gong Li and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and is being directed by Rob Marshall (CHICAGO). EDITOR'S NOTE: IF IT WEREN'T FOR ROB MARSHALL'S CONNECTION TO THIS, I'M NOT SURE IF I'D CARE. (I MEAN, HOW VERY REPUBLICAN/1950'S A SUBJECT MATTER, HUH?) WELL.....AND A GREAT CAST, TOO.


Travolta, Gandolfini investigate LONELY HEARTS
Actors to play detectives that cracked a murder case from the '40s

John Travolta and James Gandolfini will play a pair of homicide detectives in LONELY HEARTS, a film based on a real-life murder case from the 1940s. Six decades ago two killers, Martha Beck and Raymond Martinez Fernandez, placed ads in the personals section of a newspaper. When would-be suitors contacted them, thinking that they would find their soulmate, what they got instead was cold-blooded murder. EDITOR'S NOTE: OR WHY I RARELY DATE....(WELL, ONE OF THE REASONS).

Todd Robinson will make his feature directing debut with the film. Robinson is the screenwriter of the 1996 Ridley Scott movie WHITE SQUALL and has also written episodes of LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT. Filming is slated to begin in March


DC makes it official: ALL-STARS are coming
And Frank Miller is writing the Batman series!

Yesterday news slipped out via The New York Times that Frank Miller, the legendary comic book writer of BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and artist of WOLVERINE, would be writing ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN, one of three new comic book series that DC Comics would be launching this year. The high-profile scoop must have convinced someone working at DC that the worst-kept secret in comics needed an official stamp, and so today the company finally confirmed the All-Star brand line is a'coming.

In a press release provided by the company, DC confirmed Miller as writer on ALL-STAR: BATMAN AND ROBIN and also the rumor that superstar artist Jim Lee would be providing art duties on the book. "If there was one creator I wanted to work with when I was a fan, it would have been Frank Miller," commented Lee in the press release. "Seriously, it will be the pinnacle of my career so far, and I can't wait to get started. Frank and I have had a couple of meetings about the story, and it's going to rock!" EDITOR'S NOTE: WOULDN'T IT BE NEW AND DIFFERENT IF ONE OF THESE GUYS SAID SOMETHING LIKE "IT'S JUST A PAYCHECK, AND I THINK THE BOOK IS GOING TO STINK"?


Creators are able to tell their own stories and provide their own takes on these iconic characters without having to worry about the impact of established storylines or the effects being played out in other DC comics using these characters. Writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quietly are the team working on ALL-STAR: SUPERMAN, and it's been rumored that FLASH writer Geoff Johns and artist Adam Hughes will be announced as the creative team on ALL-STAR: WONDER WOMAN.

Miller spoke a bit about his direction on the new BATMAN book and what fans can expect to see. "This is Dick Grayson's initiation and he's dealing with a very stern teacher," EDITOR'S NOTE: SNICKER........YOU WENT THERE, TOO, RIGHT? OK..... I'M NAUGHTY AND NEED TO BE SPANKED. (GIGGLE). said Miller. "Batman is a hard teacher - unforgiving. Brutal. EDITOR'S NOTE: LOL!!! At the same time, Grayson is watching Batman come into his full power. Me and Jim Lee get to play with all of DC's toys. It'll be a romp. It'll be a lot of fun. I plan on raiding DC's tresury of characters. There won't be a Black Canary or a Wonder Woman unused." EDITOR'S NOTE: OK....STOP STOP STOP. I'M CLEARLY EVIL. (BUT THEY MAKE IT SO EASY......)

"Frank was instrumental in redefining Batman for a new generation, and I, for one, can't wait to see him bring that same level of clarity and interpretation to Dick Grayson and Robin," added Dan DiDio, Vice President and Executive Editor of DC Comics. "With the teams now set for the two ALL-STAR books, BATMAN AND ROBIN and SUPERMAN, everyone should agree that they meet the expectations set for these series: All Star creators working on iconic versions of our All Star characters - it doesn't get much better than this." EDITOR'S NOTE: SNORK. I IMAGINE NOT.....


STAR TREK rumored to have a DEATH IN WINTER
New TREK novel is set post-NEMESIS


The Psi Phi website has posted the cover artwork for DEATH IN WINTER, the first STAR TREK novel to be set after the events in STAR TREK: NEMESIS. The hardback will be written by Michael Jan Friedman and arrive on store shelves on September 20, 2005.

What little is known about the book's storyline is that it is set during the weeks immediately following the Enterprise-E's battle with Shinzon, when the vessel was in drydock and undergoing repairs. As was seen during the final moments of NEMESIS, EDITOR'S NOTE: FOR THOSE OF YOU UNFORTUNATE ENOUGH NOT TO HAVE BOILED THIS MOVIE FROM YOUR BRAIN. Captain Picard had just welcomed his new first officer, Commander Martin Madden, to the ship and is presented with his new captain's chair. One rumored plotline that Psi Phi mentions that may or may not be true involves the death of another major character from the NEXT GENERATION ensemble. EDITOR'S NOTE: FROM OLD AGE, NO DOUBT?

Also worthy of mention is a new STAR TREK line of novels to be published in 2005. Titled STAR TREK: VANGUARD, these books are set on a Federation starbase and set during the time of Captain Kirk's original five-year mission on the Enterprise. The first novel will be written by longtime TREK novelist David Mack and be published in August. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND HAS THE TREK BOOK UNIVERSE GOTTEN ANY KIND OF CONTINUITY GOING YET? OR IS IT STILL A COMPLETE MISHMASH?

COMICS (commentary)


Comics culture gets a nod of approval
Will Eisner's life helped influence a generation of storytelling artists
CommentaryBy ANDREW DANSBYCopyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
The flurry of obituaries written for Will Eisner, who died this week of complications from quadruple bypass surgery, won't be the last you'll hear this year about this artist of inestimable importance. For nearly 70 years, he was a vital contributor to the art of comics, doing more than anyone else to legitimize a marginalized form.

It's a shame he'll miss 2005, as it could conceivably be a crossover year for his medium, one of those periods when geekdom is embraced by greater numbers than the gaggle of outsiders who start threading a strand of subculture.

The timing certainly seems apt. Periods of intense affiliation — say those associated with a tight presidential election or a culture war triggered by a Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction — breed and feed subcultures. As die-hardom dies hard, fringe pop cultures speak to those weary of rah-rahing for a polarized side and curious cultural nomads often discover outsider art formerly championed by only a few purists. EDITOR'S NOTE: A SMALL PRICE TO PAY IF NATIONAL POLITICAL SUICIDE LEADS TO INCREASED EXPOSURE TO PROFESSIONAL SNARKDOM?

Folks have buzzed about adult comics making mainstream inroads for several years now, but the format has doggedly avoided overexposure or, for that matter, mass commercial success.
Beyond the attention stirred by Eisner's passing, two cinematic projects — Art School Confidential and Sin City — are currently in post-production stages, and they could nudge comics culture closer to cultural acceptance.

Neither film has the home-run potential of upcoming comics-turned-films like Elektra and The Fantastic Four, which will appeal to the broader superhero set.

But Will Eisner sought a way to extend the comic beyond strips for adolescents. His Spirit series, about a superhero with no superpowers, had an impact that can't be overstated.

"He established much of the visual language that comics artists have used for the last 64 years when he created Spirit," says Scott McCloud, author of the essential graphic narrative primer Understanding Comics. "His ideas about storytelling paved the way for most of what we know as comic book history."

Art School Confidential and Sin City are adapted from comics that carry Eisner's bloodline.
The former is directed by Terry Zwigoff, an eccentric and gifted filmmaker who has done more to feed comic book geekdom to cultural nomads than perhaps anyone in the past decade.
Art School Confidential (pulled from Daniel Clowes' 8 Ball comic series) is Zwigoff's second collaboration with Clowes, whose Ghost World was the basis for Zwigoff's 2000 cult film of the same title.

Clowes' biting work offers an inside glimpse of the outside, capturing the anxieties, cravings and other unspoken thoughts of an array of semi-functional oddballs. Zwigoff also directed a fantastic, well-received documentary about artist R. Crumb in 1994.

Zwigoff has done much to solidify a strange little microcosm populated by Clowes, Crumb and their characters, who share social and sexual alienation and a love of old blues recordings by the likes of Skip James or Furry Lewis.

Crumb's iconic style is carnivalesque on the surface. Clowes, on the other hand, often places a prim facade over grim subtext. The content of a Clowes comic can be brutally funny and is frequently mean-spirited. But such misanthropic territory is not a child's playground.
Eisner facilitated these styles of adult comics, advancing the form decades ago beyond a three-frame, daily narrative clip for children.

He was responsible for the elimination of thought or dialogue bubbles from some frames, allowing characters' expressions to convey their state of mind with elliptical intrigue. It's a tradition carried over to Clowes' forehead, oft-dappled with a trickle of sweat as one of his uncomfortable characters finds himself in an uncomfortable position.

Eisner is credited with coining the phrase "graphic novel" during an attempt to sell his manuscript A Contract With God to a publisher who wouldn't have given him the time of day had he pitched it using the word "comics."EDITOR'S NOTE: SO IT ISN'T JUST THE AD BIZ THAT BASTARDIZES THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE FOR FUN AND PROFIT, EH? (THE MARKETING DRONES RUN THE WORLD....SIGH).

In a thoroughly engaging 2000 interview with the Onion's Tasha Robinson, Eisner likened that book's creation to opening "a toll booth in an empty field, waiting for the highway to come through." EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL PUT, MR. EISNER!! (AND HOW MANY OF US FEEL THAT WAY ABOUT SOME ELEMENT OF OUR LIVES EVERY OTHER DAY)?! McCloud suggests that Eisner's vision was as profoundly crazed and prophetic as that of Bugsy Siegel when he had the idea of planting a hotel/casino in the middle of the Nevada desert.

In that same interview, Eisner was optimistic about the form's future, likening the graphic novel to jazz and suggesting that it had made progress and would continue to do so. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND LIKE JAZZ, WILL NEVER BE FOR EVERYONE. (AND WHEN IT BECOMES MASS-APPEAL, IT WILL BECOME THE EQUIVALENT OF NEW AGE MUSIC).

He was right. Through brute force, Hollywood intrigue (McCloud points to Men in Black, From Hell and The Road to Perdition as a few films pulled from graphic novels) and some literati acceptance (Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon is an uncloseted comics fan), the graphic novel has acquired some gravitas, though it still remains a relatively undiscovered species.
Art Spiegelman's Maus series wandered into wider cultural conscience, but the good folks at Fantagraphics Books or Dark Horse Comics, to name just two, continue to produce vibrantly detailed, narratively rich works of visual fiction by authors that don't receive the automatic hype and marketing muscle of Knopf's genius novelist-of-the-month.EDITOR'S NOTE: AMEN AND HALLELUJAH!

Veteran artist Frank Miller, another who effectively utilizes design theories pioneered by Eisner, could be the best bet for a bigger breakthrough this year. His Sin City series is among the more popular in the field, of a like with noir scribes from pulp master Jim Thompson to James Ellroy.

For starters, some of Miller's Sin City titles are being reissued this spring by Dark Horse with a new package by design whiz Chip Kidd, who revolutionized book packaging in the '90s.
In another natural pairing, Miller is directing a Sin City film with Robert Rodriguez. The cast is loaded with a neo-noir dream team (Mickey Rourke, Michael Madsen, Rutger Hauer) along with talent like Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen, Jessica Alba and Elijah Wood. EDITOR'S NOTE: AMAZING CAST.

Of course, the folly of trying to pigeonhole any such "trend" is the mashing together of apples and oranges under the wider fruit banner. The art of Miller and that of Clowes is fundamentally different — visually, textually and culturally — as much as each is different from the superheroes of Marvel Comics. It's presumptuous (and wrong) to assume that they share fan bases.

But the medium does hook a type of fan and a type of cultural nomad, and a sea change of acceptance could honor Eisner's spirit, since he couldn't see such a development during his lifetime. EDITOR'S NOTE: HE CERTAINLY SAW A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF RESURGENCE AND EMERGENCE IN HIS LIFETIME. ENOUGH TO SEE THE POSITIVE HAND-WRITING ON THE WALL.

Such baby steps could have residual benefits for other artists like Jaime Hernandez, famous in his circle, unheard of among your average culturally literate folks, despite having started a career nearly 20 years ago.

They can also make quiet heroes out of preservationists like Denis Kitchen, a 35-year comic vet who runs a publishing company and artist agency, helping to keep some classic comic art in print.

Whether the form is embraced by a loyal few or a fleeting many, Eisner's role won't be lost. Just about every comics-related Web site marked his passing as if he were the pope. The industry's annual awards ceremony already carries his name. And the art that comes will continue to bear his influence.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


BUFFY's best friend becomes Jennifer's best friend
Alyson Hannigan joins sitcom cast

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER co-star Alyson Hannigan has been cast as the best friend of Jennifer Love Hewitt's EDITOR'S NOTE: OR AS I LIKE TO CALL HER, SKINNY GIRL WHO HAS AN ACTING CAREER FOR NO DISCERNABLE REASON. character for IN THE GAME, a new ABC sitcom. The show has been retooled and Hannigan's character is a new addition to the format.

The series will focus on a producer of a sports show (Hewitt) who inadvertently winds up as a popular reporter on the program. EDITOR'S NOTE: MY CAREER TRAJECTORY FEELS KIND OF 'INADVERTENT' TOO, BUT NOT IN ANY GOOD WAY..... MARRIED WITH CHILDREN star Ed O'Neill will play the show's executive producer.


SMALLVILLE actress wins role in pilot

Canadian-born actress Emmanuelle Vaugier has been cast as PAINKILLER JANE in the Sci Fi Channel pilot. Perhaps best known to genre fans for her role as Dr. Helen Bryce in SMALLVILLE, Vaugier will play a Marine officer that develops healing powers after being exposed to a bioweapon. The two-hour pilot is based on the Event Comics series of the same name.

Vaugier will also be seen in the sequel to HOUSE OF THE DEAD.


Portman to play V FOR VENDETTA
STAR WARS actress cast in Wachowski brothers new film

Warner Bros. has announced that Natalie Portman (STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH) will star in V FOR VENDETTA, the movie adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's distrubing, futuristic comic book mini-series. The Wachowski brothers, writers/directors of THE MATRIX trilogy, will serve as producers on the film along with Joel Silver. James McTeigue, the first assistant director for the Wachowskis on the MATRIX films, will make his directorial debut with V FOR VENDETTA. EDITOR'S NOTE: OH. GOODIE. THE HACKS WHO UPON US INFLICTED "THE MATRIX TRILOGY" (SUBTITLE? NOT JUST ONE BAD MOVIE, BUT THREE! MORE KEANU THAN ALLOWED BY LAW. SOUND AND FURY....LOTS OF IT!). GUESS THEY RAN OUT OF DRUG MONEY AND NEED TO DO ANOTHER MOVIE. POOR MISS NATALIE.....

Portman will play a young woman who becomes the unlikely ally of the mysterious masked revolutionary known only as V. "Natalie Portman is one of the most gifted actresses working today, and we’re thrilled that she is bringing her extraordinary talents and presence to this film, said Joel Silver in a company-issued press release.

The film's setting will not alter from that in the comic series, set in a totalitarian Britain after a devastating war has ravaged the planet. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO THEY CAN RE-USE THE MATTE PAINTINGS FROM "THE MATRIX". Filming will commence on the movie in March in Berlin for a November 2005 release.

Warner Bros. has also released a piece of promotional artwork for the film.


Vanity Fair Does It One Last Time

This month Vanity Fair will once again take readers to that galaxy far, far away with superb photos by Annie Leibovitz and an interview with George Lucas. This issue doesn't just touch on Episode III but rather all six films.

This month, Vanity Fair magazine celebrates the upcoming release of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith with magnificent photos of the actors and crew taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, and an exclusive interview with George Lucas. The Star Wars creator reveals several secrets, including explaining midi-chlorians once and for all, as well as giving his own views as to why Darth Vader should be regarded less as the ultimate monster than as a potential hero who made all the wrong choices throughout his journey. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEAH...GOOD LUCK WITH JUSTIFYING THAT ONE, UNCLE G.

This issue commemorates the entire Star Wars saga with a special fold-out cover that features Lucas posing with actors and characters from all the films, photographed by Leibovitz. Included are Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Jake Lloyd (young Anakin),EDITOR'S NOTE: AND WAIT TILL YOU SEE YOUNG MR. LLOYD....UNRECOGNIZABLE! Natalie Portman (Padmé Amidala), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian). Among the characters spotlighted on the cover are Yoda, Darth Vader, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Jar Jar Binks and General Grievous. EDITOR'S NOTE: SILLY CG CHARACTER NUMBER 87?

Vanity Fair contributing editor Jim Windolf talks to Lucas about his feelings regarding a saga that has encompassed 33 years of dedication and passion, and examines how a simple tale of a hero's journey became an epic legacy.

"I was interested in learning why George Lucas sat down with a pencil to write Star Wars in the first place, and where the story came from," Windolf explains. "I read plenty of biographies about George as well as The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, who was a big influence on him. If you tried to explain the plots of these films to someone who had never seen them, they might seem wacky. But as I read Campbell's work, it really began to make sense how George boiled down the common elements about heroes and their struggles."

Throughout Windolf's discussion with Lucas, the filmmaker revealed not only his appreciation for Campbell's work but also his own opinions on why Vader should not be viewed as a monster but instead as a sad man who made a deal with the Devil...and lost.

"It occurred to me as I was watching the movies again how strong Palpatine is and that Darth Vader is more or less a henchman," Windolf says. "It was exciting to hear George say that in Anakin's defiant quest to save someone he loved from death, he literally wanted to be able to stop them from going down the river Styx. But to do that, you have to ask permission from a god. He was denied, so he made a pact with the Sith...with dire consequences." EDITOR'S NOTE: AND PLUS THERE'S THINGS THAT GO BOOM AND PURTY PICTURES.

In addition to revealing comments about Anakin's dark journey in Revenge of the Sith, Windolf received a rather detailed explanation from Lucas about the intricate concept of midi-chlorians and the Force, as well as the misconstrued view that Vader was the all-powerful bad guy.
"Even in the very first movie -- A New Hope -- when Vader is in the meeting and he chokes the guy for mocking him, someone else tells Vader to ease up," Windolf explains. "There's always someone there giving Darth Vader an order. It also comes back to the idea that the Force has a physical embodiment. Because Anakin's body is so injured in Episode III, he isn't as strong in the Force as the Emperor had hoped. And that's why it was so important to the Emperor in the original trilogy to replace Vader with Luke, who was stronger in the Force than his own father. In fact, George mentioned that Anakin and Luke's lives are extremely parallel but while Anakin chooses the dark side at almost every turn, Luke chooses the right path." EDITOR'S NOTE: IT'S THAT WHOLESOME FARM UPBRINGING (WELL, FARMING AS IN GROWING SAND), AND THE STRICT LIMITS PLACED ON HIM BY UNCLE OWEN. (OWEN ROCKS!)

In the article, Windolf also points out parallels between the Skywalker family and Lucas' own past, whether it's comparing young Anakin's adrenaline rush from Podracing and Lucas' own fascination for race cars, or Luke's dream to leave the homestead to have adventures and Lucas' quest to escape what he considered the boredom of selling stationary in his father's store for the exciting life of a filmmaker. Windolf is quick to point out in the article that the Star Wars saga does more than gives moviegoers a glimpse of what it feels like to be a hero, but also gives fans a brief insight into the bits and pieces of Lucas' own experiences as a filmmaker who broke through to make movies his own way.

"George said to me during the interview that in his opinion the really great authors like Shakespeare and Tolstoy could write beyond their own experiences through research and reporting, and just observation of other people, but all he had to go on was his own experience because he didn't have time to research other peoples' lives," Windolf recalls. "It's a good sign, especially in the context of Hollywood movies where so many of them are written by committee and mapped out as devices to manipulate audiences rather than act as someone's self expression. He's invested a lot of his own life story into the characters with personal details, so he's not just cynically coming up with some systematic storyline. He's writing from the heart. Showing that his biography is intertwined with the stories of the characters is a way of explaining that he means what he writes."

Claiming that he's earned the "right to fail," Lucas also explains to Windolf the desire to return to his THX 1138 roots and make more experimental films now that the cinematic element of the Star Wars saga is coming to a close.

"I think the one thing George wanted to make clear was that there aren't going to be any more Star Wars movies after this," Windolf explains. "However, I am curious now if that means he'll consider making a historical epic like Troy. I wouldn't be shocked to see him making a film about Napoleon or another legend. But more than likely, I believe he's craving a chance to make smaller movies on the fly. It's going to be a pleasure for him not to have a huge machinery around him when he's trying to make a movie. But I wouldn't be surprised in a couple of years if the bug bites him again and he wants to show that he can make a grand movie that's not a Star Wars movie, just to make one final statement." EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL IT WOULD BE A SHAME TO WASTE ALL THOSE TOYS HE'S GOT AT HIS DISPOSAL IN THE ILM WONKAFACTORY.

One of the main elements Windolf hopes fans grasp from the article is Lucas' passion in telling a tale that mirrors his own hopes and regrets as a person. Fans may sit mesmerized by the fight scenes, the vivid special effects and the memorable creatures, but underlying all the sensational aspects of Star Wars is a strong sense of iconic storytelling that only a talented filmmaker can pull off.

"I wanted to point out that many directors with lofty reputations have made a movie for hire, but not Lucas," Windolf says. "I wanted to write against the conventional ideas about Lucas; everyone assumes that he's a studio director and all these other things that just aren't really true. I wanted to show that George does invest himself in these movies, and that they're not machine-made products created to manipulate audiences. He has something to say by expressing himself through an artistic statement that just so happens to be in this unusual medium of adventure sci-fi fantasy." EDITOR'S NOTE: ARE THERE REALLY A LOT OF MOVIE-GOERS OUT THERE THAT STILL THINK UNCLE G IS A STUDIO CLONE? I MEAN, HASN'T HIS INDEPENDANCE BEEN PUBLICIZED ENOUGH THAT WE'RE ALL CLEAR ON THAT. I'M SORT OF SURPRISED AT A VANITY FAIR WRITER THAT SOUNDS LIKE SUCH A PR FLACK. (DON'T GET ME WRONG....I AM OUR UNCLE'S NUMBER 1 FAN. BUT THIS SOUNDS LIKE RE-HASHED PABLUM A BIT, DON'T IT?)




Tsunami revives 'We Are the World' for aid
The 1985 African famine relief benefit song, "We Are the World," is being revived for tsunami relief efforts in a new Chinese version featuring Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung and other top Hong Kong stars. The new rendition, titled "Love," will be the featured song in the Crossing Borders charity performance Friday organized by the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild. Organizers felt "We Are the World" captured their belief that disaster relief shouldn't discriminate by ethnicity or national boundary, guild official Patricia Ho said Tuesday. EDITOR'S NOTE: I PROMISE TO SEND EXTRA CASH IF THEY JUST DON'T SING THIS.


Commentary: Deciphering 'Alias'
Clever, convoluted series returns Wednesday night

Jennifer Garner has been put through the wringer as agent Sydney Bristow in "Alias."

She sits in a German bank, staring at the secret documents she just ripped from a safety deposit box -- documents that unravel a critical chapter of her past, part of the story of who she is.

"Project Subject: Sydney Anne Bristow," one reads, with a start date listed: the day of her birth. The project manager: "Jack Bristow" -- her father.

"Sydney, you were never supposed to have found this," he says, stepping into the room, as she gazes up toward him, her eyes glistening with tears.

And the screen goes to black.

So it was when last we saw our heroine, the CIA super-agent at the heart of ABC's "Alias," which makes its long-awaited return Wednesday. For newcomers, this is where to pick up the story.
But those of us who have followed the show since its inception know this is no single-cliffhanger series. Even in its first season, "Alias" left the fate of basically every major character up in the air (or under water, as the case may be -- basically, everything but off an actual cliff). Things have gotten even more labyrinthine since then.

Now, more than a dozen major questions hang over the series as it begins its fourth season -- not the least of which is whether this will be the last. Despite some of the best acting and most addictive plot lines on television, "Alias" never gave ABC the ratings boost it was looking for. Finally, desperate times called for "Desperate Housewives," and there went the "Alias" Sunday 9 p.m. time slot.

Now, "Alias" is being given a chance to follow "Lost," the new ABC hit helmed by "Alias's" creator, the brilliant writer and cult hero J.J. Abrams. It's likely he'll try to transform "Alias" into a more newcomer-friendly product.

Family complications
But that's a concern to those of us who love it for its insanely complicated, twisty-as-a-Maui-road fictional world. EDITOR'S NOTE: I JUST HOPE THERE'S A WEE BIT...JUST A WEE BIT FOR THE NUTRASWEET IMPAIRED?....OF RECAP TONIGHT. MY HEAD HURTS JUST THINKING ABOUT ALL THE NUANCES OF PLOT I STRAIN TO RECALL.

In fact, Abrams tried to simplify once before, tossing out the show's original premise -- Sydney as double agent taking down nefarious agency SD-6 -- in one jolting post-Super Bowl episode in the middle of season 2, an episode that also overplayed the show's great guilty pleasure, Jennifer Garner's endless array of sexy disguises (if there's a wig of any color we haven't seen yet, expect it this season). He also tossed in a terrible best-friend-killed-and-replaced-with-evil-replica subplot.

Thankfully, that's over. We think.

Still, through it all, Abrams has continued building suspense on the most important fronts. The best storylines involve Sydney's family: her emotionally distant, mysterious, fellow super-spy dad (Emmy-worthy Victor Garber) and mom Irina Derevko (the brilliant Lena Olin, who appeared only in season 2), a former KGB operative who tricked Jack into falling in love with her.

Irina then faked her own death, leaving Jack to raise Sydney alone, resurfaced years later and then faked them both out -- supposedly for their own good.

And that's not even the half of it.

(Incidentally, along the way, Sydney had two years removed from her memory. Let's not even get into that.)

Now Sydney has a half-sister in the mix, byproduct of Irina's long ago affair with the evil Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin), who last season pretended to change into a global good guy and somehow got a shockingly loose and unethical CIA psychiatrist to sleep with him.

It all leaves viewers with many, many questions. Is the sister evil? What do we still not know about the time Sydney had wiped from her memory? Is her mother still alive? Will Irina's sister (Isabella Rossellini) pay for trying to kill Sydney? Does Sydney have a child somewhere? (Stolen ovaries, apparently destroyed -- yeah, gross.)

Of course, all of this would seem exhausting and extraneous if Abrams didn't keep suggesting, somehow believably, that absolutely everything we've seen will make sense when we find out the truth about Rimbaldi, an inventor and prognosticator from centuries ago who apparently developed a way to restore life to a dying creature.

Looking for answers
Confused? You're not alone. So am I, and so is everyone who's ever seen even 10 minutes of one episode.

But don't give up. If you can catch up, it's worth the ride. EDITOR'S NOTE: IT SURE IS, BABY!

This year bodes well for several reasons. First, some big answers must be on the way. (Right?) Second, Angela Bassett is set to appear, and she alone could make almost any show worth watching. And finally, it marks the return of Will, Sydney's friend and the show's most realistic character.

Personally, I'm over the central romantic entanglement, the once star-crossed love between Sydney and Vaughn, who spent last season turning from cool partner-in-espionage into clueless pretty boy. (Does anyone recall a week he didn't end up in the hospital?) Rumor has it this year will take that whole part of the story in a new direction.

In short, Aliaphiles like myself have many reasons to tune in. (Note to obsessive fans: yes, I know I short-handed major plot points and left out about 100.)

But to the uninitiated, simply start here: What was in the secret documents?


Tuesday, January 04, 2005







New comic book mini-series to be written by creator of cult character
Comic book publisher Moonstone has announced that it has acquired the rights to publish a comic book about the further adventures of BUCKAROO BANZAI, the beloved cult character that was introduced in the 1984 science fiction film THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION.

Moonstone will publish a full-color mini-series that will feature a new Banzai tale written by the movie's screenwriter, Earl Mac Rauch. As well, BANZAI director W.D. Richter will also give input on the creation of the mini-series. Artwork will be provided by Stephen Thompson (STAR WARS: REPUBLIC).

For those unaware of the legendary Buckaroo Banzai, he's a brilliant physicist, renouned neurosurgeon, leader of the Hong Kong Cavaliers and plays a mean rock and roll guitar. Peter Weller played the character in the 1984 film which also co-starred John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown, Ellen Barkin and Christopher Lloyd.

A publication date for the comic book wasn't announced in the Moonstone press release.


Sony snares studio race victory
Taking its cue from high-flying Spider-Man, Sony Pictures Releasing swung into the top spot in the 2004 North American market share ranking. EDITOR'S NOTE: DID WE HELP?

The Culver City-based distributor generated $1.31 billion in ticket sales for the year. It was the third consecutive year the distributor has passed the $1 billion mark and the fourth time in the company's history that it has accomplished that feat. Sony's annual total of $1.31 billion represents the third-highest annual domestic boxoffice total on record. The only higher totals were Buena Vista's $1.52 billion in 2003 and Sony's own industry high-water mark of $1.57 billion in 2002. It was also the third time Sony has worn the North American market share crown.


'Wolf Creek' is next stop for Dimension
Although the Sundance Film Festival doesn't begin until Jan. 20, Dimension Films has already snapped up rights to multiple territories on the Australian feature "Wolf Creek," which will make its world premiere in the festival's new World Cinema Competition section.

Dimension has acquired the rights for North America, Latin America (excluding Brazil), Spain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Benelux, paying slightly less than $4 million for the deal.

Budgeted at $1 million and inspired by real events, the thriller-horror from first-time writer-director Greg McLean follows a group of three travelers threatened by a seemingly harmless local in the Australian outback EDITOR'S NOTE: ALL THAT BUGGERING SHEEP AND HAVING NO ONE TO TALK TO BUT DINGOS, AND YOU FINALLY JUST GO ROUND THE BEND, HUH?


Academy picks 7 sound editing contenders
Seven films have been short-listed for consideration in the Oscar sound editing race by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts. Top picks include Miramax's "The Aviator," DreamWorks' "Collateral," Twentieth Century Fox Studios' "The Day After Tomorrow," Pixar Animation Studios' "The Incredibles," Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Polar Express," Universal Pictures' "Ray" and Columbia Pictures' "Spider-Man 2." EDITOR'S NOTE: SORT OF ALL APPLES AND ORANGES, HUH? TOUGH CATEGORY.

Ten-minute clip reels from each of the seven films will be screened for the Sound Editing Award Committee on Jan. 18. The members will then nominate three of these seven films for Oscar consideration. The nominations will be announced along with those in 23 other categories on Jan. 25. EDITOR'S NOTE: IF I HAVE 73 FILMS YET TO SEE WHEN THE NOMS ARE ANOUNCED....AFTER ALL THE DURN MOVIES I'VE SEEN (EATING ALL MY PEAS, DARNIT).....I AM GOING TO BE QUITE HUFFY. (THAT'LL SHOW EM).Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements will be presented Feb. 27


SMALLVILLE's Lois Lane Back for More?
Will Lois Lane be joining the SMAVILLE cast in the next season?

"I would be interested in coming back, of course,” SMALLVILLE guest star Erica Durance told SciFi Pulse's Ian M. Cullen. "That would be wonderful, to be able to be on this show for another season. I think they're working on that right now and deciding how much of next season Lois might be back and where they could take the character. I know they'd love to bring her back, but there's the film coming up and there are all sorts of things in the upper echelons that I don't know reasons for, but I'll probably know what's happening for in next couple of months."EDITOR'S NOTE: ON THE PLUS SIDE, THE ACTRESS HAS DONE A NICE JOB, AND THE CHARACTER IS FUN CONTRAST TO WIMPY/SIMPY LANA. ON THE DOWNSIDE, IT REALLY MESSES WITH SUPERMAN CONTINUITY, DOESN'T IT?


Bruckheimer pilots get call from NBC, WB
In a flurry of pilot activity Monday, producer Jerry Bruckheimer received two drama pilot pickups -- one at NBC for "E-Ring" and one at the WB Network for an untitled project from writer Jonathan Shapiro. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO IF YOUR NETWORK IS HAVING PROBLEMS, CALL IN THE JERR-MEISTER? (WORKS FOR ME....ALL CSI/ALL THE TIME)

Separately, NBC has given a cast-contingent order to "Loved Ones," a comedy from "Will & Grace" veteran Jeff Greenstein and "3rd Rock From the Sun" vet Bob Kushell.

"E-Ring," from Bruckheimer TV and Warner Bros. TV, has been in the works at the network with a hefty commitment. Described as "The West Wing" set at the Pentagon, the defense-themed drama was created by David McKenna and Ken Robinson, a terrorism and military intelligence consultant for CNN and former Green Beret. McKenna, who penned the pilot script, is executive producing with Bruckheimer and Bruckheimer TV chief Jonathan Littman.


Disneyland anniversary parade gets rolling in Pasadena
Kicking off the marketing and advertising campaign for its "Biggest Celebration on Earth," an 18-month commemoration of Disneyland's 50th anniversary, the Walt Disney Co. launched its first-ever global advertising campaign for its parks and resorts division Saturday, coinciding with the Tournament of Roses parade and Rose Bowl football game here. Disney had the lead float in the annual parade; Mickey Mouse, who tossed the coin before the Rose Bowl, was its grand marshal. The 60-second spot, titled "Coming Home," debuted on ABC, CBS and NBC during the first commercial break of the Rose Bowl telecast. It also will stream simultaneously on seven popular Internet sites, including MSN,, and Yahoo! In advance of the parade and game, Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, shared the spot with media and discussed Disney's aim to leverage the golden anniversary of the company's original theme park in Anaheim into a worldwide "call to action" on the part of the public to avail itself of a Disney theme park experience at its facilities in the United States, France, Japan and, in September, Hong Kong, site of the yet-to-open Hong Kong Disneyland. EDITOR'S NOTE: UMM...I LOVE DISNEY. AND I HATE TO MISS OUT ON THE BIG 'DO'. BUT A "CALL TO ACTION"? BIG-HEADED MOUSE, HUH? (AND "AVAIL ITSELF OF A THEME PARK EXPERIENCE"? SEEMS LIKE WHOEVER WROTE THAT COPY NEEDS TO 'AVAIL ITSELF' OF SOME FUN...AND PRONTO)!


Will Eisner: 1917 - 2005
A legend in the comics world has passed

One of the legends of the comics world has passed on. Will Eisner, creator of THE SPIRIT, died on Monday evening from complications arising from his quadruple heart bypass surgery conducted the month before. He was 87.

Throughout his career Eisner pushed the field of comics to their envelope, paving new ground for every comic creator that followed. In 1942 he was drafted into the Army where he drew numerous comic strips and posters for the service, raising the morale of troops. In later years he would resume this endeavor by creating more strips for corporations to use in educational matters. In 1978 what many comic professionals feel was the first long-form comic story, the so-called "graphic novel", was created by Eisner. Unlike the many superheroes stories that dominated the monthly comic book rack, Eisner's A CONTRACT WITH GOD was drawn from his experiences living in New York's Bronx during the '30s and showed many that comics could tackle any genre of storytelling.

The comics community saluted Eisner by naming the Comic-Con International awards after the writer/artist. Held every year at the annual event in San Diego, the Eisners are to comics what the Oscars are to film.