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“Chronicle” and 5 other movies that weren’t based on comics (but seem like they are)

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Filmmaker Josh Trank’s impressive debut film “Chronicle” hits theaters this weekend, and while its story of three teenagers who gain superhuman powers might seem like comic book fare, you won’t find its inspiration on the shelves of your local comics shop (not directly, at least).

Featuring a story penned by Trank and co-writer Max Landis, “Chronicle” isn’t the only recent movie you’d be excused for thinking is one of the many comic book adaptations to make the leap from page to screen lately. Here are five more films that are notable for featuring original stories that only seem to be ripped from the pages of a comic book.


“Hancock” (2008)

This 2008 film by “Battleship” director Peter Berg was celebrated for its dark, gritty take on the superhero genre, with Will Smith playing the role of a lone super-powered being in a world full of mortals. The very definition of an anti-hero, Smith’s character has fallen on hard times when we first meet him in the film, but we get to watch him grow into something more closely resembling the archetypal hero as the story progresses. While the film has its share of critics, the fact remains that it’s one of the more unique takes on the superhero genre to hit the screen in recent years — mainly because it seems to borrow inspiration from some of the comic book genre’s darker tales rather than the more family-friendly heroic fare.


“My Super Ex-Girlfriend” (2006)

This 2006 film starred Uma Thurman as a female superhero nicknamed “G-Girl,” who goes a little crazy after her latest boyfriend (played by Luke Wilson) breaks up with her. More a parody of superhero movies than a legitimate take on the genre, the film did explore something every comics fan has wondered from time to time: what happens when you fall out of love with someone who can lift a tractor trailer with one hand?


“Unbreakable” (2006)

Director M. Night Shyamalan’s criminally under-appreciated 2000 film was years ahead of the “dark superhero movie” trend, and told the story of a man named David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis) who discovers that he is, well… unbreakable. A modern-day superhero who doesn’t quite know what to do with his power, he sets out to do good, but finds that doing so is more difficult than the comics make it seem. Assisted by his comics-loving son and shop owner Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), David begins the path toward superhero status — but as anyone who knows comics will tell you, every hero has an arch enemy.


“Push” (2009)

This ambitious 2009 film by director Paul McGuigan fell short of expectations, but did an admirable job of setting up a universe full of super-powered humans with various abilities. From movers (people who can telekinetically control objects) and bleeders (people who emit powerful sonic blasts) to stichers (people who can heal and unheal at will) and shifters (shape-changers), the world of “Push” was complicated and layered with a long list of power-wielders eager to test their mettle. Unfortunately, the film fell apart under the weight of its own universe (among other factors), but not before it received a cool comic book prequel by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman from DC Comics.


“Jumper” (2008)

“Star Wars” actor Hayden Christensen’s return to the big screen had him playing a young man gifted with a genetic ability to teleport anywhere in the world at any moment. Not only does he find out there are others like him, but he also discovers that there are people who have sworn to kill all “jumpers.” Unlike the other films in this list, “Jumper” was adapted from a print project, but not a comic book. The inspiration for the film came from a loose adaptation of Steven Gould’s award-winning Jumper novel, which received significantly more acclaim than the film based on it.


What are some of your favorite comic book movies that weren’t based on comics? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

The top 10 prophecies in movies

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The year 2012 means terrible things for people who believe that the world will end along with the Mayan calendar on December 21. Thankfully, we have decades of movies to look back on and learn how to deal with whatever the apocalypse has to throw at us.

Biblical prophecies, Mayan prophecies and Jedi prophecies have all contributed to a rich legacy of cryptic future-telling in film, and whether or not they all came true, we love it when Roland Emmerich and Bruce Willis show us how things play out.

Depending on the source, Earth may overheat, its civilizations could crumble or the entire planet might just pop like a real-life Alderaan by the end of the year. So if end-of-the-world prophecies have you feeling glum, kick back and remember that our ten favorite movie prophecies were all make believe.


10. The coming of the Great Evil, “The Fifth Element” (1994)

Every 5,000 years, Earth has to deal with a destructive force that could end life as we know it, and this time around, Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) and Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) are all that stand in its way. As far as apocalyptic events go, you can do a lot worse than Jovovich, and the film has an all-too-brief Luke Perry cameo to boot.


9. The Antichrist, “The Omen” (1976)

When it comes to the spawn of Satan, those of us who survived the turn of the millennium in 2000 will always be forced to remember “Little Nicky.” Luckily, however, we’ll always have “The Omen” as well. You just can’t replicate the ‘70s-style thrill ride that director Richard Donner’s film brought to theaters—though John Moore did try in 2006.


8. Satan’s child, “End of Days” (1999)

Far less subtle than “The Omen,” this explosion-fest heralded the arrival of the end times as only a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by Peter Hyams (the guy who made “Timecop”) could. The result turned out to be one of the most gratuitously violent romps of Schwarzenegger’s career, but it also gave us a lot to be thankful for when the year 2000 arrived without incident.


7. The Rapture, “Left Behind” (2001)

Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron) may not have been God-fearing enough to make it straight to paradise when all of the holiest people in the world vanished one day. He was lucky enough to have two sinful pilots flying his plane, though. Unfortunately, we were all punished with two long, grinding “Left Behind” films before President Louis Gossett Jr. arrived to help things move along in the third act.


6. The destruction of the Mayans, “Apocalypto” (2006)

Director Mel Gibson undertook one of the more noble feats of his career when he went back in time to get at the drama behind a previous, localized Mayan apocalypse. And we’ll say one thing for sure about his directing—Gibson knows how to make a little girl seem super creepy when she foretells the end of everything.

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The 20 best job-quitting scenes of all time (with video)

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Quitting one’s job can make for some great drama (and comedy) in the movies. Here are some of the best moments of deciding to embrace a life of unemployment — or rather, in most cases, a life of freedom from The Man.


1. “Fight Club” (1999)

This is, for many, the best scene in David Fincher’s ode to masculinity in a hopelessly emasculated society, as the Narrator (Edward Norton) goes to physical extremes — on himself — in blackmailing his boss (Zach Grenier). “Fight Club” is usually at its best whenever Brad Pitt’s id-driven Tyler Durden is around, but Norton really shines in this tour-de-force moment of self-mutilation — it’s both funny and scary watching him punch himself in the face and crash through glass as the boss is too awestruck to realize just how screwed he is now. Jack’s Smirking Revenge, indeed.


2. “American Beauty” (1999)

When Kevin Spacey takes on that smarmy, self-righteous tone he’s so good at, there’s no actor more intimidating — or scathingly funny. Spacey’s Lester Burnham is a put-upon suburban father and husband who suddenly has an epiphany of almost supernatural proportions that leads to a series of radical life changes, one of which is quitting his job at an advertising agency in the most satisfying way possible. Thank goodness we have the movies to fuel our fantasies of telling off our bosses so we don’t go around pulling this kind of crap ourselves.


3. “Reality Bites” (1994)

John Mahoney makes for one of the worst movie bosses of all time as the host of an intolerably cheesy talk show, with Winona Ryder playing his emotionally abused assistant. When it comes time for Winona to instigate her own firing, director Ben Stiller can’t help but go a little too far with the wacky shenanigans (this is the guy behind the sketch comedy show, “The Ben Stiller Show,” after all) as Mahoney makes a fool (or, rather, a prick) of himself on television thanks to some tampered-with notecards (that cutaway shot to the aghast audience is especially wretched), but how can you not help but cheer when Winona Ryder gets her revenge against a big jerk? Hopelessly dated now, “Reality Bites” now serves as a historical piece documenting the trials and tribulations of employment-phobic Generation X.


4. “The Apartment” (1960)

“You dig?” Fred MacMurray dares condescend to Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder’s mischievous comedy. Lemmon plays an executive who tries to rise in the ranks of his company (all the way up to the 27th Floor, in fact) by letting the higher-ups use his apartment for trysts; things get complicated when he embarks on a romance of his own and starts to realize that the whole arrangement is rather, well, gross. If you want to be cynical about it, Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter could be seen as a younger version of Shelly ‘The Machine’ Levene, the washed-up salesman he played 32 years later in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” though we’d like to think Baxter went on to a lucrative career and never needed to rob his own office.


5. “Breaking Away” (1979)

Watch as a young Rorschach from “Watchman” literally punches the clock! People seem to have forgotten that Jackie Earle Haley was quite the renowned child actor, stealing bases (and scenes) as Kelly Leak in “The Bad News Bears” and coming of age as Moocher in “Breaking Away.” Mooch needs a job, but he doesn’t need a job where the boss calls him “Shorty” — quitting within 30 seconds of your first day has to be some sort of record, and Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid (looking considerably older than his co-stars) and Daniel Stern heartily approve.

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10 graphic novels and comics that should be movies

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The following are Ron’s picks for comics that should get the cinematic treatment. For our weekly column on other books we think should be adapted, the aptly titled “Adapt This,” click here.

We are in the midst of a graphic novel renaissance. Anticipation for the upcoming Batman movie is at record high levels. The Walking Dead is a huge hit. Aya of Yop City, another favorite, is coming to the big screen in 2D soon. And so, connected to that, a question arises: What other popular graphic novels are particularly well-suited for the big screen. Here are 10 that this writer would, quite frankly, gladly by a ticket.


10. Starman

The character development of DC’s Jack Knight, aka Starman, spans the entire length of this graphic novel. One could even go so far as to posit that the narrative right down to the paneling (storyboarding) is the blueprint for a great superhero movie. But as superheroes go, Starman, like Batman, possesses no actual superpowers. Instead, Jack Knight uses his “Cosmic Rod” — a device invented by his father, the saintly scientist Ted Knight — to punish criminals menacing his home, Star City. Jack Knight, a fully-fleshed character if there ever was one, loves all things retro. He doesn’t wear a costume but is a legitimate tough guy that reluctantly inherits his family’s Starman mantle after his brother is assassinated by the murderous Mist family.


9. “Y: The Last Man”

A mysterious virus — or what appears to be a mysterious virus — wipes out all the men on the planet. Yorick Brown, an “escape artist,” and his pet Capuchin monkey, Ampersand are the only male survivors on a planet full of women. It sounds like male fantasy wish fulfillment but it isn’t. This Vertigo graphic novel takes Yorick on a quest across a world full of recently unattached women to find — get this — his true love, Beth, who may or may not be in Australia. This is a guy movie that a date wouldn’t mind (wink wink) either.

What complicates things are an Amazonian cult hell-bent on killing the last man on earth as well as the literally millions of women that would like to possess that last man (and, seriously, how awesome is that?). Ultimately –spoiler alert– it is Yorick’s handling of Ampersand’s feces that gives him resistance to the plague (blech). There has been online speculation that Zachary Levi would be an excellent Yorick. I will not poo-poo, no pun intended, on that speculation. A winner of three Eisner awards and written by Brian K. Vaughn I have only four things to say on this in closing: Make. This. Film. Now.


8. “The Zen of Steve Jobs”

Published in, of all places, Forbes, the Zen of Steve Jobs is one of the most brilliantly imaginative graphic novels in recent memory. It is also quite viral. Written by Caleb Melby, this graphic novel tells a fictional and very sweet story of Steve Jobs in his “Wilderness Years” — after he was aced out of the company, Apple, that he had founded. Steve at the time actually enlisted Zen priest Kobun Chino Otogawa to teach him about how Buddhism could enhance his famously acute design sense. The rest, of course, is history.

Although a heady topic, to be sure (at the intersection of Buddhism and design), it works — and is quite beautiful — as a graphic novel about a person who changed the world. After the best-selling Walter Issacson biography and the creepy action figure culturally we are still not quite over Steve Jobs. This, more than any Jobs biography, would make for a wonderful full length film.


7. “Maus”

Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” was a game changer for graphic novels. In depicting a subject as serious as the Holocaust, “Maus,” an anthropomorphic graphic novel depicting Jews as mice and Germans as cats, expanded the parameters of the subject matter of all graphic novels that came afterwards. There is Before Maus and now we live in After Maus — a space in which the graphic novel can now be properly construed as a legitimate art form.

It is astonishing that no one (Steven Spielberg? Francis Ford?) has turned this into a CGI film yet with Tom Hanks doing the voice. Fingers crossed.


6. “Swamp Thing”

It is about time to apply some bio-restorative formula to this wonderfully eerie story by Alan Moore about our favorite plant elemental and his nemesis, the relentless black magician Arcane. This story has it all: love, loss, an inquiry into the nature of power, dark magic and even a low level, unintrusive environmentalism.

The swamp thing is more than just a vegetable mass that thinks itself Alec Holland (although that’s partly true) — it, no pun intended, has legs. There have already been two movies and a TV show that have spun out of the successful DC comic. Imagine what a filmmaker like Tim Burton could do in reimagining the unforgiving Louisiana Bayou.

Five easy ways to turn January into a great month for movies

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January doesn’t have the best reputation among cinephiles, possibly because January is, hands down, 99 and 44/100% pure crap when it comes to movies. Studios are still focused on their award contenders from November and December, audiences are getting back to their lives after a long vacation, and most of the movies released between January 1 and 31 get dumped there for a reason; namely, they’re terrible. In January 1996, Hollywood released Pauly Shore’s “Bio-Dome,” the orangutan “comedy” “Dunston Checks In,” and the immortal “Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace” all on the same, terrible day. It was January 12th, if you’re curious. We should probably light a candle every year to remember all the movielovers who died that day of acute bad movie poisoning.

But just because Hollywood’s mostly turned their back on January doesn’t mean you have to as well. There are plenty of ways to turn January’s Cinema Dead Zone into a Videodrome of delights. Follow these five simple steps, and you’ll be a much happier moviegoer this month.

1. Don’t Assume That It’s Bad Just Because It Was Released in January.
Granted, in the majority of cases, that assumption would be correct. But almost every year good movies open in January. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them — they’re not so much diamonds in the rough as truffles buried in pig shit. In January 2011, we got critical favorites like “Nostalgia for the Light” and “Kaboom;” in January 2010, I fell in love with “Sweetgrass,” a tiny documentary about sheep herders that wound up on my top ten list that year. Other good-to-great January releases over the past twenty-five years: “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days,” “Cloverfield,” “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” “City of God,” “Half Baked,” “Fallen Angels,” “Zero Effect,” “Waiting For Guffman,” “Before Sunrise,” and “Broadway Danny Rose.” The odds are long, but not impossible. This year, you can try your luck with “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” “Miss Bala,” and “Haywire.”

2. Check out Video on Demand.
The multiplexes may be filled with platforming awards contenders and garbage from the studios’ discard piles this month, but you can find a ton of interesting new stuff right in your own home. Straight-to-video or VOD used to come with a stigma of cheapness and failure — movies premiered there only as a last resort. Not anymore; now filmmakers use VOD and digital downloads as a more cost effective way to reach a wide audience. In the waning days of 2011, that’s where “House of the Devil” director Ti West premiered his new film “The Innkeepers” and Edward Burns released his latest microindie, “Newlyweds,” which he shot for just $9,000. Tomorrow, one of the most acclaimed festival thrillers in recent years, “Kill List” from British director Ben Wheatley, bows on VOD. You want to talk about a joyful noise — that’s the sound I make when I get to watch “Kill List,” which I’ve been dying to see since last year’s South by Southwest, without having to put pants on. (Too much information? Sorry.)

3. Visit Your Local Repertory Theater.
Because January tends to be a slow month for new releases, repertory distributors often exploit the weakness in the market with some of the most interesting offerings of the year. In recent Januaries, you could have caught revival screenings of “Last Year at Marienbad,” “The Battle of Algiers,” “Le Cercle Rouge,” or a pair of forgotten documentaries by Martin Scorsese. This year, you can watch a Robert Bresson retrospective in New York City, a collection of “Super 80s” kids movies in Los Angeles, or a haunted house series in Boston. Ignore what your therapist tells you and do what I like to do at this time of year: live in the past.

4. Catch Up on Cinematic Blindspots Online.
If you’re not fortunate enough to live near a good revival house, there are plenty of classic films available right at your fingertips on Netflix Watch Instantly, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and assorted other streaming services. Rainer Werner Fassbender’s sci-fi epic “World on a Wire” doesn’t hit Criterion Blu-ray until Februray, but you can already watch it on Hulu Plus. If you’re more of a Howard Hawks fan, Netflix has “Scarface,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Redline 7000,” and more. Internet streaming turns any month of the year into the Golden Age of Cinema.

5. Embrace the badness.
Every year there are at least a couple of terrible January releases so bad that they’re actually worth seeing as sociological experiments in the field of human endurance or just as an opportunity to get your buddies together — and by buddies, I mean like Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker kind of buddies — and enjoy the hell out of some schlock cinema. Pick a time when you’ll be the only ones in the theater — either really early or really late at night — and get good and rowdy on Mark Wahlberg strapping money to his chest. Remember: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Or at least make fun of them.

What January releases are you looking forward to? No, it’s not a trick question. Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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