DID YOU READ

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” deliver the action at Toy Fair

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The relationship between movies and toys these days is almost seamless. On one had you have movies like “Star Wars” that pretty much gave birth to the action figure line, and other the other you have toy lines like G.I. Joe and Transformers that were adapted in to major motion pictures. And the relationship makes complete and total sense. From wanting to take a piece of your on-screen adventure home, to the excitement of seeing your action figures come to life, there’s a certain chemistry between plastic and film, and this weekend it brewed to a perfect mix at the New York Toy Fair.

At the Hasbro Fan Media Day, IFC had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the toys that will accompany this summer’s biggest movies. From the Marvel Movies, we were able to see “The Amazing Spider-Man” in multiple incarnations, from the standard action figure to an RC version of the web-slinger that climbs wall using vacuum suction. And for those not content with simply playing with the Lizard, there’s a snazzy mask to bring out your inner reptile.

Also from Marvel comes figures from “The Avengers,” featuring Captain America, Hulk, Thor and Black Widow. Among the many vehicles the figures can use, none is more impressive than the 3-foot long S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, with more than enough space for the entire line-up of heroes to assemble. While the Helicarrier isn’t quite as big at Hasbro’s 1985 U.S.S. Flagg, it could also serve as the perfect staging for a G.I. Joe assault squad.

And while we’re on the subject, the new figures from “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” are unbelivably cool. From Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Roadblock, which could inspire anything from wrestling to “The Fast and The Furious” playtime, to finally getting a Bruce Willis action figure (in character as Joe Colton) that makes up for every John McClane figure we didn’t get over the four “Die-Hard” movies (now, if they had only cast Alan Rickman as part of Cobra’s inner circle).

But while it’s great to get figures for two of film’s biggest action heroes, my personal favorite has to be The Rza’s figure for The Blind Master, a member of the same ninja clan that trained Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. If there was ever a figure more deserving of Kung-Fu grip, it would be an MC from the Wu-Tang Clan.

With the release of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3D,” this past week, Hasbro has introduced newly sculpted figures from the film, as well as a massive Trade Federation Droid deployment ship.

But the best thing from this line has to be the one that isn’t in any of the movies, but really should be: Jar Jar Binks in carbonite.

While it isn’t really clear who’s throne room wall Jar Jar would be displayed on, we’re pretty sure no one will be mounting a rescue any time soon.

And finally, we got to check out the toy lines for “Battleship,” which feature an updated version of the game so that you can match the Earth’s Navy against alien invaders, and model kits using Hasbro’s new Kre-O building block line.

Did seeing the toys for this summer’s movies get you excited? Which ones do you have to get first? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Underworld

Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?


2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.


3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.


4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.


5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.


6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.


7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?


8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.


9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!


10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

The rise of the film critic filmmaker

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The line between film critic and film maker has always been a blurry one. “Battleship Potemkin” director Sergei Eisenstein wrote essays and books about the language of motion pictures that continue to be studied by film students to this day. Many of the biggest figures of the French New Wave, from Jean-Luc Godard to Francois Truffaut, were first writers for the magazine “Cahiers du Cinema.” The same was true of the leaders of the New Hollywood era, where Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader crossed over from writer to critic. Even the great critic Pauline Kael took a job as an executive at Paramount Pictures for a short time.

Through all of that, though, there was still a bit of a divide. You could write a piece of film criticism, or you could make a film, but it was very difficult to do both. Now, that seems to be changing. We’re witnessing the rise of the film critic filmmaker.

Arguably the most famous film critic filmmaker, and certainly the spiritual father to this new marriage between film commentary and film production is still almost entirely anonymous. In 2001, this faceless, nameless editor took George Lucas‘ cut of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” — which, in an interesting bit of timing, is coming back to theaters this Friday in a new, 3D print — and excised almost twenty minutes from the film, removing most of the scenes featuring characters like Jar Jar Binks and Anakin Skywalker that fans of the original “Star Wars” trilogy hated. He called it “Episode 1.1 – The Phantom Edit,” and he was so scared of reprisals from Lucasfilm that he credited himself only as “The Phantom Editor.” This all took place so long ago that the project was initially considered by many to be nothing more than an urban legend. Those who saw it, at least at first, did so on dubbed VHS tapes. Just a decade later, it’s astonishing how much has changed.

The Phantom Editor did eventually out himself as Mike J. Nichols, a Hollywood film cutter who’s worked on movies like the Billy Joel concert documentary “The Last Play at Shea.” But that came much later. Nowadays, film critic filmmakers don’t need to hide behind assumed identities. A few are even gaining recognition from sources outside the echo chamber of the Internet. One of the most well-received films at last month’s Sundance Film Festival was “Room 237,” a feature length examination of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” The documentary, by director Rodney Ascher (not, say, “Mr. Redrum”), explores the myriad interpretations of Kubrick’s work and features film (or conspiracy) theorists explaining how “The Shining” might actually be a story about the genocide of Native Americans or an admission of guilt on the part of the director for getting involved in the “fake” Apollo 11 moon landing. Though Ascher interviewed all these people, he illustrates their arguments and comments with footage from “The Shining” and other Kubrick films. For that reason alone, the film will almost certainly be impossible to release in a typical, commercial way. But the fact that a film that a decade ago would almost certainly have been met with skepticism or fast and dirty lawsuits played at Sundance at all is an important marker of the progress of film critic filmmakers on the road to artistic legitimacy.

A similarly audacious project was launched last week on the Indiewire blog Press Play by film critic filmmaker Peet Gelderblom. His “Raising Cain Re-cut” is a “Phantom Edit”-style revision of Brian De Palma’s 1992 film “Raising Cain.” As Gelderblom explains in an essay that accompanies his “Re-cut,” De Palma was never fully satisfied with the structure of his film and, exasperated in the editing room, he radically revised his initial conception of the picture during post-production. Gelderblom decided to take the theatrical version of “Raising Cain” and restore it to something closer to the director’s original vision. At least for now, you can watch the entire “Raising Cain Re-cut” in this embedded video.

Raising Cain Re-cut from Press Play Video Blog on Vimeo.

To get the full effect of Gelderblom’s work, I rewatched De Palma’s “Raising Cain” over the weekend and then dove immediately into the “Re-Cut” version. In my (non-filmmaker) film critic opinion, he’s done as good a job as seems possible with the material he had to work with. In interviews, De Palma stressed that his reason for making “Cain” was not (SPOILER ALERT) to tell the story of a crazy dude with multiple personalities, but really to delve into a romantic melodrama involving the crazy dude’s wife, who cheats on her husband in a surreal swirl of dreams and nightmares. In the theatrical version, John Lithgow’s Carter is established first — and established as a nutjob — before we ever meet his wife Jenny (Lolita Davidovich). Gelderblom’s biggest adjustment is to start with Jenny, and to keep Carter as a background character through the first twenty minutes of the film. Right after Jenny has succumbed to a series of fantasies (or perhaps true adulterous encounters) Carter surprises her by strangling her, seemingly to death.

There’s one major downside to Gelderblom’s version, namely that this protagonist fake-out makes “Raising Cain” look even more like a “Psycho” knock-off than it already did. But otherwise, his conceit works, and makes a certain amount of sense, too. Davidovich’s character is having a hard time telling the difference between dream and reality and all of a sudden her husband tries to kill her; which, at first, seems like another possible layer of dream. The “Re-cut”‘s biggest problem is that Gelderblom only has the original theatrical cut to play with — and his version could use at least a few more scenes of seeming domestic bliss between Jenny and Carter to really sell the big reveal, as well a a clearer transition between Carter’s attempted murder of Jenny and the flashback to the beginning of his wicked deeds.

All in all, though, it’s a very interesting effort. And while he hasn’t spoken publicly about it, I imagine De Palma would approve, if not with the execution then at least with the conception. After all, De Palma was, on some level, a sort of prehistoric ancestor to the modern film critic filmmaker. Few directors know more about the movies than De Palma, and few deploy that knowledge more explicitly in their work. His movies were sort of remixes before the rise of remix culture. “Blow Out” combines elements of “Blow Up” and “The Conversation” with the conspiracy around the Kennedy assassination (not to mention Chappaquiddick). “Body Double” is a bit of “Vertigo” and a bit of “Rear Window” with a dash of some Hitchcockian Wrong Man thrillers as well. And “Raising Cain,” of course, with its cross-dressing, multiple-personality-afflicted protagonist, owes a fair share to “Psycho.” You wonder whether De Palma sees these film critic filmmakers and imagines what his own career would look like if he’d come of age today. It might be enough to drive a man crazy.

What do you think of the rise of film critic filmmakers? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

Five ways “The Amazing Spider-Man” will differ from the previous movie franchise

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Yesterday’s preview of “The Amazing Spider-Man” yielded lots of new details about Peter Parker’s upcoming return to the big screen, but one of the most significant takeaways from the sneak peek event was confirmation of some of the ways this version of the webslinger will differ from his big-screen predecessor.

British actor Andrew Garfield puts on the webbed mask and replaces previous franchise headliner Tobey Maguire this time around, but that’s not the only big change audiences should expect from what’s being billed as the “untold story” of Spider-Man.

After seeing all of the new footage presented during yesterday’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” event, here are five more changes you can look forward to when your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler swings into theaters in July.


Mechanical Web-Shooters

Same Raimi’s “Spider-Man” franchise became the target of much criticism early on when it was revealed that Peter Parker’s webs would be an organic product of his mutation rather than the wrist-mounted mechanical devices he uses in the comics. That diversion from the source material is corrected in Marc Webb’s upcoming reboot of the franchise, as the new footage clearly shows Peter Parker developing, testing, and making ample use of artificial webs and a web-shooter with a red glow. In one particular scene, Peter is seen fiddling with the web-shooter and accidentally setting it off, resulting in his face being webbed to the device. In another scene, Spider-Man toys with a car thief before sticking him to a wall with a series of web shots — with the red glow of the web-shooter pulsing each time he slings a web at his target. There’s also a nice, up-close shot of the web-shooter itself in the new trailer for “The Amazing Spider-Man.”


Quipping while Thwipping

Rather than the progressively more angsty, emo Peter Parker we saw in the last “Spider-Man” franchise, the webslinger is clearly returning to his joke-a-minute roots in “The Amazing Spider-Man.” In the footage shown yesterday, there were very few scenes of Spidey in costume that didn’t also involve a steady stream of jokes coming from the wall-crawler. During the aforementioned run-in with the car thief, Spider-Man toys with the criminal for a while as only a high-school kid can, dropping to his knees when the guy pulls a knife and exclaiming, “Oh no, is that a real knife? Aargh! That’s my only weakness!” — only to stick him to the wall with a barrage of webs a second later. If nothing else, this film’s take on Spidey brings him back to being that playful brat fans love, but criminals hate.


Spider-Man is Public Enemy #1

With the exception of eternal Spidey-hater J. Jonah Jameson, the previous “Spider-Man” films were largely a webslinger love-fest, with Peter Parker enjoying life as a celebrated hero loved by the public. This time around, Spider-Man clearly won’t be winning any popularity polls, as the new footage included quite a few scenes in which Spider-Man is being chased, attacked by, or attacking police officers around New York. To make matters worse, much of that anti-Spidey sentiment seems to come from Gwen Stacy’s father, George Stacy (played by Denis Leary), a high-ranking NYPD officer. One especially tense scene shown during the preview event featured Peter and Mr. Stacy arguing about Spider-Man’s intentions over dinner and making things extremely uncomfortable for Gwen.


He Does Whatever a Spider Can

While past installments of “Spider-Man” on the big screen did a great job of presenting the range of Peter Parker’s spider-given abilities, “The Amazing Spider-Man” appears to be taking things one step further when it comes to Spidey’s enhanced agility and “spider sense.” In the footage shown during yesterday’s event, there was one particularly great scene in which Spider-Man is seen dodging bullets by first twisting from side to side and then flipping over the gunman in one fluid motion from a standing position. Rather than presenting his enhanced reaction time via a sudden switch to slow-motion (a la the previous films), “The Amazing Spider-Man” appears to take the opposite approach, with the world moving at normal speed while Spider-Man reacts instantaneously to everything that occurs. In the aforementioned scene, Spider-Man dodges left, then right, at the same time each shot is fired, and then jumps behind the gunman the moment the third shot is fired — mimicking the sort of blink-and-you-miss-it movement of real-world spiders when threatened.


Loving the Man, Not the Mask

During the preview event for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” actress Emma Stone explained that one key difference between her character, Gwen Stacy, and Peter Parker’s love interest from the previous films, Mary Jane Watson, is that Gwen falls in love with Peter, not Spider-Man. That difference might seem small when mentioned in passing, but it’s a key component of Peter Parker’s history in both the comics and, apparently, in the upcoming film. During one scene shown during the event, Gwen is seen telling Peter — who happens to be wearing his Spider-Man costume at the time — that she already worries about whether her policeman father will come home every night, and stresses that she doesn’t want to have the same concerns about Peter. Along the same lines, Gwen and Peter’s relationship appears to develop well before he dons a costume and starts fighting bad guys. When measured against the infamous upside-down Spidey kiss between Mary Jane and Peter in the first “Spider-Man” film and the struggles he had convincing Mary Jane to love him when he wasn’t wearing the mask, this dynamic should make for a major tonal shift in the reboot that sets “The Amazing Spider-Man” apart from the previous franchise.


What other changes do you expect to see in “The Amazing Spider-Man”? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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