Friday, July 30, 2010

LAW & ORDER is Dead -- Long Live LAW & ORDER

In as definitive a statement as possible, producer Dick Wolf confirmed today at the annual gathering of the Television Critics' Association that the Law & Order mothership has "moved into the history books," signaling that the sun has finally set for the veteran show. There will be no new episodes on NBC, AMC, or anywhere else.  We've pretty much known this was coming for the last few months, so in a way it's a relief to have it confirmed.  As Wolf said, "All series start with a death sentence, they just don't give you the date of execution."  And that, as they say, is that.

With the original now officially at room temperature, this effectively means that the fall-premiering Law & Order: Los Angeles takes its place both on the NBC schedule and in terms of content.  With veteran L&O producer Rene Balcer heading things up on the upcoming spin-off, we can at least expect some tonal and stylistic consistency even as they pull up stakes and hop coasts.  Said Balcer, "You could argue that New York has been mined of ideas," which I'm sure feels like a huge vote of confidence for the two NY-set Law & Order shows still on the air.

Speaking of Los Angeles, another interesting piece of casting news out of the TCA is that Oscar-nominated Terrence Howard, late of the Iron Man movie franchise, has signed on as one of the lead ADAs.  Considering his pedigree, Howard is a pretty big "get" for a series, and the overall casting thus far is a positive indicator of where things are headed with the new show.  While Howard's character is unnamed as of now, the intention is for he and the recently-announced Alfred Molina to switch off from week-to-week, similar to the way Law & Order: Criminal Intent used to have star Vincent D'Onofrio alternate with first Chris Noth, then Jeff Goldblum (before Goldblum took over full time).

THOR Trailer Hammers the Web

The extended trailer for Kenneth Branagh's Thor that played at Comic-Con last Saturday has been making the rounds on the interwebs since yesterday, but I'd been hesitant to post because it keeps getting yanked by Marvel.  I'd planned to just hold out for something official, but since that doesn't appear to be forthcoming, go check out the vid over at The Pursuitist (for as long as it stays up, anyway).  All the imagery and iconography of Marvel's Thunder God are there, and the trailer does a pretty solid job of setting up the film's premise and characters.

In addition to leads Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman, we also get to see Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and the various other gods of the Asgardian realm.  I also like that Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson character (seen previously in the two Iron Man flicks) is being used as the link to connect the various entries in the Marvel Movie-verse.  Overall, it's a solid collection of footage, and while I can't say I was blown away by anything I saw, I think that's just a reflection of the consistent quality that Marvel has brought to their in-house productions.

Nostalgia Theater: Teen Wolf Edition

In my last "Nostalgia Theater" I looked at the Back to the Future TV show, and so I thought it would be appropriate to dip back into the Michael J. Fox film catalog for this entry.  Yep, I'm talking about Teen Wolf.  While the 1985 original, starring Fox as a high schooler struggling with lycanthropy, may be most remembered these days for its truly awful 1987 sequel starring an embarrassed Jason Bateman, the first movie was successful enough to earn its own animated show, which aired for twenty-one episodes on CBS between '86 and '87 .  Here's the intro:

Tea for Tools

Well, the trendline of increasing Islamophobia nationwide has finally converged with the Tea Party, making for one big cocktail of crazy that's really something to behold.  By way of the backstory, local Muslims in Temecula, CA have had plans for awhile now to build a mosque for their community.  As those plans have finally begun to solidify, the local Tea Party has (naturally) chimed in with their opposition.

And to make their anger known, they've made plans to show up at the Friday prayer services at the site armed with dogs and songs -- because apparently there's nothing them Moslems hate more than dogs 'n' singin'!  For all of the charged rhetoric from the Tea types about "freedom" and "justice" and, y'know, "the Constitution," those concepts apparently only extend so far, as elucidated by this quote from Diane Serafin, organizer for the folks who dreamed this thing up:
"They hate Jews, they hate Christians, they hate women, they hate dogs...[The idea of the new mosque] scares the daylights out of me."
Perhaps realizing how ignorant she's sounding, Serafin helpfully issued this clarification:
"I want you to stress this -- I'm not prejudiced.  I worked retail for nine years and I didn't even know my manager was gay until someone told me. And when I found out, I didn't care."
Uh, Diane, I hate to break it to you, but I don't think you get a lifetime "Not Prejudiced" pass because of that one time you weren't mean to a gay guy.  And what you're doing right now?  Pretty sure that's prejudice.  In fact, it's the dictionary definition of prejudice.  I'm not saying all of the Tea Party crowd is racist, or even ignorant (no matter the overwhelming evidence to prove out at least the latter), but boy howdy, stuff like this sure doesn't paint them in the best of lights, does it?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ruffalo talks Hulk

EW.com recently sat down with newly-minted Hulk Mark Ruffalo to discuss the actor's role as the big green cog in the Marvel/Avengers machine.  Here are the relevant bits, including Ruffalo's approach to the part, and his concerns about taking over from Edward Norton:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You had a pretty interesting weekend.  
MARK RUFFALO: Yeah, you can say that. 
The comic book collective here at EW pretty much agree: this Avengers cast is pretty awesome. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man). Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury). Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow). Chris Evans (Captain America). Chris Hemsworth (Thor). Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye). And you. What was it like appearing en masse at Comic-Con last weekend and being introduced to 6,500 screaming comic book fans? 
It was very exciting — and I realized I had some pretty big shoes to fill. Those were my heroes up there! I was a comic book fan growing up. I loved The Hulk and The Avengers — it’s just strange to be entering that world as an actor. I never would have imagined that before. 
You had never been to Comic-Con before? 
No, I had not. I was very, very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. That’s as close you’re going to get to being a rock star as an actor. The fans — they have very strong feelings toward their comic book heroes. 
You’ll be playing Bruce Banner, The Hulk’s human alter ego. What are your thoughts on the character? 
He’s a guy struggling with two sides of himself — the dark and the light — and everything he does in his life is filtered through issues of control. I grew up on the Bill Bixby TV series, which I thought was a really nuanced and real human way to look at The Hulk. I like that the part has those qualities.  
Did you have any trepidation taking the role, given the very public way Marvel split with Edward Norton? 
I’m a friend of Ed’s, and yeah, that wasn’t a great way for all that to go down. But the way I see it is that Ed has bequeathed this part to me. I look at it as my generation’s Hamlet. 
When do you start shooting? 
Sometime in the winter. I’m not sure.
More at the link, including Ruffalo's thoughts on the critical acclaim he's currently garnering for The Kids Are All Right, now in theaters.

INCEPTION: The Goatmilk Debates

Since its release two weeks ago, Inception has sparked more than its share of discussion, specifically as it relates to the vagaries of that ending. Sensing an opportunity for an interesting back-and-forth, my friend Wajahat Ali, who runs the terrific Goatmilk site, very graciously asked me to add to this conversation as part of a broader series called "The Goatmilk Debates," 

So, here's what you need to do:  First, jump over here and read Mark Maccora's opening argument, then click past the jump for my thoughts vis-à-vis the ending and the film as a whole.  This should be considered a spoiler minefield from here on out, so if you haven't seen the movie yet but plan on it eventually, now is probably a good time to make yourself scarce.  As for everyone else, I'll see you on the other side!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Institutionalized Ignorance

In the immediate and extended aftermath of 9/11, one thing I have to give President Bush credit for is stating clearly and repeatedly that these actions were those of a minority, and didn't represent Islam or Muslims as a whole.  Of course, that didn't stop a few in the Republican ranks from making their bigotry known -- the Steve Kings, the Tom Tancredos -- but such characters were generally sidelined and silenced by their own party establishment.

The transition to the Obama White House, however, seems to have unchained the crazies on the right, making anti-Muslim fervor reach a level of acceptance in public discourse that's alarming, to say the least.  To wit, here's TN Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, running for the Republican nomination for governor in that state, when prodded by a mouth breather in the audience who's worried about "the Muslims" invading:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Assembled

Here's the money shot from the climactic moments of Saturday's big Marvel Films panel at Comic-Con, with the cast of the big screen Avengers lineup finally unveiled. From left to right, that's Robert "Iron Man" Downey, Clark "Agent Coulson" Gregg, Scarlett "Black Widow" Johansson, Chris "Thor" Hemsworth, Chris "Captain America" Evans, Sam "Nick Fury" Jackson, Jeremy "Hawkeye" Renner, Mark "Bruce Banner" Ruffalo, Joss "The Director" Whedon, and Kevin "The Exec" Feige. Click the pic for the gigantized version. Now the long wait begins for May '12!

Jump over to Deadline for their blow-by-blow of the entire panel, including plenty of tidbits about Captain America and Thor.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alfred's LAW

Just a few weeks after Skeet Ulrich came aboard as lead detective, the upcoming Law & Order: Los Angeles has emerged with another feather in its casting cap.  Deadline reported yesterday that consummate actor's actor Alfred Molina, most well-known to modern auds as Doctor Octopus in the second Spider-Man movie but whose face is likely familiar to anyone who's been watching movies or television over the last three decades, has signed on to anchor the "Order" portion of the show as lead ADA Peter Morales.  In Law & Order parlance, this is the Michael Moriarty-Sam Waterston-Linus Roache role, meaning the ever-watchable Molina will hopefully get a strong showcase for his talents every week during the courtroom stuff.  This is very good news.  While the mothership series' cancellation still stings (and no word as of yet on its continued prospects), having both Ulrich and Molina aboard is a definite sign that thing with the LA model are headed in the right direction.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ghostbusted?

The last time we talked about the long-promised, long-delayed third Ghostbusters movie was just over a year ago, when Harold "Egon" Ramis seemed generally optimistic about its prospects, but after which the matter seemed to go cold.  So what happened between then and now?  Well, to hear Bill Murray tell it, Ramis' Year One happened. Written by the same guys who'd been lined up to pen the Ghostbusters sequel, when that flick took a bath both at the box office and with critics, it seems all the air went out of the GB balloon.  From the middle of a very candid convo with GQ, here's the once-and-former Dr. Peter Venkman on the ever-present Ghostbusters 3 question:

Hulk Gets Ruffaloed

Three days ago it was still a rumor, but as of last night it's official -- Mark Ruffalo is the Hulk. Two weeks to the day that we first got word about Edward Norton being shown the door as the alter ego to Marvel's Green Goliath in the forthcoming Avengers feature, and after a frenzied, down-to-the-wire contract negotiation, Ruffalo becomes the Bruce Banner of record in Avengers and wherever else they slot the character for the foreseeable future.  I don't know if an Incredible Hulk sequel is on the company's radar right now, but I'd say its prospects are a lot better today than they were three weeks ago.

Presumably part of the reason for Marvel's rush to get Ruffalo into the fold was so they could have him signed, sealed, and delivered in time to make a splash at this afternoon's big Avengers panel at Comic-Con.  This way director Joss Whedon (also confirmed this week -- though it's been pretty much an open secret for awhile now) can have his entire all-star lineup of superheroes on hand (including Hurt Locker Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye) to show off to the gathered throngs.  Should be one heck of an event!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Conan Chronicle

GQ has a look at Conan O'Brien's yearlong journey from Late Night to Tonight to cancellation through the eyes of one of his staff writers, Todd Levin.  Insightful, amusing, and even a little moving.  Well worth a read.

Park51 and the Longest Comment Thread of All Time

Additionally, my post on Sarah Palin's unwelcome (in my opinion) intrusion into the NY mess prompted the longest comment thread in the seven year history of this website.  It was a fascinating exchange between myself and several folks -- reasonable, intelligent people, all -- who are as staunch in their opposition to the center as I am in favor of it.  The comments flew fast and furious and stretched from Monday morning to Wednesday morning.  It's the kind of open conversation that I think happens all too rarely in these days of the sound bite culture, and it should be encouraged at every opportunity.

Unfortunately, said discussion was carried out entirely on my Facebook wall, meaning it would likely go unread by many of the people who follow this blog, which I thought was a shame, as I do think it's worth having out there.  I've pasted the entire forty-some comment FB thread after the jump, with nothing changed or redacted from my end other than, for privacy's sake, the names of the participants involved (other than me, that is).  Again, by way of context, this was all prompted by that Palin post linked above.  And now, grab your popcorn, get your soda, and enjoy the show!

More Islamophobia

As you can tell, I've spent quite a bit of time this week looking at not only the Park51 uproar in New York, but also the growing strain of virulence in the opposition across the country to mosques and Islamic centers, with many opposed using "self protection" as an excuse for barely concealed ignorance and hate speech. TPM has been digging into this phenomenon some more as well, and here's their report. Prepare to just feel the warm fuzzies wash over you as you read it.

Josh Friedman's Procedural Panic

This is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time.  Josh Friedman is a television writer probably best known for his work as showrunner on the Terminator TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which aired on Fox a few years ago.  Both seasons have been in my "to watch" pile, unopened, for more than a year now, but after reading Friedman's hilarious account of being caught up in his own police procedural after someone broke into his office, I'm inclined to watch the show just to show my retroactive support for the guy.  Go read Friedman's post here for the whole sordid story, including some welcome insights into the inner-workings of the TV industry.  It's a bit long, but trust me, it'll breeze right by.  You'll be glad you did.

Urban Justice

Back in May I mentioned that a new film version of Brit comic icon Judge Dredd was in works with Pete Travis at the helm.  Things went quiet after that, but development's been plugging right along.  On Monday, The Playlist went up with a generally positive review of the Alex Garland script for the project, and then on Wednesday Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool broke the news that the role of the lantern-jawed anti-hero had been offered to actor Karl Urban, already well known to genre fans thanks to his Star Trek and Lord of the Rings appearances.

While he hasn't officially accepted yet, all signs seem to point to yes.  I've consistently enjoyed Urban's work over the years, and have long felt he does a good job even in bad movies (*koff*Doom*koff*), so his presence in the part would be a welcome boost for this film's prospects.  Interestingly, the deal for this version specifically states that at no point will the actor's full face be seen, keeping true to the mythology established in the comics and immediately separating it from the  unfortunate Sly Stallone Dredd from '95.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

LEGACY Viral

Here's the newest trailer for Disney's Tron: Legacy, hitting theaters this December:


Wow.

Race Disgrace

One thing that's become amply clear over the last few days as the exasperating saga of Shirley Sherrod played out under the media's glare is just how charred, shattered, and broken our sense of discourse has become in this country.  From shills like Andrew Breitbart to mouthpieces like Fox News to the very people currently ensconced in the White House who you'd think would finally, at long last, know better by now.  There's not one group in this whole mess that isn't complicit in smearing this woman's reputation -- perhaps irreparably -- and every single one was guided not by any higher principle or duty to the truth, but instead by the most naked, shameful kind of partisan hackery.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lucid

Zaki's Review: INCEPTION

A few weeks ago, just before the first day of my summer teaching session, so determined was I to get a full night's rest that I ended up enduring a restless eight hours of dreaming that I couldn't sleep.  By morning, I was more tired than when I'd laid down because my mind was screaming that I'd been awake all night.  That was the experience I kept flashing back to while watching the time, mind, and reality-tripping thriller Inception, wondering if Christopher Nolan has a similar sleepless night in his past that brought him to this point.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marvelous


We're at kind of a lull in genre news, what with the studios holding most of their big guns in reserve for the big San Diego 'con this weekend.  Still, that doesn't mean there aren't a few things to discuss here that went unmentioned previously. 

No Pray, No Way

Following up on my recent series of posts on the Cordoba House plans (now renamed Park51), there's a report up at TPM about a virulent strain of anti-Muslim rhetoric that's spread across the country.  While Cordoba has gotten the lion's share of press attention (both good and ill), there's been a similar outpouring of hate over several unrelated Islamic centers from coast to coast (some of which was lampooned by Jon Stewart here).

This in turn has allowed those on the furthest fringes of the political spectrum to make much hay out of our country's perceived tolerance for supposed undesirables.  Yep, this is America.  Professor John Esposito (who has a some experience discussing this arena) examines the Cordoba Controversy, as well as the growing tendrils of Islamophobia into our political process.  While he makes several intelligent and nuanced points, his mention of this key fact bears repeating again (and again, and again):
The charge that Muslims do not condemn terrorism has been made repeatedly, despite that post-9/11, many Muslim leaders and organizations in America and globally have consistently denounced acts of terrorism. But major media outlets do not seem to find them newsworthy, and thus they must be found in smaller outlets on the internet.
More of Esposito's take at the link.  Definitely worth a read.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Palin to Muslims: "Refudiate!"

Once again cementing her reputation as an intellectual gnat among pigmies, Sarah Palin has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Cordoba House plans in New York (which I previously discussed here and here).  Yep, as if this issue wasn't heated enough, it now has John McCain's Gift to the Body Politic choosing up sides via her Twitter feed, where she managed to toss a nasty cocktail of ignorance, bigotry, and old fashioned stupidity into one 140 character package, imploring "peace loving Muslims" to "refudiate" the planned Islamic cultural center.  

Setting aside her ridiculous false dichotomy between "peace loving Muslims" and supporters of the project, setting aside that "refudiate" isn't even a word, that tweet was just the first of several pained (and subsequently deleted) attempts by the former governor to get her thought (such as it is) across, each equally offensive to our shared sense of decency, curiosity and, perhaps most exasperatingly, language.  I've said before that Palin is the modern embodiment of mediocrity writ large, which is also likely the key to her continued appeal among her faithful ("We don't need no real words like all them elites with their book learnin'!").  However, I'm wondering if, by injecting herself into this debate, Sarah Palin isn't doing the best thing possible for those who support and are fighting for the center, by essentially becoming a  walking, talking billboard for the hate and ignorance it's meant to stand against.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Art and Sacrilege

Back in April I discussed how, in the wake of the South Park censorship flap, some cartoonists attempted to show solidarity with the Park team by concocting "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day"  (That'll show 'em!  Show who?  I dunno).  Anyway, I mentioned back then how wrongheaded an idea this was, and I'm grateful that the Big Day came and went quietly on May 20th with the antis doing their thing (which they would do with or without a "holiday" to justify it), but the American Muslim community -- for the most part -- knowing better than to feed the trolls.

For the most part, that is, until last week, when self-proclaimed scholar Anwar Al-Awlaki (and our government's newest booga-booga of choice) declared open season on Molly Norris, the Seattle-based cartoonist who got the whole "Draw Muhammad Day" ball rolling (unwittingly, says she).  Now, since he gained notoriety in the last year, Al-Awlaki has done a pretty good job of confirming every negative stereotype of Muslims with his every utterance, but the issue at the center of this isn't whatever new whackadoo proclamation he has to make.  In fact, it's not about the extremists at all.  

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression as concepts are meaningless without the folks using them exercising the good judgment not to turn them into bludgeons.  And despite Norris' stated intentions to the contrary, this is exactly what "Draw Muhammad Day" inevitably (and predictably) became, leaving "regular" Muslims in the position of having to thread the needle between art and sacrilege.  On this point, I'll cede the floor to  author G. Willow Wilson, one of the few practicing Muslims working in comics, who pinpoints just how razor thin that line can be:
What Norris failed to understand is that by creating events like "Draw Muhammad Day", artists hurl rhetorical stones that go straight through their enemies and hit Muslims like me. Al Qaeda isn't hurt by Draw Muhammad Day. Its entire PR campaign is built on incidents like these. Without the Molly Norrises and Jyllands Postens of the world, Al Qaeda would have to get a lot more creative with its recruitment strategies. Artists who caricature the Prophet inevitably claim, as Norris has done, that they never meant to hurt ordinary Muslims, but ordinary Muslims are the only ones who are hurt. As a Muslim in the comics industry I spend more time than is good for my mental health defending the art and the religion I love from each other. Events like the fallout from Draw Muhammad Day make me think I'm wasting my time--the hate runs too deep on both sides. My conscience won't let me support the criminalizing of art, but neither will it let me support a parade of cartoons depicting lurid, racist stereotypes of Arab men and passing them off as satire of a holy figure.
It would be helpful, I suppose, if people on both sides of this artificial ideological divide could introduce some complexity into their thinking, but as Wilson notes, that can seem like a tall order at times.  You can read the rest of her op-ed for The Washington Post here, and check out her book The Butterfly Mosque here.  Both are well worth a read.  I also had the opportunity to discuss this very issue at length in my conversation with Wilson last Saturday, video of which should (hopefully!) be up very soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ring Slinger

Yep, it's Green Lantern.

The big budget Green Lantern feature film directed by Martin Campbell is due next summer in the middle of a very crowded field of cinematic superheroes, and right now I have to think that the higher-ups at the WB are hoping that this one's box office trajectory makes more like The Dark Knight than Jonah Hex.  Anyway, it's been known for awhile that star Ryan Reynolds, playing test pilot-turned-space cop Hal Jordan, wouldn't be wearing a physical suit but instead have his GL uniform mo-capped onto him in post.

I've felt all along that this is a good idea, as the Lantern suit is supposed to be a manifestation of energy generated by the alien ring, so it stands to reason that it wouldn't have traditional characteristics of cloth (like, y'know, wrinkles).  Given the post-produced nature of the suit, it makes sense why we haven't caught any glimpses of Reynolds all duded up until now, but that all changed this morning with the release of Entertainment Weekly's cover for next week (with the promise of more pics inside).

For comparison's sake, here's the comic book Jordan from an image by artist Carlos Pacheco:
I'd imagine that a big part of the sell will be in seeing Reynolds in actual footage as opposed to a posed still, but this at least gives us a sense of the design aesthetic Campbell & Co. are going for.

INCEPTION: The Comic

Inception opens tomorrow (well, tonight at midnight, actually), and as far as the early word goes, it certainly has the wind at its back.  Now, in a clever bit of marketing reminiscent of the studio's strategy with the similarly-positioned The Matrix eleven years ago, Warners has posted a comic prequel to the movie online written by Chris Nolan's producing partner Jordan Goldberg.  According to AICN, this isn't essential reading, but it does set up the characters and world without spoiling the movie itself, so it's definitely worth a look.

FYI, I'm seeing Inception tomorrow, and hope to have my review up soon thereafter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thrill of the Hunt(ers)

Zaki's Review: PREDATORS

In attempting to make a qualitative assessment of producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal's franchise reboot Predators, it's helpful perhaps to take a brief look back at its lineage.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Beaver Cleaver

With the way Mel Gibson has been in the news of late, you might be forgiven for looking at the pic above and thinking that he's finally, totally lost it.  But no, believe it or not, Mel (last seen in January's Edge of Darkness, last heard in...well, you know) has a new movie coming out.  The Beaver, directed by his Maverick co-star Jodie Foster, features Gibson as a man struggling with his sanity who finds expression through a beaver puppet.  No, seriously.

Now, a close friend saw an early cut of the film and was appreciative, if not effusive, and I don't doubt that in other circumstances it could have become a buzzed-about sleeper.  However, given the Lethal Weapon star's latest shenanigans and the movie's subject matter, it's easy to see how releasing company Summit is feeling a mite uncomfortable, and unsure of where to go from here.  As an insider explains here, "They don't know what they're going to do...It's sort of a wait-and-see until Mel makes his next move."

Oh, I think that's what everyone is waiting for.

The Late Night Fade

Following up on last week's post about the declining fortunes in late night, this article further looks at the way almost all of the post-primetime big guns across the board have taken a ratings hit year-to-year, with the blame evenly-placed between increased competition with one another, and increased competition from DVRs.  The notable exceptions to these declines are Comedy Central's Stewart/Colbert tag-team, which has mostly held steady, and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel, whose ratings have actually gone up.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hulk. Out.

After this weekend's round-robin of Hulk-related Avengers news, which crescendoed yesterday with Marvel's Kevin Feige and Edward Norton's agent launching cannons at each other like old time naval ships, the one person everyone was waiting to hear from was the man at the center of the controversy.  And Norton has now addressed it head-on via his Facebook page, exhibiting a heck of a lot more class and grace than the Marvel honchos have done in this whole messy situation up to this point. Here's the full Norton statement (with a tip of the hat to Rob Hewitt for doing the heavy-lifting of typing it up so I could do the ol' copy 'n' paste):
As most of you know, I don’t like to talk much about the business of making movies because it means a lot to me to protect the audience’s fullest enjoyment of the ‘magic’ that films can have. But I am so appreciative of the outpouring of support from fans of the Hulk and the Avengers that I feel it would be rude not to respond. So here goes: It seems it won’t work out for me to continue playing Bruce Banner for Marvel in The Avengers. I sincerely hoped it would happen and be great for everyone, but it hasn’t turned out as we all hoped. I know this is disappointing to many people and that makes me sad. But I am very sincerely grateful to Marvel for extending the offer and even more so for giving me the chance to be a part of the Hulk’s long and excellent history. And I really can’t thank the fans enough for how much enthusiasm you’ve sent my way about what Louis [Leterrier] and I tried to do in our turn with the legend. It means a lot to me. I grew up with Banner and the Hulk and have been a fan of every incarnation. I’m really proud, and very blessed, to have been one of them and will be thrilled to see him live on through other actors. Hulk is bigger than all of us, that’s why we love him, right?
Sincerely,
Edward Norton
And that, as they say, would appear to be that.  So, who's next?

Lawless Linus

(Or is that Linus-less Law?)

After Law & Order's cancellation by NBC was announced in mid-May, the likelihood of the series transitioning to a new home with its cast intact extended until the end of June, after which point the various actors' holding deals with the studio would sunset.  Well, June transitioned into July with no definite word one way or another as to the series' fate (save for last week's faint glimmer from AMC).  Now, in what's likely the first of many such deals to come, Michael Ausiello breaks the news that Linus Roache, fightin' ADA Michael Cutter since 2008 (as well as Bruce Wayne's doomed dad in Batman Begins), has signed to co-star in the HBO pilot Miraculous Year alongside actor Lee Pace (who just got name-checked on this site yesterday).  While there's no guarantee that Year will go to series, the fact that Roache is on the hunt for a new gig is an unfortunate indicator that even if it gets a reprieve, Law & Order will likely return sans Mike Cutter and probably others from one of its best-ever ensembles.  Like I said, unfortunate.

INCEPTION Perceptions

Chris Nolan's latest opus Inception opens this Friday with much anticipation, and I'd (naively, perhaps) assumed that the terrific trailer and building buzz would be enough to power the director's Dark Knight follow-up to broad-based success. However, as this piece at The Hollywood Reporter notes, Warner Bros.' marketing team is having a difficult time figuring out how to sell Nolan's complex and intricate pic in the large stretch of land between New York and California.  As the article actually lays out, the studio can't seem to figure out "how to entice Middle America without a lot of complicated explication." With a statement like that, I'm not sure who ends up looking worse: Those in so-called flyover country for the perception that they're too ignorant to "get" any movie without a Roman numeral appended to its title, or the Warner marketing whizzes for, y'know, not knowing how to do the one thing their job freaking requires.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

UPDATED - Hulk Out.

The reaction to yesterday's post about recent goings-on in Marvel-land surrounding the Avengers feature and whether or not actor Edward Norton will be joining them was pretty much instantaneous and mostly negative.  Since the story broke on Friday, HitFix's Drew McWeeny has been the point man, and yesterday he received this release from Marvel exec Kevin Feige:
We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.
Ouch! Reading between the lines a bit, Feige's reference to "collaborative spirit" (or lack thereof) is a clearly an allusion to Marvel's impression that Norton didn't play nice last time.  His dismissal from the Avengers roster is thus their way of extracting a pound of flesh.  With Marvel's statement making a last-minute rapprochement with Norton unlikely at best, the speculation now heats up over which "name actor" Marvel will find -- or has found -- to replace him (making this the third Bruce Banner in as many movies).

McWeeny mentions The A-Team's Sharlto Copley as one possibility (I can see it), while Glenn Greenberg's favorite for the part is Lee Pace of the short-lived ABC series Pushing Daisies.  I've never seen the show (though I have the first season sitting in my "to watch" pile), but in my experience Glenn is just about the biggest Hulk fan out there, so if he says Pace is the guy, I'm inclined to agree.  I'm reasonably certain that Marvel had already been furiously making the Hulk casting rounds ahead of the Norton news coming out, so I'd expect word on this fairly soon (perhaps even at San Diego in two weeks).

UPDATE:  And now, again via HitFix, Norton's representation has issued a blistering response to Feige's broadside.  Needless to say, further sojourns in the cinematic Marvel Universe don't appear to be in the cards for the now ex-Dr. Banner.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hulk Out?


Just when it seemed like all the pieces were falling into place for Marvel's big Avengers event picture for summer 2012, Drew McWeeny drops this gamma bombshell. In their infinite wisdom, the higher-ups at the studio have apparently made the surprising and wrongheaded decision not to invite Edward Norton, who embodied The Incredible Hulk two summers ago, to participate in the studio's heavily-anticipated superhero team-up flick, instead choosing to recast the part with an unknown.

So while stars Robert Downey, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth are all locked to 'port their respective Marvel franchises over to Avengers, Norton will be left without a chair. Even more frustrating, the actor was/is apparently still excited to reprise his role as the erstwhile Bruce Banner, and had even met with director Joss Whedon about the new film. The decision was entirely the studio's, and came down to finances. Now, I'm not sure what budgetary calculus Marvel used to determine that it was Norton who'd get the boot, but it's a bad one.

I've made no secret of how much I loved 2008's The Incredible Hulk, and Norton is a big reason for that. He lent credibility and weight to the part, helping to rescue the franchise from its unplanned obsolescence following Ang Lee's 2003 take. Beyond that, Norton's presence in Avengers would serve as a valuable payoff to the whole extended build-up that's been playing out for two years, and of which the '08 Hulk was an integral part. If Drew's read on things is accurate, that Norton's axing isn't entirely a done deal yet, I sure hope the Marvel execs come to their senses. Otherwise, it's a worrying sign about where Avengers is headed.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Nostalgia Theater: Back to the Future Edition

Those who follow my Twitter feed (and if you don't, why the heck not?) know that I spent last weekend in very own time machine by re-watching the Back to the Future trilogy on the occasion of the first film's twenty-fifth anniversary last Saturday.  That in turn got me thinking about the Back to the Future animated series that ran for two seasons on CBS from 1991 to 1993.  Here's the first season intro:

State of Bondage

Last week, prompted by a gnashing-of-teeth post by AICN maven Harry Knowles about the current state of disarray at MGM, which has sidelined not only the highly-anticipated (though not necessarily by me) Hobbit adaptation as well as the James Bond franchise, new stories began to appear across the web about how the studio had scuttled the 007 series, that it was all over for Bond, etc.

Having already discussed the decision by Bond's producers to put the series in hibernation for a (hopefully) short while back in April, I kept looking for a story sourced to someone a bit more credibile than UK's Daily Mail to determine if there was anything new to report, or if this was just the same old, same old being regurgitated from months ago.  Well, Mike Fleming over at Deadline has done the due diligence on the current state of development on Bond 23, and the news is that there's no news.  I'm sure that when something breaks we'll hear about it, but for now, Bond is still in the same frustrating state of static equilibrium that MGM's finacial woes put him in months ago.

(That said, how freakin' cool would this be!)

Vamp Champ

In light of the current vampire mania that's swept the pop culture arena, Glenn Greenberg has a piece at his new blog site looking at the history of Marvel Comics' Dracula.  For those who don't know, Marvel's Tomb of Dracula, which lasted 70 issues throughout the '70s (one of the longest-lived series centering on an ostensible villain) is revered both for artist Gene Colan's terrifically moody art and for the complex plots and subplots longtime writer Marv Wolfman wove and brought to fruition over several years.  The series continues to gain new followers today, and in addition to some beautiful deluxe hardcovers, is also being re-issued in affordable trade paperback form.  Greenberg himself has some personal history with the Marvel Drac, having written 1998's Dracula: Lord of the Undead miniseries during his time with the publisher.  Small factoid: That book came out when I was a college freshman, and it was what moved me to go and seek out the rest of the Marvel run, so thanks, Glenn!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Late Night Dismay

The Emmy noms were announced today, and even though NBC didn't submit Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show for consideration, it still managed to snare four nods (prompting this very-funny tweet from the once-and-former late night laffer), and Jay Leno's Tonight Show (which was submitted) goes home with a goose egg.  Since the big late night dustup earlier this year left Conan without a chair to sit in (a situation which will be remedied come November), I've found myself slowly drifting away from the various late shows.

Even with the recent departure of bandleader/sidekick Kevin Eubanks, Leno is still doing the same old schtick that got his primetime gig axed, and even Letterman hasn't been as enjoyable as he used to be for quite awhile now.  I do like what I see of Craig Ferguson when I see it, but even then I haven't felt moved to add him to my DVR cue.  Clearly, something is rotten in the state of late night, and as always with these matters, I bow to the wisdom of Mark Evanier, who sums up these problems far more skill and knowledge than I.

Muslim Invasion!

Early this week I first got word of the latest Code Red making the rounds in right wing circles, cheerfully propogated by the usual Fox News crowd.  A comment by NASA honcho Charles Bolden during an Al-Jazeera interview -- about encouraging the Muslim world's involvement in technology and sciences -- made a few laps around the blogosphere and by the time it came 'round the other side, it had morphed into the terrifying smoking gun in Obama's Secret Muslim Manifesto.  Honestly, this story is so ridiculous on so many levels that I was finding it difficult to muster the energy to tear it apart.  That's why I'm grateful to Jon Stewart for doing the heavy lifting for me on last night's Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Buy Your Tickets!

To my friends and readers in the SF Bay Area, this one is for you.  Author G. Willow Wilson, likely familiar to readers of this site for her comic book work (in addition to writing DC Comics' The Outsiders and Vixen, she also created the recently-concluded series Air and the graphic novel Cairo for the publisher's Vertigo imprint), will be making an appearance in Oakland this Saturday evening for an on-stage discussion about her experiences as a recent convert to Islam, her new nonfiction book The Butterfly Mosque, and much more.  I'll be there too, in my capacity as co-host and designated question-asker, but please don't let that dissuade you from stopping by for what will surely be an illuminating and entertaining program.  You can find more details and buy your tickets here, and I hope to see you there on Saturday!

Skeet's LAW

Yesterday, I said we hadn't heard anything casting-wise for Law & Order: Los Angeles, then lo and behold, late in the afternoon we got our first bite at that apple with the news that Skeet Ulrich has signed on in the lead role of Rex Winters, the "cynical older detective" part of the Law dyad that's previously been occupied by the likes of Paul Sorvino, Jerry Orbach, and Dennis Farina.  I briefly did a double-take when I heard this, as in my mind Ulrich is still that punk kid from the first Scream, and since time apparently doesn't move forward for me, it didn't cross my mind that fourteen years have passed since then and the actor is now in his early forties.  Since Scream, of course, Ulrich went to earn some acclaim in CBS' post-nuke drama Jericho, which I never followed but I understand had a pretty loyal (if small) following.  Now that Ulrich is set, and with filming on the new series still slated to begin in a few short weeks, I'd expect a whole slew of news on the names and faces populating Law & Order's West Coast branch very soon.