Friday, April 30, 2010

Verily, An Image of the Mighty Thor!

Below you'll find the first shot of Chris Hemsworth from the upcoming Marvel Studios film version of Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh. I think it looks pretty damn good. Hemsworth is giving off the vibe, and the costume, though a little rubbery, looks great. We'll have to see much more to get a real idea of the direction they're going for, but this is great shot to generate excitement.

Thor also stars Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

All the Way With RDJ

Remember back in the 1990s when Robert Downey Junior was in the depths of his battle with drug addiction? Do you remember that time he woke up naked in some little kid's race car bed after stumbling high into the wrong house? Do you think those kids are less traumatized now that they know that was Tony Stark? They're teens now. Those are serious bragging rights.

Well, do you recall thinking, as I did, how does he keep getting second chances? Man, he got, like a seventh chance, and that shit is rare, even for Hollywood. He was always a really good actor, and even if he never really had a big hit to his name, he was always respected for his huge talent. But now that he's really in the spotlight, it's pretty clear how he got all those chances during the cocaine years.

RDJ is pretty much the most charming guy ever. It's the wit, the style, the laid-back, slightly wacky, totally bright sense of humour. If it sounds like I've got a bit of a man crush........well....I'm not the only one.

Here's some choice quips from an Iron Man 2 press conference posted at LaineyGossip:

On whether he ever dressed as a superhero growing up:
“Growing up, no, but in my mid-30’s in Palm Springs right before my arrest, yes.”

On Mickey Rourke accepting a question that had nothing to do with his character’s pet:
“Mickey, I’m sorry. Hold the hell up. Can we talk about the parrot? I don’t know why the parrot is not on the poster.”

On what he thinks a hero is:
“I think a hero is someone who, if abroad or traveling, they go to the GOOP website to see what shops to go to, what restaurants to eat at, what clothes to buy, and they do that not fearlessly but in spite of their fear.”

On doing sequels:
“Scarlett Johansson was in Home Alone 3. Don Cheadle was in [Ocean’s] 11, 12, AND 13!”

On a take where he got to kiss Gwyneth Paltrow:
“Despite what she said on set, she still thinks about it.”

On his wife Susan joining the Iron Man franchise as a producer:
“On a certain level, they might have thought she would tame me, but I was completely out of my mind.”

On a journalist who kept asking questions about why Sam Rockwell was missing from both the poster and the press conference:
“That’s enough. This is embarrassing. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

On Jon Favreau’s rapidly expanding screen time…and waistline:
“By the time we were doing reshoots, they were framing him out of shots.”

On the Iron Man 2 banner falling off the latticework behind them at the end of the press conference:
“Ladies and gentlemen, Sam Rockwell!”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

China: Masters of Knock-offs

Over at Fork Party, they recently put up some photos of Chinese toy knock-offs that skirt the whole copyright/getting sued issue by being so brain-bustingly bizarre as to defy description. Here are some of the best:

Okay, I was not aware that James Spader fought crime, but actually, this explains a lot.

I imagine this is Superman's mentally challenged cousin.

Think about all the more exciting names you could have come up with. Science-cop. Cyber-cop. Kill Machine. Fuck, anything. But, no, let's get absurdly specific and go with Robert Cop.

This toy was made out of the odds and ends at the saddest toy factory EVER.

And, just for fun, here are some knock-offs from around the interwebs:

Who's the black private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks? Slade!!....You're reasonably close.

Look at that sad blonde wig. I guess Bat-Transvestite wouldn't have fit on the label.

RU-fucking kidding me?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yes, I'm saying it....Live Long, And Prosper

The geek world is abuzz today with the news that Leonard Nimoy has announced his retirement from show biz, after 60 years as a professional actor and director.

The 79 year old man, most famous for his iconic portrayal of Mr. Spock in the Star Trek franchise, has announced that he will no longer be taking on any acting roles, nor will he be directing any more films. He has seemingly completed filming for his character of the mysterious Dr. William Bell on the TV show Fringe, a role he took to show gratitude to JJ Abrams, who directed Nimoy in last year's Star Trek.

Nimoy, who is currently in Canada for a sci-fi convention in Calgary and a visit to Vulcan, Alberta, has also said that he could be retiring from attending conventions as well. Still, he had nothing but warm things to say about his experiences at conventions throughout his life:

I’m so grateful to the fans. I call these kind of experiences a victory lap ... It’s like having a family meeting — a family reunion.

Nimoy is choosing to focus on his photography, which has garnered him considerable acclaim in the arts world, and no small amount of controversy. His first series, entitled Shekhina, was a series of nudes and near-nudes. Shekhina is the Talmudic term for the visible and audible manifestations of the Deity's presence on Earth, and the combination of sexualized female nudity and Hebrew religion and tradition attracted its share of criticism from religious groups. But it also attracted its share of praise, and since then he has been accepted in the art world as more than just a dilettante. Below you'll find one of the photos from the series.

I have to say, I'll miss Nimoy a little. He was always a class act, through and through. And while the Shat has become a bit of a punchline over the years (that actually hurt me to type), and DeForest Kelley was the old Hollywood pro, Nimoy was the embodiment of the geek as artist over the years. He always seemed to have more going on, both in her performances and his life. Enjoy the rest, sir, and thanks for all your work over the years!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Will the Lion Be Put To Sleep?

With Variety recently announcing that production for the next film in the Bond franchise is to be put on hold, the future is starting to look really bleak for MGM.

MGM was founded in 1924, when Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and Louis B Mayer Pictures. He combined them into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with the classic logo of a roaring lion surrounded by a circle of filmstrip and under the motto "Ars Gratia Artis", which was Latin for "Arts for Art's Sake". Though Loew himself died three years later, two men would raise the fledgling studio to become the most successful studio of the Golden Age era. They were studio chief Louis B. Mayer, and his wunderkind head of production Irving Thalberg. together they made MGM the dominant studio in Hollywood through their acquisition of stars (such as Lon Chaney, Clark Gable, William Powell, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow) and their classy, sophisticated style. They produced such films as The Wizard of Oz, Northwest Passage, the Andy Hardy and Thin Man series, Grand Hotel, Ninotchka, and countless others.

Like most studios, however, the latter half of the 20th century was problematic, and at this point in time, despite an extensive film library that is its greatest asset, the studio owes nearly $4 billion dollars to creditors. Unlike studios such as Warner Bros., which is owned by conglomerate Time Warner, MGM has never really diversified out of the movie production and distribution business. With DVD sales on a huge down curve, and less people heading to the movies than in years past, the studio has found itself in serious, serious trouble.

Currently, the consortium that owns MGM is putting itself up for auction, and Time Warner, Lionsgate and other parties have been interested, but there isn't a lot of hope that a deal can be made for the studio as it exists now. Rather, what may happen is that the studio may be sold off in pieces, which debt holders are objecting to, as the fire sale prices are below the value of what MGM actually has, such as the wildly profitable James Bond franchise, and a standing deal to co-produce the upcoming two-film adaptation of The Hobbit with Peter Jackson and New Line.

While it's sad to see a grand old lady like MGM go up on the block, I'm sure the lion will still roar in front of some movies; that's too valuable a name to let gather dust. Still, this could be the beginning of the end of studios as we know them. We'll see what the future holds.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Whedon to Assemble Avengers?

According to, a fairly reliable news site, Marvel Studios is very close to signing Joss Whedon as the director of the upcoming film The Avengers. Is it possible I have to explain who either Whedon or The Avengers are? If so, then you are not a nerd, geek or, basically, reasonably alive person. Sigh. Here we go.

Joss Whedon comes from a long line of TV writers, but he gained cult fame and permamnent nerd cred for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer, first as a feature film, then as a cultish, pop-culture touchstone of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. Although series that had season-long arcs and combined soap opera with genre had existed before (Dark Shadows, anyone?), Buffy was the show that really made it cool to have big arcs and heaping helpings of pop culture references, genre merging, and tapping into the zeitgeist (say thank you, Lost fans). Now, pretty much every show made is doing arcs that last all season long. He continued to build on the Buffy-verse with the spinoff Angel. He also created cult fave (but prematurely canceled) sci-fi series Firefly and its big-screen version Serenity. Finally, his last series Dollhouse, struggled to hit the same cultural pulse as his previous series and eventually limped to cancellation last year.

The Avengers film is the culmination of Marvel Studios' attempt to recreate the shared universe as it exists in their comics onscreen. It began with Iron Man, continued with The Incredible Hulk, and will be expanded upon in the soon-to-be-released Iron Man 2, Thor and The First Avenger: Captain America. After those films are released, all of the title characters, plus Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury (and presumably some other heroes like Ant Man and the Wasp) will team up and form super-group The Avengers.

So, what do people think? Well, oddly, I'm a little cautious, but not too much. I mean, what had Jon Favreau really done that made anyone think he could make a blockbuster like Iron Man? Made was great, Elf was a hit, and Zathura showed promise, but there was nothing that said blockbuster. And Marvel is famous for choosing people that initially seem odd, but make total sense once you really look at it. Kenneth Branagh for Thor seems odd, given his classy stage-bound pedigree, but you really need someone who can give the mythology gravitas, and Branagh turns out to be an inspired choice.

So, why Whedon? Well, my reservation springs from the fact that the sole film he's directed, Serenity, still looked like a TV show with a little extra cash. It was fun, it was enjoyable, but it felt small. whether that was a budget limitation, or a lack of vision on Whedon's part is what I don't know. But as for why Marvel chose him, I think it's his genuine love for comics and his skill at handling large casts. He really knows how to give everyone their due, without shortchanging the story. And considering this flick may have Robert Downey, Edward Norton, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson and who knows who else involved, you'll need someone skilled at juggling all that.

Interesting. Any thoughts?

The Doctor Is Most Definitely In

This Saturday, the brand new season of Doctor Who premieres on Space here in Canada. I've had an opportunity to see the first two episodes of the new season in their entirety, so I can provide a spoiler-free review of the new direction!

At the end of David Tennant's final special, The End of Time, we had to say goodbye not only to the Tenth Doctor (arguably the most popular iteration of the character in the series' history), but also to the man who brought the series back and shepherded it since its return; Russell T. Davies. Admittedly, Davies had some recurring themes that he fell back on a little too often; deus ex machinas, the "lonely god" interpretation of the Doctor, romantic subplots, recurring secondary characters that sometimes recurred a little too often. But, without his thoroughly modern vision, the series would never have been the success it was.

If possible, even more reason for the huge popularity of the series was due to Tennant's brilliant performance. I've already written about his departure in a couple of blogs and he really will be missed. Matt Smith has big shoes to fill, so the question is, does he fill them?

The answer is a resounding yes. The Eleventh Hour, the debut for Smith's Eleventh Doctor cements just what we can expect from this new incarnation, and new showrunner Steven Moffat seems to have been correct in describing this Doctor as "bonkers". He is far more manic and energized than even Tennant was in the role. And his youth is not a problem at all. I completely forgot he was young in about five seconds and wholly bought into him being a 900 year old Time Lord. There are a couple of growing pains in the first episode where he seems to be trying a little too hard to be eccentric, but these are extremely fleeting, and are to be expected. His off-kilter looks actually help, as they serve to emphasize his alien-ness. His performance is rooted in the physical a lot, which is refreshing, and he has effortlessly captured the central qualities of the Doctor; his sudden flights of brilliance, his incredible sense of morality, his geeky yet undeniable badassery when it comes to facing up to monsters. All in all, he could be as great as Tennant ever was. Certainly he is as promising as his predecessor was in his early outings.

Now, for his partners in crime. New showrunner Steven Moffat was really the only choice to succeed Davies, as he had written the most consistently brilliant episodes of the new series; The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. It'll be interesting to see what he does with his hand now on the wheel. The first two episodes, it must be said, do not rise to the level of those earlier scripts, but they've got a lot of setting up to do, and each contains some brilliant moments that focus on character and concept in a much less soap operatic way than during Davies run. He deftly creates a new bond between Doctor and companion with a heartfelt little early scene that immediately sucks you in with its wit, sincerity and light touch. And his way of connecting this new Doctor to the entire history of the show immediately reassures the audience that we are in good hands. His choice to change the main titles serves to give the world a spookier feel, but the new theme is not an improvement; maybe it will grow on me.

Finally, we've got the new companion in the form of Amy Pond. Karen Gillan, like all female companions, is of course fetching. And she serves the role of asking the Doctor all the right questions and being our stand-in on all these adventures. But it's the little extra things that make a great companion. So far, her small moments of fear, delight and strength make her a welcome addition, particularly in the second episode The Beast Below, where we see her make a mistake and learn from it.

I'm excited about the new direction of my favourite television show ever, and I can't wait to see what new adventures this new team has for us. Warning: Slight Spoilers Follow: It appears we'll see the Daleks return, along with River Song and the Weeping Angels from Blink.

"Trust me, I'm the Doctor".

Thursday, April 8, 2010

RIP - Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren, the impresario that helped bring the Sex Pistols to the world and the man who largely created the punk aesthetic, has died at the age of 64 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was born in 1946, and was raised mostly by a wealthy grandmother. By the 1960s, he was already an outsider and enfant terrible, having been expelled from one art school and so alienating another that the school attempted to have him committed. By 1971, the budding artist/fashion designer had given up on school, leaving London's Goldsmith's College after painting a series entitled "I Will Be So Bad."

The next year, he and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood took over a King's Road store in Chelsea called Let it Rock, and immediately began doing things very differently. The shop would stay shut until the evenings, when it would open for only a few hours at a time. They renamed the store Too Fast to live, Too Young to Die. It was in this iteration that the New York Dolls came to visit. McLaren was so taken with the seminal American glam rock band he followed them back to the States and became the band's manager. He introduced radical politics to their image, dressing them in red suits based on the Soviet flag. The band broke up soon after.

He returned to London and to Westwood, and they opened Sex, a fetish clothing store. He would meet four musicians, most of whom came from a group called The Swankers, and would organize them into a new group. McLaren was a follower of the French Situationists, who believed in staging absurdist or provocative incidents as a spur to social change. with this in mind, and with his fashion already heavily on the edge, he dressed the band in what would become the punk look and encouraged the band members to indulge in their nihilistic rage at the status quo. Thus, The Sex Pistols were born.

The Sex Pistols became the face of the punk movement, and their single album, Never Mind The Bollocks: Here's The Sex Pistols, reached #1 in 1977. Punk became an aesthetic and a social movement and a musical genre, all wrapped in one, and the Pistols were the face of that movement. Famously fractious and unstable, they would break up during their first American tour in 1978, when Johnny Rotten walked off stage during a show in San Francisco.

Following the dissolution of the Pistols, McLaren briefly managed Adam and the Ants before creating the band Bow Wow Wow. In 1983, he released his own album, Duck Rock, which contained two hit singles. He continued to release albums, but never again achieved the cultural impact he attained in the 1970s. He is survived by his son.

Nerdlinger's Most Anticipated Summer 2010 Films (Pt. 2)

On with the list! Here are the top five summer schlockbusters I'm looking forward to.

5 - Robin Hood (May 14) - Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott are a hit and miss combination, literally. The first time they teamed up resulted in Gladiator. The second resulted in A Good Year. If you can't differentiate between the hit and the miss, you're on the wrong site. Still, this type of film looks like it's right in their collective wheelhouse, with a gritty realism evident in the trailers that is usually missing from Robin Hood films of the past. The only thing that makes me pause is the fact that we've seen this story before, many times. Will Scott and Crowe (not to mention Cate Blanchett) make it feel fresh enough?

4 - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (August 13) - Director Edgar Wright has been behind some of the most ingenious mash-up comedy of the last decade or so, with the cult TV show Spaced and the awesome features Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz under his belt. Star Michael Cera burst onto the comedy world with the legendary Arrested Development TV series, then cemented his buzz with his star-making turn in the sleeper hit Superbad. With all the action and high-concept stylistic touches, it might give Cera a chance to play around a little bit with his awkward nerd screen persona (something that he did in Youth in Revolt, creating the best parts of the film). The trailer looks great, being based on the cult comic about the trials of a young man who has to defeat the seven evil ex-boyfriends of the girl he loves. Could be really fun.

3 - Toy Story 3 (June 18) - It's been over a decade since Toy Story 2 (!), and it seems the latest installment takes that long stretch of time into account; Andy is gown up and leaving for college, prompting his mother to donate all his old toys. What happens to Woody and Buzz and the other toys; indeed, what happens to all toys, when their beloved kid owners no longer want to play with them? This story has always been about Woody and his devotion to Andy, so it'll be interesting to see how the film makers tackle the issue of letting go. Pixar, as I and others have marvelled, seems incapable of making a bad film, so I'm betting this one will be their customary mixture of heartfelt sentiment, smart humour and tight plotting.

2 - Iron Man 2 (May 7) - The first Iron Man film was not only a incredibly fun film powered by the outstanding free-form performance of Robert Downey Jr., it also heralded a bold attempt to replicate the shared Marvel comic book universe on-screen, an experiment that continues here. Aside from that, the upcoming film just looks plain fun. You've got Downey back in the role that seems to fit him like a glove. You have Don Cheadle stepping into the role of Rhodey and the War Machine suit. You've got Mickey Rourke chewing the scenery as a Russian Whiplash, aided and abetted by a rival of Tony Stark named Justin Hammer (played by Sam Rockwell). You've got Samuel L. Jackson reprising his cameo as Nick Fury, and ScarJo sexing it up in a skintight suit as the Black Widow. What's not to like?

1- Inception (July 16) - I can't really tell you what this film is about except it seems to be about industrial espionage taking place in people's minds. It's directed by Christopher Nolan, and it looks like he's combining his big budget style of The Dark Knight and Batman Begins with the mindfuck small scale storytelling of Memento and The Prestige, all wrapped up in the neo noir approach he explored in Insomnia. The cast, which includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy and Tom Berenger, may be the best assembled this year. The trailer is baffling, but somehow that only seems to make people want to see it all the more. I think this could be the most exhilarating experience I'll have at the movies this summer, a film that leaves you amazed at the possibilities of film itself. Then again, maybe my expectations are too high.

So, that's it. Could be a great summer at the movies!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nerdlinger's Most Anticipated Summer 2010 Films (Pt. 1)

Believe it or not, summer is fast approaching, which can mean only one thing; the blockbusters are coming! Usually, I look at the films released in the summer with a mixture of dread and excitement. There is always a hodgepodge of empty-headed schlock (hello, Transformers!), fun big-budget spectacle that remind us how much fun movies can be (cheers, Iron Man), supposedly simple entertainment that winds up surprising us with its depth (think The Dark Knight) and actual great movies (Up, The Hurt Locker).

o, it surprised me that this summer, I would feel much less ambivalent about the films coming out, and find much more of interest. So, without further ado, here's the first five of my top 10 most anticipated films of summer, 2010.

10 - The A-Team (June 11) - I'm in my mid-thirties, so it's fair to say that I was obsessed with this show when I was a kid. Every kid I knew watched this series, though like Knight Rider, it is almost laughably juvenile when you look at it now. Still, there's something relentlessly cool about the concept; a covert military black ops team wrongly convicted of a crime that goes underground as mercenaries helping underdog causes. It's pretty much designed to appeal to boys of all ages. The film version has been on the docket for some time, but it was only once Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin' Aces) became attached that it actually got made. This film would rank a lot higher, but the trailers made it look like everyone is trying a bit too hard to capture a madcap sense of adventure, creating an air of total ridiculousness. Still, I love it when a plan comes together, so let's hope this one works out.

9 - Salt (July 23) - She keeps trying, but I'm still not buying Angelina Jolie as an action star. It would help if she weighed more than 85 lbs. Remember Tomb Raider? Remember when she actually had some curves like a normal person and looked unbelievably, unreasonably sexy? That was a long time ago, my friends. I think she's still a solid actress, and she is unquestionably a presence on screen, but this whole movie hinges on whether we really buy her as a super-spy, and it's possible we may not. Still, there's a great supporting cast, and the material may be cliched, but it's still captivating. Once again, like The A-Team, the action looks borderline ridiculous, so that may hurt what is clearly trying for the "smart thriller" tag.

8 - Get Him to the Greek (June 4) - There's really not a whole lot of solid-looking comedies coming out this summer, and this one could really go either way. But there's something about the trailer that keeps me laughing, no matter how many times I see it. The two leads obviously have chemistry, and while Jonah Hill and Russell Brand pretty much do the same thing all the time, I like the idea of throwing them together. On the other hand, the trailer could just be all the funny bits.

7 - The Expendables (August 13) - Sylvester Stallone. Jason Statham. Jet Li. Dolph Lundgren. Eric Roberts. Mickey Rourke. Cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Up and comer action guys like Steve Austin, Randy Couture and Terry Crews. The film looks basically incoherent, yes, it's true, but the trailer effortlessly captures the fun, wise-ass, badass, over the top insanity that the one for The A-Team falls all over itself trying to manufacture. And, I've said it before, Stallone has talent. He falls back way too much on some pretty lazy qualities, but when he's cooking in things like Rocky, First Blood, Nighthawks, Copland; hell, even in cheese like Cobra or Tango and Cash he's a hoot to watch. Lately, with Rocky Balboa and Rambo providing him with a new comeback opportunity, he seems renewed and here's hoping he serves up one explosive slice of 80s action excess.

6 - Splice (June 4) - Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley star in this creepy sci-fi film that has been well-received at a number of film festivals. It tells the tale of two renowned scientists who have successfully created a new creature that secretes profitable proteins for pharmaceutical purposes. Things spiral out of control when they secretly embark upon the next stage; creating a hybrid using human DNA. The cast is great, the direction looks stylish and the subject matter is certainly original. It could be a real thinking-person's sci-fi film.

, there's the first five, see you soon for the final five!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Doctor Who Titles!!

With only eleven days to go until the Canadian Debut of the Eleventh Doctor, I'm embedding the new title sequence to Doctor Who below:

What do you think? Personally, I like the new graphics, and the titles themselves are good, but I am not digging the remixed theme. It wanders a bit too far off the original for my tastes. The theme as it first appeared way back in 1963 remains one of the most evocative and innovative themes ever; you know in seconds what you're watching and what the tone is. This new one sounds a bit too ordinary. Still, it's got me eagerly awaiting the upcoming premiere!

8 million people in the UK watched the premiere of Series 5, which is a pretty frickin' huge number. Reaction in the press has been pretty rapturous for new Doctor Matt Smith and new showrunner Steven Moffat. The Telegraph gave the casting director and Smith an A+ rating, while The Mail says Smith might turn out to be one of the best Time Lords of the lot.

For those who can't resist some spoilerage, here's a fun further clip so you can get a better idea of what the Eleventh Doctor will be like: