Monday, February 28, 2011

I'd Like to Punch the Academy

Hello, Oscar. It's me, Nerdlinger. You know, the guy who has watched every single Oscar telecast, live, since 1989? The Oscars are like the Superbowl:  It's something I look forward to every year, I care about who wins and loses, the musical acts suck balls and occasionally someone gets hurt in a spectacular fashion. But there can also be moments of startling grace up there.

We've had our ups and downs, haven't we, Oscar? Remember when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan? What happened there? And Crash? Seriously, Crash? And we've disagreed at times. I liked David Letterman as host for instance. But I've stuck by you. That's what you do when you're a devotee. Even back in the mid 1990s, when the shows were like, 19 1/2 hours long.

But last night, you tested me. The telecast was only a little over three hours, but it felt longer than any of those bloated affairs from the past. It was by far the least enjoyable show I've watched in my memory of the telecast. Why, you may ask? Well, let me give you some reasons:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RIP - Nicholas Courtney

More sad news, this time from the world of Doctor Who. Nicholas Courtney, the actor who played fan favourite character Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, has died at the age of 81 following a long battle with cancer.

Courtney first played Lethbridge-Stewart in 1968, appearing opposite Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor in The Web of Fear. He was a regular army Colonel then, but he returned later that season in The Invasion, newly promoted to Brigadier and heading up an international organization called the United Nations Intelligence Task Force, or UNIT.

When Troughton left the series and the Doctor regenerated into his third incarnation, played by Jon Pertwee, it was decided that the character would be Earth-bound for a time, and would work with UNIT. Courtney became a series regular during this era, his formal and somewhat pompous military bearing creating a good contrast to the Doctor's eccentricities. Over time, he would be brought back again and again, to fan delight. He appeared opposite all of the classic series Doctors, with the exception of Colin Baker's sixth Doctor (although he did appear opposite the Sixth Doctor in audio productions and a charity special).

Oddly enough, The Web of Fear was not his first appearance in Doctor Who. He had first appeared on the series in The Daleks' Master Plan, a 1965 serial starring William Hartnell as the Doctor.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

RIP - Dwayne McDuffie

Shocking news hit the world of comics today, as it has been reported that comic book and animation writer and icon Dwayne McDuffie had died. Although the exact cause of death has yet to be confirmed, it is being suggested that he passed away during a medical procedure he underwent on Monday.

McDuffie got his start in the comics industry as an assistant to an editor at Marvel Comics. His first major work as a comics writer was Damage Control, a satirical and irreverent book about a construction company that specializes in cleaning up after destructive battles between superheroes and their foes. He became a freelance writer in 1990, contributing stories to Marvel, DC, Archie and Harvey Comics.

During his time at Marvel, McDuffie had been frustrated at the stereotypical way African-American characters had been depicted and created by the company. Reacting to the overtly "hip" and "urban" characters, McDuffie fired off a pitch for a new series called Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers, in which, among other things, all of the characters would ride skateboards, sport hairstyles and clothing from 1974, speak in bizarre speech patterns, and have smart white friends. The sarcastic pitch is now legendary in fandom.

In 1992, McDuffie finally was able to take a huge leap for multi-culturalism in comics when he founded Milestone Media. It was a comic book company. It featured new super heroes. It was owned and run by African-Americans. Although it featured heroes such as Hardware and Icon, the most popular and enduring hero created under Milestone was Static. Though Milestone's comic line eventually folded by 1996, Static lived on through the popular and award-winning animated series Static Shock. In 2008, DC Comics announced that it would be folding the Milestone characters into the DC Universe proper, and severely heroes have shown up in various DC titles.

During the late 1990s, McDuffie was a story editor and writer for Static Shock, which led to his other career, that of animation writer. While he worked on Teen Titans, Scooby Doo, and Ben 10, he was most lauded as one of the guiding lights of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series.

After Justice League ended, he returned to comics, writing Beyond! and Fantastic Four for Marvel, and Firestorm and Justice League for DC. Although Justice League seemed like a perfect fit, based on his experience with the popular animated series, his take struggled to connect with fans. He was fired from the book after airing his creative differences with DC regarding its direction during an online interview.

Even with this fracas, McDuffie enjoyed a stellar, almost beloved, reputation within the industry. His shocking passing, much too soon, will leave a large hole in comics. He was a unique voice in an industry that could always use more uniqueness, and even though he would surely argue that more work needed to be done to create true diversity in comics, we can thank him for much of the strides that have been made. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Production Roundup: "Thor" Has New Trailer, Black Confirmed for "Iron Man"

So, Thor has a new trailer, and the more I see, the more I like. I guess the vibe out there on the Webs is not a s strong for Thor as it is for Captain America. Or maybe I've got it backwards. Who fucking knows. It changes every other day, and people on forums are borderline insane.

But this trailer really kicks ass, as far as I'm concerned. It's a little odd that a taser knocks Thor out. Hopefully they explain that tiny detail. But other than that, the Destroyer looks great, the Asgard stuff looks great, the Frost Giant stuff looks great. The Earth stuff looks a little goofy, but it feels okay to me. Check it out:

And it looks like Shane Black is confirmed as the director of Iron Man 3, which is good news. Hopefully, this means everyone will now go check out Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, for the first time Downey and Black teamed up.

So very, very awesome.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Arcade Fire Wins Album of the Year

The Grammys continue to be full of surprises, though this year, it's a good surprise. Usually, when one gets knocked by a surprise win at the Grammys, it's because a ton of relevant and amazing albums lose to, say, the latest retread by the Doobie Brothers or something.

Well, last night, Arcade Fire won Album of the Year, beating such megastars and front runners as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Eminem. It's one of the biggest upsets in years, though oddly, the band didn't win the category everyone though they would. They lost in the Alternative Album category to the Black Keys.

It's sort of an upset, but in truth, not really. Arcade Fire's The Suburbs was one of the best reviewed albums of the year. And though it is not a commercial success on the scale of the other nominees, it did mange to sell half a million copies, so it's far from a failure. It actually reminds me of another nominee for Album of the Year, Radiohead's Ok Computer. That album didn't win, but it had a similar critical vibe. The real groundbreaking aspect is that The Suburbs was released as an independent, not on a major label.

Anyway, I echo Arcade Fire's lead singer's response when he won, "What the hell?" But it's great. It's an amazing album. However, most of the people out there on the Interwebs are treating the win like it's some totally obscure band that somehow managed to undeservedly topple some music greats. But their previous two albums were nominated for Grammys, so that doesn't really make sense. The fact is that, whether you like Arcade Fire or have never heard of Arcade Fire or love Arcade Fire, the real question is was their album a legitimate contender based on the material alone? The answer is yes; and maybe we should be happy that the Grammy voters listened to all the nominees and voted the way they felt rather than bowing to marketing or press. Kind of cool.

Here's Arcade Fire in action:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Production Roundup: Visnjic joins "Tattoo", Black may forge new "Iron Man"

According to Deadline, Goran Visnjic has joined the cast of David Fincher's adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Visnjic, a handsome actor whose name I cannot possibly pronounce properly, is best known for playing Dr. Luka Kovac on ER.

He has been cast as Dragan Armansky, the CEO of the security/private investigation firm that employs Lisbeth Salander. In the novels, Armansky is a pretty major supporting character, appearing all three books and one of Salander and Blomkvist's main allies. However, in the Swedish films, the role was reduced to basically a one scene cameo.

Visnjic joins a cast that already includes Rooney Mara as Salander, Daniel Craig as Blomkvist, and Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard, Christopher Plummer and Joely Richardson. Given the pedigree of the director, the popularity of the book, and the casting, this is already one of the most anticipated films out there.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Superbowl Movie Trailers...

I love the Interweb age. It used to be that if you wanted to see the ads that ran during the Superbowl, you had to actually, you know, watch the Superbowl. As I have explained, I'm most assuredly not a sports guy. My obsessions are comics, movies, TV, and robophobia, I don't have time to get invested in sports. I'm barely involved in my real life as it is.

Except baseball. Baseball's cool.

Anyway, now that we live in an instant gratification society combined with the most advanced information sharing technology in the history of mankind, I no longer have to slog through a three hour sporting event to see cool commercials. There were a boatload of cool movie spots during the game, and I have compiled the best ones for your enjoyment. All except Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Why? because Transformers fucking sucks. The first one was awful and the second one (which I only saw a few weeks ago because I was able to see it for free) was abysmally, diabolically bad. If things keep progressing the way they have been, this one should induce seizures and vomiting. So, this is the last time I'm going to mention it.

Anyway, here are the best of the movie spots:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cap Teaser Poster Revealed

Marvel has released their teaser poster for Captain America: The First Avenger. And it looks pretty damn cool. I'm sure fan boys will jump all over the fact that he's not wearing his helmet, or that there's too many straps, or that the shield shouldn't be scarred or pitted. I've even heard people criticize Chris Evans' face and performance. Okay, let's be clear; no one has seen one frame of this flick yet. We've seen pictures. And as for Evans being pretty, it's not like Steve Rogers was Steve Buscemi or anything. The guy is a blond haired, blue eyed man in perfect physical condition. Everyone needs to relax.

Instead, look at the tone they've been exhibiting overall. Through all the pics I've seen it's been one that is suitably dark, but pulpy enough to still be fun. Above all, it's being shown to take the period seriously, as well as combining some of the darker, more thriller based takes of recent years with the sci-fi gee-whizzery of past years. Footage is really the only thing that will give us any sense of an idea of what the film will actually be like. So, keep your eyes peeled during the Superbowl, because the first trailer is supposed to debut during the game.

Hmm, where have I seen this before?

So, yeah, the movie does pay attention to the source material. This is one of the more iconic images of Cap in the last decade or so.

Superman Still Looking For a Female Lead - But It's NOT Lois Lane

Here's a scoop! No one reads Newspapers.
According to a recent article posted on Variety, Warner Bros. and director Zack Snyder have not yet found their female lead. But, the big news is that the lead character will not by traditional Superman love interest Lois Lane.

Alice Eve, Rosamund Pike and Diane Kruger are apparently all being considered for the role, whatever it may be. Before the news that Lois Lane wouldn't appear, speculation was running high as to who would be cast, with Rachel McAdams being one of the front-runners (But if I were casting the role? Rashida Jones, all the way)

I really don't quite know what to make of this news. Is it just Lois who's out? Or are they giving a miss to the whole Daily Planet crew? Because having Clark Kent walking around the Daily Planet without Lois would definitely feel awkward. Will the story even be set in Metropolis at all? That's a pretty major part of the whole mythology, and to lose it may make some people (okay, insane Interwebs fanboys) cry that they have strayed too far.

On the one hand, I can see why they made this call. If there's one aspect that we have covered pretty much fully in the Superman films it is the whole relationship with Lois and the Daily Planet setting. That and Lex Luthor and land schemes. Sidebar: isn't it insane that in Superman The Movie Lex steals nuclear missiles for a real estate swindle? I mean, he could sell the fricking missiles and make an assload of money and not have to irradiate his real estate.

Anyway, perhaps this opens up great possibilities for the film. Maybe it puts Superman in some other setting? Perhaps a New Gods storyline? A major criticism of Superman Returns was that, with all the improvements in visual and special effects, they still had him going up against Lex Luthor. It would really have to pull out all the stops to have Superman go up against Darkseid, that's for sure. But with Christopher Nolan behind things, I had assumed they would be taking a similar approach to the Batman films, namely creating a realistic world to ground the fantastic elements.

Who knows? But the possibility is intriguing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

RIP - Maria Schneider

Some sad news today, as word comes that Maria Schneider, who starred as Jeanne in the classic and controversial film Last Tango in Paris, has died. She was just 58 years old.

Schneider had started acting in films as early as 1969, but it wasn't until she co-starred with Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris that she became famous internationally. The story of Paul (Brando), who, after his wife's suicide, enters into an anonymous affair with a young French woman (Schneider) who is about to be married. It was immensely controversial for its frank and explicit sex scenes between Brando and the then 20 year old Schneider. It was loudly decried, and released with an X-rating. However, Brando's performance was celebrated for its brutal vulnerability and honesty.

While Brando, and even Bertolucci to some degree, escaped relatively unscathed, Schneider took the brunt of a lot of the outrage. This situation was exacerbated once she revealed she was openly bisexual and that she was a user of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. At the time, she spoke warmly of the experience of making the film, and of her relationship with Brando and Bertolucci. However, in the years that followed, she revealed that she felt manipulated and humiliated during the making of the film, and she said she considered Bertolucci to be "a gangster and a pimp". She remained friends with Brando for the rest of his life, but did comment that on set he wasn't terribly sensitive to how she felt at the time.

The experience and the furor surrounding it did lead to her gaining larger stardom. In 1975 she starred opposite Jack Nicholson in The Passenger, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. In 1976, she was slated to star in the ill-fated Caligula, but walked off the set after she refused to do nudity. She checked herself into an institution in Rome. The years since Last Tango in Paris had taken their toll, and her drug addiction, combined with a suicide attempt, left her in a dangerous state.

By 1980, she had recovered, and she began working steadily in European films once again. She starred in films like A Woman Like Eve, Savage Nights and Jane Eyre throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Though she never reached the heights of stardom she achieved in the 1970s, she did seem to be happy with both her work and life.

Sadly, she had battled an unknown illness for some time, which eventually claimed her life.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gordon-Levitt Joining Dark Knight Rises

Word's coming out that the cast for The Dark Knight Rises is getting effing ri-donk-ulous with the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has joined the cast. No one has revealed what role he's going to play, but speculation is running from Hugo Strange to the Riddler to some sort of copy-cat version of the Joker.

So, just to confirm, here's the cast for this flick: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy and now Joseph Gordon-Levitt. You just know Nolan's going to stick Cillian Murphy in there too. 

Still, I love Gordon-Levitt, he's consistently amazing. Nolan really has a magic touch when it comes to casting, and no matter what role he plays, he'll probably be great.