Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Gruesome Origins of 5 Popular Fairy Tales

We know what's you're thinking. "What the hell is Cracked writing articles about fairy tales for? That's kids stuff! Give us more articles about the Top 10 Transformers Characters, or Worst Dressed Thundercat!" And that's good, because that means our Spyware technology is getting better than ever.

The thing about fairy tales, though, is that they weren't always for kids. Back when these stories were first told around campfires and in taverns in some medieval village there were very few kids present. These were racy, violent parables to distract peasants after a hard day's dirt farming, and some of them made Hostel look like, well, kid's stuff.

Little Red Riding Hood: Inter-Species Sex Play, Cannibalism

The Version You Know
Mention the words "fairy tale" to someone--if they don't think of gingerbread houses, or possibly a certain bar they know, they think of this story. Little Red on her way to grandmother's house meets the Big Bad Wolf and stupidly tells him where she's going. So he gets there first, eats Grandma, puts on her dress and waits for Red.

She gets there, they do the back-and-forth about what big teeth he has, and he eats her. Then, a passing woodsman comes and cuts Red and Grandma out of the wolf, saving the day.

What Got Changed
Most modern versions of fairy tales come from two sources: The Grimm Brothers from Germany, and Frenchman Charles Perrault, the collector of the "Mother Goose" tales. The big change they made to this one was the ending. That woodsman showing up seemed a little like a third act re-write of a movie due to bad test screenings, didn't it? Where the hell did the woodsman come from?

Well, the woodsman was a later addition to the tale. In the early versions of the story, Red and her Grandmother are dead. The. Goddamn. End. Also, in most versions the woodsman cuts the pair out of the wolf's belly, where they're mostly none the worse for wear despite being eaten, which implies to us the wolf in that story world eats like some sort of python, by unhinging its jaw and swallowing prey whole. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

Much earlier versions also liked to spice up the sexuality angle of the story, by having Red outwit the wolf by performing a striptease for him while he's lying in bed dressed as her Grandmother, and then running away while he's "distracted" (Note to any young girls out there: if you are ever abducted and menaced by someone, DO NOT DO THIS).

Wait, it gets worse. This is the most horrifying bit that got filtered out before the tale reached both the Grimm's and Perrault (and in fact, only made it into a few written texts). In this version, the Wolf dissects Grandmother, then invites Red in for a meal of her flesh, presumably with a side of fava beans and a nice Chianti. Then he eats her, too.

Story's over! Sweet dreams, little Sally!

Snow White: Prince Pedophile, More Cannibalism

The Version You Know
Well, you've all seen the movie, you know how this goes. Evil step-mom hates that her daughter is prettier than her so she tells one of her men to take out to the woods and kill her, and bring back her heart as proof. He can't follow through, so he tells her to run away and never return.

Snow White flees, and she falls in with seven friendly dwarves. The step-mom finds out and sneaks her a poison apple. Snow goes into a coma until a handsome prince rescues her and they live happily ever after.

What Got Changed
In the Disney film the wicked step-mother winds up dead (she falls off a cliff). So that's pretty hardcore we guess. It's got nothing on the Grimm version, though, where the step-mother is tortured by being forced to wear red-hot iron shoes, and made to dance until she falls down dead (you can picture the puppet thing from Saw spelling this out for her over a closed-circuit monitor).

The issue of Snow's actual age is a point of contention as well. The Grimm's explicitly refer to her as being seven years old when the story starts, and while there's no firm indication of how much time has passed, it's no more than a couple of years. So unless that's an eight-year-old Prince Charming who comes along and rescues Snow, we're backing away from this one before we become the subject of an NBC reality show.

The biggest change, and the bloodiest, is step-mom's ... unusual eating habits. Namely, when she asks her man to bring back the heart of Snow White, she isn't just after proof the girl is dead. She wants to eat it. Depending on the version of the story, the Queen asks for Snow's liver, lungs, intestines and pretty much every other major internal organ, up to and including one gruesome version where she asks for a bottle of Snow's blood stoppered with her toe.

And if you think the fairy tales were gruesome back then, you should have seen the merchandising tie-ins.

Rumpelstiltskin: Dismemberment, Dead Toddlers

The Version You Know
There's never been a Disney version of this one, but you've probably heard it before. A miller has a beautiful daughter who he claims can spin straw into gold. A passing noble decides to call the miller on his shit and takes the girl and locks her in a tower and tells her to get spinning, presumably hoping to cause a collapse in the precious metals market.

Fortunately she's helped by a little gnome who shows up and offers to help in exchange for a small trinket. This goes on three nights, and by the third night the girl is promising the little man her first born child in return for his help. On the third morning, the king decides to marry this pretty girl who can produce gold out of dry grass.

They inevitably have a son, and the little gnome shows up demanding him. Being nothing if not fair, he'll give the girl three days to guess his name. If she can, she keeps the kid. She tries everything but comes up short, until a passing woodsman overhears the gnome bragging about how he's so clever no one will guess his name is Rumpelstiltskin. He immediately tells the queen, who springs it on Rumpelstiltskin, who's so pissed off he throws a tantrum and runs away, presumably to ply his poorly thought-out scam in another town.

What Got Changed
In the Grimm brothers' version, taken from the oral tradition, the little man is so pissed off he stamps the floor in his little hissy fit, and gets stuck. And then, like some insane version of a Will Ferrell skit, he pulls so hard to free himself that he tears himself in half. Now, if our names were Rumpelstiltskin and some dizzy miller's daughter had just told the whole damn room, we'd be pissed too, but we don't think we'd get dismemberment-angry.

Not to mention, in the really early versions of the tale, Rumpelstiltskin launches himself at the girl in a rage and gets stuck ... um ... in her lady parts. Seriously. The palace guards all have to come and pull him out, which must have made for some awkward looks afterwards.

Also, in a depressingly large number of versions, the child is killed anyway, either by Rumpelstiltskin himself, or the guards, or someone. They weren't big on happy endings in the Dark Ages. Plague will do that.

Sleeping Beauty: Coma Sex

The Version You Know
Sleeping Beauty is the story of a young Princess who is cursed by an evil witch so that she will prick her finger on a spindle and die on her 15 birthday. The old woman does this because she wasn't invited to the party celebrating the girl's birth, where other good fairies/wise women are bestowing gifts upon her. Fortunately, one still hasn't given her a gift, and so tempers the curse--the Princess won't die, she'll just fall asleep for 100 years. We guess she did what she could, but still, a pretty major downer for the party.

Of course the King orders all spindles burned, plunging the kingdom into a fashion nightmare, but with the inevitability of fairy tale logic bearing down on her, the princess manages to find the one working spindle in the kingdom, and pricks her finger on her 15 birthday. She falls asleep for 100 years, until a dashing young Prince comes along in timely fashion and kisses her, breaking the spell. Everyone lives happily ever after.

What Got Changed
The first major departure in this from the version we know today is when the Princess pricks her finger on her 15 birthday. In earlier versions the Princess instead gets a piece of flax caught under her fingernail which pricks her and puts her to sleep. This might seem like a small difference but it becomes important when you consider the other major, and unsettling, change to the story.

Previous versions of the tale have the Prince who finds Sleeping Beauty think she's so damn beautiful he just goes ahead and has his way with her right then and there. Yes, while she's still comatose.

If that's not disturbing enough, the rohypnol-style coupling leads to a pregnancy, and the Princess gives birth to twins, all while asleep. One of the babies, seeking momma's milk, sucks on her finger and dislodges the flax, waking her, at which point we imagine she had a few questions.

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A History of Evil

Veoh aims to be one-stop shop for Net TV viewers

LOS ANGELES — Dmitry Shapiro wanted to start a website that promised to be the CBS, NBC and ABC of the Internet, a one-stop shop for TV programming on the Web.

Shapiro wasn't the first to come up with such a lofty concept. At the time of his brainstorm, 2005, many others had similar notions. Shapiro's Veoh competes with YouTube, (GOOG) Fancast, (CMCSA) Joost, Blip.TV and at least 250 other video websites, according to researcher the Yankee Group.

But former Disney (DIS) CEO Michael Eisner thought Shapiro was onto something. So did two former top Viacom (VIAB) executives, Jonathan Dolgen and Tom Freston. They've all invested in Veoh, which has quietly become the top independent U.S. video site on the Internet, attracting 2.1 million visitors a month, according to Nielsen Online.

"Companies like AOL, (TWX) Yahoo (YHOO) and Google (GOOG) have all defined a space," says Eisner, who now runs the Tornante investment firm. Google-owned YouTube aside, he says, "I think Veoh has the potential to define the space. They want to marry the Internet to the TV set, and that's the real deal."

While YouTube specializes mostly in amateur video clips, Veoh showcases both homemade clips and full-length TV shows. CBS (CBS) has many of its prime-time shows on Veoh, as do NBC (GE) and Fox, (NWS) via their Hulu joint venture. There's also programming from PBS. Next month, Viacom's cable networks, which include MTV and Comedy Central, will join the stable.

"Our goal is to give consumers the broadest collection of video available anywhere," Shapiro says.

A key selling point for Veoh, Yankee Group analyst Anton Denissov says, is a download feature that lets you save shows to watch later. The Veoh TV application aggregates full-length shows from all over the Web and lets you save them if downloading is an option.

Shapiro says that once you connect your computer to a television, Veoh TV can act as a TiVo-like guide. For now, download availability tends mostly to be made-for-the-Web productions such as Goodnight Burbank and Prom Queen. So far, CBS, Viacom, NBC and Fox aren't offering downloads of their TV shows, but PBS and the Time Warner-owned Cartoon Network are.

Yankee says the average consumer watches about five minutes of Internet video a day. That's projected to jump to 45 minutes a day by 2011.

Dolgen, a former top executive at the 20th Century Fox, Paramount and Columbia (SNE) movie studios, says what attracted him to Veoh was the "one-stop shop" concept. "Back in the old days, you had to turn on three TV sets to see everything from CBS, ABC and NBC," he says.

Quincy Smith, who runs CBS' new media division, says the size of the audiences on Veoh are getting close to what some shows are receiving on broadcast television. While he declined to cite specifics, he said the post-apocalyptic drama Jericho has a bigger online audience than it does on traditional TV.

Veoh says its most-viewed TV show is Fox's Family Guy, which attracted 200,000 viewers, but that pales next to Prom Queen, a made-for-the-Internet production from Eisner's Vuguru production company. The debut last summer attracted 1.2 million viewers, Veoh says.

Family Guy isn't even hosted on Veoh. The website picks it up from Hulu, the NBC/Fox joint venture that puts their shows on many websites. Much of the content on Veoh is found elsewhere on the Web, but viewable on Veoh TV.

Veoh showcases videos in higher resolution than competing sites such as YouTube. The service uses peer-to-peer technology, the same concept that put the original Napster (NAPS) on the map — tapping into its users' computers to broadcast higher-quality video. Still, it's far from high-definition. Ads surround most shows.

Pitching Eisner

Shapiro, a Russian immigrant who moved to Atlanta at age 10 and worked in the cellular industry after graduating from Georgia Tech, got the idea for Veoh while on his honeymoon. At the time, he was running a software security company he'd founded in San Diego. His first successful sales call for Veoh was with Art Bilger, who runs Los Angeles-based Shelter Capital. He agreed to invest $2.25 million and helped open the door to other investors. All told, some $40 million was raised, and Bilger owns 25% of the company.

"Dmitry had a good vision, and a great ability to actually explain it to people with far less sophistication," Bilger says. "To be able to communicate was very important."

Shapiro's title is chief innovation officer, while the CEO mantle has been handed to an experienced manager, Steve Mitgang, a former Yahoo senior vice president.

Since joining in July 2007, "We've gone from having no monetization to having dozens of really happy advertisers," Mitgang says.

Veoh is currently unprofitable, but the big backers involved expect that to change in the near future.

Eisner is one of the biggest names in Hollywood. How did a guy from Russia with a penchant for loud T-shirts and jeans with odd pockets end up getting in the door to see him?

"He called me," Shapiro says. "It was the most amazing thing. He saw the site and liked it."

Eisner invited him to visit at his Bel Air mansion, where Shapiro made his pitch. Eisner was impressed. "They were taking this technology created for illegal uses of expanding copyright, and turned into a legal business, which I thought was brilliant," Eisner says. "I figured they're either going all the way, or will be over in 10 minutes. And 'all the way' seems to be where they're headed."

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Rock from a hard place

Link to this video
Stephane Girard's life began to unravel with frightening speed after his partner threw him out. "I lost everything," he says, sitting in the bright, funky surroundings of homelessness charity Crisis's Skylight Cafe in east London. "I lost custody of my son and ended up sleeping rough," he says. "I was taking drugs, drinking and was depressed and violent. My life descended very quickly."

His life changed trajectory after a music tutor at the Skylight Centre persuaded him to take part in a competition the charity was holding to find hidden musical talent among London's homeless population.

The Consequences project offered an opportunity that most aspiring musicians would sell their granny for: the chance to play in front of thousands of people at the Roundhouse venue in Camden and contribute to a charity track alongside stars such as Paul Weller and Supergrass.

A series of auditions, a lot of rehearsals and a few jamming sessions later, Girard will step out on stage in little over a week's time with his fellow band members - guitarists Paul Webb and Roberto Medina, singer MaxLove and drummer Neil Thompson - and perform the charity track Consequences for the first time.

The band members, who have all struggled with homelessness and destitution, will share the stage with some of the biggest names in music. They will play one of Girard's own songs during an all-day gig on March 2 that will feature Paul Weller, Supergrass, Dirty Pretty Things, New Young Pony Club, Graham Coxon and the Noisettes.

Phil Drew, one of the project's coordinators, says that the single - due to be released in April - is loosely based on the game, consequences, where each player draws a section of a body without seeing what has been drawn before.

Without hearing one another, more than a dozen artists each played a refrain over a skeleton track, without knowing what had come before, or what would come after. The track was then built up, layer by layer, by producer Paul Epworth.

"The idea behind the Consequences project is that the future is unwritten and it can unravel in unpredictable ways," Drew says. "It aims to unlock hidden or existing talents of homeless people to help people rebuild their shattered confidence."

The campaign aims to attract a different type of donor, says Drew. "The Crisis donor demographic is often middle-class and middle-aged and although we want to guard that, we are also looking to attract young, reasonably affluent urbanites."

How can the competition help homeless people who may not have the musical talent of the Consequences band? Jane Eggleton, spokeswoman for Crisis, says the campaign aims to raise around £250,000 to help homeless people around the country.

Paul Webb, a former graphic artist who plays guitar on the Crisis track, says his self-esteem was shattered after he became homeless. "I lost a lot of confidence and it took me a long time to pluck up the courage to go into the music room," he says. "This is a big confidence boost. The single could go to number one. It's great stuff."

· Crisis Consequences Live takes place at the Roundhouse, London on March 2. Tickets available from 0870 389 1846 or from the Crisis Consquences website

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Top Comic Movies before 2000

As a nerd, I have to say that since 2000 it's been a great decade for comic book movies. X-men, Spiderman, Superman, and Batman have all showed Hollywood that superheroes are a resource for financial gain that have been mostly ignored for years.

And we still have several more to go including this year's Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Hellboy II, The Dark Knight, and Punisher: War Zone.

But there was a time when pickings were pretty slim for a good superhero movie. The list I've compiled covers over two decades of movies where several failed attempts at superhero movies made Hollywood leery of the genre.
Here are some movies (starting with my favorite and working on down) that I think were great representatives for the comic book world before the current boom of superhero movies.

1. Superman: The Movie (1978) - The grandfather of all superhero movies. Richard Donner provided us with a defining vision for how superhero movies should be made. He took source material that was considered hokey and had birthed several silly ideas over the years (super-pets anyone?) and treated it with a serious attitude. His goal was to make it believable which was partially evident with the project slogan, "You will believe a man can fly." First, he found the perfect Supeman in Christopher Reeve.

Much like Donner, Reeve's sincerity for the character showed through in his performance. The movie took its time in setting up everything about Superman before getting to the heroics. Donner stated that it was like filming three different movies. At first, when on Krypton, it was like shooting a big sci-fi movie. Then when they moved on to Smallville, it became a great sweeping movie about Americana; evening describing Superman to be as wholesome as "mom's apple pie". Finally, when they get to Metropolis it becomes a big city movie where we get to see the hustle and bustle as compared to the quiet and serene countryside. By the time all is said and done, we get to the classic hero vs. villain theme when Lex Luthor (excellently portrayed by Gene Hackman) comes into the picture.

All these elements mixed with one of the best movie scores ever composed, courtesy of John Williams, gave the movie a life of its own. Overall, Superman: The Movie became the template of how to introduce a fantastic character like Superman and make him relatable to audiences. The sad thing is, not many other attempts (including later Superman movies) would take notes from this superior lesson which left superhero movies a taboo in Hollywood for years.

2. Superman II (1981) As a kid, the sequel to Superman II was amazing and jaw-dropping to me. I was 3 when it came out in theatres so I probably didn't see it until it starting showing on T.V. Being a kid at the time, I had no idea about the big scandal behind this movie. It wasn't until I was an adult that I finally learned how Richard Donner had been filming Superman I and II simultaneously. His producers, the Salkinds, apparently were unhappy with Donner and after Superman I was completed, they unceremoniously dismissed Donner from the project. Richard Lester was brought in by the Salkinds to finish Superman II and what we got was a mixed bag of a movie. On the one hand, we have the introduction (or reintroduction if you prefer) of one of movie's greatest villains- General Zod!

I know he's over the top and bursting with cliche's but I thought that's what made him so great. Terrence Stamp took a role that was easily ridiculous and turned it into a memorable performance that still generates some of the best quotes to this day. The fight in Metropolis at the end of the movie was great and gave Superman a chance to shine. On the other hand, Lester brought in the idea that his version of Superman needed to be more lighthearted. Thus, we get several goofy scenes that take three menacing villains and turn them into better than buffoons. Example: Just about any scene with Non as he is constantly portrayed as the Уthe big dumb oneФ. Then there's the classic Уstrange powersФЭ Superman possess at the end of the movie like the ability to throw hisЭ shield or to create holograms of himself to thwart the villains.

When the Richard Donner Cut was released in 2006, I was one of the first to rush out and get it. I do recommend this version over the Lester version but with a few considerations. The Donner Cut was made with footage Donner was able to shoot before he was canned. The result is a movie that portrays the villains in a more dangerous light

but at the same time suffers from the fact that Donner never could complete it. All in all, the тАЬideaтАЭ behind Superman II is great and hopefully one day, redemption will come for it in the form of a modern Superman movie which shows Superman and these villains engaged in the kind of story that's worthy of their characters.

3. Batman (1989) You've heard of comfort food? Well, this has definitely got to be a Уcomfort movieФ for me. I can be having the worst day and if I pop this in, it just pumps me back up! Tim Burton took the public's collective consciousness (which still had visions of Adam West doing the ФBatoosieФ) and turned it on its head with this awesome tale that put the 'dark' back in The Dark Knight. From the moment Danny Elfman's score begins to build in the opening title sequence you knew this movie was going to be different. Tim Burton has a world all his own where all his movies seem to take place. It's a dark and dreary world but one that enchants most people when he produces a new film. This is more than evident in this version of Batman's world where the city of Gotham seems to be shrouded in perpetual darkness. People laughed at the idea of Michael Keaton as Batman (people did the same to Bruce Willis when he was cast in Die Hard) but Keaton put all fears to rest when he takes out those two thugs on the rooftops and vehemently declares УI'm Batman!ФЭ

Then, just as the audience is buying into Keaton's performance, Jack Nicolson comes in and drops a cinematic bombshell. His portrayal of The Joker is considered nothing short of legendary for most people.

Suddenly, the hero and the villain were more than a match for each other and the rest of the movie continues full steam ahead with Danny Elfman's driving score. Nitpickers point out that in comic continuity The Joker didn't kill Batman's parents and towards the end Batman uses weapons to kill some of the Joker's henchmen. If it weren't for these minor details I think it would have been difficult to determine if this was a better Batman movie or Batman Begins. As it stands, Batman Begins seems to be the popular choice to be the seminal Batman movie but this effort by Burton and company should never be dismissed.

4. The Crow (1994) I was a teenager when this came out so I'm pretty sure I saw it in the theaters. This was at the dawn of my comic book collecting days so I didn't know anything about the comic book this movie was based on. But when I saw it, it blew me away. The movie is such a classic Greek tragedy. My wife calls it Уa guy's love storyФЭ because she says only a guy would view this as such. For me, the action and the love story interwove in such a way that it was never sappy and the action never seemed forced. Eric Draven had a clearly defined goal and we are carried along with him to that goal. We feel his pain, his frustration, and even his joy when justice is done. A running theme for me, if you haven't caught it yet, is that a good movie has to have an equally good soundtrack. The orchestral soundtrack is great in this movie supplying just enough longing and sullenness to keep the overall tragedy fresh in our minds. But that is complimented with some great hard core music by Nine Inch Nails, The Cure, and Stone Temple Pilots during the action scenes.

Jason Lee's death during production was one of the saddest events in Hollywood history. But at the same time, it inadvertently created this mysticism behind this movie; watching a young actor in a potentially break-out role be taken before his time.

5. The Mask (1994) Another movie that came out during my early comic collecting years, The Mask helped continue Jim Carrey's rise as a big-box-office-ticket actor at the beginning of the 90's. It must have been synchronicity though, because I don't know any other actor that could have pulled it off.

I didn't know anything about The Mask character going into this movie so I was a clean slate. I was able to watch this movie objectively and it was a very enjoyable experience. As Stanley Ipkiss, Jim Carrey accurately portrayed the тАШdown-on-his-luck' guy who is so easy to route for in a story. This was also Cameron Diaz's first starring role and she sizzled as the movie's leading lady.

CGI was still in its infancy so overall it looks almost low budget and cartoony. But for the purposes of this movie, it worked since The Mask is essentially a character who seems to have been ripped out of a Looney Toons cartoon. Jim Carrey's comic performances were always described as 'rubbery' because of his physical comedy where he seemed to be able to do wild and crazy things with his body. This talent also lent itself to the character and further made us believe that Carrey had truly turned into this creature of magical mischief. An overall fun movie that stayed true to the spirit of the original material.

6. Blade (1998) Wesley Snipes was just cool all around in the 90's. He had done several well-received movies but had never shown interest towards the comic book community. So when I heard that he was not only going to do a comic book movie, but also one of Marvel Comic's B-list characters, I was pretty shocked. The theatrical preview looked good but after a string of bad Batman movies, I think a lot of people were hesitant about comic book movies. All my fears were put to rest when Blade walks into that rave at the beginning of the movie and the Blood Bath begins-literally. Not only was New Line Cinema taking a chance on a comic book movie, but it was also a Rated R comic book movie; double taboo. But a strong story, a great performance by Snipes, and some awesome action quickly alleviated all fears.

Snipes had the perfect attitude for the character and as he stated in the movie, УYou better wake up. The world you live in is just a sugar-coated topping! There is another world beneath it - the real world. And if you want to survive it, you better learn to pull the trigger!Ф This was definitely a wake up call for Hollywood and X-men helped solidify that call two years later.

7. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Tim Burton helped bring Batman back to his dark roots but Batman: The Animated Series helped keep him there. This groundbreaking cartoon helped change people's attitude towards animated shows. The tone was serious and the material was handled in a way that did justice to the character of Batman without making him cartoony. The success of the animated series led to the production of this full-length animated feature. The box office take wasn't very good but the overall quality of the film cannot be denied. Unlike the Burton film, the animated series stayed true to Batman's origins. So immediately there was a sincerity to this world where the animated series existed. Bruce Wayne's struggle of happiness (with new love interest Andrea Beaumont) or his promise to his parents struck a cord with me that has always drawn me to the character; his choice to selflessly dedicate his life to helping others while avenging his parent's death.

All of Batman's popular rogues had been introduced in the series by this point so a new foe was created: The Phantasm.

The tone of the movie was also more mature. Considering that in the series guns were a mainstay, the movie allowed them to be used to their full potential. A harrowing scene where Batman is almost gunned down by the Gotham P.D. is beautifully filmed and leads us to think Batman is truly in some real danger; perhaps for the first time. A great score by Shirley Walker echoes themes from the show as well as Danny Elfman's score from Burton's Batman. Of course, you couldn't have a Batman movie without The Joker in it. What Jack Nicolson did for The Joker in the Burton movie, Mark Hamill (everyone's favorite galactic farm boy) found life after Star Wars in providing the voice of The Joker here and in the animated series. Further capitalizing on the PG rating, Batman delivers a beat-down on the Joker that is cheer-worthy and brutal. Before Batman Begins came along, many considered this to be the seminal Batman movie.

8. Dick Tracy (1990) Ok, so I'm straying from the comic book mold here but it's almost necessitated by my original point that comic book movies (good ones anyway) were scarce before 2000. Warren Beatty took a mainstay of Sunday morning comics and brought it to life in this movie adaptation. The costumes, the sets, the villains were all highly authentic.

Starting off the movie by showing the villains (most of whom would be considered deformed by real world standards) established that this was not our world and these were the things that were commonplace in it.

Beatty was also able to take cues from old gangster movies and used them to spice the movie up. Madonna as Breathless Mahoney probably also got a laugh from most critics. I think she showed them up by not only delivering a sexy performance, but also providing some great music that echoed a time long past.

Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice also gave Beatty's Tracy a worthy and classic villain to go up against.

And even though it was based on a comic strip, the action was not watered down. We get lots of Tommy-gun goodness as both Tracy and the villains don the classic guns during some great shoot-outs. If anything, this movie showed that you could take an idea and stay true to the style which allowed them to create a unique and fun movie experience.

9. The Shadow (1994) I just realized (after listing 3 movies from this year ) that '94 was a good year for movies based on comics. The Shadow was mainly known for its radio broadcasts (some of which were voiced by Orson Welles providing The Shadow's voice) but the character eventually did make it to comic books as well as pulp magazines. Where Beatty's Dick Tracy was colorful and fun, The Shadow had similarities but overall was a darker movie. Jerry Goldsmith provided a haunting score throughout the movie to add to the mysticism. Alec Baldwin does a great job of portraying Lamont Cranston, both when he's at his best and at his worst. The transformation he goes through to become The Shadow is full of mystery and wonder.

Shiwan Khan, last living descendant of Genghis Khan, was a good adversary

but Baldwin mostly carried this movie with his performance. The special effects are still quite impressive, mostly because The Shadow's ability to Уcloud men's mindsФ didn't require big budget special effects to begin with.

It's an enjoyable movie that offers a great little adventure while keeping true to the character's origins.

10. Mystery Men (1999) Somebody paid attention after Blade came out and decided to put out something that would spoof superhero movies but still existed as its own unique world. Mystery Men is like your favorite comic actors doing stand-up about superheroes for two hours. I've read that a lot of the lines in the movie were ad-libbed by the actors and that probably added strength to this movie. The movie was loosely based on the independent comic book series Flaming Carrot Comics by Bob Burden. A lot of the same characters appeared from his comics but most were altered in some way for the movie. It is a great tongue-in-cheek ride where we follow the B-team superheroes of Champion City as they struggle to get the recognition they so desperately want. Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Paul Reubens, and Janeane Garofalo all deliver hilarious performances as their respective characters.

Meanwhile, we have Greg Kinnear playing Captian Amazing- a superhero who's sold his soul to the marketing gods because he claims there's no more good villains to fight in the city.

Then Geoffrey Rush (pre-Barbosa) comes along and provides a great villain for Captain Amazing as Casanova Frankenstein.

The comic book and pop culture references abound for the duration of the movie ensuring many great laughs.

So, consider yourselves fortunate to live during a time when superhero movies are thriving and thankfully we have a higher rate of hits than misses.

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