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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Breaking: Michael Rosenbaum Has Left Smallville


Lex Luthor has left the building.

And while it might not be a surprise really (Michael Rosenbaum himself told us a year ago this season would be his last) it is still 100 percent sucktacular to the fans who've loved him so dearly.

This statement was just issued by Smallville's Powers That Be (producers, CW and Warner Brothers):

"It has been an honor and pleasure to work with Michael for the past six seasons. He is one of the best actors on television and has never failed to bring a new layer to the character of Lex Luthor in every episode. While Michael won't be a series regular and we won't have the pleasure of working with him on a weekly basis this fall, we like to think that we haven't seen the last of Lex Luthor. Stay tuned."

And Michael himself (always a classy guy) took the time to write the following letter to you fans:

Dear Smallville Fans,

Well, it's been seven wonderful years. Your support is what has made Smallville so successful, and I appreciate you all more than you know.

That being said, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my life and career. I hope that I gave you some enjoyment over the years, and that you found my portrayal of Lex Luthor to be satisfying. I am truly grateful, as Smallville fans are the best fans out there. I sincerely hope that you will continue to follow my career through my hair growth period and beyond.

I'm very excited about what the future holds, but certainly, Smallville will always be a part of me. I will definitely miss the greatest crew in the world, and the wonderful cast that has been like a family to me.

Thank you Al and Miles for creating the show. Thank you writers, producers, directors and editors. Thanks Tollin, Robbins and Davola for being there for the pilot. Thank you Peter Roth for employing me for ten years. Lisa Lewis, I miss you already. John Glover, thanks for helping me feel more comfortable touching other actors, while acting. Bizarre, but helpful.

Mostly, I want to thank Greg Beeman for directing the "Oh Sherry" video, by Steve Perry, back in the '80s.

Thanks crew. Thanks fans. Thanks Smallville.

I love you all,
Michael Rosenbaum

As for what lies ahead, naturally, the studio, network and creative heads want to make sure you fans all know that a Lex-less Smallville will continue. So they have released the following details about two villains who are currently being cast for season eight:

Doomsday: In season eight, Clark will face his ultimate challenge with the appearance of the legendary, unstoppable destroyer Doomsday, who appears on Smallville for the first time. As comic book fans know, Doomsday is notorious for being the only character in the DC Comics universe to have killed Superman.

Female villain: Doomsday won't be Clark's only nemesis in the upcoming season. The executive producers are tight-lipped about a new female villain they will be introducing, but they can say she will be familiar to many fans and will set her sights on Clark in ways Lex never could. Intelligent, brilliantly manipulative, and dangerously sinister, our gorgeous new villain has one more weapon in her arsenal: Her mutual attraction with Clark may prove to be as deadly as kryptonite for him.

The question, though, is whether any newbie bad guy can fill Rosenbaum's ginormous shoes? With him and Kristen Kreuk seemingly out of the picture, will you keep watching? Share your thoughts below…

And if any of you regular readers need a cyber-bear-hug (Jesse? Smallvillefan16?), I'm here with open arms.

Original here

Synchronization


10 Worst Ways To Behave At Concerts: How You're Ruining It For Everyone

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The other day I took a look at my positively RAMMED spring/summer concert calendar and my left nostril promptly flared to the size of a grapefruit. Concert season is a time for excitement, but at the same time it's a time for frustration and cynicism. These days you have to brace yourself for an experience easily ruined by the fans themselves, who (from what I've seen) have become a rude and unruly lot entirely unaware of everyone else's personal space. I now present you with ten rules that people blatantly disobey, or, ways that you're ruining it for everyone else.

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1. Recording the show or incessantly taking photos with your cell phone. I honestly don't know why people do this. The photo quality of the majority of cell phones is terrible. I certainly didn't pay $30-100 for my ticket just to watch it through a 3x2 inch screen with your extended arm as an obstruction, why did you? Are you honestly ever going to look at those photos again? And when you do, will you even be able to recognize the tiny speck that's centre stage as Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys? Will you be able to tell you're at a Spice Girls reunion concert instead of the New Kids On the Block reunion concert? No. Ditto for people who record entire songs on a shitty camera for future uploading to YouTube. 90% of these videos are unwatchable. Check out this "sweet" four-and-a-half minute footage from a recent Yelle show that someone shot and uploaded for our viewing pleasure. In case you couldn't make it out, the song Yelle's performing in the clip is "Je Veux Te Voir".

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2. Waiting until the show has started to secure your spot in the front row. People line up outside general admission venues hours, sometimes even DAYS, before the show in order to snag that prime spot from which to enjoy a show that they've likely been waiting to see for much longer than you. In the Land of the Fair, It's called waiting your f**king turn. So when one is rammed at the front, standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of sweaty mouth breathers is uncomfortable enough without your conga line of friends charging through the crowd claiming, "Oh, my friend's up there!". It's like when you're late for a movie and making a huge production of finding a seat after the lights have gone down. It's rude. And no, if you've scored a front row spot, you cannot ever leave to use the washroom or get a drink. You've sealed your fate - you'll never make your way back.

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"Hey! Can you hear this? It's Pearl Jam. This is what you're missing. Wish you were here. OMG do you hear? They're playing Even Flow. Listen!!" *puts phone up to speaker*

3. Talking throughout the entire show. Speaking of rude: No one's saying you have to stand there like a wax statue with your arms folded, intently concentrating on every lyric and chord. But we could do without the people who feel the need to constantly natter to their friends throughout the show, especially at smaller shows where the band can HEAR you not paying attention. There have even been shows where the band stopped playing to ask people to STFU. Embarrraaaaaassssing! It's like people who talk in class...why are you even there? Go stand at the back near the bar if you want to chat.

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4. Being over 6'4 and choosing to stand in front of the shortest person in the crowd. You can't fault people for being tall (or too short), but why does the tallest person usually have a complete disregard for where they're standing? If you see a 5'0 tall girl, don't stand directly in front of her. Maybe kneel? Maybe lop off your legs at the shins? Or better yet, maybe just stand behind her? The same goes for girls who insist on sitting on their boyfriends' shoulders for the duration of the show. The band might appreciate it when you show them your boobies, but the entire audience behind you will just think you're a boob. Thanks for blocking my view, dink.

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5. Continually crowd surfing or slam dancing even though it's not that kind of show. You can only be dropped straight to the ground and then hoisted back up so many times by your fellow concert-goers before it gets exhausting for everyone involved. Some people are actually trying to enjoy themselves and not worry about getting an errant boot or elbow to the head while trying to gently guide you towards safety. Save it for Lollapalooza or some other monster UK festival. Ditto to people who mosh and slamdance at shows like Crystal Castles or Klaxons. Don't make me show you the black eye I got at a seemingly "tame" Malajube show.

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6. Being an unruly lout. Everyone knows all about the one dude who stands at the back of the venue and yells "WOOO! YES!!!" during the band's between-song banter and at the start of every song, regardless of whether he can recognize it. What's worse is when that dude brings along all of his rabblerousing buddies, and they get to the venue early to get their drink on. By the time the show starts they're slurring their words and sloshing their drinks, bumping into people and stomping on toes. Get a hold of yourselves, people! Try to make it to the encore without blacking out, please.

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7. Spastic dancing and general disregard for personal space. We know you wanna dance. And we WANT you to dance and have a good time. But take a moment to look around and size up the amount of space you have to work with and adjust your movement accordingly. If it's Daft Punk and everyone's going ballastic, go ahead and join in. If the crowd's tightly packed and there's no room to dance, bop along, maybe try to start a mini-dance party, but now's not the time to start flipping your hair like a stripper, breakdancing or practising the Soulja Boy dance.

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8. Holding up a sign or flag for the duration of the show. This practice is especially popular at any British indie band show. Suddenly everyone's a raving fan of the Union Jack and has brought along a humongous silk flag to prove it. Not only that, but they want to make sure the band is aware of their nationalism. Then you have the people who write deeply personal messages for the band on bristolboard and hold it up in the hopes that the guitarist will fall in love with them. Nope - the only thing you'll feel from behind is hate.

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9. Standing at a seated venue. Look, I go to a lot of shows. Almost all of them are general admission/standing. I look forward to sitting at the 10% of venues that have seats. So for the love of god, please don't LEAP out of your seat the moment the band hits the stage and remain standing for the entire set. Stand for a couple of songs and then sit back down. The domino effect is really strong on this one - it's kind of hard to convince an entire audience to sit down, and once one row is up, others are sure to follow, meaning anyone who's too tired or short to see anything while standing won't get to see anything if they stay in their seats.

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10. Waiting till the band plays their radio hit and then leaving . A lot of times the band comes to town early in their career and they already know that you only came to see them for one song. But humour them and feign some interest in the rest of their material - it's all near and dear to them; it just happens that one of their songs is being pimped out by their label or the local radio station. Several tours later, they're probably already sick of playing it anyway, and want you to latch onto something new. If they haven't saved it for the encore, after which there would be a natural exit break, don't start a mass exodus out of the venue. The other songs might crash and burn, but emergency exits should only be used in case of actual fire.

Original here

Up, up and away! Inspired superhero casting

Christopher Reeve in “Superman: The Movie” (1978)
Image: Christopher Reeve in "Superman: The Movie"
Warner Bros.

Poor Brandon Routh. He actually made a pretty good Superman in “Superman Returns”; he just had the misfortune of following the greatest superhero casting ever. One imagines the disaster if one of the producer’s original choices — Robert Redford or James Caan — had gotten Reeve’s role. Instead Superman came to us, as he should come to us, fresh-faced and innocent and steely. Reeve as Superman is shockingly handsome, with a jawline straight out of the comic books, and yet he’s actor enough to make us believe in the worst secret-identity subterfuge ever: “Yeah, I’ll put on these glasses and no one will know the difference.” He’s also actor enough to say lines like “I’m here to fight for truth, justice and the American way,” make them work, and, at the same time, through this boy-scout persona, flirt with Lois Lane. That ain’t easy. In a way Superman is the straight man in his own film — the yuks are provided by Luthor, the cynicism by Lois, and both act more knowing and worldly than Supes — but then he knows something they don’t, and, more than his powers, you could say it’s the reason he’s as serious as he is. He knows what it’s like to lose a planet. Rest in peace, Superman. You made a cynical time believe a man could believe.

Tobey Maguire in “Spider-Man” (2002)

Image: Tobey Maguire in "Spider-Man"
Sony Pictures

I remember casting a “Spider-Man” movie in my head about 1998 and thinking Leo DiCaprio would make a perfect lead. When friends objected, I said, “Listen, he’s young, thin and bankable. Beats the muscleman Hollywood will choose.” Oops. As soon as I heard their actual choice, I knew they were on the right track. You mean the nerd from “Ice Storm” who reads “Fantastic Four,” quotes the Human Torch and can’t get to first base with Katie Holmes? It was as if they’d cast some geek friend of mine in the role. It was as if they’d cast me. Although in his mid-20s, Maguire still looked like a high school senior, not to mention a science nerd. He looked like Peter Parker from the classic Steve Ditko era. He gave us PP’s wide-eyed sincerity, his general sweetness, which can disappear into a thousand tics when Mary Jane poses a direct question (“Why so interested?”). Peter Parker is the most internal of alter-egos, and Maguire lets us see his thoughts. “(Uncle Ben) never doubted the man you’d grow into,” Aunt May consoles him. “How you were meant for great things.” At first her words are salve for his guilt for letting the Burglar go, and thus, inadvertently, causing Uncle Ben’s death; then, without a word, you see him going deeper into what he must do.

Hugh Jackman in “X-Men” (2000)

Image: Hugh Jackman in "X-Men"
20th Century Fox

If you’d told me that Wolverine would be played by a 6-foot-2 1/2-inch song-and-danceman who would win a Tony for playing Peter Allen in “The Boy from Oz,” and was actually a last-minute replacement anyway (for Dougray Scott), I would’ve thought “Worst casting decision ever.” Instead, it’s one of the best. Jackman readily displays his heart of gold so he just needed Wolverine’s crusty outer layer. He got it. His looks, body and make-up were all perfect, but the key to the performance is in the eyebrows. He furrowed them throughout as if he were perpetually annoyed with the world. He kept them furrowed, forever dubious, forever watchful, even as he warmed up to Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and especially Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Plus Jackman’s one of the few guys who can smoke a cigar and not look like an ass. Oh, and that song-and-dance grace actually came handy for those battles atop the Statue of Liberty. Snikt!


Christian Bale in “Batman Begins” (2005)

Image: Christian Bale in "Batman Begins"
Warner Bros.

Why does Superman attract unknowns (Reeves, Reeve, Routh) and Batman established stars (Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney)? Something to do with Batman’s mask? The star can hide there. It’s also easier to take an unknown as Supes rather than, say, a guy you’ve seen killing a dozen people in another film. Batman could and should be dirty. I’m not a huge fan, by the way, of “Batman Begins” — it’s a little too relentless, everything is the same note, so you get the feeling of heading towards a climax that never arrives — but Christian Bale is the perfect choice for the caped crusader. He’s tall, dark, good-looking, and even before Batman, and certainly after, he tends to play intense, off-kilter guys, and that’s what you want for Bruce Wayne. This is a man, after all, who can do anything he wants with his wealth and chooses to put on cape and cowl and prowl the night in search of crime. He’s got to have a big chunk of himself missing. He’s got to be lost within his own passion. So why not use an actor lost within his own passion? See, for example, “The Machinist.”

Douglas Fairbanks in “The Mark of Zorro” (1920)

Image: Douglas Fairbanks in "The Mask of Zorro"
Fairbanks wasn’t as handsome as Tyrone Power (who is?), or as imposing as Frank Langella, or as funny as Antonio Banderas, and the first time I saw this silent classic, his Zorro seemed doughier and more double-chinned than I thought he should be. Some will even argue that Zorro, without super powers, and battling tyranny with a foil from another century, isn’t a true superhero at all; that you might as well have Robin Hood or The Scarlet Pimpernel on the list. So why include him? It’s more than the fact that Fairbanks had grace and athleticism and was our first true action hero, or that Fairbanks cast himself as Zorro after reading a five-part story in “All Story Weekly” in 1919 called “The Curse of Capistrano.” It’s the influence the actor and the character — with his two personas: effete secret identity and dynamic hero — had on a young boy in Cleveland, Jerry Siegel, who, with Joe Schuster, 18 years later, would create a super character of their own. Without Fairbanks, would there have been a Superman? Without Superman, would there have been anything else on this list?

Original here


Iron Man is the Best-Reviewed Movie of 2008!

Sure to be the first bona fide blockbuster of 2008, Iron Man already has its first crown to claim. The Marvel icon's inaugural foray onto the big screen is not only Certified Fresh and Rotten Tomatoes' best-reviewed film of the year so far -- it's also potentially one of the highest-rated superhero movies of all time.

Paramount's Iron Man will kickstart the summer season when it opens nationwide this Friday, and tent poles don't get much bigger or better than this; as of today, Iron Man sits at 95 percent on the Tomatometer with 107 reviews counted. This puts the Jon Favreau pic in the number one spot among wide releases of 2008, with the concert documentary U2 3D (92 percent) and the Judd Apatow-produced comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall (85 percent) in the two and three positions.

Jon Favreau's directing history
Made (2001), 67 percent
Elf (2003), 83 percent
Zathura (2005), 76 percent
In particular, critics credit Robert Downey Jr.'s acerbic and witty turn as the conflicted weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, who uses a gift for mechanics and a newly sparked moral outrage to create the iconic Mark 2 suit -- a body of high-tech armor that allows him to fly, crash, and bang his way through throngs of bad guys. Favreau takes on his biggest directing job to date -- and acquits himself well, balancing special effects and character development with the excitement of a comics-crazed kid.

Click to watch RT's interview
with Robert Downey, Jr.
Not only does Iron Man currently sit atop the critical heap of all of the films released so far this year, it may also end up being one of the best-reviewed superhero movies ever made. Sam Raimi is the current king of the superhero flick; Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man(2002) are two of the best-reviewed comic book movies ever. And there's also Bryan Singer, whose Superman and X-Men movies have also been extremely well-received.

See how Iron Man lines up among the best superhero films of all time.

Best-Reviewed Superhero Movies
Spider-Man 2 (2004) -- 93 percent
Superman: The Movie (1978) -- 93 percent
Spider-Man (2002) -- 90 percent
X2: X-Men United (2003) -- 87 percent
Superman II (1980) -- 87 percent
Batman Begins (2005) -- 84 percent
X-Men (2000) -- 80 percent
Hellboy (2004) -- 79 percent
Superman Returns (2006) -- 77 percent


For more Iron Man reviews, photos, trailers and clips, click here. Iron Man opens nationwide this Friday.

Original here

Say Goodbye To The Blockbuster: The A.V. Club's Summer Movie Preview, Part Two

Yesterday in this spot, we bemoaned the state of the summer blockbuster, and explored why the blockbuster-season films coming up in May and June might finally help kill off the blockbuster concept. (Or save it, but how likely is that?) Today, in true summer-movie style: the inevitable sequel.

Hancock (July 2)

Plot: In what looks like a clever twist on his good-guy persona, Will Smith plays a depressed, alcoholic superhero pariah who hires a publicist (Jason Bateman) to help improve his image, then begins an affair with the flack's foxy wife (Charlize Theron).

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: With its promising premise and solid cast, this looks to be one of the summer's few bright spots, creatively and commercially. If it tanks with audiences or critics, however, the summer will begin to look awfully grim. Also, we're getting a faint but discernible My Super Ex-Girlfriend vibe from the trailer.

Why it might help save them: Special-effects-driven summer blockbusters tend to be bland and inoffensive by design, but this looks like the rare blockbuster with a bracingly dark undercurrent.

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The Dark Knight (July 11)

Plot: Having survived the multi-front assault of Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins, the caped crusader Batman (played once again by Christian Bale) now has to protect Gotham City from a new threat: a pasty-faced freak who calls himself The Joker.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: It's going to be impossible to promote The Dark Knight without playing up the untimely death of star Heath Ledger, which will either turn potential audiences off or, more disturbingly, bring them in.

Why it might help save them: Batman Begins was a solid adventure flick, and director Christopher Nolan is a mainstream filmmaker with a rare command of craft and storytelling. In a summer of superheroes, The Dark Knight may be the super-est.

Hellboy 2

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (July 11)

Plot: Mike Mignola's demonic troubleshooter and his supernaturally talented friends return to save the world from a spirit-world attack.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: The first Hellboy movie didn't even make its production costs back in theaters, let alone pay for its marketing and distribution. Churning out another one—with a bigger budget, yet—seems like someone's concentrated effort to help kill the blockbuster concept. Are there any blockbuster-hating supervillains out there?

Why it might help save them: Writer-director Guillermo del Toro, who also helmed the first Hellboy, is still riding high on the success of his last film, Pan's Labyrinth. And at least this particular comic-book adaptation is in the hands of someone who seems to authentically love his source material.

Meet Dave

Meet Dave (July 11)

Plot: Eddie Murphy teams up again with Norbit director Brian Robbins for another multi-Murphy comedy, this time about miniature aliens who inhabit a Murphy-shaped spaceship.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: The thought of filmmakers trying to capture Norbit's lightning in a bottle once more is chilling enough to consider, but if they pull it off, summer entertainment in the future may be targeted exclusively to single-celled organisms. Excellent news for Protococcus algae, which currently can't get enough of Deal Or No Deal.

Why it might help save them: The only chance Meet Dave has of saving anything is by failing horribly. Otherwise, humanity is doomed.

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia! (July 18)

Plot: Based on the hit Abba musical, this featherweight romantic trifle stars Meryl Streep as the single proprietor of a hotel on an idyllic Greek island and Amanda Seyfried as her soon-to-be-married daughter, who has plans to reunite with her long-lost father and find her mother a new man.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: The road from Broadway to Hollywood has been a lucrative one, as last summer's sleeper hit Hairspray testifies. But a musical structured around Abba songs sounds awfully flimsy. Can an adaptation of the Legally Blonde musical be far behind?

Why it might help save them: Why shouldn't summer be a time for sun-dappled frivolity in the Greek isles? People saw Hairspray because it was bright, entertaining, and relatively light-footed next to the usual clanking blockbusters. Perhaps the season is well-served by a little airiness.

longshot

The Longshots (July 25)

Plot: Ice Cube stars in the true story of an 11-year-old girl who fights for her right to play Pop Warner football. (Sadly, Ice Cube does not play the 11-year-old girl.)

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: Four words: "Directed by Fred Durst."

Why it might help save them: It probably won't do much for blockbusters, but any project that keeps Limp Bizkit frontman (and amateur porn star) Durst off the streets is a net gain for the culture at large.

Step Brothers

Step Brothers (July 25)

Plot: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play adults who still live with their single parents, and have to move in together when those parents get married. The disruption in the boys' slacker routine prompts an elevated version of sibling rivalry.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: The demand for this kind of goofy, oddly penetrating R-rated comedy seems to have dropped precipitously since the boom times of summer '07. Also, audiences may not feel the need to see this Ferrell film when they know another one will likely be coming up in just a few months.

Why it might help save them: A lot of Ferrell and Reilly's best comic shtick is based on a fussy kind of arrested adolescence, and director Adam McKay is one of the rare modern comedy directors who actually cares whether his movies look good. This could be the movie that makes the multiplexes safe for comedy buffs again.

x

The X-Files: I Want To Believe (July 25)

Plot: Still a carefully kept secret, but it reunites X-Files TV stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as a pair of ex-government agents investigating supernaturally tinged cases, and it's directed and co-written by original series creator Chris Carter.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: It will remind people of TV, and they'll stop watching theatrical movies (with their increasingly high prices and obnoxious, socially oblivious, vocal audiences) and return to quiet entertainment in the privacy of their own homes.

Why it might help save them: Perhaps moviegoers, too, want to believe.

mummy

The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (August 1)

Plot: You know those first two Mummy movies? This'll be exactly like those, only somehow different. Brendan Fraser's latest big-screen romp finds him matching wits with a resurrected Chinese emperor played by Jet Li. Plus, he's got a kid! And a different actress (Maria Bello) plays his wife. Maybe there's a talking dog or something. Honestly, we couldn't be less excited.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: Wasn't 2001's The Mummy Returns the kind of ubiquitous blockbuster everyone sees and no one likes? Sequels to those kinds of movies generally run smack-dab into a brick wall of public indifference.

Why it might help save them: According to Wikipedia, Maria Bello signed on for a whopping three Mummy sequels. So it seems like someone's pretty damn cocky about the film's box-office chances. Universal apparently feels there's more than enough room this summer for both an Indiana Jones sequel people are legitimately excited about, and a long-in-the-works second sequel to a blatant Indiana Jones knock-off.

Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express (August 8)

Plot: A stoner (Seth Rogen) and his dealer (James Franco) go on the run when one of them witnesses a murder and worries that the rare strain of weed left at the scene could be traced back to them.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: Stories about lazy, pot-smoking, dick-joke-obsessed slobs have become the bread and butter of producer Judd Apatow, but the sheer ubiquity of his name has bred contempt. Forgetting Sarah Marshall backlashed the backlash a little, but will there will be a backlash to the backlashed backlash?

Why it might help save them: Hiring a left-field stylist like David Gordon Green (George Washington) was a masterstroke, and might rescue this comedy from the plague of visual indifference. And based on the terrific redband trailer, this should be Apatow's third straight quality late-summer cash-in, following The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad.

sisterhood

The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2 (August 8)

Plot: All those burning questions from the first Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants will be answered at last!

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: Early word says that the CGI effects do not match those employed in the first Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants movie.

Why it might help save them: It might not live up to the fevered anticipation that's built since the first Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants (or SOTTP, as those in the know call it), but if it does… boy howdy!

Star Wars

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (August 15)

Plot: A missing chapter in the Star Wars chapter gets filled in via this 3D computer-animated entry, which follows Obi-Wan and Anakin as they battle clones. Or are the clones the good guys? This series has gotten really confusing.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: We've been down this road before, with a well-received, Genndy Tartakovsky-produced series for the Cartoon Network. Do we need to go down it again, especially with a film that appears to be a setup for yet another TV series?

Why it might help save them: It's a Star Wars movie. Those are always great, right?

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder (August 15)

Plot: Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, and co-writer/director Ben Stiller play three vain actors who sign onto an Oscar-bait war movie, and are then unknowingly dropped into an actual combat zone.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: Tropic Thunder has already sparked some controversy over Downey's character: an Australian Method actor who has his skin chemically darkened so he can play a black soldier. If that joke doesn't play, it'll make for a long, uncomfortable night at the movies.

Why it might help save them: During the recent run of comedy smashes masterminded by Judd Apatow and/or Will Ferrell, the Stiller sensibility has been largely absent. Here's hoping that the time off has given one of the brightest comic minds of the '90s a chance to regain his sense of humor.

Bangkok Dangerous

Bangkok Dangerous (August 22)

Plot: In Danny and Oxide Pang's remake of their own derivative Hong Kong-style action thriller, Nicolas Cage stars as a remorseless assassin who starts to go soft while trying to pull off four executions for a Bangkok crime boss.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: There's no greater sign of creative desperation than having a foreign film Americanized by its original creators, especially when those creators are as reliably mediocre as the Pang brothers, who have already failed twice in Hollywood with The Messengers and the Jessica Alba redo of their passable film The Eye.

Why it might help save them: Ghost Rider. The Wicker Man. Next. With Nicholas Cage's track record of late, what could possibly go wrong?

House Bunny

The House Bunny (August 22)

Plot: When a bubbly nude model (Anna Faris) gets thrown out of the Playboy mansion, she lands at another mansion on a college campus, where she serves as housemother to socially awkward sorority girls.

Why it'll help kill blockbusters: Coming at the end of a summer loaded with brain-dead comedies, the stirring tale of sorority nerds turned princesses may well cause open revolt, much like the riots that followed the firing of French Cinémathèque founder Henri Langlois. Either that, or people will just choose to see that dopey-looking Nicolas Cage movie instead.

Why it might help save them: Faris is one the brightest young screen comediennes out there, and she's almost always the best thing about anything she appears in. If she ever stars in a Hollywood movie that's even semi-tolerable, watch out.

Original here

Cusack aims to offend with war satire film

Cast member John Cusack attends the premiere of 'Grace Is Gone' at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California November 28, 2007. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
Reuters Photo: Cast member John Cusack attends the premiere of 'Grace Is Gone' at the Academy of...

NEW YORK (Reuters) - John Cusack is outraged over the Iraq war, so the U.S. actor channeled his anger into a low-budget political satire -- complete with a chorus line of scantily clad female amputees -- that he hopes will offend.

Inspired by anger about the war and questions about the political power held by global corporations, "War, Inc" is set in Turaqistan, a fictional nation occupied by a private U.S. company called Tamerlane and run by a former American vice president.

Cusack helped write the screenplay and also stars with Sir Ben Kingsley, Marisa Tomei and Hilary Duff in the film, which premiered this week at New York's Tribeca Film Festival alongside several more serious documentaries on Iraq and other conflicts.

"I think the movie should be kind of offensive," Cusack told Reuters about the film, which will be released in New York and Los Angeles theaters on May 23. "I'm shocked at how much good reaction we're getting."

"Sometimes with a serious, somber movie, even though they're great and well intentioned, it just doesn't allow you to be outraged because you just get depressed," he said. "This allows you to actually feel like, 'Let's do something subversive."'

In the movie, Cusack plays a hit man hired by Tamerlane to assassinate a Middle Eastern oil minister who plans to lay an oil pipeline through Turaqistan, thwarting the company's plan for sole proprietorship of the country.

"(The movie) was just a reaction to the war and all the insanity behind using the 9/11 attacks to make an imperial land grab in the Middle East," he said. "We really wanted to channel our outrage a little bit into something creative."

'IT'S NOT RIGHT'

Cusack said he was also inspired by the late director Robert Altman, who made a satirical movie about U.S. medical personnel during the Korean War, based on the book "MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors."

"He said when he made "MASH" he wanted to be as politically incorrect as the war was obscene," Cusack said. "I don't think we even went far enough."

Shot in Bulgaria, the low-budget movie has been marketed through Myspace.com. It was shown to a range of high-profile people such as artist Damien Hirst and comedian Sarah Silverman, whose comments have been posted online.

Singer Hilary Duff, 20, had a week to prepare for her role as a trashy central Asian pop singer and said that while many families have been devastated by what's happening in Iraq, she hopes that audiences will see the funny side of the film.

"We're trying to raise awareness with it. It is funny and it is bizarre and a little disturbing," she said. "But really at the end of the day it's looking at what (our country is) doing, and it's not right."

And with U.S. presidential elections looming, Cusack hopes his movie will spur "some kind of resistance of the spirit."

"There's hopefully an exuberance to the movie because I think being subversive should feel good," Cusack said. "It should be fun to throw a brick."

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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