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Sunday, July 20, 2008

26 Important Comic Books

Picture 72.pngBy Christa Wagner

Sure, it may seem silly, but, comic books mean something. Soldiers used dog-eared copies of Captain America to keep their spirits up in WWII. The Green Lantern and Green Arrow made kids actually think about issues like racism and heroin. And millions gasped when they heard the news that Superman died. In fact, the vibrant medium is so often pegged as children’s pulp, or fun for the feeble-minded, that people tend to forget that comics have actually grown with and continued to reflect the spirit of our times.

HOW THEY GOT GOLDEN

Action Comics #1 (June, 1938)

1.jpgBefore the release of Action Comics #1, the detective/reporter/adventurer-with-alter-ego formula had been used to create countless characters like Flash Gordon and The Shadow—leading men who were heroes, but not superheroes. That all changed with two 23-year-old graphic illustrators from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Together, they created Superman, a hero that came onto the scene hoisting automobiles over his head, speed-walking past moving trains, and effortlessly hopping from building to building. Kids around the world dropped their jaws and allowances, begging for more. Little did they know, Superman had almost been swept off the drawing room floor. Siegel and Shuster drew the original strip in 1934, and for four years tried to sell it to newspaper syndicates with no luck. Finally, in 1938, DC Comics editor Vin Sullivan fished it out of a pile of rejected strips and ran it, changing the history of comic books forever.

Detective Comics #27 (May 1939)

2.gifIssue #27 marked the debut of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s comic creation, Batman. Batman didn’t have any super-powers like Superman, but he was tricked out on gadgets. Working under the cover of darkness, Batman appeared more sinister than other comic heroes (or villains, for that matter), and yet simultaneously served as an identifiable flesh-and-blood human. Ultimately, Batman introduced a completely new characteristic to superherodom: fallibility.

Marvel Comics #1 (November 1939)

Picture 62.pngIn the Golden Age, superheroes were all the rage. So to scratch America’s newest itch, Marvel Comics introduced three incredible, death-defying heroes: the Human Torch, the Submariner and the Angel. If anything, the rapid introduction of new characters and publishers to the line-up revealed that comic books were fantastically appealing to people, especially kids, who could afford to buy them with their allowances. This meant that, for the first time in American history, companies could mass-market directly to children.

Superman #1 (Summer, 1939)

4.gifAfter the success of Action Comics #1, it became apparent that Superman needed his own comic book, which is how Superman #1 became the first title devoted to a single comic character. Kids’ pajamas and bed sheets would never be the same again, but neither would America. Superman was the first incarnation of a new type of hero: an omnipotent do-gooder doubling (admirably) as a working class man. With Superman at the helm, comic books entered their Golden Age.

The Yellow Kid (Feb. 1896)

5.jpgNo discussion of comics can begin without mentioning Richard F. Outcault’s “The Yellow Kid,” which ran as a series of strips and panels in The New York World and later in The New York Herald. Its star was hardly a superhero, though; the Yellow Kid was a short boy with huge ears, a bald head, and a signature yellow nightshirt. Regardless, the comic became so popular that competing papers started relying on it to boost sales. The strip even spawned the term “yellow journalism,” which refers to a brand of sensationalist newspapers. Then, in March 1897, a Yellow Kid compilation was released, and it became the first comic strip printed as a pulp magazine. (The one pictured is magazine #2). But what’s the true measure of commercial success? Products galore. The Yellow Kid was the first comic book character to be merchandized on things like t-shirts, gum and even kitchen appliances.

THE 1940s: KEEPING IT GOLDEN

Captain America #1 (March 1941)

6.jpgWith the world at war, Americans desperately needed a superhero who would convince them that good could triumph over evil. Captain America jumped into the ring fist-first, delivering a swift punch to Hitler’s jaw on the cover of his first comic (no veiled political overtones here!). The Captain was on a die-hard crusade against Nazism, fighting his nemesis Red Skull, who, according to the comic, was personally appointed to the post by Hitler himself. And although Captain America wasn’t the first overtly patriotic superhero (The Shield had donned a similar star-spangled getup a year prior), he was the most popular. Be sure to note the title on this one: Captain America was the first character to be given his own book without being tested in another comic first.

Batman #1 (Spring 1940)

7.jpgAlthough this marked the second time a superhero had gotten his own title, Batman #1 is most important for making celebrities out of Batman’s nemeses, the Joker and Catwoman, whom he meets here for the first time. Batman had also recently teamed up with Robin the Boy Wonder to create the world’s most dynamic duo (and first superhero sidekick!). But since Batman was injured more often than his comic book brethren (he was only human after all), he sometimes had to hand over his cases to his good buddy Robin.

All-American Comics #16 (July 1940)

8.jpgThis issue launched the enormously popular Green Lantern, the first “everyday guy” to luck into superhero powers. Engineer Alan Scott inherited his new identity after a) finding a lantern made of alien metal, b) making a ring from the metal, then c) logically pressing said ring against said lantern to amazing effect … thus, gaining powers over everything except (strangely enough) wood.

Wonder Woman #1 (Summer 1942)

9.jpgWonder Woman first appeared in All Star Comics #8 as a kind of proto-feminist figure, fighting for wronged women in a man-made world. Until that point, the women of comics were mainly girlfriends or secretaries looking to be rescued. Though dually praised and criticized for her role, just a few months after Wonder Woman’s debut, a poll crowned her the readers’ “favorite superhero,” beating her closest male rival by a margin of 40-1.

Whiz Comics #2 (February 1940)

10.jpgThe star of Whiz Comics #2 was Billy Batson, a congenial kid who could transform himself into a super-powered hero called Captain Marvel by uttering “SHAZAM!” (an acronym invoking the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury). Young boys everywhere became fascinated with Captain Marvel, and the fantasy of transforming themselves into a superhero and back again.

THE 1960s: THE SILVER AGE

The Silver Age ushered comics out of the 1950s Comics Code doldrums with a brand-spanking-new approach to storytelling.

The Fantastic Four #1 (1961) and The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962)

11.jpg12.jpgIn 1961, Marvel writers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided that flawless superheroes weren’t very, well, realistic. So Lee, Kirby and artist Steve Ditko created The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man. These characters had super-instincts, but they also had some personal problems. In the old days, readers knew exactly who the good guys were and rooting for them was easy. But by the Silver Age, readers got a chance to consider more mundane stuff, like what would happen if Clark Kent and Lois Lane wanted to have a baby.

Amazing Fantasy #15 (March 1963)

13.jpgWhen Peter Parker, a nerdy, orphaned teenager, gets bitten by a radioactive spider, it turns out to be a good thing. As Spider-Man, Parker has “the proportionate strength and agility” of a spider. And while his smarts and strict ethics should have made him a hero even before he had super-powers, his triumph as an underdog helped make “Spidey” one of the most beloved superheroes of all time.

Captain America #117 (September 1969)

14.jpgHere, Marvel introduces one of the first African-American superheroes, the Falcon. By day, the Falcon is Harlem social worker Sam Wilson, who has a cautious civil rights platform that discourages black separatism and militancy. The appeal of Captain America, which had a political allegiance that leaned a little to the right, was considerably bolstered by his introduction.

The X-Men #1 (September 1963)

15.jpgStan Lee’s X-Men comics made their debut in the Silver Age, but their popularity grew as the years went on. The X-Men are unique in the comic universe in that they are inexplainably born with mutant powers and are severely persecuted as a result. While the team has survived various incarnations over the years, the storyline was slyly created in part to address social issues of prejudice and persecution in way that would get past the Comics Code censors.

The Seduction of the Innocent (1954)

16.jpgAfter World War II, superhero comics wavered in popularity, disappearing into the underground in part due to the publication of Frederick Wortham’s The Seduction of the Innocent. Wortham’s book warned parents that comic books corrupted kids and made them violent. Comic publishers were sent reeling but recovered quickly with a self-imposed censorship law called the Comics Code Authority. More than a cautionary label, the code ensured that any comic bearing its insignia would be completely free of questionable content.

THE 1970s: THE BRONZE AGE

The chronological boundaries of the next era in comics are ambiguous, but 1970s are considered to be the Bronze Age of comics, with the 1980s generally accepted as the Modern Age — a time characterized by new genres, Marvel/DC cross-over issues, and new titles with the same old heroes.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76 (April 1970)

171.jpgAmid the civil rights and Vietnam protests of the time, DC Comics found the perfect way to tap into the social climate of the country and boost their sagging sales: by pairing up their conservative vigilante, the Green Lantern, with the left-leaning hero, the Green Arrow. Introduced just a year before, the Green Arrow expanded the scope of storytelling to include relevant social and political issues and capture the idealism of the youth movements of the decade. In the 13 titles that followed, the duo tackled difficult topics including racism, environmental damage and even heroin addiction. Although the Comics Code Authority frowned upon drug-related themes (like when Speedy, Green Arrow’s aptly named sidekick, faced his addiction), the New York Times lauded the title for ushering in a new sense of “relevance” for comics.

The Amazing Spider-Man #96-98 (1971)

18.jpgLook closely and you’ll notice this cover is missing the Comics Code Authority stamp of approval. Until this point, ignoring the CCA smacked of commercial suicide, but Marvel saw no ethical problem in dealing openly with the dangers of drugs and stuck to its guns. As with the Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics, publishers began to stand up to the CCA and publish issues without their approval. This, however, was the first mainstream one to do so.

The Incredible Hulk #181 (November 1974)

19.jpgThe character Wolverine (later famously attached to the X-Men) made his debut in this Incredible Hulk title. Wolverine, along with The Punisher, signaled the arrival of a new type of hero: the anti-hero. Emotionally imbalanced, the vengeful Wolverine didn’t mind killing villains in the name of good or regularly spilling blood in the name of justice.

Conan the Barbarian #1 (October 1970)

20.jpgWhile pulp “sword and sorcery” stories had been around for decades, it wasn’t until Marvel’s recreation of adventure-book hero Conan the Barbarian that comic publishers began to embrace these older fantasy themes. In fact, Conan inspired a whole slew of sorcery titles, including Marvel’s Kull the Conqueror and DC’s The Warlord, creating an alternative genre for comic book fans who’d grown weary of traditional superheroes in tights.

Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man (1976)

21.jpgIn 1976, it finally happened: Marvel and DC, the two giants (and rivals) of the industry, united forces to produce this oversized issue. Wide-eyed fans the world over were found salivating, knowing their prayers had been answered. While the title wasn’t the first collaboration between the comic companies (they’d teamed up once before to work on a Wizard of Oz book), it was the first major comic book crossover, a gimmick that guaranteed robust sales.

OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM

While there are tons of artists and titles we’d love to highlight (everyone from Daniel Clowes to publishing houses like Dark Horse and Malibu) we just couldn’t finish without dropping these names.

Zap Comix #0 (1967)

22.jpgCrude, scathing and obscene, Zap Comix epitomized the underground comic. Its creators intentionally spelled comix with an ‘x’ to accentuate the X-rated nature of the book, separating itself from the mainstream. But lewd content wasn’t Zap’s only distinguishing feature. The writers experimented with dream sequences and stream-of-consciousness and embraced storytelling in its most experimental forms. Zap is also famous (and infamous) for introducing the artist Robert Crumb (creator of Fritz the Cat and the subject of the critically acclaimed 1994 documentary, “Crumb”) to the masses.

Maus #1 (1986)

23.jpgArt Spiegelman’s Maus became the first comic book to receive the Pulitzer Prize, bestowing a new level of legitimacy on the medium. This graphic novel illustrates the plight and persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, as told to Spiegelman by his father (a survivor). Maus crossed the line between comic books and mainstream books, inventing the genre of graphic novels. Today, Spiegelman (pictured above, right) is generally confined to that category, but it’s impossible to deny the impact he’s had on the world of comics.

Akira #1 (September 1988)

24.jpgReferred to as Manga, Japanese comics account for over a third of the nation’s published books. And though Akira wasn’t the first Japanese comic export, it’s probably been the most influential, telling the striking and poignant tale of a child psychic in post-World War III (yes, three) Tokyo. Creator Katsuhiro Otomo’s influence on comics helped open the gates for the Western popularity of “Pokemon” and “Sailor Moon,” but Akira remains his claim to fame.

Spider-Man #1 (1990)

25.jpgIn 1990, Marvel granted “favored son” status to its artist Todd McFarlane, giving him his own Spider-Man title to write. McFarlane proved worthy. Using nine different covers, Spider-Man #1 became the best-selling comic to date. Not willing to part with his own creations, McFarlane ended up leaving Marvel with a number of well-known artists (and a few ideas up his sleeve) to form Image Comics, which allowed artists to retain the licensing rights to their ideas. The company thrived from the get-go with McFarlane’s other famous superhero comic, Spawn.

Superman #75 (January 1993)

26.jpgSuperman dies?! Yup. The unthinkable happens in 1993 with the release of Superman #75. Millions snatched up the comic to read about the death of America’s first superhero. Conveniently, some copies even came packaged with black armbands to mourn the loss. Of course, long-time comic fans were already anticipating his soap-operatic reprise, but the general public thought it was surely the real thing. When the story finally resumed, four new characters emerged, each claiming to be the true incarnation of the dead superhero.

Just like any list, we were forced to leave plenty of favorites off. Watchmen? Persepolis? If you’ve got comics we need to write up for part 2, be sure to include them in the comments below.

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Knowing me, knowing ABBA

The four singers of Swedish pop group ABBA pose for a photo in 1977. They are from left to right: Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha (known as Anna) Faltskog, Annifrid (known as Frida) Lyngstad and Benny Anderson.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Forget the sparkly jumpsuits. Forget the girls with blue eye shadow, the boys with feathered hair, the less than impressive dance moves. Forget how uncool you ever felt belting out "The Name of the Game" in the privacy of your car. And while you're at it, let go of the shame surrounding your secret yearning to tuck in to "Mamma Mia!" this weekend. Because ABBA rock. Embrace it. Own it.

What is it about this rather cheesy Scandinavian pop group that sticks in our hearts like hot chewing gum on a summertime pavement? How is it that a group that essentially disbanded in 1982 is still selling upward of 2 million albums a year? It can't just be a collective nostalgia for wide collars, kitsch and up-tempo songs sung with an English-as-a-second-language accent. We can wrap our critical credibility around other acts more obtuse and obscure, we can brush off our relationship with ABBA -- Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog -- as purely novelty based. But how cynical would we have to be to believe that the brightness and liveliness and pure fun of something diminishes its artistic value? Is it possible to stop worrying and learn to love the Björn?

You wouldn't be alone. Elisabeth Vincentelli, author of the 33 1/3 series book "ABBA: ABBA Gold," says, via e-mail, "The band has tons of fans among the kind of artists that usually get the kind of 'serious' critical recognition ABBA itself sometimes doesn't get (Elvis Costello, Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields, etc.). The songs are incredibly melodic, and their sophistication hides behind apparent simplicity. The arrangements are often complex (Andersson and Ulvaeus used a lot of multitracking, both on the instruments and on the voices), and the interpretation by Fältskog and Lyngstad is a very canny mix of a pop sensibility and one that's closer to musical theater."

The story begins in 1966, when Björn Ulvaeus, a member of folk group the Hootenanny Singers, met Benny Andersson, keyboardist for the Hep Stars. Before long, Ulvaeus and Andersson were collaborating, writing songs and playing together. It has to be the first and last time in pop history that words like "hootenanny" and "hep" ever spawned anything so auspicious.

By the early '70s, Ulvaeus had paired off both musically and romantically with young pop singer Agnetha Fältskog, and Andersson had done likewise with vocalist Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida for short). And when Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid acronymed themselves into ABBA and started making music, they created a sound so big it reverberates on the dance floor to this day.

The first time I heard the Swedish supergroup, I was a little girl, out shopping with my mom. I had been raised on Top 40, on the Fifth Dimension and the Carpenters. But ABBA stunned me. I didn't know quite who Fernando was, or what the hell he was doing that "frightful night" he crossed the Rio Grande, but the melody was so intriguing, the girls' harmony so pretty, I felt like crying right there in the supermarket.

The group had already had its big breakthrough two years before "Fernando" hit my eardrums, cleaning up at the Eurovision song contest with "Waterloo," a criminally infectious paean of romantic surrender. Over the course of the '70s, ABBA continued their stream of hits, becoming one of the biggest-selling acts in the world, spawning sold-out tours and shattering chart records from Australia to Japan to the U.K. Back at home, I was morphing from a Jackson Five-loving 'tween to a surly prepubescent with a taste for punk. Even at the group's height, it wasn't considered cool to like ABBA. But deep down, I always knew that no amount of Sex Pistols would ever shake the grip "Money Money Money" had on my soul. Other bands of the same era, notably the Raspberries and Badfinger, tinkered with similar elegantly orchestrated, bouncy styles. But do the members of Badfinger have a museum in Stockholm devoted exclusively to their history, as ABBA members do? Has there ever been a Raspberries-based hit musical?

Part of the secret of the group's allure is ABBA's startlingly spiritual foundation. Says Matt Barton, curator of recorded sound at the Library of Congress, "Here and there, there's something that's so much like a hymn." In fact, notes Barton, ABBA organist Benny Andersson has gone on to record his interpretation of a Swedish hymn. Anyone who has ever gathered to sing up to the heavens has a little ABBA in his or her cultural DNA. No wonder the group has been known to provoke near Pentecostal fervor.

But it's not the gospel-choir-like charm of the music, or even the elaborate way it comes together, that makes ABBA enduring. No, it's the potent cocktail of the subliminally spiritual mixed with the flat-out libidinous. Listening to ABBA again lately, I've become increasingly aware of something I'd only vaguely perceived at all those "Does Your Mother Know?"-tinged wedding receptions and ironically themed gay bars -- this music is actually pretty damn sexy.

There's something undeniably, urgently compelling about a song like "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" a greedy love call for satisfaction (no wonder Madonna sampled its hook for "Hung Up"). It's there in the brazen sexual equanimity of "Voulez-Vous," with its shivery ah-has, and the kittenish oooohs of "Dancing Queen." The lyrics may not be quite Shakespeare or even Holland-Dozier-Holland, even if you grant extra slack for not having English as a first language. But oversaturated orchestration, the way the women's voices could soar through the changes in an "SOS" or "Knowing Me, Knowing You" -- they're forces too potent and insistent to be mere disco-era pastiche.

By the early '80s, both of the couples that formed ABBA had broken up, and the band went into a hiatus that has lasted to the present. The members did solo projects and minor collaborations, though nothing they did individually ever matched the impact they had as a foursome. Their image remained frozen in a polyester time warp. But the music never went away. It turned up in soundtracks, like those of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Muriel's Wedding." It became the basis of a successful Broadway musical, "Mamma Mia!" which in turn spawned the movie now hitting theaters. Despite the clothes, the awkward choreography, the often nonsensical lyrics, ABBA endure because there's something spiritual and sexual and just plain sweet in their harmonies, something playfully innocent and disarmingly sophisticated. It's the soundtrack to Grandma's 80th birthday party, or a one-night stand. So if you want to sing along to "Take a Chance," don't feel embarrassed. That's what it was written for. Besides, you know all the words.

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Buzz up! Serious YouTube test of copyright law

A woman who posted a home video on YouTube of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" squared off Friday against entertainment giant Universal Music Corp. in a federal court case that tests copyright law.

The issue in Stephanie Lenz's lawsuit against Universal is whether the owner of the rights to a creative work that's being used without permission can order the Web host to remove it without first considering whether the infringement was actually a legal fair use - a small or innocuous replication that couldn't affect the market for the original work.

Lenz's lawyers, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say her 29-second video, with fuzzy camerawork and unclear sound, was such an obvious noncommercial fair use that Universal should have to reimburse her for the costs of taking it out of circulation for more than a month last year.

The company's lawyers say the 1998 federal law that authorized copyright-holders to issue takedown orders didn't require any such inquiry - in fact, they argue, there's no such thing as an obvious fair use.

No court has ever addressed the issue, said U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, who is presiding over the case.

Lenz, a writer and editor from Gallitzin, Pa., used her digital camera to take the video of her son, Holden, dancing to "Let's Go Crazy" on a home CD player in February 2007, and she posted the file on YouTube for family and friends, her lawyers said.

Four months later, Universal, which owns the rights to the song, ordered YouTube to remove the video and nearly 200 others involving compositions by Prince. Copyright owners gained that power under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows them to remove Web postings that they believe to be unauthorized duplicates without having to sue for infringement.

Lenz, exercising her rights under the same law, notified YouTube several weeks later that her video is legal and ordered it restored. YouTube complied after waiting two weeks, as required by law, to see whether Universal would sue Lenz for copyright infringement - a suit that would have allowed her to claim fair use as a defense. Lenz then sued Universal in Northern California, YouTube's home district, claiming the takedown order was an abuse of the copyright law.

"There must be some requirement that a copyright owner both consider fair uses and determine honestly whether they exist before sending their (takedown) notice," Lenz's lawyer, Corynne McSherry, said in court papers. She said the video, which focuses on the toddler and contains only a snippet of the song, couldn't have any conceivable impact on the market Universal's copyright was meant to protect.

But Fogel, at Friday's hearing, said he was concerned that requiring copyright holders to consider the possibility of fair use before ordering a takedown puts judges in the business of "trying to read their minds" and seems to be an expansion of the 1998 law.

Universal's lawyer, Kelly Klaus, argued that even brief homemade videos have a potential commercial effect if they proliferate on a site like YouTube and that Lenz's posting flies in the face of the 1998 law, which allows copyright holders to order removal of work believed to be an infringement.

Fogel observed, however, that the law is "intended to prevent misuse of takedown notices."

The Lenz video can be viewed at links.sfgate.com/ZEGD.

Original here

`Dark Knight' sets box office record with $66.4M

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Batman's joust with the Joker has set another box office record.

Stoked by fan fever over the manic performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, "The Dark Knight" set a one-day box office record with $66.4 million on opening day, Warner Bros. head of distribution Dan Fellman said Saturday.

The movie's Friday haul surpassed the previous record of $59.8 million set last year by "Spider-Man 3." "The Dark Knight" might break the opening-weekend record of $151.1 million, also held by "Spider-Man 3."

"I think they're in jeopardy," Fellman said of the "Spider-Man 3" records.

"The Dark Knight" began with a record $18.5 million from midnight screenings, topping the previous high of $16.9 million for "Star Wars: Episode III — The Revenge of the Sith."

The opening day grosses for "The Dark Knight" far exceeded the full weekend haul of its predecessor, "Batman Begins," which took in $48.7 million in its first three days in 2005.

Reviews were excellent for director Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins," but they were stellar for his "Dark Knight."

"We've really never seen anything like this," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "The death of a fine actor taken in his prime, a legendary performance, and a movie that lives up to all the hype. That all combined to create these record-breaking numbers."

Buzz had been high for the Batman sequel well before Ledger died of an accidental prescription-drug overdose in January. Trailers last fall revealing Ledger's demented Joker, with crooked clown makeup, turned up the heat even more. The critical acclaim over his performance that built from advance screenings left fans in a frenzy.

"It's a combination of things. Certainly, that's a great part of it, but I think this movie's gross was partly because of the reviews it received and the incredible buzz and word of mouth that preceded it with our early screenings," Fellman said. "And the success and quality of the last one, `Batman Begins,' delivered by Chris Nolan just set the tone for the opening of this movie."

"The Dark Knight" reunites Christian Bale as Batman, the vigilante crime-fighter tormented by personal tragedy, and co-stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. Maggie Gyllenhaal also stars.

The film spins an epic crime duel as Ledger's Joker orchestrates a reign of terror on the city of Gotham aimed to spread chaos and break down the restraint that keeps Batman on the right side of the law.

While critics are taking the film seriously enough to suggest Ledger could be in line for an Academy Award nomination, the action-packed movie also delivers as pure summer movie escapism.

"If you're worried about mortgage payments and gas prices, when you're sitting in `The Dark Knight' for two and a half hours, you're not thinking about any of that stuff," Dergarabedian said.

Original here

The Dark Knight Box Office: Down Goes the Midnight Record

Posted by Neil Miller (neil@filmschoolrejects.com)

Going into this weekend, there was no question that The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan’s infinitely praised and super-highly anticipated follow-up to his 2005 Batman franchise reboot Batman Begins, was going to make a lot of money. In fact, I believe the proper metaphor would be that it is going to drive away with truck-loads of cash at the box office.

That said, it should come as no surprise to anyone that it is being reported this afternoon that the film has set the all-time box office record for a midnight opening, bringing in an estimated $18.5 million. This number, however, doesn’t include any of the 3:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. shows that were being run in theaters across the country. And as I experienced very early this morning as I exited one of the midnight shows in town, the 3:00 a.m. shows were filling up quite nicely as well.

For those keeping score at home, this marks two box office records thus far for The Dark Knight — the widest opening ever (4,366 theaters) and now the largest midnight opening gross, beating out Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which made $16.9 million in its midnight release. That film, which opened on a Thursday, went on to make $50 million in its first day. The current all-time record for highest single day opening is Spider-Man 3, which made $59.8 million. While we will have to wait until sometime very late this evening or early tomorrow to see whether Batman can add another notch on his utility belt, for now we can safely say that things are going well for the caped crusader.

Did you go to a midnight screening of The Dark Knight? If so, did anything fun/crazy/interesting happen?

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Watchmen, Terminator Salvation, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince Pics!

By Kellvin Chavez

The folks over at Warner Bros. Pictures has provided Latino Review with some stills from or Zack Snyder's "Watchmen" starring Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley, and Billy Crudup.

A complex, multi-layered mystery adventure, "Watchmen" is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the "Doomsday Clock" - which charts the USA's tension with the Soviet Union - is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed-up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion - a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers - Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity...but who is watching the watchmen?

Check the pics below.




Also we got one picture from upcoming sci-fi sequel "Terminator Salvation" starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin and Bryce Dallas Howard.

The film directed by McG.

In the highly anticipated new installment of "The Terminator" film franchise, set in post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.

Check out the pic below.

And finally we got a still from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

In “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” Lord Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and Wizard worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was. Harry suspects that dangers may even lie within the castle, but Dumbledore is more intent upon preparing him for the final battle that he knows is fast approaching.

Check out the pic below.
Original here

The MPAA Thinks You're Stupid

posted by: Amelie Gillette

Legend has it that at the first screenings of The Great Train Robbery, the movie that is considered to be the first narrative film, audiences ducked and ran for cover when the on-screen bandits turned their guns toward the camera and began shooting--which is understandable. After all, The Great Train Robbery came out in 1903, a time when people had limited exposure to both moving pictures and quiet dignity (as well as bluetooth technology--which is the best technology).

However, now that it's 2008--a time when you can have your uterus outfitted with a tiny plasma screen so your unborn child can just watch Dora and maybe stop kicking you for five seconds--people don't have such dramatic physical reactions to film. Most of us understand that movie bullets aren't going to suddenly fly out of the screen and into our bodies as we sit there, vulnerable, in the theater.

Still, the Motion Picture Association Of America doesn't want to take any chances, which is why they told the director of Watchmen, Zack Snyder, that he couldn't have a guy pointing a gun at the audience in the trailer. Snyder replaced the gun with a walkie-talkie. This way, if anyone from 1903 watches the trailer, instead of ducking and/or running for their life, they'll just drop their bowler hat, curl up into a ball, rock back and forth, and mumble into their shirtwaist, "What world is this? What is happening to me? Where am I?"

walkiegun

(Photo via Slashfilm)

From MTV Movies Blog:

“[The assassin] has a gun,” Snyder explained. “So the MPAA said, ‘Look you can’t have him [holding the gun]‘ … I don’t even think it’s one second. I think it’s like 12 frames. He’s pointing the gun at the camera, and they said, ‘You can’t do that.’”
For years, the MPAA has prohibited weapons from being pointed at the “viewer” in advertising, presumably for fear that it will freak them out. That’s why you always see guns pointed at angles on movie posters and in film trailers.

Good job, MPAA. It's good to know that someone is looking out for people from 1903 who have maybe fallen through wormholes, and/or people in America who have never seen a movie or television before. You know what else might freak out and produce visceral reactions in those people? Movies in general. They can be very upsetting. Someone should really do something about all the movies these days.

Original here