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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Top 16 80s Kids’ Cartoon Villains

by David Schwartz

Did you know that the voice of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles baddie Shredder was actually voiced by Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air?

No? Neither did we - and we’re still recovering! Unless someone is playing a joke on us. Damn them! But it got us thinking: Why do we care so much about these characters? What is it about the cartoon baddies that we love so much?

Aren’t we supposed to hate them? Boo them when they come on the screen like some kind of pantomime villain? No, and the reason why is because they are usually the most interesting characters in the cartoon.

So we have decided to come up with 16 of the best 80s cartoon villains. They reason we went for the 80s is because, well, that was when we were all kids. Plus it was a golden era. Or is that what everyone says?

Enjoy, and feel free to tell us which ones we’ve missed…

16. Lotor- Prince of Doom from Voltron

Would have been higher, but how can you take a villain dressed in tights seriously.


15. Miles Mayhem from M.A.S.K

The leader of Venom was the best character in the show. Which, admittedly, isn’t saying all that much.

14. Baron von Greenback from Dangermouse
Dangermouse’s slimy arch-enemy was essentially what Bond nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld would look like if he was a toad. It isn’t easy being green.

13. Darkstorm from Visionaries

Never quite understood why he turned into a giant snail. You really would not be happy with that would you? Your opposite number turns into a lion and you turn in a slimy mollusc. Not exactly a fair fight.

12. Hugo A-Go-Go from Batfink
Gets in purely because of his name.

11. Starscream from Transformers

Megatron’s power-hungry right-hand man was possibly the most realistic characters in the show. He moaned a lot with that annoying high-pitched voice of his, always thought he would do a better job if he was in charge, and wimped out when things turned tough. Sounds like someone you know at work? Plus he transformed into a cool plane. Bonus!

10. Venger from Dungeons and Dragons

Never quite understood why he only had one horn. Where was the other one? Plus, there was one episode where Dungeon Master called him his son. Nooooooooo!

9. Doctor Claw from Inspector Gadget
With such a cool voice and the fact you never saw his face, just a claw, he really should have been higher up the list. But how could any self-respecting villain been beaten by a dog and a little girl in every episode? If we had had our way, he would have sold Gadget for scrap, boiled Brain down into glue and sold Penny into slavery. That really would have been mean.

8. Zoltar from Battle of the Planets

There is something really quite sinister about this guy. We think it’s because he is wearing lipstick and dresses like a dog.

7. Mumm-ra from Thundercats

Who knew Mummies could be so cool?


6. Gargamel from The Smurfs

We can never remember: Did he want to catch the Smurfs to turn them into gold or because he wanted to eat them? They don’t look very tasty, to be honest.


5. Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Uncle Phil??!!!! Really. We are so disappointed.

4. Cobra Commander from GI Joe
We think he had some anger issues. Not sure about the hood either.

3. Serpentor from GI Joe

Just beats Cobra Commander to the coolest character in GI Joe.


2. Megatron from Transformers


Only just pipped to the top spot by Skeletor, Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, was a worthy adversary for Optimus Prime. Plus he turned into a cool gun.

1. Skeletor

OK, we’ll admit it: we were scared of him too. Looking back now, he’s actually quite funny.

Original here

Musical key to unlocking teenage wasteland

Kate Benson

DOCTORS should ask their teenage patients what type of music they prefer to determine if they are at risk of developing a mental illness or committing suicide, researchers say.

A study, published in today's Australasian Psychiatry journal, found that teens who listened to pop music were more likely to be struggling with their sexuality, those tuning in to rap or heavy metal could be having unprotected sex and drink-driving, and those who favoured jazz were usually misfits and loners.

The findings prompted a call for doctors to include musical tastes as a diagnostic indicator in mental health assessments.

The study's author, Felicity Baker, said yesterday: "There is no evidence to suggest the type of music you listen to will cause you to commit suicide, but those who are vulnerable and at risk of committing suicide may be listening to certain types of music."

She said an Australian study of year 10 students had shown significant associations between heavy metal music and suicidal tendencies, depression, delinquency and drug-taking.

An American study had also shown that young adults who regularly listened to heavy metal had a higher preoccupation with suicide and higher levels of depression than their peers.

Deliberate self-harm and attempted suicide were also associated with teenagers who listened to trance, techno, heavy metal and medieval music as part of the Goth subculture, while those who attended dance parties were much more likely than their peers to be taking drugs.

Some genres of rap music, such as French rap, were linked to more deviant behaviours, including theft, violence and drug use. Teens who listened to hip-hop were usually less troublesome, Dr Baker said. "But it's important to point out that music doesn't cause these behaviours," she said.

"It's more a case of teenagers who may have a mental illness or are involved in these antisocial behaviours being drawn to certain types of music."

Michael Bowden, a child psychiatrist and the head of medical programs at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry, said most doctors already questioned teen patients about their influences, whether from their peers, the internet or music.

"Over the years there have been concerns about suicidal themes in some music and whenever a famous person, such as (Nirvana singer) Kurt Cobain, kills themselves we see a copycat effect among teenagers," he said.

"But sometimes an adolescent's musical tastes will reveal nothing. The key to understanding any teenager is to treat them with respect by listening to what they have to say, rather than typecasting them according to the type of music they listen to."

WHAT STUDIES SAY ABOUT YOUR SOUNDS:

POP: Conformists, overly responsible, role-conscious, struggling with sexuality or peer acceptance.

HEAVY METAL: Higher levels of suicidal ideation, depression, drug use, self-harm, shoplifting, vandalism, unprotected sex.

DANCE: Higher levels of drug use regardless of socio-economic background.

JAZZ/RHYTHM & BLUES: Introverted misfits, loners.

RAP: Higher levels of theft, violence, anger, street gang membership, drug use and misogyny.

Original here

Music Sales Up Huge.........In Prison

Music sales are skyrocketing across the US. No, not on iTunes but in the Joint aka prison. According to Music Radar

A Los Angeles company called Pack Central started selling music to The USA's incarcerated in 2003, and is now doing $1 million of business every year

Ironically it's not CD's that are leading the charge, it's good old cassettes. Cassettes comprise 60% of sales. It turns out the CD is good for more than playing music. It's also perfect for making the shank that puts MuttDog in his place for tearing out page three of your Oui magazine. They even take out the screws in the cassette because...actually I can't even think what you could possibly do with those things that would be harmful but after watching 4 seasons of OZ, nothing surprises me. The reasons behind the success of Pack Central is obvious, no competition. There are no illegal downloads or even Internet connections for that matter. The bootleg market isn't necessary because you can buy the music for regular rates and can choose anything from Lil' Wayne to Pink Floyd. Here's a list of the Top 5 prison hits this week.

1. Don't Dance With Him He's Got the Booty Flu

by Ouch and the Broomsticks

2. I Kissed a Boy and I Liked It

by Lipstick on a Pig

3. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter

by Guy in Block C

4. Love Shank

by Chester and the Molestors

5. Lolipop

by Lil' Wayne (he's hot everywhere)

Original here

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Classic Rock

1. The mighty final chord of The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” was played by ten hands in three pianos simultaneously: Lennon’s, Mc Cartney’s, Starr’s, Martin’s (their manager?) and Evan’s (their roadie).

2. In 1968 Jimi Hendrix bought a studio located in the 52 West Eight Street, Greewnwich Village, New York, with the idea of transforming it into a nightclub. His sound technician convinced him of turning it into a studio and in August 27th 1970 “Electric Ladyland” officially opened it’s doors. Both recording rooms haven’t changed a bit since Jimi jammed there (one still has the same paints hanging on the walls and sofas, and the other -Purple Haze- still has the purple console). When The Clash recorded “Sandinista!” there, they swear Jimi’s spirit added an extra guitar line in the album. That may sound weird (and stoned) but the truth is that doors close on their own, floors creak and a magic can be sensed in the air (or so they say).

3. Slash’s favorite song is “Nobody’s Fault” by Aerosmith. As he said, “first heard it at the house of a girl I wanted to date. I went to her house, talked for a while, smoked a joint, and then she put the CD (Rocks), it hit me like a ton of bricks…and I totally forgot about her”.

4. Black Sabbath’s guitarist, Tony Iommi, lost part of two fingers at age 17 in an accident. However, he managed to continue playing using a device which made his two stump fingers “longer”, and tuning the guitar three steps down in order to loosen the strings and bend them more easily. His first song with his new “style” was a damn good one: “Iron Man”.

5. Once, a treasured Les Paul Standard that originally belonged to Aerosmith’s Joe Perry came into Slash’s possession. Joe had had this guitar (his favorite) taken by his ex-wife or stolen (depending on which story you read), and a dealer eventually got hold of it and offered it to Slash. He snapped it up since it symbolized the influence Aerosmith had had on him. Joe pleaded with Slash to have it returned, but he didn’t - until Joe’s 50th birthday when he presented it as his birthday present.

6. During the recording of “The Dark Side Of The Moon”, the guys from Pink Floyd wrote on little papers questions like “Are you afraid of death?” and gave them to everybody that was working at Abbey Road studio at the time. This included all the roadies, sound technicians, the Irish doorman, and even Paul McCartney (who was recording a solo album at the same studio). The answers to the questions were recorded, and the best ones were put on the disc. However, Paul’s answers weren’t put on the disc because “he tried to be funny”.

7. At age 47, the Rolling Stones’ bassist, Bill Wyman, began a relationship with 13-year old Mandy Smith, with her mother’s blessing. Six years later, they were married, but the marriage only lasted a year. Not long after, Bill’s 30-year-old son Stephen married Mandy’s mother, age 46. That made Stephen a stepfather to his former stepmother. If Bill and Mandy had remained married, Stephen would have been his father’s father-in-law and his own grandpa.

8. Unlike pretty much every rock star, Frank Zappa didn’t like beer. He used to say his body “gets along better with pepper, tobacco and coffee”. This is kinda contradictory because Frank said “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.

9. Ummagumma (a Pink Floyd album) is a British slang term for sex.

10. There is an ongoing battle within the Classic Rock world between the influences and plain superiority of the Northern Vs. Southern States. This is first evident in Neil Young’s Southern Man criticizing southern slavery. This is responded to by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama. This timeless battle again continues with Warren Zevon’s Play It All Night Long. Go ahead and have a listen to these. It really is quite interesting. The song “Alabama Getaway” by The Grateful Dead was also involved in the said North vs. South battle. (Thanks Adam for the tip!)

Any corrections or clarifications are welcome and appreciated.

Original here

5 Legendary Keyboards (and the songs they made famous)

by David K. Israel

These days, there’s no distinguishing one keyboard from the next because all they really do is act as computer trigger devices. But in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and even the early 90s, keyboards and their manufacturers were known for signature sounds. Here are five of my favorites:

1. The Mellotron

Mellotron.jpgThough not nearly as famous as the others on this little list, the Mellotron is perhaps the coolest keyboard ever invented. Like our modern-day keyboard controllers that trigger computer samples, the Mellotron was really nothing more than a sample trigger-er, too. But because it was invented in the early 60s, the samples were actual tape loops! By depressing a key, a keyboardist was putting a tape of, say, a choir, or a violin section into motion on that particular pitch. So each of the 35 keys had its own, distinct, 8-second tape loop ready to play in the belly of the keyboard. Mellotrons never really caught on, though, because they were a) always breaking down, and b) the tapes, just like cassette tapes, lost their edge over time. Imagine playing an 8-second cassette tape over and over in a loop for hours on end. Think about how quickly scratches and hiss would take over.

But it was and still is one of the most musical of all early keyboards. Its sound is unmistakable, heard here on the two very famous excerpts below.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles. (The opening flute quartet is classic Mellotron at its best.)

“Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues. (Those lush strings aren’t real! Well, technically they are, but as sampled and played back on the Mellotron.)

Be sure to check out “And You and I” by Yes, as well as “The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin for more great Mellotron.

2. The Hammond Organ

HammondB3.jpgOriginally intended for churches, the Hammond line of organs, invented by Laurens Hammond in 1934 and manufactured by his Hammond Organ Company, became very popular in the 60s and 70s with rock and blues bands, especially the Hammond B3, pictured here. Whether you know the Hammond or not, you definitely know its legendary sound. Check out the examples I’ve picked here and revel in that “a-ha moment.”

“Amsterdam,” by Coldplay – One of my favorite songs by Coldplay. Listen how the Hammond coming in under the piano just opens the whole song up and takes it to another level.

Ah, yes: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum. Can you imagine how different the song would feel if the chord progression and tune were plucked out on, say, a piano?

The Hammond completely defines this great Steve Winwood song, “Gimme Some Lovin”:

3. The Minimoog

Minimoog.JPGA lot has been written about Bob Moog and his Moog Music empire. One cool fact, which often gets forgotten, is that the Minimoog is actually monophonic, which means it can only play one note at a time. You can’t even play a simple C major chord on the Minimoog, let alone accompany yourself with the left hand plucking out a bass line on the lower part of the 44-key synth. It’s also one of the first keyboards to feature the now ubiquitous modulation and pitch-bend wheels.

One of my favorite examples of the classic Minimoog is the following solo in Pink Floyd’s song “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”

4. The Synclavier

synclavier.jpgAlong with the Fairlight synthesizer, the Synclavier, made by New England Digital in 1975, was one of the very first keyboards that allowed musicians to sample sounds and store them in on-board computers. In fact, if you’re an old fart like me, you might remember Stevie Wonder showing off this very sampling ability on his Synclavier in an episode of The Cosby Show (the one where the kids get into a car accident with him).

One really amazing thing about the Synclavier, other than its ability to sample the human voice or anything within a microphone’s range, was its amazingly high sticker price. Costing upwards of a quarter of a million dollars (much less than the price of my parent’s 3-bedroom apartment in Center City Philadelphia purchased around the same time), some Synclaviers even fetched closer to half-a-million.

Other noteworthy facts about the Synclavier: It was created at Dartmouth College by the team of: Sydney Alonso, who developed the hardware designs, Cameron Jones, who developed the software, and Dartmouth faculty member and composer Jon Appleton, a musical advisor to the project.
Other than the Cosby episode, which I can’t find on YouTube, if you’d like to hear the Synclavier in action, check out one of the most famous samples in music history below (the gong at the beginning of “Beat It,” by Michael Jackson):

5. The Fender Rhodes

rhodes.jpgAll I have to say is: the theme song from Taxi, and you should instantly know the sound of the Fender Rhodes. Ubiquitous throughout the 70s and 80s in dozens of maudlin ballads (which we’ll sample momentarily), the Rhodes is named for its inventor, Harold Rhodes, who was a piano teacher before joining the Army Air Corps during WWII. It was there that he was asked to provide musical therapy, bedside, for the wounded and wound up inventing a small keyboard using aluminum pipes from the wings of B-17 bombers.

The pipes created such a pleasing sound, and Rhodes’ therapy sessions became so well-known, he received the Medal of Honor after the war. Soon he was manufacturing a larger version, and, over time, new, improved versions. Eventually, the Rhodes was bought out by Fender, which is why people forever call it the Fender Rhodes.

In addition to the below clips, the Rhodes can be heard up and down Chick Corea’s Light as a Feather, Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, as well as on most of Weather Report’s albums and Herbie Hancock’s, too. It was a jazz-fusion staple for a couple decades there.

“Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel

“Angela (Theme from ‘Taxi’)” by Bob James

Ed note: The gorgeous Stevie Wonder keyboard pic (on the homepage) is by Al Satterwhite, via kalamu.

Original here

Music industry ‘should embrace illegal websites’

By Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York

The music industry should embrace illegal file-sharing websites, according to a study of Radiohead’s last album release that found huge numbers of people downloaded it illegally even though the band allowed fans to pay little or nothing for it.
“Rights-holders should be aware that these non-traditional venues are stubbornly entrenched, incredibly popular and will never go away,” said Eric Garland, co-author of the study, which concluded there was strong brand loyalty to controversial “torrent” and peer-to-peer services.

Radiohead’s release of In Rainbows on a pay-what-you-want basis last October generated enormous traffic to the band’s own website and intense speculation about how much fans had paid.

He urged record companies to study the outcome and accept that file-sharing sites were here to stay. “It’s time to stop swimming against the tide of what people want,” he said.

The study by the MCPS-PRS Alliance, which represents music rights holders, and Big Champagne, an online media measurement company, found that legal downloads of In Rainbows were far exceeded by illegal torrent downloads of the album.

Almost 400,000 illegal torrent downloads were made on the first day and 2.3m in the 25 days following the album’s release, compared with a full-week’s peak of just 158,000 for the next most popular album of the period.

“The expectation among rights-holders is that, in order to create a success story, you must reduce the rate of piracy – we’ve found that is not the case,” said Mr Garland, chief executive of Big Champagne, who highlighted the benefits that Radiohead received from the album’s popularity, including strong ticket sales for its concerts this year.

The findings could add impetus to rights-holders’ efforts to license digital services that are at present beyond their reach, following the pattern of the MCPS-PRS Alliance’s recent move to license YouTube, the Google-owned online video-sharing site.

“Developing new ways and finding new places to get something as opposed to nothing” was important, said Will Page, MCPS-PRS chief economist and co-author of the report.

Those new places could be peer-to-peer sites or internet service providers, he added.

Record companies should ask themselves: “What are the costs and benefits of control versus the costs and benefits of scale?” said Mr Page.

He also challenged the assumption that no other band could achieve the same benefits, saying Radiohead’s experiment had reduced the marginal cost and risk for those following their lead.

He described the launch of In Rainbows as “stunt marketing at its best”.

Original here

A Third "Scooby Doo" Movie Planned

By Garth Franklin

image A third live-action movie based on the cartoon "Scooby Doo" will be released direct-to-DVD next year reports UPI.

The prequel entitled "Scooby-Doo: In the Beginning" will also be shown on the Cartoon Network and tells the tale of the dog Scooby Doo and his human mystery investigators during their younger years. Particularly how they came together to expose what's really haunting their high school.

The film will feature live actors mixed with computer-generated characters, though none of the stars of the earlier films will be involved. Shooting begins this week in Vancouver under the helm of Brian Levant ("Are We There Yet?").

Original here

6 Wrongly Rated Movies

by Kate McNally

Try as the MPAA might to make movie ratings work, you're bound to run into a movie branded for the wrong audience. Whether it's overly punishing fleeting moments of mature content, or going easy on an established franchise or director, the following six movies could have used another screening before they slapped the rating on the poster.

6- The Dark Knight

PG-13 is the comic-book movie rating. From the campy Batman and Robin to the sinister Spawn, any movie featuring cape-wearing crimefighters seems destined to get the middling, unenforceable rating. With The Dark Knight, however, we wonder whether an R rating may have been more appropriate. Between the sudden acts of extreme violence (particularly the "pencil trick"), the mature themes, and the overall macabre tone of the movie, The Dark Knight stands as an altogether different breed of superhero movie--one that may have warranted a different rating.

5- Poltergeist

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the idea of being haunted by an evil spirit is pretty freaky. Take a situation where the ectoplasmic inhabitant is angry-as-all-get-out and decides to steal a little girl and you've got yourself a horror movie. Throw in some tormented wall-climbing and a scary-sounding small southern woman, and you have yourself a GREAT horror movie. But just because sweet Carol Anne happens is forced to endure all of these abhorrences doesn't mean other small children should have to suffer them, which we're sure a few parentally-guided tykes had to when this film released at PG.

4- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Oh sure, it's got an animated lead character, just like most Disney films, but also like most Disney films the story came from a pretty dark place. The only difference with Roger Rabbit is that they brought the gruesome details out into the open for everyone, including children, to see. From the movie's setting (the seedy underbelly of Old Hollywood) to the explicit sexual references (anyone care for a game of Patty Cake?), this films was WAY above the heads of the kids who expected to see a silly rabbit flop about. Add in the gruesome dissolving of various entities, including a heretofore human-cum-animated villain, and you've got the stuff nightmares are made of. Or at least a solid PG-13 rating.

3- Planes, Trains and Automobiles

This classic stars Steve Martin as the stressed-out ad executive and John Candy as the bungling salesman (of showercurtain rings to be exact). The two are thrown together by fate in the form of a shared cab and the rest is comedic history. Not only does the film star two of the most unassuming, non-threatening actors of the 80's (stand-up work not withstanding), but it's written, directed and produced by John Hughes-the guru of the 80's brat-pack dynasty which was all pretty tame. The only rationale given for why this featherweight film earned an R is for the rain of F-bombs dropped by Steve Martin on a rental car agent. Kids probably heard worse language coming from their parents bedrooms at night. This was a fucking PG-13 easy.

2- Showgirls

Turns out Jessie Spano really knows how to get a party started! Elizabeth Berkeley, formerly known as Saved by the Bell's ambitious overachiever, shed more than just her innocent image in this story of a stripper's journey. But seriously, why would they give her totally Oscar-worthy performance in this break-out movie an NC-17 rating? All we saw were boobs! Granted, they were everywhere in this movie, but that was it! The so-called "risqu" film was more like a weeknight on Skin-emax, only Shannon Tweed. Even Mark Wahlberg's prolonged porn-making and fake schlong didn't rise Boogie Nights above an R. I guess it's a good thing that rating kept so many people from seeing Showgirls, lest Berkeley become overwhelmed with offers and resort back to popping caffeine pills.

1- Jaws

Jaws is one of the greatest movies of all time. It's well-made, stars great actors, and has some of the most memorable one-liners of all-time, not to mention a giant shark! But when this cinematic masterpiece was released to the thrill of audiences everywhere, this PG movie didn't have the necessary rating to ensure that everyone who saw it could handle it. Four people and one puppy were killed before you even got a good look at what was doing all the eating. Chrissie's death was violent and cerebral (what was in the dark water?), Alex Kintner's death was gory (blood fountains galore), Ben Gardner's boat was destroyed and his bloated corpse left behind, and the Man On The Rowboat was torn to pieces before being consumed (you see his bloody stump of a leg fall to the bottom of the sea). The anti-hero, Quint, eventually gets bit by the big one where he's chewed in half while screaming in agony and eventual spews blood across the deck. How many parts of this movie are actually fit for children? No parts, that's how many. While this movie was produced before PG-13 was a viable option, giving this bloodfest an R wouldn't have been extremely shocking.

Original here

Exclusive: Halo Fall Of Reach Concept Art!

By El Mayimbe


I just got back in to NYC after staying in Los Angeles for a week after Comic Con. Yes, I felt that nasty Earthquake. The con and especially the WRATH OF CON PARTY were a blast. I left the con inspired, so I decided to go on a little stealth mission all around L.A. and hit up my sources to see what I can dig up comic book and/or sci-fi related. I got a bunch of goodies for fans this week.

Ok, so Halo…

The HALO movie in it’s current incarnation, the one that we all know publicly about, the one involving FOX/UNIVERSAL, Peter Jackson, Neil Blomkamp, with the script by Garland and rewritten by DB Weiss…

…is completely dead in Hollywood. That project will never happen. Everybody involved has already moved on.

But, then we discovered and broke that screenwriter Stuart Beattie decided to do something about it. He started over fresh and wrote a spec script based on the best selling novel HALO: FALL OF REACH.

Halo: The Fall of Reach is a 2001 science fiction novel by Eric Nylund based on the Halo series of video games and acts as a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved, the first game in the series. It is set in the fictional Halo universe, taking place in the 26th century across several planets and locations. The novel details the events which led up to the game and explains the origins of the SPARTAN II super soldiers, narrating the story of the series protagonist, the Master Chief.

Stuart Beattie’s script is very real and out there floating around in Hollywood folks. How real? Well, there has been concept art made by conceptual artist Kasra Farahani (WOLF MAN, HANCOCK, SPIDERMAN 3) for certain scenes of the new HALO: FALL OF REACH script as part of an eventual presentation to Microsoft. From what I’m told, the presentation is very cool!

There are some big time professionals in Hollywood who are also Halo fans that want to see the movie made. I scored five pieces of the concept art and will be releasing them on a weekly basis for the next five weeks. From what I know, this particular scene takes place halfway through the proposed script and yes that’s Master Chief in the middle.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR A BIGGER VERSION.

exclusivehaloconceptart

Pretty cool, huh?

We now have comments so chime in below and tell me what you guys think. If you guys want a Halo movie, then you need to start talking and letting Microsoft know how you all feel.

Stay tuned as we debut a new piece every Monday. In the meantime you can follow my updates on TWITTER.

Original here

13 Popular VHS Rentals of the ‘80s


by Reg Seeton

Well before the explosion of DVD players and DVR, VCRs were the big ticket item of the ‘80s. Prior to 1980 when VCRs caught on with the mainstream public, moviegoers had to rely on their memories of a film until it appeared on TV as a major movie event of the week. When VCRs exploded on to the scene, giving fans the option to watch almost any new movie in the comfort of their own home, it revolutionized the entire movie industry in the same way the digital revolution is transforming Hollywood today. Like the recent format war between Blu-Ray and HD, the home video market of the ‘80s saw VHS win out over Beta.

For the entire decade of the ‘80s, VHS reigned supreme as the leader of home video. In that time, the home video revolution spawned thousands of video stores across the country filled with hundreds upon hundreds of movies on VHS. Who knows where all of those tapes went when DVD took over, but throughout the '80s, fans had a love affair with movies and VHS videotapes, which lasted almost twenty years. Here’s a look back at 13 Popular VHS Rentals of the ‘80s.

Indy, Star Wars and E.T.

We all know where the three Indiana Jones movies, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and E.T. rank among popular movies of the ‘80s. Both the Indy franchise and the Star Wars saga are in leagues of their own. In fact, we could write a "top" list of popular ‘80s movies and both would take up the top five slots. It’s a no-brainer how popular they were as rentals and ‘80s home video sales, but it wouldn’t make for a diverse or interesting list. As for Star Wars on home video, the truly great versions on VHS weren’t released until the mid-to-late ‘90s anyway. As for E.T., it took WAY too long to get a home video release on VHS despite fan outcry that we’re leaving it with the cinematic elite in favor of some of the other popular VHS titles of the ‘80s.

Police Academy

Sure Police Academy was a hit in theaters in 1984, but people went nuts for it on VHS. So nuts that VHS rentals helped to launch a franchise that really only deserved one or two sequels at best. When you think about it, how creator Paul Maslansky managed to get a total of seven movies out of Police Academy is one of the most amazing achievements ever in the history of cinema. I’m kidding, but still. Anyone who can get seven movies made is definitely doing something right. Police Academy turned Steve Guttenberg into one of the hottest actors of the early ‘80s and helped to propel a little known actress named Kim Cattrall into such movies as Big Trouble in Little China, Mannequin, and Midnight Crossing long before her milfy role in Sex and the City. Police Academy went from being an "always out" rental to a "watch again" new release to a VHS tape that collected dust in the bargain bin.

48 Hours

What instantly comes to mind when you think of 48 Hours? In most cases, two things - Eddie Murphy in prison singing "Roxanne" and the bar scene where Murphy belts out, "There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Reggie Hammond." Since Eddie Murphy was THE up and coming comedian of the ‘80s on Saturday Night Live in 1982, 48 Hours was destined to be a huge hit on VHS. You couldn’t walk into a video store without seeing it. Eddie Murphy might not have been such a huge star in the ‘80s if it wasn’t for the birth if the VHS era. Even now when you think 48 Hours, I bet a lot of you are getting a mental image of the VHS cover. Not only did it launch the big screen career of Eddie Murphy, it also transformed Nick Nolte from "that guy in North Dallas Forty" into a household name. The best part: it was one of the coolest action comedies of the ‘80s. Luckily for Murphy, that’s what happens when a guy like Walter Hill directs your first movie.

Friday the 13th

Among the horror franchises that benefited the most from VHS, Friday the 13th became a regular staple for weekend movie gatherings and background party visuals. The entire franchise owes much of its legacy to the repeat viewings on the weekends and the many movie gatherings that took place when VHS players first hit the market. In terms of early VHS hits, Friday the 13th is one of the first generation home video horror movies of the ‘80s that created even more demand for a sequel after being eaten by so many VHS players. It’s funny how Friday the 13th became the perfect cult date movie. If there was nothing else worth renting at the video store, you could always count on Jason to draw a crowd on a boring Saturday night. Over 20 years after its VHS release, with a new movie about to hit theaters, Friday the 13th is still going strong thanks to its early home video lineage.

Colors

I’m sure a lot of people have forgotten all about Colors, but it was one of the most controversial movies of the ‘80s and one of the most popular VHS rentals of its day. Since gang violence was running rampant in the streets of L.A., with thugs bursting into theaters and shooting rival gang members dead in their seats, a lot of theater owners didn’t want anything to do with the film. Controversy turned out to be a cash cow for the movie on VHS since people could watch the film at home without having to worry about being gunned down in the theater. Colors was one of those movies that found huge momentum on home video and a movie you had to grab from the new release wall if you wanted to look tough. With Robert Duvall and Sean Penn as two street cops in the middle of L.A.’s gangland turf war and Ice T’s stick-in-your-head title track, the success of Colors on home video transformed a nation of ghetto-blasting breakdancers into suburban gangsta wannabes.

Poltergeist

As far as cliché catch phrases of the ‘80s go, "They’re here" ranks high on the list next to "Where’s the beef?" It was cool the first 50 times you heard someone say it as they kneeled in front of the TV, but the next 15,000 were like nails down a chalkboard. Although Poltergeist scared audiences to near death, it was also edge of your seat fun as an average family lost their minds when they learned they were living with a bunch of ghosts. It wasn’t as terrifying as some would lead you to believe, but it did make audiences squirm in their seats after seeing maggots feeding on a steak in the kitchen and an investigator claw his own face off in the mirror. Like Friday the 13th, the movie became one of the classic must rent and must own VHS tapes of the day. Usually you’d find it right next to My Bloody Valentine.

Conan the Barbarian

For a lot of people who grew up in the ‘80s, it’s probably hard for them not to think of Conan as anything other than a VHS tape. I’m willing to bet that a lot of ‘80s babies haven’t seen the movie since the then. Not only was it a movie that all video storeowners had to have on the shelf if they wanted to stay in business, it was a movie that was dubbed by almost everyone. There weren’t too many houses you could walk into and not find Conan among the tape collection. Then again, in the early days of VHS there wasn’t much to choose from, but Conan was always playing somewhere. Although Conan the Destroyer wasn’t as much of a VHS priority, Barbarian solidified Schwarzenegger as the biggest VHS action hero of the ‘80s. Given what now looks like primitive technology, fans were lucky if they made it through Conan’s grisly meeting with James Earl Jones without the tape being chewed to pieces. Anyone remember how much video stores charged for replacement tapes? They now start at .20 cents on Amazon.

Dirty Dancing

How many of you still see this on VHS somewhere at least once a week? You could get up from your seat right now and head to the nearest Wallgreens and you’d probably still find Dirty Dancing on VHS within seconds. As far as popular ‘80s actors on tape, Patrick Swayze was king. For a lot of ‘80s movie nuts, it’s safe to say their relationship with Dirty Dancing came from one of two places - the theater or VHS. By the time the movie made it to DVD, was there any need to see Dirty Dancing for the 101st time? All you need to do is look at the VHS cover to get "The Time of My Life" stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Given the huge success of the movie on both VHS and in theaters, it’s mind-blowing how a sequel wasn’t made until 2004 with Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. By the time Havana Nights hit the market, VHS was dead... along with any of the original magic of Dirty Dancing.

Eddie Murphy: Delirious

Borrowing heavily from the stand-up legacy of Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy shot to even bigger heights during the ‘80s with his own live routine, Delirious, which became one of the most popular VHS rentals of the day. For proof, all you need to do is ask any middle-aged dude what "Goonie-Goo-Goo" means. Released in 1983 at the height of Murphy’s popularity on Saturday Night Live and his transition to the big screen with 48 Hours, Delirious was as much a part of the ‘80s pop-culture landscape as anything else. Back then you’d be hard pressed to find any guy who hadn’t watched Delirious at least twice. The reality of multiple viewing was more like five or six times. If there’s any one VHS tape that got eaten by VCRs the most, this was it. It’s amazing to think that Delirious hit DVD shelves only last year.

Porky’s

Anyone who lost their virginity in 1982 can tell you how popular Porky’s was on VHS. It was a massive hit in North America that launched the teen-sex craze of the ‘80s. Loaded with sex, booze, hookers and parties, Porky’s was THE movie your parents didn’t want you to see. That meant you had to see it. But thanks to the fact that you could sneak over to your friend’s house and watch it on VHS with no one watching, Porky’s became a huge cult hit in the early ‘80s. Kicking off a wave of teen and college T&A movies that also included the likes of Private School and Spring Break, Porky’s set the tone for ‘80s comedies that also paved the way for such movies as Bachelor Party. The most important lesson from Porky’s - If you’re planning to spy on babes from behind a wall, don’t put private parts in the peep hole.

Airplane

Shortly after VCRs first hit the market, Airplane became one of the premiere rentals of the first generation home video market. Airplane was so popular in the early ‘80s, it was almost as if VCRs were sold with the movie prepackaged in the same manner as Combat for the Atari 2600. Since VCRs were just catching on with the mainstream public in 1980, the release of Airplane in the same year helped to turn the comedic spoof of the popular ‘70s Airport movies into a cinematic event. How many of you have spotted the VHS cover for Airplane over the years but haven’t seen the movie? Since Airplane became one of the first movies to soar to even bigger heights on home video, it ushered in a whole new generation of spoof comedies, from The Naked Gun and Hot Shots movies to the Scary Movie franchise and most recently Meet the Spartans. Surely you can’t be serious, you might be asking yourself. I am serious. Airplane was a gargantuan hit on VHS... and don’t call me Shirley.

The Terminator

The best thing about Terminator on VHS was that you could finally see it if you were too young to get into theaters. The Terminator was rated "R", which meant it knocked out a massive segment of the population, guys 14 to 16, who wanted to see it more than most adults. Nowadays, that’s the exact video game demo for all things Terminator. After debuting on VHS back in 1984, The Terminator became even more of a hit on home video, which paved the road of guaranteed success for the sequel simply because the younger fans were grown up and could finally get into “R” movies. Although Arnold Schwarzenegger already had both Conan movies under his acting belt, The Terminator launched him into the stratosphere as the #1 action star of the ‘80s. It was the movie you could talk about the entire way to school and then continue the conversation on the way back later in the day. If you hadn’t seen The Terminator on VHS, you weren’t cool. By the end of the ‘80s, since everyone had seen The Terminator a hundred times over, anyone who was still using the line "I’ll be back" deserved to be terminated on the spot.

The Breakfast Club

The ‘80s were all about teenage life and teen angst in some form or another, and there was no one better who tapped into the young hearts of the ‘80s generation than writer/director John Hughes. It definitely proved that we're all pretty bizarre but some of us are just better at hiding it. When the The Breakfast Club hit the home video market, it was a title that never left video store shelves until DVD kicked VHS into the streets. Unlike most movies of the ‘80s, which only deserved a one-off rental, The Breakfast Club was a must-own tape. The thought of four kids from different crowds forced to get to know each other in detention struck a nerve among ‘80s teens. It broke down the fake walls that every high school kid puts up just to survive the social heat. If you were having a bad time at school, you could always throw The Breakfast Club into the machine and get some perspective. You could probably pull a VHS tape of The Breakfast Club out of a bag and show it to anyone who grew up in the ‘80s and it would still be cool... even on tape.

First Blood

Few movies benefited from VHS and the home video explosion of the ‘80s in the same way as First Blood. Sure there a lot of movies that caught fire and became cult favorites, many serving up sequels, but few went on to spawn such huge blockbuster franchises from average theatrical releases. When the movie hit theaters in 1982, it wasn’t a blockbuster hit at all. In fact, by today’s standards, it would be seen as a relative failure since First Blood didn’t actually make money until its third week. What turned First Blood into the Rambo franchise was its amazing word-of-mouth. On VHS, First Blood became an underground hit, which created a huge groundswell of demand.

Although First Blood wasn’t a gargantuan hit when it hit theaters, great word-of-mouth struck twice three years later when Rambo: First Blood Part II nearly doubled its money in its second theatrical week, and went on to hit the $100 million mark in a month. If it weren’t for the success of First Blood on VHS and home video, it’s doubtful Sylvester Stallone would have been as huge an action star as he was in the ‘80s. Don’t believe me? Although Stallone was riding high from Rocky III at the same time, between First Blood and First Blood: Part II his only other film was Rhinestone. If you haven’t seen it, ask someone who grew up in the ‘80s how well that one performed. VHS didn’t help it at all.

-- Reg Seeton

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No Hulk In Iron Man 2. What About Thor? Captain America?

By George 'El Guapo' Roush


During today's Tropic Thunder press junket, Robert Downey Jr. was talking about his role in the Ben Stiller comedy. During the course of the interview Iron Man 2 was brought up by one of the journalists:

Downey: Iron Man 2 is in the works.

It's not going to be with the Hulk is it?


Downey: No.

Hmmm...not enough info me, so I wanted to dig a bit deeper, see what I could get out of him, so I asked more about the sequel:

But have ideas been thrown around for other cameos, since there's an Avengers project in the works?

Downey: Ya, it's a big world. It's kind of hard to navigate because you want to be able to set up The Avengers in Iron Man 2, but you don't want to um....

Take the focus off of Iron Man?

Downey: Ever. [laughs] It's such a big leap, before we were grounded in reality and now we're starting to go into the Marvel Universe. I don't know much about this, I just know that we go scene to scene to scene, and we have some great scenes which I think will be really surprising at how we took all of this goodwill and this success and we decided to do something ever more kind of risky and something that represents the way Jon thinks and the way I like to develop a character. So, it's going to be good.

Have other heroes been mentioned about making an appearance? Captain America? Thor?

Downey: I can neither confirm nor deny that. [That always means yes to me. -Ed] Honestly, nothing's set in stone right now.

So that was all I could get from him. The way he answered the question about Thor and Captain America and the look he gave me, was an indication (to me anyway), that something is more than likely in the works as far as cameos. Especially bringing up the fact that they are now moving more into Marvel Universe territory. Sounds exciting!

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Schwarzenegger underwhelmed by early 'Terminator Salvation' footage

Terminator "The Terminator" will be back next summer, but the original killer robot, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a bit puzzled by this new model, at least so far.

"I still don't know how it will play out with this one," said the star-turned-politician, who said he was given a private screening of early footage from "Terminator Salvation" by producers of the franchise reboot directed by McG. "They showed me some footage, but I don't have a feel for the movie. I didn't see enough. I wasn't sure who the Terminator was. I don't know if there is one or if he's the star or the hero. These are the things that determine the success and how the strong the movie will be."

This will be the fourth of the "Terminator" films but the first without the Austrian-born muscleman who became a international film icon in the role of an assassination machine with cool sunglasses and a deadpan delivery. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" in 2003 was Schwarzenegger's last starring role before he gave up Hollywood for Sacramento.

Schwarzenegger loves to talk Hollywood, and on Friday afternoon he chatted about his favorite recent movies -- he absolutely loved "Wanted," for instance, and he says Will Ferrell movies are so funny that he's getting "a six-pack" of abs from all the laughing -- and he addressed the tender topic of a new "Terminator" for the first time in any depth.

Schwarzenegger has been playing a different sort of "Terminator" these days -- last week he ordered the layoffs of 10,000 state employees. He has said that move, along with sweeping salary reductions for state workers, will take pressure off the California coffers during the ongoing budget impasse in Sacramento.

Terminator_salvation

"Terminator Salvation" is being filmed now in New Mexico and stars Christian Bale (above), who wears the mask of Batman in this summer's history-making hit, "The Dark Knight," which is making a run at "Titanic" for the highest-grossing film ever.

Bale won't be a Terminator robot -- just the opposite, he plays a grown-up John Connor, the leader of the ragged human resistance against machine-men oppressors of the future. "Salvation," directed by the filmmaker McG, will be a prequel to "The Terminator," the landmark 1984 film directed by James Cameron. In 1991, Cameron and Schwarzenegger teamed up again for "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," which not only grossed more than $200 million in U.S. theaters, it became a landmark achievement among special-effects films.

"Salvation" is trying to pay homage to that history even as it charts its own course. McG ("Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," "We Are Marshall") sought out Cameron's blessing for "Salvation," which is far more bleak, unsettling and savage than the third film in the series, directed by Jonathan Mostow. "Salvation" producers also arranged for the governor to see an early "sizzle reel," a montage of scenes of the sort shown at Comic-Con International last month, where "Salvation" was popular with fans.

Schwarzenegger was polite but cautious on Friday when he was asked if he thought the reel actually had the sort of sizzle he expected.

"I've seen very little footage so I don't really have a feel for it. I hope they do well, and I hope it is a huge hit. I do hope it creates a spectacle on the screen. That is what James Cameron created."

The politician, who turned 61 last week, remains an ardent booster of Hollywood. Despite the crises around him in the state capital, he gushed about what a wonderful season it has been for popcorn entertainment.

"It's been pure heaven! We've never seen anything like this: Every week, Hollywood has been pounding away. And look at that, the economy is going down but Hollywood grosses are going up. It shows how important Hollywood is to our state economy and how much people love movies.

"There are such high standards and now there are always new standards being set for action," Schwarzenegger said. "You see that with 'Iron Man' and with the new Batman movie and that other film this summer, um, 'Wanted.' That was an excellent movie! There was this train coming down from a bridge, falling, and they're fighting inside the train car. Jesus, that is unbelievable that you can do that. To have the imagination to write it and the talent to shoot it and make it real on the screen. It's a whole new dimension."

The father of four said it's the "huge visual effects, the super-heroes," that make him and his kids want to "run to the theater," but the state's chief executive apparently also has a soft spot for "Step Brothers" and "Semi-Pro."

"It's the big action ones or the ones with Will Ferrell. In those you howl for two hours and you feel like you get a six-pack [of ab muscles] from all the laughs!"

His tone turned cautionary, though, on the topic of "Terminator Salvation."

"With Batman and Terminator, those big movies, there's a certain expectation and if you don't live up to it, if the movie is not a 10, then the business will be soft," the governor said. "If ['Salvation'] is pushing it forward, it will be breaking records all the time. If [director McG] has the T4 and the kind of shots that has the audience thinking, 'Now how did he do that?' -- then it is 'Terminator' and you can blow everyone away and every record at the box office."

In 2003, the American Film Institute made a list of the top 50 film heroes ever and a list of the top 50 villains. Schwarzenegger's Terminator is the only character to appear on both lists. The imagery from the films is part of his defining persona, whether it's the nickname "the Governator" or the state employee protests last week in which the politician's name was written on a pink slip along with a slogan saying he was the one deserving job termination.

Will Schwarzenegger be able to watch any new "Terminator" film and not feel a pang of loss?

"No, the same thing happened with bodybuilding. Seven times I won the Mr. Olympia title, a record, no one had done that. Then someone else [South Carolina native Lee Haney] won it eight times. Do I sit and say, 'Darn it, my record is gone' or 'Darn, I'm not up there on stage.' No, because I've moved into other phases of my life. I moved on from bodybuilding into entertainment. Then I moved on from entertainment into a political life. Now this is the most exciting experience of my life. When this movie comes out, I won't be sitting there saying, 'Why can't I do that?' I hope it makes a lot of money and is very successful."

-- Geoff Boucher

Photos: Top, Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of the Terminator. Center, Christian Bale stars as John Connor and Sam Worthington stars as Marcus Wright in “Terminator Salvation.”

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2008 So Far: 10 Things We Liked, 5 Things We Didn’t

Posted by Neil Miller


We know that the end of June is technically the midpoint of the calendar year, six months down with six to go, but that doesn’t mean that it is exactly the mid-point of the year in film. Around here, we like to believe that the end of July is, in fact, the middle of the year in film. It is the point when the summer movie season begins to slow down, Comic-Con has left us salivating for next year already, and we begin seeing tons of marketing for the Oscar-worthy (or otherwise unworthy) films that will take over the screens of our local cineplexes in the fall and into the winter.

So with Comic-Con over and done, we want to take a moment to pause and look back, at the year so far. We do this in a format that we like to call “Ten Things We Liked, 5 Things We Didn’t.”

Ten Things We Liked

10. Big Summer Blockbusters, No Big Summer Bombs
Sure, not every big summer blockbuster has been universally loved by all the fanboys and fangirls out there, but overall Hollywood seems to be on a streak of making tent-poles that are at the very least, good. Even the polarized opinions around Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull couldn’t keep it from scoring a 7.0/10 on IMDB and making over $300 million at the box office. Fans may have thought that it “nuked the fridge,” but ultimately it seemed to please the masses. As well, other films that seemed to be in trouble, such as The Incredible Hulk, turned out to be pleasant surprises.

9. ‘Chick Flicks’ For Everyone
Since the vast majority of our readers are of the male gender, we try to do our best to look out for them by reviewing romantic comedies and anything else that falls under the ‘chick flick’ banner by placing it in the context of “is it enjoyable for dudes?” And in 2008, the overwhelming response has been yes. Sex and the City turned out to be glamorous for the ladies and tolerable for the gents; Ryan Reynolds kept us entertained through Definitely, Maybe; and even Ashton Kutcher stayed out of the way long enough to make What Happens in Vegas relatively fun (thanks to a well-placed supporting cast that included Zack Galifianakis, Rob Corddry and Lake Bell.) Overall, as long as guys weren’t getting dragged to see Made of Honor, they seemed to be in good shape.

8. The Lovely Surprise that was Kung Fu Panda
Where did this film come from, and how did Jack Black get into it? I’m sure that is what many moviegoers were asking themselves after seeing Kung Fu Panda. In the wake of every comedian and their brother trying to recreate the success that Mike Myers found with Shrek, it was almost certain that a talent-driven animated epic from the sub-Pixar animation team at Dreamworks would be a dud. Not that it wouldn’t make a bunch of money, but that it wouldn’t be all that good. As fate would have it, Dreamworks delivered one of their most beautifully animated films of all-time and Jack Black left the scatting at home, leaving us smitten with a Kung Fu master wannabe named Po.

7. The Fact that Pixar has Still Got It
Sure, its easy to sit there now and say that you knew that Pixar’s WALL-E was going to be amazing. But what about at the turn of the year, when all we knew about it was that it was another Pixar animated adventure that starred two characters who couldn’t talk. As well, we had heard rumblings about them mixing live action elements in with the animation. Tell me that didn’t get even the most adoring Pixar fans weren’t a little worried. Then came the release, and once again we saw the master animators at Pixar deliver one of the best reviewed films of the year. Go figure.

6. Cloverfield Proves that Internet Marketing Does Work
Secrecy, misdirection and an intricate web of online viral marketing were all the rage as the calendar flipped over from December ‘07 to January ‘08. Even weeks and days before Cloverfield hit theaters, we still had little idea of what the monster looked like and little idea as to what the film was going to be all about. What we did know is that we wanted to know more. And out of the shadow of failed films that received tons of online buzz (Grindhouse, Snakes on a Plane, etc.) rose Cloverfield, a masterfully marketed film that would rake in $80 million dollars in a January release. It just goes to prove that J.J. Abrams, that tricky son-of-a-bitch, was right all along.

5. Spider-Man 3 Finally Gets Overtaken
The most recent of our list items, this one seems to have washed away some of the bad taste left in our mouths after Spider-Man 3 set the all-time opening weekend gross record to kick of the summer of 2007. Sure, it was backed by a shit-ton of marketing and it was oozing mainstream appeal, so we can see why it did so well. But that doesn’t mean that it was a great film. In fact, it was the exact opposite of a great film — it was abysmal. For comic book fans and moviegoers alike, it failed to keep track of all the villains, storylines and unnecessary characters, delivering an experience that was severely disappointing in the wake of the excellent second film. Oh, and there was that Jazz Club scene. Thank you Christopher Nolan, and everyone else who worked on The Dark Knight – we finally have a film on top of that chart that deserves to be there.

4. Seeing Marvel Studios Step Out on their Own
It seems that everyone is proud of the success achieved by Marvel Studios as they stepped out to deliver two films this summer that not only found the bank-roll, but they didn’t alienate their fanbases. First, they delighted audiences with Iron Man — a film that lived up to the hype and shot Robert Downey Jr. back up to the top of Hollywood’s A-List. Then, they came out of nowhere with The Incredible Hulk, a production that seemed marred with behind the scenes problems, and delivered another awesome spectacle of cinema. The best part about all of this? The fact that Marvel can now move on to bringing more franchises to the big screen, including Captain America, Thor and The Avengers.

3. Rambo Returns, Disembowels
Some may argue this one’s position on the list, but you can’t argue with how much fun it was to see Sly Stallone back in action as John Rambo. When Lionsgate didn’t screen it for press, we were all a little worried. But when we finally saw it in theaters and it was pounding away at us with head-rattling sound and intense hard-R violence, those action junkies in the room were more than pleased. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect Rambo film, but in a sea of constant remakes, reboots and re-imaginings, it was nice to see one that didn’t need to re-invent the wheel. All it needed to do was blow the wheel all to hell.

2. Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man
Iron Man could have gone all sorts of different ways. It was a heavily marketed, highly hyped film that was kicking off the summer movie season, and we’d been there before. As well, Iron Man has always been a B-level character in the Marvel Universe, taking a back seat to The Hulk, Spider-Man and the X-Men. Not to mention the fact that it was all hinging on the performance of Robert Downey Jr., an actor who has had his ups and downs. But with the success (both critical and financial) of Iron Man, the tone of Summer ‘08 was set — it was going to be a good year for superhero flicks.

1. Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight
Speaking of superhero flicks… Now, it would be really easy to just make #1 The Dark Knight and move on, but that just isn’t how we roll. It is important for us to look at what we loved about the film so much, and it really comes down to two people: Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart. Sure, the death of Heath Ledger helped fuel interest and spark Oscar buzz, but there is no denying that his performance was off the charts. He took a once comical, silly cinematic villain and drove him off the deep end of crazy, back to his sinister and anarchist comic roots. The only thing that we didn’t like about his performance is that it so powerfully overshadowed the equally fantastic job that Aaron Eckhart did bringing Harvey “Two-Face” Dent to life on the big screen. With respect to Tommy Lee Jones, his Two-Face looked like a clown show compared to the dynamic performance delivered by Eckhart.

Five Things We Didn’t Like

5. Wang… Lots of Wang
Most of the male staff here at FSR are probably very fond of their own phalli, but that doesn’t mean that we need to keep seeing other fellas’ dicks on screen, does it? Absolutely not. From Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall to the “bottom-less party” guy in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, we haven’t seen this much on-screen shlong since we attended that Harvey Keitel/Kevin Bacon retrospective marathon. Knock it off, Hollywood. Seriously.

4. The Lack of Break-through Indies
This one is probably most personal to me, the Reject who travels the country from festival to festival trudging through piles of Indie garbage to find those one or two great little films that could be the next big thing. It seems that, at least so far this year, there have not been much in the way of breakthrough successes from fests such as Sundance or SXSW. It could be the looming shadow of Juno that spilled over from 2007, or it could be the overpowering summer tentpoles, but either way it is a bit sad that films such as Charlie Bartlett, Be Kind Rewind and The Wackness never caught on. Then again, the year is still young.

3. Old-School Comedy Favorites Crashing and Burning
We are not saying that more people should have gone out and seen The Love Guru and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Neither film was incredible by any means. What we are saying is that it is very disappointing to see the likes of Mike Myers and Adam Sandler delivering films that are so lost on everyone — films that make us go back through our library and question why we ever liked their movies in the first place. Thankfully, there is always Wayne’s World and Happy Gilmore.

2. Sequels That Are Too Late to the Party
It may seem a bit hypocritical to have this one here, as I did mention Rambo in the list of things we liked, but bare with me. Rambo might be one of the few exceptions to this, with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull being the other. But when you look at films such as The X-Files: I Want to Believe and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, it makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with Hollywood. Actually, I take that back — good or not, Indiana Jones 4 came way too late.

1. The Success of Spoof Movies
The fact that such cinematic abortions as Meet the Spartans, Superhero Movie and soon to be Disaster Movie keep getting made is an easy target for #1 on this list. But what bothers us more than their existence is that people continue to go and see them. Meet the Spartans made $84 million dollars worldwide at the box office. Quick, everyone who saw it — kick yourself in the ass. You are what’s wrong with movies today.

So there you have it, a little not quite mid-year review from those of us here at Film School Rejects. Stay tuned later on this week as we take a look at some of the films that have us excited the most from the rest of 2008.

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