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Friday, September 19, 2008

Alan Moore on 'Watchmen' movie: 'I will be spitting venom all over it'

Alan MooreFor the record, Alan Moore has not softened his view on Hollywood nor its plan to bring his classic graphic novel "Watchmen" to the screen next March.

"I find film in its modern form to be quite bullying," Moore told me during an hour-long phone call from his home in England. "It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. The 'Watchmen' film sounds like more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms. Can't we get something else? Perhaps some takeout? Even Chinese worms would be a nice change."

Moore is often described as a recluse but, really, I think it's more precise to say he is simply too busy at his writing desk. "Yes, perhaps I should get out more," he said with a chuckle. In conversation, the 54-year-old iconoclast is everything his longtime readers would expect -- articulate, witty, obstinate and selectively enigmatic. Far from grouchy, he only gets an edge in his voice when he talks about the effect of Hollywood on the comics medium that he so memorably energized in the 1980s with "Saga of the Swamp Thing," "V for Vendetta," "Marvelman" and, of course, "Watchmen," his 1986 masterpiece. The Warner Bros. film version of "Watchmen" is due in theaters in March although the project has encountered some turbulence with a lawsuit filed by 20th Century Fox over who has the rights to the property. Moore has no intention of seeing the film and, in fact, he hints that he has put a magical curse on the entire endeavor.

Comedian "Will the film even be coming out? There are these legal problems now, which I find wonderfully ironic. Perhaps it's been cursed from afar, from England. And I can tell you that I will also be spitting venom all over it for months to come."

Moore said all that with more mischievous glee than true malice, but I know it will still pain "Watchmen" director Zack Snyder when he reads it. The director of "300" absolutely adores the work of Moore and has been laboring intensely to bring "Watchmen" to the screen with faithful sophistication. But I don't think there's any way to win Moore over, he simply detests Hollywood. Moore said he has never watched any of the film adaptations of his comics creations (which have included "V for Vendetta," "From Hell," "Constantine" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen") and that he believes "Watchmen" is "inherently unfilmable." He also rues the effect of Hollywood's siren call on the contemporary comics scene.

"There are three or four companies now that exist for the sole purpose of creating not comics, but storyboards for films. It may be true that the only reason the comic book industry now exists is for this purpose, to create characters for movies, board games and other types of merchandise. Comics are just a sort of pumpkin patch growing franchises that might be profitable for the ailing movie industry."

Nite OwlThere is one film that Moore is supporting right now. It's the new DVD release entitled "The Mindscape of Alan Moore" and it's an artfully executed documentary that is built entirely around Moore sitting in his somewhat spooky living room and ruminating about art, storytelling, magic and culture. The movie was made by Dez Vylenz, who was still a student at the London International Film School when he sent Moore a letter expressing interest in creating a documentary film on the writer as his senior project.

That project went well and, several years ago, the filmmaker and the author decided to do it again for a film that would be released to the public. Vylenz has intercut images and used visual effects that give the film a psychedelic swirl and shamanistic textures (it reminded me a bit of the sensibilities of a Godfrey Reggio film, such as "Koyaanisqatsi," but on a far, far smaller scale production-wise).

"It was very enjoyable to sit there in a chair and talking and talking and talking because, as anyone who knows me for even an hour will tell you, that is my second nature. The idea of it -- just me talking -- sounded incredibly boring to me but Dez Vylenz is very talented and if there is anything about the film that is not a success, I would blame the flaws of its central character." The film was made in 2003 but is just now reaching stores, with a Sept. 30 on-sale date as a two-disc DVD from Shadowsnake Films.

Alan Moore movie In the film, Moore makes it clear that he believes magic and storytelling are clearly linked and that, upon closer examination, the definitions of what is real and what is imagined are far more slippery than generally considered. This documentary is not the compelling success that "Crumb" was but, like that 1994 film by Terry Zwigoff, this one will leave casual viewers with the impression that some of the more peculiar geniuses of our day tend to gravitate to comics.

Moore sometimes wears metallic talons, describes himself as an anarchist and, in the past, has told interviewers that he worships an ancient Roman snake god. But what's really unusual about him is that he seems to be the very last creator in comics who would hang up on Hollywood anytime it calls.

"I got into comics because I thought it was a good and useful medium that had not been explored to its fullest potential," Moore told me.

He went on to explain that it was the late Will Eisner who brought a cinematic approach to comics in the 1940s after watching "Citizen Kane" dozens of times and transferring its visual style and approach to transitions to the pages of "The Spirit." "As much as I admire Eisner, I think maintaining that approach in recent history has done more harm than good. If you approach comics as a poor relation to film, you are left with a movie that does not move, has no soundtrack and lacks the benefit of having a recognizable movie star in the lead role."

Moore said that with "Watchmen," he told the epic tale of a large number of characters over decades of history with "a range of techniques" that cannot be translated to the movie screen, among them the "book within a book" technique, which took readers through a second, interior story as well as documents and the writings of characters. He also said he was offended by the amount of money and resources that go into the Hollywood projects. "They take an idea, bowdlerize it, blow it up, make it infantile and spend $100 million to give people a brief escape from their boring and often demeaning lives at work. It's obscene and it's offensive. This is not the culture I signed up for. I'm sure I sound like Bobby Fischer talking about chess "

Rorschach Moore said he is now working on new installments in his marvelous comics series "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," which is far more nuanced and daring than the forgettable film of the same title. The new stories take the narrative to the moon where there is a war underway between the giant insects (inspired by the H.G. Wells 1901 book "The First Men in the Moon") and nude lunar amazons. "The idea, it pretty much sells itself, doesn't it?"

He is also at work on a massive, 750,000-word novel. "It's the grown-up kind, with no pictures at all," he said. "Although modern binding technology may be overwhelmed by the size of it. It's a huge mad fantasy called 'Jerusalem.' "

The story is partially a history of his native Northampton that dates back to its Saxon settlement days in AD 700, but it is also a "demented children's story" that features Charlie Chaplin, Oliver Cromwell and "an explanation of the afterlife that conforms to all known laws of physics."

There's also a huge sort of reference book of magic that he is toiling on with contributions from notable artists and writing peers. It delves into Kabbalah, astral projection, seance, tarot, practical applications of magic and deep research into the origins of magic history, such as the true beginnings of the Faust tales. Talking about the book, the skeptical shaman of comics sounded positively giddy, especially for a parchment wizard trapped in a crass digital age.

"Magic is a state of mind. It is often portrayed as very black and gothic and that is because certain practitioners played that up for a sense of power and prestige. That is a disservice. Magic is very colorful. Of this, I am sure."

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo of Alan Moore, circa 2001, in Northampton, England, shot by Graham Barclay for the Los Angeles Times.

Images from "Watchmen" courtesy of Warner Bros.

Cover image from "The Mindscape of Alan Moore," courtesy of Shadowsnake Films.

Artwork of Rorschach from "Watchmen" graphic novel, drawn by Dave Gibbons, courtesy of DC Comics.

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Hellboy as a girl

A Christmas Special With Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert will host a Christmas special this year on Comedy Central, the cable channel announced. “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!” will be shown Nov. 23 as a one-hour program and will feature musical performances by artists including John Legend, Elvis Costello, Toby Keith, Willie Nelson and Feist. In addition to the professional singers, Jon Stewart the host of “The Daily Show,” is scheduled to sing a duet, titled “Hanukkah,” with Mr. Colbert. David Javerbaum, an executive producer of the “The Daily Show,” and Adam Schlesinger, the bassist for the band Fountains of Wayne, have written songs for the special. A DVD of the show will be released on Nov. 25 and part of the proceeds will go to the charity Feeding America. In other Comedy Central news, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, is scheduled to appear on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” on Thursday.

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The 5 Worst Teenage Cover Bands

We’d like to salute these youngsters for getting up onstage and giving it their all. If these kids keep practicing, they’ll surely get better. But until then, let’s all enjoy the lighter side of teenagers learning how to play their instruments.


The Worst Iron Man Cover - Watch more free videos
5. Iron Man - Unnamed 7th Grade Talent Show Band
When this first starts out you’re sort of like, “Hey, this isn’t too bad.” And then the drums kick in and the rhythm goes to hell and then it all just completely falls apart. Sort of like Ozzy’s life.


The Worst Nirvana Cover Ever - Watch more free videos
4. Smells Like Teen Spirit - The Hackley School Band
Say what you will about her vocal stylings, but the singer has got moxie. But the high point of this video, in my opinion, is the searing solo at the 2:52 mark. That dude can totally shred.


Worst Foo Fighters Cover Ever - Watch more free videos
3. Everlong - Unnamed Talent Show Band
The music here is really good. Everyone’s in tune and the guitars sound remarkably like the original. But if they’re going to make it on the teenage cover band circuit, they may want to look into getting a new singer.


The Red Hot Chili Peppers Have Changed - Watch more free videos
2. By The Way - Another Unnamed Teenage Band
I think these guys are Scandanavian, so I can’t fault him for not knowing the English lyrics. But no white culture can be forgiven for beat boxing. I’m sorry.


Its The Final Countdown - Watch more free videos
1. The Final Countdown
Shouldn’t 14-year-olds try to cover something edgy like Slayer or Pantera or Sepultura or Cannibal Corpse? Covering Europe is a lot like covering Barry Manilow.

Other crap to look at:
Dacia Renee is attractive (gorillamask)
Bouncer drops guy with one-punch knockout (nothingtoxic)
Pizza guy drops pizza on ground, picks it up, delivers it (EJB)
Tiffani Amber Thiessen’s big fat triathlon (drunkenstepfather)
What if girls thought like guys? (comedy.com)
Pania Rose hates clothes (doubleviking)
Josh Brolin would F his dad (theblemish)
Geraldine Neumann is attractive (cameltap)
There is such a thing as a dumb question (afrojacks)
10 Songs about losing your virginity (thefrisky)
Brad Pitt loves gay marriage (popeater)
Marisa Miller in Malibu Magazine (gearcrave)
10 Funniest baseball quotes (uncoached)

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Surprise! Universal music revenues up 5% thanks to downloads

By Nate Anderson

After having $10 billion wiped off its collective worldwide revenues this decade, the four major music labels haven't had much to crow about. Indie labels, which have banded together to negotiate as Merlin, together are as large as EMI, the smallest of the majors. And even though digital sales are way up across the board, the dramatic declines in more-lucrative CD revenues have led industry observers into Sartre-like levels of existential despair.

So why is Jean-Bernard Lévy, CEO of Vivendi and owner of largest label Universal, so upbeat?

In an interview with the Financial Times, Levy claimed that his label had already hit bottom and was now slogging uphill (its revenues increased by 5 percent on a constant currency basis in the first half of the year). He pointed out that Universal's revenues were now increasing at a decent clip, and he was bullish on new music outlets such as Nokia's Comes With Music plan.

"I think [in] the music business, there is a strong likelihood that we are getting close to the lowest part of the cycle and we are extremely active in developing new business models, new sources of revenues," he told the paper.

Our chart below shows the year-over-year change in revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2008. EMI, the only private major label, is not included on the list. While revenues don't look so hot for Universal, the revenue change is misleading; when currency fluctuations are removed from the equation, the company actually increased its revenues by 3 percent in the quarter from the same period in 2007.

As for Warner, once the same calculation is applied, it actually lost 1 percent on a constant currency basis. (Sony does not report its Sony BMG numbers this way.)

Digital, of course, is the big driver of better economic performance. At Warner, for instance, it made up 20 percent of total revenues in the second quarter and generated 39 percent more income that it had a year before. Universal notes that its growth is fueled, in part, by "the momentum of digital sales growth."

The growth of digital isn't always enough to offset CD sales (and it doesn't help when your company's CDs were implicated in a major rootkit PR disaster a few years back). Sony BMG said that its decline in revenues was "primarily due to the continued decline in the physical music market worldwide not being fully offset by growth in digital product sales."

Such talk has fueled speculation that the wild hookers-and-blow days of the 1980s may never come again for an industry that could have to content itself with a much smaller global revenue pie. But as Universal's experience shows, growth is still possible for the majors.

One consumer benefit to the music industry's tribulations has been an increase in opportunities to acquire music. The industry had to loosen the reins as is looked like the horses might bolt and leave the stagecoach stranded in the ditch. First came the industry's own pathetic efforts like Pressplay, then the DRMed world of iTunes, then the DRM-free goodness of Amazon, then the Nokia Comes With Music model, then the Last.fm free music streaming model, and now the birth of MySpace Music (which has apparently had its launch pushed back from this week).

And, in another sign that music DRM is dying everywhere but on iTunes, 7 Digital just became the first music store in the UK to offer DRM-free access to the catalog of all four majors.

If the industry in general can recover as Universal has done so far this year, though, the question remains: will the major labels start taking up the slack on those reins, or will they decide that the wild, out-of-control ride they've been on for the past few years has actually produced new opportunities worth following up on as revenues ramp back up?

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The 20 Best Worst Science Fiction Movies Of All Time

Not every movie gets to be the Oscar darling of its time, but sometimes we love the bad movies the most. These movies exist to be found in the bottom of bargain DVD bins and are met with squeals of excitement. Movies like Red Planet, Enemy Mine, The Faculty — these aren't successful by any standards other than the people that love them and treasure watching them for the 14th time. So I asked around and pulled a sampling of what I believe is the science fiction equivalent to Point Break. Here's our list of the greatest bad scifi movies of all time.

Now it needs to be said, these are movies that aren't trying to be bad. So no, you won't find Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (though it is awfully great), Innerspace or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes here. We'll build another list of intentionally campy movies later. These are strictly films that were made in total seriousness but turned out ridiculously awful and we LOVE THEM FOR IT.

Chronicles Of Riddick:

There are so many awesomely terrible moments in this movie that I can recite or reenact on command. How about the fact that you can prevent the death-inducing sun from burning you alive with a little water? Diesel is literally STEAMING in this film. It's awesome. Or what about the line: "It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful"? Plus the whole Necromonger mythology is so fascinating. How about the machines that stab your neck or the crazy heat-sensing drones that follow the warriors around. None of it was ever really explained or made any sense, but it was all still amazing. I don't think I have ever passed on a Chronicles watching party, ever. One of the my 5,000 Chronicles favorite scenes is below, "Death By Tea Cup."

Time Cop:

Don't even pretend that you haven't tried to do the splits in your underwear on the kitchen counter after watching Jean-Claude Van Damme prance about in his mullet. This is such a bad/awesome movie, it's no wonder that on any given day of the week it's on some TV channel at 3 AM (split clip below). This is strictly a smash 'em up, everyone-tells-Van-Damme-what-a-badass-he-is movie, and that's all we wanted from it. Notice the seductive come hither look as he jumps?

Mimic:

Monster in a trench coat played by Doug Jones? That's horribly fantastic.

Hollow Man:

Terrible, horrible writing with a "we make things go boom" ending, but I can't stop watching this flick just to see the CG muscle monkey and to watch invisible Kevin Bacon torture the poor girl across the way. It's one of those movies you view between your fingers because the science and the reasoning behind all the characters' actions are so bad, you can't let yourself fully embrace it as a whole. But you still want to see them get locked in the freezer and then magnetize the dead bolt because it's silly.

Planet Of The Apes (Tim Burton's Remake):

The monkey people are cool — sorry those of you that hated it, but the makeup was wonderfully done. The plot? Well it took a backseat to a half-naked Estella Warren. Honestly, the shock ending was so slapdash, it's laughable. But the overall look is compelling — you can't not watch. Plus, if you put Kris Kristofferson in a movie I'm going to watch it 1,000 times. The man is a legend.

The Last Star Fighter:

A movie where a kid gets to go fight space war video game style? How could this not be a best/worst movie.

Starship Troopers

I own four copies of Starship Troopers, no lie. I go into a panic when I can't find it, and I just go buy another. Starship Troopers is so ridiculously gory and tongue and cheek that I almost axed it off this list for being campy. But you know what, this movie is also totally awesome and deserves a place here. It's got Neil Patrick Harris as a Nazi know-it-all, goo-filled arm casts, a fake head having its brains sucked out, and one of the funniest death scenes I've ever seen when Dizz scream-dies her way out of this world from the arms of Rico himself.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

This was a tough one, I seriously wanted to include all of the Resident Evil Paul W.S. Anderson movies but I feel that this truly was the best of the bad trilogy, because you have crazy super soldier Milla Jovovich as Alice, fighting Matt Addison as project Nemesis, the half dead human with a heart of gold. Oh and it introduces L.J., who is a fantastic character.

Alien 3

Besides the fact that this movie killed off Newt (which I thank them for), the doggie Alien was silly, but amazing. If you like terrible action movies that kill off characters the minute you start liking them, then this is a classic. I know Fincher is great, but he never really bothered to get into the backstory of a woman stuck in a once-prison-now-monks planet and the whole Ripley suicide at the end was really gratuitous. But I'd watch that bald lady jump backwards clutching her alien baby a million times, and secretly root that this time Clemens (Charles Dance) doesn't get killed off, (how quickly we forget Hicks, Miss Ripley). Like I said before, it killed Newt and has a doggie alien (sheesh).

Blade Trinity:

This was a hard call for me. I'm really torn between Blade Trinity and Blade. But the original doesn't have a blind computer programmer and Ryan Reynolds, who you know pissed off Wesley Snipes to know end. Sure Parker Posey just played herself with fangs, but she's entertaining to watch alone, it's like seeing the unraveling of a mind. Plus the Kris Kristofferson rule applies to her as well.

The Faculty

You knew who the bad guy was from the first second you watched this alien invasion movie, but who cares? Famke Janssen's head is walking around by itself. Plus there are tons of quality one-liners and run-for-your-life scenes. Who didn't dream of their high school getting invaded by aliens, and you get to kill that dick coach who made you fun the mile on Friday. You gotta love the home-remedy alien kill sticks made from ball point pens and crushed speed pills that Josh Hartnett had a lab for. Who needs a whole lab to crush pills?

Deep Impact:

Is this movie worse than Armageddon? I would say yes, but its failure makes it much more appealing as a best/worst scifi flick than Armageddon could ever be. Strictly because you get to see the end of the world actually happen which is something many movies don't deliver, but in a more realistic sense than The Day After Tomorrow, where people are being chased by frost.

Alien Versus Predator

It delivered exactly what it promised. Aliens fighting Predators in an illogical maze because of an ancient back story. Oh who cares? It's Aliens fighting with Predators.

Event Horizon:

This scifi horror movie was pretty ridiculous with the eye-pulling out journey that Paul W.S. Anderson tries to take us on. You know it's a bad movie when a space ship opens up a portal to hell, but you know it's a bad/good movie when you include Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill and Hellraiser-esque clips. You can't beat the scene where Neill has ripped out his own eyes and says with a smile, "where we're going we won't need eyes."

The Langoliers:

A classic example of a bad movie that is more fun to watch for free than to have paid for. I like people getting stopped in time and crazy bloody children creep me out just as much as the next person. It's spooky, but that's about it.

Reign of Fire

Shirtless Christian Bale and shirtless Matthew McConaughey fight dragons in a future world where our mining interrupted their slumber. I'll let the fighting to the talking:

The Fifth Element

I'm sorry but Chris Tucker in a leotard running around trying to save the world from a giant black rock that can make phone calls is not a good movie, it is a GREAT movie. Forget the silly writing, this movie is all about the cool future gadgets, Milla running around in a band aid, wacky aliens and a great chemistry between all of the characters as an ensemble. Many of you may want to argue that The Fifth Element is indeed a good movie, but there are too many people falling from the sky landing in cabs, frozen commanders, and an extremely confusing bad guy and his jumbled henchmen. (What was the back story to Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg anyways?) But honestly, who cares — Gary Oldman sells that character, one-dimensional as he may be. The Fifth Element is like chicken soup: It will always make you feel better, especially the Diva Dance. Is it a movie that's changing lives? No.

Enemy Mine:

Learn important moral values from Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. Who doesn't want to learn about prejudice from two mortal space enemies marooned on a deserted planet for years? Especially when one of the guys get's pregnant and dies and Quaid has to raise the baby himself. You knew that kid was going to get the crap beaten out of him by humans, and you couldn't wait to see Quaid get unhinged.

Red Planet:

Red Planet was a bad, bad movie made good only by the lovable robot that goes crazy, which adheres to the doggy alien rule stated above, doggy versions of anything scifi are highly regarded as terribly awesome.

Signs:

Signs starts off strong enough, but then pitters off into a bad monster movie with a dude in an an alien suit. Either way, you try and change the channel when Joaquin Phoenix puts on the aluminum hats with his niece and nephew. Sure, the ending is Shyamalan's greatest stab at desperately trying to show that everything happens for a reason, but I still like that it all ties up in a cute poorly written bow. It's a poor man's thinking movie, and gives you exactly what you're looking for when you're bored on a Wednesday night.

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