Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's official: Robert Downey Jr. will suit up for 'The Avengers,' Jon Favreau on board as an executive producer

Marvel Studios announced Tuesday that the "Iron Man" tandem of star Robert Downey Jr. and filmmaker Jon Favreau will assemble for the "Avengers" film, although the role announced for Favreau is that of executive producer, not director.


It's no surprise that Downey will reprise his role for the "Avengers "movie, but the official word is part of the ongoing campaign to stir excitement for the first major motion picture that will bring together superheroes from separate franchises. You can see all of this leading up to some future Comic-Con International panel that will have Downey sitting next to at least two other Oscar-nominated actors: Edward Norton, who played the Hulk this summer and is, by all appearances, on board for more action, as well as Don Cheadle, who will pick up the role of Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes in the "Iron Man" franchise. The Marvel announcement today made his addition to the cast official and made a point to announce that he would be in the "Avengers" film as well.

It's not clear yet who will be playing Thor, the Wasp or Ant-Man in the film, the other founding members from the Marvel Comics hero team that began in 1963 in the classic issue shown here on the left. There's also the question of who will play Captain America (the most famous Avenger, but one who didn't show up until issue No. 4 in the comics) in the hero's solo film as well as the Avengers project that will follow it into theaters in 2011, if all goes as planned. No substantive word yet on the director for either the Cap movie or the Avengers project. Favreau, of course, will direct "Iron Man 2," which is slated for 2010.


The announcement on Tuesday was a mild attempt at spinning the news coverage toward Favreau, Downey and Marvel newcomer Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda," "Crash," "Ocean's Eleven") and away from Terrence Howard, whose ejection from the "Iron Man" franchise is still a sticky subject. Howard was poised for a meatier role in the franchise as his character is set to follow a story arc adapted from the Marvel comic books that has him getting armor of his own and becoming War Machine.

Now Cheadle, who was in action-movie mode earlier this year with "Traitor," will suit up. Why the change? "Sources close to the deal" told the Hollywood Reporter that the switch came after a salary dispute between Marvel and Howard, but the actor later told NPR that he was befuddled about that characterization. "It was the surprise of a lifetime," he told interviewer Scott Simon. "There was no explanation ... I read something in the trades implicating that it was about money or something, but apparently the contracts that we write and sign aren't worth the paper that they're printed on, sometimes. Promises aren't kept, and good faith negotiations aren't always held up."

The debated departure of Howard from the "Iron Man" cast has been a nasty jolt in an otherwise magical year for Marvel Studios, the Hollywood start-up that saw its first two projects, "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk," finish among the top movies of an exceptionally crowded summer for popcorn films.

"Iron Man" has grossed $318 million at the U.S. box office (a total that trails only the history-making numbers of "The Dark Knight") and "Hulk," with $135 million domestically, stands right now as the 11th highest-grossing film for 2008 to date, pulling in a larger total than more celebrated films such as "Tropic Thunder" or "Wanted" and finishing right behind "Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."

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Has John McCain's Pimp Hand Gone Soft?

here are few things in life that can't be easily boiled down to a prostitution metaphor. Parenting? Religion? Roofing? They're all better understood through a pimp-and-ho-colored lens. And politics? Well, that's barely even a metaphor. Here's a web-exclusive video of David Alan Grier breaking down the infighting in the McCain/Palin campaign into terms we can all understand.

Catch a new episode of Chocolate News tonight at 10:30pm/9:30c. Posted by matt tobey

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Beatles video unearthed after 44 years

The colour, but silent, film was recorded covertly at the concert in Kansas in 1964 and is believed to be the only recording of the 31 minute gig.

Fan Drew Dimmel, who is now selling the roll of 8mm film reel at a British auction house, was 15 when he went to see the band in his home city.

He took his father's brand new "movie" camera and despite strict restrictions about filming, managed to persuade a local reporter to take some shots.

After getting home, Drew checked the film contained footage of The Beatles then shut it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Two months ago the 59-year-old was clearing out his parents' home and was stunned when he discovered the tape still in its photo-lab box.

Although there are just two minutes of footage the pre-sale estimate is a whopping 6,000 pounds and Beatles collectors from around the world are expected to bid.

The gig at the Municipal Stadium in Kansas was controversial because of the unpopularity of Charles Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics Baseball Team.

The local press urged a boycott of the concert in protest against Finley and as a result the stadium was almost half empty.

The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein had managed to negotiate a fee of $150,000 for the gig, which helped leave Finley out of pocket.

Mr Dimmel said: "When confirmation was announced on my local "rock" station, WHB, that tickets were going on sale to see The Beatles, live, at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City I persuaded my dad to drive me down to the ticket booth.

"I bought two field-level tickets, paying $6.50 apiece; one for my little brother and one for me. I was 15 and he was 12.

"On the evening of September 17, 1964, 20,000 of us gathered at Municipal Stadium to hear The Beatles.

"My father agreed to lend me his brand new "colour" regular-8mm movie camera for the evening.

"I was going to stand in front of the stage and film the show but, when the lights dimmed a policemen told us to find our seats.

"A local reporter who was a friend of my dad was in the press barrier and he recognised us and said he would try and get some shots of The Beatles for us.

"I thanked him and obediently handed my dad's brand new movie camera to a total stranger.

"The next day I took the film to our local camera store, making no mention of its contents, and waited for them to develop it. I paid four dollars developing fee.

"I went straight home, checked to see that images on the little reel were The Beatles, opened the drawer of our old desk and placed it in the bottom of the drawer.

"And there it's been for the last half of a century until we cleared out my parent's estate two months ago.

The sale will be held on November 4.

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Scream Queens

For more than 80 years, ugly deviants have been scaring beautiful girls. Now, KING documents the evolution of the horror hottie. Holla, if you hear them

By Matt Barone

The Phantom of the Opera’s scariest scene hints at what future “scream queens” will make audibly clear. Upon unmasking the disfigured Phantom, our revolted heroine—opera singer Christine—screams, before fainting. Yes, silence is golden.


In what’s widely considered horror’s moment of conception, Bride of Frankenstein climaxes with two mad scientists bringing Frank’s corpse bride to life in a laboratory. (Hey, isn’t that how Sarah Palin was created?) Unfortunately for our lumbering antihero, his scientifically assembled wifey violently dismisses him, which predictably causes Frank to go apeshit. Consider him the original sensitive thug.


For Janet Leigh, a sensual shower scene quickly degenerates into the most disturbing cleansing since 50 Cent and Terrance Howard’s romp in Get Rich or Die Tryin’. With Psycho, director Alfred Hitchcock shattered plot structure conventions by killing his lead halfway in. If only Cuba Gooding Jr.’s movies followed suit.


Black Christmas—the largely overlooked genesis of the full-on “slasher film”—features a never-seen psychopath mingling with co-eds in a sorority house. His favorite reindeer games include suffocation by plastic bag and impaling. Somebody definitely got coal in his stocking.


Cinema’s quintessential scream queen careerist, Jamie Lee Curtis, first evades Michael Myers in the original Halloween. Curtis, the daughter of Psycho’s Leigh, later headlined The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train and Halloween 2. But she broke horror junkies’ hearts by saving her first nude scene for the 1983 Eddie Murphy comedy Trading Places. No wonder her death in Halloween: Resurrection felt so satisfying.


Generation X got its own slasher film with Wes Craven’s sarcastic and blood-drenched Scream. Most notable, however, was how the genre’s typically D-list casting was replaced with above-the-title talent such as Drew Barrymore, Courteney Cox and Rose McGowan’s nipples.


In I Know What You Did Last Summer, buxom brunette Jennifer Love Hewitt confronts a fishhook-wielding killer in ideal fashion: The more danger she’s in, the fewer clothes she sports. By the film’s final reel, she’s wearing a towel. Finally, a scream queen we didn’t want to see kick the bucket.


If you can sing, you can undoubtedly scream. In the surprisingly well-made Freddy Vs. Jason, modern horror’s titans clash, racking up an impressive body count in the process. The sexiest of the fatalities was Kelly Rowland, who survived for about three-quarters of the film before being hurled into a tree by Jason. Hey, at least she wasn’t in The Pink Panther.


Take a bow, Mr. Costume Designer, you deserve it. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Jessica Biel battles the demented (and inbred) Leatherface in a dirty, sweat-drenched wife-beater. Sadly, it’s her lone horror-movie moment. Unless you count her flirtation with Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.


Cursed was a laughable attempt to reinvent the werewolf genre. Honestly, it sucked. Really. But the one thing it has going for it is Mya’s extended death sequence, which she performs in a form-fitting, leopard-print dress. It’s the only redeemable part of the movie’s 90-minute running time. And the reason why the fast-forward button is precious.

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Daniel Craig's quantum leap


Daniel Craig on James Bond and the Quantum of Solace

By Tim Masters
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Daniel Craig may be a man of many talents, but he also has the power of prophecy.

"I'm going to get hurt," he said at the press launch for Quantum of Solace in January - just after filming on his second outing as 007 had commenced.

And here's Craig nine months later with his right arm in a sling after a shoulder operation, having also severed his fingertip and had eight stitches in his face after being accidentally kicked by one of his co-stars.

The actor proffers his left arm for a solid - if slightly awkward - handshake and, despite all those injuries, is in an ebullient mood about the new film.

"I'm very happy with the result and director Marc Forster's done an amazing job, so I couldn't be happier at the moment," Craig says, his eyes every as bit as blue in real life as they are on the big screen.

Creative input

Daniel Craig as James Bond
Critics have given Quantum of Solace a largely positive reception
The first reviews have been largely positive and critics and fans are starting to openly declare Craig to be the best Bond of them all.

Not least because he has helped reinvent Bond as a cruel and emotionally battered character who is far closer to the superspy of Ian Fleming's novels.

"The character's rounded and 90% of his views I can't go along with," says Craig.

"But he falls in love and falls out of love, he struggles with his work, and to get some of those in the movie is just the job. I don't know another way of doing it - I look to the Flemings for help."

Quantum of Solace is the shortest Bond movie to date, but packs in more locations than ever before.

Filming began in January at Pinewood Studios in the UK before moving on to Panama, Chile's Atacama desert, various locations in Italy including Siena and Lake Garda, plus Bregenz in Austria and San Felipe, Mexico.

The workload, says Craig, was tougher than it was on Casino Royale.

"There was a potential actors' strike in June or July and because we'd started we had to finish on a certain date, so the pressure was on - we couldn't stop. If I'd got an injury and we'd had to stop for a couple of weeks it would have really screwed things around. "

Daniel Craig as James Bond
Quantum of Solace is the shortest Bond film to date
So how much creative input does Craig have in the production process?

"I don't shut up!" he laughs. "I can't give you a percentage. I try and involve myself with everything - but I don't interfere. Marc's the director and it's important that his vision of the movie comes across very strongly.

"We sat in meetings months before we started shooting and talked about what we wanted. So I'm as involved as much as I can be."

Return of Q?

Both of Craig's Bond movies have ditched the gadgets, the glib one-liners, Miss Moneypenny and Q . Bond doesn't even sleep with his feisty sidekick Camille (Olga Kurylenko).

But Craig is adamant that the likes of Moneypenny and Q have not been consigned to Bond history.

Quantum of Solace
Olga Kurylenko plays Bond's sidekick Camille

"No, not at all," he says. "We certainly have to introduce them and earn the right to have them. You can't just drop them in. There's a generation of people who don't know Bond movies and I want them to watch the movies and understand who those characters are."

So how does Daniel Craig - the actor - detach himself from the world of James Bond and keep his feet on the ground?

"By getting away from it as much as possible," says Craig decisively.

"And where do you go?"

"Well I'm not going to tell you, am I?" says Craig with an icy blue warning flash of those piercing eyes. Then he breaks into laughter.

"No, I spend time with my friends and my family the people that matter to me."

And then it's time for a final left-handed shake, before Craig heads off on another assignment with a member of the press.

But James Bond will return in 2010 - and it looks like some old Bond favourites might be joining him too.

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‘Fireproof’ Earns Twice As Much As ‘Religulous’

by Vic Holtreman

Fireproof vs Religulous

I went and saw Fireproof this weekend, the low budget Christian film starring Kirk Cameron. It cost all of $500,000 to produce thanks to tons of volunteer efforts and community donations. As far as I know Cameron refused a paycheck for appearing in the film.

It was written, produced and directed by Alex Kendrick, whose previous two films Facing the Giants and Flywheel (neither which I’ve seen) are both also Christian-centric films.

I haven’t seen Bill Maher’s Religulous, and honestly, have no desire to do so - at least for a few months. All this electioneering has my blood pressure spiking already and I don’t need to see Maher’s smarmy approach to belittling religion to put me over the top. Maybe once the election dust has settled and it’s no longer saturating the web I’ll feel up to it.

Expectedly, Religulous has been getting much better reviews than Fireproof. I can’t say I’m surprised due to a number of reasons - I’m sure the production values on Maher’s film are far higher than on Kendrick’s, and the Fireproof cast was populated by members of the local church… no professional actors outside of Kirk Cameron. And of course the subject matter and message of the film doomed it to critical panning overall, regardless - although I was surprised to see at least moderate recommendations from a couple of critics at the NY Times and Variety which looked past the obvious at the emotional impact of the film.

Bill Maher conducts an interview in Religulous
Bill Maher conducts an interview in Religulous

What I found to be completely unexpected is the fact that Fireproof has earned twice as much at the box office as Religulous.

Both opening weekend box office numbers and total to date are as close to two-to-one as you can get. On their respective opening weekends (one week apart), the barely advertised Fireproof earned $6.8 million while the highly advertised Religulous earned only $3.4 million. As of the date of this post the numbers are $23.6MM vs $10.6MM.

And let’s not even get into the profit margin side of things. Fireproof had an ROI of $46 for every dollar spent while Religulous earned $4 for every dollar (probably less, if marketing is considered).

Granted, Fireproof opened on 60% more screens, but over ensuing weekends its numbers have dropped by a far lower margin due to word of mouth than Religulous.

A friend of mine who runs a movie news site asked (incredulously) how in the heck a movie like Fireproof could have a $6 million opening weekend. I would add to that how the heck did it manage to trounce Bill Maher’s anti-religion movie?

Sure, I’ve heard the “call to action” reasoning - churches exhorting their members to go out and see the film and support it. I can tell you that I heard no such announcement or mention at the church I attend. I didn’t even know about it until after it had already opened. Of course I’m not saying that didn’t happen, just that it didn’t happen at my church.

Kirk Cameron rescues a child in Fireproof
Kirk Cameron rescues a child in Fireproof

What I do find interesting is that the movie has held up so well - this must be attributed to good word of mouth. Believe me when I tell you I was not looking forward to watching it, but my wife and I and another couple made a day of it, driving up to Park City. I was expecting a cheesy movie along the lines of the Left Behind movies - and while the acting was far from great (with a few surprising exceptions), I found the film to be much better put together than I expected.

And personally, I found it extremely moving and that surprised me big time.

Now if someone shows up to see this film who is a hard core athiest or an anti-religion/anti-Christian person, they’re going to hate it and its heavy slathering of “the message” starting at about the half way point. However for those who can set that aside, you’ll find a very emotionally intense film about the attempt of an estranged husband trying desperately to keep his marriage together.

I cannot speak to the content of Religulous - I’m sure it was quite enjoyable for fans of Bill Maher. But I’ll tell you what’s fascinating about all this to me… I spend a LOT of time online, and it gives one a skewed view of the population. I would say that people who don’t believe in God and are vocal about it probably outnumber believers by at least 5 to 1 online. There’s nothing scientific about that number, it’s just my impression from blogs and social networking sites that I frequent.

I say it’s skewed, because if that translated to “the real world” Religulous should have beat the crap out of Fireproof at the box office. By a very wide margin - especially considering TV commercials, trailers, etc.

But that didn’t happen.

I know that spending a lot of time online can cause us to think that this little “bubble” represents everyone out there, so maybe we should step back once and a while and remember that it doesn’t.

To some that will be disconcerting (and they’ll no doubt deny it), but to others it’s a comforting thought.

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