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Movies, TV and Comic Books

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    With two financially successful instalments already under its belt, Lionsgate is looking to wheel out its collection of aging stars for another explosive action ensemble, with development already well underway on The Expendables 3. Earlier this year, producer Avi Learner revealed that Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Nicolas Cage were on the wishlist to join the Expendables' roster for the third outing, and while none of those are yet to commit, Chinese action icon Jackie Chan has become the first new addition to confirm his involvement with the threequel.

    "[Sylvester Stallone] had invited me to be in The Expendables 2 but I was too busy filming CZ12 and couldn't make a commitment to the film," said Chan during a press conference for his latest film CZ12 in Kuala Lumpur. "But he did extend his invitation to the third movie, which I agreed on the condition that I will be appearing as more than just a minor role with a few scenes."

    According to Cinema Online, Chan went on to state that he'd "revealed to Stallone that he hoped the third installment of the franchise would run along the lines of a 'buddy-buddy' movie should Chan be starring in it, which the Rambo star obliged." Considering the selling point of The Expendables is its collection of star names, you have to wonder about the accuracy of this last statement. I have a sneaky feeling Jackie will be a little disappointed if that's what he's expecting, so let's hope he forgets about his 'buddy-buddy' ambitions and we get to see him lining up alongside Barney Ross and the rest of the gang when the The Expendables 3 hits cinemas in 2014.

    Be sure to check out Cinema Online's full article, in which Chan discusses the possibility of converting the Hollywood buddy movie Skip Tracer into Rush Hour 4 (sure loves his buddy movies), as well as a few comments about Police Story 2013 and the autobiographical musical I Am Jackie Chan.

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    Jack Black’s (School of Rock) Electric Dynamite and Shine America have started production of Ghost Ghirls, a new web comedy series. According to Deadline the show centers on two young female ghost investigators who try to solve various paranormal mysteries whilst at the same time attempting to convince their clients that paranormal activity really exists and they are the real deal.

    The show was originally developed for TV and will be a spoof of paranormal shows such as Medium and Ghost Whisperer. It will be directed by Jeremy Konner (Funny or Die’s Drunk History) with Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci (improv show BEANS) starring as the two female ghostbusters. Jack Black, Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street), Molly Shannon (The Five-Year Engagement) and Jason Schwartzman (I Heart Huckabees) are all set to make cameo appearances.

    “Ghost Ghirls is the funniest idea for a TV show that we’ve seen since I’ve been in the business,” says Jack Black. “Jeremy Konner is an electrifying director, and Amanda and Maria are dynamite comedic talents.”

    Ghost Ghirls is set to debut in 2013 on Yahoo Screen.

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    Robert Downy Jr. has spoken out about his love for Iron Man 3 director Shane Black at the 24 hour Cinefamily Telethon a few days ago and even spoke about how he was influential on the first Iron Man movie...

    "I adore him,” Downey Jr. said of the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director, “ I’ve been a fan of Shane Black since I saw Lethal Weapon. When we were doing the first Iron Man, Jon Favreau and I used to call up Shane Black. We had two lifeline calls; one was to J.J. Abrams, which was about the third act. And for the other call, we went to Shane’s house. We couldn’t afford him, so in exchange for helping us with a few key scenes, he asked for a piece of Salmon and fresh blueberries… in the Iron Man scene where Tony Stark comes back from captivity and calls a press conference, and then asked everybody to sit down, the speech Stark gives all came from Shane Black. So to get him to do Iron Man 3, it has just been this awesome experience and one of my favourite working experiences.” He continues by saying that “Iron Man 3 is going to be a very, very bold genre film, from the storytelling.”

    He also talks about Jon Favreau returning as Happy Hogan despite not having the creative control as director and gives us a glimpse in to what we can expect, “Happy has an amazing arc in this movie. In fact, probably the best two bits of acting in the movie, so far from what I can tell... which sucks because I’m in every frame, are Favreau as Happy Hogan... I can’t give away much, but it’s ridiculous.”

    But who is the second? Perhaps unsurprisingly given the news that Downey Jr. gave him a standing ovation when he filmed his last scene, it’s Sir Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. “Kingsley is amazing. And a lot of that had to do with the way that Shane crafted the role for Sir Ben. I think that people are gonna be not totally surprised, but they’re gonna be just reinvested in what a brilliant actor Kingsley is.”

    Just in case he hadn’t hyped the movie or its components enough, Downey Jr. lastly added that “Shane Black really knows the superhero genre, but I think the main thing that’s great about him is that he’s always looking at complexities within complexities and so on. And he always likes it when a film kinda stops for a reason you can’t understand and then kinda picks up and goes in a direction you’ve never imagined.”

    Are you as excited to see Iron Man 3 as much as Downey Jr. is?

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    Warner Home Video is set to release the concluding chapter of its animated adaptation of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns next month [if you've not seen the first part yet, then seek it out immediately], and thanks to an official press release we now have a full synopsis, as well as a rundown of the special features set to accompany the Blu-ray:

    With Gotham City back under his watchful eye, and accompanied by able sidekick Robin, Batman continues to battle crime – but his resurgence awakens a far worse evil at Arkham Asylum: The Joker. In the meantime, Superman has been dispatched by the President to halt Batman’s unsanctioned reign by whatever means necessary. Between the Joker’s diabolical scheme to drag Batman to the darkest levels of insanity, and the Man of Steel’s seemingly invincible physical presence, the Dark Knight must confront adversaries and allies simultaneously while maintaining the peace in Gotham City.

    Primetime television stars Michael Emerson (Person of Interest, Lost) and Mark Valley (Human Target, Fringe) join the voice cast as The Joker and Superman, respectively; and popular talk show host Conan O’Brien gives voice to animated talk show host Dave Endochrine. Fanboy favorite Peter Weller (RoboCop, Dexter) continues as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and he is once again accompanied by David Selby (The Social Network, Dark Shadows) as Commissioner Gordon, Ariel Winter (Modern Family) as Carrie/Robin, and Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap) as Dr. Bartholomew Wolper. Also featured in the voice cast is Maria Canals-Barrrera (Wizards of Waverly Place) as new Commissioner Yindel, Paget Brewster (Criminal Minds) as Lana Lang, and Radio Hall of Fame member Michael Jackson as Alfred.

    Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is directed by Jay Oliva (Man of Steel, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights) from a screenplay by Bob Goodman (Warehouse 13). Sam Register (Young Justice, Teen Titans, Ben 10), Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League: Doom), Michael Uslan (The Dark Knight Rises) and Benjamin Melnicker (The Dark Knight Rises) are executive producers.

    Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Blu-ray™ Combo Pack has more than 2 hours of exciting content, including: 

    •Standard and high definition versions of the feature film
    •Sneak Peek at Superman: Unbound, the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie
    •Featurette – “The Joker: Laughing in the Face of Death” – An all-new featurette. A fitting tribute to the Joker, giving perspective as to why this engrossing character is the true arch nemesis of Batman.
    •Documentary – “Superman vs. Batman: When Heroes Collide” – An all-new documentary. Batman and Superman have a long history of friendship and conflict. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns brought an end to that conflict. This is the story behind that battle.
    •Featurette – “From Sketch to Screen” – An all-new featurette. Director Jay Oliva gives a fascinating animatic breakdown of five of his favorite moments from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
    •Look Back – Sneak Peek at Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1
    •Two bonus episodes from Batman: The Animated Series (“The Last Laugh” and “The Man Who Killed Batman”) and an episode from The New Batman Adventures (“Legends of the Dark Knight”), all handpicked by producer Alan Burnett.
    •Digital Comic – Excerpt from the graphic novel The Dark Knight Falls by Frank Miller.

    Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 is set for a Blu-ray and DVD release in North America on January 29th, 2013.

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    Luke Owen reviews the fourth episode of Peep Show series eight...

    I’m beginning to run out of things to say about this series of Peep Show. After last week’s almost-good episode we’re met this week with another sort-of-good-but-not-really good episode. The first half was lousy but the second half almost saved it. However ultimately episode 4 was still nothing more than an average episode.

    This week saw Dobby trying to encourage Mark to go travelling with her while Jez tries to fight off his feelings for her. Mark on the other hand couldn't think of anything worse that “being strapped to a backpack” and being “unable to take a peaceful poo” and decides that it’s time to get his MBA on an 18-month course. There he meets Stephanie, an older woman who shares a lot of his business and life ideals – could she be the woman he needs? Is she better for him than Dobby?

    As I said, the first half of the episode is incredibly slow, short on laughs and low on plot progression. It just stumbles from scene to scene with nothing really happening aside from Mark buying a cat in an attempt to lore Dobby into finally moving in (however he buys the wrong type of cat). While it sounds like I’m being really harsh on the first half, I did actually find a bit of humour in Super Hans trying to date woman by advertising specific things on Freecycle to find his perfect match (she has to take the ballet shoes and the speed). It could have had a lot of added a lot of comedic value but it was sort of forgotten about only to be dragged back for one final gag which didn't even include Hans.

    As the adverts rolled I found myself in a disillusioned position. I've been watching this series that I used to love for the last four weeks and all it’s done is raise a few chuckles from me. I remember saying back in my first review that the series ran its course a long time ago and should have been killed off. Now it just feels like it’s on life support with me at its bedside wondering if I’ll ever see the show I used to adore.

    Thankfully, the second half of the episode kicked in and everything became a little better (the key word there is “little”). Mark’s relationship with Stephanie so to speak moved forward to the point where it looked like he was going to cheat on Dobby – with Jez in the background cheering him on. It was a nice character dynamic that we've not seen from Jez in quite some time – the man who doesn't really care about other people’s feelings so long as he gets what he wants. What makes it funnier is that he’s so nonchalant about the whole thing. However it wasn't all roses as the sub-plot of Jeremy helping Mad Alan didn't go to plan as he ends up punching him repeatedly in an attempt to make him better. This series long plot thread is already growing stale to the point where they've used the same “I printed your certificate” line two shows in a row.

    Once again,Peep Show produces yet another substandard episode. Parts of it were sort-of-funny, lots of it was sort-of-boring. Nothing really moved forward and nothing was really accomplished. Not to go back to my life support analogy, but I’d really like to sign that waiver so they can turn off the plug...

    Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.

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    Trevor Hogg chats with Ramez Naam about the evolution of technology and his debut novel Nexus which arrives on North American bookshelves today...

    “I can’t remember ever not being fascinated by technology!” states Ramez Naam when recalling his childhood.  “I started learning to program when I was maybe 8 years old, on an antiquated Commodore Vic 20.  It has 20 kilobytes of memory.  But it was a tool you could do almost anything with.  I was hooked from that moment on.  For 13 years, the computer scientist and entrepreneur worked for Microsoft helping to develop Outlook, Internet Explorer and the Bing search engine, and also served as the CEO for Apex Nanotechnologies.   “Ultimately, it’s about the intersection of what’s possible and what customers – real people – actually want.  Technology develops that way, following a path formed by those two forces interacting.  People might want immortality and teleportation, but there’s no technical way we know of to accomplish that.  On the other hand, there may be something technology makes totally possible – cloning, let’s say – but that there just isn’t that much demand for.  You have to have both.”   War has often served as an instigator in advancing technology such as with development of radar.  “It’s a motivator.  We have tremendous innovative powers, but they’re fairly diffuse and unfocused most of the time.  When there’s a clear need or opportunity that tends to direct a lot more innovative energy in a certain direction, with often dramatic results.”  There is no way to avoid revolutionary inventions becoming militarized.   “The vast majority of new technological breakthroughs come from the civilian realm such as the iPhone and gene therapies.   The military sees the advantage in employing any technology that can help it solve its problems. Things have always been that way.  Trains were developed in the civilian realm, but of course they made a huge difference in moving groups around in WWI.”  Contemplating the idea of humans replicating themselves, Naam believes,   “I’m not sure most people would go that far.  That said, the portrayal of cloning in popular media is often pretty far off from reality.  A clone isn’t going to have your memories or personality – though they often do in fiction.  Cloning is creating a sibling, and nothing more.”

    Balancing the need to be authentic and entertaining has evolved over time.  “Decades ago, some science fiction was a very thin veneer of story over some bigger speculation,” observes Ramez Naam.  “Back then, the idea of these future changes was exciting enough it brought tremendous excitement.  But the world has changed.  We live with technological marvels all the time, and we have a huge array of reading choices.  So modern science fiction has to, first and foremost, tell a story that sucks readers in.   For me, it’s also vital that I have a high degree of scientific accuracy.  It’s true that it can be a challenge balancing that with story; however, on the other hand, the constraints of scientific accuracy can also improve a story, by adding challenges or conflicts, or by adding the sort of downsides and side effects that add plausibility and believability to a story.”  Naam has been creatively influence by cinema and literature.  “I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek, and reading science fiction; it’s always been a part of my life.  A lot of great writers have left a lasting impression on me such as Dan Simmons with Hyperion, Ian Banks with his culture books, Kim Stanley Robinson with the Mars books, Greg Egan with a large chunk of his science fiction, John Barnes with Mother of Storms and his books in the Kaleidoscope Century and Million Open Doors series, and Alastair Reynolds with Revelation Space and the books that followed it.”

    Branching out on his own as an author resulted in him being awarded the H.G. Wells Award for More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement; the book explores the possibilities of genetic engineering in providing cures and enhancing the abilities of healthy human beings.  “I had much of the science down from my research for More Than Human,” states Ramez Naam who has completed his first novel.   “Writing Nexus was a tremendous amount of fun.  On a good day, the pleasure of watching a story unfold in front of your eyes is tremendous.” Published by Angry Robot Books, the science fiction thriller revolves around a drug which amplifies human abilities and gives its users telepathic powers.  “It started out as a short story, actually, and then it did evolve quite a bit.  Throughout, my rules were that it had to be a compelling read that was hard to put down, that it had to say something interesting about technology, and the present day.  Hopefully I succeeded.”  The biggest challenge was in depicting individuals whose motives are not clearly defined as being right or wrong.  “I don’t really find most villains believable.  Most people don’t think of themselves as bad guys and aren’t out to take over the world.  People act from convictions that they think are moral; it was important to me to take that approach in Nexus.  I wanted every character to have good reasons for what they were doing; that meant adding some scenes to flesh out some of the characters who the reader is most likely to see as villains.  What I’m hearing from readers is that it worked – that the book does a good job painting a picture of many people, all trying to do what they think is right regarding this incredibly powerful new technology, and coming into conflict with each other over that.”

    Documentation such as dictionary definitions and interview transcripts are inserted between the chapters.  “I love rich worlds,” remarks Ramez Naam.  “Frank Herbert used the technique of having excerpts from documents about the world in Dune. I loved that, and did a tiny bit of it myself.”  Integrating the exposition involved a unique approach.  “In the book there’s definitely a clash of philosophies, and I wanted to show that to the reader. It’s tough to do without a lot of clunky exposition, so I turned to really embedding that philosophy in the life histories of some of the characters – how they came to believe what they believe – and using that history to reveal the ideas to the reader.”  Making the protagonist likeable to the readership resulted in Kaden Lane being introduced while experiencing a sexual misadventure.  “It definitely sets him up as an underdog from the beginning!”  To make the interaction between the human brain and the computer drug which serves as the title of the publication believable, Naam turned to his computer science background.  “Absolutely, I tried to make it as true to reality as possible.”  A major technological advancement portrayed in Nexus is the ability for people to project their thoughts to each other as if their minds are part of a wireless communication network.  “We can certainly get there over time.   We’ve demonstrated in humans that we can send sound and vision direction into the human brain, and that we can get it out as well.  The question is really increasing the fidelity and reducing the risk and trauma of getting a technology into the brain.  Those problems aren’t going to be solved overnight. They’re going to take decades.  But we have strong motivations in being able to assist the paralyzed, the deaf, the blind, and those with other traumatic brain injuries.  Yes, one day, we’ll get there.”

    A cinematic writing style was adopted for Nexus.  “I think in visual scenes; that’s how I imagine the book in my head before writing it down,” reveals Ramez Naam.  “There are many parts which would translate well to the screen, from the opening scenes in the underground parties of San Francisco to the weird illegal biotech markets of Bangkok to the final battle in the remote Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Thailand.  We’ve had some interest from film producers, so maybe one day we’ll see it translated to the screen.” As for movies that he can watch over and over again, Naam says, “Miller’s Crossing [1990] by the Coen Brothers – just a very smart and quirky, and an incredible character story.  The original Matrix [1999] film was groundbreaking.   Inception [2010] was really well done.”  A second novel is set to be published in 2013.  “The book is a sequel to Nexus and its titled Crux.  The big difference is that I was more confident while writing it, and so I was willing to take on a more complex plot, and do some things I wasn’t able to in Nexus.”

    Many thanks to Ramez Naam for taking the time for this interview and be sure to read our book review of Nexus.

    Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.

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    Speaking to MTV at a press junket for his forthcoming Spaghetti Western homage Django Unchained, acclaimed filmmaker Quentin Tarantino has revealed that early in his career he planned to make a superhero film and toyed with the idea of bringing Marvel's Luke Cage to the screen:

    "After Reservoir Dogs, I had considered doing a Luke Cage: Hero for Hire movie. [Producer] Ed Pressman owned the rights at that time, and we talked about it. I talked to Larry Fish [Laurence Fishburne] about being Luke Cage, and he really liked that idea. Then I ended up writing Pulp Fiction."

    Luke Cage wouldn't be Tarantino's only brush with a superhero movie - prior to directing Inglourious Basterds, the director was offered Green Lantern by Warner Bros., with the adaptation subsequently falling to Casino Royale helmer Martin Campbell after Tarantino passed on the project.

    But would he ever be tempted to get behind the camera to direct a comic book adaptation? It looks unlikely, with Tarantino going on to state: "My feeling is if I wanted to do something like that, I'd want to create the superhero myself."

    Tarantino's latest film Django Unchained is set for a North American release on Christmas Day, with a cast that's led by new Spider-Man villain Jamie Foxx (Ray), alongside the likes of Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception), Kerry Washington (Fantastic Four) and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers).

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    While on the press junket for Django Unchained, Jamie Foxx (Ray) spoke about his role as Electro in Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the infamous green and yellow costume.

    "It won’t be green and yellow. It will be a different colour" he said during an interview with Blackfilm. "[The producers] want something for the future. They want to have it more grounded and not as comic bookie, so it won’t be green and yellow. They want to try new things, like liquid rubber and things like that, and there are all these bolts and stuff in my arms when they are hanging me upside down and trying to figure out what happen. How did he become this way? So, it will be some new stuff." He also added in an interview with MTV that "Marc Webb and all those guys who are doing it are smart... they know that it has to make sense in 2013 so the suit is really slick. It's not green. It's actually black".

    Sounds as though the producers are looking towards the "Ultimate" version of Electro.

    He also gave some insights into the character's backstory (and also calls the character 'Matt' Dillon rather than 'Max' Dillon): "What you'll see is that, for his whole life, no one is talking to him [and] people have stolen his ideas at the big company. He's a nobody. At a certain point, Spider-Man bumps into him and says, 'you're my guy. You're my ears and eyes on the street.' Then he says his name, Matt and no one has ever said Matt Dillon's name. He goes, 'Wow' and, when Spider-Man leaves, he sort of thinks that, "I am Spider-Man's partner!" He's cutting out Spider-Man's face and pasting it on all his boards... Everything goes bad with his mom. She doesn't remember his birthday. He has something tragic happen and, when it turns on, he lights it up."

    Aside from the possible character name botch, Foxx sounds very into the character and is very praising of the films script penned by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Star Trek), "In the script, this villain is the first time it’s been written well. Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb both commented on how great the script is, so it should be an exciting time."

    The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is set for a May 2nd 2014 release and will also feature Emma Stone (Easy A),  Shailene Woodley (The Decendants), Sally Field (Forrest Gump), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) and Martin Sheen (The West Wing) and will be directed by Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man).

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    Vin Diesel (Fast and Furious) is set to develop a love for lollipops as he is gearing up to step into the shoes of Kojak, the lollipop loving NYPD detective in a big screen remake of the hit 70s crime TV show. According to Deadline, Skyfall screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have been drafted in to write to screenplay. Kojak is based on the hit TV show which ran from 1973-78 and starred Telly Savalas as Theo Kojak, who was infamous for his love of lollipops and the catchphrase, "Who loves ya baby?"

    This isn’t the first time that Kojak has received a makeover, with Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible) starring as the tough talking, bald headed crime fighter in a short lived television reboot in 2005 which only lasted a single season. Riding high from the success of Skyfall, Purvis and Wade will be tasked with updating the classic 70s show for a modern audience. With three other Bond films under their belt in Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, it seems Kojak will be in very capable hands.

    Diesel is set to double down by not only starring but also producing the big screen adaptation alongside Samantha Vincent (Riddick) for their Universal based One Race Films.

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    Having already announced that Jason Segel won't be returning for the sequel to his Muppets reboot, The Hollywood Reporter are claiming that Walt Disney Pictures may have found their human lead in the shape of The Office star Ricky Gervais.

    If true, Gervais will join Ty Burrell (Modern Family) who was confirmed recently to feature as a "lazy Interpol agent". While it's unconfirmed that Gervais will also come on as an agent, it is likely that he'll fill in the lead role that was taken by Jason Segel took in the 2011 movie. Gervais did actually film a cameo scene for The Muppets which was cut due to time constraints.

    While Segel isn't returning, director James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords) and Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek) will return for the untitled sequel. In a recent interview with ComingSoon, Stoller said that, "we kind of felt like we completed Gary's story in the first one and he's mostly interested in writing stuff for him to be in, which makes sense, right? He didn't want to go on and write the next one. I was like, 'Do you care if I do it with James?' He's like, 'Of course not.'"

    As of yet, none of the other human actors from the first movie have been confirmed but we can assume that Muppet performers Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Eric Jacobson and Bill Barretta will return. The movie is apparently set to be filmed in Europe and no release date as been announced.

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    With the news of Rupert Wyatt leaving the production of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Cloverfield director Matt Reeves stepping in, James Franco has recently told MTV that he might be joining Wyatt by not being in the sequel...

    "I was going to be a small part of the next one," the 127 Hours star said. "There was a moment when Rupert Wyatt was going to direct the second one. A lot of the human characters that were in the first movie were dead in the sequel that Rupert was going to direct. But there was one scene, between Caesar and my character, maybe even just like on a video that was left behind, but then a lot of things happened, like (former Fox co-chairman) Tom Rothman who was a big part of the first movie, left. Now Rupert's not a part of it so I don't know. My guess is I won't be in it. Nobody's talked to me since Rupert left."

    Some interesting possible plot details for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in there too. Initial reports from Wyatt was that his planned sequel was 'Full Metal Jacket with apes' but there has been no word yet on whether Matt Reeves will follow suit. The movie is set for release on May 23rd 2014 and will be released by 20th Century Fox.

    Do you think Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will miss Franco's presence?

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    Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) has been offered the female lead in Animal Rescue, an adaptation scripted by Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone author Dennis Lehane from his own short story, published in the crime anthology Boston Noir.Rapace could be joining Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) in the film, as he is in final talks with Fox Searchlight.

    Animal Rescue, which will be directed by Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead), focuses on a man who gets mixed up in a heist and a killing resulting from a lost and contested pit bull.The movie has relocated the action from Boston to New York and is due to start shooting there in March

    This will be Hardy's next project as Mad Max: Fury Road, which he stars in alongside Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult, has just wrapped. He also has a Splinter Cell movie on the horizon. Rapace can next be seen in Brian De Palma's Passion with Rachel McAdams, and Dead Man Down alongside Colin Farrell and Dominic Cooper.

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    UK box office top ten and analysis for the weekend of Friday 14th - Sunday 16th December 2012...

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was always going to comfortably top the UK box office chart in its opening weekend. The only real question was, just how big of an opening would Peter Jackson's latest Middle-earth adventure enjoy? The answer... big, but not that big, with its £11,601,538 certainly impressive, but only enough to claim the fifth-best opening of the year behind Skyfall (£20.2m), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (£15.9m), The Avengers (£15.8m) and The Dark Knight Rises (£14.36m) (and out of those, only Earth's Mightiest Heroes enjoyed the benefit of an extra day of preview screenings). Meanwhile, of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, only The Fellowship of the Ring earned less on its opening weekend, pulling in £11m across five days back in 2001; when you factor in 3D surcharges and inflation, it seems that The Hobbit hasn't yet managed to stir up the same kind of excitement as Jackson's first Tolkien trilogy.

    Moving on and the arrival of The Hobbit knocked festive animation Rise of the Guardians down into second place, but there was plenty of Christmas cheer for the British holiday ensemble comedy Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!, which enjoyed a hefty 97% hold in its fourth weekend to climb two spaces to third. The UK's highest-grossing movie of all-time Skyfall slipped two spots to fourth but still looks able to mount a challenge for the £100m mark, while Disney animation Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings opened in fifth with £528,820. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 slipped out of the top half of the chart in its fifth weekend to finish up in sixth place, where it was followed by Seven Psychopaths, Silver Linings Playbook, Argoand Great Expectations.

    Number one this time last year: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

    1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, £11,601,538 weekend (New)
    2. Rise of the Guardians, £1,250,469 weekend; £5,713,662 total (3 weeks)
    3. Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!, £938,309 weekend; £5,582,224 total (4 weeks)
    4. Skyfall, £809,406 weekend; £97,897,404 total (8 weeks)
    5. Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings, £528,820 weekend (New)
    6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, £509,872 weekend; £34,420,072 total (5 weeks)
    7. Seven Psychopaths, £452,293 weekend; £2,133,948 total (2 weeks)
    8. Silver Linings Playbook, £231,714 weekend; £4,104,632 total (4 weeks)
    9. Argo, £108,384 weekend; £5,153,262 total (6 weeks)
    10. Great Expectations, £100,137 weekend; £1,730,925 total (3 weeks)


    The Hobbit's dominance of the UK box office chart will be tested this Thursday by the arrival another book adaptation in Ang Lee's Life of Pi (cert. PG) [read our review here], although even with an extra day of preview screenings the film will surely have its work cut out to displace Peter Jackson's fantasy epic at the top of the chart. Meanwhile Friday sees the arrival of the musical comedy Pitch Perfect (cert. 12A), while Boxing Day brings us Tom Cruise's latest actioner Jack Reacher (cert. 12A), along with the acclaimed indie offering Safety Not Guaranteed (cert. TBC) and the Billy Crystal / Bette Midler comedy Parental Guidance (cert. U).

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    As HBO's Game of Thrones turns its attention to (the first half) of George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords - the third book in his A Song of Ice and Fire saga - Entertainment Weekly has revealed that the hit fantasy series is set to go 'super-sized' for its forthcoming season.

    According to showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, season three will still consist of ten episodes, although they'll be increased in length by several minutes apiece, while the finale is expected to run over an hour - a move that requires special dispensation from the network.

    "There’s almost another full episode’s worth of extra minutes spread across the season," says Weiss. "One of the great liberties with HBO is we’re not forced to come in at a specific time. We can’t be under 50 minutes or over 60, but that gives us a lot of flexibility... So for people clamoring for another episode, it’s in there, it’s just been cut into tiny pieces." Benioff goes on to add: "A super-sized season, as befitting Storm of Swords. Last year we had a lot of 52-minute episodes. This year is a lot of 56, 57."

    Game of Thrones is set to return on March 31st, 2013, while season two is released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 19th in North America and March 4th in the UK.

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    Hope Springs, 2012.

    Directed by David Frankel.
    Starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue, Jean Smart, Ben Rappaport, Marin Ireland and Mimi Rogers.


    After thirty years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counseling session to work on their relationship.

    It's not often we get a grown up romantic comedy, but after seeing Hope Springs I think maybe we should start seeing more of them. Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for quite some time but over the last decade or so they have sadly grown apart. They have the same routine everyday, they barely talk or make eye contact and they even sleep in separate rooms. After so much of this Kay is fed up and wants to get their relationship back to how it should be. She sets up a week long couples counseling session in Maine with Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), who is well known for helping married couples. Once they arrive Kay is ready and willing to try anything to get their marriage back in order but Arnold thinks this isn't worth the time or money making their trip all the more difficult.

    Hope Springs doesn't have the best of stories, but thankfully the performances from all three of the main actors are enough to carry the entire movie. Streep and Jones feel like a real couple and you really want them to get their marriage back together. Throughout the entire movie we get explore the humor and emotions of an older couple's marital problems and I honestly don't think it would have been half as good if Streep and Jones weren't the stars. Steve Carell also does a great job in his role. Again we see another more restrained performance from him and that really seems to work out well for him.

    Aside from the performances there isn't much else here to rave about. For some reason the movie has a soundtrack that doesn't suit it at all. There are times when songs play over scenes and they feel either like they shouldn't be in that particular scene or it shouldn't be there at all. The pacing was another thing I had a problem with - it just seemed to move to slowly at times, and the movie only lasts just over an hour and a half. Early on there's some humor here and there but there comes a point where that fades out, making this one of the more decent-but-not-particularly-funny romantic comedies.

    Hope Springs has great performances from Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell that lift the movie above average. Aside from the performances, however, everything else is just average.

    Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

    Jake Peffer

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    Trevor Hogg chats with Jack Fisk, who was born 67 years ago today, about the craft of production design, and his collaborations with Terrence Malick, David Lynch, and Paul Thomas Anderson...

    “My mother was artistic in a time that didn’t encourage women to take on a career of their own so she always had me enrolled in art classes where ever we were living,” recalls Jack Fisk when reflecting upon his childhood.  “My wife [Sissy Spacek] is an actor/filmmaker, our daughter Schuyler is a singer/songwriter and our daughter Madison is a painter and an art director.”  The native of Canton, Illinois became enthralled with cinema while pursuing a different artistic endeavour   “When I was studying painting at Cooper Union I went into an empty theatre and watched the Red Desert [1964], Antonioni’s first colour film, and was so excited by it I sat through it two times. Even though I loved the film I did not think about film as something that I would want to do. It never seemed an option. Other films that impressed me during art school were those by Bergman, Jules and Jim [1962], The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari [1920], Woman in the Dunes [1964] and Lawrence of Arabia [1962]. I also was excited in those days by the Bond movies.  The cinematic moment that left a lasting impression on me was the first time I saw Eraserhead [1977] at a midnight screening in the Nuart Theater and heard the audience reciting lines from the film. David [Lynch] had worked hard on the film for more than five years and had translated his art into a feature film which had found an audience.”

    “It seems that it was completely by accident that I became a production designer, but now after 40 years in film I see how everything I learned and experienced before working in film has helped me be a better film designer,” says Jack Fisk.  “I moved to Los Angeles with David Lynch who came to attend the first classes at the American Film Institute.  Having seen an impressive show of James Rosenquist’s paintings at the Met in New York, I was looking for work as a billboard painter.  There were no jobs available painting billboards, but I learned of a small biker film hiring assistants and signed on to that for $100 a week. I remember on my first day I was holding traffic on Topanga Blvd about a quarter of a mile from filming.   I became curious about filmmaking and met a network of young people working on non-union films around Hollywood; that’s how I first started working on films.  On each film following I worked to get closer to the action and began working in what became the Art Department.  At that time there were few film schools, however, we worked for Roger and Gene Corman and learned a lot about making films.”

    “Becoming successful in any profession is a combination of drive [passion], perseverance, and luck,” remarks Jack Fisk.  “For production design it also helps if you have knowledge of colours and proportions, can draw a plan and converse easily with people.”  When asked for his definition of great production design, the Academy Award-nominee responds, “This is a difficult question because I am still learning about production design.  I don’t watch a lot of films, but I believe great production design balances all the elements of a film together so that it is unified. If the sets, costumes, lighting, props, and action are in balance the film will have a pleasant feel to it and everything will seem right. This requires the constant attention of the production designer to be able to adjust or adjust to all of the elements and people contributing to a film. Working with talented and aware costume designers, decorators, and cinematographers makes this daunting task possible because they too are relating their contributions to the other elements of the film.   A successful film is the work of many.  There are many great designers working today but you can see a balance in the works of John Box [in the films he made with David Lean], Eve Stewart [especially liked her work in Vera Drake and The King’s Speech], Brigitte Broch [The Reader], Sara Greenwood [Sherlock Holmes], Dean Tavoularis [The Godfather I and II], Stuart Craig [The English Patient and the Harry Potter series], Lai Pan [Lust, Caution], and Arthur Max [Gladiator].”

    "A 1976 sketch of the Days of Heaven house; I made this on the airplane flying to Canada to begin construction."

    "The house under construction.  We only had four weeks to build and dress the Days of Heaven house and barns before shooting."  Photos by Janit Baldwin.

    "A summer snow while we were shooting Days of Heaven in Canada."
    “I search to find the challenges in each film I do,” reveals Fisk.  “As much as designing settings solving problems is an important part of the job of a production designer. Sometimes it’s the miniscule budget and sometime it is the scope of the film.  Each challenge has a solution and finding it is one of the fun parts of film design. I remember PTA [Paul Thomas Anderson] asking me how I was going to build the derrick in There Will Be Blood [2007] and me replying, ‘I have no idea.’  He seemed to like the honesty of my answer but I needed to figure it out. My solution was to build it real just like they would have in 1916. I found plans for an 1896 wooden derrick at the oil museum in Taft, California which I purchased for $3. I added a staircase and put it on the side of a hill, but it was the 1896 derrick.  When we finally found the location for Days of Heaven [1978], I learned that because the Hutterite farmers were going to harvest the wheat in 6 weeks I would only have four weeks to design, build and dress the house and buildings around it. We were too young to know it couldn’t be done!   We did it with some great carpenters, design shortcuts and a lot of luck.  I hired a lot of young Hutterite boys to work every Sunday after church to help in construction.  Other challenges that come to me are: the ships in The New World [2005], the airplanes and landing craft in The Thin Red Line [1998], the whole film Phantom of the Paradise [1974] was a challenge, and the fires in Badlands [1973] and Days of Heaven.  Building a village in Guadalcanal with native women was a fun challenge; they are hard workers, but the men chewed betel nut and watched.”

    Fisk sketch of derrick.

    "This is a Sketchup model of the derrick we constructed for There Will Be Blood inspired by an 1896 derrick in Taft, Ca."

    "David Crank the art director on There Will Be Blood made this sketch of the derrick, the camp and the church."

    Fisk sketch of the Sunday Ranch.

    “I usually work closely with a director in the beginning to try and tune into the film they want to make,” states Jack Fisk who has frequently collaborated with Terrence Malick [To the Wonder], Paul Thomas Anderson and David Lynch.  I find that directors are hoping they can hand off the design of a film to someone they trust. They have so much on their plate that they will welcome your input.  After working on There Will Be Blood for about two months, Paul asked me one day, ‘Why are you picking all of the colours?’ I gave him a new Benjamin Moore paint swatch book and said, ‘Okay, you pick ’em.’ I watched him carry that colour book around for a few days.   When finally he came up and handed me back the swatch book, Paul said, ‘You pick ’em.’  When Paul called me to work on There Will Be Blood we started an interesting creative journey; his first design related comment on that film was, ‘Let’s not have any signs.’  I liked that idea; it fit well with my minimal approach and the design evolved from that. We didn’t look for easy solutions choosing to shoot in West Texas because it was so inhospitable and rough. We worked to keep it real but a stylized real eliminating all the clutter of the actual world. Paul shared his writing research so our sources for the visuals of the film were the same.  I am very familiar with David’s style as I have been around him since we shared a painting studio in high school. I work with David by designing in the ‘style of’ Lynch. It can be fun and refreshing to work in someone’s style, especially a style as unique as David’s.  Terry Malick and I have been working together for 40 years, since his first feature Badlands, and we have developed a style together. The minimal style first started because we had tight budgets and I started choosing dressing carefully because we could only afford a few things. This led me to an appreciation of painters like Edward Hopper who has a great economy to his images and to minimalist artists. Now, having worked with Terry so long we can communicate pretty well as we have many reference points in our history together.”

    "This is a tree house we built on Badlands in one day.  I built a lot of forts as a kid but this was the biggest!" Photo by Janit Baldwin.

    “It happened without me thinking about it, but it seems that my best collaborations have been with writer-directors,” observes Jack Fisk.  “The time they have lived with the project breeds a passion that I respect and it is a great help in designing a film. The writer and the director are one voice, and the fact that they created the script gives them license to alter or abandoned scenes easily. Decisions are made in half the time.” Life long friendships have been maintained.  “David [Lynch], I have known since 9th grade, and he is a complete original in a world of his own design – as much a painter and furniture maker as a filmmaker. I know that David cannot stop creating and if he is not making a film, he is painting, drawing, printmaking, making furniture, composing music, or writing. To work with David you need to embrace his style, but he is a kind and fun to be around.”  A break in the routine was to make a movie with Lynch which was grounded more in reality.  “It was fun to watch David take a real story like the one of Alvin Straight and make it his own. I think he was able to draw from his real life to find quirky original moments for Alvin and the film.  Working together on The Straight Story [1999] was fun as David would often paint and build on the sets; he loves to work.”

    For Terrence Malick, Jack Fisk has always been his production designer of choice.   “His films are made today with his select crew, which he describes as like a jazz band, or fingers of the same hand. Of course he is the only one with the music; we all contribute the best we can.”  As for what has led Malick to make three films in two years, the resident of Charlottesville, Virginia remarks, “Two things have propelled Terry into making so many films in the past few years. First he has found an enjoyable way, for him, to make films, with a crew that is in synch with his new methods. Secondly, I think Terry has ideas that he wants to put into film and doesn’t know how much time he will have to do it. He works constantly. I asked him why he didn’t take a day or week off once in a while and Terry answered, ‘I took fifteen years off.’” Fisk believes that To the Wonder [2012] was inspired by Malick’s marriage to a French woman which ended in divorce.  “Terry’s images could be his story points; they may seem abstract or impressionistic, but they resonate. I believe he works to transform his words into images, and I do not think there is any filmmaker that can assemble images for tone and feeling better than Terry.”

    "David Crank made this sketch of the hiring hall for The Master which we shot on Mare Island in San Francisco."

    Lingering shots like the adjoining jail cell sequence in The Master (2012) do not add any additional pressure in designing the cinematic environment.   “I like the sets to be complete as possible for the actors in the scene so they have it to work with but simple enough to be easily comprehended by the audience,” states Jack Fisk.  “It is a stylized reality that appears real, but most sets will stand up to scrutiny.”  The American production designer received an Oscar nomination for his previous effort with Paul Thomas Anderson.  “The strength of the design of There Will Be Blood is that every part of it was designed and constructed. We rented a 50,000 acre ranch in West Texas and created our world there. Paul and I would walk around dreaming and designing where we would put the church, the town, and the derrick.  It is easier to design everything and can make for a more cohesive film.”  In regards to the visual research he conducts, Fisk remarks, “I usually try to find photographs and writings of the subject and the time period when researching a film. Much like a detective I approach writing skeptically taking in account the human factor. I love to see period drawings, paintings, photographs and documentary films, if they exist.  I usually avoid looking at commercial films for research. I don’t want to be confused by other designers and directors take on a story. By the time we start building the sets I have a feeling for the time and place; I have left the research, and work on instinct and gut feelings.”

    “I prefer constructing sets on location rather than in a stage,” states Jack Fisk.  “I have found some great things in locations that I might not have thought of. I love the impact of people on a location and the sense of history, but generally I find locations too complex and confused, and spend most of my energy simplifying them.”  Fisk has a developed a reputation for being able to recreate period environments.  “I believe the key to making period environments believable is to live in them or imagine you do. Not to be too specific about the year and keep the colours natural to the time. While in art school I would spend my summers in upstate Vermont living with my dog ‘Five’ in a cabin with out electricity. My water came from a spring and I borrowed a neighbour’s horses to plow a small garden. To this day, I remember driving the horses down a tree lined dirt road to my place and thinking I was living in an earlier time. It felt familiar.  In working on a period film like The New World I read all the journals of the colonists and made decisions on which information I could trust and which I shouldn’t. I befriended Dr. Bill Kelso, the anthropologist who discovered the original Jamestown Fort in 1996; he shared with me all that he had learned about the settlers. I spent time in the environment and would imagine myself a worker in the colonist’s fort or the Indian village.  I approach settings like an actor approaches a character. You get to know the voice, the mannerisms and the life experiences of a character, and you can recreate them in any situation. I do the same with sets though I rely heavily on instinct, gut feelings and the generosity of the movie god.”

    Contemplating the future of production design, Jack Fisk remarks, “The immediate changes will probably be all digital films from first take to screen and they will be available in your home at the same time they are available in the theatres. Everything from exposure to the colour of walls can be altered in the computer.  Eventually sets will be put into digital libraries, and used over and over with modifications. There will be more complex 3D designing, but the sets and backgrounds will be constructed on the computer allowing films to be made anywhere. New software will make it easier to transfer conceptual ideas to computer imaging cutting down the workforce, the time, and the expense of creating digital settings. We will miss film, like musicians miss vinyl records, and painters miss oil paint. The older real film movies will be more treasured, talked about, and shown in museum like settings. Theatres will become event spaces serving food, drinks and other entertainment with the films.  The new type of films will reflect the world around them and be immediate in allowing many to express themselves thru the medium, for better or worse. Make a 70mm film while you can!”  Fisk has no intentions of leaving his craft though he has previously stepped behind the camera for both the small and big screen. “I enjoyed directing, but I am happy and having a good life as a film designer.  The more you know about directing, lighting, and cinematography the easier it is to design sets for films.  Your sets will come closer to addressing all the needs of the film.”  As for what has enabled him to have a career spanning four decades, the movie veteran observes, “I have survived in this industry because I am excited about working on films. I have worked for a long time, but with few directors. Luckily most of the directors have been wonderful filmmakers and keep making films.”

    Jack Fisk with Richard Gere while filming Days of Heaven.

    Many thanks to Jack Fisk for taking the time for this interview as well in providing sketches and photographs.

    Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.

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    After his blockbuster success this summer with Marvel's The Avengers, writer-director Joss Whedon is heading back to the small screen next year to develop a S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot for ABC, and Marvel's Head of Television Jeph Loeb has taken a moment to tease the forthcoming pilot, as well as revealing when fans might expect to see the TV show (assuming it gets picked up for a full season order).

    "We have a 'little' pilot for television that you might have heard about called Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. co-written, directed, and executive produced by none other than Joss Whedon," Loeb told Previews World. "Working with Joss, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jeffrey Bell on the show is a blast. And bringing in Clark Gregg to play Agent Phil Coulson - the best. Hopefully we will be on in the Fall of 2013 on ABC."

    Clark Gregg will be joined in the cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe) as Agent Melinda May, Elizabeth Henstridge (The Thompsons) as Agent Gemma Simmons, Iain De Caestecker (Coronation Street) as Agent Leo Fitz and Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln) as Agent Grant Ward. So far there's been no word as to whether Samuel L. Jackson's S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury will be making a guest appearance, but according to the man himself he's yet to discuss the possibility with Whedon:

    "I don't know [if I'll be in S.H.I.E.L.D.]," Jackson told MTV Splash Page. " I keep hearing about it, and I haven't talked to Joss about it. But in my mind, I would tend to think that he would, if nothing else, be like Charlie in Charlie's Angels. At least be the voice!" However, the actor did go on to confirm that he's set to feature in the 2014 sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier, stating that "It's a full-on role, from the original script that I read. It's a full on S.H.I.E.L.D. operation in Captain America. But I don't know - I'm meeting with [directors Anthony and Joe Russo] this week to see what happens."

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    Any superhero fans old enough to remember the early 1990s will no doubt have fond memories of Marvel's rather fantastic animated X-Men series - and of course, its outstanding opening sequence (which was made all the sweeter thanks to an insanely catchy theme tune).

    To coincide with the show's 20th anniversary, filmmaker Kyle Roberts of Reckless Abandonment Pictures has decided to recreate the opening of his favourite cartoon with action figures and stop motion animation. Consisting of 4000 individual pictures and over 60 background images from art director Nathan Pope, Roberts spent two months rotoscoping and animated all of the special effects, and the resulting video is certainly one of the best things you'll see today.

    Check it out here...

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    Gary Collinson presents an extract from his book Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen, detailing Warner Bros' attempts to develop a Justice League movie under director George Miller...

    Holy Franchise Batman

    After relaunching their two major superhero franchises with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, Warner Bros were busy developing sequels to both films – along with a proposed Wonder Woman feature from writer-director Joss Whedon – when the decision was made to take their stable of DC Comics characters down a similar path to that of rival publisher Marvel. Establishing their own independent film production division in 2005, Marvel Studios had announced plans to produce a slate of solo movies in Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, building towards their star-studded superhero cross-over The Avengers in 2012. Having enjoyed little success outside Batman and Superman with their DC properties, Warner Bros executives were drawn towards the prospect of using a superhero team-up as a platform to launch their lesser known characters, and with the Justice League of America they already possessed an ensemble more than capable of matching up to the Avengers.

    Tracing its origins back to the Bronze Age’s first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, the Justice League made their Silver Age debut in the comic book story ‘Justice League of America’ by Gardner Fox, published in The Brave and the Bold #28 (March 1960). Featuring an original line-up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter, Justice League of America quickly became one of DC’s biggest selling titles and its success went on to influence Marvel Comics, who introduced their own team of superheroes with the release of Fantastic Four #1, kick-starting a revival in fortunes for the comic book industry. A version of the Justice League first appeared on screen in the animated series The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure in the late 1960s, while the following decade saw the team serving as the inspiration for the long-running Saturday morning cartoon series Super Friends. The producers of Super Friends, Hanna-Barbera, would also develop a live-action incarnation of the cartoon in 1979 entitled Legends of the Superheroes, although rights issues prevented Superman and Wonder Woman from joining the roster for the two-part variety show special.

    In 1997 a live-action pilot was produced for a Justice League of America television series, which omitted Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman from its line-up and was ultimately rejected by the CBS network. The ensemble did arrive on the small screen four years later when Batman: The Animated Series co-creator Bruce W. Timm launched Justice League as the latest entry in the popular DC Animated Universe, and in January 2007 a version of the team appeared on Smallville in the sixth-season episode ‘Justice’. The following month, Warner Bros decided to move forward with their plans to bring the superheroes together for a cinematic adventure, hiring the screenwriting duo of Keiran and Michelle Mulroney to start work on a script for a Justice League feature.

    The announcement of a Justice League movie was met with a mixed response by the fan community, raising questions as to how the studio intended to incorporate the film alongside their current projects, specifically Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which was about to commence principal photography for release the following summer. Speculation increased in June when Variety reported that both Batman and Superman were present in the Mulroneys’ script, leaving fans wondering whether Christian Bale and Brandon Routh were set to bring their respective characters together on screen. However, Bale expressed his uneasiness over the project and by the time that George Miller (Mad Max) came on board as director in September, it seemed increasingly likely that another actor would don the cape and cowl for a new interpretation of the Caped Crusader.

    Following Miller’s arrival, reports emerged that Warner Bros were considering the possibility of producing Justice League using performance capture technology, an increasingly popular form of digital animation that had been pioneered by Robert Zemeckis’ ImageMovers studio on the likes of The Polar Express and Beowulf. Alleged script details soon leaked to the internet, suggesting that the Mulroneys’ script – entitled Justice League: Mortal– drew heavily from the comic book continuity, adopting a plot that centred around a spy satellite constructed by Batman in order to keep track of his fellow League members and provide him with details of their weaknesses. Falling into the hands of the corrupt businessman Maxwell Lord, the satellite would be used to turn Superman against his allies before a final showdown between the Justice League of America and Lord’s army of cyborgs. The script also tied into the continuity of Batman Begins and featured the inclusion Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, Talia, a character first introduced in the comic book story ‘Into the Den of the Death-Dealers!’ by Denny O’Neil, published in Detective Comics #411 (May 1971).

    Fast-tracking Justice League: Mortal through pre-production to avoid the impending Writers Guild of America strike, Warner Bros intended to commence principal photography in Australia in February 2008, hoping to fill a void in their schedule for the summer of 2009. In casting his team of superheroes, Miller auditioned over forty possible contenders, searching for actors that he felt could grow into their roles over a series of movies. While no deals were ever officially announced, several sources confirmed that Miller had found his lineup and details began to emerge as to who would fill out the roster of the Justice League in the $220m-budgeted production.

    Securing the role of the Dark Knight was Armie Hammer, an up-and-coming actor whose resumé included appearances in shows such as Arrested Development, Veronica Mars and Desperate Housewives, and he was to be joined by a cast that included D.J. Cotrona (Skin) as Clark Kent/Superman, Megan Gale (Stealth) as Princess Diana of Themyscira/Wonder Woman, Adam Brody (The O.C.) as Barry Allen/The Flash, Anton Yelchin (Hearts in Atlantis) as Wally West/The Flash, Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max) as J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter, Santiago Cabrera (Heroes) as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Common (American Gangster) as John Stewart/Green Lantern. Zoe Kazan (Fracture) was also set to feature as Barry Allen’s wife Iris, and Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up) and Teresa Palmer (December Boys) were chosen to portray the villainous pairing of Maxwell Lord and Talia al Ghul.

    The first signs that Justice League: Mortal was running into trouble came in January 2008, when Warner Bros revealed that they were temporarily putting the project on a hold. The studio had hoped to secure tax-break incentives from the Australian government but failed to qualify for the 40 per cent rebate on expenditure offered to domestic productions, while the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike prevented script concerns from being addressed. It was rumoured that Christopher Nolan expressed displeasure over the decision to tie Justice League into his own Batman continuity and George Miller’s casting choices were also poorly received, with the studio subsequently allowing the options on the actors to expire. It came as a surprise, then, when the project was revived just six weeks later only for the studio to pull the plug once again, placing the big budget superhero team-up on indefinite hiatus.

    Although George Miller remained insistent that Justice League: Mortal would come to fruition, Warner Bros decided to change their strategy in the wake of The Dark Knight’s blockbuster success. In August 2008, studio president Jeff Robinov announced a shift towards solo outings for their DC characters, stating that development was already underway on a number of potential adaptations including The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, along with a sequel to The Dark Knight and reboot of Superman. With progress on Justice League: Mortal grinding to a halt, Miller eventually departed to direct a sequel to his Academy Award-winning animated hit Happy Feet. Meanwhile Warner Bros were eventually successful in bringing one member of the Justice League to the screen with the arrival of Green Lantern in the summer of 2011, although the film disappointed at the box office and received decidedly mixed reviews.

    Despite the collapse of Justice League: Mortal, talk of a DC Comics superhero team-up persisted, especially when it was revealed that the studio had appointed Christopher Nolan as producer of their Superman reboot, Man of Steel in 2010. Nolan soon played down speculation, stating that he saw the worlds inhabited by both heroes as entirely distinct from one another, and the idea of bringing the Justice League together on screen seemed to have died down until March 2011 when Jeff Robinov reiterated the studio’s desire to move forward with development on The Flash and Wonder Woman, ultimately building towards a potential Justice League feature.


    Since the Caped Crusader first made the leap from comics to silver screen in the early 1940s, generations of audiences have been captivated by the screen adventures of Batman, establishing the celebrated comic book hero as a true icon of popular culture. Now, Gary Collinson traces the entire screen history of Bob Kane's Dark Knight Detective, providing a fascinating insight into one of the most successful media franchises of all time.

    Beginning with the early movie serials of the 1940s, Holy Franchise, Batman! charts the development of Batman's many exploits across both live-action and animation, presenting a comprehensive overview of his illustrious screen career. From the classic 1960s television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward to the hugely successful blockbuster feature films from directors Tim Burton (Batman, Batman Returns), Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever, Batman & Robin) and Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises), as well as early Saturday morning cartoon outings through to the acclaimed 'DC Animated Universe', this book explores the evolution of Batman - a journey that has taken him from 'camp' crime-fighter to Dark Knight.

    Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen - Available now via and

    Gary Collinson

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    As soon as the title was announced, and as soon as Bryan Singer was drafted in as director, rumours of Hugh Jackman's involvement in X-Men: Days of Future Past had been circulating round. But now, Singer has confirmed the casting via his official Twitter account:

    "I would officially like to welcome @RealHughJackman to the cast of #Xmen Days of Future Past. Very excited! More to come..."

    With James Mangold's The Wolverine and this announcement, Hugh Jackman will become the only actor to feature in every movie and spin-off from 20th Century Fox's X-Men franchise.

    Jackman now joins the cast which includes X-Men: First Class stars James McAvoy (Wanted), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Michael Fassbender (Prometheus) and Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy) as well as original X-Men trilogy figureheads Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings) and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation).

    Could Singer's tease of "more to come" also mean we we'll be seeing other stars from pervious X-Men movies return such as James Marsden (Robot & Frank), Halle Berry (Catwoman) and Anna Pacquin (True Blood)?

    X-Men: Days of Future Past was a comic arc in 1981 which saw an alternative future for the X-Men where they are hunted down and killed by Sentinels. Flickering Myth's Luke Owen took a look at the comic series and its variations here. The film is set for release July 18th 2014 and has been written by Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes).

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