Saturday, August 23, 2008

Warner Bros. to Re-Jigger Superman Movies?

Apparently with Jamie in the hospital and whatnot, I missed a story that spread on friday.

And I have to give mad props to Randy. He sent me an article on this topic, and I poo-poo'd the whole thing, believing that this was yet another rumor come to the surface. But, Leaguers, this looks pretty solid, as far as these things go. So give it up for Randy, who often sends stuff my way, and I all too often shrug it off.

So, it appears WB is probably scrapping any "continuity" established by "Superman Returns" and moving forward with an all-new Superman movie next year.

Here's the Wall Street Journal article

It'll help if you read the whole thing to get some context. It's short, and well be here when you get back.

Here are the paragraphs that have comic nerds all up in a lather:

Like the recent Batman sequel -- which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far -- Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as "The Dark Knight." Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.' DC properties. "We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it," he says. That goes for the company's Superman franchise as well.

The studio is set to announce its plans for future DC movies in the next month. For now, though, it is focused on releasing four comic-book films in the next three years, including a third Batman film, a new film reintroducing Superman, and two movies focusing on other DC Comics characters. Movies featuring Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman are all in active development.

I think its necessary here to take a step back and point out a few things:

-the writing was on the wall for Singer's ousting pretty much after opening night when I noted the cinema I went to had reduced the number of screens from 2 to 1 for "Superman Returns"
-WB has been publicly soliciting Superman scripts for what seems like 2 or 3 months. And privately before that. That's not Hollywood speak for "Singer's our guy!"
-reporters seem to take misinterpreting comics and comic movie information as a point of pride. I'd be pretty suspicious of anything said at all in this article.
-for example, I sincerely doubt WB intends for Superman to become evil, but I imagine they have plans for darker bad guys for the Man of Steel (ie: Doomsday)
-Mr. Robinov's beliefs regarding what he thinks will work as it stands today could change with the wind tomorrow. This capriciousness is the hallmark of the studio exec.
-I think what Robinov might have meant, rather than suggesting DC's heroes will be eeee-vil, is that we've made that 1986 change in comic movies. The studios, like the comic companies, are shedding the idea that comics are kid's stuff. They now know how dark they can go and still sell toys.

Basically, I follow enough information regarding super heroes and movies, and film development in general (thanks, RTF degree! Seriously, we studied this @#$%.) that I know an article like this means almost next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. Everything could change tomorrow. As I often say, "don't believe a word of it until you read the reports that they're actually rolling film."

If every report I read in the run up to Superman Returns were true, there would be four different Superman movies, two of which would star Ashton Kutcher, floating around. You learn to take this with a grain of salt.

So long, Superman Returns

"Superman Returns" didn't take off with fans. Mostly because it wasn't an action movie (Superman punches nobody), and because of the introduction of the out-of-continuity love child of Lois and Superman.

Comic fans have been up in arms about the kid since the movie came out, declaring Superman a "deadbeat dad", which sounds great in a comment section, but is entirely inaccurate if you actually watch the movie. The movie is, after all, all about Superman's legacy from father to son, and moving on beyond the world you embraced to embrace the future ahead of you through your child (no, seriously).

I loved the way they displayed Superman's powers, and believed the movie was absolutely gorgeous and rich, the way a Superman movie should be. The whole thing looked and felt like a fairy tale, in a way movies have forgotten how to look since the 1980's. And Brandon Routh was as perfect a guy in the role as I could have hoped for.

But I also don't know where they could go with Jason Lane. Many folks online were of the "they should kill him off" camp, which... seriously? Kill a child (even a fictional child)? That's kind of messed up. Not to mention woefully uncreative.

Maybe it was just a good end-capper on the Reeves movies, which always deserved better than Superman 3 and (certainly) 4.

I'm comfortable with a re-boot of the movie franchise at this point. But only under the right circumstances. It's promising that they're interested in taking their cues from "Dark Knight", so at least we don't need to worry about McG casting Ashton Kutcher as Superman and having him enegage in extreme sports or some such...

But I'd also point out, the "common wisdom" that marvel did the right thing by re-booting "The Hulk"? Ang Lee's 2003 "Hulk" grossed $132 million domestic. Ed Norton's 2008 "Incredible Hulk" grossed $134 million domestic. Add in 5 years of inflation, and a "re-boot" doesn't necessarily mean anything as far as success.

So we're going to have to wait and see what shakes out.

My Advice to WB

Re-do the origin.

Your gut is telling you "hey, that Death of Superman thing sold like CRAZY in 1992! People love that stuff!" Yes, Superman dying is "dark". But...

Don't do it.

A) They've announced, like, four different takes on "Death of Superman", and released it as an animated movie at least once. Everyone knows he doesn't die (really), so its sort of anti-climatic. You aren't going to do the "Reign of the Supermen", which was sort of the point of Death of Superman... so don't do it.
B) Also, "Death of Superman" was supposed to have impact because Superman was established in the DCU for years before he croaked. If that's part of your "all new Superman", you're essentially putting a guy out there, and then he gets killed. Which, you know, doesn't look real good. Its a lot different from the guy who always wins finally losing, which was also the point.
C) "The Death of Superman" was a narrative mess, and isn't much fun to read as a collection. It involves the 1990's sprawling cast of super-characters, Lex's brain living in a 20-something Lex Luthor cloned body, an interdimensional protoplassmic Supergirl, a giant frog Lois uses for transportation, Green Lanterns, and at least one incident of grave robbing.
D) I think when even the mighty Bruce Timm tried to do it, the movie wasn't that great.

Use modern technology. Don't feel beholden to the Donner movies, and re-tell the origin so the kids have an all-new Superman for their generation.

1) Part of the magic of Superman is that he carves out who he is. There is no pre-destination, prophesies or "chosen ones" in Superman. That fundamentally goes against the grain of Superman as a character. He's about CHOICE to be heroic. Pre-destination stories are about people bumbling into greatness and resisting their heroic calling. Which is great, but its not Superman. Part of the magic was not that Jor-El specifically shot a rocket at Jonathan and Martha Kent, knowing exactly how they'd raise a child... It was that Jor-El has to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. And the luck of the draw that ordinary, salt-of-the-earth folks would be able to instill in Superman the right moral compass. Once you add to that, you're taking away from the story.
2) Krypton has to be gone. That's the point. No evil armies of Krypton.
3) I only want Lex if he has access to huge robots, a power suit, or a wide array of lasers. That said, gimme Lex.
4) You know who is really scary? Far scarier than thoughtless, inarticulate Doomsday? Brainiac.
5) You're going to want to give Superman his evil, opposite number with an evil Kryptonian. We've all seen Zod. Save it for a sequel or something.
6) Superman has a supporting cast. They've been well defined over 70 years. Use them.

2008 is the new 1986

I do think Robinov's comments give a glimpse of what's going on and point to a comment I made when I saw Dark Knight the first time. (oh, hell... I can't find when or where I said it. It might have been in conversation with Steven and Lauren).

But I believe the success of Dark Knight in 2008 is going to be seen in much the same way as "Dark Knight Returns" was seen in the mid-80's, as well as "Watchmen". Non-comic readers will not ever know the cultural shift in comics that occurred thanks, in part, to those two works. Like some classic albums (maybe "Revolver", I dunno...) nothing was ever really the same after that within comics as those albums fundamentally changed pop music. In fact, it was that transition of DKR and Watchmen that I think led directly to comics' shift from kid's entertainment to an older audience for tights-wearing vigilantes.

With DKR and Watchmen, superheroes were, to some extent, seen for the fascists Wertham had always accused them of being. The image that had begun to chip away in the 70's of heroes with hands on fists saving the day with a wink was stomped into the dirt. In many ways, I grew up in a comics world where I had to go back to try and even find the kinds of comics my parents and guidance counselor assumed I was reading (I did make the mistake of handing my dad "The Killing Joke" summer of '89). To some extent, Marvel's "Civil War" event could have gone a lot further toward exploring Wertham's assertions, but instead chose to be a story about how Iron Man is a jerk and Cap makes sentimental decisions.

As rich as I think the Spidey movies have been, and as impressed as I was with Iron Man, Dark Knight was a different kind of movie. And what studios need to realize, that the comic companies took entirely too long to realize (and it almost destroyed the industry in the process) is that Dark Knight is lightning in a bottle. With his proclamation, its as if (but not quite) Robinov were to declare he's going to slate two gangster pictures a year on the assumption that they'll be as good as "Godfather I & II".

The fallout of Watchmen wasn't that every comic became an introspection of the super-soul and the industry itself matured over night. It was that comic writers felt that they should create flawed, tortured characters who occasionally had sex. The comics were being produced by often lesser writers, who saw the sturm und drang of Dark Knight Returns, but missed what it was that made the series work, all while being entirely true to the Batman's roots.

By the mid-90's I wasn't really reading superhero comics because many of the titles had devolved into a glossy, messy warground in which superheroes, in order to be "darker, grittier, more extreme" were becoming increasingly more lethal and a lot more likely to pull the trigger.

And that's part of the problem with declaring that you're going to make your superheroes themselves "darker". At some point, you're missing the fundamental core of the characters that make them the good guys and separates them from the bad guys, and now you're just talking two guys in tights beating the holy hell out of each other (which is part of why I flinched any time I heard mention of the proposed "Superman vs. Batman" movie. What's the point?).

Maybe this is a natural curve that the movies will have to go through.

A note regarding what happened with super-hero comics...

It's dishonest to try to pretend that all comics move in one colossal shift, as if its a coordinated affair. There are always lots of missteps. But a movement in any direction tends to leave a lot of splinters around that tenaciously hang on. Characters and concepts I have no use for (ex: Marvel's Cable) survive and prosper.

DC's limited series "Kingdom Come" was like a wake-up call to the DCU. Slowly but surely, much of the DCU gave up on "extreme" in favor of "iconic". "Kingdom Come" seemed to boil the heroes down to their essence and ask aloud what Superman, Batman and the rest of the JLA were doing about the state of the industry. And they answered loudly.

According to Valerie at Occasional Superheroine, who once worked as an Assistant Editor at DC, Didio was still learning the lessons of the 90's, and moved in exactly the wrong direction for a spell, when she attended a retreat sometime around 2003, I'd guess. (I like Val's blog, but I think she overestimates the change this particular retreat had on DC, as they were in the post "Kingdom Come" shift away from ridiculous 90's characters like the Dr. Fate spin-off, Fate.)

I don't know how that would work with comic movies, or if any of this would come to pass. But I do know that there's some history here, and movie audiences and movie creators probably aren't all that different from those of comics.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jamie home

Jamie is home and resting. She's all hopped up on medically prescribed goofballs, so I honestly can't tell you exactly how she's doing, but I think she's okay.

It's been a long week for me, so I can't begin to guess what its been like for her.

Hopefully we'll be back soon to your usual programming and the same exciting League and Troubles you've come to know and love.

A Tapeheads Homage?

I don't know how many of you have ever seen the 80's era flick "Tapeheads" starring a very young John Cusack and Tim Robbins, but it was sort of one of those "defining movies of my youth".

It's about a video director and his somewhat sleezy producer pal who love a 60's soul duo "The Swanky Modes" (based on the very real and very awesome Sam & Dave... and, coincidentally, actually starring Sam Moore of Sam & Dave).

I have pitched the name "Swanky Modes" to Jason as a band name a few times, and have always been turned down.

Tapeheads is a very low-key comedy. They don't really make them like this any more, which is a shame. It's the sort of movie that seamlessly involves the band Menudo as a major plotpoint without blinking.

Anyhow, the band "Yacht" has cut a video, which is, shot-for-shot, a scene from "Tapeheads".

Let's get into trouble, baby..!

YACHT - Summer Song from Jona Bechtolt on Vimeo.
Found at Beaucoupkevin(dot)com
Honestly, from his post, I'm not sure Kevin was aware of the reference.

The original:

Jason and I used to use the term "Baby Doll" as a reference to both the sort of Euro-Pop of the time, and to describe a certain low-budget style of video making that was prevalent back in the 80's when MTV still showed videos.

Song Example: Well, clearly, anything by A-Ha.

Video Example: I still love this song, but the video for Seal's Crazy was totally "Baby Doll".

Interestingly, despite a credit to the band "Cube Squared", Devo seems to be responsible for "baby Doll", so whether they meant it as a joke or with all sincerity is anyone's guess. In all honesty, I run hot and cold with Devo, and "Baby Doll" is a pretty good example of why.

It is too bad "Yacht" didn't adapt Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles ad from Tapeheads.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comic Fodder Post and More

The Silence of the Low-Selling Title: in which I talk about how DC does nothing to keep their comics alive when they begin to fail. And, heck, how they don't even really try with new series.

Need for a Policy Change at SDCC: in which I discuss the need for a new policy on sexual harassment at Comic Con International

And this isn't mine, but it's going to wind up in League Links, or Comic Links. The Con Anti-Harassment Project

Jamie having out-patient procedure tomorrow

So I don't think I'm going to post. Here's her site if you want to send her well wishes.

If this is what greets her in the OR, she has my permission to run.

Happy Birthday, Admiral!

Here's to another year of being totally awesome

A B-25 flying through a wall of flame is almost as awesome as The Admiral

Sasquatch story: The jig is up

Well, the dream of a Sasquatch Scam is dead.

I honestly have no idea what these two guys from Georgia were thinking, or why anyone in their right mind went along with them on their "bigfoot in a freezer" story. I don't think I need to outline all the problems with their gameplan, if the goal was to make money off the discovery. My guess is that this was the introduction of the power of mass media to these two guys.

And, honestly, I'm disappointed that they didn't stick to their guns on their cockamamie story and just ride it out.

I will also say that the two hoaxers are handling things well... by disappearing!

They have managed to follow at least two parts of the three-fold path of the coward:
1) Deny everything
2) Make counter-allegations
3) Run like hell

And for that, I kind of respect them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

May-Treanor and Walsh Win 2nd Gold (and Bolt is amazing)

The League salutes Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh for winning their second Gold at the 2008 Olympics!

That's, I think, 108 straight victories for the duo. They've never disappointed, and we at The League of Melbotis have to tip our hat.

Here's the AP article.

Keep in mind, this time they did it in the driving rain against a team that had the home crowd advantage.

(I'd have a better picture here, but the news services are a little slow with a proper, victorious image)

And, by the way, Usain "Lightning" Bolt, set a world record while winning the 200m last night. The man is unreal. I saw in the comments that Reed-o is also a fan of the man. If you've been watching track, I don't see how you couldn't like the guy.


Shazam! Bolt wins the 200m!

The League in Film School

This clip from Clone High is pretty much exactly like my experience presenting my work in film school.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Some random bits

It's not too late to submit questions to the Melbotis Mailbag either by e-mail or the comments section of this post.

Stolen from Randy's website: someone terribly suspicious of the symbol of God's promise - Watch more free videos
STOP REFRACTION NOW (in another 20 years, it will be too late). Time to ask yourself: What could possibly make this happen?

Music is always better when you can relate:

Thanks to JAL for forwarding the video

I've also been watching some Olympics, and some thoughts:

-Usain Bolt and the rest of the Jamaican sprint team are insane. Somehow (and I'm not sayin' how) Jamaicans have managed to harness the "Speed Force". Wally West, look out.
-That said: US sweeps men's hurdles!
-And I think I have a tiny crush on Sanya Richards, Texas runner who is now a Bronze Medalist
-The reason they are canceling softball in the Olympics: The US women literally cannot be beat. They have outscored the competition 50+ - 1. YOU CANNOT BEAT CAT OSTERMAN.
-May-Treanor and Walsh up for a Gold tomorrow in beach Volleyball. Be there. This may be the grand finale to a couple of amazing careers (both have hinted at retiring to start families).
-I actually salute NBC's coverage of the Beijing Olympics. They've managed to cut the footage down to the parts you're going to want to see when they aren't showing anything live. It makes stuff like Men's gymnastics, in which I have only a passing interest, a lot more watchable.

League Approved Olympic Training:

Anyway, I had to work tonight, so hopefully you Leaguers will forgive me if the post is a bit short.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Football - Bring Your Oxygen Tank

So, I accidentally bought season tickets to UT home games this year.

I know. I know. I'm unemployed.

The language on the website said something about "sign up now to get a chance at season tickets". What I didn't realize was that this didn't mean, "sign up now to get an opportunity later", it meant "we've got a really weird queue for tickets, and while you'll probably get tickets, you might not".

I assumed I was entering into some draft that I could walk away from when I came to my senses and realize I had no money. Rather, I gave a shadowy UT office a sack of money they would return if they ran out of slots.

The section I'm sitting in does not yet exist in this photo. I'll be in that empty blue space in the pic.

So, yeah, I think I literally have top-row tickets in the end zone for this season's football games. The way it works, every year I get season tickets, the better my seats will get. Always in cue behind: rich folk who give UT much larger sacks of money, members of the UT Foundation, longtime members of the Texas-Exes (of which I am a member, but I'm not done with my payments), friends and family of anyone with influence at UT, etc...

So, in, like, 2088, I might actually have decent seats.

Don't @#$% up, bro

Despite what I am anticipating to be excruciating heat at the first games, I'm thinking this will be fun. Especially as I will be at an elevation higher than any other structure in town, and be able to see birds and bats flying lower than where I'm sitting.

I will also be, I think, under the Jumbotron, so I will need to wear some sort of lead-shielding in order to make sure I am not irradiated.

Other than that, I'm pretty excited. I am not expecting a BCS bowl this year out of UT, but I am thinking we could be in the top 15 or so if Colt keeps his head on right and Chiles gets some playing time. We have three strong running back contenders (one of them is named "Fozzy". That's his name. And that is awesome.).

Wokka wokka!

And Major Applewhite is back in a backs-coach position. How sweet is that?

I think UT fans have a sort of unspoken belief that Major Applewhite is destined to be a headcoach at UT one day. If you're Major, you ride that belief for all its worth.

Anyway, I don't know what the schedule is yet for when or if Jamie is coming to games. So don't start with me on asking for spare tickets. But I'll keep you posted if I have a loose ticket.


I can dream of a return to glory at this point in the season. Don't ruin it for me.

Stray Thought of the Day: The Olympics and Der UberMensch

So Michael Phelps got me thinking...

One of the things we take for granted is that every Olympics, swimmers bust records, runners bust records, weightlifters lift more weight than anyone had ever lifted before. I don't mean we take the Olympians for granted, but we do assume that in a few races, somebody is going to break a record and swim faster, run faster, etc... than we've ever seen.

Which makes the League ponder...

Is there a point at which we won't be able to continue to beat records? Is there ever going to be a maximum recorded speed for humans to swim? To run? To lift weight? To jump? To throw a javelin?

I assume that in 40 years, the training, diet, equipment, etc... that athletes use will improve to such a degree that what we feel is state of the art today will look to them as the women in petticoats playing golf at the 1900 Olympics looks to us now (gymnastics and track & field wouldn't be added until 1928).

No doubt, these women were considered strumpets for their revealing athletic wear. And rightfully so.

So I wonder if, year after year (and four years after four years), as time marches on... what sort of humans will we be building? Will we see a Michael Phelps in the year 3000 that moves through the water faster than a motor boat? Or will we find some invisible wall and find ourselves competing for 1/1000ths of a second, never pushing beyond some as-yet-unseen boundary?

No doubt the future of gene manipulation (through state-mandated breeding programs, or through some mad science), we haven't yet begun to see how fast, strong, and unbelievable the human body will be by the time The League is an old man.

But, jump-forward to, say, the year 5000? What does it mean for sport when records are no longer breakable? Is that even a conceivable idea? Or is our desire, as humans, to continue to build and grow, advance and see progress so ingrained in us as a species that we will see swimmers who cut through the water like fish? Will they be recognizably human to our eyes from 2008?

Phelps in 3008?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sasquatch Corpse Saga Continues! I just wonder exactly how far this is going to go!

Here's an article from Yahoo!

These dudes are sticking to their guns in the face of mounting evidence, logic and common sense. And you have to respect that. The technique is what I would call "The Jason Alternate Reality Technique", where you insist your cockamamie story is true way past the point of reason, and refuse to let the story go 20 years later (you are not secretly 5th grade math teacher, Mr. Glowka, in a clever disguise).

CNN covered the story. Unfortunately, in doing so, there was a technical gaffe that led to the following:

When things go wrong at the CNN master control.

Bigfoot press conference - covered by Fox

Bigfoot press conference (spoof)

Classic Bigfoot

Stacked Dogs

These are my dogs. I post pics of your kids, you can put up with pics of Mel and Lucy.

Pineapple Express

Saturday I headed out to Alamo South to see the latest film in the Apatow/ Rogan/ Ferrell... comedy phalanx that has pretty much redefined comedy rather abruptly since 40 Year Old Virgin (speaking of... I think Steve Carrell would do well to hook up with these guys again rather than enter into another big-budget flick with luke-warm critical and audience reception).

Pineapple Express won't appeal to my parents, and I really wouldn't find it something I'd want my kids to see if they were under 16. But it does hit that sweet marketing spot of 18-34 year olds pretty well.

I did find the movie funny. I found the reviews that harped on the shocking violence and action to have overstated their case. The balance was similar to films such as "Beverly Hills Cop", so I don't think action/ comedy of this nature is exactly a new idea.

For full disclosure, here is my "six degrees of separation" relationship to director David Gordon Green. Green lived on my floor in Jester my first year of college, and I think, at most, I would say hi to him in the hallway. I knew him mostly because he lived with another David, musician David Wingo, so they were in the room with two Davids. David Green fled UT to go to a film conservatory in North Carolina sophomore year, which I thought was just crazy at the time. And he'd send David Wingo copies of his student work, which we'd all watch at parties and whatnot.

What struck me as interesting was that (a) I was never enamored with Green's sense of humor in his college films (I was alone in this opinion). And (b) how Pineapple Express displayed some of that sense of humor, but actually really made it work. The same sense of uncontrolled chaos and oddly placed priorities is as present in his films I recall watching in college as Pineapple Express.

Speaking of, seeing what happened to his work between his college material and his first feature, George Washington, was mind-blowing. There's nothing like seeing someone else's work, who should be your peer, to let you know "this person has a skill I do not, and never could, have."

Pineapple Express is a pretty darn far cry from George Washington, so it'll be interesting to see what direction green takes his career from here.

Also, I need to look up Wingo. It's been years since I've talked to that guy. Tjeff will know where he is... Little help, tjeff?

(tjeff who floats through the comments section occasionally is, by the way, another musician whose work I'd recommend. Here's his site.)

I also happened to watch part of "Knocked Up" last night, the Seth Rogan sleeper hit from last summer. And while I enjoyed Rogan in "Pineapple Express", Rogan is going to need to learn to play a character other than Seth Rogan at some point. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but at some point, the audience is going to find all of his roles so indistinguishable, its going to have a negative effect. Doofus twenty-something with a disarming laughing is only going to work so long.

And, surprisingly, James Franco's perpetually stoned character "Saul" doesn't come off as grating, but actually pretty likable, which I wasn't expecting. Franco is a pretty direct contrast to Rogan's insistence on playing himself, as he throws himself into the character pretty fully, and is unrecognizable as Harry Osborn of the Spidey movies.

As per plot, PE is a surprisingly tight crime script, with a certain narrowly defined cast of colorful characters (Danny McBride of "Foot Fist Way" is a particular highlight). Too often comedies decide plot is secondary, but Pineapple Express has natural arcs for literally every character, and works as well, from a narrative standpoint, as any recent crime movie I've seen. It just happens to feature two guys who could be your neighbors in the last apartment complex you lived in.

I'll be honest, I don't think you'll lose much seeing the movie on the small screen. So you can probably wait to see it in the comfort of your La-Z-Boy. And while I'm not sure how long the Apatow comedy collective (oh, Freaks and Geeks! What wonders thou hast wrought!) can keep up this pace, but they're managing to make movies that seem a heck of a lot smarter than, say, "Hollywood Chihuahua".