Star Wars Strikes Back!

Who was prepared for this? I just found out today that a new Star Wars trilogy is in the making, and this time it is headed by, wait for it, Disney. I never envisioned Mickey Mouse using light sabers, but you have to admit the visual is an interesting one.

 

I am a longtime Star Wars fan. When I say fan of Star Wars, I mean I love the original trilogy, and not the crap that Lucas gave birth to most recently. Nor do I approve the modern CG changes he has made to the original trilogy. As far as I am concerned, Hayden Christianson is not David Prowse. So when I first discovered new Star Wars movies were being made, I instantly felt an uncomfortable weight in my stomach. Until I found out that George Lucas will neither be writing nor directing it. I guess he’s either too old or has gotten tired of Star Wars fans sending him hate mail. Possibly both.

 

As of now, no one knows who the writer/ director will be. All that is known is that the people being considered are experienced with big budget action movies. Names that have been speculatively thrown around include Christopher Nolan and Joss Whedon. Whoever it will be, such a job will be a tall order after the critical bashing the most recent Star Wars trilogy received.

 

Since there is very little information available at this point, I do not know how this new trilogy will turn out. I only hope that whoever makes these movies understands that they will live up to fans if they remember to actually write a story rather than just putting in action and special effects, as Lucas seemed to do.

 

It seems strange that the original Star Wars trilogy was so wildly successful and the last one… wasn’t. Well, I guess that depends on what you call successful. True, they made a lot of money, but so did Twilight. As far as quality, the newest trilogy does not cut it.

 

 

The disparity between the two exists for one reason, and that reason’s name is George Lucas. When Lucas was making the first trilogy, he was still kind of a nobody in Hollywood, so he wasn’t calling the shots. Thus he was reigned in. Then he became famous and made it to the top of the totem pole. Then he could make all the decisions. No one could tell him “You know George, this character Jar Jar Binks is really annoying. Don’t you think we should cut him?” Or, “George, don’t you think having Darth Vader scream “No!” like that is a little over the top?” And we all know where that got us.

 

But if this next trilogy still sucks, the original trilogy still remains. Well, actually, you have to pay quite a lot of money for the very original untouched ones because Lucas is a greedy prick. 

Results of Joss Whedon Poll: And the Winner is…

My poll on the best early Joss Whedon creation has closed. The real battle was quite obviously between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Dollhouse, Angel, and Firefly never had a chance. And with a margin of one vote, the winner is…

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I’m not that surprised since Buffy has such a big cult following (including myself) but I really thought Firefly was going to get more votes. It’s great and there was an uproar of disapproval when Fox canceled it. Oh well.

I want to find the one person who voted for Angel, sit them down, and bitch slap them. Just kidding. If you’re out there, kudos for going against the grain! Really against the grain.

So I’m going to create a new poll. Check it out!

The Latest on Much Ado About Nothing

I’m keeping tabs on Joss Whedon’s most recent film endeavor because he is creating a modern adaptation of my favorite Shakespearian play. Which of course makes me feel entitled to bitch slap him if he screws it up.

If you don’t know, the play of Much Ado About Nothing is about Beatrice and Benedict, two people who hate each other with a fiery passion. Their friends and family decide to make it known to each that the other loves them, and thus triggering Cupid’s trap. And then there is a side story about pretty boy  Claudio wanting to marry Hero. But when he hears a rumor that she cheated on him, Claudio calls her a whore at the alter. Such a gentleman.

But anyway, I’m writing this post because finally some more information about this small scale indie movie has come to light. I know the complete cast! Hazaah!

If we all know one thing about Joss Whedon, it’s that more than any other director, he loves reusing his actors. So as would be expected, this list if full of people from his previous work.

For the immortal heroine Beatrice, Whedon chose Amy Acker. I know almost nothing about her other than what I just read on IMBD. What I found out is that Acker is from my neck of the woods: Dallas, Texas. Holla! the only acting I have seen her do was he role in Whedon’s show Dollhouse as the manipulative Dr. Claire. That one role doesn’t tell me much about her capabilities, so hopefully she feels up to the challenge of my high expectations for playing my favorite heroine of all time.

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As for Benedick, Whedon went with Alexis Denisof who is best known for his role as Marshall in How I Met Your Mother. Now that I think of it, I see some similarities between the show and Shakespearian comedy. They both are farcical and full of situational irony. So maybe Denisof will be able to draw on that and pull of an awesome Benedick.

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Nathan Fillion, probably the most famous name on this list wil be playing Dogberry, the hilarious comic relief. Whedon has used Fillion at every opportunity. We all know him from Firefly, but Weedon also featured him in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog as Captain Hammer, and he was a particularly disturbing villain in Buffy the Vampire Slayer who gouged out Xander’s eye. How dust he?. Based on the range I’ve seen Fillion provide, I think he will make an awesome Dogberry, and I can’t wait to see his performance.

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The role of the villain, Don John who slanders about Hero’s virtue goes to Sean Maher. Also an actor from Firefly, Maher played River’s neurotic brother, Simon. Since I haven’t seen him do any other performance (except for a short-lived appearance on Drop Dead Diva, but that doesn’t count) I don’t really know what to expect from him. Then again, considering that the last actor who played this character in a movie was Keanu Reeves, he won’t have to do much to outshine his predecessor.

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Don Pedro, Don John’s brother will be played by Reed Diamond. Surprise surprise, Diamond was also on Dollhouse as Laurence Dominic, but it’s been a while since I watched the show and I don’t remember him at all. Diamond has been in many other TV shows from Bones to the Mentalist and even 24. Hopefully this time he can do a memorable performance.

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The role of Claudio, the accusatory bastard, will be played by Fran Kranz, another Dollhouse veteran. In my opinion, Kranz played the best role in that show, the scientist Topher Brink. That and the fact that he’s been in both Frasier and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia wins my respect. Although I have to admit I’m not sure how he will portray Claudio, but I’m eager to find out. Kranz is a very fun actor to watch.

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And for the quiet, fair Hero, Whedon selected newbie Jillian Morgese. her first acting gig to date. I don’t think Weedon would give someone a role unless they could really deliver, so I will trust his decision. Don’t abuse my trust.

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I just listed the main characters, but here is the complete cast list:

Amy Acker – Beatrice

Alexis Denisof – Benedick

Nathan Fillion – Dogberry

Clark Gregg – Leonato

Reed Diamond – Don Pedro

Fran Kranz – Claudio

Sean Maher – Don John

Spencer Treat Clark – Borachio

Riki Lindhome – Conrade

Ashley Johnson – Margaret

Emma Bates – Ursula

Tom Lenk – Verges

Nick Kocher – First Watchman

Brian McElhaney – Second Watchman

Joshua Zar – Leonato’s aide

Paul M. Meston – Friar Francis

Romy Rosemont – The Sexton

And introducing Jillian Morgese as Hero

Joss Whedon does Much Ado About Nothing

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As I am a writer of a movie blog, I’ve been keeping tabs on movies, so as can be imagined from The Avengers shattering box office records, I was reading about the entertainment titian today and found out the news that director Joss Whedon (if you’ve been living in a box for the last ten years and never heard of him, Whedon is known not only for directing the Avengers but also for shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Doll House, and Fire Fly) is now working on a smaller scale film adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing.

Here is a little personal information. I am an English major. I am actually about to start working on my PhD in English literature. In high school I use to memorize Shakespeare for fun (yeah, I didn’t have many friends then 🙂 ). Much Ado About nothing is my favorite Shakespearian play ever since I read it when I was 15. So of course, when I found out Whedon is getting in touch to his Bard side, I had a very emotional response. I tried to find everything I could. Sadly, I assume because it’s still early in production, I couldn’t find out very much, but here is what I do know.

The film will be completely black and white. Also interestingly, Whedon did all his filming for Much Ado About Nothing at his small home in Santa Monica. I desperately tried to find the cast, but all I know is that the film features the actors such as Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg and Fran Kranz.

 

Now, I am a pretty big Joss Whedon fan. I’ve seen every Buffy episode. Loved Fire Fly, and even The Doll House. I think I know every song from Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog by heart. However, I am somewhat skeptical about Whedon doing Shakespeare. Maybe this is just because he’s working with my personal favorite play by the Bard, but I think my concerns are legitimate considering that including The Avengers, pretty much everything Whedon has done is full of monsters and heroes and action. But despite this little kernel of fear, I do have some hope that he will do justice for a play so near to my heart. This is simply because underneath all the monsters and CG and action, everything Whedon has ever directed has tones of female empowerment. There is a reason the Slayer was a female. And Much Ado About Nothing is all about female empowerment. I know, hard to believe that something feminist could ever come from the same writer who created The Taming of the Shrew, but, anyway… The reason I love Much Ado About Nothing so much is the fiery character of Beatrice who is so determined to not have a husband. She detests the character Benedict. They have spars of whit that are incomparable. And since Whedon is so good at creating strong female leads, I am hopeful that his Beatrice will be a tour de force rather than a damsel in distress.

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Of course, there have been other film adaptations of Much Ado About Nothing. Kenneth Branaugh gave it a shot in 1993. He played Benedict and gave the role of Beatrice to his wife Emma Thompson. While Branaugh pretty much defecated on Frankenstein (another one of my favorite pieces of literature) this choice was genius. Right now, Emma Thompson is Beatrice for me. While I have faith in Whedon, I think he’ll have a hard time finding a better actress for his heroine. But I love being pleasantly surprised. Of course, Branaugh also made a horrible casting decision when he gave Keanu Reeves the role of the villain. Actors like Keanu Reeves just don’t belong in Shakespeare. And I think putting him next to great actors like Thompson and Denzel Washington was exceedingly cruel. It makes it painfully obvious just how much Reeves has no acting ability.

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So now I am eagerly awaiting Whedon’s latest film endeavor. Just please, please don’t be an idiot and cast Keanu Reeves. Once was more than enough.

The Avengers: Go See It!

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I’m writing on three hours of sleep, so this post could totally suck. You have been warned.

So I had an interesting night. Every now and then, the Campus Activities Board at Austin College pays for an entire room at a movie theater at a midnight release when a really popular movie comes out so the students who are willing to neglect their studies and come out early enough get a movie for free while being cramped by annoying freshman. Last night, CAB paid for tickets for The Avengers release. My roommate Neelam and I figured it was our last opportunity to take advantage of it before we graduate, so we went. Long story. For various reasons we had to sit through the Lucky One. Can you say awkward? I come out of The High School Musical generation (not proud of that). I should not have to see a MILF reaching into Zac Efron’s pants. Since this is a movie review blog, I will give this movie a score. How about, in honor of the title, I give it a 1?

However, I am writing to talk about The Avengers, which somehow was worth watching Zac Efron thrusting. I don’t love superhero movies. I’ll see them, but they’re not at the top of my list. So when I saw the trailer, I wasn’t excited. Yawn, okay, now they’re a team. Yada yada yada. Boy, was I wrong.  I am so glad I saw this movie, because it was awesome. Well written. Great cast. Action that doesn’t melt your mind. And Joss Whedon’s signature hilarious beats throughout. I liked Marc Ruffalo much better than Eric Bana as The Hulk. And when did Scarlet Johansson get to be such a bad ass? I’ve always enjoyed her acting skills, but I didn’t know she packed such a punch. More importantly, this movie is not just escapist. It brings up issues and themes very relevant to modern society. The obvious one that is in pretty much every hero movie is the question, what makes a hero? This comes up many times in the movie, especially when Captain America challenges Iron Man, saying he’s not a hero. Just a narcissist playing with toys. And quite obviously, considering the nature of the idea of The Avengers, many conflicts about the idea of teamwork are brought up. And also the ethics of creating weapons of mass destruction even if it is for defense.

My regular readers know I love complaining about bad movies, but I’m even more delighted to find good ones, especially if my expectations are completely debunked. However, the Avengers is not without its flaws. The main one that comes to mind regards the Hulk. Halfway through the movie, Bruce Banner loses control (as is inevitable with The Hulk, especially if you put him in giant hovercraft) and turns into the green mean fighting machine. In this scene, Whedon portrays the Hulk as a wild beast out of control. He does not know ally from enemy. He cannot think, cannot be controlled. Then, move to the climax of the movie when the Avengers are all fighting the bad guys together. Banner unleashes the Hulk to fight. However, suddenly, the Hulk seems to have a brain. Yes, he’s fighting savagely, but also he can discriminate between friend and foe. He listens to Captain America’s orders. What happened? This represents a huge disconnect with The Hulk’s character.

Also, towards the beginning of the film, after Loki attacks Shield, there is a scene in which he’s talking to a cloaked man. It becomes pretty clear that this ring wraith combined with Hannibal Lector is really in control and a much bigger bad ass than Loki. But we never see him later in the film. It seems like Whedon was trying to allow for a sequel set up, but if that’s true, there should be a scene after the climactic fight with Loki where the audience sees the other bad dude and is reminded, “Hey, the Avengers defeated Loki, but now they need to fight this guy,” if this movie brings in enough money, which I’m sure it will.

For a great ride and a lot of fun, I give this movie a 7.

Crap, now I have to watch all the prequels.