Say it ain't so. Heath Ledger as The Joker?

July 24th, 2006

[W]e just got word from A VERY TRUSTED SOURCE that the offer last night was officially made to Heath Ledger to star as The Joker in the Batman Begins Sequel!
- Superherohype quoting Latino Review.

As I just mentioned how much I prefer DC villains, and named The Joker specifically, and wrote such a glowing review of Batman Begins, they are throwing this news in my face. I have stated before, in other write-ups, that Mr. Ledger is horrible. You know how there are actors specifically because of whom you will see a movie? I will actually go see a movie just because Heath Ledger is NOT in it.

The casting choice does make some sense in keeping in line with Cillian Murphy's role as Dr. Crane in Batman Begins. Use a younger actor with a creepy look in his eye rather than an established bad-guy personality. Much debate has gone on in and around the rumor mills about who would next plague Gotham City. I am still extremely excited for the next Batman movie (which comes out in 2008) and I will plan to keep an open mind for Mr. Ledger. Maybe it is seeing him as my favorite bad guy that will change my opinion of him. Maybe after Batman Begins 2 I will sing Heath Ledger's praises.

But probably not.

UPDATE: Cinematical reports Ledger has signed. Also, the movie has a name!!! The Dark Knight.

Superman Returns

July 24th, 2006


Superman Returns is playing locally at the IMAX theater, though I did not see it in IMAX due to timing issues. I do not think seeing it on the regular screen had any negative effect on my experience, however.

Adrenaline. If I had to pick a one-word theme for the movie, that would be it. Edge or your seat, heart-pounding adrenaline. If you have watched the preview for the movie, you may be familiar with a scene involving Superman and an airplane. It is maybe 30 minutes into the movie and I kid you not, they could have ended it right there and I would have paid to see it a second time. That is not to say the movie was downhill from that point on, but it was worth the price of admission, even in the days of increased movie ticket prices.

I had heard reports that Superman Returns was too much of a love story and not enough of what we should expect from a Superman movie: Superman fighting crime and saving the day. The (awkward) love story rekindled between our caped hero and Lois Lane was obvious, but not overbearing. There were scenes devoted to it entirely, but this was not the first Superman movie to do it. Let's not forget the rest of the movie, however. Bryan Singer did a great job of incorporating all of Superman's powers over the course of the film. We see plenty of flying, impenetrable skin, super-human strength, heat vision and super breath. But don't leave out the tights and the cape; Superman was well represented throughout the film.

I liked how well Brandon Routh maintained the dichotomy of the character he played, selling the Clark Kent secret identity. He stayed clumsy as Clark and was, for the most part, strong and confident as Superman. I was among those in the camp who thought Tom Welling probably should have gotten the part when "Mr. Unknown" Brandon Routh was announced. Sorry Tom, but Brandon ended up being a good casting choice. Tom Welling may have been a little too "teen drama" and not enough "comic-book superhero" for the part.

Kevin Spacey is no Gene Hackman, but he did well as Lex Luthor. Watching Lex in action I did have the realization that though I typically prefer Marvel books, I like DC villains much better. My favorites are The Joker (big surprise), The Riddler and Lex Luthor. DC villains, to me, seem much more... complex. Lex Luthor is a bit over the top and he does require some over-acting and forced lines as well as some just-right facial expressions to fully portray his quirks. Spacey kept his composure and I really think he nailed the part.

So I really did like the movie, but I did have a few small gripes. You probably would not believe I wrote this if there wasn't a flaw or two pointed out...


Did they make Kate Bosworth look like Natalie Portman on purpose? Or did it just happen naturally? Don't get me wrong, she looked better as Lois Lane than she has in any other role I have seen her in. All I am saying is that after Natalie does a movie or two with a shaved head, maybe Hollywood is trying to snatch her look back from her before she has a chance to make another movie with hair.

I love that James Marsden continues to get roles in comic book films as the guy who has the girl who is at least arguably in love with someone else (think Cyclops). I understand he followed Writer/Producer/Director Bryan Singer from the X-Men series to Superman, but he is now sufficiently typecast.

Was Brandon Routh's "Clark Kent" hair a tribute to Jason Schwartzman?

Kal Penn goes from a late night craving for White Castle burgers to playing Lex Luthor's goon? Really? It does not seem like the most natural transition to me. At least I am pretty sure he did not have a single speaking part.


Petty criticisms aside, I really liked Superman Returns. The movie had a few slow scenes, primarily right at the beginning, but they served well enough to build up to the climax. The casting was great, even down to Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen. I hope I can find time to see it IMAX this time.

I like that Bryan Singer has already announced his plans/desire to make a sequel to Superman Returns. A few sites (Cinematical and Comingsoon) have early news about the follow-up. If only we didn't have to wait until 2009...

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Book of the Month - August, 2006

July 20th, 2006

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs

The Know-It-All by A.J. JacobsPart memoir and part education (or lack thereof), The Know-It-All chronicles NPR contributor A.J. Jacobs' hilarious, enlightening, and seemingly impossible quest to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z.

To fill the ever-widening gaps in his Ivy League education, A.J. Jacobs sets for himself the daunting task of reading all thirty-two volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. His wife, Julie, tells him it's a waste of time, his friends believe he is losing his mind, and his father, a brilliant attorney who had once attempted the same feat and quit somewhere around Borneo, is encouraging but, shall we say, unconvinced.

With self-deprecating wit and disarming frankness, The Know-It-All recounts the unexpected and comically disruptive effects Operation Encyclopedia has on every part of Jacobs' life -- from his newly minted marriage to his complicated relationship with his father and the rest of his charmingly eccentric New York family to his day job as an editor at Esquire. Jacobs' project tests the outer limits of his stamina and forces him to explore the real meaning of intelligence as he endeavors to join Mensa, win a spot on Jeopardy!, and absorb 33,000 pages of learning. On his journey he stumbles upon some of the strangest, funniest, and most profound facts about every topic under the sun, all while battling fatigue, ridicule, and the paralyzing fear that attends his first real life responsibility -- the impending birth of his first child.

The Know-It-All is an ingenius, mightily entertaining memoir of one man's intellect, neuroses, and obsessions and a soul-searching, ultimately touching struggle between the all-consuming quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.

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Movie of the Month - August, 2006

July 20th, 2006

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm SchoolRobert Carlyle (The Full Monty) heads up an all-star cast as Frank Keane, a grieving widower who's convinced he'll never know happiness again. But everything changes when he stops to help Steve Mills (John Goodman, The Big Lebowski), a stranger who's been injured in a serious car wreck. Determined to fulfill the dying man's last wish, Frank races to a dance school hoping to keep a date with Steve's long lost love -- only to find romance waiting to sweep him off his feet in this humorous, warm-hearted drama that's a must-have for any independent film collection.

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James Patterson & Andrew Gross

July 18th, 2006

Authors James Patterson and Andrew Gross have teamed up yet again. The two men worked together in the past to bring us four books: 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, Lifeguard, and The Jester. The first two, titles from The Women's Murder Club, were decent books. I am not sure how much involvement Andrew Gross had in the books, but if the size of his name on the book covers is any indication, it was not much. By comparison, one might assume he had much more influence in Lifeguard and The Jester. I have not read Lifeguard yet, but The Jester is probably my favorite of James Patterson's books (of which I have read most). It may be without merit, but I attribute my extreme enjoyment of The Jester as James Patterson's writing to Andrew Gross's help. I have been looking forward to reading Lifeguard for the same reason and now I can look forward to their latest effort, too.

Judge & Jury by James Patterson and Andrew GrossAndie DeGrasse, an aspiring actress and single mom, is not your typical juror. Hoping to get dismissed from the pool, she tells the judge that most of her legal knowledge comes from a bit part curling around a stripper's pole in The Sopranos. But she still ends up as juror #11 in a landmark trial against a notorious mob boss.

The case quickly becomes the new Trial of the Century. Mafia don Dominic Cavello, known as the Electrician, is linked to hundreds of gruesome, unspeakable crimes. Senior FBI agent Nick Pellisante has been tracking him for years. He knows Cavello's power reaches far beyond the courtroom, but the FBI's evidence against the ruthless killer is iron-clad. Conviction is a sure thing.

As the jury is about to reach a verdict, the Electrician makes one devastating move that no one could have predicted. The entire nation is reeling, and Andie's world is shattered. For her, the hunt for the Electrician becomes personal, and she and Pellisante come together in an unbreakable bond: they will exact justice-at any cost.

James Patterson spins an all-out heart-pounding legal thriller that pits two people against the most vicious and powerful mobster since John Gotti. Judge & Jury is a stunning feat by "one of America's most influential authors" (New York Times)

Judge & Jury will be available on July 31, 2006.

Michael Connelly

July 17th, 2006

Michael Connelly, author of the Harry Bosch series, will be on tour in late 2006, mainly sticking to warmer states as the weather turns. Echo Park by Michael ConnellyThe new book he will be promoting, Echo Park, will be available on October 9, 2006. Echo Park is the twelfth Harry Bosch novel.

Visit for tour dates and locations. The list is complete with phone numbers for the locations from which you may order signed copies if your home town is not a stop on the tour.

O.A.R. Live 7/14/2006

July 17th, 2006

I had the pleasure of attending the O.A.R. concert at the Meadow Brook Music Festival over the weekend. O.A.R. was appearing with special guest Jack's Mannequin. Due to extenuating circumstances we, unfortunately, were late to the show and missed that act and a song or two of O.A.R.'s set.

O.A.R. @ Meadow Brook Music Festival

Unless they started with a few amazing songs that we missed, I am underwhelmed overall by the playlist for the night. Sure they played Crazy Game of Poker, which was the highlight of the evening, but they reached into their bag of tricks and pulled out some lesser songs to play. That and a ONE-SONG ENCORE were my main gripes with the concert. They played Love and Memories for the lone encore song, which would be expected..., along with two other songs. Are the days of the three-song encore long gone? Has it been that long since my last concert?

O.A.R. is not a show you got to if you want to be wildly entertained by outrageous acts by audience members or constant quirky interaction amongst band members, but they do have a full host of great songs. I just wish they had played more of the better songs.

As is the cookie-cutter venue design, Meadow Brook is set up in pavilion with lawn seats. We had pavilion seats, which was nice since we had to show up late. It rained pretty steadily through most of the show which was great for the people on the lawn and in the last 10 (or so) rows in the pavilion (which included us). I am not being sarcastic with that. It actually added a common bond among concert-goers apart from an appreciation for the band. Now we all like O.A.R. and we are soaking wet, let's enjoy the show! Ok, so I am not explaining it very well, but it was fun.

The show was a lot of fun. I am very glad we were able to go. If you are interested in the pictures I took at the show, go HERE.

July 17th, 2006

Secondhand Lions

Rather than release a two-disc set, the makers of the Secondhand Lions DVD opted for the double-sided disc. This Easter Egg is on the backside of the DVD. Before or after you watch the movie, flip over the disc for additional special features. Highlight "On The Set with Secondhand Lions (26:06)" and move to the left to see a yellow flower icon appear on the dog's chest. Press enter/select to see a few takes of the scene where Walter (Haley Joel Osment) places a well aimed kick to Stan's groin. The different takes show the different things that Stan (Nicky Katt) says as he falls to the floor post-kick.

Superhero Studios

July 14th, 2006

When will a production studio pop up that specializes in Comic Book Hero movies? Similar to how Dreamworks and Pixar have found their niche, let someone come in while the getting is good. These movies are a graphics expert's dream come true and the effects have largely been a disappointment.

These characters are mutants and super heroes. They have special powers that can only be apparent on the big screen through special effects. People today love special effects and comic book hero films. Strike while the iron is hot. With so many spin off series being made, I cannot see the hesitancy behind this idea.

Do not tell me I am the first person to think of this. Who knows, maybe one already exists that I just do not know about.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand

July 13th, 2006


The FDA has found a "cure" to the common "disease" shared by mutants. It is up to Magneto's Brotherhood to stop the drug from being used to eradicate the population of mutants. The drug will allegedly be used on a voluntary basis only so the X-Men would like to help keep the peace. The Brotherhood is more skeptical and anticipates it being used with malicious intent. It is war the ensues.

Well at least war was what the trailer and previews lead you to believe. My thoughts on the movie ahead of time were simple: the plot will be severely lacking, but with a mutant war I will be able to sit there in my geeky glory and try to pick out which mutants I recognize from the TV series and the old comic books. That which was delivered fell well short of that which was promised/expected.

The actual "war" scene was only cool because Wolverine and Beast went crazy. Their choreographed fight scenes were fun to watch. Beyond that, there was nothing. The "war" scene lasted only a few minutes and it consisted of Magneto and Pyro sending Juggernaut into the building and unleashing an infantry of lesser mutants against the opposition while they stood back lobbed exploding cars.

Before I go on with my analysis, I really need the answer to a question. Are they making another X-Men movie? There has been speculation in both directions. Yes, there will be a fourth installment; we're not done yet. No, the X-Men group movies are over, make way for solo stories (it was called The LAST Stand for a reason...).

If there will be no fourth movie, then I think the ending and much of the story throughout X-Men 3 was incredibly pointless. You will have to ask me separately for my more pointed spoiler complaints.

They took such care in introducing Warren Worthington A/K/A Archangel, yet he was very under-used and remained entirely excluded from the action.

There was talk about a reduced budget for X-Men 3, and yet we see so much time and money wasted on a prolonged scene where Magneto uproots half of the Golden Gate Bridge and flies it across the water... Just take a boat. Or rewrite the script to Worthington labs is on the mainland so they can walk.

Why did they get our geek hopes up with a teaser fight scene with a Sentinal...only to dash said hopes because it was just a fight simulation in the Danger Room?

The fun of the books and TV show for me is that they were basically like a Street Fighter video game where each cut scene would pit two mutants with comparable powers against each other and they would fight. The movies really try to add a real world element that takes the fun away. The creators have hundreds of mutants at their disposal and they opt against introducing so many of them. The story could write itself if someone would just do a little research into characters.

The movie was decent enough. I can say that I have seen it and participate in the angst-filled discussions going forward. That is about all I took away from X-Men 3: The Last Stand.

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