Next Club Meeting: April 20, 2024, at the Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook from 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

The Animatrix Network is an anime & manga fan club located in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. We usually meet on the third Saturday of each month (except when holidays or conventions coincide). The meetings are free and open to the public. Join us for a day filled with anime.

This site provides news, reviews, commentaries, and previews of the world of anime and everything it inspires, such as live-action films, comics, music, art, and other weird things to enjoy and contemplate.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Newsletter - February 2011

Articles Collected and Edited by Octavio Soto
News: Former I.G Partner Storm Lion Closes in Singapore posted on 2011-01-10 15:16 EST
Storm Lion assumed costs of cancelled collaboration Titan Rain
The Strait Times newspaper and the FilmBiz.Asia site report that the animation studios Storm Lion and Egg Story Creative Production shut down in Singapore at the end of last year. Storm Lion once planned a joint production with the anime studio Production I.G before they canceled the project. In November 2009, Production I.G announced that it would work with Storm Lion on a co-production titled Titan Rain. The companies tentatively scheduled the feature film project for a 2012 release, but they dropped the plans by August of last year, with Storm Lion assuming all the costs. At that time, Production I.G parent IG Port announced another project with an unnamed Singapore studio. Egg Story Creative Production also shut down in the middle of production for Kung Fu Gecko, a planned computer-graphics film which turned into a television project. The Egg Story Digital Arts School, a related but separately funded and managed establishment, will continue to operate.
News: Band Posts About Bleach's 'Last Season,' Deletes Mention (Updated) posted on 2011-01-10 23:13 EST
Update: Recording director assistant Yosuke Morita confirms anime is not ending soon
The Japanese rock band ROOKiEZ is PUNK'D posted on its blog on Saturday that its new song "Song for..." will serve as a "fitting" ending theme song for the Bleach anime's final season. However, the band has since removed the mention of Bleach anime's final season from its blog post, although Google retains a web cache of the original post. The song will be the ending theme of the anime starting on Tuesday.
Update: Bleach's recording director assistant Yosuke Morita confirmed on his Twitter account that the broadcast schedule has been set well into the future, and so the anime will not end soon.

News: 4Kids Chairman, CEO Alfred R. Kahn Retires posted on 2011-01-11 18:31 EST
Director Michael Goldstein serves as interim chair; company to search for new CEO
4Kids Entertainment Chairman and CEO Alfred R. Kahn resigned and retired from his positions at the company today. The Board of Directors appointed 69-year-old Director Michael Goldstein as its interim chairman, and the company will also begin searching for a new CEO. 4Kids has agreed to pay Kahn six monthly payments of US$250,000 after his departure, along with "certain other benefits." As part of the agreement, Kahn and 4Kids have each released the other of "all claims, damages, rights, remedies, and liabilities against each other." Kahn will fulfill any non-competition and confidentiality agreements per his original employment contract. Goldstein served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the toy retailer Toys "R" Us from 1997 to 2001. He was also the Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Toys "R" Us from 1994 to 1998. 4Kids reported losses in the third quarter, second quarter, and first quarter of 2010. The company issued a press release on Kahn's departure and as well as a Form 8-K notification to investors, as required due to 4Kids' status as a publicly traded company. (4Kids is currently listed in the "Pink Sheets" as an inactive stock after the New York Stock Exchange delisted the company.) 4Kids currently runs the "Toonzai on CW 4Kids" programming block on Saturday mornings in the United States, and it launched a Toonzaki video-streaming website last September. It will release the Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time film in theaters in February and March.

News: Additional Arrietty U.S. Dub Cast Members Named posted on 2011-01-12 23:58 EST
Amy Poehler and Will Arnett revealed to voice Arrietty's parents
Producer Frank Marshall revealed more members of the North American dub for Arrietty: The Borrower, the latest theatrical film from Studio Ghibli, on his Twitter feed on Tuesday. Marshall posted, "Beginning to record Arrietty's parents, who will be voiced by [Saturday Night Live/Parks and Recreation's] Amy Poehler and [Arrested Development/Running Wilde's] Will Arnett. This should be fun..." On Wednesday, Marshall revealed that David Henrie (Wizards of Waverly Place) and Carol Burnett (The Carol Burnett Show) as the voices of the human "beans." Marshall had already revealed that Bridgit Mendler would play the title character. The film is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, with supervision by Hayao Miyazaki. It updates Mary Norton's 1952 novel The Borrowers by moving the story to a modern Tokyo suburb. The story follows the "little people" who live under the floorboards of a regular human family.

News: Diamond Comics Distributor Puts Borders Orders on Hold posted on 2011-01-12 23:36 EST
Bookstore chain also shutters Tennessee warehouse, 310 jobs
The ICv2 news site reports that Diamond Book Distributors has placed all orders from troubled bookstore chain Borders on hold. The distributor handles graphic novel distribution for several manga publishers, including Bandai Entertainment, dark horse, Digital Manga Publishing, Udon Entertainment, and Yaoi Press. Another industry website, Publishers Weekly, also reports that the Borders bookstore chain is planning to close its LaVergne, Tennessee warehouse facility, eliminating 310 jobs in the process. A company representative stated that the closure is part of Borders' long-term strategy to lower operating costs, but that it is not related to the chain's delayed payments to publishers. Borders will meet with publishers on Thursday to discuss these missed payments. ICv2 notes that Borders' financial issues affect manga publishers more than other publishers, due to the large influence that the chain had on manga's popularity surge in the last decade.

News: Warner Hires Shane Black for Hollywood Death Note Film posted on 2011-01-13 13:09 EST
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director to helm adaptation of Ohba/Obata manga
Movie news site Deadline reports that Warner Bros. has hired writer/director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; writer, Lethal Weapon film series) to direct a live-action Hollywood film based on Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's manga Death Note. The report also states that Anthony Bagarozzi (of Black's upcoming film Doc Savage) and Charles Mondry will write the film's script. Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the series from previous rights-owner Vertigo Entertainment in 2009, at which time screenwriter brothers Vlas and Charles Parlapanides were attached to the project. Actor Zac Efron has been rumored to star in the film; in a 2009 interview Efron acknowledged having a meeting but did not confirm whether he had the role or not, saying only that the project was not "on the front burner."

News: Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo to Show Eva: 1.11, 2.22 posted on 2011-01-13 23:10 EST
The North American anime distributor Funimation announced that there will be screenings for both Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone and Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance movies at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo on March 18 and 20, respectively. Also in attendance will be voice actor Spike Spencer, the voice of lead protagonist Shinji Ikari, to introduce the films and host a couple of panels at the expo. These screenings will occur weeks before Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance comes out on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on April 5.

News: Actor Toshiyuki Hosokawa Passes Away at 70 posted on 2011-01-14 08:15 EST
Prolific performer played rival Tohru Rikiishi in Ashita no Joe anime films
Prolific stage, film, and television actor Toshiyuki Hosokawa passed away on Friday, January 14 at 5:24 a.m. due to acute subdural hematoma. He was 70. According to his family, he had suffered a concussion when he fell in his living room on January 12 and was taken to a hospital in Tokyo. Although he is best known for his stage and film work, he also voice-acted in the Ashita no Joe anime films. Hosokawa was born in Fukuoka in 1940, and joined the Bungakuza theatrical troupe after he left Gakushuin University. Alongside actress Nana Kinomi, he starred in the Japanese production of the musical Show Girl for 15 years starting in 1970. He also appeared in such films as Yonige Yahonpo 2 and Radio Time (Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald). He tried his hand in voice-acting when he played Tohru Rikiishi, a major rival of the title character in the anime films based on the classic boxing manga Ashita no Joe. Since 2004, he served as a professor at the Osaka University of Arts.

News: 18 Arrested in Japan for Uploading via Share Program posted on 2011-01-14 10:20 EST
Since Tuesday, police in Japan have arrested 18 individuals on suspicion of using the Share file-sharing software to upload films, music, anime, games, business software, and other content on the Internet without the copyright holders' permission. The arrests were part of a police sweep of 50 locations in 23 prefectures. According to the Anti Counterfeiting Association, the following male suspects were arrested:
  1. 31-year-old part-time worker from Akita (Bakuman., Star Driver Kagayaki no Takuto)
  2. 32-year-old company worker from Moriya (Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz Special Edition, Gundam UC, Toaru Majutsu no Index)
  3. 33-year-old unemployed man from Utsunomiya (Sgt. Frog, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun)
  4. 25-year-old taxi driver from Tokyo (Cross Game, Dragon Ball Kai, Gundam 00 Second Season, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Evangelion)
  5. 43-year-old company worker from Takaoka (Black Butler II)
  6. 48-year-old company worker from Sakai (Negima, Detective Conan, "Yokosuka Story," "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai," & another song)
  7. 44-year-old unemployed man from Yokohama (Cold Case, The Mentalist)
  8. 42-year-old unemployed man from Hekinan (SD Gundam Gashapon Wars, God Eater Burst, Wii Party, Dragon Quest Monster Battle Road Victory, Tactics Ogre: Unmei no Rin)
  9. 29-year-old company worker from Kyōtango (Bloody Monday, Iryū)
  10. 34-year-old company worker from Aioi (One Piece, Sengoku Basara 3)
  11. 50-year-old unemployed man from Okayama (Zenrin Denshi Chizu-Chō Zi)
  12. 28-year-old company worker from Minamiuwa District (Vagabond, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin)
  13. 37-year-old self-employed man from Kōchi (Bleach, Sgt. Frog)
  14. 28-year-old company worker from Nagasaki (Big Windup!, Freedom, Black Lagoon)
  15. 33-year-old unemployed man from Miyazaki (Gundam 00 Second Season)
  16. 58-year-old civil worker from Kagoshima (IBM Homepage Builder 12, ATOK 2010 for Windows Premium)
  17. 29-year-old chef from Moriguchi (Star Driver Kagayaki no Takuto, Arakawa under the Bridge)
* The 18th suspect has not been described.
The first three people to be arrested for allegedly using the Share file-sharing program were arrested in May of 2008 in three different prefectures. These three previous suspects reportedly shared anime from the Gundam franchise. 11 people were arrested in November of 2009 for also using Share after 26 locations were searched. Three more people were arrested last October for using Share to distribute anime, games, business software, and manga online. An earlier peer-to-peer file-sharing software called Winny was developed in 2002 by a then anonymous computer engineering student. The software promised anonymity for its users, but the High-Tech Crime Task Force found flaws in its integrated forum feature. After two users were arrested for sharing copyrighted material using Winny in 2003, the developer was identified as Isamu Kaneko of the University of Tokyo and also arrested. He was convicted and sentenced with a 1.5-million-yen (about US$12,000) fine. During Kaneko's arrest and trial, another anonymous developer created the Share program which promised better protection of users' anonymity on Winny's file-sharing network. Since security researchers also found flaws in Share in 2006, other successor applications are being developed. However, three people have been arrested for allegedly using one of those successors, Perfect Dark. Japan's Copyright Law prohibits unauthorized uploaders but expressly allowed people to download for private use until last January.

News: Man Charged with Recording Audio from Gundam 00 Film posted on 2011-01-18 18:01 EST
Japan's 1st case against alleged recording of just a film's audio in theater
On Tuesday, Nakano City's central police station filed charges against a 42-year-old male company worker for allegedly recording the audio from Mobile Suit Gundam 00 the Movie: A wakening of the Trailblazer and SP The Motion Picture: Yabō-Hen with his mobile phone. The Nakano District Public Prosecutor's Office is processing the charges under both the recently passed law against hidden recording devices in movie theaters and Japan's Copyright Act. It is only the second case to be prosecuted under Japan's law against recording devices in movie theaters, and the first one where only the audio was allegedly recorded. Under the law enacted in 2007, both video and audio recordings are prohibited for eight months after a film's opening day (for paying audience members). The suspect allegedly recorded the soundtracks of the two films in a Nakano theater on November 4; the Gundam 00 film had opened on September 18, and the first SP film had opened on October 30. According to the police, the other audience members noticed the suspect and reported the incident to the theater staff. The suspect allegedly said that he had recorded the audio for his own personal listening enjoyment. Since the anti-recording law went into effect, Japanese movie theaters have regularly shown public service announcements to remind viewers of the law.

News: Oshii Writes Novel of Satoshi Kon's Unfinished Seraphim posted on 2011-01-19 08:27 EST
Katsuya Terada illustrates prologue to novel by original story creator Mamoru Oshii
Mamoru Oshii, the acclaimed anime director and the original story creator of the late Satoshi Kon's unfinished Seraphim: 2-Oku 6661-Man 3336 no Tsubasa (Seraphim: 266,613,336 Wings) manga, will publish a novel version of the manga in the Spring of 2012. The story is set after the world has been ravaged by "tenshi-byō" (angel disease), an affliction that eventually leads to death for all the victims. To solve the mystery of this disease, three wise men and a girl named Sera embark on a journey to the heart of Central Asia. Many enemies and conspiracies await them along the way. According to Kon, Oshii created the story's original concept and then asked Kon to make a manga of it. Kon originally serialized the manga in Tokuma Shoten's Animage magazine from the May 1995 issue to the November 1996 issue, but the story was incomplete after 16 chapters. After Kon passed away last August, Tokuma reprinted part of the manga in Monthly Comic Ryū magazine and then compiled Kon's entire run into a book (pictured at right) last December. Tokuma is also publishing Kon's first manga series (Kaikisen) this Friday and Kon's short manga stories (Yume no Kaseki Kon Satoshi Zen-Tanpen) on February 17. The March issue of Comic Ryu shipped on Wednesday with a supplemental booklet containing San Kenja Reihai-Hen (Three Wise Men's Worship), the prologue to Oshii's Seraphim: 266,613,336 Wings novel. Illustrator and character designer Katsuya Terada (Blood: The Last Vampire) illustrated the prologue.

News: Fractale Production Committee Halts N. American Simulcast posted on 2011-01-19 20:30 EST
Japanese copyright holders ask Funimation to eliminate unauthorized videos on net
The North American anime distributor Funimation has informed ANN that the Fractale Production Committee — the Japanese copyright holders of the Fractale television anime series — has forced the company to halt its simulcast of Fractale after only one episode. According to Funimation representatives, the committee requested that Funimation eliminates unauthorized videos of the anime on the Internet — including streaming sites, file-sharing networks, and file servers — before its simulcast will be allowed to continue. As a result, there will not be a simulcast of the second Fractale episode tomorrow, and the rest of the series' simulcast is on indefinite hold. Funimation Marketing Director Lance Heiskell told ANN, "We are disappointed that this series has been distributed illegally, and we're actively working to remove the first episode from illegal streaming and downloading sites; we've got a dedicated anti-piracy team in place that works on controlling all of our simulcast material. However, our Japanese partners for this series have decided that since this episode is currently uncontrolled and is available illegally in all territories, they don't want the episode online." The fantasy anime premiered in Fuji TV's late-night Noitamina timeslot in Japan and on Funimation's streaming service in North America last Thursday; Funimation has an ongoing deal in place to simulcast programs from that timeslot. Kannagi and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's Yutaka Yamamoto is directing the anime at his studio Ordet and A-1 Pictures. As of Wednesday evening, the first episode is still streaming on Funimation's website. The story is set on an island at the far reaches of a continent where the "Fractale System" is on the brink of collapse. A boy named Clain embarks on a journey to search for Phryne — a girl who disappeared, leaving behind only a pendant. Clain will eventually learn the secrets of the "System."

News: Fractale's French Simulcast Still Continues (Updated) posted on 2011-01-20 18:34 EST
Fantasy TV anime series' 2nd episode streaming on region-locked sites
The French video streaming sites and are both now streaming the second episode of Fractale as part of their ongoing simulcast deal for the series. The episodes are region-locked. On Wednesday, the copyright holders in the Fractale Production Committee halted the North American simulcast of Fractale after one episode and requested that licensee Funimation eliminate unauthorized copies of the series from the Internet before the simulcast may continue. As of Thursday evening, Funimation is still streaming the first episode of the series. announced its simulcast of Fractale on January 5. The episodes are available for free in 1080p resolution for one month, at which point the episodes are available on a rental basis at a price of 0.79 Euros (about US$1.06) for 48 hours. Funimation announced its simulcast of the fantasy anime on January 12. The series premiered in Fuji TV's late-night Noitamina timeslot in Japan and on Funimation's streaming service in North America last Thursday; Funimation has an ongoing deal in place to simulcast programs from that timeslot. Kannagi and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's Yutaka Yamamoto is directing the anime at his studio Ordet and A-1 Pictures.

News: SyFy to Start Chrono Crusade in February posted on 2011-01-21 19:50 EST
2 episodes of 2003 GONZO anime listed on U.S. network's schedule
The official schedule for the American television channel Syfy lists the first two episodes of Chrono Crusade, "Pilot" and "The Covenant," on February 22 at 11:00 and 11:30 p.m., respectively, immediately prior to two episodes of Gurren Lagann.

News: Funimation: Fractale Simulcast Returns on Monday posted on 2011-01-24 10:42 EST
2nd episode to stream at 11:45 a.m. EST; future episodes to stream on Thursdays
The North American anime distributor Funimation issued the following statement on Monday:
In recent days we have been diligently tracking the online illegal distribution of the anime series Fractale and on behalf of the rights holders we have been taking the appropriate legal action. As a result, we now have the approval of the Fractale Production Committee to stream episode 2 of the series starting today. We will make the episode available at 10:45 a.m CST and we are pleased to be able to continue the Fractale simulcast each Thursday as planned.
Funimation had revealed last Wednesday that the production committee — the group of companies that contribute to the production and own its copyrights — had forced Funimation to halt its simulcast of Fractale after only one episode. The committee requested that Funimation eliminates unauthorized videos of the anime on the Internet before its simulcast would be allowed to continue. While the North American simulcast was on hold last week, Wakamin continued its French-language simulcast. The American video-streaming website Hulu briefly listed the second episode for a Monday release, but it no longer does. Funimation never stopped streaming the first episode. Funimation Marketing Director Lance Heiskell discussed how unauthorized videos affected the licensing rights of anime in international territories in a Friday entry on Funimation's official blog. The fantasy anime premiered in Fuji TV's late-night Noitamina timeslot in Japan and on Funimation's streaming service in North America on January 13. Kannagi and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's Yutaka Yamamoto is directing the anime at his studio Ordet and A-1 Pictures. Yamamoto discussed fan-subtitled versions of his works and Fractale's appeal to non-anime fans in an Asahi article published before Fractale premiered.

News: Wizard, Toyfare Print Magazines Discontinued posted on 2011-01-24 19:20 EST
Wizard Entertainment goes public as Wizard World, Inc.
The ICv2 retail news source reports that Wizard World has shut down the print editions of its Wizard and Toyfare magazines, effective immediately. The company said that it plans to create an online Wizard World magazine in February to "reach an even wider audience." According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Wizard founder Gareb Shamus took the publisher Wizard Entertainment public via a reverse merger with the failed gas company Go Energy (traded as GOEE.PK). Shamus has been appointed President and Chairman of the company, which will be renamed Wizard World, Inc. The company will publish the digital magazine and also handle the Wizard World brand of conventions. In 2009, Wizard Entertainment shuttered its eight-year-old magazine Anime Insider.

News: Crunchyroll Licensing VP Rob Pereyda Steps Down posted on 2011-01-25 00:18 EST
Pereyda acquired titles for streaming site; co-founded Anime Overdose convention
Rob Pereyda, the vice president of licensing at the media-distribution website Crunchyroll, is stepping down on Friday. Since Pereyda joined the company in March of 2008, he has been responsible for negotiating with Japanese production companies and licensors to acquire titles for Crunchyroll's streams. In a message sent on Tuesday, Pereyda said that he "wouldn't be leaving if things weren't so strong" for Crunchyroll and added that he will "look for more exciting things to come in the near future" from the site. He did not mention his own future plans. Pereyda was previously a founder and director of the Anime Overdose convention (now known as AOD or Animation on Display) in Northern California. He also worked at CAPCOM and Konami before Crunchyroll.

News: Summer Wars Nominated for ICS Awards, But Not Oscars posted on 2011-01-25 10:42 EST
International Cinephile Society also nominates Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, Illusionist, Howl
The International Cinephile Society announced the nominees in 17 different categories of the 8th ICS Awards on Sunday. Mamoru Hosoda and MADHOUSE's Summer Wars adventure film is among the candidates for Best Animated Film. The other four nominees in this category are Lee Unkrich and Pixar's Toy Story 3; Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois and Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon, Sylvain Chomet and Django Films' The Illusionist, and Rob Epstein's Howl (a live action drama about poet Allen Ginsberg with animated sequences representing his poems). The winners of the 8th ICS Awards will be announced on February 18. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also announced the nominees for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on Tuesday. How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, and Toy Story 3 earned Oscar nominations in the Animated Feature Film category. Since 15 films were submitted for possible Oscar nominations in this category, only a maximum of three nominations were allowed this year; had 16 or more films been nominated, up to five nominations would have been allowed. The Oscar awards ceremony will be held on February 27.

News: Funimation Sues 1,337 BitTorrent Users Over One Piece posted on 2011-01-25 11:55 EST
Defendants allegedly downloaded, distributed One Piece TV anime episode 481
The North American anime distributor Funimation filed a copyright infringement complaint against 1,337 "John Does" over the 481st episode of the One Piece television anime on Monday. According to the suit filed in the Northern District of Texas, the unidentified defendants "collectively participated, via the Internet, in the unlawful reproduction and distribution" of the episode "Ace Rescued! Whitebeard's Final Order!" via the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol. The suit lists defendants by their host IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and Internet service providers. The alleged incidents of copyright infringement took place between January 9 and January 12. The lawsuit identifies three of the sites where the defendants allegedly found the BitTorrent reference descriptor files for the One Piece episode. The suit also notes that users in a BitTorrent "swarm," by the inherent nature of the technology, are simultaneously downloading parts of the file and distributing parts of it to others. Funimation believes that the identities of the current 1,337 defendants and "additional infringing parties" will be revealed during the pre-trial discovery phase of the lawsuit, and it will then amend the suit to include their names. Funimation asks the court to stop the defendants from infringing on Funimation's copyrights for this episode and any other videos now or in the future. If another request in the suit is granted, defendants "shall destroy all copies of Plaintiff's [videos] that Defendant has downloaded onto any computer hard drive or server without Plaintiff's authorization and shall destroy all copies of those downloaded [videos] transferred onto any physical medium or device in each Defendant's possession, custody, or control." Funimation also seeks compensation for damages and legal costs. ANN is awaiting Funimation's response to a request for comment.
Update: The filed complaint identifies the representative "hash" number of the file as b305c19f8e8bdab5e39b33a4ffc364a12beb110b.

News: Japanese Court: ManekiTV's Live Streaming Service is Illegal posted on 2011-01-25 23:45 EST
The Japanese supreme court ruled last week that ManekiTV, Nakano Shoten's service which forwarded Japanese television programs to overseas users in real time, is illegal. This judgment overruled several previous judgments made by lower courts that the service was legal. According to the supreme court, the streaming service constitute "public transmission," but the same is not necessarily the case if a private individual were to stream to another individual. The case has been turned over to the Intellectual Property High Court to calculate damages. The public broadcaster NHK and five private television networks joined together to sue Nagano Shoten. The service itself utilized a Sony television tuner to distribute programs to users' computers via Internet streaming.

News: X Japan Signs With EMI Music North America posted on 2011-01-27 22:36 EST
1st U.S. single, "Jade," in March; Yoshiki to launch monthly show on Sirius XM Radio
The rock band X Japan has signed a three-year contract with EMI Music North America, with the first single release scheduled for March 15. The single, titled "Jade," is going to be the band's first single in North America. Band leader Yoshiki said that they are also planning for an album in summer, and a tour before the end of the year. Yoshiki will also launch a monthly one-hour radio program called Yoshiki Radio on the American satellite network Sirius XM Radio. The band made its American debut last year with a performance at the rock festival Lollapalooza and other venues. X Japan has created music for anime works such as the X² music video collection and the X film.

News: Malta Library Puts Manga Book Under Restricted Access posted on 2011-01-27 23:30 EST
Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics placed with books on sexuality, religion
The Malta Today newspaper reported last Friday that the University of Malta Library placed 33 books — listed here — in a special cabinet where patron must request access. Included among these books is Paul Gravett's 2004 nonfiction volume Manga: The First Sixty Years, alongside the Marquis de Sade's Justine, 101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History, and books about pornography and human sexuality. A representative of the library on these islands south of Italy stated that "some of these books might be out of print, or very fragile, or might be in such high demand that, once placed on open shelves, pages might get torn out, or stolen entirely." The Malta Today noted that only 13 out of the 33 books are more than 20 years old, and the non-governmental organization Front Against Censorship added that several titles on the list are readily available from Amazon and other booksellers at regular or discounted prices. University library director Kevin Joseph Ellul defended the library's practices by asserting that requests for access have not been denied so far. In 2006, the San Bernardino County Supervisor ordered Manga: The First Sixty Years pulled from the county's public libraries due to several sexually explicit drawings which appear in the book. A nearby community college displayed the book as a protest against the censorship.

News: Swedish Translator's Child Pornography Charges Upheld posted on 2011-01-28 11:39 EST
Court of appeal lowers fine but upholds conviction for 39 "manga images"
On Friday, Sweden's Svea Court of Appeal upheld a conviction against Simon Lundström, a 37-year-old translator of manga, on possession of child pornography for 39 manga images. A lower district court in Uppsala had convicted Lundström for 51 images on his computer last June and fined him 25,000 kronor (about US$3,900). Svea Court of Appeal ruled that it cannot determine that four of the images depicted children "with a sufficient degree of certainty." It also ruled that eight more images did not meet the legal definition of pornography. However, the court upheld the lower court's ruling on the remaining 39 images as child pornography. None of the images depicted real children. The court of appeal did lower Lundström's fine to 5,600 kronor (US$860). Lundström has translated over 80 volumes in two series for the publisher Bonnier Carlsen over the last decade. However, after the Uppsala ruling in June, Bonnier Carlsen ended its working relationship with Lundström.

News: Magazine: Tokyo MX TV Affected by Youth Ordinance Bill (Update 2) posted on 2011-01-31 02:49 EST
Tokyo MX denies that it will self-regulate explicit anime, filter anime fans from job applicants
On Monday, the February 12th issue of Kodansha's Weekly Gendai magazine published an article that discussed the disruption that the recently passed amendment to Tokyo's Youth Healthy Development Ordinance may cause to the Tokyo MX TV station's future plans. According to the magazine's unnamed source in the station's management, "There is a possibility that we will self-regulate the broadcast of explicit anime" because of the station's deep ties with the government. The source specifically cited the number of late-night anime that have panty shots and other kinds of risque depictions on Tokyo MX. Weekly Gendai's source at Tokyo MX added, "We are popular among students as a station known for its strong presence of anime," but the station may have to reconsider hiring anime fans among new graduates. For example, the job application sheet may have the question, "If you were to take a foreign friend sightseeing in Japan, where would you take him or her? If the student were to write "Akihabara," the station might ask him or her to leave the application process. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed an amendment to the city's Youth Healthy Development Ordinance last month. The amendment would expand the number of manga and anime that fall under "harmful publications," the legal category of works that must not be sold or rented to people under the age of 18.
Update 1: Tokyo MX's blog for new graduates stated that Weekly Gendai's article is not true. It asked job applicants to submit their entries without any worries. Thanks, bayoab.
Update 2: On Tuesday, Tokyo MX's Twitter account completely denied that it will self-regulate late-night anime and states that its focus on anime has not changed. [Via Hachima Kikō]

News: Navarre: No 'Adequate' Offer for Sale of Funimation (Updated) posted on 2011-01-31 16:52 EST
Sales effort may halt if no offer by March; higher net income in Funimation's segment
Navarre Corporation, the Minneapolis-based parent company of the North American anime distributor Funimation, released its financial results for the third quarter of fiscal year 2011 on Monday. The financial results cover the three months which ended on December 31. The report states that Navarre "has not yet received an adequate offer" in its efforts to sell Funimation. Although its efforts continue, the company anticipates halting the process in the event that no adequate offer is made in the fourth quarter, which ends on March 31. As Navarre had announced in previous quarters, Funimation is now listed as "discontinued operations" — a financial term for a segment of a company that has been separated from the rest of the company, or has been approved for separation. Despite the connotations of the term, Funimation continues to operate as normal. Navarre is now reporting Funimation's financial information separately from the rest of Navarre's holdings while it is finding a possible new owner for Funimation. Navarre's "discontinued operations" showed a net income of US$1.8 million. In the third quarter of 2010, one year prior, discontinued operations showed a net income of US$928,000; in the first quarter of 2011, the segment had an income of US$895,000, and in the second quarter, it had a net income of US$1.68 million.

News: Cameron Still Aims to Direct Battle Angel After Avatar 2/3 posted on 2011-02-01 08:01 EST
Director plans to include Motorball from books 3/4, parts from books 1/2
Director James Cameron told the website this past weekend that he still intends to personally direct a film adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita (GUNNM) manga. Because Cameron and 20th Century Fox plan to release two Avatar sequels on December 2014 and December 2015, the director said that he "had to consider, do I hand [Battle Angel] off to another director? And then I thought, 'No, I love it too much.'" Cameron added that he plans to adapt "the spine story" of the manga with elements from the first four books. Specifically, he intends to include the deadly high-speed competition of Motorball from the third and fourth books, along with elements from the first two books. Cameron has been working on an adaptation of the manga since at least 2003, and he already commissioned a script and a year of design work. Kishiro's manga ran in Shueisha's Business Jump magazine from 1990 to 1995, followed by the 1995-1996 follow-up Ashen Victor and the single-volume GUNNM: Other Stories. The story continued in 2001 with the retelling Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, which is currently on hiatus as the result of an issue between Kishiro and Shueisha's Ultra Jump magazine. Kishiro plans to move the manga to another publisher, Kodansha. Viz Media has licensed all but Other Stories for release in North America. In 1993, Hiroshi Fukutomi adapted the manga into a two-episode original video anime (OVA) project, and ADV Films licensed the anime.

News: Minami no Kazoku Creator Kazuo Takahashi Passes Away posted on 2011-02-02 05:39 EST
His manga also included Hatena, Sukebe-Musume, Bakudan Girl, Ero-Rei
Manga creator Kazuo Takahashi passed away in his Tokyo home and was discovered on January 30. He was 41. His works included Minami no Kazoku, Hatena, Sukebe-Musume, Bakudan Girl, and Ero-Rei. His father Hirofumi will lead a service on Friday in Uenohara, Yamagata. [Yu-Gi-Oh! manga creator Kazuki Takahashi once drew manga under the name Kazuo Takahashi. However, Kazuki Takahashi is not the manga creator who passed away.]

News: New York Comic Con Extended to 4 Days in October posted on 2011-02-02 22:10 EST
The event organizers at ReedPop announced on Tuesday that New York Comic Con will add an fourth day of activities and panels this year. The convention will now run from Thursday, October 13 to Sunday, October 16. The event is the second largest comic book convention in the United States, and the largest on the East Coast. Since its debut in 2006, attendance has increased annually; it attracted over 96,000 attendees last year according to its official website. New York Comic Con and the New York Anime Festival (another, formerly separate Reed event) shared the same weekend last year.

News: Borders Negotiates Credit Line, Delays More Payments posted on 2011-02-02 22:23 EST
Bloomberg claims chain may file for bankruptcy next week
The Publishers Weekly trade magazine reported that the bookstore chain Borders delayed its January payments to publishers in an attempt to conserve cash. Borders also delayed similar payments earlier in January and reportedly hoped to convince publishers to treat the company's debts as loans. The deadline for publishers to agree to this offer was February 1. The financial news site Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Borders "may file for protection from creditors as soon as next week" and may also close 150 stores, despite statements from Borders that it is attempting to maintain its relationships with publishers and vendors. The Wall Street Journal newspaper added on Wednesday that the bankruptcy filing may be delayed until the middle or the end of February. Borders stock dropped 36% after Bloomsberg's report, and dropped another 18% on Wednesday. Borders negotiated a US$550 million credit line from GE Capital subject to conditions, including the publishers agreeing to grant Borders credit.

News: Paper: YouTube Views Appear to Raise TV Anime DVD Sales posted on 2011-02-03 10:22 EST
Keio professor: Winny downloads used as substitute for DVD rentals, not for sales
Tatsuo Tanaka, an associate professor of economics at Keio University, posted a discussion paper titled "Do Illegal Copies of Movies Reduce the Revenue of Legal Products? The case of TV animation in Japan" last month. The paper details the research that Tanaka conducted on the effects that the video-sharing site YouTube and file-sharing program Winny had on DVD sales and rentals for television animation programs in Japan. Tanaka was a faculty fellow in the Japanese government's Research Institute of Economy, Trade & Industry (RIETI), which hosts the paper. However, Tanaka emphasized that the paper expresses his own views and does not represent the views of RIETI. Tanaka chose to study television animation programs because their episodes have a standard length, and the large number of programs made them a ideal subject for quantitative analysis. Out of 111 anime titles listed, 105 such as Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Major, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, Soul Eater, Vampire Knight, To Love-Ru, Macross Frontier, and Kodomo no Jikan were shared on Winny. 58 of them were also on YouTube. According to Tanaka's findings, YouTube views increased DVD sales, while Winny downloads decreased DVD rentals. A 1% increase in YouTube views correlated with a 0.25% increase in DVD sales. In particular, Tanaka said that the effect was clearer for programs that had already stopped airing on television. An 1% increase in YouTube views also correlated with a 0.08% increase in DVD rentals, but this increase was statistically inconclusive. A 1% increase in Winny downloads correlated with a statistically inconclusive 0.06% increase in DVD sales. However, an 1% increase in Winny downloads correlated with a 1.11% decrease in DVD rentals. According to Tanaka, these results indicate that Winny downloads are used as a substitute for DVD rentals, but not for DVD sales. In his conclusions, Tanaka suggested that companies encourage online streaming similar to the YouTube model. He added that individual companies should use their own discretion on how to handle these issues instead of acting as a "cartel." Tanaka advocated that companies experiment through trial and error to find viable solutions, which cannot be done if they just resort to copyright protection organizations to strengthen copyrights.

News: Funimation's Fractale Stream Delayed by Storm Closure posted on 2011-02-03 11:15 EST
Company headquarters closed for 3 straight days due to ice, power outages
The North American anime distributor Funimation has announced that its simulcast of the fourth episode of the television anime Fractale will be delayed. Funimation's offices in Flower Mound, Texas have been closed for three days due to ice on the roads and rolling power outages throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The company has not yet announced when the episode, which was originally scheduled to go live at 11:45 a.m. EST on Thursday, will be streamed. This is the second time the anime's simulcast has been delayed; on January 19, Funimation announced that the simulcast had been halted and would not return until the company had removed unauthorized online video of the series. On the following Monday, January 24, the simulcast resumed.

News: 2 Teens Arrested for Thefts at K-On! Model School posted on 2011-02-04 01:17 EST
18 and 17-year-old males allegedly were fans and stole 22 figures, 3 guitars, cash
Police in Wakayama Prefecture arrested an unemployed 18-year-old male from Shirahama Town and a 17-year-old male from Tanabe City on Friday afternoon for allegedly stealing guitars and character figures from the real-life model for the K-ON! anime's school. According to the police investigation, the two suspects broke into the display area in the former campus of Toyosato Elementary School in Shiga Prefecture on November 17 at around 1:30 a.m. The suspects allegedly stole about 20 character figures, three guitars similar to those seen in the anime, and two cash boxes with several hundred thousand yen (about several thousand U.S. dollars). Police in Tanabe arrested the 18-year-old suspect in December for allegedly stealing cash from local supermarkets, offices, and other places. During a search of the older suspect's home, the police discovered figures and other items. According to the police, the suspects said that they liked K-ON! so they wanted the figures. The police believe the two are associates of a group that repeatedly broke into offices in their prefecture. In 2009, Kyoto Animation modeled the K-ON! anime's fictional Sakuragaoka High School after the Toyosato campus, which was being repurposed since new school facilities were built. In the year between May 2009 and May 2010, about 40,000 fans visited the campus, and over 1,000 goods were put on display. The guitars and 22 figures that were stolen were all given by fans, and the cash box contained proceeds from the on-campus shop. On November 19, the guitars, an empty cash box, and other items were discovered in a ditch at a field near the campus.

News: Barefoot Gen Creator Nakazawa Reveals Cancer Treatment posted on 2011-02-05 09:59 EST
A-bomb manga's Keiji Nakazawa says he is getting better after lung cancer surgery
Keiji Nakazawa, the 71-year-old creator of the world-renowned Barefoot Gen manga about the Hiroshima atomic bombing and aftermath, revealed on Friday that he was hospitalized for three months due to lung cancer and related ailments. However, Nakazawa attended the Friday opening of a Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum exhibition of his art and said with a smile, "I somehow got better." According to Nakazawa and his 68-year-old wife Misayo, the manga creator experienced shortness of breath and checked into a Hiroshima City hospital last September. There, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He underwent surgery and was discharged after about one month. However, his health deteriorated, and he returned to the hospital until the end of December. His health has improved as the shortness of breath disappeared, but he did lose 10 kilograms (about 22 pounds). Nakazawa joked at the museum, "It's a good thing this exhibition didn't turn into my retrospective." Nakazawa had abandoned plans for a new Barefoot Gen sequel in 2009 due to his worsening eyesight from a cataract and a damaged retina. However, he said, "Our generation must continue to tell of the horrors of atomic bombs and war," and added that he hopes to announce a new video or film project. At the age of 6, Nakazawa survived the 1945 Hiroshima bombing and the loss of his entire family except for his mother. He moved to Tokyo in 1961 and became a published manga creator at the age of 24 in 1963. He created several titles such as Kuroi Ame ni Utarete (Drenched by Black Rain) before drawing his most famous work from 1973 to 1985. The resulting ten volumes of Barefoot Gen have since sold over 10 millon copies and have been translated in English, Russian, Korean, and many other languages. Last Gasp Publishing republished the Barefoot Gen manga in North America. The story has been adapted into two animated films and a live-action television drama special in Japan. Producer Northrop Davis and a partner have been pitching the story to Hollywood studios. Over the years, Nakazawa donated 2,735 original drawings of Barefoot Gen and at least 30 more boxes of other materials to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

News: Japanese Teen Arrested for Distributing Manga Online posted on 2011-02-08 00:20 EST
18-year-old male allegedly posted 3,800 volumes, earned 270,000 yen in ads
On Saturday, police arrested an 18-year-old male student from Katagami City in the northern Japanese prefecture of Akita for allegedly posting manga online. According to the authorities, the suspect said he downloaded the manga from the Internet and wanted to make a site for the manga. According to the police's High-Tech Crime Joint Task Center, the suspect used his home computer to save the 11th Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (Nurarihyon no Mago) volume, the 14th Sket Dance volume, and the eighth Eden no Ori volume onto the servers of an online storage service, Megaupload. He then allegedly distributed these manga titles for free downloads from August 15 to September 3 of last year, in violation of the Copyright Law of Japan. The suspect opened his "" blog last March, and he received download requests for manga from readers on a forum. Including the three titles he was initially charged with distributing, he allegedly made 3,800 files from about 260 titles available to the public. With 2.5 million hits so far, the suspect reportedly received 270,000 yen (about US$3,300) in advertising revenue. During a search of the suspect's home on the day of his arrest, police confiscated 26 items including personal computers, hard drives, and his bankbook.

News: AnimEigo's Urusei Yatsura License Expires in September posted on 2011-02-09 23:44 EST
Anime based on Rumiko Takahashi manga goes out of print September 30
The North American distributor AnimEigo announced on its website on Wednesday that it has been unable to renew its North American license to Urusei Yatsura, a television anime and animated film franchise based on Rumiko Takahashi's manga of the same name. The company will cease accepting orders for the franchise starting on September 30, but predicts that it will run out of stock prior to that date. Urusei Yatsura is the second announced AnimEigo title to expire this year; in February, the company's license to Oh! My Goddess expired. In April the company announced that it had been unable to acquire the latter 84 episodes of Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl. It released the first 40 episodes on DVD in 2008.

News: Leiji Matsumoto: New Anime, Live-Action GE999 Planned posted on 2011-02-10 10:16 EST
Zero Desigze anime planned for this year; live-action Galaxy Express 999 in development
Manga and anime creator Leiji Matsumoto (Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Space Battleship Yamato) revealed in an interview with the website and Otaku USA magazine that a live-action version of his science-fiction manga Galaxy Express 999 is in development now. In portions of the interview posted last week, he added that his new project, Zero Desigze, will be an anime released this year. According to Matsumoto, one of the difficulties in the proposed live-action Galaxy Express 999 project is finding an actor to play Captain Harlock. Galaxy Express 999 features appearances by Captain Harlock, Emeraldas, and various characters from Matsumoto's other stories. Matsumoto also indicated that Zero Desigze will probably be released on home video first, although it could be shown on television. The producers revealed last year that Matsumoto was working with Isao Yasuda on Zero Desigze, and the World of Leiji Matsumoto exhibit in Tokyo presented designs from the project in October. posted part of Matsumoto's interview online, and Otaku USA will publish more of the interview in its May/June issue. The Japanese studio Toei Animation revealed last March that it was planning a computer-animated version of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and it showed a pilot video during Tokyo International Anime Fair later that month. A live-action film remake of Space Battleship Yamato opened in Japan last December.

News: Viz Pictures Rebranded as New People Inc. posted on 2011-02-10 23:10 EST
New People Productions division formed to organize San Francisco's J-Pop Summit
The movie licensing and distributing company Viz Pictures, Inc. announced on Tuesday that it is rebranding itself as New People Inc. Viz Pictures launched a retail and entertainment complex called New People in San Francisco in 2009. As part of the re-branding, New People Inc. will include two new divisions: New People Entertainment, which will manage licensing and distribution, and New People Productions, which will be devoted to organizing the annual J-Pop Summit event. The event takes place in San Francisco's Japantown, where the New People Center is located, each summer. According to the press release, over 40,000 people attended the 2010 summit. Seiji Horibuchi, who also founded and chairs the manga and anime distributor Viz Media, will serve as president and CEO of New People, Inc.

TVs With Built-In Tetris Coming Posted January 5, 2011 - By Stephen Johnson
Would you like a game of Tetris embedded inside your TV, so you could play the famous Russian puzzle game any time you want? Me neither! But casual game company Oberon Media hopes others will have the urge. Oberon announced yesterday thatit had announced a deal with the Tetris's licensor that allows them to distribute the game to Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players later this year. Oberon hasn't announced what specific sets will feature the built in-game, but Jonathan Boltax, senior director of iTV Services for the company, says they are planning partnerships with "numerous leading TV brands."

Mark Wahlberg Confirms Uncharted Casting Posted January 10, 2011 - By Chris Monfette
To most of us geeks of the world, Nathan Fillion represents the perfect casting of just about any character ever, but perhaps never moreso than that of Nathan Drake, the wry, yet capable hero of the Uncharted franchise. And to those very same geeks, Uncharted represents perhaps the most appropriate, action-packed and ultimately imaginable game-to-film property circulating in Hollywood today. Too bad that when the Uncharted movie finally releases, it’ll have none of those elements whatsoever. Rumors that Mark Wahlberg – whose performance is currently being bolstered by the exceptional Christian Bale in The Fighter – is a lock for the role appear true as the actor continues to discuss the title on the film’s press tour, practically confirming to site MovieHole that he is, in fact, attached to play the sardonic hero.  “David O. Russell is writing right now and hopes to direct,” said Wahlberg. “It’s myself, Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro.” Now, that could all be premature if Russell isn’t yet a lock to direct, as any other director could substantially change the casting, tone and indeed the script itself. But as it stands, with Russell and his former collaborator Wahlberg namedropping the project with such frequency, it feels like the pair is giving both studios and fans the hard sell. Despite the fact that Russell has previously stated that he wants to turn the film into an adventure about a family of antiquities experts. We’re hoping he means “family” in that “your friends are your 21st century family” kind of way. Otherwise, that’d be a drastic change to the Drake / Sully / Alluring Female scenario of games past.

ThunderCats Series: New Image Posted January 26, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
Cartoon Network's revival of ThunderCats just got a lot more clear as Warner Bros has released the first official image from the series, which is set to hit sometime this year. The series will be a collaboration between the studio giant and Japan's Studio4°C, who were responsible for stylized animated adaptations like The Animatrix, Halo Legends, and Gotham Knights. After a promotional poster was released last year that depicted gritty, menacing imagery of ThunderCats leader Lion-O, the assumption was that the series was headed towards a darker, more realistic tone in concert with that image. However, what we're seeing is something quite different than expected. It appears to contain updates of the characters from the classic 80's series in wide-eyed, pastel-colored anime style. However, even within the seemingly more lighthearted motif, lies what appears to be a clever reinvention of the franchise. What's immediately apparent, is that Lion-O has been reinvented from the tall and buff character from the original series to reflect his youth. Of course, in the classic show, Lion-O was quite literally a child in a grown man's body as the result of a snafu in the suspended animation pods during the group's long trip from their destroyed planet of Thundera. In this new iteration, we will more likely focus on Lion-O's journey in earning his place as the group's would-be ruler and the woes from his coming of age. As the official synopsis depicts: The new “ThunderCats” will appeal to viewers who have loved the characters all their lives as well as young newcomers to the franchise. A sweeping tale combining swords and science and boasting ferocious battles with the highest of stakes, the grand origin story of Prince Lion-O’s ascension to the throne – and of those who would thwart his destiny at any cost – takes on epic dimensions in this sharp new telling. As the forces of good and evil battle each other in the quest for the fabled Stones of Power, Lion-O and his champions learn valuable lessons of loyalty, honor and mortality in every episode. The other ThunderCats appear to be much more prepared for action this time around in their new outfits, which reflect more battle-friendly armor characteristics. Panthro is far bigger and even more grizzled than before, Tygra finally got rid of the spandex, and Cheetara is no longer sporting that signature one-piece bikini, opting for a more midriff-centric look. (Don't worry guys, the feline goddess will still manage to bring unnatural thoughts into your heads.) And lest we forget, the group's whiny pogo-tailed mascot Snarf, who is not seen in the picture, will be in the series, just minus the ability to say anything other than "Snarf!" (I'm not sure if that makes it any better.)

Wonder Woman Pilot To Be Directed By McG? Posted January 26, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
Will Wonder Woman be spinning away to her new TV series with McG at the helm? TV Line's Michael Ausiello is reporting that the project, produced and pitched by David E. Kelley, does indeed have its sights set on the high-profile director/producer to tackle the pilot for NBC. Known as director of the Charlie's Angels films, 2009's Terminator Salvation, and the upcoming Ouija board project (???), McG's work in television as executive producer of shows like Supernatural, Human Target, Nikita, and Chuck have earned him a resume with enough femme fatale cred that puts him at the front of the line of hopefuls for the Wonder Woman reboot pilot. Despite the mixed feelings some might get from the mention of McG, the prospect of his involvement in the critical first episode may possibly change how this series is perceived. What will we get? With the guru of lighthearted legal drama, David E. Kelley's name initially attached to the project, the immediate assumption was that it would follow more of an irreverent tone, focusing more on how being Wonder Woman would affect the love life of her alter-ego Diana and "life as a modern woman" more so than about bringing a comic book hero to life on the small screen. In fact, possibly because of that perception, it seemed that no one wanted to touch the DC Comic project with a ten-foot pole, especially its once-rumored home, ABC, which would have been problematic since its relationship with rival Marvel Comics comes in the form of them both being owned by Disney. Thus, reports were coming in that the project had been embarrassingly shot-down. However, Kelley still had hopes of keeping the project alive, and eventually, the journey brought him back to NBC, who had initially passed on the project due to a late start in the script and what was referred to as "executive reshuffling." With its prospects now revived at the Peacock with an official greenlight, the big concern is how the show will now take shape. The show is being described as depicting Diana Prince as a successful corporate executive, who also happens to balance that high-demanding job by roaming the streets of Los Angeles as an ass-beating, truth-lassoing vigilante. (While wearing a sexy red and gold bikini, I presume?) The possible procurement of McG could fit in well with the semi-serious tone that David E. Kelley brings to his characters, which can sometimes try too hard to flaunt their status as "modern" to the point of caricature. The shows that McG overlook, do manage to successfully balance timely humor with the necessary serious steps of moving forward with the underlying storyline. It just may be what the show needs to combat the campiness that would undoubtedly make itself present if it leans too far in the "Diana is a successful modern woman that has an office with a big window: Be in awe of her or she'll kick your ass" premise.

Total Recall Remake Moves Forward With Colin Farrell Posted January 10, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
It seems that the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger surrealistic space odyssey Total Recall will be the next film to get the remake treatment. Additionally, it seems that the new hero who will be battling the famous frontal lobe-raping travel agents will be played by none other than Colin Farrell. Having been one of the many remakes rumored for a long time now, the official confirmation of the film's status and of Farrell's involvement came when Collider had a chance to sit down with producer Neal Moritz, whose impressive 20+ year resume include soon-to-be-released films The Green Hornet, Battle: Los Angeles, as well as developmental-stage projects like Marvel Comics' Luke Cage. His work on Total Recall has allowed him to dish on a surprising number of details about the film's setting, as well as how it will distinguish itself from the beloved 1990 Paul Verhoeven film, which was based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. Here's a hint: No one will have the opportunity to "get their ass to Mars" in this version. Intrigued yet? News about this remake project, which were practically nonexistent, have suddenly erupted thanks to a few words from Moritz. As it so happens, this is a film, with director Len Wiseman, that's gearing up to move quickly in a big way. While Colin Farrell had previously been vague when asked about his then-rumored starring role for Total Recall, Moritz would unequivocally state: “We’re doing the movie with Colin Farrell.” Indeed, it would appear that the big name star being locked-in for the film was the main catalyst for the sudden momentum. Additionally, as if the confirmation of this remake's star and greenlit status was not enough, Moritz would then reveal that the film will be shooting in Vancouver starting May 15. This film, therefore, should easily be in theaters by 2012.  Oh, and the plot? Well, the whole basic idea of a man in the future going on a mentally-induced vacation by a shady company, discovering doubts about his life and the very nature of his own existence is all there. In fact, Moritz promises a film that's closer to the vision of the original story by Philip K. Dick, whose works also inspired Blade Runner, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. However, the idea of going to space and the events on Mars will not be present in this version. According to Moritz the attempt will be to do the same story, while keeping the events terrestrial:
“[I]nstead of it being a spaceship that takes us to another planet, there’s something that takes us from one side of the planet to another that’s really interesting.”
While the interviewer states that he regrets not asking Moritz if the film will feature everyone's favorite sentient body tumor, the Quato, you do get the sense that director Len Wiseman is looking to make the future here on Earth something that is equally alien and dangerous in even its terrain. As Moritz comments:
“I think the world that Len Wiseman is creating is incredible. It’s a real world, a real future world, where the cities have just gotten so overcrowded that the cities are just built up, up, up, up. It’s just everything I see on the movie, every pre-vis I see on the movie, every conceptual drawing on this movie that I see just makes me more and more excited. We’re playing it like a real world, but there’s all these technological advancements to the real world, and it’s just really, it’s cool. It’s an awesome movie. I’m dying—as a fan of movies, more than anything, it’s a movie that I’m just dying to see.”
While I get that they could be going for a type of film that substitutes literal alienation with mankind turning into mutants on another planet for the metaphorical alienation and mutation of mankind from its own world and all that happy symbolic stuff, Total Recall without Mars, is going to be a tough sell. The mutants, scenery, and action on the Red Planet was always that eccentric touch which gave the film its sense of identity in the realm of dark escapism. It will nevertheless be interesting to see what kind of imagery this film will be able to conjure.

Wesley Snipes is Julius Styles: The International, Always Bets on Black Posted January 11, 2011 - By Chris Monfette

Just because you’re serving a fairly hefty sentence for tax evasion doesn’t mean you can’t still continue to kick ass. At least, not according to thespian and professional assassin Wesley Snipes.  And if by “kick ass” you mean “license your image,” then yes, by all means; nothing’s stopping you.
Hence today’s announcement by developer Lapland Studios, Elstree Studio Productions and Red 27 Films of an upcoming strategy/action title called Julius Styles: The International staring none other than the 57th passenger himself, Mr. Wesley Snipes. For more on the project – as well as the accompanying film – continue on…
Set in the always-cheery world of “money, power, sex and murder,” Julius Styles is an international “Facilitator.” We’re assuming that’s like a concierge but with fewer theatre tickets and more decapitations. The project will begin life as an AppStore exclusive and expand to Xbox Live, PSN, WiiWare and the Android Market. Followed, of course, by a feature film staring Blade as Julius Styles.
Sounding blissfully, press-release peppy from the confines of his cell, Snipes had this to say about the project:
"This project was inspired by my desire to bring my Art of War, Murder at 1600 and Passenger 57 characters into the game world. Julius Styles will offer something for both the mind game strategist and the kick-ass special ops warrior lover…This game will expand on the cool, sexy, diverse sometimes scary, and often bizarre world and people I've had the pleasure to spend time with…I love games that challenge my mind and reflexes. Julius Styles pits your street knowledge survival skills with your academic intellect and spiritual intuition. The feature film is going to be a blast!"

Missile Command Movie Is A Go At Fox Posted January 12, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
It appears that one of video games' perennial early classics, Missile Command will be getting ready to hit the big screen. Coming off the game's 30th anniversary last year, 20th Century Fox has added the arcade and Atari staple to what is now a growing list in Hollywood of head-scratching brand adaptations from the world of board games and early video games, such as Asteroids, Battleship, Ouija, and Rollercoaster Tycoon over at Universal and Space Invaders over at Warner Bros. However, it's pretty clear that, much like those examples, a game where you shoot jagged-pixelated explosions at descending white lines on the screen will provide little source material for a live-action feature. So, the script will likely have to build a story from the ground-up around what is speculated to be some Cold War-themed action-drama. So, who could possibly up for that job?
Tasked with the responsibility of actually providing a workable plot, will be a duo of scribes consisting of Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama whose work will appear in the reboot of Flash Gordon. While no director has been named as of yet, producers Peter Chernin (Rise of the Apes, Terra Nova) and Dylan Clark (Rise of the Apes, They Marched Into Sunlight) are on board and Atari head Jim Wilson will oversee the film as executive producer.
This new crop of films being labeled with classic brands is definitely an odd thing. While one could argue that the studios are simply using name recognition to promote what would essentially be generic scripts, the name brand recognition would be too old to gel with younger audiences. Additionally, it is clear that these films are being written around the classic brands and not vice-versa. It may, therefore, be an attempt from the companies who own these classic brands to rejuvenate the strength and name recognition of their property in the hopes of yielding better sales of their board games and more reinventions of the classic video games.

The Hobbit Gets Ian McKellen & Andy Serkis Officially On Board Posted January 11, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
Fans can now breathe a collective sigh of relief as it has been confirmed that The Hobbit will now get both its original wise wizard Gandalf the Grey and feral cave-dwelling ring junkie Gollum. Yes, Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis are now officially on board the two-part 3D epic. These two returning integral characters from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy have, oddly enough, been some of the last holdouts in the casting announcement bonanza that has been taking place for the last few months, with most notably, Martin Freeman as main character Bilbo Baggins. With these two locked-in to reprise their roles, all that remains to necessarily maintain the full actor/character continuity between The Hobbit and the Rings trilogy will be Hugo Weaving's Elrond, whose return is practically inevitable. However, when it comes to the return of Ian McKellen as Gandalf, it was a much bigger victory for fans than one might think, and was anything but inevitable. In his blog, McKellen describes just how close he actually came to passing on the role. You'd be surprised at what the actor is sacrificing to don his pointy grey hat.
At the age of 71, Ian McKellen describes himself as "fit," and has been happy with his work schedule for the past year with a production of Waiting for Godot touring Australia and New Zealand. The legendary actor still had every intention to reprise his role as Gandalf, but with the seemingly unending stream of difficulties that would beset the production from studio bankruptcy to Union issues, McKellen especially felt the clock ticking away. Having gotten to where we are now, with The Hobbit being set to shoot next month, he began to ask himself if it was worth the trouble. As he comments in his blog (via Ain't it Cool News):"As my agent continued to negotiate with Warner Brothers, I kept wondering was Gandalf what I most wanted to do, more than a new play for instance or indeed a new part?  Sequels aren’t necessarily as rewarding to act in as their originals." Adding: "Could I let Gandalf go?  Would anyone else care if I did?  Elsewhere, does anyone care that Michael Gambon was not the first to play Dumbledore?"
He definitely makes a valid case that the film could essentially go on and be as great as fans would like, even without him. Michael Gambon taking over the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films is a prime example of that situation. (In fact, while I respected Richard Harris' work, I personally preferred Gambon's version.) At McKellen's age, especially, what work you are physically able to do should be about what makes you happy. However, with what McKellen is describing as "sizable breaks" within the 18 month shoot of the two-parts of The Hobbit, allowing him to work other projects, McKellen decided that the schedule was feasible enough. As a fan, it's just excellent to hear that. Additionally, anyone who's read the books will know that Gandalf's role in The Hobbit is actually much more limited than it was in the Rings trilogy. We still may be getting an additional scene that was merely alluded to in the book, where Gandalf leaves Bilbo and company to attend a meeting of the White Council of Wizards, discussing the threat that would eventually reveal itself to be Sauron. However, McKellen's shooting schedule would still be comparably smaller than the previous films.
McKellen and Serkis will be joining fellow Rings vets Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood who are also locked into the film to reprise their roles. With Orlando Bloom's Legolas also looking very likely to return, Christopher Lee's off-the-reservation White Wizard Saruman may also be back for the aforementioned White Council scene. The Hobbit's time-line will be taking place about 60 years before the Rings films. (Although the book's timeline differs at about 80 years, due to necessary narrative changes in the Rings films.) 

Pirates 5 Now In The Works At Disney Posted January 14, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
While the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, On Stranger Tides, won't hit theaters until May 20, it seems that the folks at Disney are already gearing up for a fifth. Scribe Terry Rossio, who's co-written this year's release, along with previous Pirates films, Curse of the Black Pearl and At World's End, is now officially locked-in as the lone writer on this next swashbuckling adventure of the park attraction-turned-film-franchise. Returning to direct, will be On Stranger Tides director Rob Marshall, whose work on the current film has apparently pleased Disney enough to warrant the continuation of the franchise.
While the critical component of getting star Johnny Depp on board is not officially a done deal, Deadline reports that a deal structure is in place which will more than likely draw him into the film. Regardless, the move may prove a bold display of confidence in the now nearly-decade-old Pirates franchise. However, could it be a bit premature?
Rumors had actually sparked late last year that, much like the process of filming the last two Pirates films, that parts 5 and 6 would allegedly shoot back-to-back, essentially completing what would be a second trilogy of films. Regardless, there seemed to be a general feeling in the air that On Stranger Tides ("Pirates 4") would indeed be the last film, serving as a sort of exclamation point or character study of Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow after the initial trilogy had the romance of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley's Will and Elizabeth in focus. While no news has since come about the sixth film, the news of Terry Rossio and Rob Marshall being locked-in only for part 5 could be taken to mean that Disney might be playing things by ear regarding how the franchise performs this summer before they commit to part 6. While the franchise was undoubtedly a box-office juggernaut, it will be returning after a four-year hiatus and gauging how audiences will react to a series with so many existing sequels may be difficult. Ennui can be a deadly thing to juggernauts.

The Hobbit Delayed By Peter Jackson Health Scare Posted January 27, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
An unfortunate health scare has sidelined director Peter Jackson from his work on The Hobbit. The director was admitted to a hospital in Wellington, New Zealand with severe abdominal pains, which would be diagnosed as being a perforated ulcer in the stomach. However, the news is far from grim, as the prominent filmmaker, who also holds the title of Knight Companion in his native country is expected to make a full recovery after undergoing emergency surgery. As a result, the filming of the two part 3D epic return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit will be slightly delayed while the director recuperates. In a production already plagued with delays and legal minutia of every imaginable form, the health issue of Jackson is just the latest setback. While the delay will hardly be exceptional and the film will more than likely proceed as planned without a hiccup, it does leave one to wonder how much more behind-the-scenes drama can a film that hasn't even begun shooting possibly endure. If one were of the superstitious ilk, might it be suspected that this film is -- gulp -- cursed?
A statement released from The Hobbit production gave the official update on Jackson's status:
"Sir Peter is currently resting comfortably and his doctors expect him to make a full recovery."
Ironically enough, a perforated ulcer, in which the ulcer burns through the stomach lining, sending digestive acids into the stomach cavity, was an ailment that the late author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien also suffered. Some may attribute the cause of Jackson's health scare to his dramatic weight loss in recent years (he claimed dieting to be his strategy,) coupled with a heavy workload, that may have exacerbated an unknown issue. -- However, who knows? This isn't the New England Journal of Medicine. Hopefully, everything will work out and he can finally get around to fulfilling the wishes of countless fans around the world and bring The Hobbit to life on the big screen.

Alien Prequel Dead: What Can We Expect From Prometheus? Posted January 18, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
By now, the news is already widespread that Ridley Scott's much-talked-about Alien prequel has been chucked out of the proverbial airlock. However, the framework left behind from that project will be used to support a new film by Scott called Prometheus. With the rest of the team from the now-nixed Alien project remaining on board, most notably Lost mastermind Damon Lindelof, the goal now is to preserve the heart of Scott's project, which was reportedly just as ambitious in the realm of ideas as it was in the scope of budget. As if the Alien prequel's legacy didn't live on enough through the upcoming re-worked Prometheus script, it seems that the film will also enjoy the plethora of casting rumors that have been grandfathered from its previous incarnation. Back in the mix to star, is the star of the original version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, Noomi Rapace, who is reportedly the first to be signed to the film as main character Elizabeth Shaw. Charlize Theron also made recent headlines in connection to the project, and apparently with good reason, it seems that she's still in line for a character called Vickers. However, for Theron, it seems that a new challenger for that role has appeared: Angelina Jolie. Did this movie's profile just get raised? (Sexual metaphors aside.)
While much of the casting news still remains a mystery, we can probably assume in the meantime that much of what we heard about the Alien prequel will apply to Prometheus. However, in altering the context of that project and deleting the Alien franchise from the profile, a whole new crop of possibilities have just opened. Damon Lindelof, who has been working closely with Scott, also seems to describe the loss of the Alien brand name as liberating and a great opportunity:
“While Alien was indeed the jumping off point for this project, out of the creative process evolved a new, grand mythology and universe in which this original story takes place. The keen fan will recognize strands of Aliens DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative. I couldn't be more pleased to have found the singular tale I'd been searching for, and finally return to this genre that's so close to my heart.”
Indeed, the Alien franchise is one of the most recognizable horror/sci-franchises of all time. However, with so many sequels, including the Alien vs. Predator films, the brand power, as well as the mythology, has become so diluted that even for Ridley Scott, the man who made it all happen in the first film over 30 years ago, it was a task the equivalent of asking George Lucas to write obscure Star Wars Expanded Universe fan fiction. Now, as Prometheus, billed as an "all-new horror/sci-fi franchise from the man who brought you Alien," its profile has been ironically raised.  In fact, according to Lindelof, he believes that Scott's ideas for the would-be Alien prequel were quite groundbreaking and original, something that would have been wasted on being just another entry into that franchise.
"In a world flooded with prequels, sequels and reboots, I was incredibly struck by just how original Ridley's vision was for this movie. It's daring, visceral and hopefully, the last thing anyone expects. When I sat in a movie theater as a kid, feet raised off the floor for fear that something might grab my ankles, I never dreamed in my wildest imagination I would one day get to collaborate with the man responsible for it. Working alongside him has been nothing short of a dream come true."
The reported $250 million dollars that was to go into the Alien prequel projects (which at one time was set to be two films) could now have more justification in the launch of a potential new franchise. This could alleviate much of the tension that was reported between Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox studio over not only those financial issues, but the director's desire to make a hard-R-rated epic. Now freed from the constraints of the brand name he once helped create, hopefully Scott, like the new film's namesake, can once again steal the fire of the Gods, while avoiding that whole "being chained to a rock while a giant eagle eats your liver after it grows back every day" thing.

Van Damme Heading For The Expendables 2? Posted January 18, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
Could the "Muscles from Brussels," Jean-Claude Van Damme finally be joining Sylvester Stallone and the rest of the old-school 80's action stars in The Expendables 2? Well, director Sheldon Lettich seems to think that is the case. Lettich, who has been involved with Van Damme's classic action showcases of leg flexibility like Bloodsport, Lionheart, and Double Impact, regularly sits down for Q&A sessions with fans in the online community TheVanDammeFans. (Yeah, I didn't know this existed, either.) Apparently in the most recent session, while touting a possible sequel to Double Impact, he fielded a question about JCVD's involvement with the upcoming sequel to Stallone's Summer 2010 hit. Judging from his answer, it seems that he's ready to be on board, with one important caveat: No Steven Seagal. Yes, it appears there is some tension between these action titans who once ruled the box-office, and apparently, the Belgian superstar wants nothing to do with the pony-tailed part-time Louisiana Sheriff, whose reputation among those in the business is actually somewhat notorious.
According to Lettich: "JC seems to be leaning towards appearing in the sequel, as far as I know...If Steven Seagal is not in the sequel. From what I've heard it, Steven Seagal won't be, not because of Sly, but because of producer Avi Lerner, who had a few bad experiences with Steven." Adding: "We're getting closer to resolving the rights issue, but it's not something I can talk about yet, nor is it a sure thing. Stay tuned." With a worldwide gross of nearly $275 million, The Expendables featured perhaps the most testosterone-laden cast ever put together and would undoubtedly have a sequel on tap. The absence of Van Damme in last year's film was one of the few gripes of the millions of moviegoers who enjoyed the homage to the action movies of days past with nary a CGI effect in place. With Bruce Willis reportedly set for a return (rumored as the film's villain this time around,) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who had a brief cameo in the first film with Willis) possibly set to return, seeing as his gig as "The Governator" has run its course, Van Damme's presence would also undoubtedly help the old-school lightning bolt strike twice in this who's who of kick-assery. Despite the rather strong ultimatum about Seagal, the outlook of JCVD joining the cast seems pretty good, since, as Lettich mentions, Avi Lerner, a producer on The Expendables 2 reportedly wants nothing to do with Seagal whatsoever. As of right now, The Expendables 2 is penciled-in for 2012, a year that's looking to be one of the biggest in movie history for big-budget blockbusters. With most of the cast looking to return, including Steve Austin, whose villain character was actually killed, star/director Sylvester Stallone may be looking to top the pure blood n' guts manliness of the last film, if that's even possible.

Andrew Garfield As Spider-Man Posted January 13, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
The upcoming 2012 Spider-Man reboot film still may not even have a title, but Sony Pictures has nevertheless revealed the first look at star Andrew Garfield in his new wall-crawling pajamas! For this film, whose mere existence has been a heated point of debate among fans after plans for Sam Raimi's fourth Spider-Man effort fell through, the question of how director Marc Webb would distinguish this film may have gotten its first clue with the new image. Would the (500) Days of Summer director take Spidey on a self-fascinated, hipster-ish, emo romp in the Big Apple? Or an intense, over-the-top, gritty rollercoaster of triumph and tragedy? Well, not to say that one picture answers all of that, but it certainly makes a statement about where this film may be heading. Spidey's clearly beaten to hell. There's sort of a serpentine quality to this version of the costume, and with Garfield's arms looking long, it's also alien-like. In fact, it sort of reminds me of the pics of Tomar-Re from Green Lantern.

Anne Hathaway Is Catwoman & Tom Hardy Is Bane! Dark Knight Rises! Posted January 19, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
Years of rumors and speculation have just been put to rest: The Dark Knight Rises has just named its villains! An announcement directly from Warner Bros. has revealed that Anne Hathaway will play the one and only Selina Kyle/Catwoman and that Tom Hardy will play Bane! The news should come as somewhat of a surprise to the fan community, who had been entertaining recent rumors that seemed to point to Catwoman not being in the film and Tom Hardy playing either Hugo Strange or Black Mask. The news of Hathaway's turn as Batman's feline-fetish-fancying nemesis/sometime hook-up also likely rules out the presence of the rumored inclusion of Talia al Ghul, who would have served in that same love/hate capacity. The bombshell announcement may not necessarily quell all the rumor mills entirely, but now, for the first time, we have a pretty good official picture as to what we can expect from what will likely be director Christopher Nolan's final film in the Batman series. In the announcement, the director comments on the new casting acquisitions.
On Hathaway: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Anne Hathaway, who will be a fantastic addition to our ensemble as we complete our story.”
On Hardy: “I am delighted to be working with Tom again* and excited to watch him bring to life our new interpretation of one of Batman’s most formidable enemies.”  *[Hardy appeared in Nolan's film Inception]
Nolan's Batman series, which has been hailed for its dark, realistic, and cerebral reinvention of the franchise will be well-served by including Catwoman, a character with whom Batman has the most complex relationship. The dichotomy of a romantic interest who is also a mortal nemesis should play out in a much more enthralling way than before with the added touch of Nolanesque fatalistic mystique. While Anne Hathway is probably not the first name that one might evoke as far as casting choices, Nolan must have chosen her for a reason. Keep in mind that the reaction to Heath Ledger being cast as the Joker generally evoked smug Brokeback Mountain jokes at first. He might feel that he can get some kind of perception-altering performance out of her in the same way he got one out of Heath.
Tom Hardy playing Bane is surely a surprise. The character was utterly defiled by Joel Schumacher in 1997's Batman and Robin, portrayed as a killer who is altered into a giant mindless oaf for Poison Ivy. However, fans of the comics know better. Introduced in 1993, somewhat recent for a character set to take on Batman in a movie, he was known as one of the Dark Knight's most cerebral and cunning opponents who also happened to be a huge, muscular specimen, given additional super-strength by a drug called Venom that's fed directly into his brain. He's also known as the main antagonist in the "Knightfall" storyline in which he broke Batman's back, putting him on the shelf for a year while Azrael took the mantle as Gotham's protector. (Of course, he turned out to be a psycho.) Bane's been through the ringer over the years, walking the line between good and evil, even surfacing as a member in the super team title Secret Six.
Anyone who's seen Hardy's work knows that he can definitely handle the cerebral villain's role, but it's kind of odd that Nolan, who we can assume wants to treat the character with the respect he wasn't given in his last big-screen appearance, would pick such an integral character as a "secondary villain." It will be interesting to see how Bane will fit in the picture with a storyline likely centered on the thin line between love and hate that will be tested in Bruce Wayne's relationship with Selina Kyle.

X-Men: First Class: New Photos & More  Posted January 20, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
New X-Men: First Class photos are coming in droves and the film is finally starting to take shape. Besides getting our first glimpse of Kevin Bacon as the villainous Sebastian Shaw, pics of James McAvoy's Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender's Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto displaying their dysfunctional friendship seem to be the most telling of the film's purpose. Starting with a leaked cast photo earlier in the week, the past few days have certainly yielded a plethora of revealing looks at director Mathew Vaughn's head-scratching prequel to the X-Men film franchise. Regarding the leaked cast photo, which Fox had ordered taken off sites, only to have hi-res official versions subsequently show up, the director was apparently most displeased. It wasn't so much because some big secret was let loose, but rather that -- well, frankly -- he thought they sucked and reflected bad on his film. Vaughn recently spoke to Slashfilm and let loose his feelings on the photo and brings some new perspective to the film. According to Vaughn: “I freaked out on them yesterday. I don’t know where the hell that came from. I don’t think it’s a Fox image. It’s not a pre-approved image. When I found out, I said, what the f**k is this s**t, and Fox is running around trying to figure out what happened as well. I agree. It’s like a bad photoshop, which maybe it was by someone. It didn’t reflect the movie. I was shocked when I saw it. I was like ‘Jesus Christ’…"
While the photo in question wasn't monumentally horrific, "Bad Photoshop" seemed to be the general assessment of the fans and clearly damage control quickly went into effect, resulting in the array of new photos we've been getting such as a set delivered to Slashfilm featuring Magneto in his helmet (title pic) and Xavier using his psychic powers. (Well, he has his fingers pressed against his temple, so that must mean he's using his powers, anyway.) The LA Times' Hero Complex also managed to come by some exclusives revealing Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Shaw sitting all aristocratically with January Jones' White Queen Emma Frost as well as a very telling image of Xavier and Lehnsherr engaged in a chess match. The pics seem to have one goal in mind: Show that X-Men: First Class actually has a compelling story to tell.
Vaughn goes on: "It’s definitely more serious and more realistic, and I think that’s something that had to happen. That’s my feeling about the world we live in right now. I think the glossy colorful superhero film sorta had its day." Adding: "I think it’s boring watching CG and big explosions. I’m sorta over that. I’d say it’s got more character-driven action than action for the sake of action." Despite there being some serious anachronistic concepts in this film (notably the presence of an adult Emma Frost, who was depicted as a teen rescued by an older Xavier in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) there still seems to be an approach that has it beholden to the primary film series started by Bryan Singer and finished by Brett Ratner. As star James McAvoy tells Hero Complex: “This is a prequel, so I’m the same character, just younger, but the challenge for me – and for Michael — is to show the same person in a different place in their life; to show someone before they’re this bad guy, before they’re this saint. Charles wasn’t always a … monk, this selfless, sexless monk that he becomes.”
However, one might take it as a mixed message that director Mathew Vaughn nevertheless wants to reinvent the superhero franchise by creating this addition to the series that became the epitome of the previous generation (if we dare call it that,) of superhero films, rather than rebooting it completely. In fact, Vaughn refers to First Class as being something more akin to Casino Royale, which, in continuing the existing James Bond franchise, managed to go back to the character's beginning and reinvent it in a gritty, character-driven manner. However, the Bond franchise may not exactly be in line for the same type of puritanical criticism as a beloved comic book franchise like the X-Men. So, Vaughn's work will clearly need to walk a fine line.
The prequel will depict the public's wide discovery of Mutantkind, set amidst the backdrop of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a time in which Armageddon already felt dangerously close. The idealism of best friends and powerful mutants, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr will result in the formation of the first X-Men team. However, events will put the friends on two distinct ideological paths making them the legendary rivals we know they become. There's undoubtedly an aim that goes well beyond costumed superheroes making stuff explode. -- That being said, I wouldn't put it past the film to give us at least a small share of those things when it hits theaters on June 3.

Black Panther Film Moves Forward At Marvel Posted January 21, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
It seems that the long-planned, never-realized Black Panther movie project may finally be moving forward. Marvel Studios has hired documentary writer/editor Mark Bailey to pen the script for the big screen debut of T'Challa, the African Prince-turned costumed superhero. The news may be the culmination of nearly two decades of unrealized plans for the feature film, which had been floating the name of Wesley Snipes as the titular character since as early as 1992. However, the timing would never be right, and even after the rights to the property went back from Columbia Pictures to Marvel in 2005, things would not work out for Snipes, who even in 2006, was stating his intentions to star in the film. However, the project would be put in developmental purgatory, and as for Snipes -- well, maybe they can bake a cake and sneak a Black Panther costume into his cell. With Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige on board as producer, what can we expect from this often-overlooked Avengers member?
Black Panther's story is essentially one of T'Challa, son of the King of the Panther Tribe from the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He would be forced to realize his destiny as King when the villain and Fantastic Four nemesis, Klaw murders his father over a valuable mineral that found its way to his land called vibranium. Arriving via meteorite, vibranium (the same material used in Captain America's shield) would leave the tribe vulnerable to harm and exploitation from outsiders. T'Challa would need to endure tests of his skills and strength, including tangling with the Fantastic Four, to prove that he was worthy to inherit his Kingship and the title of Black Panther (Ceremonial Chief) to protect his people. After earning that title, he would become a hero with the aid of a mystic herb that gave him additional strength, senses, stamina, and resistance to magic. (Although he was recently given new powers via a Panther God.) He would eventually become a key member of The Avengers super-team. Besides being a master hunter and tracker, due to his privilege, T'Challa's also highly-educated, holding a Ph.D. in physics from Oxford University.
Despite the name of the film project coming up in odd rumors in the last year, like Marvel Short Films, it now appears that the expected momentum from The Avengers and its crossover films may have been the catalyst allowing the film to finally become a reality. So, given a possible connection to those mega superhero films, the inclusion of documentarian Mark Bailey as scriptwriter seems odd -- to an extent. With politically-charged works on his resume like Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, Pandemic: Facing AIDS, and the script for the film adaptation of non-fiction book The Last of the Tribe: The Epic Quest to Save a Lone Man in the Amazon, it's clear that he was hired to give a unique perspective on the tragedies of the Third World.
We can therefore see that the drama within T'Challa's big-screen story may center on his trying to prevent the exploitation of his lands from whatever unscrupulous forces may be wanting to get their hands on its riches and hurt his people. (I'd be doubtful if it were Klaw.) In that sense, what Bailey brings to the table will be useful. However, the humanitarian aspect (for lack of a better term) that Bailey brings could also potentially lead to a bit of indulgence in the realm of political agitprop. -- I'm hoping that is not the case, as it would be a disservice to the story itself and the fans. Hopefully, what we'll get is something that is true to the idea of bringing one of Marvel's most underrated heroes to the big screen, while preserving the high-spirited, action-packed atmosphere indicative of the Avenger-related films. 

Prometheus To Take Place In The Alien Universe? Posted January 27, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
Will Prometheus still feature Aliens? After being salvaged from the supposedly-canned Alien prequel project, Ridley Scott's Prometheus continues to baffle the Internet rumor mills regarding exactly what it will become. According to a report from Sky, their "exclusive sources" tell them that despite earlier reports, Prometheus will indeed take place in the same universe in which the iconic, vicious, acidic-sanguinary Xenomorph Aliens roam. While it was believed that Prometheus would emerge as a re-contextualized version of the original Alien prequel script penned by Lost mastermind Damon Lindelof, the report alleges that there will, in fact, be Aliens-a-plenty in the film. The film, which has its sights locked on Noomi Rapace as main character, Elizabeth Shaw, has recently confirmed rumors that Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, 300) will join the cast to play a Bishop-like Android character. So, will we get a straight story about what this thing will be anytime in the near future?
According to Sky's sources:
"Despite that press release that seemed to indicate there were no aliens in the movie, the familiar HR Giger-style aliens do appear. Big ones apparently." Also: "They’ve built the ‘space jockey’ cockpit at Pinewood as seen in the original Alien film, so it definitely takes place in the same world as Alien."
In the initial announcement of the Alien prequel's metamorphosis into Prometheus, Ridley Scott made the comment that "keen fans" would recognize what he referred to as "strands of Alien’s DNA”  in the film. The comment seemed designed to assure fans of the Alien films that it would maintain their spirit. However, if the news from Sky's sources turns out to be accurate, then Scott may have made literal comments that were misconstrued as figurative. Their report indicates that Alien DNA will play quite a role in the film.
"Part of the film will be shot in Morocco. I’ve heard that some sort of archaeological dig where they discover alien DNA takes place there and that DNA gives them the coordinates for an alien world. I’ve also heard Morocco is being used for alien planet landscapes so I’m not sure if it’s an archaeological dig on another planet."
This is indeed an odd situation. We were never really given a clear reason for the supposed demise of the Alien prequel project and it was generally assumed that the issues of money and artistic direction that surrounded the infamously contentious relationship between Scott and Fox Studio was the culprit. Now, it could very well be that the prequel project may have simply got a new coat of paint (in other words, just a title.)
However, what may put some doubts into the validity of this report, may be the comments made by Damon Lindelof upon the Prometheus announcement. It essentially complimented the originality of Scott's project, while decrying the array of "prequels, sequels, and reboots." While it may have been a declaration of how this "prequel" would manage to transcend all the tired gimmicks we've been seeing in similar brand revival attempts, it still sounded like it was in the context of complete liberation from the Alien franchise. Additionally, in Ridley Scott's "DNA" comment, he made reference to what he described as a "new, grand mythology and universe."
It is a possibility, therefore, that all of these details from the report could be accurate, but dated. So, for now, I'd more likely put this tidbit in the "grain of salt" file.

Lethal Weapon Reboot In The Works Posted January 20, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter
It seems that Lethal Weapon, one of the most beloved action franchises of all time may be coming back to theaters -- as a new film. Yes, a reboot/remake-crazy Hollywood will be getting around to a film that, quite frankly, very few would find shocking was in its sights. Deadline reports that Warner Bros, with producer Joel Silver have brought on board scribe Will Beall to pen the rebooted version of the film which depicted a straight-laced cop on the verge of retirement teamed with a psycho with a death-wish. Formerly of the LAPD, Beall, a writer for TV's Castle, is now on Hollywood's radar for a script for the upcoming film Gangster Squad, which will be directed by Zombieland's Ruben Fleischer. Spawning three sequels, the Lethal Weapon franchise grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide and propelled Mel Gibson from simply being "Mad Max" to a household name. (This was before he found a new medium in avant-garde voicemail messages.) With the mind of a legitimate former South Central LA Police Officer in this script, how could we see Lethal Weapon reinvented?
As far as action films go, realistic and gritty seems to be in vogue these days and that's where I see this heading. Lethal Weapon was a huge contributor to the whole "buddy cop" genre that emerged in the 80's, mixing it with the decade's proclivity for over-the-top action, humor, and some obligatory full-frontal nudity in case the former two attributes weren't enough to capture your attention-span. In a similar vein, we saw TV's Miami Vice reinvented in 2006 (by, as it happens, its original exec-producer Michael Mann) to reflect a kind of departure from the signature fashion and pop-culture elements of the show that was once said to star "MTV Cops." For Lethal Weapon, however, it could prove a more interesting test. Few would argue against the idea that the heart of those films was firmly placed within the chemistry between Mel Gibson's Riggs and Danny Glover's Murtaugh. It was that, not the action or any character templates that made Lethal Weapon -- Lethal Weapon. Filling that gap, will require nothing short of magnificent casting decisions, regardless of how good of a script Beall submits.
With plans from a few years ago for what would have been a fifth Lethal Weapon film now abandoned, the reboot effort will need the right hook that resonates with the good memories of moviegoers, while managing not to taint anything. It leaves a tough choice: Be bold and attempt to create something new and unique, or go the route of parody and mold the film into a caricature of the classic films that people know.

Henry Cavill Is Your New Superman! Posted Last week - By Joseph Baxter
The identity of the new Superman has been revealed! Actor Henry Cavill, best known from the sexified historical royal drama, The Tudors, has officially been announced as the one and only Kryptonian juggernaut in Zack Snyder's Superman: Man of Steel. Amidst rampant casting speculation that included names like True Blood's Joe Manganiello and The Social Network's Armie Hammer, the 27 year-old native of Jersey in the Channel Islands (not the one currently known for bad tans and venereal diseases) has emerged to put on the blue pajamas in the 2012 franchise reboot film. Perhaps already set for a mainstream break when he shares the screen with the likes of Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver in upcoming film, The Cold Light of Day, and this Fall's Immortals with Mickey Rourke, Cavill has landed a potentially star-making role as the new Man of Steel. Of course, for the last Superman, Brandon Routh, (to no fault of his own,) it turned out to be a raw deal. What will Henry Cavill bring to the Superman franchise?
According to director Zack Snyder in the joint announcement from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures:
“In the pantheon of superheroes, Superman is the most recognized and revered character of all time, and I am honored to be a part of his return to the big screen.  I also join Warner Bros., Legendary and the producers in saying how excited we are about the casting of Henry.  He is the perfect choice to don the cape and S shield.”
Making a choice not unlike the one that Christopher Nolan (who has been retained as a producer for this film) made in casting his Batman, we now have a Superman that will be working to hide an English accent. (And hopefully, not anger management issues.)
I actually had the True Blood star Joe Manganiello pegged for the part, assuming that Zack Snyder may have wanted to go the 300 route with a buff, bad-ass Man of Steel. I'm not quite sure where the casting of Cavill leaves the project, but of course, with December 2012 being written-in as the release date, there's obviously plenty of time for things to take shape. Cavill's casting certainly doesn't negate the possibility that Snyder is going balls-to-walls with a new, more action-oriented version of Superman. However, it does seem to indicate that he was indeed looking for something specific in the performance itself which Cavill was able to provide. What that may be, remains a mystery.
Personally, I'm still somewhat bummed that they were not able to continue the franchise with Brandon Routh, who, in putting on a decent performance, was seriously done a disservice by Superman Returns. However, I remain optimistic that Zack Snyder understands that in redoing the Superman origin tale that we've all seen numerous times, it's going to require a strong antagonistic force that is directly connected to the destruction of Krypton, making the process more compelling. -- Brainiac should be that villain, and steadily-paced action should be the main focus.

Javier Bardem To Take Lead Role In New Bond Film? Posted Last week - By Joseph Baxter
Could Javier Bardem be soon going head-to-head with James Bond? Deadline reports that the Spanish-born actor has been offered what they are referring to as a "starring role" in the upcoming and newly-reactivated James Bond film. At the moment, no details have been revealed about his character, or even if he would be playing a hero or villain. I suppose in some Bond films, like with Sean Bean's role in GoldenEye, that info could be spoileriffic, since virtually nothing is known about the film, even its title. (Its tentative nickname has been Bond 23.) However, Bardem's star-making role as the bad-ass, foot-dragging, cattle-gun blasting assassin, Anton Chigurh in 2007's No Country for Old Men has the rumor mills leaning towards the idea of him being the film's villain. However, the man has kept a diverse film resume since then, and a good guy role could be possible. Rumors also have him pegged to make a huge commitment to star as gunslinger Roland Deschain in an adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, requiring three feature films and a limited-run TV series. For the man, who also just became a father with wife Penélope Cruz, he could have a lot on his plate.
Meanwhile, as the film's behind-the-scenes drama progresses, the recently-rescued MGM studio, now run by the folks at Spyglass, appear to be ruffling feathers in its somewhat Machiavellian method of shopping around other studios for distributors, seemingly pitting them against each other. It's as if they put Sony, Fox, Paramount, and Warner in a steel cage with a single rusty switchblade on the floor in a "four men enter, one man leave" fight for those distribution rights. While that may be rubbing some executives the wrong way, for fans, it's a positive sign that things are moving along in the process to bring Bond back.
As of now, the only substantive news we've received on Bond 23, has been the confirmed return of Dame Judy Dench as M. Although, it is worth noting that while current Bond, Daniel Craig has been keeping himself busy with other projects during the involuntary hiatus like Cowboys & Alliens and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, his schedule is looking quite clear for his return as 007. With the film's November 9, 2012 release date looming, the film should be in production very soon.

Scarlett Johansson Tapped For Elena In Uncharted? Posted Last week - By Joseph Baxter
It appears that the director of the upcoming movie adaptation of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is eying Scarlett Johansson...for a role in the film, that is. (All of us will be content to just eye her.) In an interview with Empire, director David O. Russell, riding high from recent accolades like Golden Globe wins and Oscar nominations for The Fighter, managed to field questions about the upcoming Uncharted project, which (in all likelihood,) will reunite him yet again with his repertory player, Mark Wahlberg as ass-kicking adventurer Nathan Drake. However, the topic came into focus of who should play Drake's leading lady in the luscious, hot-tempered, investigative reporter Elena Fisher. While not dismissing the idea of putting Wahlberg back on the screen with his The Fighter co-star Amy Adams, the director then went out of his way to name-drop Scarlett Johansson. While it's hardly a confirmation of anything at this stage of the process (the film is pencilled-in for 2013), it is an intriguing and feasible possibility with these big names already attached.
Updating Empire on the status of the film, Russell remarks:
"The game is very cinematic; there’s no question about it. That’s what I’m working on real hard and I’m writing it as we speak and I’m really excited to make it. I’d love Mark to be in it, I’d love Bob De Niro to be in it; I love the idea of growing them into a cinematic family; I think that’s a really cool idea, but… I guess you’ll have to wait until you see the script."
Using language he's used describing the film in the past, Russell describes the idea of turning the cast into a "cinematic family." However, I've taken this to be more about his aspirations of creating a closeness and credible dynamic between the primary cast. (Rather than the gang treasure-hunting all smiley-faced together in the Partidge Family bus.) The vague name-drop of Robert De Niro was also interesting. Perhaps the possible idea of De Niro being a central figure as friend and father-figure, Victor "Sully" Sullivan is what he meant by "family." But, again, a lot can happen until this film gets off the ground.
On the subject of Elena:
"Ah, Elena. I’ve cultivated her quite a bit and I think I’ve added a lot of dimension to her so that’s all I’m going to say. I love the woman characters and the more robust they are, the more robust the movie."
On the possibility of Amy Adams for the role:
"Oh I would love that too, I love Amy. I also love Scarlett Johansson; there’s a lot of great actors I think might suit. Hopefully, we’ll see how it works out with everybody who are being scoped to do that role…"
The track record of shame that's clearly evident from film adaptations of video games is enough justification for the mass pessimism towards this project. In this case, especially, the games themselves are cinematic masterpieces in their own right, so there is also a feeling of redundancy. However, with a director, whose profile could stand to increase as awards season move forward, and the right casting, the film may nevertheless find success. (Regardless of whether or not it turns out to be a franchise-raper.)

Hugh Jackman Updates On The Wolverine Posted Last week - By Joseph Baxter
Hugh Jackman is apparently "really, really pumped" about playing Wolverine again. -- Just ask him. In an interview with The LA Times' Hero Complex, the Aussie actor describes the process he's underwent in preparing for his return to the universe where super-powered mutants roam the world in snazzy leather outfits. Shooting should soon begin for the Darren Aronofsky-directed "sort-of-sequel" titled The Wolverine and for Jackman, the mandate he was handed-down will require him to be physically bigger than he's ever been. In fact, revealing that he's on a diet of 6,000 calories per day, coupled with intensive weight training, the actor has every intention of arriving on set in a shape that's more comic book-accurate, for a film that just about everyone behind-the-scenes is painting as one of the most ambitious dramatic frame-to-film adaptations ever conceived. So, is Jackman channeling his inner-Schwarzenegger? Or is something more poignant at root?
Jackman's walking around at about 210 lbs at the moment, a whole 20 lbs heavier than his weight for the last Wolverine film. And no, the actor didn't just go on a month-long bender of triple-cheeseburgers, Dairy Queen, and stuffed-crust pizza, it was the result of a talk he had with Aronofsky about how Wolverine should look on the screen. As Jackman recounts:
"Darren said with the last one, ‘Hey you looked great, but you’re so tall that in those long shots you looked kind of like Clint Eastwood, and that’s not Wolverine.” He said that Wolverine, in the comics, is powerful, stocky, you know, he’s short and thick. So he said, ‘I want you to go there, get bigger.’ He’s going to come down after he gets done with all the black-tie events over and done with."
As a result, his desired look for Wolverine will be a thicker, savage look that more accurately reflects the low-center of gravity power that is evident in his comic book counterpart. In fact, Jackman evoked the name of infamous legendary bruiser Mike Tyson as a model for the body type that he's looking to create.
The film itself will tackle the iconic storyline set in Japan, as depicted in the seminal 1982 Wolverine miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. It's an arc that Jackman has always wanted to see his character experience on the big-screen, even going back to the time of the first Bryan Singer-directed X-Men movie. With the opportunity to tackle the Japanese storyline never presenting itself with each subsequent X-film, including 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this film is the artistic realization of everything to which Jackman has aspired about his Wolverine character, and it definitely shows in his enthusiasm this time around.
"I feel like all the planets are finally aligned to make a great movie. We finally have the character and with this mythology — ever since [the 2000 Bryan Singer film] “X-Men,” when I was kind of hanging around and reading all these comics,  because I was cast before I ever read any X-Men comics, so I was trying to get my hands on everything. I remember saying to [producer] Lauren Shuler Donner, “Lauren, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this Japanese story, and I think it’s so good. It’s just genius, it’s brilliant.”
Held together by a script from Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Jack the Giant Killer), the film will actually reunite Jackman with Aronofsky, his director from the 2006 surreal, time-traveling drama The Fountain. The focus on Wolverine's character development is clearly the goal this time around in a film that Jackman has described as a "stand-alone" in terms of the series, leaving it neither prequel nor sequel. (If that makes any sense.) According to Jackman:
"The expectations will be high, but he’s one of the great filmmakers out there. I worked with him before [on "The Fountain"], and I knew as soon as I met him that he should be doing movies like this. He’s been looking a long time, and I’ve asked him to do other ones, and this time it worked out. I’m beyond thrilled."
The Wolverine is currently looking for a release date in the ultra-crowded 2012 movie year, which already includes a vast array of high profile comic book properties. With sort of an odd dynamic of the film dismissing its roots in the X-Men film franchise, or, for that matter, any connectivity to even the last Wolverine solo outing, it will be interesting to see how the film will be marketed. The success (or lack thereof) for X-Men: First Class this summer could stand to have some impact on this aspect, regardless of the undesired juxtaposition.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Joining The Dark Knight Rises? Who Should He Play? Posted Last week - By Joseph Baxter
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has found himself the center of the latest rumors for The Dark Knight Rises. The folks at Deadline report that director Christopher Nolan is looking to bring the actor, who starred in his film, Inception, on board his third and likely final film in the current Batman series. The identity or the nature of the role remains unspecified, however Deadline's source has went so far as to say that Levitt and Nolan are "in talks" for the role. Possibly validating the claim, is the idea that Levitt would prospectively be finished his role for Looper, in which he stars with Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, just around the time shooting would begin over at The Dark Knight Rises. It would be easy to dismiss this as yet another one of the crazy rumors that have fixated on this film over the last few years, but it seems to have a ring of truth and comes from a solid source. So, what role would he possibly play in this already crowded field?
Certainly no stranger to repeat casting, Christopher Nolan has already brought Tom Hardy on board, who shared the screen in Inception with Nolan-verse Batman vets like Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe, so Levitt being on board is certainly not outside the realm of possibility. However, it is in the question of who he would play where things get really wacky. Characters that would seem likely candidates for him have either been openly dismissed by Nolan or just don't seem to fit in a film featuring Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane. So, let's take a quick look at some possibilities:
The Riddler: Levitt had actually been pegged for this role when a report named him about a year ago. However, Nolan went public and debunked the idea that the psychotic, cerebral villain with a penchant for the color green would be in his film. He's one of Batman's most iconic nemeses and it would be kind of a shame for both the character and Levitt if he were relegated to a third wheel in an already-crowded villains scene.
The Joker: Some of the churners of the rumor mills think that Levitt would reprise the role that the late Heath Ledger made untouchable in his legendary performance. Well, amidst the bad reaction to recent rumors (which were debunked) claiming CGI technology, using cut footage of Ledger would be used for a cameo, I'd have to say the idea of another actor playing the role is equally, if not more sacrilegious.
Black Mask: A person of privilege with successful parents, he's almost a parallel version of Bruce Wayne who would instead use his own bitterness to fuel a career in crime. Donning a black mask made from the ebony of his father's casket lid (creepy), he grew to resent Bruce Wayne, seeing him as symbol of hypocrisy. There is possible room for him in TDKR, but it would still be slim, since Nolan's (hopefully) more comic-accurate rendition of Bane would be the puppet-master of the film's events. This role would then likely be unworthy of someone of Levitt's caliber.
Hugo Strange: Initial rumors of Tom Hardy's casting actually had him as the Batman-obsessed scientist who's led a one-man campaign to defame the Dark Knight, often by dressing up as him while committing crimes. He has a knack for chemistry and is known for using mind-altering drugs as his weapons. It might be a good role for Levitt, even though Strange is traditionally portrayed as an older, bald man. Recent (less solid) rumors even had Robin Williams for the role. For Leviit, he could play Strange as a public figure whose campaign against Batman ropes him into the greater events created by Bane.
Dick Grayson: Hey, a non-villain role! Nolan has outright said that he wanted nothing to do with Robin in his films, since, sticking to realism, a man who goes out at night fighting criminals with a CHILD by his side would really be a hopeless douche. (Not a direct quote, btw.) However, Levitt is going to be 30 years-old in two weeks, hardly someone for which Child Protective Services needs to worry. So, having Levitt (or whoever they get) as a Nolan-ized version of Dick Grayson, portrayed as an enthusiastic former carnival gymnast who, like Batman, saw crime cruelly take his parents away, joining him in his fight as an ADULT Robin (or maybe Nightwing), would actually be kind of cool.

The Avengers Casting For A New Female Role Posted Last week - By Joseph Baxter
It appears that Marvel's monolithic mega-movie, The Avengers, will be looking for another lovely actress to join its team of super-powered agents. According to The Hollywood Reporter, screen tests will take place Friday for what may be one of the final slots for the Avengers team. At this point, the process is apparently narrowed-down to four actresses: (pictured left to right) Morena Baccarin (V), Jessica Lucas (Melrose Place), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother), and current "it" girl, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Thing). While the exact identity of the role in question is still unknown, Samuel L. Jackson may have shed some light on the mystery on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, when he revealed that a "new" role would call for a female "sidekick" to his Nick Fury character. However, for all we know, the role could still be for the conspicuously missing (up to this point,) key Avengers team member Janet van Dyne aka The Wasp. It's still somewhat under wraps.
Rumors from last year had a number of actresses pegged for Wasp, including the V star, Morena Baccarin, due to her association with director Joss Whedon on the beloved and ill-fated TV series Firefly and its feature-film, Serenity. However, there is a possibility that the role of Nick Fury's female "sidekick" could be one of the prominent S.H.I.E.L.D. agents featured in the comics such as Maria Hill or Sharon Carter. In the case of Sharon Carter, who in the comics, was the niece of Captain America's love interest Peggy Carter, it would make the connection to this summer's Captain America: The First Avenger all the more powerful after we've seen a young Peggy played by Hayley Atwell. (Although, Sharon likely would be retconned as her granddaughter or great-granddaughter.) While comic purists would like to see Wasp in the film, the idea of using Sharon would be a great device to unfold the idea of Captain America's difficult transition after living in the 1940's to suddenly waking-up in our time. Besides being freaked-out by things like power windows, Twilight movies, and the Internet, her presence would force him to reconcile all that he's lost, especially Peggy.
Regardless of whether or not this is a casting call for Wasp, Nick Fury's "sidekick," or, for that matter, both, we can look at the list and see a group of women whose ages range from their late 20's to early 30's, meaning it will certainly be a role requiring a measure of believable life experience. Whichever one of these starlets manage to get chosen will be joining a cast that's ridiculously stacked with stars like Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Samuel L. Jackson. Filming will begin in late April, and it's going to be insane.

The Hobbit Set To Film On March 21 Posted 5 days ago - By Joseph Baxter
Filming for The Hobbit will finally get underway on March 21. In what could have been considered "the latest" bit of bad luck to this seemingly cursed production, which has been delayed for years by disputes over distribution rights, studio bankruptcy, and Union blacklisting, the film's director Peter Jackson was hospitalized last month due to a perforated ulcer. A delay to the film's initial plans to begin filming on February 14 would be sidetracked as the director recuperated. However, having been released from the hospital last week and recovering steadily, the plans for March 21 as the new day in which Jackson will yell "action" for the first time on The Hobbit has turned out not to be such a serious delay. So, barring either a vicious strain of Avian Flu hitting the cast, or a meteor deciding to head towards Earth, specifically at New Zealand (and neither Ben Affleck nor Bruce Willis can stop it,) things should be moving along for The Hobbit, right?
As the director remarks in the statement released from his production company, 3Foot7Ltd:
"Despite some delays we are fully back on track and very excited to get started."
For fans, it comes as somewhat of a relief. However, considering the rollercoaster experience of following this production, the only true relief will be when we finally get the report that this film is actually shooting. Then it may be possible that "The Curse of the Bilbino" (as I'm calling it) is truly broken.
As the Lord of the Rings films did, this film will be shot at Stone Street Studios in Wellington, New Zealand and on various exterior locations in the nation's hilly countryside. The Hobbit: Part 1 is due in theaters on December 19. 2012, followed by The Hobbit: Part II in December 2013 (date still unspecified.)

The Avengers To Be Joined By Quasar? Posted 3 days ago - By Joseph Baxter
It seems that the cast of The Avengers could continue to grow. News is going around about a supposed prematurely-leaked press release which names actor Kevin Pennington (Horrible Bosses, 90210, Miss March) as the newest addition to the mega-cast, playing S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Wendell Vaughn. Of course, to comic fans, that name may ring a bell as the alter-ego of Marvel's cosmic-powered enforcer Quasar. Coming just days after the legitimate reports of Cobie Smulders being in final negotiations for the role of Agent Maria Hill, the alleged addition of Pennington, is nevertheless still an unconfirmed rumor. So, with still no signs of cameos by signature Avengers founding members Ant-Man or Wasp for the film, could Marvel be going overboard in stacking this film with obscure comic nods?
The "leaked" press release in question pertained to a supposed meet and greet of the cast of The Avengers with fans in New York City which would take place this spring. Taking time away from some filming in the Big Apple, they name the cast members who would be on hand, including a name we were not aware had joined.
"During principal filming, SHIELD will be out in full force in NYC to recruit and find new members. Cast members on hand include Samuel L. Jackson (Director Nick Fury), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill) and Kevin Pennington (Agent Wendell Vaughn). Fans will get the chance to meet the stars and get their photograph taken with them at the event. "
In Marvel lore, after S.H.I.E.L.D. came into possession of the powerful alien-originated Quantum Bands (left behind by the late character The Crusader,) the character of Agent Wendell Vaughn was assigned as security to watch the artifacts while the organization researched their power. However, when the villainous terrorist group AIM attempted to steal the Bands, Vaughn was forced to don them himself, gaining extraordinary cosmic powers. With the bands permanently fused to his arms, he became the hero Quasar.
While I'd say there's about zero chance that any events related to his Green Lantern-like origin as Quasar would take place in The Avengers, the role may be a minor one, using the Wendall Vaughn name merely as a shout-out to fans. However, for Kevin Pennington, who's still somewhat new to the scene, the role, (should it be legit) would be a realization of destiny, since rumors had him pegged for other roles in Marvel's movie universe, including the upcoming Edgar Wright-directed Ant-Man solo film. (Although, him landing that role would seem unlikely.)

Jeri Ryan To Play Sonya In Mortal Kombat Web Series Posted 5 days ago - By Joseph Baxter
Web series Mortal Kombat: Rebirth will be joined by Jeri Ryan as emasculating elite femme fatale ass-beater Sonya Blade. The news comes via confirmation from the actress herself that she will reprise the role she played in the trailer to which we were first exposed last summer. (Albeit with no initial explanation as to what it was.) Speculation had the footage as a leaked trailer for the long-reported reboot film for the Mortal Kombat franchise, but it turned out to be concept footage used to persuade Warner Bros to go the ultra-violent route. Continuing on from last summer's trailer, it was reported last month to officially become a 10 episode web series, which will be directed by Kevin Tancharoen, helmer of the original clip.
As the former Borg vixen, Ryan tweets:
"Heading to the farmer's market with the hubs & my girl. Then this evening I head to Vancouver to shoot Mortal Kombat! (NOW it's official)"
Later adding: "BTW, just finished reading the whole script for Mortal Kombat. Holy crap... I think u might just love it. Get ready..."
It's still sort of perplexing as to why Warner is going the route of a web series, rather than just a movie -- or even another TV series. As some may recall, that would not be without precedence with the TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest, which aired on TNT from 1998-1999, focusing on the ancient era of the tournament with Liu Kang's ancestor, the original Kung Lao. Perhaps, by bringing in Jeri Ryan (a fairly recognizable name) and possibly Michael Jai White to reprise his role as Jax, it may be an experiment to see how a web series can fare with enough promotional power and talent backing the project.

Ghostbusters 3: Bizarre Delay  Posted Last week - By Joseph Baxter
It's been a rough, weird road for highly-anticipated sequel Ghostbusters 3, but the film is coming along. However, it's not without a share of time-consuming issues. -- Namely, in this case, Bill Murray's task-managing skills. So, how did the production find itself in this predicament? Well, as far as the process of getting the film off the ground, the hard part is already done as Sony Pictures has already given its stamp of approval and a script by the scribe team of Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (The Office, Year One), overlooked by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd has been finished for quite a while. However, the folks behind the film have been waiting handily for its prospective star, Murray to actually read the thing! Apparently, it's become such a problem that the reported May date to begin filming might have to be pushed back. One of the scribes, Eisenberg and producer Joe Medjuck have recently revealed some details on this bizarre obstacle to our third sojourn into the world of bustin' ghosts.
As Eisenberg, speaking at his alma mater Connecticut College updates:
“Right now, we have a script we haven’t worked on probably in a couple of months, and we’re waiting for Bill Murray to read it. People seem excited about it, and the studio seems high on it. … We’re very proud of it. We worked really hard on it, and I think it’d be a really fun movie.”
The writer reveals how working closely with director Ivan Reitman, along with Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd on the project has crafted the script into something that has become "tighter and funnier" than before. For him, it was clear that Ghostbusters was as beloved a franchise as one can find and that, growing up on the films himself, "the last thing you want to do, is disappoint." In fact, last month, Ivan Reitman himself, seemingly proud of the script as well, also made comment of the fact the process at this point, only awaited Billy Murray to finally read the script he was given.
Also shedding some light on the situation, producer Joe Medjuck fielded questions about the film after a screening of the first Ghostbusters film at Hollywood's ArcLight Cinema. Besides confirming the whole "waiting for Bill Murray" narrative, he actually stuck up for the actor, noting his busy schedule and his eccentric style of handling business.
"Harold [Ramis] tells a very funny story about the several months it took to get Bill to read the script for Groundhog Day. Every week or so, [Bill] would go up to Harold and say, “You know, I read 10 pages… they’re really good. Is it going to stay this good?" Adding: "He hasn’t even read 10 pages [of Ghostbusters 3] yet, to the best of our knowledge."
Oddly enough, though, nailing him down for the first Ghostbusters film was apparently not quite the ordeal:
"Bill just committed to it… he just said yes. He went to India to make The Razor’s Edge. I don’t think he even read the script [for Ghostbusters] until he arrived back, [and] the day he came back, we shot with him.”
So, how will they ever get Ghostbusters 3 back on track? I guess....if you happen to run into Bill Murray, just tell him to read the damn thing. The time for the excuses like "he's washing his hair" or "he has a power yoga class" have ended! As the poet laureate Bobby Brown once said in his Ghostbusters 2 musical composition: "Well I guess we're gonna have to take control."

Harmonix Confirms Layoffs Posted 5 days ago - By Jake Gaskill
Rock Band 3 developer Harmonix confirmed today that it has laid off an unspecified number of full-time employees. According to Joystiq, Harmonix said the layoffs were necessary to bring the developer “into alignment with our current product development plans.” What exactly Harmonix is referring to by “development plans” isn’t clear at this point, but evidently the "realignment" won't influence plans for upcoming DLC for RB3 and Dance Central  .
Official figures haven’t been revealed yet, but it’s estimated that somewhere between 25-35 people were affected by the layoffs.

Harmonix Responds To Recent Layoffs Posted 3 days ago - By Kevin Kelly
Today at DICE, we caught up with John Drake, manager of communications at Harmonix, and asked him about the recent layoffs his company has endured. As you might recall, Harmonix was put up for sale by parent company Viacom last year, and late in the year an investment firm stepped in and bought the company, making them an independent developer once again.
Adam Sessler spoke with John Drake about the layoffs, which are part of a restructuring, and read on after the break to find out what he had to say.
"We're sort of regrouping now. You know, we launched two huge titles last year with Rock Band 3 and Dance Central, and they've done pretty well. I think that Rock Band 3 has been pretty well understood that while it sold well, but it wasn't what we hoped it would be as far as a big blockbuster title goes. Meanwhile, Dance Central is roaring out of the gate for Kinect, and we're really happy with the way that has gone.
Overall, DLC has been doing really for both, so the studio is healthy and we have a whole bunch of different new projects that we haven't announced yet. This was just a reduction in force to get the studio in-line with what we're going to do next."
On being purchased by a private investment firm:
"Effectively, we've sort of become a private, independent studio. We're owned by a private equity firm, which is the equivalent of being owned by one or two big bank owners. They're a great firm, and they've given us a really wide range to run the studio and make some really cool stuff that we're hoping to show you later this year."
Sad that this news comes in the shadow of Guitar Hero getting axed, but with declining sales and spiraling development costs, what's a publisher to do? We'll be excited to see what Harmonix has up their sleeve, and we're wondering if all of their projects will still be music-based.

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