“Don’t mess with the Mouse,” is a maxim in American intellectual property law. Ask any law professor. Those who challenge Disney in court usually lose. But the view that Disney can’t be beaten is part of the myth Disney has created itself, and the success of the critically acclaimed independent film Escape from Tomorrow is throwing movie watchers’ pre-conceived notions of Disney as sacrosanct out the window. Escape from Tomorrow was filmed nearly entirely on location at Disney theme parks without the permission of Disney. It turns out there’s nothing Disney can do about it. The result is better than just a stunt project, but it has its misfires as much as it has its triumphs.
The talented Roy Abramsohn, mainly a character actor who has shown up in TV series from Charmed to Medium to Monk and Without a Trace as well as a recurring role on Weeds, takes on the lead role of Jim, a father and husband of the Clark Griswold variety on his last day of vacation at Epcot and Disney World, the celebrated “Happiest Place on Earth.” Jim just learned he’s lost his job and is having one of those days where everything goes wrong. But this is no National Lampoon’s comedy. Jim is living out his own House of Horrors.
Structurally, the film is brilliantly executed for a first effort. Were you to go back and look at THX-1138 and Duel and predict the future of its directors, no one could have predicted Star Wars or American Graffiti or Raiders of the Lost Ark or Jaws. Escape from Tomorrow is better than THX-1138, but not as compelling as Duel. Does that mean we have a future genius on our hands? Not likely, but it will make viewers take notice of the next projects of writer/director Randy Moore and cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham.
You might recall, like I do, your first sighting of a copy of the new John Williams soundtrack for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which was released two weeks before the movie was released in theaters. Before you start the requisite geek-bashing of the prequels, try to recall that back in 1999 we all could not wait to see what Lucas was going to show us, and what could be better than a new Williams score to listen to over and over again? Isn’t a new John Williams Star Wars soundtrack pretty much the best part of having a new Star Wars film released (yes, he’s signed up to be the galactic composer once again)? ’nuff said. But the problem with The Phantom Menace soundtrack that sat in a new stack at the local Fred Meyer? The title listing included a track called “The High Council Meeting and Qui-Gon’s Funeral.” Funeral. Huh? So all of us who were excited about the new film got a surprise blow. This new Liam Neeson character wasn’t going to make it out of this one alive. And that was that. Note to Williams: Could you be a little more vague in your titles for the next trilogy? Just saying.
Most of us didn’t use the word “spoiler” back in 1999, and certainly not like we do today. We’re not really talking spoilers per se, but if you don’t want to sleuth through a key question about this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy movie with us, you might want to move along and come back tomorrow.
Fans of Jai Nitz’s John Lincoln, the man who keeps waking up after killing people he’s never even met, and Greg Smallwood’s cool masked anti-hero, will be happy to see Lincoln coming back to the comic book racks next month. Dream Thief: Escape continues the adventures of a man trapped in his own body, with vengeful spirits taking over and avenging their own deaths while Lincoln sleeps.
Escape is the sequel and Volume 2 of Dream Thief, which we reviewed last year at borg.com here.
Dark Horse Comics has released a preview of Issue #1, which follows after the break.
What could be more amazing than those oceanside beach competitions where artists work feverishly to create gigantic, elaborate palaces made only of sand, only to be judged, and be obliterated by the tide–the artistic masterpiece never to be seen again. The same effort and brief life is shared by ice sculptures and the butter cows each year at the Iowa State Fair.
Some art is created to stay the test of time. Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings. The Pyramids. The Statue of Liberty. Mount Rushmore.
Then there is the surprising. An ancient bronze coin depicting the new emperor and that emperor’s symbol of his reign, still firmly stamped and present more than 2,000 years later, accessible to anyone today for less than thirty dollars. Cheaper yet, Victor D. Brenner’s sculpt for the 1909 Lincoln penny, the most reproduced–and small-sized–three-dimensional work of art ever created, several scattered throughout every U.S. household for more than 100 years.
In trading card collecting you can find more pocket-sized art, and not just duplicate prints, but one-of-a-kind original artwork. Like the sand castles, sketch cards are sprinkled across mass produced box sets of both sports and non-sports trading card sets. Often limited in availability, a sketch card if commission by an artist, it is then randomly placed in a pack or box, and if that box remains sealed forever, no one will ever see that one-of-a-kind artwork. A sketch card is as rare as it gets and in a new baseball card deck produced by In the Game, Inc., sketch card artists Nathen Reinke and Keven Reinke have produced a limited edition of 150 sketch cards featuring baseball legends. All that detail in less than two inches of space. The images are simply brilliant.
Review by C.J. Bunce
BOULEVARD DRIVE-IN — It’s hard to believe it has only been six years since Jon Favreau surprised the world, taking a typically underwhelming character like Tony Stark, casting Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, and making the best modern superhero movie. Although fanboy director Favreau made the Christmas classic Elf before Iron Man, who knew he was going to change how we evaluate the modern superhero film? So it shouldn’t be surprising that a proven genre director like Bryan Singer, with titles under his belt like The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X-Men 2, X-men Origins: Wolverine, Superman Returns, and Valkyrie, has set the new standard in the summer blockbuster sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero sphere with his latest X-title, X-Men: Days of Future Past. You don’t even need to be an X-Men or Marvel fan to realize what a triumph Singer has achieved.
The movie is gigantic from the opening set-up. The giant mechanical Sentinels of the comic books take over Earth in the distant future, weeding out once and for all the small bands of survivors, creating a very Terminator-influenced opening. Now see if you can spot a theme here. A band of what you might call Tier 3 X-Men, led by Kitty Pryde (played by Oscar nominee Ellen Page), find a way to send something back into the past to save themselves from Sentinel strikes. Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, Oscar nominee Ian McKellen’s Magneto and Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman’s Logan aka Wolverine take Pryde’s method to come up with a time travel plan that results in dual casts trying to save their world, one in 1973, the other in the future. Storm, played by returning Oscar winner Halle Berry, tries to fend off the Sentinels to allow the time travel trick to work.
We’ve reviewed several TV and movie franchise tie-in novels over the past several years. As a matter of course, editors that select the writers for these novels tend to choose authors with a grasp of the universe and characters and the result is usually an adventure beyond the original that will please fans. Such novels include Alien: Out of the Shadows, Grimm: The Chopping Block, and Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line. We’ve also seen plenty of stories in print that serve as prequels or bridge the film versions of franchise stories. Star Trek: Countdown and Alien: Out of the Shadows are examples of these, with Star Trek: Countdown being among the best Star Trek stories I have ever read from any incarnation of the franchise. Then there are the novelizations of movies. In the review stack are novelizations of the new Godzilla, Pacific Rim, and a new edition of the original Alien. In the Planet of the Apes franchise, historic novelizations of the classic series always served as a reminder of the adventure behind each film, and allowed readers to add a bit here and there from their own imaginations as they revisited the stories they watched on the big screen from the comforts of their home.
Coming soon to bookstores is a new novel by Greg Keyes that bridges the recent movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the coming summer release Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Known for its great, long titles, the franchise’s latest novel calls itself the official movie prequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm. More than a novelization, Firestorm is among the best movie tie-in novels you’ll find. It is much more than a quick read, and Keyes delves into social, political, and scientific issues in so many ways to provide a story steeped in the morality tales of classic science fiction, while carrying with it that wide scope of action and excitement that readers want.
The best of the new documentary on the life and career of Drew Struzan is not what you might think. You’d expect Drew—The Man Behind the Poster, now available on video and digital release, to include images of the best of Struzan’s stylized movie posters. What you might not know is the variety of artwork he produced before and after his two decades of poster work. He’s well known for unique designs and more than 150 memorable movie posters that defined the movies for audiences before they stepped into the theaters, creating his last movie poster before retiring in 2008 for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Probably his best work includes a six-poster series for the two Star Wars trilogies, which begs the question: Can Disney get Struzan to come back from retirement for the next three films? Will Disney understand the nostalgia factor? In recent weeks Struzan seems open to the idea, but seems to be waiting for Disney to call. Unfortunately Episode VII plans came after the documentary so you won’t find answers to those questions in the film.
Will he or won’t he?
For the most part Drew—The Man Behind the Poster is a straightforward success story about a struggling and very amiable artist that found his audience. You won’t see an abundance of critical awards coming for the filmmaking–it’s something like an episode from the old Biography channel with Peter Graves. But it’s worth watching for the explanations behind his process for the most well-known posters, including the Muppet movies and the quickly designed yet successful poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Last year Cinemark Theaters created their own event series similar to the great Fathom Events limited re-releases of classic films. Last year’s series included American Graffiti, Animal House, Back to the Future, Dirty Dancing, Grease, and Ghostbusters. Spread out over five weekends, younger audiences have an opportunity to watch these modern classics the way they were meant to be seen, on the big screen, to–as the 1970s re-release of Star Wars advertised–“See it again for the first time.”
This year’s roster is a tad shorter. Back to the Future and Dirty Dancing are returning (hey, there’s something for everyone). Plus, John Travolta and an awesome Bee Gees soundtrack can be found with Saturday Night Fever. Both The Godfather Part 1 and Part 2 are showing, too (make sure you’re well caffeinated for that six-hour double feature).
Whether or not you’re a fan of British humor, like Monty Python or the comedy sitcom staples we get in the U.S. on public television, you will probably get plenty of laughs from the third entry in the Cornetto Trilogy. Director/writer Edgar Wright, along with star and writer Simon Pegg, actors Nick Frost and Martin Freeman and many other actors from early entries in the comedy trilogy, deliver a singularly funny flick, better than you’d expect from the genre.
In the typical U.S. throwaway comedy movie about drinking and bar-hopping, the movie would be full of gross-outs and stupidity–anything–especially a shock–for a laugh. Edgar Wright cares enough about his own career and his famous actor pals to keep the script funny without sitting back on base humor for the easy laugh. And you don’t need to see earlier entries Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz (but why wouldn’t you?). The trilogy is about the creators, not the subject of the films.
A steampunk robot samurai. And Civil War era zombies.
It’s the Dark Horse June 2014 release of Jai Nitz (Dream Thief, Kato, Tron: Betrayal, El Diablo) and Janusz Pawlak’s new graphic novel, Toshiro. We’ve discussed Nitz’s writing plenty of times here at borg.com. Toshiro is Pawlak’s first published work in comics.
You will love Nitz’s creation story for this mecha-samurai who shares a name with the actor who played one of the most famous samurai on film (Toshirô Mifune’s Kikuchiyo in The Seven Samurai). Toshiro is a creation of the Northern forces in the Civil War, a self-aware, living robot with a steam-valved heart. He’s an American-built super-soldier, sold to Japan as the highest bidder. “Raised” with Japanese traditions and old world values, he winds up in Manchester, England, 1867, with an equally deadly, and maybe wiser, partner.
Toshiro knows he is machine, yet he reacts as if he is a true samurai.
This is a steampunk buddy cop story, with roots in a story out of a spaghetti Western. Here a Zorro-esque, anti-hero has a tough-as-nails partner and they live in a world at war, but with incredible tools of battle well ahead of their time.
Polish artist Pawlak’s work is something out of a Quentin Tarentino novel, yet Tarentino’s blood and guts is kids’ stuff compared to Toshiro slicing heads with his katana.