“Tusk,” Kevin Smith’s new horror-comedy about a man who is literally transformed into a walrus, is a different animal of a movie in more ways than one. Smith delivers on the thrills and chills of full-on horror and masterfully interlaces humor in unexpected ways. One of the strangest treats will come in the third act with Johnny Depp, unrecognizable as detective Guy Lapointe. Depp’s brilliantly odd performance adds to the weirdness of an already weird but truly worthy cinematic voyage. When he’s on the screen, you know that someone of a high caliber is playing with the ooey gooey elements of zany humor. Credit Mr. Depp and credit Mr. Smith for that.
Category Archives: Joss Whedon
Welcome back to the Buffyverse! Dark Horse Comics launches Season 10 today. Without a doubt, this is a high point. So, without further ado, let’s take a look. New Rules. New Rules. That’s the name of the game and the name of this first new story arc. Buffy back to basics, fighting vampires. First off, Executive Producer: Joss Whedon; Writer: Christos Gage; Editor: Scott Allie; Artist: Rebekah Isaacs; Colorist: Dan Jackson; Cover Artist: Steve Morris. Everyone accounted for. And the very same can be said for Buffy. She can count on Xander, Willow, and Spike. Heck, we even have magic back. So, what’s a girl to do when everything seems to be going her way? Or is it?
Writer/director Joss Whedon gave “Marvel LIVE!” the exclusive first interview after the announcement of Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” during Marvel Studios’ Hall H presentation. You can expect a new spin on the Ultron origin story and a global outlook.
“Machinima” provides a recap on the news coming out of Comic-Con about a Superman vs. Batman movie. The news is very brief amounting to a quote from a confrontation between Superman and Batman from Frank Miller’s “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” However, there is no indication that this story will be the basis for the new movie.
George Clayton Johnson is a born storyteller. Listen to him and you’ll find a good yarn told by someone with a love for the spoken and written word. He is, after all, one of the big players of pop culture: Among his credits: writer of landmark episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE; writer of the first broadcasted episode of STAR TREK; co-writer of OCEAN’S ELEVEN; co-writer of LOGAN’S RUN. For this interview, George and I began to talk about William Shatner. I was thinking over how William Shatner can be misunderstood as only being brash when that’s definitely not the case. With “Star Trek Into Darkness” arriving in theaters on May 17, Mr. Shatner was an excellent point of departure.
We quickly moved forward with a look back to Roger Corman’s 1962 “The Intruder,” a significant drama about the high tensions in the American South during the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. Corman was having difficulty in finding actors and approached Mr. Johnson, as well as his writing partner, William F. Nolan, about playing roles in the film. They were more than happy to join in. The film is based on the novel by Charles Beaumont, a science fiction writer, and a fellow contributor with Mr. Johnson to “The Twilight Zone.”
George then related a wonderful story about the origins of “Star Trek” and we ended with news of an exciting possibility. There is a tantalizing possibility of “The Twilight Zone” making its way to the stage. As George envisions it, the story would take place in a rest home, just like the famous “Kick The Can” episode. It would be about a seasoned writer who has had a lifetime of success and wants to knock one more ball out of the park. He has an idea for another story. This one will be about an individual focusing on a special moment, either in the past or the future. The trick is to avoid the present. In that way, you can live forever. In the course of the production, there will, in fact, be a series of stories and each will play off landmark “Twilight Zone” episodes that George wrote. And, to top it off, there needs to be a narrator, of course. Who better than Rod Serling? If all goes according to plan, this will be a musical.
Who would play the role of Rod Serling? Well, that brings us back to the subject we began our interview with: William Shatner is on the short list of possibilities. That is certainly an exciting prospect. Mr. Shatner came of age in that era, he knows the talent behind the original series, and he starred in one of the most memorable episodes, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” He would be an excellent choice.
There are a number of details to consider about taking such a project, conceivably, all the way to Broadway. Not least of concerns is getting just the right tone to what the Rod Serling narrator would say. He might be presented like a hologram. And he certainly will have a vital role to play, much like the narrator of “Our Town.” It was very gracious of George to share this project in the making with us. He has a number of projects in the works and this one is very dear to his heart. These are the early stages. We all hope it will come together.
Other subjects we cover in this interview are what led up to the original novel, “Logan’s Run,” and what may lie ahead, and a most intriguing thing that happened when George Clayton Johnson and J.J. Abrams discussed working together.
The full interview is below. Enjoy!
The propect of a new Joss Whedon TV show has thrown Glenn Hauman, over at ComicMix, into a campaign to save it from inevitable cancellation, even before the show is even on the air. Concerned for quality TV, that is never something TV executives quite grasp, Hauman is right to be overly protective. But how could this show miss? “S.H.I.E.L.D.” would be the TV version of “The Avengers,” one of the most successful movies of all time!
Anyway, as Deadline reported, ABC has greenlit the show with Joss writing the pilot and maybe, just maybe, directing it too. So, it will be fitted up by Joss Whedon and then it’s on its own. Come to think of it, I’m not sure this really rises to the level of a full on Joss Whedon alert but it’s definitely interesting. All in all, it’s basically going to be a show with all the power and the money in the world behind it that may still suck if it just doesn’t have that X-factor. And what could that be? Even more devotion by Mr. Whedon? The whole frickin’ cast from the movie? Well, something. Just too early to say what will happen here.
Spike is such a good bloke. The loyal boyfriend. A guy who just wants to chill out and do the right thing. Spike is the James Dean of comics. But he’s got his blind spot, doesn’t he? Can we all say what it is together? Buffy! Yes, that’s right. Maybe if Spike hadn’t been such a mopey mope, the lost man on the dark side of the moon, he would have been more on his game when he and his loyal band of bugs were overtaken by a mob of fish-like demon thugs.
What is remarkable, two issues into “A Dark Place,” is how well Spike commands the comics page of an excellent unfolding story. The art here (Paul Lee, pencils; Andy Owens, inks), panel per panel, is vivid and memorable stuff. And the writing by Victor Gischler is true to the character of Spike and very energetic. The issue runs smooth with excellent timing due to the stellar art team and to Mr. Gischler, who has mad skills in crime fiction like his novel, “Gun Monkeys,” and comics skills, like his work on X-Men. This is prime comics. We’ve got Spike’s spot on swagger, the bug crew plotting his rescue, these wicked bad guys, and that’s just the build up. I’m so impressed with the attention to detail. You can really feel like you’re inside that blimp, navigating down all its narrow hallways. You can really feel for Spike as he’s restrained by a giant frog with its enormous tongue wrapped around him and, all the while, he doesn’t lose his cool.
Once Spike gets a whiff of what his captors have in mind, to take back as many shards as they can find of The Seed, well, it’s time for a game of matching wits. Spike, the one with all the wit, claims to be a valuable asset to his captors and will lead them back to Sunnydale where they are sure to find all the remains to The Seed that they can carry.
Once they get there, all shards have been spoken for. As any self-respecting fan is already aware of, what they do find is something that Spike will find the most interesting. If this feels like a spoiler for some of you, then stop reading now. All that I will say is that there’s a bodacious rival for Spike’s affections that appears to emerge in this issue. Her name is Morgan. She only has the first name, like Cher. She makes a pretty hot entrance. She has instant appeal, like a revamped Betty Page. However, as Victor Gischler explains on his blog: “Just remember, it’s a 5-issue story arc. Lots can happen!” The art below comes from his blog:
Here’s the thing: Why not have Morgan be the game changer? Let her take over Buffy’s place for an indefinite amount of time. Maybe even have her turn directly against Buffy. In time, they might even become allies. Lots of possibilities. But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? No Spike and Buffy fan wants to see that Spike has moved on, is at least testing things out, or do they? That sort of thinking could lead to some pretty awesome comics! Why build something interesting up, take it to the very edge, and then abruptly retreat? Oh, but it’s just comics, right? Well, no, we’re dealing here with comics that are a cut above just comics. So, we shall see.
Oh, and something big does happen on the last page. Isn’t that always the way? So, who knows if Spike and Morgan will even have much time to really get acquainted, at least in this story.
“Spike #2” is out September 19. Visit Dark Horse Comics.
Joss Whedon’s contemporary take on “Much Ado About Nothing” has been picked up by Lionsgate. As reported by Deadline.com, Lionsgate acquired North American distribution rights to Joss Whedon’s low budget Shakespearean romp which played at the Toronto International Film Festival last weekend. It is packed with wonderful actors that have a history with Whedon, like Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof pictured below. And the look of the movie, judging by these stills, is lush and something to look forward to.
Here is a charming press release from last year, just after completion of principal photography:
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is the first feature from Bellwether, a micro-studio created by Joss Whedon and Kai Cole for the production of small, independent narratives for all media, embracing a DIY ethos and newer technologies for, in this particular case, a somewhat older story.
Shot in glorious black and white by Jay Hunter (PAPER HEART, “Dollhouse”), the film stars Amy Acker (CABIN IN THE WOODS, “Alias”) and Alexis Denisof (“How I Met Your Mother”, “Angel”) as Beatrice and Benedick, the world’s least likely lovers headed for their inevitable tumble into love. As Joss Whedon puts it: “The text is to me a deconstruction of the idea of love, which is ironic, since the entire production is a love letter – to the text, to the cast, even to the house it’s shot in.” The supporting cast includes Nathan Fillion (“Castle”, WAITRESS) as Dogberry, Clark Gregg (AVENGERS, IRON MAN) as Leonato, Fran Kranz (CABIN IN THE WOODS, “Dollhouse”) as Claudio and Reed Diamond (“Franklin & Bash”, MONEYBALL) as Don Pedro.
The film was produced by Whedon, line-produced by Nathan Kelly and M. Elizabeth Hughes, and co-produced by Kai Cole and Danny Kaminsky. The super-impressive cast is listed below. Full tech credits (for the extraordinary crew) will be up shortly. The film should be completed by early spring and headed for the festival circuit, because it is fancy.
There’s a wonderful interview with Joss Whedon conducted by the editor of Rookie, 15-year-old Tavi Gevinson. It is a remarkable piece in that it brings out the key facts we’ll enjoy knowing about “Much Ado About Nothing,” like it was filmed entirely in Joss Whedon’s home and Shakespeare’s work plays a very important role in Whedon’s life and his group of actors. But, beyond that, Ms. Gevinson gets Mr. Whedon to open up about his childhood, the girl avatar in his work, and a bunch of silly and human stuff that would not emerge in a more standard interview. So, congrats to Rookie and Tavi Gevinson.
Is it the story that’s a little different from previous superhero movies? Loki, a god from another world, is bent on conquering Earth and it’s up to The Avengers, an unlikely mix of individuals with superpowers or super skills, to save the day. Nope, that is pretty much a standard-issue plot for superhero comics as well as movies. So, what is the twist to “The Avengers”? Wait for it….Joss Whedon!
There are a lot of Joss Whedon moments in this movie. Maybe they’re Whedon/Marvel moments but, still. I like the one where Stark momentarily has his hands on a ginormous alien ship resembling a spinal column. Just before he tosses it over to the Avengers gang to work over, he says, “I’m taking the party over to you.” Once the monster is in sight, Black Widow quips, “That doesn’t look like a party.” Or how about the moment when Captain America, at the height of the crisis, orders two of New York’s finest to secure a perimeter. One cop says, “Why should we take orders from you?” Captain America fights off like a dozen aliens before he can return his attention to the officer. The officer immediately turns on his heal and barks Cap’s orders to the rest of the police force. So, yeah, maybe you don’t want to say this exactly, but I will. The Avengers has been Buffified!
Marvel Comics was able to, one by one, create successful movies for a string of high profile superheroes that would lead to a team-up of these characters, just like in the comics. It is the talent of Joss Whedon that pulls this colossal venture together. As writer and director, Whedon has taken his quirky sensibility from his offbeat creations, like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” and managed to tweak the superhero genre in just the right places. Okay, there was a misstep with the original “Hulk” but, in this latest Marvel flick, the Hulk steals some of the best scenes! Is that all thanks to Whedon? Well, here’s the thing, Marvel Comics has a long history of having a good sense of humor. They can be quirky in their own way. Whedon’s quirk and Marvel’s quirk found some common ground.
Yeah, in the end, it seems like a true blending of Whedon and Marvel. The Whedon touches are there, sprinkled throughout. You can find them in some of the more elaborate details to the basic plot. And you can definitely find them in the more irreverent attitude. You’d think Tony Stark had all the snarky lines covered already without the help of Whedon. But there are a few times when Robert Downey Jr. does get to kick around more hip humor as when he keeps warning a guy at the command center to stop playing Galaga at his post.
Whedon doesn’t deconstruct willy nilly. The story is very much something that easily gets the Marvel stamp of approval. You’ll find it mostly in the banter and one liners that come up at the right moments. You’ll find the Whedon vibe in the cocky way these guys fight. There’s one scene where one of the heroes is shooting in one direction and looking nonchalant in the opposite direction while still hitting his mark. There’s a hilarious scene that has the Hulk confronting the evil mastermind, Loki, who berates him for daring to take on a god. The Hulk simply bats him around like a ragdoll.
Marvel and Whedon are also very good about tackling the big themes and having characters talk out complex issues. Every evil genius always gets a chance to have their say. In Loki’s case, we get a credible look inside his head when he explains that he just wants to give humans what they really want: to be subjugated. Another example is a beautiful scene between Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. where Bruce Banner is explaining his inner turmoil. He had reached a point where he’d had enough. He took a gun and put it to his mouth and pulled the trigger. But “the other guy” stopped it in time. Stark tells Banner he should take that as a good sign. Banner appreciates the sentiment but asks what good can the Hulk have in store for him. Stark tells him to find out. He might even enjoy it.
What a lot of folks love about Marvel is its gritty realism. This is New York City under attack, not Gotham City. It adds another layer for the viewer to invest in. And there’s some clever plot twists that demand that realism which Whedon and Marvel make pay off. In the end, you couldn’t ask for a better mix of quirk and good old fashioned superhero action.
The second chapter to “Apart (Of Me)” teases out a little more of the tension between Spike and Buffy and gives us on eyeful as to what some people (Andrew) think is best for Buffy. If only Buffy, as a plucky mere mortal, could get it together and buy into the American Dream by getting a mortgage on a two-bedroom starter home stocked with IKEA furniture! That is Andrew’s dream for Buffy. And, ever since his amazing and disastrous “plan” to keep Buffy safe, he has managed to secure only part of it, “part” being the key word here. Buffy’s programmed body had been made secure in the suburbs, until it was kidnapped, while Buffy’s mind was encased in a bot! So, for the purposes of this review, “Buffy” is the one encased in a bot. And “the other Buffy” is Buffy’s body programmed to believe it has a personality. A bit confusing, no doubt, and a bit of a mystery as to how this was going to keep Buffy safe in the first place!
Buffy observes that the space in Buffy’s “dream home” that is designated as an office is in between a bedroom and a bathroom. Is it possible that the other Buffy might have plans for a nursery in the future? Spikes dismisses that as rubbish. But Buffy begs to differ. Indeed, there are two Buffys with their own ideas on what is real and what is rubbish.
And then, quite abruptly, Andrew reveals that he has placed a tracking device in the other Buffy’s necklace. That seems rather convenient but plausible. It’s an intimate chocker that she might like to keep close to her body indefinitley. Whatever the case, that’s what they’re working with.
Circumstances being what they are, it makes sense that things would have cooled down for Spike and Buffy. Buffy is simply not herself! However, there is a scene with Buffy trying to reach her friend, Dawn, on the phone and Spike casually asks if Dawn is aware that she is no longer going to become an aunt, at least, not yet. Yep, mark that as a tease for what my lie ahead for those two. Spike, for his part, remains protective of Buffy and has his own ideas to work through. That leads to a nice little dust up when Buffy pulls away from Spike and, given that she’s part robot, tells him she isn’t exactly all that vulnerable. But she may regret those words. Inexplicably, she takes things too far in the other direction and is barking orders! Andrew and Spike, feeling rather guilty, just follow along but maybe that’s not such a good idea. In what seems like a nod to Joss Whedon’s recent movie, “The Cabin in the Woods,” Buffy decides to split up the group as they zero in on the other Buffy and her captors. Andrew and Spike obey. And then Andrew thinks it over. Hasn’t Buffy seen enough horror movies? he asks himself. Doesn’t she know that splitting up the group is the last thing you should do?
“Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 9,” issue 9, arrives May 9. Visit Dark Horse Comics.
“THE CABIN IN THE WOODS” is great for all the added dimension it offers up as a horror movie. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard wrote the script and Goddard directs. These are the talents that brought you “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” which shares the same enlightened view of horror. And that is what you get from this movie, an enlightened view, with a determinedly droll sense of humor.
For true Whedon fans, there’s the added bonus of having two actors in this movie from perhaps Whedon’s most daring televison show, “Dollhouse.” That is Fran Kranz, as Marty, the stoner, a sort of Shaggy-like character in the movie. And Amy Acker who plays, Lin, a technician back at “headquarters.” And, yes, there is a headquarters! We do indeed have a detached monitoring of events going on. It’s in the trailers and it shouldn’t come as a surprise anyway. “Cabin” not only shares actors but it also shares a high concept style similar to “Dollhouse.”
The idea here is that the movie takes the tropes of horror and looks at them from a different angle. That’s where the “high concept” stuff comes in. Apart from that, any movie that brings life and character to the slasher/horror genre is going in the right direction. “Cabin” sets itself apart by not only taking apart the horror genre but by embracing the slower character-driven moments.
There’s an excellent moment, perhaps the most talked about one, when the Scooby gang stop at a rundown gas station in hopes of filling up their monster RV. It’s an excellent scene, with an edge to it and without an ounce of blood spilled. Everyone is prowling around when, out of the dust and cobwebs, emerges a ghoulish-looking old coot. This is Mordecai, played to perfection by Tim de Zarn. He can’t help himself from, within seconds, completely alienating the happy youth. And then he has to cross the line and call the sexy girl in the group a whore!
That’s it. The gang is really upset. The jock in the group can only offer up a threat. But it’s the stoner of the group that goes about putting the old loon in his place with one conscending remark after another. You want the scene to go on some more but it’s time for the gang to move on and disregard the crazy hater’s dire warnings of impending death that await them if they should choose to continue to their most unlikely “fun” destination, a secluded cabin said to be haunted and in great disrepair, in the middle of nowhere. Hey guys, that awful guy is trying to help you!
Another pretty amazing scene, if only for being such an outrageous non sequitur, is the love scene between the sexy girl, Jules, played by Anna Hutchison, and a stuffed wolf. The gang is playing “Truth or Dare.” On a dare to make out with the stuffed animal on the wall, Jules gives it all she has from acting out her first coy encounter to rolling her tongue up and down and all around inside the dust and fur that is taxidermy. It’s such a strange moment that is supposed to leave you feeling more uneasy than turned on. If you find that hot, it begs the question of whether or not you’ve seen too many horror movies. It also demonstrates that sex can be more threatening and disorienting for some viewers than depictions of murder and bloodshed. A little twisted sexuality never hurt anyone but, in your typical horror movie, it’s the free-spirited and promiscuous youth who must die!
If you’re already a Whedon fan, then “Cabin” will be just what the doctor ordered. And, if you’re new to Whedon, this movie is a fine introduction which you should follow up with the two seasons of “Dollhouse” simply because you’ve probably seen enough “Buffy” for now and you need to see more of Fran Kranz.