Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who Should Play Bilbo Baggins?

I guarantee, I've got at least one name that will surpise you.

But let me first say, that I have no "inside" information whatsoever - these names are just my own little musings. Fun suggestions for whoever gets to cast THE HOBBIT (my hope is still GDT....unless he gets offered ATMOM by Universal Studios).

So let's start, shall we:

Ian Holm
You have to mention him as a possible candidate, just because he played Bilbo Baggins in LOTR. The problem is that he is getting up in years (76) and it would take a lot of energy to run around on Bilbo's adventure. Plus, I'm sure the studio would lean towards a younger, up-and-coming actor.

Martin Freeman
Ok, I'm probably jumping on the bandwagon for this one, but I have to admit he would be a good choice. Best known as Tim from THE (British) OFFICE, but also for playing Arthur Dent in THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. As Arthur Dent, he had the comedic "fish out of water" part nailed, which is what at least the first half of THE HOBBIT requires from Bilbo.

Brad Pitt
Just kidding.

And here's the name that's going to throw you off guard, but I can't help thinking it might work:

Steve Zahn

I'm going out on a limb here, but here me out. Ok, so he's not British. But he's a classically trained actor - surely he could pull of a British accent. And he's kind of got that "Hobbit look". Slap on some curly hair, some furry feat, a long pipe and Whammo - instant resident of the shire. But here's two reasons why I think he would be ideal: 1) He always plays the sidekick. And that's what Bilbo is - he's a sidekick that becomes the hero, and 2) He's just so damn likeable.

So there you have it - Zahn is my number one. GDT, if you get the job, pick up the phone and give Steve a call. He's probably fishing at his farm in Kentucky right now, just like a good hobbit should.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Waiting For An Original

GDT was kind enough to answer one of my questions on the Hellboy 2 message board yesterday. It was a question I've been wanting to ask for some time. Here it is:

I know a lot of the projects you have been looking at have been adapted works (Mountains, The Witches, 3993, The Hobbit). I was wondering if you have any more aces up your sleeve in the way of original GDT screenplays that you think could see the light of day, maybe through Cha Cha Cha or Tequila Gang?

And here is his response:

I love "those" scripts too- but they "come out" after long gestations. I was fortunate enough to have had DEVILS BACKBONE for YEARS before shooting it. And fortunate enough that PL percolated JUST in time to pop out when it did- but as of now the few scripts that Im percolating in that zone (I wont add/repeat the names in order not to confuse or clutter the "to do" list, but there are several) gain a bit every day. 3993 is the one that is in Sergio's hands- it is unlikely he will ge to it soon, if ever, since after THE ORPHANAGE he has moved on to direct himself. Im OK with that, I have other stuff that has been with me for years, including one that seems to be gaining on the others and that is quite in the vein of CRONOS, DBB and PL. More on it after I finally pen it.

Until then, I remain,Yr Ovt. St


PD that script would be done 100% through CHACHACHA

This was kind of an obvious question - OF COURSE he has some original scripts that he's thinking about. But I was also fishing for some info on how far away he might be from making one. You see, if GDT does the HOBBIT, that is a two movie commitment. I would assume they would be filmed at the same time, but that will take, let's say, at the very least, three years to complete. At the most five. So it could be some time before we see an original GDT work. Not that I'm complaining - I'm really enjoying his pattern of alternating between studio and "personal" works. But it is GREAT to know that he has some ideas "percolating". Looking forward to hearing more.

As a side note, notice what he said about 3993. That could be a dead project now, so it sounds like that is off of the "to do" list. But one thing at a time - let's see how these next weeks or months unfold and by then we can hopefully talk about what is up next.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Well, it took me a few weeks, but I finally finished it. So here we go:

  • This was a great book, and will make a GREAT movie. The one thing that stands out for me is that I think this could be a great family film. The LOTR trilogy was a little dark and violent for younger kids - but I think this could be different. I think there can be a lot of laughs here (bumbling dwarves and an overly polite hobbit are the heroes of the story, for pete's sake) and the book provides plenty of spectacle. I'm already drooling over Smaug's clash with the Lake-men and the epic final battle of the races.
  • Originally I stated that I didn't think there was enough story in THE HOBBIT to split into two films. I was wrong. My assumption was that the story was going to end with Smaug's death, but it didn't - there was still an epic battle between the dwarves, elves, men, and goblins to go. With that battle in thrown in there, this could definitely be two films. But as I mentioned in a previous post, this may not happen. We may see a "bridge" between THE HOBBIT and LOTR in the second film, rather than having THE HOBBIT split in two. After some reflection, I'm not sure I want to see that. I kind of like seeing only Tolkien's vision on the screen - part II would have to be an original work. It wouldn't have Tolkien's "street cred" behind it.
  • Since Tolkien wrote THE HOBBIT prior to LOTR, he may not have intended this interpretation of the story, but I think it is unavoidable since THE HOBBIT is being made as a "prequel." A major theme of THE HOBBIT is Bilbo's evolution into a hero, albeit an unlikely one. In his most dashing moment, he single-handedly frees his friends from the clutches of the Mirkwood spiders ("from the clutches"...sheesh. I need to find a better cliche). I think a central theme of the film version should ask: Is it Bilbo, or is it The Ring? And I think the answer should be a little bit of both.
  • You could probably get rid of a number of the dwarfs. Dori, Gloin, Nori, Oin, and Ori don't add anything to the story - you could probably combine them into one dwarf named Dorigloroiri.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Universal Madness!

My good friend Hellmistress posted a veeery interesting Variety article on the DTF message boards. Here is the excerpt from the article, "Universal's re-born identity" by Michael Fleming, that deserves attention:

[Universal] also was caught off-guard after they aggressively courted Guillermo Del Toro, the filmmaker behind "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Hellboy." The studio gave him a first-look deal, picked up a sequel to "Hellboy" with a budget of more than $80 million, and even bought the rights to his dream project, the H.P. Lovecraft epic, "At the Mountains of Madness."

But [Universal] brass was stunned to suddenly see Del Toro emerge as the likely director of the next two "Hobbit" movies for New Line and MGM. That would lock him down for four straight years in New Zealand.

Langley acknowledges, "We're in discussions with how to rectify that with Guillermo."

I don't think I'm crazy to think that Universal might be thinking about greenlighting ATMOM just to keep GDT on their side. If I'm right, this could be part of why THE HOBBIT deal has yet to become official. If there is one thing to keep GDT out of Middle Earth, it is his dream MOUNTAINS project. Hang in there, fans - you never know what might happen.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Splitting THE HOBBIT In Two

I may have some more information on how THE HOBBIT will be split into two films. If you remember, in a previous post, I had some doubt about if THE HOBBIT book had enough story to make two films. My opinion was that a lot more story would have to be added.

In a recent MTV article by Shawn Adler, he quotes Elijah Wood (Frodo from the first LOTR trilogy) as saying: "I haven’t spoken to [Peter Jackson] directly about it [but] I’ve e-mailed him, and as far as I know the two films that they’re doing, one will be ‘The Hobbit’ and another will take place between the 60 years that happened between ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings."

If true, this is some real exciting news - not only will this open up the possibility for an all new chapter in the Tolkien universe, but it will also mean that we could see Elijah and others from the LOTR trilogy reprise their roles in Part II. GDT has said that he is very open to bringing back the original actors.

Meanwhile, no confirmation yet that THE HOBBIT is a done deal for GDT. Hang in there, fans.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Oscars And My De-evolution

They say as you get older, your tastes get refined. Sophisticated.

For me, that is apparently not true.

In 1997, I graduated college with a degree in English literature and a minor in Theater. My days and evenings then usually consisted of Medieval and Renaissance literature and pouring over Shakespeare or Arthur Miller. My senior thesis was on William Blake (an epic undertaking, mind you). In 2000 I got married - and my wife and I shared a love of live theater and compelling cinematic dramas.

Then something happened. Around 2002, I started reading comic books - something I had not done since I was in middle school. My first read was "Quiver", the Green Arrow book by Kevin Smith. I was fan of the movie "Clerks", so I was interested in seeing what Smith could do with a super hero character. From then on, I was hooked on comics. I also started going to the occassional convention - the Star Wars Celebration was held in my home town and I went all four days (sans costume). Broadband internet soon turned me into an all-out cyber junky - looking up all the new scifi-fantasy movies, checking rumors, and of course, I eventually created

My wife always complains that I "misrepresented" myself before we got married. What is now replacing my fine literature collection in our den are banker boxes full of comics. The poor gal - it was never intentional. I think I just went through that "hippy" period where "everything is deep, man." Now I'm back to having fun again, just like in middle school.

So what does this have to do with the Oscars? Well, I just looked at the nominees for the major categories today. They are as follows:

Best Picture
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah"
Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"

Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie, "Away From Her"
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Ellen Page, "Juno"

Of the 12 movies listed above, I've seen one of them. JUNO. And its a comedy. Six of the movies above I had not even heard of. So my question is this - is this just a slow Oscar year, where the nominated films are smaller projects with little acclaim, or have I completely geeked out to the point where if the film doesn't have a Wookie, Troll, or Robot in it, it just doesn't interest me?

I vote for the latter. In the precious amount of time I am allowed to actually SEE a movie, I usually go for the fun, entertaining choices, rather than the brooding, serious ones.

And my de-evolution continues. I have a 10 month old son. In a year or two, I will only be watching animated films.

And my geek side is actually thrilled about that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Early Impressions of THE HOBBIT

Well, I'm about 3/4 of the way done with THE HOBBIT, and I like the book very much so far. It is an easy read, no doubt because Tolkien intended it as a children's book, but I have some preliminary questions/thoughts on how the story will translated into a movie.

1. How will the book be split into two movies? My initial thought would be to end movie #1 after the escape from the goblins in the forest . Movie #2 would start with the stay in Beorn's home and the journey into Mirkwood. But I wonder if there is enough story there to fill two movies? I'm thinking GDT might need to add some new scenes or action sequences? Or maybe I'm just picturing the epic LOTR movies in my head, which were three hours long each.

2. This seems a light-hearted romp, compared to the dark overtones of the LOTR trilogy. Will audiences expect a dark fantasy adventure? I don't think that is the nature of this story. This seems more of a family picture - with lots of opportunities for comedy. It reminds me of "The Wizard of Oz" in a lot of ways. Will GDT take this route, or will he try to follow the tone established by Peter Jackson? Will we get to see a dwarf musical number - those little bastards love to sing!

3. Who will play Bilbo? Would we see the great Ian Holm return? If GDT wanted to be consistent with the LOTR movies, that would make sense. He has already said that he would welcome back cast members from the LOTR films to reprise their roles. And Bilbo in The Hobbit is not a young man. He's middle aged with a mead-belly (that's Middle Earth for "beer-belly"). And Gandalf says in the Fellowship film that he hasn't aged since last he saw him (the ring slows down the aging process). But somehow I doubt we will see Ian again. I have a feeling we will see a younger actor.

I have some more questions about plot but I will save those for another post when I finish the book. For now, this is some early thoughts on how the book would be translated to film.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I Have A Confession To Make...

I have never read THE HOBBIT. There, I said it.

Actually, there are probably many more fantasy/sci fi books that are out there that I am ashamed I have not read. There is kind of an established cannon of must-read books for the fantasy/horror/sci fi genre - and definitely THE HOBBIT is one of them.

But better late than never - I got my copy from the library last week and got half-way through over my vacation. I would have liked to have finished it, but a 10 month old boy has a way of taking up most of my free time.

So, yes, I am now reading THE HOBBIT - and I like it very much. I will hold my opinions to the end, but there is something I need to know from my faithful readers: what other books am I missing out on? What, in your opinion is in the cannon of must-read fantasy/horror/sci fi books?

Here are a few just off the top of my head:

Bram Stoker's Dracula - read it

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - not read it

I Am Legend - read it

At The Mountains of Madness - read it

The Stand - not read it

All the Harry Potter books - read 'em

That's all I can think of for right now - I know there are a LOT more, so I'm interested in hearing your suggestions. Right now my wife is waiting in the basement with some popcorn.

Its time for a "Supernatural" and "Smallville" double feature.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Johann and Jules Verne

GDT has said that the inspiration for Johann's suit in HELLBOY II is from Jules Verne, so I thought I might share some pictures from the web of Verne-inspired art and illustrations so you can see how they compare.

Here is our HELLBOY II Johann:

And here is a painting by watercolorist Milo Winter (1888-1956). This painting first appeared in a 1922 juvenile edition of 20,000 LEAGUES, published by Rand McNally & Company.

Next is some original concept art from Disney's 20,000 LEAGUES movie starring Kirk Douglas. And here is Disney movie poster: And a helmet from the movie itself:

And if you want to see something really cool, check out this site, where a guy built a working version of the Nautilus suit!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Terminator Saga Continues

I have always loved The Terminator saga - one of the great sci fi story lines in science fiction movie history. And like the Terminator itself, it just won't die. More than 20 years after the original Terminator film, there have been two sequels and prime time television series. And now there is a new film ramping up, TERMINATOR SALVATION: THE FUTURE BEGINS. I don't know about you guys, but with all these Terminator story lines being released, the continuity is really starting to get messed up. Consider it:

In T1, Kyle Reese travels back from the year 2029 to stop a machine war that destroys humanity in 1997, which is the year Skynet goes live. In T2, John and Sarah Connor team with Ahnold to prevent the creation of Skynet in the year 1991. Their efforts seem successful, as they blow up Miles Dyson's lab and the last Terminator destroys himself (before his vacation).

Now comes a split in the timeline.

T3 says that John Connor goes "off-the-grid" by 2004, refusing to believe that Judgement Day has been prevented. A new Terminator is sent back in time by Connor's future wife to prevent Connor's murder in the year 2032. Obviously, the events in T2 has moved back the Skynet war at least 3 years, but not prevented it completely. By the end of that film, it is determined that Skynet is a network of thousands of computers, missiles are launched, and Judgement Day begins.

So the split occurs in the new Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series on FOX television (great show, by the way). The pilot episode begins in the year 1999, and the Connors are rescued from death by yet another Terminator (man, can they do anything right in the future? I hope I can one day send a robot back in time to get me out of trouble for setting my parent's rug on fire when I was eight!) and transported to the year 2007 - essentially wiping out the entire T3 timeline.

Writer Josh Friedman has stated that "T3" follows an alternate timeline than that of the TV series.

I call "shenanigans." All us hard working, hard thinking Terminator fans put a lot of effort into figuring out the original event timeline, then they get rid of half of it. At least throw us a bone and say " 1995 John Connor steps on a butterfly and the entire history of Skynet is rewritten. An alternate history where [insert T3 timeline here] and a Terminator becomes governor of California becomes disconnected from the critical path timeline." That's not too much to ask, is it? Or am I being one of "those" geeks, again?

I don't care. I'm a taxpayer. I'm allowed to make a certain quota of unreasonable demands. So there, SARAH CONNOR staff - fix it.

Or I will send a robot back in time to extend the writer's strike.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

MIMIC is real, people

A plague is killing millions of people. A genetically engineered insect is built to eradicate the plague and save lives. Fortunately, the insect is engineered to die off after one generation....or is it?

Sounds like the plot summary of MIMIC, doesn't it? Well this time, I'm talking about a British biotech company that says they can genetically engineer mosquitos to control the spread of dengue fever, which, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, kills 5 million people a year.

The company, Oxitec, is using a variation of a proven process that helped eliminate the screwworm (heh heh) and the Mediterranean fruit fly in North America. However, instead of using the common "sterile insect technique" (remember Jurassic Park? Same principle), they are engineering the insects to be dependant on tetracycline.

Didn't these people listen to Jeff Goldblum??? NATURE FINDS A WAY!!!

I'm kidding. Really, this could turn out to be an amazing new technology. I'm willing to be open-minded about genetically engineered organisms if millions of lives could be saved. And I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted web personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

But really, chemically dependent steril mosquitos aren't half as cool as insect cyborgs. Check out this article about researchers at Cornell that developed remote control moths. My only hope that this technology will be used only for good - like putting frickin' cameras on their heads and piloting them towards the girl's locker room.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thoughts on JUNO

The wife and I saw JUNO last Sunday. I don't do it often enough, but it is nice to break away from my sci-fi, fantasy, and action-thriller addiction, and see a movie like JUNO (which I guess is the exact opposite).

I really loved this movie. It was funny and poignant and particularly observant. My wife and I looked at adopting a year or two ago because we were having troubles conceiving. A lot of Vanessa's (Jennifer Garner) emotions and actions in the film were spot on. Her character was very guarded emotionally - the disappointment is so great when something falls through, you can't bear to get your hopes up. I thought Garner portrayed that beautifully. And Ellen Page, of course, was brilliant.

The soundtrack is doing very well, I hear, and the song at the end of the film still is reverberating in my head. Not to spoil the ending - okay, I am going to spoil it so CAUTION - but watching JUNO and Bleeker play guitar together on the sidewalk, playing that song by the Moldy Peaches, may be one of my favorite feel-good endings ever. I just had to smile as I watched it. Even though Juno has a crisis of faith on relationships in the film, the ending was a reaffirmation. It was very uplifting. Diablo Cody did an amazing job with the screenplay. I'm looking forward to what she does next.

But I guess JUNO did have Ellen Page (X3), Jennifer Garner (Electra), and J.K. Simmons (Spider-man 3), so maybe I'm still good. Go see the movie everyone - as Frank Darabont once pointed out with PAN'S LABYRINTH, your dollar at the box office is a vote for more great movies like this.

Friday, February 1, 2008

If GDT Made a Cartoon Movie

For some reason, I am obsessed by the Saturday morning cartoon shows that I used to watch when I was a kid. The best is when I re-discover a cartoon that I used to watch, but for some reason it has faded from my memory - really obscure stuff like "Turbo Teen" or "Gilligan's Planet." These were bad cartoons, but I love the nostalgia of these shows, more so than remembering old TV shows or movies.

We may see a boom of live action movies made from cartoons after the release of SPEED RACER from the Wachow...the Washozki...the guys who made the MATRIX. The film is crazy looking - like a live action anime film. It should get a lot of buzz this year, and will undoubtedly have Hollywood producers talking about the next live action cartoon that they can make.

So what if GDT was to remake an old Saturday morning cartoon into a movie? What would be the ideal candidates for his style and tastes? I have three nominees for you:

Thundarr the Barbarian (1980)

The year: 1994. From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin! Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn...A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery. But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword against the forces of evil. He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!

C'mon, admit it! If you didn't know it was a Saturday morning cartoon, you would think this would be a pretty kick ass movie! Imagine a property like this in the hands of GDT - monsters, sorcery, action! Desolate apocolyptic landscapes! What more could you want? Plus the legendary Jack Kirby created a lot of the characters in the original cartoon.

The Smurfs (1981)

The Smurfs? The happy little blue guys? Yes, but not in GDT's movie. I imagine a plot where the Smurfs must come to terms with being created for a darker purpose. It would have all the fantasy and wonder of a PAN'S LABYRINTH, and have all of the twisted elements of a fairy tale. And if you're still not convinced, I have two words for you: Clockwork Smurf. That has GDT's name written all over it. Starring Jeffrey Tambor as Gargamel.

The Herculoids (1967)

Monsters galore!! Three humanoids and a super-team of alien monsters defend the planet Quasar from alien forces. The monsters included a flying dragon, a rock ape, a ten-legged rhino-triceratops, and two protoplasmic blobs. The humanoid leader of the Herculoids, Zandor, would of course be played by Ron Perlman. Man, you wouldn't have to write a word of dialogue and this movie would still be cool.

Save The Cat or Die A Horrible Death

There is one movie/tv cliche that has always irked me - and that is what I call the "Ripley Decision". Remember at the end of the movie "Alien", Ripley is about to escape being ripped apart by an alien monster when she realizes that she has to go back for her freaking cat? That is the "Ripley Decision" - it takes place whenever a main character decides to risk their lives for a pet.

Okay - small disclaimer: I don't have any pets. I know that 99.9% of the people in the world do have pets, be it a pet cat, a pet goldfish, or a pet venomous duck. And many of you would step in harm's way for your pet - I understand. But I would think that there are limits to beastie bravery. And Ripley is a prime example of this.

Put yourself in Ripley's place - do you risk being torn apart and eaten alive by an Alien with a really bad case of acid reflux, or do the cat. I would hope that even the biggest kitten lover in the world would say, "Morris, I'm sorry, but I prefer my lower extremities attached and I don't fancy being a monster's uterus. We'll always have Paris, " and shut the escape hatch. Then as the pod speeds through space, you can somehow find away to convince yourself that the Alien, like most ex-girlfriends, *likes* cats, and just hates everyone else.

Regardless of your stance on feline heroics, the fact is that the "risk your life for an animal" is a lousy plot device, unless of course it is the point of the movie - like in "BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND" or any number of kid flicks (I can't believe I used that movie in making a point! Minus 10 points for me). The "save a kitten" tactic is used in Hellboy - but that is a comedic plot device. Its funny. But in a movie like "Alien", it just doesn't seem like a rational decision by the Ripley character. I understand the point though - "In space, no one can hear you scream." Ripley is terrified of being alone.

But, honestly, shouldn't she be more terrified of being devoured her skivvies?