Mr. & Mrs. Jones
Clearly having superior pulchritude to yours truly, the team of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will be playing husband/wife assassins who don't know each others' occupations, in next summer's Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Although borrowing a title from a 40's film and a plot from a Nicholson one, I didn't click to the interesting trailer until I learned that Doug Liman (most recently of Bourne Identity fame) was directing. Now I have something to look foward to this summer. Of course, that is a joke, as both Revenge of the Sith and Batman will be out.


X-Men Movie News
Via Cinescape, we finally get some news on the next X-Men movie and, yes, the Wolverine series. Series, you say? They are already plotting the sequel? You bet. In an interview with X-Men producer Lauren Shuler, she spilt the beans:
    But when she spoke about the newly announced WOLVERINE film (that 25TH HOUR writer David Benoiff is scripting), Donner gave away far more information that hasn't been revealed before. "The plan is to do more of an origin story for Wolverine," explained Donner to CHUD. "If that's successful, my deepest desire - I'm not reflecting Fox but you never know - my deepest desire is after the origin story, which David has worked out beautifully, it's really good - if that works, the second one could be the Mariko, ninja story."

    Donner is referring to the 1980s Wolverine mini-series written and drawn by Frank Miller which expanded upon Logan's ties to Japan, the samurai code and his marriage to Mariko Yashida, the daughter of a Japanese noble. The producer explained that she had already given star Hugh Jackman the comics which explained Wolverine's journeys in Japan and his role in the ninja conflict. "That whole Mariko love story is phenomenal because he gets down to his basest self and it's so cool," Donner elaborates. "But I think you have to do the origin first to educate the broader audience, and once you've done that and they know his history and what really happened to Logan then you can move on. You can go on to Mariko and her father and that stuff."
The graphic novel is one of the great comic stories ever. But, what of X3? Shuler can't help but confirm plot details there, too:
    Among the tidbits learned from Donner is that the door is still open for Joss Whedon to possibly direct X3; and that the storyline for the third X-MEN film will include the legendary Dark Phoenix story arc from the UNCANNY X-MEN comic book series ("with new storylines and characters," added Donner.)
Most of us familiar with the comics recognized the hints at the end of X2, but it's good to know they are going to treat the story. The storyline is from X-Men comics issues 129-137 (
purchase them as a set here), and contains a who's-who of character appearances. The battle at the end would be quite something to see filmed. In any event, required reading for you neophytes.
Shoe-in and maybe with a shoehorn
A few comments on the playoff status of the NFL teams I pull for based on this week's games, some obvious and maybe some wishful thinking. For only the third time in league history, the Eagles clinched a division title in 11 games with a convincing defeat of thw second-place Giants yesterday afternoon. Although this would normally be something to get excited about for us Philly fans, this simple fact is that until we play the NFC Championship game, it is business-as-usual.

As I've said to many a fan by Week 3, we are just waiting to get back there and have another crack at it. Although I will stop short of saying that a Super Bowl win will be the only way to validate the season, it would be more satisfying than getting the NFC Championship game monkey off our backs. However, I feel that if we do get over that hurdle, then we are going to win the big game, loosely based on what the Red Sox did after they beat the Yankees. Even though the Super Bowl represents a bigger challenge, if the Eagles win the Championship game (for the first time in over 20 years), then a great burden of expectation will be lifted, and we can then soar on the flapping wings of T.O.

(Also would like to take this opportunity to thank the Redskins for making this title even easier than the last three. Also, I should note that after 11 games, Joe Gibbs has yet to get as many victories as Joe Paterno.)

But, against who? The Patriots? The Steelers? The Colts? This year, the AFC is a much tougher conference record-wise, and there are many teams in the hunt for a playoff spot. Maybe it's sentimentality, maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's just rooting for the underdog, or maybe it's just stealing Jaquandor's thunder, but after the Bills crushed Seattle at home this week for yet another sound victory, I think they have a chance. Yes, they are 5-6 right now, but let me list some factors which have compelled me to spout like a madman:
  • They have the weakest remaining schedule in the AFC; the total number of wins of their next four opponents is 10.
  • The offense is finally playing up to their defense, with McGahee running wild and Bledsoe not wetting the bed.
  • In order for the Bills to get a wild card, they will need some help (read: choking) from the teams with better records; this weekend went a long way towards that with the Jags and Broncos both losing to go 7-4, only two games ahead of Buffalo.
Of course, the final game of the season is against the Steelers (in Buffalo), and I think that the Bills might just be playing for their playoff lives in that game.


The Raping of Riddick
One of the surprise sci-fi/horror hits of 2000, Pitch Black, launched the career of Vin Diesel, who plays convicted felon/killer Richard B. Riddick in the film with charismatic chutspa. So powerful was his performance, and so lucrative the bank from the film, a sequel was ordered and David Twohy was allowed to continue his vision.

The result was 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick. My impression from the trailer was that the film was going to be quite a ride, so I dutifully bought my ticket for this summer's showing. The film, if nothing else, is a visual masterpiece, full of amazing sets, CGI effects, costuming, lighting, you name it. On that level, it is a science-fiction fan's wet dream. I remember thinking, "damn, how much did this movie cost?" while marveling at the numerous effects.

Chronicles had more than just effects, though. Its villains, the Necromongers, are trying to convert the universe to their religion, which requires undergoing a painful tranformation (and basically turning onself into some sort of undead creature). In one scene, a defiant subject who refuses to give up his faith has his 'soul' ripped out by the major bad guy. This was both particularly chilling and fascinating to me. These people defiant in their own faith, are now suddenly confronted with the choice of conversion or having your soul destroyed. There will be no afterlife, in other words. I haven't seen that kind of persuasion in a film before, but that's just one of the extra little things about Chronicles that makes it more than your average film.

Diesel is once again commanding and riveting as Riddick, and with supporting roles from Judy Dench and Thandie Newton, there's no shortage of interesting characters. Unfortunately, none of these characters were developed that much, and the plot was, well, confusing. I found it difficult to figure out the motivations for characters, and the whole film seemed, well, incomplete. A little more here and there, and you could have had a great film. Instead, I left the theater, knowing I'd seen a good film, but having this disturbing sense that something had been left out. Why else would Twohy spend all this money, time, and effort to produce a hollow film that he envisioned?

Tuesday, I bought the director's cut DVD of Chronicles the day it was released. Despite my reservations of the theatrical release, I still enjoyed the film, and thought that perhaps Twohy would add some extra stuff in the film that made it better. Boy, was I wrong, that little '15 minutes' of extra footage entirely changed the movie. Plot lines that were vague were explained, characters were fleshed out more, and action sequences were actually enhanced. I watched the film with both new excitement and disgust, for while I was thrilled at the new depth of this great film, my anger towards the studios grew. There is no other way to put it than the title of this blog. This film was raped by the studios. I encourage everyone to rent the director's cut of this film, even if you were put off by the theatrical release, EVEN if you aren't a Diesel fan. (Here's a professional review to give you an idea what you are in for from Walter Chaw.)

As a footnote, I've been a moderate fan of Pitch Black, but after this experience, I've ordered the
Pitch Black director's cut to see if I'm missing another great movie left on the cutting-room floor.


Star Wars Trailer TONIGHT
It has been confirmed that the new Episode III trailer will be on Access Hollywood tonight. Set your VCRs or TiVos or just watch.

Some images have already been leaked; you can see a few here. They are amazing. An allegedly shot (you'll see why it's alleged) of Darth Sidious is disturbingly fearsome, while the shot of Anakin, Palpatine, and Dooku looks to parallel Luke's decision at the end of ROTJ. Only this time we know it won't go well for Anakin.

I'm titillated.

UPDATE: Can't wait for the trailer? See the promo clip here (via Force.net).

AFTERMATH: If you missed it, or wonder what were some of the things you saw, here's a shot-by-shot description from TF.N, again. If you missed it, the teaser will be shown again today on E! News Live. And if all else fails, and you swear allegiance to Baal, I taped it.