Hugh Jackman faces samurai and snake women in latest footage
'Lego Batman,' 'Captain America' and more!
The Lego Batman set first introduced in 2006 has proved enormously popular, leading to a total of 17 DC-themed Lego playsets as well as two video games. It is the second video game, "Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes," that has provided most of the footage that comprises this new Blu-ray, which serves both as an entertaining comedic lark as well as a decent entry-level movie for children to check out.
Cutscenes from the game are edited together with newly filmed material (which replaces actual gameplay footage) to bring together Batman (voiced by Troy Baker) and Superman (Travis Willingham) as they battle the Joker (Christopher Corey Smith) and Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown). The latter is running for president and the former is doing everything he can to help, while simultaneously bringing down the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel.
The story also features appearances from Robin (Charlie Schlatter), Riddler (Rob Paulsen), Penguin (Steven Blum), Catwoman (Katherine Von Till), most of the Justice League and plenty of other villains in a colorful, madcap adventure that offers up a constant stream of tongue-in-cheek references to the live-action DC films as well as excerpts from the iconic "Superman" and "Batman" movie scores by John Williams and Danny Elfman, respectively.
Also included are a featurette called "Building Batman," three bonus cartoons, an additional Lego short and, while supplies last, a Clark Kent/Superman Lego figure. Check out an exclusive clip below!
"Lego Batman: The Movie - DC Super Heroes Unite" is out Tuesday, May 21, as a Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD, On Demand and for Digital Download.
The film, directed by Albert Pyun, was produced by Menahem Golan, the Israeli filmmaker best known for a long string of action/adventure/sci-fi B-movies released through his Cannon Group. When Golan left Cannon, he took the rights to "Captain America" with him and ended up making the film through the low-rent 21st Century Film Corporation. Long before Marvel Studios was formed in the mid-2000s so that the comic book giant could control and produce its own movies, the company sold the film rights to many of its iconic characters to both major studios and fly-by-night production entities -- with the results being either no Marvel movies at all or really bad ones.
File "Captain America" under the latter. A bland, robotic Matt Salinger (son of J.D. -- yes, the "Catcher in the Rye" author) plays the title role yet never comes across the least bit heroic. He's not helped by the dumb design of his costume, which comes complete with little wings on the helmet and fake ears poking through the sides (admittedly, Cap's outfit is hard to do right, although the new Marvel films make it work well enough). Salinger is just wrong in the role.
But he's not helped by either the script, which starts out somewhat faithfully to the comics yet veers wildly off course and ends up being a bizarre pro-environment "message" film, or the production values, which look just south of your average 1970s TV movie. Pyun is no Joe Johnston, but he also has little to work with here. If you're making an epic superhero movie on the budget of an ABC Movie of the Week, you're going to face obstacles that even an A-list director might find insurmountable.
Because it's so badly and cheaply made, "Captain America" doesn't exactly pop off the screen on Blu-ray: The colors and cinematography tend to be either flat or murky. The audio, at least on our copy, is also terrible: We had to really crank the volume to hear dialogue, making explosions and gunfire even more jarringly loud. Having said all that, this is worth having, we suppose, if you're a Marvel completist, and certainly any time you want to complain or nitpick about the current crop of Marvel movies, you should take this out for a reminder of how things used to be.
"Captain America" is being released on Blu-ray by Shout Factory, whose Scream Factory subsidiary also has two new releases debuting this week on Blu-ray: "The Burning" and "The Town that Dreaded Sundown." The former is a 1981 slasher movie and early Miramax Films offering, produced by Harvey Weinstein, co-written by his brother Bob, and featuring the motion picture debuts of Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld") and Holly Hunter ("Saving Grace").
The film is about a vile summer camp caretaker named Cropsy (a spin on the old urban legend) who returns to the campground and starts a spree of slaughter there years after some other campers caused him to be severely burned in a prank gone wrong. Essentially a ripoff of "Friday the 13th," "The Burning" revels in lots of blood and gore (courtesy of makeup legend Tom Savini) while offering just enough suspense to keep things moving. But it's mainly all about the kills in this one, which has grown into a cult favorite over the years.
The Scream Factory collector's edition offers a decent restored print of a film that will always have that early '80s grungy look, while interviews with Savini, editor Jack Sholder (who later directed "The Hidden"), actress Leah Ayres and Cropsy himself, actor Lou David, form the bulk of the bonus features, along with commentaries from director Tony Maylam and stars Shelley Bruce and Bonnie Deroski (what, Alexander and Hunter didn't want to participate?).
The movie plays fast and loose with the actual events, which took place over a 10-week period in 1946, although it's true that the "Phantom Killer," as the perpetrator was dubbed, was never caught or identified. The story is told in the film through voice-over narration and the recreation of allegedly actual events, giving it a weird, half-"faux doc" feel that makes it sort of a predecessor to the "found-footage" horror films so popular during the last decade or so. Pierce's wide-screen compositions make it look like a more expensive picture than it actually is, but several sequences are effectively staged and the open-ended nature of the story is effectively unsettling (a remake from "Paranormal Activity" producer Jason Blum is in the works).
A commentary from historian Jim Presley and Justin Beahm leads the bonus features lineup, which also features video interviews with Wells and co-star Andrew Prine, a B-movie veteran. Best of all, a second DVD-only disc features Pierce's even more rare "The Evictors," a 1979 horror film about a young couple victimized in their new home by the previous owners. Jessica Harper ("Suspiria"), Michael Parks ("Django Unchained") and Vic Morrow ("Humanoids From the Deep") star.
Second 'Trek' film remains gold standard for series
Bennett in turn hired Nicholas Meyer to direct -- like Bennett, he had never watched "Star Trek," but had a keen sense of story and character. Several scripts for the film had already been written, and Meyer was the one who pulled together elements from all the various drafts and did a final (uncredited) rewrite in 12 days to get the screenplay into shape.
After watching all 79 segments of the original series, Bennett had picked Khan from the episode "Space Seed" as the villain for "Star Trek II," thinking that a strong enemy was what the first movie had lacked. Star Ricardo Montalban expressed some concerns about returning to the character, but ultimately agreed to do it. More troublesome was Leonard Nimoy, who was reluctant play Spock again -- unless he was promised that the Vulcan would be killed off in this movie. William Shatner, meanwhile, was concerned with playing Kirk in middle age -- even though that was a central cornerstone of the movie!
"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" began filming in November 1981 and finished in early 1982, with the movie coming out June 4 of that year (they didn't take a year or more for post-production back in those days). It was a substantial hit, earning $97 million worldwide on a budget one-quarter ($11 million) that of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."
The movie finds Kirk and Spock forced to take the Enterprise, crewed mostly with trainees, out on a secret emergency mission to find out what has happened to Space Station Regula 1. The scientific installation is where a project called Genesis is being developed -- under the supervision of Kirk's one-time lover Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and their son, David (Merritt Butrick) -- which can terraform lifeless planets and make them habitable ones. It can also do the reverse if deployed on a living planet and utterly destroy all the ecosystems there.
The ship assisting the lab in its research, the USS Reliant, has accidentally stumbled upon the planet where Kirk left Khan and his surviving band of genetically enhanced supermen to carve out their own society 15 years earlier. Driven mad with grief over the death of his wife (a Starfleet officer who had actually helped Khan take over the Enterprise in "Space Seed") due to the planet's inhospitable conditions, Khan hijacks the Reliant and goes on a mission of vengeance against Kirk -- a mission that ends with Spock sacrificing his own life to save the Enterprise.
By today's standards of ultra-fast editing, pacing and visual effects, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" might seem slow and hokey-looking. But following its more cerebral predecessor, "The Wrath of Khan" seemed much closer in spirit, pace and tone to an episode of the original series, blending action and science fiction concepts with the great character interplay that had been a hallmark of "Star Trek" on TV. Compared to today's often dumbed-down blockbusters, which race without pausing for a second from action sequence to explosion and back again (a style that, sadly, dominates the new "Star Trek Into Darkness"), "Star Trek II" is refreshing, thoughtful and most important, soulful, while still working as rousing space opera.
The story is also poignant. Kirk, always the space cowboy, is haunted by thoughts of aging and death as he oversees the humdrum training of new Starfleet recruits. By reuniting with his estranged son -- who doesn't know initially that Kirk is his father -- and also confronting Khan, the captain of the Enterprise must come to terms with unfinished business from his past while also acknowledging the uncertain future ahead. Kirk's longstanding ability to seemingly cheat death also blows up in his face when Spock dies saving the ship -- an act that serves to renew Kirk himself and provide him with a kind of spiritual rebirth.
Why does ""Star Trek II" succeed while "Star Trek Into Darkness" fails? "Star Trek II" has a well-constructed and tightly knit story that breathes and has room for both thought and character development, while also building on relationships that have endured for more than 15 years at the time of the film's release. The new film, taking place early in the careers of the Enterprise crew, tries to jam many of those same elements into a story where the characters are not that far along in either their life experience or relationships with one another, and not given the screen time to develop that.
"Star Trek II" doesn't hold back very long before introducing Khan as the villain, and there's certainly no silly mystery surrounding his identity as there is in the latest film -- a "mystery" that will be meaningless to all but older "Trek" fans and doesn't serve to advance that story in any way. The game of cat and mouse between Khan and Kirk is clearly laid out and suspenseful without resorting to mayhem and reversals and fisticuffs every few minutes -- in fact, Kirk and Khan never meet in person in "Star Trek II," which serves to frustrate both men.
Spock's death in "Star Trek II" is a truly moving moment, even if you're not a die-hard "Trek" fan who has been following the characters for years. The staging of the same sequence in "Star Trek Into Darkness" -- reversed so that it is Kirk who dies and not Spock -- not only lacks the gravity of the original, but is completely undercut by bringing Kirk back to life literally minutes later. Yes, Spock didn't stay dead either -- but we had to wait two years and the entire length of the next film, "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock," until he was restored to close to his former self.
There are many other points on which "Star Trek II" trumps "Star Trek Into Darkness," but as we said earlier, we're also quite certain that there are many modern moviegoers who won't be able to find their way into a movie that's now 31 years old. Yet if they could, they might find it a rich experience, a terrific sci-fi film and still perhaps the best "Trek" movie yet. We're sure it will endure long after the new "Trek" envisioned by J.J. Abrams and crew is sitting in Blu-ray bins, forgettable and forgotten.
Why J.J. Abrams' movie is 'Star Trek' in name only
Related: Who's who in 'Star Trek Into Darkness'
"Star Trek Into Darkness" generates no such good will, because its flaws ultimately overwhelm the good things about the movie. It's still exciting, funny, sometimes even dazzling -- but so are fireworks displays. The emotional and intellectual core of "Star Trek Into Darkness" is hollow -- and underneath that is an attitude of condescension and superiority on the part of the filmmakers that makes the film, in the end, an insult to "Trek" fans. Here's why:
The chemistry between the new cast members was a huge factor in the 2009 "Star Trek." Everyone clicked to a surprising degree, and the performances, like the movie itself, were respectful of the originals without turning into slavish impersonations. This time around, everyone is mostly still charming -- but nagging seeds planted in the first movie have grown into larger weeds that threaten to choke off real character development and also take these iconic roles much farther away from their original interpretations than is necessary or smart.
Kirk is actively annoying in this film. He is now a starship captain, yet he seems to have almost no respect for the weight of that position. To be fair, he's young. Most of his success comes from pure blind luck and bravado. But -- to give him some benefit of the doubt -- Kirk barely has time for any significant character exploration. He loses his command, then gets it back a few minutes later. He makes a massive sacrifice near the end of the film only for that action to be canceled out and rendered pointless (more on that below). Kirk is pretty much the same guy at the end of the movie as he was at the beginning. I found myself not caring about him at all.
While Zachary Quinto is excellent as Spock, I found his character beginning to drift the most from its moorings in "Trek" mythology. Spock is a Vulcan: half-human, yes, but it's been long established that he has mastered his emotions before even setting foot in Starfleet Academy. Yet here he is crying and screaming and raging, while also participating in an underdeveloped romance with Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Sorry, but that romance felt wrong in the 2009 movie and feels really wrong here, especially when the couple start bickering in the middle of a risky and crucially important mission. The romantic angle is demeaning to Uhura, too: It reduces her to simply being Spock's girlfriend this time out.
Putting Uhura at Spock's side also wrecks the original trinity of Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), which is a shame on two counts. First, it removes the classic balance of logic and emotion embodied by Spock and McCoy, respectively, that always provided Kirk with two sides to every command decision. Second, it reduces Urban -- who is once again terrific and manages to channel the late, great DeForest Kelley in an eerily magical way -- to little more than a one-liner machine. He also does some really dumb science later on as well -- very un-Bones-like.
As for the rest of the command crew, Simon Pegg is better this time as Scotty and gets more to do, but the two characters who get the really short end of the phaser are Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (John Cho). The helmsman has one outstanding scene when he's temporarily in command of the Enterprise and we see that steely resolve that will one day get him his own ship. Chekov gets to play chief engineer for a while but tends to get lost in the shuffle.
Did I like anything about "Star Trek Into Darkness"? Sure. The opening Nibiru sequence had a great sense of adventure (even if we still don't understand why the Enterprise was submerged underwater -- how is that supposed to hide the ship from the native species when a gigantic vessel rising out of the ocean would be pretty damn noticeable?). I felt a thrill of excitement during the action set pieces and thought the special effects and 3-D conversion were sharply executed. Michael Giacchino's stirring score did a lot to create emotion when there was none on the screen. The humor and generally light tone remained invigorating.
But all that doesn't stop "Star Trek Into Darkness" from being fatally flawed, thanks to a lazy, terrible script and a misconceived bad guy. We'll start with him first: Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the best actors around right now, as his work on the BBC's "Sherlock" and films like "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" proves. But his much-hyped performance is underwhelming, mainly because he's either standing there spitting out exposition or just punching people. His role is underwritten and misunderstood by the screenwriters, and there's not much to it beyond the solemn intonations and glares you've seen in the trailers -- despite all the marketing focusing on him.
Yes, the rumors were true: Cumberbatch is playing genetically engineered superman Khan Noonien Singh, first introduced in the original series episode "Space Seed" and revisited in the 1982 film "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," essayed unforgettably in both by Ricardo Montalban. We discover his true identity halfway through the film, before which he's known as John Harrison. But having Khan in this movie is a stupid and pointless choice by screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. Giving this pale British guy the same name as the original Indian tyrant, while dispensing in five minutes with most of the history that made Khan so significant, just diminishes the character for hard-core Trekkers and will mean absolutely nothing to casual viewers. It fails miserably as good storytelling and fan service.
To make matters worse, Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof re-enact the famous "Star Trek II" scene in which Spock sacrifices his life to save the Enterprise -- only this time it's Kirk dying inside the radiation chamber while Spock sits outside the glass door. But Kirk is only dead for about 10 minutes before McCoy figures out that he can use Khan's superhuman blood to bring him back to life (a development heavily foreshadowed earlier in the movie). So Kirk's sacrifice means nothing because he comes back to life almost before the echoes of Spock's contrived "KHAAAAANNNN!" scream (which is out of context and out of character) have barely faded. There's no investment in the relationship, whereas when Spock died in "Star Trek II," you felt the weight of 16-plus years of friendship. This new Kirk and Spock barely know each other a year in the rebooted timeline.
All the problems here point back to the script, a supremely terrible piece of writing. But why would anyone expect greatness from a team whose combined credits include the "Transformers" movies, "Cowboys & Aliens" and "Prometheus"? Aside from the careless rehashing of "Star Trek II" -- along with plot points from "Star Trek III," "Star Trek VI" and even "Star Trek: Nemesis" -- there are huge story holes that sit there waiting to be discovered like the giant new warship that Adm. Marcus (Peter Weller) has parked behind Jupiter (one of the plot holes itself, by the way).
For instance, if Khan's blood can bring people back to life, does that mean death has been cured? Why go on an extended climactic chase after Khan for said blood when there are 72 of his superman crewmates sitting frozen on the Enterprise just a few hundred feet away from where Kirk's body is going stiff? Why play for a little while with the idea of Kirk and Khan teaming up to fight the head of Starfleet and second villain, Adm. Marcus (Peter Weller) -- an interesting twist that might have somewhat salvaged the Khan gambit -- only to turn him back into a generic bad guy for a contrived, incoherent third act?
The admiral's motivation for waking Khan up to help build new weapons -- an irresponsible act to begin with -- remains muddled. Does he want to start a war with the Klingons? Does he want to militarize Starfleet? Not that the militarization of Starfleet isn't a viable topic -- it has been touched on throughout "Trek" history. But so soon in this timeline? Both of Abrams' "Star Trek" movies are revenge thrillers. What happened to seeking out new life and new civilizations? The original "Star Trek" was not without many outright bad episodes/movies, but still managed at its best to create suspense, danger and excitement without setting up Joker-like villains, and while still carrying a sense of wonder about the universe. That's gone now.
While J.J. Abrams does a terrific technical job directing "Star Trek Into Darkness," he appears to have thought that he needed to destroy "Star Trek" in order to save it. With the emphasis on mindless action, characters who barely stop to die let alone think, and hopelessly convoluted story "twists," the movie out in theaters now works as disposable summer entertainment in a sci-fi setting. But is it "Star Trek"? As Spock himself would say, "Negative."
Photocalls, red carpet interviews and an epic beach soiree
Bing: More about 'Catching Fire' | More about Cannes Film Festival
Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawrence, Sam Claflin and director Francis Lawrence—who didn't let the rain get them down—were all smiles at the official photo call.
Later that evening they were at the red carpet event, looking sharply coordinated in their black and white attire.
Listen to Lawrence and Claflin give some insight on "Catching Fire," and see the Majestic Barrière hotel looking fiery: The big "Catching Fire" event was the exclusive beach party, with white rose-themed invitations and Capitol-inspired looks on some of the guests. My invite must have gotten lost in the mail.Lawrence and Hemsworth almost became the girl and the boy on fire when a plate of candles perched on an 8-foot tall column fell on the two co-stars as they sat on a sofa in the party's VIP section. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the two actors were able to laugh about the incident.
This video features Francis Lawrence assuring fans on his adaptation of "Catching Fire," plus plenty of behind-the-scenes prep scenes for the beach bash.
Nice Cannes showing, Lionsgate!
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'Kevin Keller' issue 10 to be released in August
The August issue of "Archie" features its only openly gay character Kevin Keller kissing his boyfriend, Devon in Pop Tate's diner and one Riverdale mom disapproves.
She "gets very offended and kind of pitches a bit of a fit," Dan Parent, who writes and draws the issue, "Kevin Keller" No. 10, tells the Associated Press.
"Kevin is kind of used to that, but Veronica records the whole thing and of course uploads it to the Riverdale equivalent of YouTube and that starts a bit of a debate," said Parent.
Parent wrote the storyline after One Million Moms and the American Family Association asked Toys R Us to not display a comic showing Keller getting married. The toy store chain didn't and the issue no. 16 went on to sell out.
Issue no. 10 is supposed to be what Parent calls a "playful poke" at the protest.
Plus: 'Star Wars: Rebels' animated series coming next fall
Director Bryan Singer tweets photo of star in blue paint
Follow Don Kaye on Twitter @donkaye.