Win a Copy of The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
February 22, 2015

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness cover

Thanks to the studio, I have two copies of The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, the documentary about Studio Ghibli, to give away in a new contest.

To enter to win, post a comment below telling me your favorite Studio Ghibli film and why. A winner will be picked randomly from all entries on Friday, February 27.

(U.S. addresses only, please. Winners will be emailed to confirm address. If email is not answered within 24 hours or a valid email address is not provided, a replacement winner will be selected. Your email won’t be used for any other purpose.)

She Makes Comics – A Documentary on Women in Comics
February 22, 2015

I got a chance to watch the Sequart documentary She Makes Comics, which covers “the history of women in comics as creators, fans, and everything in between.” The movie is available from that link as a DVD or digital download.

She Makes Comics cover

From the start, it’s a jolt, a shot in the arm full of passion and enthusiasm as women talk about why they love and make comics. Simply seeing so many women puts the lie to comics being a male-oriented medium, but the content goes on to point out key names and accomplishments in history, accompanied by archival footage and images.

As directed by Marisa Stotter, the film kept my attention with well-paced editing, well-identified commentators, and well-chosen visuals. Key contributors include all the expected names:

  • Trina Robbins
  • Ramona Fradon
  • Wendy Pini
  • Colleen Doran
  • Jackie Estrada
  • Jenette Kahn
  • Michelle Nolan
  • Karen Green
  • Ann Nocenti
  • Louise Simonson
  • Jill Thompson
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick
  • Gail Simone
  • G. Willow Wilson
  • Heidi MacDonald
  • Janelle Asselin
  • Karen Berger
  • Shelly Bond
  • Raina Telgemeier

and many others, including many young creators, as well as a few men, including Paul Levitz and Chris Claremont. Key moments explored are the original diversity of comic genres, the rise of underground comics, convention cosplay, the founding of Friends of Lulu, internet fan culture, the importance of key titles like Elfquest, X-Men, Sandman, and Captain Marvel, and the rise of indy and webcomics supporting diversity. Levitz makes the essential point that simply having Kahn in a leadership position brought in more women, since they saw that there was a space for them. That’s an idea DeConnick returns to, the importance of providing visibility of achievement to the next generation.

I would have liked to have seen more explicit exploration of the conflict between saying that women like more than just superheroes and yet that women aren’t considered successes until they work at DC or Marvel and that much female comic culture revolves around superhero cosplay and fandom. Other than that, She Makes Comics, at an hour and ten minutes, was everything I hoped for and more. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

Man From U.N.C.L.E. Trailer Shows Retro Spy Movie
February 13, 2015

There’s an awful lot that can be unpacked from the new The Man From U.N.C.L.E. trailer, as shown below. We still have a fascination with the 1960s, a decade 50 years ago, particularly when it comes to clothes and strong-jawed leading men. Perhaps it’s easier to contemplate clear-cut good and bad guys back then, when the world was simpler. The clothes were more defined (both in terms of lines and in terms of what was acceptable to wear), and that provides a substantial immediate visual image. It’s also a lot more fun to do spy movies without modern tech, which makes these kinds of action guys obsolete.

I’m much too young to remember the original, although I’ve read about it. I’m sure watching it now would be dull in pacing and old-fashioned geopolitics, but the idea of our guy and their guy, both handsome, having to work together is timeless. Mostly, I’m glad to see Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer get additional chances on-screen after headlining huge flops — Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger, respectively. (Well, maybe Man of Steel wasn’t a flop, exactly, but it sure was disappointing.)

The film is scheduled for release in mid-August, not a promising time for movies the studios have a lot of faith in, but so far, it seems like a fun summer distraction.

Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts Original Animated Movie Aimed at Kids
February 13, 2015

DC and Warner Bros. have apparently had enough success with their original animated movie line, of which the most recent release is Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, that they’ve put out 22 of them. However, these films are distinctly Not for Kids, since they’re rated PG-13 and feature amounts of violence (and more recently, sexual insinuations) that make that rating accurate.

Yet kids like DC superheroes, and so do their merchandising partners. JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time, for example, is another original direct-to-DVD cartoon movie that was originally a Target exclusive because they wanted something more kid-friendly to sell next to their toy lines.

Now Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced that Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts will debut on May 12. It’s another all-new original animated movie, but it’s pitched as “for the entire family” and “specifically for our younger fans” and featuring “many iconic DC Comics characters”. To emphasize the kid-friendliness, the Blu-ray and DVD will include a Firebat figurine. No special features were mentioned beyond the on-pack toy. Here’s the plot description:

Another storm is brewing in Gotham, and it’s not only raining cats and dogs but evil Cyber Animals! When the city is plagued by a slew of bizarre crimes committed by an animal-inspired villain squad known as the Animilitia — comprised of Silverback, Cheetah, Killer Croc, and Man-Bat — Batman must swing into action to investigate. These animalistic villains bring new and exciting challenges for the hero of Gotham, and Batman must find a way to bring these criminal creatures to a halt! But could the Animilitia be working for powerful businessman Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a. The Penguin? How does The Penguin’s new invention of robotic Cyber Animals fit into the mix? In the end, it’ll [take?] the combined forces of Batman, Flash, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Red Robin to combat these Animal Instincts.

And here’s the trailer:

Batman is cute, but the Penguin looks a lot like a mummy. And of course, all these cyber animals make for great toy opportunities.

Marvel and Sony Team Up for Next Spider-Man Movie
February 11, 2015

As someone who cared so little about the most recent Amazing Spider-Man movie that I haven’t even seen it yet, I have mixed feelings about the news that Sony Pictures (who has the wall-crawler’s movie rights) will be teaming up with Marvel Studios on the next film.

Spider-Man art

I do want the character to be a success, because I like fun superhero movies, and Spider-Man is the poster child for wisecracking. I hope that they don’t feel the need to make yet another origin story, though. And I will miss Andrew Garfield, who seemed to have a great handle on the character, but at 31, he’s considered too old. (I’ll miss Emma Stone even more.) One of Marvel’s biggest strengths has been its cross-continuity, and this decision expands the Cinematic Universe in a significant way.

Spider-Man will be appearing in a Marvel movie before a new film comes from Sony on July 28, 2017. (Moviemaking: they have a release date but no star, script, or creative staff.) The “new creative direction” will be produced by Marvel’s Kevin Feige (who’s been the guiding force behind Marvel’s current successful slate) and Amy Pascal (former head of Sony Pictures who recently left). Thankfully, Avi Arad is gone, bumped upstairs to executive producer.

The Spider-Man movie means future Marvel films will be shifted back in a domino effect:

MovieOld DateNew Date
Thor: RagnarokJuly 28, 2017November 3, 2017
Black PantherNovember 3, 2017July 6, 2018
Captain MarvelJuly 6, 2018November 2, 2018
InhumansNovember 2, 2018July 12, 2019

The two Avengers: Infinity War movies will keep their May dates in 2018 and 2019.

Shout! Factory Launches Free Streaming Service
February 9, 2015

Shout! Factory has launched Shout! Factory TV, a new digital entertainment streaming service available on computer, connected devices, and via Roku. And it’s free!

Shout! Factory TV logo

They’ll be showing “cult TV shows, movies, comedy, original specials, and more” with the following titles available now or soon:

· MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (beginning with over 30 episodes)
· Gerry Anderson collection (hand-picked episodes from Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Fireball XL5, Joe 90, and Supercar)
· Roger Corman’s Cult Classics (select movie titles)
· The Marx Brother’s A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA
· Award-winning films such as THE LONG VOYAGE HOME (John Wayne), THE STUNT MAN (Peter O’Toole, Steve Railsback, Barbara Hershey), STAGECOACH (John Wayne), Bruce Beresford’s BREAKER MORANT (Jack Thompson), and THE RULING CLASS (Peter O’Toole)

That’s a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t mind watching! Particularly Dobie Gillis and MST3K (which I haven’t seen enough of). Find out more in this promo video:

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