The official trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is now available, highlighting dazzling special effects, a message for Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) from his dead father, a gorgeous Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), a vengeful Electro (Jamie Foxx), and an emo Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). Not really visible is Paul Giamatti playing the Rhino, but I’m curious to see how that’s done.
The movie opens May 2, 2014. (Disclaimer: I work for a division of Sony, although not the theatrical entertainment arm.)
Starting later this month, TIFF Cinematheque (an offshoot of the Toronto International Film Festival) will be presenting Spirited Away: The Films of Studio Ghibli, a retrospective featuring 18 movies from the influential Japanese studio.
From December 13 to January 3, the exhibited films range from the best-known (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke) to the infrequently shown (Only Yesterday, The Ocean Waves) and include the rarely-screened Grave of the Fireflies (about surviving a World War II bombing) and the newer From up on Poppy Hill. According to the press release, “audiences will have the chance to experience many of the films in two versions: in their original language with English subtitles, and star-studded dubbed versions voiced by high-profile talent”. Tickets for the general public go on sale next Wednesday, December 11.
A great cast can’t make up for an underdeveloped story in Touchy Feely, which is out on Blu-ray and DVD on December 10.
Rosemarie DeWitt plays Abby, a massage therapist. Her brother Paul (Josh Pais) is an uptight dentist, and his daughter Jenny (Ellen Page) works as his assistant. She encourages her dad to advertise to prevent his practice from failing, but business starts improving instead when Dad develops a sort of healing touch. At the same time, Abby becomes freaked out by the sight of skin and touching anyone, so she has to stop working. Allison Janney provides reiki therapy to both adults.
The film is slow-moving, but thankfully, it’s short, at 88 minutes. It’s written and directed by Lynn Shelton, whose previous movie, Your Sister’s Sister, I haven’t seen but heard good things about. The characters here seem realistic, and the performances are excellent, but there’s not much on-screen but conversation and staring into space. My attention wandered, so I may have missed something, but it doesn’t seem to have much of an ending either, with little resolution. The director calls it a movie about “journeys of self-discovery”, but I prefer film journeys that have more visually interesting incidents and with more realization understandable by the audience.
Shelton, DeWitt, and Pais provide a commentary. There are also four minutes of outtakes; 6 1/2 minutes of deleted scenes; a half-hour of interviews with Alison Janney (more interesting than the film), Scoot McNairy (who plays Abby’s boyfriend), Josh Pais, and Lynn Shelton (who sums up a lot of what we’ve already seen); “A Look at Touchy Feely”, a three-minute summary of the film using some of that interview footage; and the trailer, as shown here. (The studio provided a review copy.)
The great animation director Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo) has announced that his last film before retirement will be The Wind Rises, historical fiction based on the biography of a designer of aircraft used in World War II. The movie, which ran in Japan this past summer, will be released in the U.S. on February 21, 2014, via Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. As expected for a Miyazaki work, it looks gorgeous.
The Wind Rises also had a brief Oscar-qualifying run in the US last month, so it will be interesting to see if it’s nominated for the Academy Award next year.
Warner Archive has just released its first Blu-ray animation package, and it’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season One. I’m thrilled, since this gave me a wonderful excuse to rewatch my favorite superhero cartoon.
The set has all 26 episodes of the first season on two Blu-ray discs. KC’s already reviewed the show, when it was released on DVD in two sets — here’s Season One, Part One and Season One, Part Two — so I’m just going to sum up why it’s a great series.
1. It’s fun. Batman (and friends, about which more later) fight bad guys and save the day, but in non-grim-and-gritty ways, making it a pleasant change from most of DC’s output. Heck, some of the episodes even display a sense of humor! And look, Batman even sometimes smiles!
2. It uses a wide range of the DC universe, with tons of guest stars, emphasizing the strength involved in having so many different superheroes. Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Aquaman (who’s hilarious in his bluster), Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, Black Canary, and the Atom appear, among others, but it’s not just about the well-known heroes. The structure (see next) allows for the lesser-known corners of the DCU to feature as well, with such guests as B’wana Beast, Fire, Kamandi, Wildcat, and Jonah Hex.
3. It doubles up. Each episode begins with a short segment guest-starring one hero before we get the main story with another (often better-known) hero, allowing for more different characters to be featured.
4. It takes well-known ideas and does neat things with them. An excellent example of this is the two-parter that ends the first disc. “Deep Cover for Batman!” and “Game Over for Owlman!” play with the idea of an alternate universe. The bad version of Batman, Owlman, comes to Batman’s earth, and to stop his Injustice Syndicate, Batman winds up taking Owlman’s place on his earth. It’s a standard enough superhero story, but where it excels is in how it keeps teaming Batman up with the Joker due to the different definitions of who’s a hero and who’s a villain. The episodes provide a nice take on how the Joker could have been a different person, in different circumstances.
5. The sound is great. Diedrich Bader makes an excellent Batman, solid but not too stodgy, and the voice casting is exceptional for all the guests.
6. It has two of the best Batman cartoons. The first is “Legends of the Dark Mite!”, in which Bat-Mite interferes with Batman in order to demonstrate how he’s the hero’s biggest fan. The Mite’s magic results in a number of visual references to other Batman versions, amusing callbacks to those who know the history but funny nonetheless to those who don’t, thanks to Bat-Mite’s commentary. Later, they go to a fanboy convention, where the reaction is unfavorable as they argue about what “my Batman” should be, and Bat-Mite tries to become a hero on his own in an impressively created land of the imagination.
The second is the musical “Mayhem of the Music Meister!”, guest-starring Neil Patrick Harris as the title villain. Green Arrow, Aquaman, Black Canary, and various villains wind up singing their encounters in an outstanding episode.
As a Warner Archive release, there are no extras on this set, just the ability to play all episodes or select one at a time. The chapter stops make sense, happening just before the credits, so it’s easy to watch a bunch of episodes at once without too much repetition, although the jazzy theme song, by Andy Sturmer, is worth listening to more than once. (The studio provided a review copy.)
Space Stars: The Complete Series is one of those wonderful discoveries that I had no idea existed until Warner Archive brought it to my attention.
Space Stars was an anthology/team-up animated series that originally ran in an hour timeslot from 1981-1982. There are a total of 11 episodes on three discs, but each episode has all of these cartoon segments:
Two new Space Ghost adventures and a new Herculoids cartoon.
Teen Force was a group of three heroes, much like The Mod Squad (one white guy, one black guy, one girl), only with weird spiky helmets and space cycles. They each had special powers — Kid Comet, superspeed; Moleculad, shape-changing; and Elektra, mental powers — and their mascots/ pets/ cute sidekicks were two blue Astromites.
Astro and the Space Mutts featured the Jetsons’ pet helping out the hero Space Ace (with a Burt Reynolds mustache) along with dogs Cosmo and Dipper. This segment was more comedy, less adventure.
The Space Star Finale had Space Ghost, the Herculoids, and Teen Force all teaming up to fight a big bad guy. Sometimes, the characters appeared in each other’s cartoons as well. This opening clip explains the show’s concept:
The interstitials from the show are also included:
The package, taken together, is a great menu of space-based adventure, giving the impression that all these characters really did exist as part of the same universe. You may get tired of hearing the word “space” by the time it’s all over, but for a culture gone science-fiction-mad at the time, there’s a lot of entertainment for kids here.
The episode listings on the DVD menu allow you to play everything, to play by episode, or to select particular segments directly. The show’s been remastered, so it looks great, in spite of the limited animation used at the time. (The studio provided a review copy.)