The Official Newsletter of The Imaginative Cinema Society
The love of many, the work of a few....

January 2005  #72

 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS

CLUB NEWS  
JUST READ ALL THE CLUB NEWS!

How to Join the ICS Message Board -Instructions

TV NEWS
Whats happening with our faves

MOVIE NEWS
The hottest news out on ICS genre films

Dava’s Delights

EVENT NEWS
Cons & Fandom events

MUST SEE MOVIES 
Movies for Jan & Feb

FAREWELLS
Old friends, now gone

THE LAST WARD
John’s thoughts on Oscars

ICS CALENDER
Put this up on the Fridge!


Editor-Betsy Childs 
Staff Writers- Regina Vallerani, Andrew Kent John Ward
Dava Sentz, Mike Laird, Joe Plempel, Gary Roberson, Charles Wittig
Taylor Sherblom Woodward, Jim Childs, Jeanne Matcovich, Mike Schilling

 

 
 
ICSClubnewsClubnews All About Us ClubnewsClubnewsICS
 
DON’T SIT DOWN JOE!
 The fifth annual ICS Yankee Swap began our evening.  Presents were stolen at the speed of light, especially from Joe Plempel, who opened at least 8 (very desirable) presents. And had them stolen from him.
 If you missed the swap, you missed applause, cat calls and great presents.  Afterwards, of course, there was the second swap and there were some who were appreciative of the gift slips/ receipts.  Thanks to everyone who participated.

CREATURES I HAVE LOVED
After the swap, Sue Feder gave a run through of films for the evening.  The winner was… ta-dah!... THE CRAWLING EYE (AKA THE TROLLENBERG TERROR).  The film dealt with alien eye creatures who like to decapitate humans.  John Carpenter has said that this film, with its creatures hidden in the clouds, was the inspiration for his film The Fog.
 
LATE NIGHT EXTRAVAGANZA
Those who stayed late were treated to 2 special films.  The first was  STAPLEFAHRER KLAUS, a parody of corporate safety films that featured the don’ts of Forklift Safety.  Later on, we viewed HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, where the martial arts took the background to a love triangle.  It was a beautifully filmed gem.
Hopefully, that will inspire you to think about our next Late Night in February.  We will vote at the next meeting for the February show.

SUE FEDER, PLEASE GET BETTER
    If you're wondering where Sue Feder is over the next few months, she will be undergoing treatment for Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a long-term complication of her previous treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  As you may recall from prior meetings, Sue is a cancer survivor and a great supporter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk as well as a fan of creature B-movies.  By late Spring/early Summer, the treatments should be completed and Sue hopefully can join us again for a summer of Barry Murphy bad films, Zombies and Anime.
    Get well wishes may be sent to:
            Sue Feder
            3 Goucher Woods Ct
            Towson, MD 21286
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Sue.
  
NEWS OF OUR NEXT MEETING
 Our next meeting will be held on Saturday January 29th at 5:30 P.M. at the church hall behind the Perry Hall Presbyterian Church located at 8848 BelAir Road. Take Baltimore Beltway exit 32 north on Belair Road. Turn left onto Joppa Road. Immediately past the miniature golf course turn left into the parking lot. If you miss it there are ample turn-around opportunities. If you get stuck call 443-570-6455. That's Dave Willard’s cell phone. He'll talk you in.   

WHITE HELL FROM ABOVE
  Now that we are entering winter, it’s time to re-iterate the snow policy.  If there is a cancellation due to inclement weather, we will send out email and update the website.  If you are not able to check email, you may call a board member.

SUPERHEROES IN THE CINEMA
  Betsy Childs has waited and waited to take a turn to show movies.  So, come January 29th, be prepared for Superheroes in Cinema.  You are encouraged to dress up as your favorite Superhero to support Betts with leotards, capes or even a nice fedora and a a simple pair of glasses to disguise your super-self.  Be your true Super self this night!

2006 CALENDAR NEWS
 For 2006, we are trying a new approach with the Calendar theme – call it Pot Luck.  The months and front and back covers are for sale to members for a fee.  If you decide to purchase a month, you must provide a movie still by the August meeting (nothing objectionable please – some calendars are kept in places where young, impressionable children can see them).  You will get credit on the calendar for that month.  The Front Cover, and months March, June, September and December are $15 and are color months.  The back cover and remaining months are $10 each and will be printed in black and white.  So far, the following months have been purchased:
   MARCH  Steve Vaught
   JUNE   Lisa Schilling
   NOVEMBER  Jim Childs
   DECEMBER  Masked Auctioneer & Minimum Bid Kid
 2005 Calendars are still available for those who have reserved them.  See Regina at the next meeting to pick up yours.

DECISION 2005
  The annual ICS Election is coming up at the January meeting.  Dave Henderson, who has been on the board since day one of the club, is ending his term as a board member.  Over the past several years, he has contributed much as a board member, such as securing our current location, arriving early to set up the building, participating in all conventions, and handling reservations for the 5th anniversary bash at the Senator.  And this is just a small representation of what Hendo has done over the past 6 years.  
 The current list of candidates is: Jim Childs, Andrew Kent, Barry Murphy, Joe Plempel, Regina Vallerani, John Ward, and Dave Willard.  If you are interested in running, please let Dave Henderson know.
 

DUES NEWS
  It’s time to renew your dues.  The Cost is $25 per person or $40 per couple.  Family memberships are available at $25 for the initial family member and $15 each for the second to nth family member.
 
 

 Dues can be paid in one of the following 3 ways:
Cash or Check to Regina at a meeting
Mail a check to Regina at:  
REGINA VALLERANI
1 E CHASE ST APT 405
BALTIMORE, MD 21202
Via Paypal to ICSFILM@HOTMAIL.COM.  There is a Paypal link from the ICS Website (WWW.ICSFILM.NET).

 This is the list of people who have paid their dues.  If you have paid your dues, but are not on this list, please contact Regina at RVALLER107@HOTMAIL.COM to correct the omission.

Rick Arnold
Donna Burke
Jim Childs
Betsy Childs
Sue Feder
Heather Fleming
Kyra Fleming
Tim Fleming
Dave Henderson
Andrew Kent
Sam DiBlasi
Joe Plempel
Justin Proveaux
Tom Proveaux
Gary Roberson
Ruth Roberson
Dava Sentz
Lisa Schilling
Mike Schilling
Courtney Spies
Jack Tydings
John Weber
Regina Vallerani
Beth Vaught
Steve Vaught
Neil Wagenfer
Dave Willard
Charlie Wittig
 
 
 

SO YOU WANT MORE ICS?   BE A PART OF THE ICS MESSAGE BOARD!

   What a wonderful club we have, meeting people that are interested in some of the same things you are – movies, TV shows and then willing to talk about them ad nauseaum!
   Well, it doesn’t have to be just once a month either! 
   Come to the ICS message board and join up, then you can stop in, read and comment on the threads or create your own – the ICS message boards can be a fun daily addiction.
   The Message board is a great way to talk about movies you have just seen or tv shows that are on or DVD’s you have picked up and want to share with others and just can’t wait until the meeting to expound about. 
   It is divided into sections for TV & Movie talk, DVD talk and then just General discussion where we can bring up anything. We have a lot of laughs and want to encourage our members to join up- the more the merrier!
   Charlie was even nice enough to write up some instructions on ‘how to join up’ for anyone slightly befuddled.  It is pretty easy and once you are a member there you can log in at any time and read the message board and share your views. 

ICS Forum Registration Instructions

1. Go to our website, www.icsfilm.net and then up at the top, click on ICS forum box. This takes you right to the forum page. On the ICS Forum page, look for the link in the upper right under the picture that says: Register Your Free Account (Required). Click it.

2. Choose Global Account if you want to use other Ezboard forums.   Choose Local Account if you just plan to use the ICS Forum.  You will probably have a better chance to pick the user name you want using the Local Account option.

3. Type in the desired user name, password, and retype the password.  Pick a “secret question” which will help if you forget your password.  Fill out the rest of the profile information then submit the application.

4. If you get a page that has “Free Sponsors” with check boxes, click the “No thanks” link on the bottom right side of the page. You will be registered.

5. Check your email for a validation message that reads something like this:
Your ezboard User Account is ready!
To validate your free ezboard.com account, please click 
on the URL below. You will also receive a second email 
with your User Name and Password once you are validated.
6. Follow the instructions for the validation link and you will be registered.  You’ll also get another email with information like your user name and password.  Just remember, that if you have a GLOBAL account, you only have to type in the user name.  If you have a LOCAL account, you have to type in the user name followed by @theicsmessageboard
Example: elmerfudd@theicsmessageboard.

If you need help, email Charlie Wittig at charliewittig@verizon.net
   tvnews tvnews tvnews  TheGlassTeat  tvnews tvnews tvnews

NBC, SCI FI TO AIR TSUNAMI BENEFIT
   The NBC Universal Television Group, which includes SCI FI Channel, will air a live special on its broadcast and cable TV networks to benefit victims of the South Asian tsunami at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Jan. 15, the company announced. Jeff Zucker, president of the group, made the announcement. 
   The hour long broadcast, featuring music and celebrities, will air live on the East Coast and will be tape-delayed in the West on NBC, USA, Bravo, Trio, SCI FI, MSNBC and CNBC, with phone lines remaining open throughout the evening, the company said.
   Clear Channel has signed on as promotional partner and will promote the broadcast on its radio stations across the country. The special is being executive produced by Dave Broome of 25/7 Productions and Tony Eaton and Larry Kline of Tall Pony Productions.
   NBC Universal Television Group is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM. 

SMALLVILLE GUEST NOW WANTS MORE
   Erica Durance, who is playing Lois Lane in The WB's Smallville, said that she'd love to reprise the role in the show's fifth season. "I would be interested in coming back, of course,” Durance. "That would be wonderful, to be able to be on this show for another season." 
   The Canadian Durance was signed to play Clark Kent's (Tom Welling) future love interest in 13 of the current fourth season's episodes. As for next season, she said, "I think they're working on that right now and deciding how much of next season Lois might be back and where they could take the character. I know they'd love to bring her back, but there's the film coming up [Superman Returns] and there are all sorts of things in the upper echelons that I don't know reasons for, but I'll probably know what's happening for in [the] next couple of months." 
   Durance next appears in the Smallville episode "The Recruit," which airs Feb. 9. Smallville airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT

ARQUETTE TALKS MEDIUM WELL
   Patricia Arquette, star of NBC's supernatural series Medium was a little worried about taking on the job of portraying a real person, Allison Dubois, who says she has psychic abilities. The series, based on Dubois' life, explores what happens when an average wife and mother begins to work with the police to help solve missing-persons and murder cases.
   "Before we even shot the pilot," Arquette said in an interview, "I went out to meet her and said, 'Are you really ready for this? This is going to be very weird. Pretty quickly things are going to have to separate off from you. And I don't want you to have your feelings be hurt or have you upset if you call and say, "Me and [my husband] Joe didn't have that fight."' I'm not having that problem, because at a certain point they're going to have to go with dramatic license." 
   Arquette added, "Right away I said, 'Here's some aspects of your personality that I know right off the bat I'm going to change, just because for TV it will be clearer in some kind of way' or 'These are things that I want to experiment with.' Yeah, there's a fierce responsibility, but we had that conversation early on, and we knew what we were getting into here, I hope." 
   For Dubois, who says she has seen ghosts and asserts that she has been able to tap into the thoughts of the living since she was a child, talking to the dead isn't nearly as strange as watching her life being played out on television. "Seeing my life on TV," Dubois said in a separate interview, "it was very profound for me when I watched the pilot for the first time, because I felt that I had this whole world inside of me that other people didn't understand, and to see it laid out in front of my eyes, I've never had to look at who I am before. In that respect, it was very moving to finally ... feel understood on many levels."

BLACK AND BROWDER REUNITE – SG-1 STYLE
   Farscape fans don’t have to despair. Their heroes are together again.
   Robert C. Cooper, executive producer of SCI FI Channel's original series Stargate SG-1, said that Farscape star Claudia Black will reunite with her co-star Ben Browder in several episodes of SG-1's upcoming ninth season. Black will play Vala, a human character who will be introduced in the 12th episode of season eight, "Prometheus Unbound," which airs early next year when SG-1 resumes original episodes. 
   "It will air in January [28]," Cooper said. "It'll be the second episode back in our run on SCI FI. And we thought she was absolutely wonderful. The character really worked out. She had wonderful chemistry with Michael Shanks. She plays opposite [Shanks'] Daniel Jackson in the episode." 
   Black will return to SG-1 in five of the season nine episodes, which begin shooting in March. "We are having to ... deal with a brief absence of Carter, [played by] Amanda Tapping, who's pregnant," Cooper said. "And we had already discussed a storyline that involved the return of Vala, ... the character played by Claudia. And so we thought it worked perfectly to have that sort of miniarc play out maybe while Amanda was less available to us." 
   Cooper added that Black will play several scenes with Browder. "She's a human from another planet," he said. "And she's a bit of ... an enigma. You're not quite sure what her true story is in the episode 'Prometheus Unbound.' She's a bit of a rogue who tells a long story about her planet and her people and her past, and then in the end you're not really quite sure whether it's true or not. So she's a bit of a wild card. She's a very ... sexy character, who isn't afraid to take whatever ... she wants in any given situation. And we had a lot of fun writing the role, and I know she had a lot of fun playing it, and we're going to try very hard to maintain the integrity of that character and still have her sort of join up with the team, but still sort of keep the essence of that wonderful friction that went on between her and Daniel, and I'm sure it'll continue to sort of play out with the rest of the characters as well." 
   From 1999 to 2003, the Australian-born Black played Officer Aeryn Sun in Farscape against Browder's John Crichton. The two reprised their roles in this year's SCI FI miniseries Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. The remaining new episodes of Stargate SG-1's eighth season kick off Jan. 21, 2005, in a new Friday 8 p.m. ET/PT timeslot, followed by the new episodes of Stargate Atlantis at 9 p.m. and the new original series Battlestar Galactica at 10 p.m. The ninth season of SG-1 will begin airing in the summer

NBC PICKS UP DANIEL
   NBC has picked up Book of Daniel, a one-hour religious-themed pilot from Titus creator Jack Kenny, contingent on casting. The darkly comedic drama, which Kenny wrote on spec, centers on an Episcopalian minister and father who finds himself conversing with a hip, modern Jesus who helps navigate family problems, church politics and even his nagging reliance on prescription painkillers, the trade paper reported. 
   Kenny is executive producing Book of Daniel, along with Flody Suarez (8 Simple Rules). Kenny's spec script impressed NBC to take the rare step of buying a finished script not developed through the network's traditional process. Book of Daniel will be produced through the peacock's studio sibling, NBC Universal Television Studio. 

ENTERPRISE LOOKS TO THE FUTURE
   Manny Coto, the executive producer of UPN's Star Trek: Enterprise, said that he wants to explore the founding of the Federation if the ratings-challenged series makes it to a fifth season next year. That's a big "if," Coto told the newspaper: "I haven't spoken to anyone [about] the [ratings] performance, so I'd be talking in the dark. I don't know if they're happy or not. It's still pretty much up in the air [whether there will be a season five]." 
   Enterprise's fate won't be announced until May. But UPN head Dawn Ostroff told the newspaper: "We've gotten great feedback from fans. … The show is at a great place [creatively], and we're very happy with the ideas and execution." 
   Enterprise reportedly has fewer viewers in its new Friday 8 p.m. timeslot, but UPN is earning higher ratings on that night than it did before Enterprise moved. As for the show's creative direction this season, which has included a guest stint by Brent Spiner, Coto said: "We consciously set out to make this season a real prequel, to really embrace the prequel concept. We've got ... great stories coming up, and I think there's a whole season's worth of great stuff, the founding of the Federation." 
   Coto added: "That's not something that can happen in three episodes at the end of the season, but we'll be headed toward the founding of the Federation [toward the end of season four]. I would love to make that a season-long arc. What's great about it is that it's a positive arc, instead of a story of pure conflict [like the Xindi arc]. It becomes an arc about trying to bring different cultures together, .... which is a really resonant idea for our time. I would love to come back, and we would do some serious research on the founding of the U.N., how that came together."

CLONE TEES UP EPISODE IIII
   Animator Genndy Tartakovsky, who created Cartoon Network's cult animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars, told of shorts will bring fans right to the beginning of next summer's Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith. "Basically, if you cut out the scroll [from the beginning of Episode III], it would be completely seamless where we end and the movie starts," Tartakovsky said. 
   Tartakovsky added: "We're doing five 12-minute episodes. [The original episodes] were like three minutes. It's harder, but in a way it's easier, because in the three-minute ones it's basically just piling in a bunch of action. But in these new ones, we have a lot of character and still a lot of action, but we were able to really do some more acting and relationship-building. So it was much more fun to do, and that way it didn’t seem harder." 
   The new episodes will be darker as they lead in to the prequel about Anakin Skywalker's descent into the Dark Side, Tartakovsky said. "I think the tone is a little darker initially. We're kind of carrying all the ideas from Episode II that were established: the secret marriage of Anakin and Padmé and his relationship with Obi-Wan progressing beyond just bickering. That was one of the main things that we tried to focus on. They maybe become more friends than simply master and padawan. It's a little bit more [like] a movie. It feels more like one story [than the first series did]. We have one story building into the climax, and then there are a couple of side stories, but they're all very interrelated." 
   The newest batch of Clone Wars episodes is set to debut on March 26.

POTTER FOR THE SUMMER
   The sixth novel in J.K. Rowling's blockbuster Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," will go on sale in Britain and the United States on July 16, publishers said Tuesday.In other words, her fans will have to take the book off their Christmas gift lists, and make it part of their New Year's resolutions."We are delighted to announce the publication date." 
   "J.K. Rowling has written a brilliant story that will dazzle her fans in a marvelous book that takes the series to yet greater heights. 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' delivers all the excitement and wonder of her best-selling Harry Potter novels," they said.
   In an earlier message on her Web site, the British author wrote: "I know you all expected this to happen on Christmas Day, but I was sure that those of you who celebrate Christmas have better things to do on the day itself than fight your way into my study, whereas those of you who DON'T celebrate Christmas would definitely prefer not to wait until the 25th."
   The 2005 publishing date means that fans will be spared the seemingly interminable three-year wait between Potter IV, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and Potter V, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which came out in summer 2003.
   The publishers' statement and Rowling's Web site did not say whether the new book's length would top the industrial-sized 870 pages of "Order of the Phoenix."
   The new book in the series should be great news for booksellers, who have endured another year of slow sales. More than 100 million copies of the fantasy series, which debuted in 1997, are in print, and "Order of the Phoenix" sold an astonishing 5 million copies within 24 hours of publication.
   Sales have remained phenomenal even as Rowling's books have grown longer and darker, reflecting the boy wizard's maturation into adolescence. The first three Potter books have been made into hit movies. The books also have inspired countless Potter paraphernalia, including candy, cakes, capes and toys.
   Rowling has said that one of her characters will not survive her sixth book, but she refused to identify that character.
   Potter himself is safe, at least for now. Rowling has said her teenage hero will survive until the seventh and final book in the series, but has refused to say whether he will reach adulthood.
   Only recently, the book's completion seemed far away.
   In a message posted Dec. 10, Rowling said she had nothing "noteworthy to report, because I have been spending nearly all my time sitting in front of my computer writing, rewriting and taking the occasional break to bang my head off the desk in frustration or else rub my hands together in fiendish glee (I think the latter has happened once)."
 
 
 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   Shaun of the Dead is a very clever horror "slash" romantic comedy.  This is dedicated to it and all the other great Zombie flicks that we fans love.
 

                The Top 9 Signs a Zombie Is in Love - Shhh. We're eating.

 9> Seems to have a spring in his shuffling stagger.

 8> Stays and cuddles after eating your brains.

 7> Dots her "i"s with little hearts. Little, beating, kitten
    hearts.

 6> No matter how bad he looks, thanks to Chapstick his lips are
    always kissably soft.

 5> He isn't interested in hanging out with his friends at the
    morgue anymore.

 4> She arranges the dead skin falling from her face into little
    heart shapes.

 3> He's wearing his heart on his sleeve. Well, somebody's 
    heart, anyway.

 2> "Why do birds suddenly appear, every time zombie is near?
     Just like zombie, they long to be, …close to/devouring you..."

    and the Number 1 Sign a Zombie Is in Love...
 

1>Enjoys, doesn't eat, viewers of, Wimbledon.
 

WWW. TOPFIVE.COM'S LITTLE FIVERS  --  MOVIES
movienews movienews  Silver Screen  movienews movienews

CALLEY DISHES DA VINCI
     John Calley, producer of the upcoming film version of Dan Brown's best-seller The Da Vinci Code, said that Akiva Goldsman successfully adapted the novel, despite its complex story. "It's been done by Akiva Goldsman, and it's quite wonderful," Calley said in an interview. "It's very hard to describe it, but somehow he's able to compress it. All the salient stuff is there, but it's not as long."
     The Da Vinci Code tells the story of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon as he races across Europe to decipher a series of clues hidden in Leonardo Da Vinci's artwork and solve a murder. Calley said that Goldsman's script stays faithful to the original book. "It's as the book is," he said. "There's not a significant difference. I mean there's not a huge amount of action: no jets crashing or anything like that."
     Calley added that shooting of the film—to be directed by Ron Howard and likely to star Tom Hanks as Langdon—is scheduled to start as early as next summer. Calley said the movie will shoot in the actual locations mentioned in the book. "We're thinking June, so that means July," Calley said. "Certainly we'll shoot the exteriors [at the Louvre museum in Paris], but we might want to build the interior aspects of the Louvre, because we'll need walls to come out to be able to shoot."

AMERICAN MCGEE AND THE LAND OF OZ
     American McGee, creator of the offbeat video game Oz, has been hired by producer Jerry Bruckheimer to write the script for the film adaptation of his game. Bruckheimer has the option for a trilogy of films based on the property, a prequel to the classic L. Frank Baum book The Wizard of Oz. "What Jerry Bruckheimer was able to do with Pirates of the Caribbean was simply brilliant," McGee said. "And since Oz is similar in tone to that film franchise, I'd like to follow that model." 
     The story centers on a young boy named Arthur who is called upon to save the troubled Land of Oz, a considerably darker place than the one known to fans of the book and the classic MGM film. McGee, a first-time screenwriter, is set to write the script for the first OZ film and an outline for its two sequels. He previously collaborated with writer Camden Joy on an illustrated 500-page novelization of the game. McGee's other current projects include the PC game American McGee's Scrapland, which will also be available for Xbox early next year, and the original script The Forgotten Faery Tale.

Cassavetes Forging Iron 
     Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) is in talks to direct the film based on the Marvel Comics character Iron Man. Cassavetes will also polish the script originally written by David Hayter (X-Men, X2) and writing team Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Spider-Man 2, Smallville). The comic book, which made its debut in the 1960s, revolves around billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, who fights villains with the help of a specially designed armored suit. The film version will reflect modern technological, political and societal trends. 
     Avi Arad, head of Marvel Studios and executive producer of the film, said that he had no reservations about hiring a director without experience on a big-budget film. "We have a good track record of getting directors that get the material," Arad said. "[Iron Man] is a huge movie, with big action and incredible technology, but without understanding and loving Tony Stark, then all the money in the world isn't going to get you where you want to go. It all starts with the emotional mix."

Olguín heeds the call of the sea
     Jorge Olguín, who helmed SANGRE ETERNA (ETERNAL BLOOD) and the slasher film ANGEL NEGRO, talked recently about his upcoming opus, CALEUCHE: EL LLAMADO DEL MAR (CALEUCHE: THE CALL OF THE SEA), which he's getting ready to roll early next year. For Olguin, it all began with his deep love for the films of John Carpenter. "As a child, I rented THE FOG on video, and I was totally blown away by it," Olguín said. "Then, at school, I had to read a Chilean novel that told the tale of a ghost ship that traveled through the fog in the south of Chile. I was fascinated by the material and wanted to know more about this supposedly real story. It became more and more fascinating as I dug up more information."
     As a result of that growing interest over the years, Olguín is now in pre-production on the movie, with Leonor Varela (BLADE II) on board as star and co-producer. Varela will play Isabel, a biologist who travels to the Chilean island of Chiloé, in the south of the country, where her family comes from. Once there, she finds out about the legend of the Caleuche, a ghost ship whose crew consists of wizards and spirits of castaway sailors. She also discovers the dark secret that links her family to the ship.
     With local backing (Olguín and Varela are associated with the Chilean company Chilefilms) already settled and the possibility of taking on a foreign co-producer (most likely from Spain or Los Angeles), the director is very confident about this project. "I want the rest of the world to get to know one of the most extraordinary myths of South America," he says. "I want to make a movie with the quality this legend deserves."

SCARED TWEEN
     Filmmaker William Moreing is working on a film version of Scared Stiff, the Scholastic "tween best-seller" (apparently the new euphemism for "young-adult fiction") by Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner, who write under the name Jahnna N. Malcolm and will also pen the screenplay. Moreing said, "There are many R-rated horror films released every year but virtually none made for younger teens and preteens." STIFF’s plot, about a teenaged brother and sister who live above their parents’ mortuary and have to stop a deceased mass murderer who has returned from the dead for a new rampage, sounds like the stuff of R-rated splatter-fests. Nonetheless, the movie will tone down the violence for a PG or PG-13 rating and instead focus on the bond between the siblings. Laura Weil Gleason is producing the movie.

UNDERWORLD 2 OFF AND RUNNING
     Shane Brolly and Michael Sheen, who played the vampire Kraven and the werewolf (or Lycan) Lucian in UNDERWORLD, are encoring in the cast of the sequel, which began shooting in Vancouver on Monday for Screen Gems release November 23, 2005. They join the returning Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman and Bill Nighy, along with Sir Derek Jacobi, playing the role of Marcus. Len Wiseman and Danny McBride are also back to respectively direct and script UNDERWORLD 2.

WAINWRIGHT TO DIRECT FOG
     Revolution Studios has signed Rupert Wainwright to direct its remake of THE FOG. John Carpenter, who directed the original version of The Fog, in which long-dead mariners rise from a watery grave to terrorize a Northern California town, will produce the remake along with Debra Hill and David Foster. Wainwright, whose credits include the Patricia Arquette-starring occult chiller STIGMATA, "came in with a take that honors the original but builds on it and stamps it as his own," Hill explained. "For us as filmmakers, the opportunity to use special effects to enhance the fog and make it an actual character in the film is very appealing." Part of that approach will also reportedly involve dramatizing the back-story of the lepers whose shipwreck 100 years ago leads to the present-day curse. Cooper Layne (The Core) will adapt the earlier film's script, which Carpenter and Hill wrote in tandem. Wainwright was previously attached to MGM's long-in-development youth-werewolf film BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE but will have to drop that project; no doubt inspired by the strong box office of Sony's THE GRUDGE, Revolution is fast-tracking THE FOG for a March start date and an October 21, 2005 release.

BUTLER SLAYS THE BEAST
     Gerard Butler stated that he has high hopes for his upcoming film, the medieval adventure Beowulf & Grendel. "I think it's going to be like nothing you've ever really seen before," the Scottish actor said in an interview while promoting his latest film, The Phantom of the Opera. "This movie has probably the most un-formulaic script I've ever read, especially coming from America, and that's what grabbed me about it."
     Directed by Sturla Gunnarsson and based on the epic poem Beowulf, the film follows the saga of the Norse warrior Beowulf (Butler) as he leads the charge against Grendel (Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson), a massive and deadly troll. "From the first word, from the first description of the characters I realized that I was reading something very different," Butler said. "I had to read it twice before I really got it, but when I got it I could see just what a powerful thing this could be as a film. And I got to be so closely involved in it. I got to sit down with the director and we talked about his visions of Bergman and Kurasawa, and we talked about going widescreen on the Icelandic landscape." 
     Butler added, "It's this Viking story which is based on a fable, but in actual fact we've gone back and said, 'Just imagine that there was a troll,' and we're saying, 'Imagine this troll isn't really a monster, but just another form of human.' He's like a Neanderthal man, more like a primate. So, there's just really good meat on the bones. And Beowulf is a hero. It's like the original hero story, but with a twist." Beowulf & Grendel will be released in 2005.

CHAMELEON TAKING SHAPE
     Writer-director Tim McCanlies (Secondhand Lions) will adapt the Piers Anthony fantasy novel Spell for Chameleon for Warner Brothers and director Wolfgang Petersen. The film centers on a young man who lives in a country where everyone possesses magical powers, and who faces exile if he can't figure out what his own powers might be. Spell for Chameleon is the first of Anthony's 30-book Xanth series.

THE G-FORCE IS WITH BRUCKHEIMER
     Jerry Bruckheimer will produce G-Force, a live-action/computer-animated fantasy family feature film for Disney. G-Force, which centers on a group of intelligent animal commandos, marks the directorial debut of visual-effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, who has worked on a number of Bruckheimer's films, including Armageddon. G-Force follows a group of animals who work for a government agency trying to prevent an evil billionaire from taking over the world. Yeatman's credits as a visual-effects supervisor include Mighty Joe Young and Mission to Mars, and he won an Oscar for his work on James Cameron's The Abyss.

Columbus Dives Into Sub-Mariner
     Chris Columbus will direct and produce a film featuring the Marvel Comics aquatic superhero Sub-Mariner for Universal Pictures. Marvel Studios chairman and chief executive Avi Arad and former Universal production president-turned-producer Kevin Misher are producing, along with Columbus and his 1492 Productions. Columbus directed the first two Harry Potter movies. David Self (Road to Perdition) wrote the script and is executive producing the film. Sub-Mariner is based on Marvel's first superhero, Prince Namor, a half-amphibian man from the kingdom of Atlantis. A troubled rebel with a fierce temper, he has both helped the human race and fought against it when humankind polluted his underwater kingdom.

THERON IN FLUX
     Charlize Theron, who plays the title role in the sci-fi movie Aeon Flux, said that she took the part—her first futuristic sci-fi project—on the heels of her Oscar-winning performance in Monster to change things up. "Odd is good, don't you think?" Theron said with a laugh in an interview during a break in filming on the Berlin set of Aeon Flux, which is based on the MTV animated series. Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) is directing.
     Theron, dressed in a black catsuit and with her normally blond hair dyed black in an asymmetrical bob, plays the top operative in a rebellion 400 years in the future against the scientist leaders of the walled city-state of Bregna. The film has been shooting in and around the German capital city, including the famed Babelsberg Studios. 
     "It's not a genre that I'm familiar with," Theron said. "So the element that really attracted me is the fact that at end of the day, it's bottom line a love story. It's a human story, and the struggles and the things that this so-called futuristic story takes place in had all the elements of human struggle that I'm really interested in, you know? I'm not interested in playing a robot. These are real people struggling with things that I think a lot of people can relate to."

EXORCIST BEGINS AGAIN
     Director Paul Schrader’s version of EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING, which was scrapped by production company Morgan Creek, will see the light of a projector after all. "Paul is currently in postproduction on the movie, as we’re anticipating a limited theatrical release in the United States sometime in 2005," a Morgan Creek rep said. That would explain why this cut isn’t included on Warner Home Video’s upcoming EXORCIST DVD, despite the hopes of many fans. Schrader’s version, purportedly takes a more subtle, psychological approach than Harlin’s movie.

FRIEDMAN IMPRESSED BY MANIACS
     During a phone interview last summer, legendary BLOOD FEAST producer David F. Friedman expressed his excitement at the prospect of finally seeing a cut of Tim Sullivan's 2001 MANIACS, the first-time helmer's re-imagining of Friedman and director Herschell Gordon Lewis' cult splatter classic TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! "I really liked the script Tim and Chris [Kobin] came up with, as it really honored the original," he said in August. "And I've been hearing great things from Chris Tuffin, one of the film's producers, so I can't wait to see it."
     On Friday, December 3, the filmmakers privately screened the film for Friedman, who was in LA for a showing of his SHE FREAK at the fourth annual Shock-A-Go-Go cult movie marathon. Friedman was very impressed with what he saw. "I can understand why there's so much buzz in the industry over the movie, because it exceeded my expectations," he said. "Tim has managed to remake a classic exploitation movie and create a modern movie with the joke intact. I think audiences will be thrilled when they see it."
     Following the film's British sale during the recent American Film Market, American distributors have been champing at the bit to see the film, according to Friedman. The demand has been so great that a special Los Angeles cast and crew screening is currently being scheduled for early January, he said. "I'm hearing that Robert Englund will be there and most of the other cast members," he says. "If this film turns out to be my final hurrah," adds Friedman, who will celebrate his 81st birthday December 24 and has actively retired from film producing, "then I'll go out on a blaze of glory." 

HARLIN DEVELOPS THE FEVER
     Renny Harlin will develop and helm a movie based on the upcoming sci-fi graphic novel Full Moon Fever. Joe Casey wrote the graphic novel for publisher AIT/Planet Lar, set in the not-too-distant future and centering on a group of blue-collar workers who are sent to repair the deserted first lunar base on the dark side of the moon and who fall prey to a pack of ravenous werewolves.
     Casey, who has written X-Men and Superman comics, pitched the project at this summer's Comic-Con International and will write the adaptation while working closely with Harlin and producers Adrian Askarieh and Daniel Alter. Full Moon Fever has not yet landed at a studio. Askarieh and Alter also plan to develop a Full Moon Fever video game to bow simultaneously with the film's release.

LOGAN RUNS AGAIN
     Dan Harris, writer of the upcoming Logan's Run remake, confirmed that director Bryan Singer is still planning on helming the film after he completes work on Superman, despite speculation to the contrary. The new Logan's Run will combine elements from both the 1976 film and the original book by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, Harris said. "[The script] takes the original and melds it with a re-imagining of the book," he said. "It kind of takes it into a third big idea and puts it in a place that you've never seen before and tries something new."
     The original Logan's Run movie dealt with a future society in which citizens were killed upon reaching the age of 30 (in the book, it was 21). Harris said that the update places the original ideas in a new fictional context. "It's not rooted in the real world," Harris said. "It's completely science fiction, and its core takes place somewhere else. I don't think we dive into the anti-aging of it quite as much, because it's more about the mechanics of the world, the mechanics of forced suicide. It becomes less thematically about that and more about the science fiction of it."
     Harris added that the script is only in the beginning stages of development. But he said he was excited to remake a movie that has not aged well itself. "We'll figure everything out when we see the movie," he said. "But we've developed a new world and its morals. Maybe the original pushed a little further, [but] the cool thing is everybody nowadays is remaking all these great movies. Why not remake some movies that weren't so great that could be great?"

Darkness Falls On Dimension 
     Platinum Studios and comic publisher Top Cow Productions announced a deal to sell Dimension Films the film rights to the comic series The Darkness, which centers on a young assassin who possesses a mystic power. The deal for a live-action feature film is the first since Platinum Studios acquired the film and television rights to Top Cow's comic-book library in July, the companies said. The Darkness was created by Marc Silvestri, Garth Ennis and David Wohl and boasts print sales of more than $25 million, Platinum said. The comics' popularity has prompted inter-company crossovers, the latest with Superman in a two-issue series shipping this month. Platinum chairman Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and Silvestri will be co-executive producers, with Matt Hawkins.

Butler Ignored Phantom Pressures 
     Gerard Butler, who stars in Joel Schumacher's upcoming big-screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical The Phantom of the Opera, said that he chose to ignore the inevitable comparisons to previous versions of the show and earlier interpretations of the central character. "You just focus on your performance and block out everything else," Butler said in an interview. "It's not that you don't feel the pressure at times; you do, but you have to use it to prove people wrong."
     Butler steps into a role played onstage by dozens of leading men, including, most famously, Michael Crawford, who at one point was considered for the role in the long-in-development movie. Butler also uses his own voice in the all-singing role, a first for him in a movie. Butler, whose credits include Timeline and Dracula 2000, added, "You adapt to everything else, working with Joel, mixing with the other actors. I was never doing Phantom for anyone else other than Joel, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the cast. If you think about anything else it just gets you in knots. Having played iconic figures before, people like Attila or Dracula or Beowulf, who I've just played, or the Phantom, I think you can only do what is physically possible." The Phantom of the Opera opens in limited release on Dec. 22 before haunting additional theaters in early 2005.

CURSED WITH A PG-13?
     The long, troubled odyssey of Wes Craven’s werewolf epic CURSED may be about to suffer yet another indignity—a ratings slash. Craven explained, "At this point, [Dimension chairman] Bob Weinstein is talking about wanting to make it a PG-13 film. Now I saw the film on Saturday [Dec. 4th], and it looks terrific. It’s a good little movie. But if he starts coming in, trying to make it a PG-13, it’s going to look chopped up." Dimension recently pared down Jaume Balagueró’s DARKNESS for the less restrictive rating. Whatever form it takes, CURSED is scheduled to open nationwide February 25, 2005.

Episode III Reshoots Scheduled 
     Samuel L. Jackson, who reprises the role of Mace Windu in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith, said that he will return to shoot additional scenes in London after the New Year. "I just got a call last week," Jackson said in an interview. "I've got to go back to London in January [for reshoots]. That's what George does," he added, referring to director George Lucas.
     As Revenge of the Sith is said to be the darkest of the Star Wars films, Jackson said that an unhappy fate awaits his character. "Dying!" is his response when asked what Windu is up to in Sith. "Yeah, like all of the rest of the Jedi. I can't tell you [the specifics], but yeah, it's an awesome death." Jackson added, "Well, when [Episode IV] starts, there are only, what, four Jedi left. There's Luke, Obi-Wan, Yoda and Darth Vader, is it? Everybody else has been assassinated, killed, wiped out, something." Jackson said that Lucas gave him a cool keepsake. "Yes, I did get to keep [my lightsaber]," he said with a smile. "Yes, I have it." Episode III opens May 19, 2005.

HAIG IS IN THE HOUSE
     Looking to win over fans from the get-go, HOUSE OF THE DEAD 2 has cast Sid Haig (HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES) as a featured zombie. The Mindfire Entertainment/Lions Gate sequel, which began shooting in LA in December under British helmer Michael Hurst’s (NEW BLOOD) direction, will also star Emmanuelle Vaugier (RIPPER), Sticky Fingaz (LEPRECHAUN BACK 2 THA HOOD), James Parks (KILL BILL VOL. 1) and Victoria Pratt (KILL BILL VOL. 1). Producer Mark Altman returns as scripter, with Almost Human’s Robert Hall supplying zombie FX, a service he also provided for Altman’s recent ALL SOUL’S DAY, as well as the low-budget LAST RITES.

Le Guin's LEFT HAND Optioned 
     Sandra Schulberg's Phobos Entertainment has picked up all media rights to Ursula K. Le Guin's science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness. First published in 1969, The Left Hand of Darkness is set on Winter, a lost planet whose inhabitants defy standard gender roles and even physically change genders. The story follows a human emissary who must bridge a cultural gulf to fulfill his mission to bring the planet back into the galactic fold. Schulberg plans to exploit the property as both a feature film and a video game. Schulberg's credits include Quills and Undisputed.

THE ESPERANTO CONNECTION
     As BLADE: TRINITY was still in production, Anthony Taylor, producer of the 1966 cult movie INCUBUS, got a strange request. "A little over a year ago, I received an e-mail from a woman who handles movie clearances. She said they wanted to use a clip from INCUBUS in a scene they were shooting in Canada in two days, and asked how much would I charge them. I probably asked too little, as they agreed right away," Taylor jokes. It turns out that TRINITY writer/director David Goyer wanted to use a scene from INCUBUS–the only feature with dialogue entirely in Esperanto—featuring stars William Shatner and Allyson Ames. "They then contacted Shatner, who also agreed on his price," Taylor continues. "They could not contact Allyson directly, but she will be paid through the Screen Actors Guild."
     But the question remains: Why did Goyer decide to use a clip from INCUBUS specifically? Well, the answer can be found at the film’s website, where Goyer answered fan questions, among them "Where are the Blade films set?" "The first one is simply a no-name city," Goyer responded. "The second one is set in Prague. The third is set in a different no-name city, though I’ll give you a funny tip to check on. We decided that many cities are essentially bilingual and that this new city should have two languages spoken. The second language spoken in our new city is Esperanto. Look carefully—most of the ads and signs are in English and Esperanto, and there’s even a scene where two characters speak it and there are subtitles."

Magneto Spinoff Develops 
     Sheldon Turner will write the script for Magneto, a film spinoff based on Ian McKellen's character from 20th Century Fox's hit X-Men series of films. The project marks the second extension of the studio's X-Men comic-book franchise, following a Fox deal with Troy screenwriter David Benioff to write Wolverine, who is played by Hugh Jackman in the films. The studio is developing the spinoffs as it separately develops X-Men 3. Simon Kinberg is writing the third installment. Magneto will likely be produced by the X-Men duo of Lauren Shuler Donner and Marvel Studios' Avi Arad.

THE DOG IS UNLEASHED
     Platinum Studios, Relativity Management (executive producers of George Romero’s LAND OF THE DEAD) and the Vancouver-based Shop Animation Studios will collaborate on the long-mooted movie version of Tiziano Sclavi’s popular Italian horror-comic character Dylan Dog. The movie, titled DYLAN DOG: THE FOURTH KINGDOM, is billed as the first CG thriller and will be directed by Shop co-founder Ian Pearson from a script he wrote with Gavin Blair, in which occult investigator Mr. Dog takes the case of a supernatural killer whose actions could lead to the unleashing of hell on Earth. Production is set to begin in March; no word yet on whether Rupert Everett, who served as Sclavi’s model for the Dylan Dog character and starred in the film version of the author’s novel DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (a.k.a. CEMETERY MAN), will be involved. Platinum previously attempted to launch a Dylan Dog feature called DEAD OF NIGHT with Dimension, which is not involved in the new project.
 

Selick To Direct Coraline 
     Henry Selick said that he'll write and direct a big-screen adaptation of Coraline, based on the children's fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman. Selick, an animator and director who specializes in stop-motion animation, is best known for The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone. "Neil Gaiman approached me to ask if I'd like to get on board the project before it was published," Selick said in an interview. "That was three and a half years ago." Selick added, "I saw the galleys and took it to Bill Mechanic, the producer, and convinced them both to give me a crack at writing it. It took a year and a half for me to actually get a draft that worked."
     Selick described Coraline as an Alice in Wonderland-esque story. "A little girl discovers a passageway in her house where [there's] kind of a mirror of her own life where her other mother and other father live. And it's a fantastic world that's been created for her. You think it's about making a choice between her normal boring life or this other world where this other version of her mother, this much better version, [lives]. Everything is set up to please her, but really it's more of a spider's-web trap for children. It's very scary and dark and fun."
     Selick credited The Incredibles with paving the way for Coraline to become a reality. "I think animation can be many things," he said. "I think the mold is definitely getting broken. I think The Incredibles has knocked out one of the walls for the types of stories that can be told. The acting level of some of these scenes in The Incredibles certainly equals [that in] some live-action films." Selick wasn't sure when Coraline will go into production, as he may collaborate first with Wes Anderson on The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Ringers Hits Slamdance 
     Ringers: Lord of the Fans, a documentary about the fans of the Lord of the Rings books and movies, will premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 21, 2005. Dominic Monaghan, who played the hobbit Merry Brandybuck in the Rings film trilogy, narrates the documentary. Ringers is executive produced by Tom DeSanto (X-Men) and directed by first-time writer/director Carlene Cordova. The feature-length documentary explores how The Lord of the Rings has influenced Western popular culture for the past 50 years.

ANDREWS TO HOST WIN, LOSE, OR DIE
     Actor Giuseppe Andrews (CABIN FEVER’s party-hearty Deputy Winston) has been cast in the lead of the BloodWorks production of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ WIN, LOSE OR DIE. Andrews also plays one of the lead homicidal lunatics in Tim Sullivan’s 2001 MANIACS. His other genre credits include INDEPENDENCE DAY and SLEEPSTALKER.
     In a statement, WIN, LOSE OR DIE producer Christopher Tuffin says, "We considered a number of actors for the role of Jackie, but having worked with Giuseppe on MANIACS, I knew he’d be ideal for the part." Andrews’ character is the mysterious, madcap MC of the gruesome titular game show on which contestants bet their limbs and other body parts for big prizes.
     Also recently cast in the film—Lewis’ first as both writer and director since 1971’s THIS STUFF’LL KILL YA!—are THE X FILES’ Cigarette Smoking Man William B. Davis and rising actress Brande Roderick (DRACULA II: ASCENSION). "We wanted an eclectic cast that would complement the range of characters Herschell has written for the film," Tuffin adds. WIN, LOSE OR DIE begins shooting early in 2005. 

AFTER SUNDOWN SHOOTING BEGINS
     Dallas-based Windblown Films and ThinkTank Entertainment have begun principal photography on the horror film AFTER SUNDOWN on locations throughout Texas. Susana Gibb, Reece Rios, Natali Jones, J. Christopher, Jamie Amaral, Joey Galt, Jeff Griffin and SURVIVOR: THAILAND’s Jake Billingsley star in the story of a young woman who "is plunged into a gory battle with a predatory vampire from the Old West who has the power to create undead zombie slaves that assist him on his search for his vampire offspring," according to writer/co-director Christopher Abram. "With the help of Texas locals, our heroine ends the growing threat in a wild clash of vampires and zombies, sending the creatures straight to hell!" Abram recently scripted and directed the Asylum release THE FANGLYS; award-winning theater veteran Michael W. Brown is his co-director, with Keith Randal (THE DARK DEALER) Duncan producing and Joshua Fread creating the makeup FX.

THE MIST RISES TO THE SCREEN
     Frank Darabont, responsible for the critically acclaimed non-horror Stephen King hits THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and THE GREEN MILE, is bringing the King story The Mist to the silver screen.
     "I am at this very moment writing the adaptation of THE MIST," Darabont said in a recent interview. The novella, featured in King’s Skeleton Crew collection, concerns a group of strangers trapped inside a supermarket by a bevy of giant monsters that arrive in an unworldly fog. The story has been a favorite of fans for nearly two decades, including Darabont. "Depending on a few factors, it may well be the next movie I direct, possibly next year," he says. "Whether it’s a studio picture or not, I want to go with a very gritty, low-budget indie approach," he says. "Big-budget gloss would work against the material, plus I’m excited about trying my hand at a more seat-of-the-pants filmmaking approach on this one than I’ve used in the past."
     THE MIST calls for a return to the kind of creature magic featured in the Darabont-co-scripted remake of THE BLOB from 1988, in which the titular menace was created via animatronics, miniatures and clear bags of goo. Perhaps THE MIST will inspire a return to ’80s-style monster magic, as opposed to today’s overreliance on computer pixels. "I’ll use whatever approach works best," Darabont says. "so probably [expect] a mix of things. But I want to go as old-school as possible with the effects. It’s a rather old-school story anyway; it feels like a movie that might have been made in the ’50s. The thing to bear in mind about THE MIST is that you don’t actually see that much as King wrote it; it’s the stuff you don’t see that scares you, sort of like in JAWS. I want to maintain the tension of King’s story rather than overload the screen with CGI monsters."
 

DAVA’s DELIGHTS             Movie review from Dava Sentz

Dear Reader,
   Unless you're a vampire or a disease spreading possum, you might well prefer to stay out of the darkness. In fact, if you are one with the darkness, or fond of negativity, you might also prefer not to read the following review, in which I plan to document my cinematic adventures, guided by the imagination of Mr. Lemony Snicket.
   If fact, the delights I've encountered on December 26th are too numerous to list. And, I very much doubt you would want me to spoil the wonders of this film, which include a greedy Count, some clever orphans, a three-eyed frog, a two headed cobra, and an incredibly deadly viper.
   As a dedicated critic who has pledged to document a series of honest and informative opinions, I must continue to venture out to the cinema, diving headfirst into the risky talents of Jim Carrey and others of his comedic stature. You, on the other hand, may choose to take a gamble on a film of less eccentricity, in order to keep your dark, nocturnal souls from being lightened.

With all due respect,
Dava Sentz

   As you may have guessed from my letter, I finally made it back to the movies. It happened on December 26th, after about three months of cinematic hibernation, a word which here means "hiding out from dreadful fall movies." Now that the blessings of winter break are upon us, my friend and I were ready for an afternoon of freedom. What we found was a day of unique and surprising adventure in this charming rendition of a classic children's book. I am talking, of course, about Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. 
   I wish I could tell you that the story of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny is a happy one, that they all lived together in a happy little cottage, with happy little elves, living happy little lives. Sadly, this is not the case. The Baudelaire children are orphans, a word, which here means "children with no parents or reliable guardian." 
   And, since their parents died in an unfortunate fire, these three children were placed in a series of unfortunate houses with three very unfortunate caretakers. The first of these unfortunate guardians was the unfortunately greedy Count Olaf. 
   Count Olaf was a very terrible actor and a very terrible man. He did not love the children as he always pretended. What he loved was money, and it so happened that the three Baudelaire orphans were left with plenty of it, as their parents were very wealthy. 
   All he asked was that the children did every single thing he asked while he basked in the glow of the enormous fortune their parents left behind. The phrase "basking in the glow" is one, which here means "enjoying the benefits of someone else's misfortune." Yet, I am happy to report that the orphans quickly realized the true nature of Olaf, and they were soon sent to live with another guardian.
   When I say that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny went to live with another guardian, I am referring, of course, to their beloved Uncle Monty. Life with Uncle Monty was much more pleasant than it was with the Count. Uncle Monty studied reptiles and was preparing to embark on a long expedition, a word which here means "long educational journey" to Peru. 
   Nothing would please me more than to say that the Baudelaires now had everything they ever needed, that they went to Peru with Uncle Monty and were never bothered by Olaf again. This is not the case, however. Sadly, Uncle Monty met with a most unfortunate accident, resulting in his most untimely death. This left the orphans with no alternative but to change homes once more.    
   Aunt Josephine's house worked very much like a haven for the scaredy cats of society, a phrase which here means "frightened people of the world." Josephine was a woman of many fears, both rational and irrational. 
   Her home very much reflected this, perched dangerously above a dank and dingy river. But, I don't think it would be fair of you to judge her for this. After all, if a swarm of flesh eating leeches ate your husband, you'd probably be afraid too. I am sorry to report that the Baudelaire's stay here was very short lived, as they were quickly placed back in the clutches of our villainous friend, Count Olaf.
   Assuming I have not bored you with my boring plot summary, you are probably wondering how a movie with so many unfortunate events could be considered delightful. The answer is rather obvious, a word which here means "quite simple". It is delightful because there is a series of adventurous adventures and comedic comedy, led by known other than Count Olaf himself, Jim Carrey.
   While Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire only had to endure Olaf's parenting for a short while, his exceedingly arrogant presence never fully left the orphans or the many guardians in whose care they were entrusted. 
   If you were ever unfortunate enough to encounter an exceedingly arrogant person, you would probably consider he or she to have selfish qualities with little to no regard for the welfare of others. Such a description cannot only be said of Count Olaf, but quite often of the actor who embodies him. 
   This is not the case in the affairs of Lemony Snicket, however. The reason why a villainous villain such as Olaf is well received is because he is very colorful and amusing without stealing focus from those in his company, a phrase, which here means "to hog the spotlight from his talented costars." You may enjoy the traits of this character while, at the same time, giggle at the strength of young Sunny's infamous bite.
   When I speak of Sunny, I am of course referring to the youngest Baudelaire orphan. She is a toddler, played by the adorable twins Kara & Shelby Hoffman. And, while I confess to know very little about her biting abilities, I've come to be quite familiar with her strange baby chatter and the talent for cooking she will develop later in this series of unfortunate books. Speaking as a young woman of childbearing age, I feel no guilt in saying that I wouldn't mind having five just like her.
   Violet Baudelaire, the oldest of the children is said to be the world's youngest and most clever inventor. Whether you are lost in the pages of one of Snicket's novels, or staring at this image on a movie screen, you know when Violet is about to invent something exciting. She tends to express this desire by tying her long, brown hair into a neatly managed ribbon. 
   Played by Australian actress Emily Browning, Violet is not only a brilliant scientist, but also a devoted sister with a strong moral conscience, a word which here means "little voice inside your head that tells you right from wrong." If I were a teacher, I'd probably assign an essay on "People I admire most" to which I'm sure Violet would be the subject matter.
   Finally, what kind of critic would I be if I failed to mention Klaus, the middle child of the Baudelaire family? In his rather unfortunate series, Snicket regards Klaus as a bookworm with a super and almost unnatural thirst for knowledge. 
   This simply means that the boy is fond of learning. And being fond of learning, Klaus has read many books on virtually every subject matter known to man or creature kind. Even more remarkable is Klaus's ability to retain, a word which here means "to store" all of the information he receives. In fact, Mr. Snicket has made a point in saying that anything Klaus has read, he has remembered.
    Liam Aiken has done a magnificent job in bringing this character to life, and I feel sure that Klaus's book smarts will continue to come in handy as the children find themselves in further impossible, unthinkable situations.
   Being a new visitor to Lemony Snicket's world of delightful doom and gloom, I have not learned all of his intriguing secrets. He has yet to reveal why it is that all of Baudelaire's guardians carried those mysterious spyglasses. He has failed to explain the reason for Count Olaf's ankle tattoo. He has not said what is inside that strange sugar bowl, nestled deep within the Gorgonian Grotto. But, the unfortunate events that have taken place have certainly been worth the time.
    I believe imagination is a precious thing not to be wasted on a wasteful film about happy little elves. I'm glad I took the journey.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

__________________________________________________________________________________
 
 

EVENT NEWS   HAPPENINGS IN FANDOM   EVENT NEWS

January 7, 2005: Chiller Theater,  East Rutherford, NJ.
 

February 4-6:  Creation , Arlington, VA 
 

February 11-13, 2005: Farpoint 2005, Hunt Valley Inn, Baltimore, MD
               Come see ICS member Jim Childs in the Sunday special play  “Idylls of Superman”
 

February 18-20, 2005: Katsucon 2005, Arlington, VA
 

February 25-27, 2005: SheVaCon 13 , Roanoke, VA 
Guests, Tim Hildebrandt, L.E. Modesitt, Rikk Jacobs
 
 

IMAGINATIVE CINEMA COMING SOON
MUST SEE MOVIES FOR ICS MEMBERS LIKEYOU!

JAN 7th      WHITE NOISE  
Cast:  Michael Keaton (John Rivers), Deborah Kara Unger (Sarah), Chandra 
West (Anna Rivers), Ian McNeice, Amber Rothwell (Susie)
Premise: A man is contacted from beyond the grave by his murdered wife through the "white noise" on the radio. Communication with the dead through tv or other electronic media. But if the good can come through, what else can?

JAN 14th     ELEKTRA  
Cast: Jennifer Garner (Elektra Natchios), Goran Visnjic (Mark Miller), Terence Stamp (Stick), Will Yun Lee, Kristin Prout (Abby)
Premise -Following the events of Daredevil, Elektra Natchios (Garner), sai enthusiast and assassin for hire, is revived by the Order of the Hand, a group of assassins who helped train her. Elektra soon befriends those whom she was to kill and together, the foursome must take on Kirigi's lethal quartet (which includes Tengu and Typhoid Mary), before Elektra ultimately takes on Kirigi himself.

JAN 28th     HIDE & SEEK  
Cast: Robert De Niro (Dr. David Callaway), Dakota Fanning (Emily Callaway), Famke Janssen (Katherine) 
Premise: A father discovers his 9 year-old daughter has come up with an unexpected and terrifying way of dealing with her mother's death through an imaginary friend. The daughter has come up with an imaginary friend named Charlie, and the girl's father soon realizes that Charlie isn't make believe. 
 
FEB 4th      BOOGEYMAN  
Premise: A young man (Watson), emotionally traumatized by memories of terrible things he experienced in his bedroom as a little boy, decides to return to the house he grew up in to try to face his fears of that bedroom; fears of a mysterious being he thinks are his imagination. Unless, of course, the Boogeyman is real. Not to be confused with the boogyman movies of the 80s. 
 
 FEB 18th       CONSTANTINE  
Cast: Keanu Reeves (John Constantine), Rachel Weisz (Angela Dodson), Max Baker, Djimon Hounsou (Papa Midnite), Shia LeBeouf (Chaz), Gavin Rossdale (Balthazar), Peter Stormare (Satan)
Premise: John Constantine (Cage) is a world-travelling, mage-like misfit who investigates supernatural mysteries and the like, walking a thin line between evil and good. Constantine teams up with a female police detective, Angela (Weisz), who seeks Constantine's help while investigating the suicide-like death of her twin sister. And what is it about Constantine that puts him in a position where he is making deals with representatives from both Heaven and Hell? 
 
farewellsfarewellsfarewells Good bye farewellsfarewellsfarewells

Will Eisner, a titan of the comics world who in the 1940s brought to life characters such as The Spirit and Sheena, the Jungle Girl, and three decades later pioneered the graphic novel, has died.
The artist's body of work began in earnest in the 1930s with the swashbuckling Hawks of the Sea and will be capped by the May release of the graphic novel Plot. The book, published by W.W. Norton & Co, is his personal take on the history of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a weapon against Jews. Eisner's work was marked by a feel of sophistication; his Spirit newspaper strips are still hailed as a great melding of German Expressionist imagery and the sly worldview of Hollywood's wild screwball comedies. He always was experimenting in the use of panels, lettering and even format. The Spirit could be found published in newspapers from 1940 to 1952 in a self-contained, four-color insert.
Eisner would test the boundaries of comic books in 1978 with Contract With God, in a collection of illustrated stories about real people that he was the first to call "a graphic novel", marking a new era and direction in comics. Since 1978 he has published about a book a year and has devoted his recent decades to graphic novels about poverty, aging and despair in such titles as The Tenement and The Invisible People.
In what became industry legend, Eisner started a comics production company with friend Jerry Iger in 1937on a $15 investment. Eisner & Iger recruited a number of their peers including Bob Kane, Jack Kirby and Lou Fine and the studio became a factory. Its output included Sheena, Blackhawk and Dollman. The shop did have one historic misstep — Eisner declined a crude character sketch presented by a pair of youngsters, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who took their Superman pitch elsewhere.
"There's no question, he was one of the most important figures in comic books", said author Michael Chabon. Art Spiegelman, who won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Maus, a graphic novel about the Holocaust, once called Eisner a "genius cartoonist who changed the vocabulary of comics". Cartoonist Jules Feiffer declared Eisner a national treasure. He was 87.
 

Frank Kelly Freas, an artist and illustrator who earned 11 Hugo awards for his imaginative science fiction illustrations, has died at age 84. The versatile artist bridged the worlds of science fiction and science, cartoons and art. He designed astronauts' crew patches and posters for NASA, and his works were exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution and New York's American Museum of Natural History. But he was far more at ease — and greatly revered — in the world of pop and pulp art. Freas illustrated stories by such renowned science fiction authors as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein.
"All I wanted to do was science fiction illustration," Freas said in 2003. "I'd been reading science fiction since I was 10 years old — everything I could find. I never wanted to do anything else."

Larry Buchanan, writer-producer-director, who created such critically panned but highly successful television movies as Mars Needs Women, Curse of the Swamp Creature and the Thing From Venus, has died. 
Born Marcus Larry Seale Jr. in Mexia, Texas, and orphaned in infancy, Buchanan grew up in a Dallas orphans' home, where he developed a love of movies in the facility's theater. During a visit to Hollywood he landed a job in 20th Century Fox's prop department. The studio gave him a new name along with minor acting roles. After a stint in the Army Signal Corps during WW II he returned to Texas and set himself up as an independent filmmaker. His credits include such other T.V. ventures as the eye creatures, in the year 2889, creature of destruction and it’s alive. Theatrical releases include Free, white and 21, the trial of lee harvey oswald, a bullet for pretty boy, goodbye, norma jean, mistress of the apes and the loch ness horror. He made roughly 30 pictures over four decades, horrifying critics, delighting fans and gratifying financial backers with his one-man, self-described “guerrilla filmmaking”. He was 81.
 

Actor Jerry Orbach, who played jaded, been-there-done-that cop Lennie Briscoe on TV's Law & Order and had great success on Broadway as a song-and-dance man, has died. He came to prominence in the long running off-broadway show the fantasticks and went on to such Broadway musicals as carnival, chicago, 42nd street and promises, promises for which he won a Tony award. He also appeared in movies like mad dog coll, ensign pulver, annie get your gun, prince of the city, f/x, dirty dancing and mr. Saturday night. 
As well as law & order, he starred in the TV series the law and harry mcgraw and turned up on such series as buck rogers, murder, she wrote, tales from the darkside, Golden girls, kojak and the adventures of the galaxy rangers. He was 69 years old.
 
 
 

THE LAST WARD . . .
By John Ward
 
 

 2004 was another great year for movies.  My overall movie going slipped just a tad, from 46 movies seen in 2003 to “only” 40 this year, but the quality of those films remained relatively high.  I just looked over my 2004 list, and once I separated them into my Top Ten, my “Eleventh Place” category, and my “Good Things” category, there weren’t a lot of movies left.  Take out the stinkers, and the number drops to almost zero.  What’s it all mean?  For one thing, I think the rising cost of going to a theater has made us all just a little choosier when it comes to picking out a flick.  So we’re less likely to be disappointed when we do go.  But I’m still trying to live down ALEXANDER.
 As always, the calendar criteria for making my list is relatively simple and insanely unfair, when you get right down to it.  To be considered, a movie has to be seen by me in the calendar year it was released.  Which is why you won’t see movies like THE AVIATOR and MILLION DOLLAR BABY on my list; I haven’t seen ‘em yet, folks.  I have tweaked the rule this year to include movies seen by me on video that have NOT been widely released in the U.S. yet.  Two such movies made my top ten list.
 Once again, my list is top-heavy with genre favorites, because frankly, that’s what I usually go to see.  There is only one film in my top ten that would not be considered a genre film, but as you’ll see, it holds a special place in its own particular category.  One more surprise:  my list, which has been known to reflect an over-abundance of family fare in recent years, sports just three titles that I saw with my son in tow.  As it turns out, all three of those titles have shown up on many other top ten lists, too.

 And awaaaay we go:
 

10.  HAUTE TENSION

 This was one of the two films responsible for tweaking my calendar rule.  I watched a borrowed all-region DVD copy of it last month; as far as I know, it will be released stateside to theaters this spring, possibly around Valentine’s Day -- which would be the ultimate sick joke, IMHO.  Because HAUTE TENSION frightened me, creeped me out, just plain got under my skin like no other horror movie I saw this year.  I will try to see it again on the big screen, just to see what the effect will be like.  I imagine I might be looking through my fingers at odd moments.
 The plot, in a nutshell:  two French college girls visit one girl’s family for a weekend of studying before finals.  In the middle of the night, the girl’s father gets up to answer the door.  From there, it’s a nail-biting shock-a-thon that doesn’t let up until the final bizarre twist.  I watched it with subtitles, but HAUTE TENSION is one of those creepshows that really doesn’t require the assistance of the English language to reach you.  It was the second-best horror movie of 2004.

9.  MIRACLE

 MIRACLE is the “non-genre” film on my list, but only as far as what our club calls a genre:  horror, sci-fi, suspense, action, etc.  The sports film is a genre, too, ladies and gentlemen, and as sports films go, MIRACLE is one of the very best.  It’s a rousing underdog story about one of the greatest moments in U.S. sports history, with a center-stage performance by Kurt Russell that has to rank as one of the finest performances of the year.
 Russell plays hockey coach Herb Brooks, plucked from obscurity by the U.S. Olympic Committee for what was considered a near-impossible task:  to mold a bunch of college kids into a team capable of competing against the unstoppable Russian hockey machine.  Russell disappears into the persona of Brooks, at times a dictator, at other times an S.O.B. with a nasty case of tunnel-vision, a man who never loses sight of the possibility that his players might… just might have what it takes.  The miracle of MIRACLE is that it manages to build an exciting, suspenseful movie from a well-known piece of American sports history.  We might already know how it turns out, but it’s still an enjoyable ride.

8.  HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS

 One of two great Asian imports on my list, and the other film responsible for tweaking the calendar rule.  I was one of the lucky ones who stayed to watch HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS after the December meeting, and I was captivated.  This film has only recently been released in the U.S. and probably won’t play Baltimore for a few weeks yet, but I definitely plan to see it again, because the cinematography of this film deserves to be seen on the big screen.  It’s an exciting action tale with a star-crossed love triangle at its heart, which places it at odds with the other Asian import on my list, but more on that later.
 Ziyi Zhang stars as a blind courtesan in feudal China suspected of being a member of a rebel group, the House of Flying Daggers.  She is investigated by an undercover policeman who falls hard for her, and they go on the run, from one thrilling set piece to the next.  A sword battle in a forest, with the attackers dropping silently from the trees, is a visual marvel.  And that’s only one scene.  The movie’s climax is quietly tragic in a way no other film this year could touch.

7.  DAWN OF THE DEAD

 Here’s a surprise, although I hope club members who have seen it will agree that DAWN OF THE DEAD was simply one of the most enjoyable thrill rides of the year.  It wasn’t long on character development, it didn’t have an especially deep screenplay, but so what?  It was fast, funny, violent, and in your face, and DAWN OF THE DEAD wore these criteria like a blood-soaked badge of honor.  First-time director Zack Snyder remade George Romero’s classic zombie thriller by taking just three things – the title, the zombies, and the mall – and crafting a hybrid of shoot-em-up action picture and horror film that really moves.
 The first DAWN (which received a nice DVD reissue of its own this year) will always be remembered as a classic of the genre, but the new DAWN had some great touches of its own, notably the long-distance relationship with the gun shop guy.  It had a sense of humor missing from the first film, and it was the best horror movie of the year.

6.  COLLATERAL

 Michael Mann returned to the crime world of Los Angeles he had depicted so convincingly in HEAT with this taut thriller, featuring two powerhouse performances by Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx.  Come Oscar time, Foxx is most likely to be recognized for his star turn in the title role of RAY, but I think his work in COLLATERAL is equally noteworthy.  He plays a simple, down-on-his-luck L.A. cabbie, dreaming of a better life yet still living from fare to fare, and Cruise plays Vincent, a routine airport pickup that turns out to be something much more.  Vincent is a contract killer in town for a night of business, and he forces Foxx to drive him from target to target.
 Before the night is over, the audience is taken on a ride straight down into L.A. hell, and Mann is the tour director.  Foxx is a marvel, yet Cruise commands the screen in one of his very best performances, right up there with BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY.  He edges out David Carradine and Alfred Molina as my pick for the year’s best villain.

5.  HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN

 Here is the movie that should have been made first.  The first two HARRY POTTER movies were fun to watch, especially for fans of the novels, but they weren’t quite so entertaining for non-readers.  In fact, sifting through all that exposition proved to be a bit of a slog.  Not so with Alfonso Cuaron’s wonderful addition to the POTTER mythos.  AZKABAN had a wicked sense of humor, a healthy respect for the source material, and a couple of fine additions to the cast:  David Thewlis as Professor Lupin and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black.  Both men turned out to be “not quite as they seemed,” although Oldman didn’t come on until the third act.  The POTTER movies continue to amaze me with their perfect track record for casting.
 The three young leads – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson – have taken over their roles so vividly that it is impossible to picture anyone else playing Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  And Michael Gambon proved to be a perfectly acceptable replacement for the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore.  I am sorry that Cuaron won’t be returning to direct HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE – British director Mike Newell is at the helm – but he has clearly left the series riding a pretty high wave of quality.

4.  HERO

 Like its compatriot HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, HERO impressed with its cinematography, its color, and its sheer spectacle.  The two movies shared one director:  Zhang Yimou, who immediately set some kind of small record by being one of a very few directors (Spielberg also comes to mind) to place two films on my best list in the same calendar year.  At least HERO was around long enough to impress folks with its story, a Rashomon-style chess game between a warrior (Jet Li) and the emperor he wants to kill.  The action scenes were each filmed in separate color schemes, from silver-gray to green to blue to red, and on and on.  The effect was quite literally breath taking, actually one-upping its predecessor, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.
 HERO was not as much of a character study as its follow-up, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS.  After a time, audiences weren’t sure which of the multiple plotlines to believe, and they simply gave themselves over to the images.  This is the film that deserves to win the Oscar for Cinematography.  At least, it’s got my vote.

3.  SPIDER-MAN 2

 This is, to put it as simply as possible, the greatest live action super-hero movie ever made.  In a year of quality sequels, it was the best of them all.  (For those who have already seen my no. 1 pick and are going, “Hey, wait a minute,” read on.)  As a lifelong lover (if not always a buyer) of comic books, it made me very happy to see what a talented director like Sam Raimi could do with a great character; probably the most conflicted and tormented superhero ever created.  Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst returned to enrich their roles as Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, and Alfred Molina stepped to the forefront as Otto Octavius, one of the best supervillains ever.
 There are more than a few nods to the original storyline; the one that comes most readily to mind is the image of Peter dumping the Spidey costume in the trashcan, one of the iconic moments of the book’s early days.  Granted, the action takes a bit of time to get going, but once we’re on that elevated train with Spider-man and Dr. Octopus, it’s all stops out.  I loved this movie:  I loved the characters; I loved the screenplay, the story, the fast action, and the just-right (but slightly corny) ending.

2. THE INCREDIBLES

 Who would have expected not one, but two outstanding superhero movies in the same year?  Not me, that’s for sure.  But Pixar, the animation studio par excellence, just seems to have the magic touch.  THE INCREDIBLES was all sorts of movies tied into one incredibly vibrant, colorful package.  It was a comedy.  It was an adventure.  It was a James Bond film.  It was a satire, and a brilliant one at that.  Heck, it was even a family drama.  But most of all, it was the brainchild of  Brad Bird, who proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that THE IRON GIANT was no fluke – and Bird is one of the finest directors of animation around.  He even found time to lend his voice to the superhero’s costumer, an Edith Head send-up that stole the film.
 THE INCREDIBLES outshone SHREK 2, the year’s other big animation film, in one very important aspect:  it proved that you don’t need megamillion stars to do voiceovers for this kind of thing.  Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Wallace Shawn, etc. did just fine “behind the lines,” and THE INCREDIBLES was so much the better for their efforts.  It was far and away the family film of the year.

And the number one –

1. KILL BILL VOLUME 2

 It was overdue, but well worth the wait.  In all honesty, I placed this film at the top of the heap not simply because it was an exceptionally made film (which it was), but because it did such a splendid job of completing what I consider to be Quentin Tarantino’s “master homage” to his roots.  VOLUME 1 showed Tarantino’s love for the Hong Kong “grindhouse” cinema of his youth, while VOLUME 2 showcased his deep affection for the films of Sergio Leone.  The image of the lone heroine, Uma Thurman, trudging relentlessly through the dusty desert was powerful; nearly its equal were her training scenes with “Pei Mei,” the martial arts master.  Thurman was absolute perfection as the Bride, an extremely wronged woman out for revenge.  She carried both parts of this epic with equal grace and conviction, and it’s a damn shame she probably won’t be recognized with any kind of Oscar nomination.
 VOLUME 2 was just as notable for the comeback of David Carradine, one of Tarantino’s idols from the ‘70s.  He was great as Bill, the former flame of the Bride, and the ultimate object of her revenge.  I think it was a sign of Carradine’s acting skill that he kept us wondering about his true motives (and his final fate) right to the end.  I’m looking forward to seeing KILL BILL VOLUME 2 eventually paired with its predecessor as one giant epic.  I know this is coming down the road, eventually; and I’m sure it’ll be worth it.  For now, KILL BILL VOLUME 2 stands alone as my film of the year.

ELEVENTH PLACE

 Once again, it was tough to choose, but in almost any other year, any of the following films might have made my top ten list.  They were that good.  THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was proof that a filmmaker would go to just about any length to put his vision on the screen, especially if that filmmaker had the clout of Mel Gibson…THE BOURNE SUPREMACY was another film that helped shape 2004 as the Year of the Quality Sequels, and Matt Damon staked his claim as an action star for the new millennium…SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW was sadly overlooked by movie audiences last fall, but it was a beautiful example of what CGI can do in the hands of a director with a vision as exciting as Kerry Curran’s…FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was another splendid sports film, once again based on a true story, with a sensational performance by Billy Bob Thornton…SAW was an incredibly intense horror film with an ending that hits like a brick to the skull…and SHAUN OF THE DEAD was, well, SHAUN OF THE DEAD.  What more needs to be said?

GOOD THINGS IN SMALLER PACKAGES

 I found quite a bit more to like about the films of 2004.  The following films didn’t have quite the staying power of my top ten, or even my “11th Place” films, but there was something special about each and every one of them.  I left the theater smiling after seeing THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, HIDALGO, HELLBOY, MAN ON FIRE, SHREK 2, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, DODGEBALL, NATIONAL TREASURE, and FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX.

THE WORST

 Hooo, boy.  Once again, it wasn’t even close.  In a year that saw SCOOBY DOO make a sequel, CGI basically ruin all of the classic Universal Monsters, the ALIEN and PREDATOR franchises water down to a PG-13 level, and Tom Hanks take up cutesy residence in an airport lounge… well, Oliver Stone’s ego trumped them all.  ALEXANDER turned out to be a crashing bore that not even the nutball talents of Angelina Jolie could save.  People started walking out about two-thirds of the way through this bloated swords-and-sandals monstrosity, and in hindsight, I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did.  Come to think of it, how did I make it?

THE YEAR IN DVDs

 As an added bonus, I couldn’t resist throwing in my choices for the best DVD packages of the year.  Here are my favorites, in alphabetical order:

THE COMMITMENTS:  COLLECTOR’S EDITION
DAWN OF THE DEAD:  UNRATED DIRECTOR’S CUT
DR. STRANGELOVE:  40TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION
ENTER THE DRAGON:  2-DISC SPECIAL EDITION
FIELD OF DREAMS:  2-DISC ANNIVERSARY EDITION
FREDDY VS. JASON (NEW LINE PLATINUM SERIES)
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY SPECIAL EDITION
JONNY QUEST:  THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
MYSTIC RIVER:  3-DISC DELUXE EDITION
PLANET OF THE APES:  35TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
THE RETURN OF THE KING:  SPECIAL EXTENDED EDITION

 Whew!  I’d say it’s time to close.  2004 was a great year at the movies, which reminds me – the Oscar nominations come out in a couple of weeks.  I’d better get some rest now, if I want to make the next column deadline.  See you next month…
 

ICS CALENDER –the Month in review!
 
 

JAN 7th      WHITE NOISE  
 
 

JAN 14th     ELEKTRA  
 
 

JAN 28th     HIDE & SEEK  
 
 

JAN 29th       ICS MEETING - January 29th at 5:30 P.M.
  Superheroes in the Cinema by  Betsy Childs, voting for new Board members and renew your dues, all here, all tonight!!