"Burn Em All!"

So, since it’s Halloween… lets talk about this red band trailer for “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,”  which looks about as agood as these “stupid on purpose” genre riffs get. Specifically… is it at all “weird” that I find this in somewhat bad taste?

What I mean is… I totally “get” that they’re just riffing on the familiar fairytale (LOVE the gag with the milk bottles) and that 0.00000% of this is meant to be taken seriously, but… they MUST be aware that “Witch” isn’t strictly a fictional, made-up thing like vampires or zombies or whatnot, right? That there’s an actual, recognized religion (several of them, in fact) in the 21st Century world that calls it’s practice “Witchcraft” and it’s adherents “Witches,” right? I mean, this cannot be NEWS to anyone making a big-budget American fantasy/horror movie, yes?

I know it’s kind of a weird area, since Wicca etc. names itself AFTER the historical/mythic version of Witches/Witchcraft and not the other way around, but still… the whole jokey “the only good witch is a dead witch” thing kinda rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I’m oversensitive to this, having known and been friends with more than a few real Witches in my time, but it seems kind of weird to not be qualifying them as “evil witches” here, fairytale or not.

I dunno, maybe I’m nuts… but this feels, to me, just a little bit like having “The Wandering Jew” show up as a monster in something and saying it’s okay because it was an actual 13th Century legend. I don’t know that it’s a huge deal (any Wiccans and/or Witchcraft-identifying neo-pagans want to chime in?) but it feels odd in the 21st Century – regardless of context, can you see someone making a movie called “Christian Hunter” or “Muslim Hunter?”

Leia Organa Now Officially a Disney Princess

And then everything changed.
It’s being reported that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm and the rights to all of it’s properties from George Lucas, placing the entirety of the “Star Wars” universe under the Walt Disney umbrella. Evidently, this must have been in the works (how the HELL did they keep everyone quiet!?) for awhile, because they’ve simultaneously announced that they’re moving ahead on “Star Wars: Episode VII” for 2015.
SO many conflicting emotions about this…

On the one hand, this is symbolically kind of sad. The whole original point of Lucasfilm in the first place was to be a wholly-independent entity, seperate from the corporate studios… and there’s NEVER been an outfit that embodied the concept of a corporation-as-studio more than Disney. Granted, “the system” today is not the system that Lucas rebeled against in the 70s and 80s, but still – Goliath Wins, basically.

On the other hand… Disney has been bringing some incredible talent and material under their umbrella lately. People forget this, but the whole reason they bought Marvel was because their attempts to build in-house “boy brands” (their words, not mine) were coming up short and they figured it was easier/cheaper to just BUY a whole bunch. Now they’ve bought another bunch: Mickey Mouse is now in the business of making movies about The Incredible Hulk and Darth Vader – the future of YOUR popular culture is MY toybox circa 1985.

While I’ll always respect Lucas’ go-it-alone zeal in claiming/owning his creations (and I can’t not worry that there might be something “gone wrong” on his end that’s driving this)… the fact is, he just hasn’t been the best steward of them for a long time. If his final act as owner of “Star Wars” is to leave it, effectively, in John Lasseter et al’s hands? I’m more than okay with that. Especially since this means it’s now in the hands of people with no Earthly reason to NOT release the uncut original trilogy.

Okay. I’m onboard. Let’s see where this is going.

Are the wheels ALREADY coming off the re-energized "X-Men" series?

Bryan Singer’s original two “X-Men” movies (you know, the ones that still technically happened) are both very solid examples of their genre… for their time. The costumes are almost universally awful, the aesthetic is inappropriately drab and sterile, everyone looks a little too much like models up on the catwalk at a superhero-themed fashion show, but there’s some great performances and both films have good screenplays that “get” the material and most of the characters. Made before Raimi’s “Spider-Man,” “Batman Begins” and especially “The Avengers;” they were imperfect but as good as you could hope for at the time.

“X-Men: First Class” was a better movie on every concievable level – the best version of X-Men outside of the comics and, to be frank, probably better than most of the comics at this point. It finally seemed like Fox had figured out how to handle these properties. Now word is coming down that Matthew Vaughn has opted not to direct the already in-development sequel, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” and that original helmer Bryan Singer might be stepping in to replace him.


I’m not necessarily anti-Singer, and he’s going to need a big hit if “Jack The Giant Slayer” is as disasterous as it’s been reputed to be, but this sounds like trouble. And no, not only because I don’t trust him not to regress the series’ aesthetically back to the dour, dreariness he took it to in the first place. “Past” was reputed to be a time-travel story set up to iron-out the continuity issues between the orignals and “Class,” possibly establishing a new present-day status-quo rooted more in “Class’s” sensibilities.

Meanwhile, the second attempt at a solo “Wolverine” movie is now being described as taking place after the events of “X-Men 3” and not totally junking “Origins” like everyone thought it was. That’s unsettling, since “Origins” was pretty solidly deleted by “First Class” as well.

All of this comes on the heels of Fox hiring comic scribe Mark Millar (whose comics occasionally make good movies once someone else completely rewrites them) to “manage” their mini-universe of Marvel properties, another development that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

"Evil Dead" Remake Red Band

Below, the Red Band trailer for “Evil Dead,” which looks about like you’d expect: New kids, new cabin, same basic “Deadites” (though they were called that in the original and I don’t expect they’ll be called that here) and a modern-looking horror aesthetic…

Thus far, I like it. It’s continuing to look like a smart decision to not necessarily make someone “The Ash” in the direct sense – remember, Ash in the first movie wasn’t really “Ash” as we’ve come to remember him.

Honestly, my biggest worry about this and any other “serious” kids-in-the-woods horror film is that “Cabin in The Woods” may have permanently put the genre to bed – I just don’t know that I’ll be able to take ANY of this remotely seriously without thinking back to how perfectly it was parodied (and then used for greater purposes) there. We’ll see.

What Is That Thing on The Mandarin’s Neck?

On the right, a high-res still from yesterday’s “Iron Man 3” trailer; depicting what seems to be The Mandarin taking off his hood. Glimpsed for a split second is a tattoo on the back of his neck, the design of which appears to be Captain America’s shield with an “Anarchist A” replacing the star:

So what does it mean? It’s obviously there to be seen and get fans talking, and it seems unlikely that Marvel would let something that looks this much like a continuity-reference slip in by accident. So what’s going on here? I have some theories…

It’s almost-certainly symbolic of something. We now know that the world at large has always known about Captain America – at least, they know that a superhuman in a costume fought in WWII and re-appeared in 2012 – and we saw people getting shield tats at the end of “Avengers.” Swapping out the star for anything would mean the equivalent of doing the same to the American flag: Making a statement.

But what’s it doing on The Mandarin? Or what looks like The Mandarin? Three ideas, top of my head:

1.) That’s not The Mandarin. That’s someone else doing the impersonate-the-bad-guy thing, and the tattoo is a giveaway. So who is it? You can kind-of see what might be the rim of glasses, but otherwise who’s to say? Crazy-unlikely out-of-left-field guess: It’s The Winter Soldier, making an introductory cameo prior to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Also fun possibilities: Ant-Man, Bruce Banner or the ACTUAL Captain America.

2.) The Mandarin is an Anarchist, and this is his symbol. The terrorists in “Iron Man” called their group “The Ten Rings,” a Mandarin reference, and the trailer includes a shot of The Mandarin wearing the actual Ten Rings just like in the comics – so it can be assumed he was pulling their strings. What we don’t know, yet, is if he’s still exclusively running Brand-X Al-Qaeda’s or if he’s branched out into manipulating other “movements” to his owns ends. Fronting an American Anarchist group would be a topical twist, though also uncomfortably close to Bane’s gambit in “Dark Knight Rises.”

3.) The Mandarin is a Super Soldier. In “classic” Marvel lore, a whole slew of good guys and bad guys got their abilities from unsuccessful attempts to replicate the experiment that created Captain America. In the Marvel Movieverse, that’s part of the backstory of both The Hulk and The Abomination. Why make this leap for The Mandarin? Well…

Firstly, I’m expecting he won’t have his “I found alien technology” origin here. Be interesting if he did (there’s certainly a shitload of it all over the place after the finale of “Avengers”) but since “Avengers” made it clear that Thor’s arrival on Earth was modern Earth’s “first contact” I doubt thats how it’s going to work here. So he’s probably going to need a new backstory, right? Well, think about his “place” in the Marvel movies:

People forget this because the surprise-ending drowned out everything else, but before “Iron Man” opened the “big deal” was that it was going to be THE post-9/11 superhero movie – the trailers were all selling “Tony Stark blasts the FUCK out of The Terrorists” as the main thrust of the narrative. Well, if the Ten Rings are Al-Qaeda, that’d make The Mandarin Osama bin Laden. Remember bin Laden’s origin story? He was recruited/trained by U.S. agencies to work agains the Soviets in Afghanistan, then went rogue.

Well, what if they keep that paralell going and THAT’S his “thing” here? An Asian/Mid-East attempt at making a Super Soldier (“tagged” with this tattoo for designation) who turned on his masters? It’d certainly give him an excuse to bust out some extra-human abilities to make him a threat to the guy essentially wearing a tank, and it would tie back in with this specific franchise’s “unintended consequences of weapon-making” theme.