Monthly Archives: June 2010

Marc Webb’s Spider-Man Is… Josh Hutcherson?

Now, this could change within seconds after I post this, but for the time being it looks like Josh Hutcherson, the 18-year-old star of…  something, I’m sure… is going to be the next Spider-Man in director Marc Webb’s franchise reboot, and I’m left wondering if all this VERY young blood is good for the franchise, which is very close to my heart.

An unknown is filling out the costume this time around.

After all, Spider-Man has been my hero since I picked up The Spectacular Spider-Man #231 at the Walgreen’s by my house in February, 1996.  That was first grade, folks.  That issue, among tons of other mid-’90s issues of Spider-Man and X-Men, still resides in my blue Batman: The Animated Series backpack I’ve had since kindergarten.

As you can tell, I grew up with the webslinger, and I was quite pleased with the first two Sam Raimi-directed films in the series, before the atrocious third offering, which was ruined by too much studio interference (and Topher Grace).  I didn’t think Raimi deserved to go, but alas, he did, and that’s when Sony brought (500) Days of Summer director Webb aboard to redo the entire thing with a new cast by bringing Spidey back to high school.

That’s all well and good, but I’ve seen nothing from anyone involved, unless you count this Green Day video Webb did back in the day.

The man’s got some talent based on those nifty little slow-mo parts, but it doesn’t speak to his ability to choreograph crazy aerial fight scenes or anything like that.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, though, based on reviews of (500) Days of Summer. It seems Webb will be able to get to the bottom of who Peter Parker is as a person, which is always a good sign that a summer blockbuster won’t just be about the spectacle.

Slinging into theaters in 2012, Josh Hutcherson.

It’s Hutcherson’s casting which leaves me a little more scared.  He’s got the right look and is actually still in his teens, so there won’t be any of the usual people-in-their-thirties-playing-teenagers stuff going on, but the only time I’ve ever seen him on-screen is in TV previews for Journey to the Center of the Earth, which, like most things involving Brendan Fraser, looked awful.

The kid must have some chops, or else he wouldn’t have received the role.  He’ll have to bulk up a lot, though, to look like a super hero.

My main hope for the newbies involved is that they don’t just do another lazy retelling of Spider-Man’s origin story, especially since the first movie only came out in 2002.  Audiences are not stupid and they don’t need to be given a slight variation on something they saw very recently.

Hopefully the rumors are true that the Lizard will be the bad guy for the reboot and it will involve Peter, already with his powers, working for the Daily Bugle and dealing with being a kid with superpowers, how all the best classic Spider-Man stories were told.

I’m sure the studio’s done its homework with tons of screen testing for Hutcherson and I bet Webb gave a great pitch to get his version off the ground, but I can’t help but be a little worried the film franchise of my favorite hero of all time will be going down the drain, Batman & Robin-style.


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Band Pimping: The Hold Steady

Brooklyn's Finest: The Hold Steady

Imagine Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits decided they were going to utilize their immense skills and play God.  They would meet in a dingy roadhouse, drink a few pitchers, and will a legion of blue-collar musicians into existence.  If we lowly humans were lucky, Messrs. Springsteen and Waits would give us something like The Hold Steady.

Luckily, The Hold Steady found its way naturally without those rock deities I worship providing anything beyond inspiration.  The New York band recently released its fifth album, entitled Heaven is Whenever, and, as can be expected with this band, it’s excellent.

Frontman Craig Finn and his merry band of men continue their journey through pub rock and Beat poetry with stories about drinking and habitual drug use and the effects those extracurricular activities have on the denizens of their lives, and they do it in catchy fashion.

Songs like “Hurricane J” and “Our Whole Lives” have the history or rock ‘n’ roll pulsing in their veins.  They make me happy, and I bet they will make you happy, too.  But, as seems to be the band’s tradition, the first song on the album is the one that really draws you in.  Its name is “The Sweet Part of the City” and it is amazing.  Check it out.

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Green Hornet Trailer: Meh

The trailer for The Green Hornet, starring Seth Rogen, was released today, and for something I was looking forward to, it doesn’t look too impressive.

Coming in January: a shoulders shruggingly good time, The Green Hornet.

The movie, an adaptation of the ’60s TV show written by Rogen and his friend Evan Goldberg and directed by Michel Gondry, has been buzzed about for a couple years now, but delays, first in finding an actor to play Kato, among other things, have caused its release date to be pushed back several times, and now it’s not coming out until January, which is a sign nobody at the studio has faith in its ability to make money.

Based on the trailer, I can see why.  Rogen is generally a funny guy who may have suffered a bit of overexposure after all the Apatow movies he’s starred in, but he seemed excited about trying on a different role: that of an action hero.  It’s clear Rogen prepared admirably for the role, having lost a ton of weight, and it seems the movie’s supposed to have funny parts to utilize Rogen’s comedic abilities, but those moments felt a little flat in this, particularly the “will you follow me on this adventure” line.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about this movie’s prospects, as director Gondry has an extremely stylized eye, as was apparent in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the coolest movies of the last decade.  His followup, Be Kind, Rewind, had its moments and was overall pretty entertaining.  And all those White Stripes videos he did rock, too.

But you should stop listening to me expound about something that hasn’t even been released yet and make up your mind for yourself.  Here’s the trailer for The Green Hornet.

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Band Pimping: The Black Keys

I’ve loved the Black Keys, a two-piece blues rock band from Akron, Ohio, for years and had been eagerly awaiting their newest album, entitled Brothers, for several months but was holding off on buying it to save money.

Blues rock mastery: The Black Keys.

Screw fiscal responsibility.  This album rules and it’s worth every penny.

The band took what they learned from their funky, Danger Mouse-produced previous album and combined it with their older sound and have come up with another gem.  Guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have added some psychedelic flourishes and some oddities (harpsichord?!) to their swamp blues stomp and it works to great effect.

This song, “Tighten Up,” is the first single that’s been all over alternative radio here in Chicago.  I love it, especially for the breakdown.  Listen, enjoy, you know the drill.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Where Did It Come From?

What's the big deal? Enlighten me.

This week’s Entertainment Weekly cover is yet another in a long line of instances in which I’ve heard raves about this book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It’s getting made into a movie by director David Fincher (the threepeat of awesome that is Se7en, The Game, and Fight Club, among others) and all these big names–Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman, etc.–keep popping up in the casting rumors, but I have no idea what this “phenomenon” is about.

Anyone who has read it, is it actually good?  Or is is poorly written trash like the other massively-popular-for-no-good-reason Twilight books?  Feel free to comment because something that draws the attention of Fincher, whose directorial style is atmospheric, stylish, and altogether amazing, is something I am plenty willing to check out.

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Chicago’s Next Champion? I’m Not Holding My Breath

Today’s top story on the Chicago Sun-Times sports page is wondering, now that the Blackhawks have ended their 49-year Stanley Cup drought, which team in the city is next to win a championship?

Probably the last trophy we'll see for a while, Chicago. (Photo courtesy of

The article says the logical answer, in drought terms, would obviously be the Cubs.  But, come on, let’s be honest here.  The soon-to-be 102 years of futility is not ending any time soon, and certainly not this year, as the bumbling, stumbling Northsiders flat-out refuse to hit the ball (or acknowledge they could use some coaching on how to do so).  I would say I’ve never seen a team so inept at hitting with runners in scoring position or winning on the road, but I have.  Last year’s Cubs.

The White Sox are in the same boat.  Their offense is slightly better than the Cubs’, but beyond Paul Konerko’s 17 homers and the rejuvenated Alex Rios in the outfield, they’re not scary at the plate.  Their normally good pitching has failed tremendously this year, too, with Mark Buehrle performing well below his career averages and Gavin Floyd looking terrible.  In other words, they’re not going to reprise any of that 2005 World Series magic this year.

Things aren’t looking much better once the calendar flips to the football months, either.

The Bears are coming off a 7-9 year in which their shiny new savior of a quarterback, Jay Cutler, performed just like every other Chicago Bears quarterback–except the mythical Sid Luckman, who hasn’t touched a football since, y’know, dying 12 years ago, at the ripe age of 81. You can say all you want about the additions of Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor on the playing side and Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator, but until they add legitimate wide receivers or an offensive line capable of protecting Cutler for longer than a second or two, I don’t see this team being much better than 8-8.

Basketball-wise, the prospects are slightly brighter, as the Bulls stand a chance of getting back in the championship biz, but they’re not the scariest of contenders out there, having just squeezed by the competition into the playoffs this year and getting easily ousted in the first round.  Sure, there’s the off-chance they sign Lebron James, but does anyone actually see that happening?  I don’t.  They’re likely going to rely on the continuing improved play of guys like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

So, Chicago fans, it’s not looking terribly likely we’ll be able to celebrate again in the near future, unless the Hawks can do something no team since the ’97-’98 Red Wings has done, repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

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Sam Raimi Meets The Wizard of Oz

Disney confirmed today Sam Raimi, director of the Spider-Man and Evil Dead films, is directing their prequel to the Wizard of Oz, and I’m kind of left scratching my head over the decision.

Yep, he's handling the Wizard of Oz (Photo courtesy of

Sure, Raimi’s established himself in the last decade as capable of handling large-budget studio films with the first two Spider-Man movies (let’s not talk about the abomination that was the third one), but I’m not convinced he’s the right guy to take on the land of Oz, mostly because his films never have the tone I think of when I remember Wizard of Oz.

Raimi’s tone is more pure irreverence, like the Ash-on-Ash battle from Army of Darkness, or flat-out goofiness, like the massive facepalm that was the emo Spidey scene.  They’re funny, sure, but do they fit in with what we know about the Great and Powerful Oz?  Not really.

I don’t know if Raimi has it in him to reign in his jokey tendencies to make a movie that shouldn’t be played as a punchline.  He’s got the right kind of whimsy for the job, but I, along with legions of other people who grew up on the MGM classic, will be kind of disappointed if he doesn’t take the source material seriously.


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Band Pimping: Califone

Every summer it seems I have a band or two to whom I cannot stop listening.  ’05 was Creedence Clearwater Revival.  ’06 was Kings of Leon.  Last year was a twofer of The Black Keys and The Doors.  And this year is no different, as I have been listening to Califone almost nonstop.

Their acid folk sound is perfect accompaniment for driving through traffic on a hot day.  It will calm you down when someone cuts you off; trust me.

This song, “The Orchids,” is a cut from their Roots & Crowns album, released a few years ago.  It’s great.  Give it a listen if you know what’s good for you.

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Congrats, Blackhawks!

Go Hawks!

I am a little drunk from celebrating, but I just want to wish congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on winning the 2010 Stanley Cup.

It’s been a long time coming to people from this town (except you White Sox fans who got your due in 2005).  Everyone on this championship team, from captain and MVP Jonathan Toews to Patrick Kane to Dustin Byfuglien to Antti Niemi and everyone else, enjoy this wonderful accomplishment, because next up is a repeat attempt.

Good luck next year, boys, because you have changed this town forever.  Chicago’s back to being a hockey town.

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Breaking Bad: Yes, Please

While I’ve patiently been waiting for one of my myriad job applications to pan out, I’ve had lots of down time so far this summer, and I have spent it wisely by starting, and nearly catching up on AMC’s Breaking Bad.

Bryan Cranston, star of AMC's Breaking Bad.

The show, a saga (that’s right, like Twilight!) about a high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook to support his family after a cancer diagnosis, is currently the best thing on television, and Bryan Cranston–that’s right, Hal from Malcolm in the Middledeserves the Emmys, and any other awards, he’s won for the lead role of Walter White, and the rest of the cast does a tremendous job of rounding out their characters, as well.

While the acting is incredibly rich and one of the show’s biggest strengths, it’s the carefully plotted story that really draws me in.  Each episode–hell, each scene–is an integral part of the greater tale, one which gives an on-the-ground take on the war on drugs, from the manufacturers like Walt and his former student and partner, Jesse (Aaron Paul), to the distribution rings (run by Giancarlo Esposito’s Gustavo Frings), to the D.E.A. agents like Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), trying to take drugs off the streets.  The way Walt and Jesse build an empire through the use of good chemistry and sheer dumb luck is fascinating and makes you wonder if this is how things really are in the drug trade, and if these people actually have suffering wives and children because of what they choose to do.  I hope not, because there’s some pretty crazy and terrible stuff going on in this show.

Walt’s quest to, at first, provide his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and son, Walter, Jr. (RJ Mitte), with money for when he dies seems to be misguidedly noble, but as the show progresses and the audience catches on that Walt realizes he’s good at this and he’s no longer doing it just for his family is when it gets very interesting.  From turning down the offers of financial help from a former lab partner to not telling his mother about his disease, we see Walt’s a very stubborn and flawed man, and his story is an allegory about the downfalls of pride.

The visual way in which the story is told is also captivating.  The show’s gritty look is heightened by its desert location (it takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico) and the use of hand-held cameras, giving some scenes an almost documentary feel.  Also of note is the opening teaser (that’s the first scene before the credits) of every episode is very cinematic, sometimes oblique and odd, like the teddy bear sequences throughout season two, or very entertaining, thanks to the drug bust of dealer Badger.

As the series is not yet complete, there is no way to tell if Walt will work through his issues before either succumbing to cancer or getting caught in his web of lies and crime, but whatever the eventual resolution to the story is, it will probably be a ride unlike any other on TV.

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