Friday, November 23, 2007

Hollywood hot list

Hey folks! Not sure if I mentioned this previously...I must have done so on my other blog, but I read the entire run of Girls by the Luna Brothers two nights ago, from cover to cover. Even slept late so that I could finish reading the series in one sitting! It helped me get a handle on all the characters, which was hard to do when you're only reading segment by segment with months in between reads.

Such a good read! Anyway, with that out of the way, I'm now waiting for the fourth TPB of Y - The Last Man, to be available so I can read the entire series, bar the final TPB which hasn't yet been released, in one go. Which reminds me...I REALLY should start on that Captain America Omnibus.

Anyway, here's a feature from Wizard Universe:

From J.J. Abrams to Zack Snyder, take a look at the 25 hottest filmmakers that all of Tinseltown is chasing

By Todd Casey

Posted November 22, 2007 3:20 PM

Whether it’s Seth Rogen’s bong-fueled humor, J.J. Abrams’ resurrection of “Star Trek” or Frank Miller’s ability to turn black-and-white crimes into fury-filled films that equally offend and excite audiences, there’s a ton of Hollywood heat around the players making sure fanboys have a preeminent place in pop culture.

But don’t confuse heat with power.

Sure, names such as Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg will always push a movie onto the fast track. But here’s where you’ll find the guys making waves and taking the chances that get fanboys salivating. From the creator who finally made superheroes work on TV to the duo behind “Transformers” to the one man who’s more responsible for what you see on the big screen following the Marvel logo than anyone else, these are the insiders creating a buzz in Hollywood.

And there’s no one hotter in Tinseltown today than a comic legend quickly turning into a Hollywood hero.

During his 30 years in comics, Miller held firmly to one conviction above all others—never compromise.

Whether it was taking over the writing and drawing duties on Daredevil, shaking up the DC status quo with projects such as The Dark Knight Returns or forging his blood-soaked, creator-owned playground with Sin City, Miller always did things his way. Now, Hollywood’s taking notice of that unwavering commitment, handing him the keys to the city as the one creator in comics who demands and gets full creative control.

This desirable arrangement is a far cry from anything the writer-artist envisioned in the early ’90s, when he swore off Hollywood after battling the studio on his way through scripts for “Robocop 2” and “Robocop 3”. It wasn’t until director Robert Rodriguez showed him test footage of “Sin City,” and even invited him to co-direct the feature, that Miller changed his tune.

Sin City is a different kind of comic,” says Rodriguez. “I like some [comics] for the writing and others just for the artwork. Rarely is it a marriage of the two. Frank’s was just the rare kind that I could really sit down and read and just enjoy for its artwork and really enjoy it for its story. That’s why I just stuck with the book when it came time to make the movie. He’s just so good at visual storytelling.”

Rodriguez was so intent on involving Miller that he actually left the Directors Guild because of its qualms with his plan to co-direct with Miller. Now the pair has two sequels in the works, and plans to adapt all of the Sin City graphic novels.

If the blisteringly violent noir action piece didn’t sell fans and critics on Miller’s box office bang, then “300” certainly did. Director Zack Snyder followed Rodriguez’s model and pulled panels directly from the graphic novel to use as storyboards for the film.

“When I went to the comic book store, I had a hard time with Superman and Batman,” recalls Snyder. “Then when Frank came along, he was more to my sensibility, and that got me interested in comics. I graduated from high school in ’85, and there was a shift going on in the world of comic books around that time. There was this thing happening with movies and the comic book world—I felt like I was in the right place in my development as an artist to appreciate that and have it shape my aesthetic, and in some ways my career.”

Miller’s influence on a generation of filmmakers who grew up admiring his work is clearly evident, and now, as he moves from panels and paper to celluloid and a 40-foot screen, his influence continues to grow. His first solo stint as a director will be on Will Eisner’s classic “The Spirit,” currently filming in New Mexico. And it’s a production generating so much heat that Hollywood A-listers Scarlett Johansson (“The Prestige”), Eva Mendes (“We Own the Night”), Samuel L. Jackson (“1408”) and Jaime King (“Sin City”) have signed on to work with the fledgling director.

With some of the most highly regarded work in comics, Miller has quite a pool to draw work from and has openly stated that he no longer wants anyone else adapting his work—and it sounds like studios are listening.

After flourishing as a commercial director, Snyder tore his way into theaters with the R-rated “Dawn of the Dead” remake, which recouped its budget in three days and left audiences thirsty for more. Fans rejoiced at the prospect of Snyder helming the ultra-violent Frank Miller graphic novel 300, but the studio requested that the director tone down the violence to garner a PG-13 rating, thus upping the potential for a higher box office return. Snyder refused—and his bloody period piece (shot entirely on blue- and green-screen)—earned the third-highest opening of all time for an R-rated film. And now as Snyder tackles “Watchmen,” the director takes on the delicate task of adapting comics’ favorite son for the masses.

For 25 years, filmmakers have tried and failed to adapt the classic Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons graphic novel. But Snyder proved to be the helmer with enough rep and commercial success to not only get the film greenlit, but to do a faithful, artistically uncompromising adaptation, one that will do for the superhero movie genre what the graphic novel did for comics.

“I’m impressed by his enthusiasm and understanding of Watchmen,” says Gibbons. “Adapting comic books into movies is always going to be a thorny thing. We’ve talked from time to time, and I’m quite impressed by what he did with ‘300.’”

With the hit series “Lost” and “Alias,” Abrams turned relatively simple concepts into complex, engaging dramas that left viewers breathless on a weekly basis. Abrams helped further the popularity of shows featuring intricate, season-long arcs and storylines that could take multiple seasons to play out. But for all his intricate storytelling ability, Abrams is as much carnival barker as TV auteur—he embraces the hype like no other commercial director working today.

“Because J.J. had the ‘Alias’ cred, having cult status was ingrained in ‘Lost’ from the beginning, just by the fact he was involved,” says “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof.

Now, he’s energized the Star Trek franchise with a bold new cast. Then there’s his top-secret monster movie “Cloverfield,” a project tougher to crack than Pentagon security. Even with sketchy promotion to this point—a promo poster sports an image of a headless Statue of Liberty; a teaser trailer hints at creature-caused disaster in New York City—buzz around this upcoming feature has been building to deafening levels.

If Bay’s Platinum Dunes production office housed only a few production people, an accountant, a helicopter, a crane and a large warehouse full of C-4, no one would be the least bit surprised. Replete with sunsets, explosions and dazzling camera acrobatics, Bay’s popcorn-summer blockbusters rake in the cash at the box office and deliver just the sort of easily accessible entertainment moviegoers are seeking on a scorching July afternoon. Films like “Bad Boys” and “The Rock” were guilty pleasures for fans, but “Pearl Harbor” and “The Island” made Bay a message board whipping boy until he eventually shut down the naysayers with a version of “Transformers” that exceeded everyone’s expectations. With a sequel getting under way, Bay better stock up on bombs, because it looks like he’ll be busy with the ’bots for a long time to come.

Best known for dark, dramatic fare that features third-act twists and atmospheric visuals, Nolan’s films come populated with leading men wracked by guilt, obsession or both. Whether it was Guy Pearce’s amnesiac Leonard in the shuffled timeline of “Memento” or the competitively underhanded dueling magicians played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in “The Prestige,” Nolan is a master of letting his characters carry the weight of the film—which is exactly why critics and moviegoers revere “Batman Begins” so much. Nolan made it about the Caped Crusader himself rather than his villains, getting at the man beneath the cowl.

“[Chris Nolan] manages to make a blockbuster-sized entertainment movie, but there’s a whole lot of thought behind it as well,” says “Dark Knight” star Christian Bale. “I don’t have any question about his ability to make a great movie. He puts an emphasis on going with a good actor rather than the flavor of the month. He has a lot of integrity.”

Steven Spielberg’s already said LaBeouf is the next Tom Hanks, and D.J. Caruso wants the 21-year-old to play Yorick in a “Y: The Last Man” adaptation. First catching the genre-film audience’s eye with supporting roles in “Constantine” and “I, Robot,” the Los Angeles native became an inescapable big-screen fixture over the summer. Between starring as a paranoid voyeur in “Disturbia” and stealing the show in the megahit “Transformers,” LaBeouf became an unlikely household name over a few short months.

“[When I first saw Shia on screen, I could tell] this kid had remarkable acuity,” “Transformers” producer and “Indiana Jones” helmer Spielberg told the Los Angeles Times. “There was something about the way he listened and looked at the world through the character he was portraying, that he made me want to see what he was so interested in looking at.”

His fast-talking, lovably gauche Sam Witwicky had as much on-screen presence as Optimus Prime and solidified the young actor as one of the hottest—and most bankable—stars of his generation. In the summer of 2008, LaBeouf will become inextricably linked to another bastion of 1980s pop culture when he takes a leading role alongside Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

The writing tandem first gained notoriety for their contributions to the J.J. Abrams-created hit series “Alias,” but after landing high-profile projects including “Mission: Impossible III” and the blockbuster “Transformers,” the team’s now setting a blaze in Hollywood. The pair is back working with Abrams, this time on a revival of the Star Trek franchise as well as being called in to work on a new draft of “Watchmen” for Zack Snyder before jumping back into writing a first draft of the “Transformers” sequel.

“I was producing this movie and not directing it,” said J.J. Abrams. “But when I read [their ‘Star Trek’] script, I realized I was going to be so damn jealous of anyone directing this movie. It wasn’t the movie –because I drank the Kool-Aid and loved ‘Star Trek’—it is because the script was great. It was because characters were amazing and it was alive and funny and scary and an adventure.”

New arrivals to the world of superheroes are few and far between—not since Spawn in comics and “The Matrix” in theaters has anything resembling a new superhero franchise truly permeated pop culture. But with his small-screen creation “Heroes,” Tim Kring brought the trappings of comics to the masses. Featuring an assortment of uniquely empowered individuals, the series takes a grounded look at what life might be like if you suddenly discovered you could read minds or survive a 50-foot fall. Kring’s approach makes “Heroes” palatable for a mainstream audience, the kind of viewer that prefers “Grey’s Anatomy” to “X-Files” repeats. Sure, flight and super-healing are not “original” powers. But the mere fact that Kring was able to weave an entirely new world in a time when almost every bit of new media seems to be adapted from a pre-existing property is an impressive feat. Getting millions to watch it each week? That’s downright superheroic.

The disarming goofball who inadvertently fathered an illegitimate child in “Knocked Up” and let a kid operate a police-issue firearm after getting his underage ass wasted in “Superbad” is the newest darling of comedy. Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg, along with collaborators like director Judd Apatow, are helping to usher in a refreshing array of comedies that stray from the character-shtick “Saturday Night Live” flicks and instead hearken back to the raucous R-rated gems of the ’70s and ’80s. Those who bemoaned Kevin Smith’s departure from “Green Hornet” will be happy to learn Rogen has stepped in to write with Goldberg and play the title role.

“He’s like one of my great friends and it’s all been really easy,” Apatow told sources. “We laugh hard all day long and it’s a very pleasant experience. I’m really proud of him because it’s not like everybody in town thought this would happen.”

Lindelof is the visionary who co-created “Lost”—a show that sounded like an unfunny, hour-long version of “Gilligan’s Island”—and turned it into one of television’s most compelling dramas. Carrying on a storyline about people stuck on a deserted island for what has so far stretched to 85 episodes is an impressive achievement in its own right.

“Damon was the most comfortable person I had in my life to go to in terms of coming to someone with a completely unformed idea where I could babble in incoherent sentences for an hour,” says “Heroes” mastermind Tim Kring, who hired Lindelof for “Crossing Jordan.” “He would listen and pick those things apart. A lot of those conversations were, ‘Here’s what I learned on ‘Lost.’ Don’t do this, definitely stay away from this, definitely go down this road.’ So there was a lot of input from those early conversations that have found their way into the real lexicon of [‘Heroes’].”

But his talents lay far beyond keeping the Coast Guard and rescue planes at bay. Lindelof helped fashion a world with such a complex mythos that fans became obsessed with unlocking the secrets of the show, ensuring its place as one of the most talked-about primetime series of its time. Now, with fellow “Lost” creator and director J.J. Abrams, the scribe is producing “Star Trek,” making sure that the new film franchise boldly goes directly to the core of what made the original series so compelling to fans.

Roughly 25 years ago, Sam Raimi wrote and directed “Evil Dead” for $350,000. With the money his three Spider-Man films grossed for Sony, he could have made “Evil Dead” nearly 9,000 times over. If anyone traveled back in time to give the aspiring young director this statistic, his brain may very well have shut down, and we wouldn’t have the Spider-Man trilogy everyone had been wishing for. Nor would writer Steve Niles see his passion project 30 Days of Night go from indie comic to feature film thanks to Raimi’s guidance as a producer. Whether writing, directing or producing, Raimi really does plan to do it all, making him a renaissance man among the Hollywood glitterati. Even if he doesn’t helm “Spider-Man 4,” he still plans to be a driving creative force behind the scenes, and it’s that vision and creativity that’s the most important and striking element injected into the “Spider-Man” franchise.

Between Apatow’s writing and directing (“40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) or producing (“Talladega Nights,” “Superbad”), everyone has a favorite, which means that everyone has seen at least one of his movies, which in turn means that he is doing really, really well right now. Apatow’s quickly becoming a brand moviegoers trust. Fans know that they can expect full-fisted comedy that holds nothing back, but they’re also going to get a story with heart and characters that stick with you—and the producer-director shows no signs of cooling off. “When I did ‘Freaks and Geeks’ I was still very young as an actor and I hadn’t done many films and I didn’t realize what a great working experience that show had been,” “Spider-Man” star James Franco said publicly. “When I had a chance to work with [Apatow and Seth Rogen] again [on the upcoming ‘Pineapple Express’] I jumped at it. I feel like Apatow is making some of the funniest movies around.”

The old Hollywood adage about comedy versus action goes, “Everyone dodges bullets, not everyone laughs at jokes.” But in the case of an Edgar Wright film, you’ll probably be doing both—and in “Shaun of the Dead,” a bullet would be the least of your worries. Whether it’s zombies or his mockery of over-the-top Jerry Bruckheimer-style cop films with “Hot Fuzz,” Wright could actually assemble as good a demo reel as most young action directors to showcase his deft handling of flying bullets and blood. Perhaps this, along with his love for genre film, is why he’s been brought on to write and direct “Ant-Man” for Marvel.

Sylar, the sinister serial killer who steals the powers of the gifted individuals on “Heroes,” is easily one of television’s most frightening and engaging villains. Frustrated with the fact that he was not “special” in an extra-evolutionary sense, Sylar’s first kill is part of an effort to become unique like the others. But what began as an innocuous curiosity gone wrong turns into a deluded quest for power—a journey that makes Quinto’s cold archvillain one of the most fascinating characters on the hit series. Equally cold and distant, but decidedly less hell-bent on premeditated murder, is Spock, the Vulcan Star Trek staple Quinto will play in the J.J. Abrams-directed feature film. If the franchise takes off, Quinto could pull double duty as a Trekker by day, supervillain by night, thus ensuring that his mug is perpetually onscreen, whether it’s big or small.

In one form or another, Feige has had his hands on every Marvel Studios release since he was associate producer on “X-Men.” Having risen to the role of president of production/lead creative executive, he’s now more responsible than anyone else for what the studio puts on the screen. Feige inherits a large part of accountability for each film, whether it’s “Elektra” or “Spider-Man 3.” With more hits than misses—and grand slams at that—Feige’s got an impressive record. The proof lies in the upcoming slate, which includes a retooled Hulk starring Edward Norton (“Red Dragon”) and directed by Louis Letterier (“The Transporter”), and the high-flying, big-budget “Iron Man” starring Robert Downey Jr. and an all-star cast directed by Jon Favreau (“Elf”)—productions that Feige personally helped assemble for the red-hot Marvel Studios.

“Kevin [Feige] really knows what he's doing. He really knows what's going on, and so I felt like a stranger in this world, but that I was in really good hands,” says “Iron Man” star Gwyneth Paltrow.

Rodriguez made a career out of making low-budget, high-profit features without sacrificing his integrity as a filmmaker. This “rebel without a crew” was the only person capable of getting Frank Miller to not only bless, but to take part in directing an adaptation of Sin City.

“I was able to say no to a ‘Sin City’ film for 12 years, but [Robert Rodriguez] convinced me it could be done,” Miller later said publicly.

Rodriguez’s CG techniques and ushering of Miller into Hollywood set the stage for “300” and Miller’s directorial debut “The Spirit,” but more impressively, he collected a host of stars for what’s ostensibly a low-budget, black-and-white, hyper-violent crime film—and it was a hit. While the “Grindhouse” experiment with Quentin Tarantino underperformed at the box office, the hype around the project was more than most could ever generate based on names alone, proving RR’s buzz can be just as entertaining as his films.

In the early 1990s, Smith laid the foundation for his success in a self-made brand of low-budget indie comedy that quickly made him a cult geek god. The world of verbose but insightful slackers he created with “Clerks” opened up a floodgate of tales set in the “View Askewverse,” peppered with scene-stealing appearances by the dynamic duo of dunces Jay and Silent Bob (played quietly by Smith himself).

“Kevin Smith is living proof that following one’s passions will get you where you want to go in life…or if not there exactly, then a short-walk from it,” notes animation god and “Batman: The Animated Series” co-creator, Bruce Timm. “Running down the list [of his accomplishments]: the guy’s a talented movie writer, actor and director, [and] the creator of such acclaimed comedies as ‘Clerks,’ ‘Mallrats,’ ‘Chasing Amy’ and ‘Dogma.’”

Keenly in tune with the voice of the disenfranchised and a barometer of the slacker-cool generation, Smith may have ignored past calls to do a big-budget, big-screen superhero movie (“Superman Lives,” “The Green Hornet”), but he was the first—and perfect—choice when it came time to direct an episode for one of today’s hottest TV franchises, “Heroes: Origins.”

Whether it’s writing, producing or directing, Goyer has his heels deeply dug into the fertile grounds of comic-book-inspired cinema. Goyer’s comic-book-to-Hollywood roots go as far back as the 1998 TV movie “Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” with David Hasselhoff, culminating with a personal passion project writing “Batman Begins” and the story for its currently filming sequel, “The Dark Knight.” Goyer was key in launching the “Blade” franchise, which spawned a film trilogy as well as a television series, and demonstrated that successful films could be adapted from lesser-known comic heroes.
“[When he pitched us ‘Blade’] he was just a kid, but he had such a vision for this world,” recalls former Marvel head Avi Aad.

His early directorial efforts on “The Invisible” and “Blade: Trinity” met with praise for his storytelling and visual impact, respectively, and were strong enough to attach him to the X-Men spinoff “Magneto” and a “Scanners” remake—both of which he wrote—as well as the Green Arrow flick “Super Max,” which he’s producing. A veritable curator of comics-to-film, Goyer’s résumé looks like someone’s pull-list at a local comic shop, and he is well established as Hollywood’s go-to guy for comic properties.

With a feverish commitment to maintaining the integrity of his adaptations, del Toro proved himself the filmmakers’ filmmaker helming the big-screen treatment of artist Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. Although the occult romp garnered mediocre box office returns, the quality was evidence enough to merit a series of animated DVDs (on which del Toro acted as a consulting producer) and a sequel under another studio, currently filming in Hungary. If “Hellboy” or del Toro’s fan-favorite contribution to the vampire slayer franchise “Blade II” didn’t turn people onto his work, then the otherwordly “Pan’s Labyrinth” most certainly did. The Oscar-winning film juxtaposed the horrors of war with a sinister, yet alluring fantasy. He’s a filmmaker whose passion prevents him from compromising what he believes to be a compelling story, and with “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” slated for a summer 2008 release, viewers will continue to benefit from his good taste.

When you need an unstoppable cyborg killing machine from the future, an acid-spitting alien or cloned dinosaurs, you call this guy. Winston’s résumé includes award-winning makeup and special effects work for films such as “Terminator 2,” “Aliens” and “Jurassic Park,” and typically, his work’s been commissioned for the creation of various monsters and creatures to assail frightened fleshlings on film. But the most recent feat of SFX engineering to roll out of his famed studio is the actual armored suit Robert Downey Jr. sports as the walking weapon Iron Man in the forthcoming film. “I wouldn’t have had the career I had in movies if it hadn’t been for Stan,” stated California Governor and “Terminator” star Arnold Schwarzenegger on the back of the Winston Effect book. “He helped me so much in ‘Terminator’—and ‘Predator.’ He is a genius who carved a special niche for himself.”

The 42-year-old actor’s fight with substance abuse over the years was compounded by the fact that everyone knew about it. But rather than shying away from a potential risk on set, “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau sought Downey out as the ideal candidate to don the hero’s metal mask. While Favreau notes that the film won’t hinge upon Tony Stark’s bout with alcoholism, a proclivity toward such reckless excess is an intrinsic part of his character—and Downey nails it. Like Stark, who goes from an arms-dealing “merchant of death” to high-flying hero after being built up and torn down, Downey too has learned to climb up from the mistakes of his past.

“He has this light, jovial nature about him that floats everywhere,” says Downey’s “Iron Man” co-star Terrance Howard. “And then for when he’s focusing in on something, it’s powerful. It’s magical. He’s really, probably one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with in my life.”

With the resounding impact “Batman: The Animated Series” had on modern animation, Timm’s singular influence can be felt even throughout the comic world that inspired him. “Batman: TAS” was an all but definitive take on the Dark Knight, and raised the bar for action animation with its mature, emotional storytelling and heavily stylized artwork. His version of Batman came closer to a primetime drama like “Heroes” than a cartoon like “Super-Friends.” Timm’s momentum never slowed, culminating recently with Cartoon Network’s acclaimed “Justice League Unlimited,” which became a fan favorite and showcased a vast array of DC heroes. Having since segued into feature-length animation, Timm oversees Warner Bros.’ direct-to-DVD initiative launched with the highly anticipated “Superman: Doomsday,” and ensures his continued presence in superhero animation with a producing role on future installments like “Justice League: New Frontier.”

The writer-actor, who teamed with director Edgar Wright for both his frighteningly successful evisceration of zombie films “Shaun of the Dead” and subsequent send-up of Michael Bay action films “Hot Fuzz,” first made waves with the wildly popular British sitcom “Spaced,” which is rife with nods to fanboy favorites like Star Wars and “The Matrix.” The comically diverse actor is best when he plays the shiftless everyman who lazily crawls to his call to action, but does a hilarious spoof of the one-man-army cop as well. A new face in formula-breaking comedies, Pegg’s next comedic effort will be “Run, Fatboy, Run,” in which he runs a marathon to chase down his one true love—and another box office hit. But Pegg will really beam into the fanboy consciousness when he dons the red pullover of Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated “Star Trek” relaunch.

Favreau’s tale of losing at life in the Los Angeles-set “Swingers” and subsequent directorial debut “Made,” about low-level disorganized crime, gave little indication that he could helm a big-budget action feature. But oh how money Mikey turned out to be: “Elf’s” immense box office explosion showed studios that Favreau is a bankable director, while “Zathura” proved his proficiency with CG special effects. And now his “Iron Man” trailer—complete with titular Black Sabbath track and multiple versions of the classic armor—and face-front, personalized marketing of the film is showing fans his true mettle. With an all-star cast lead by Robert Downey Jr. and enough explosions to level a Canadian province, “Iron Man” has fans burning with anticipation, and could help forge Favreau into action’s next big director.

While some 20-something fanboys spend their free time trolling eBay looking for deals on He-Man’s Castle Grayskull or a full set of Voltron lions, Marks is casting his net in search of the same nostalgia-driven prizes. But his reward is far greater than a hunk of molded plastic—he’s getting movie deals. Marks currently has four features in development, including “Street Fighter,” “Voltron,” “Masters of the Universe” and most recently “Super Max,” a script David Goyer (“The Invisible,” “Blade: Trinity”) will produce and direct that sees DC Comics’ Green Arrow escaping from an Alcatraz-style prison full of villains he put away. Even without a produced script, Marks is pregnant with potential, but fans will have to wait until 2009 to see if he can truly deliver.

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