The Caption Box Podcast 19: Year End Wrap Up

Rob Base sits with Ed Gamblicher, Juan C Pineda and Chuck Suffel as they talk about the year in comics for 2011.

[podcast]http://media.alternativemindz.com/mp3/CaptionBox/19_caption_box_podcast_Year_End_Wrap_Up_12232011.mp3[/podcast]

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Nagoya, over 1 million ordered to evacuate

(CNN) — Two people in Japan have been killed amid heavy rain from a powerful typhoon that is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon, authorities there said.

The center of Typhoon Roke, which had sustained winds of up to 167 kph (103 mph) Wednesday morning, could hit Japan’s Tokai region, which includes Nagoya city — or the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo — in the afternoon, Japan Meteorological Agency chief forecaster Yutaka Kanda said at a news conference.

At of 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, Roke’s center was 280 kilometers southwest of Nagoya, where about 1 million people had been urged to evacuate.

An evacuation order for about 80,000 residents of Nagoya was lifted, according to local media reports.

Heavy rain fell in central and western Japan from the typhoon’s outer bands on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some downpours came at up to 50 millimeters (2 inches) an hour, and some parts received more than 450 millimeters (17 inches) over a day, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

Two people have died in Nagoya, including a 66-year-old man who fell from a roof Tuesday while trying to fix a stuck duct, city authorities said. Two other people — a fourth-grade boy and an 84-year-old man — were missing in Gifu prefecture, authorities said.

People in the Tokai and Kanto regions should be prepared for heavy rain Wednesday, Kanda said, adding that the Kanto region may be most affected Wednesday evening.

No airports were closed Wednesday, but several flights toward the Kyushu and Shikoku areas were canceled, transportation officials said. Several passenger trains were not running Wednesday in central and southern Japan, railway officials said.

 

Wizard World Comic Con: Spring con 2011 NYC

James Marsters, Tom Felton, Morena Baccarin, Kristanna Loken Among Headliners At Wizard World Big Apple Comic Con ‘Spring Edition,’ May 21-22 At Manhattan’s Penn Plaza Pavilion Mike Grell, Arthur Suydam, Jerry Robinson, Greg Horn, Jim Cheung, Kaare Andrews, Christos Gage, Phil Ortiz, Ryan Ottley Among Leading Comics Creators To Attend

NEW YORK, May 2011 Wizard World Big Apple Comic Con ‘Spring Edition,’ part of North

America’s largest pop-culture tour, is set for Saturday and Sunday, May 21-22, at the Penn Plaza Pavilion in Manhattan. The event, the largest and longest-running Comic Con in New York, will bring together thousands of fans of all ages and plenty of celebrities and industry professionals to celebrate the best in pop culture: movies, comics, toys, video gaming, television, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests and more.

James Marsters, who played “Spike” on “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” Tom Felton, best known for playing the role of “Draco Malfoy” in the HARRY POTTER film series, Morena Baccarin, who starred as “Inara Serra” in the sci-fi television series “Firefly,” “Adria” in “Stargate SG-1,” and as “Anna” in “V,” and Kristanna Loken, whose credits include TERMINATOR 3, “Painkiller Jane,” and “The L Word,” are the headline celebrities scheduled to attend. “Response to the Big Apple Comic Con shows the past two years was so strong that we had to add the Spring event,” said Gareb Shamus, CEO, Wizard World. “Everyone – the celebrities, the fans, the dealers, manufacturers, artists, and the entire community we deal with was begging us to bring a huge Spring Comic Con to New York.” Fans can also meet their favorite comic creators and artists, including Arthur Suydam (“Marvel Zombies,” “Batman”), Greg Horn (“Blackest Night,” “Elektra,” “Ms. Marvel”), Mike Grell (“GreenArrow,” “Green Lantern”), Jerry Robinson (“The Joker,” “Robin”), Matt Kindt (“Revolver,”“Pistolwhip”), Jim Cheung (“Avengers,” “Uncanny X-Men”), Kaare Andrews (Astonishing X-Men,” “Iron Man”), Christos Gage (“X-Men,” “Spider-Man”), Phil Ortiz (“The Simpsons,” “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”), Ryan Ottley (“Invincible,” “The Walking Dead”) and many other national and local creators. There will also be a special appearance all the way from Brazil, making a rare U.S. appearance, by Luke Ross (“Captain America,” “Amazing Spider-Man”). Other celebrities setto be on hand include Tony Award winner Dan Fogler (“Balls of Fury,” “Good Luck Chuck”), Bonnie Piesse (STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH, STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES) and Chandler Riggs (“The Walking Dead”).Children and adult attendees are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite villain, superhero or pop culture personality for the chance to win special prizes in costume contests.Event-goers may also try their hand interactive product exhibits and shop for collectible comics,movie and television memorabilia, toys and games at more than 200 dealer booths.

Special events at Big Apple Comic Con include the TCG Gaming tournament, professional photo opportunities (Photo Ops) with celebrities and others to be announced.The Penn Plaza Pavilion is located at 401 Seventh Avenue at 33rd St., in the historic Hotel Pennsylvania. Big Apple Comic Con Spring Edition is the fifth stop on Wizard World’s 13-city 2011 North American tour. Hours are Saturday, May 21, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; and Sunday, May 22,

10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tickets are available in advance or by calling 1-866-882-5860 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-866-882-5860 end_of_the_skype_highlighting and online at

http://www.wizardworld.com/newyorkcity.html at up to a 15% savings over tickets purchased at the door. Advance adult single-day tickets are $20; two-day weekend tickets are $35, and tickets are free for children age 10 and under when accompanied by a paid adult (limit two children per adult). VIP packages with special entry and exclusive items are also available. About Wizard World:Wizard World is a producer of pop culture and multimedia conventions across North America that markets movies, TV shows, video games, technology, toys, social networking/gaming platforms, comic books and graphic novels. It has the rights to the names, marks, domains, customer lists and production rights for a portfolio of pop culture and multimedia conventions.For the most recent event information please visit www.wizardworld.com and become Big Apple Comic Con Fan on Facebook.

Not Mint In Box:Toy fair 2011 wrap up show

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Rob Base talks all things Toy Fair

The Green Hornet

The Green Hornet by Ed Gambichler (co-host of the flicks picks)

“Let’s roll, Kato” – Britt Reid

Whenever movie makers have to deal with casting decisions based upon characters portrayed in well known properties ( whether it be literature, television series, or video games ), they must always confront that nearly impossible task of facing down the invisible dragon that is the nemesis of film making: audience expectations.  And there is no greater hurdle in this process than comic book adaptations. It is one thing for directors and producers to reach the conclusion that an actor or actress is the “One” ( based on his/ her audition, their chemistry between themselves and their co- stars, and how they fit in the overall aesthetic of the film )….it is quite another when those decisions have been made for them by the very audience they are trying to reach ( even before one frame of film is committed to the “can” and shown on screen ). It places them in a box that asks them to forgo their personal vision as well as their sense of originality and daring and settle on the “safe” route of acquiescing to what the “fan-boys or fan-girls” want. And if the filmmakers were to go ahead and cast an actor or actress that the fans perceive to be “totally out of left field”, then the entire production can be expected to be criticized and in a sense “condemned” on every blog pertaining to the genre (critical to a production which is, in a sense, totally dependent on and at the mercy of “good word of mouth”. So one could only imagine the filmmakers trepidation in announcing Seth Rogen ( a traditionally perceived comedy star ) and Jay Chou ( an unknown Taiwanese pop singer) in the respective roles of the cult comic book characters The Green Hornet and his partner Kato.

The Green Hornet was first conceived as a radio serial by George W. Trendel and Fran Striker ( who were also responsible for the creation of the Lone Ranger as well ) with input by station director James Jewell. The premise centers around the character of Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day and the costumed masked vigilante The Green Hornet at night. He is aided by his similarly masked partner and Asian manservant Kato. Together they fight the corruption that plagues the city of Los Angeles by taking on crime bosses, utilizing exceptional hand to hand fighting skills ( especially Kato ) and a technologically tricked out and weaponized vehicle ( tin the form of  a Chrysler Imperial Crown ) dubbed “The Black Beauty”.

Of course, there have been many comic characters who have worn a mask or driven a souped up muscle car ( for instance The Spirit, Batman, and The Phantom to name a few ). However, what makes the characters of Green Hornet and Kato so unique is the ingenious concept twist that they are perceived by their city and it’s citizens as members of the same crime underworld whose very grip the two swore to free them from. By being known at large as one of the “bad guys”, it makes it easier for the masked duo to infiltrate various criminal organizations and gain access to information that they would not normally be privy to if they existed on the legit side of the Law. This brilliantly subversive concept allows the duo to take down the “Mob” from within (thru misinformation and bogus business deals they set up with these mobsters) and not put innocents in harm’s way while doing it. The Green Hornet  radio show was also spun off into a collection of two 1940’s film serials ( starring Gordon Jones in the first and Warren Hull in the second as Britt Reid and Keye Luke as Kato in both films). The character appeared in comic books, and (in its most famous incarnation ) a 1966 television show. The series achieved cult status …..not due to actor Van Williams portrayal of the title character, but by the introduction to American viewing audiences of legendary martial arts icon Bruce Lee as Kato (  so popular in the role that overseas Asian markets advertised the series as “The Kato Show”……a move that would springboard Lee’s Hong Kong action film career ).

Since the early 1990’s, Hollywood had tried unsuccessfully to launch a film adaptation of the character. One of the first pair of actors to be named in connection to the roles were George Clooney ( who even announced the project during a guest appearance on The Tonight Show )and Jason Scott Lee ( who had played the lead role in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story which included a scene depicting the actor in costume as Kato, filming a scene on The TV series set ). The movie was to be directed by then music video director Michel Gondry (known for his emphasis on visual effects…..most notably pioneering the “bullet time” sequences made famous by the Wachowski Bros. film, “The Matrix”.  The project changed many hands, from Gondry to director Kevin Smith, to  actor-director Stephen Chow( star of Kung Fu Hustle in the role of Kato ), and actors Greg Kinnear and Jake Gyllenhaal . The production finally landed back in Gondry’s lap, giving star billing to the unlikely pair of comedy actor Seth Rogen and the relatively unknown Jay Chou.


First off, I have to say , this adaptation works for me. Most of the fans feared that this comic book property would be dumbed down as a “buddy comedy” rather than a version that reflected the serious noir tone of the TV series. But then again, that’s my point. The TV series ( in my opinion ) had already satisfied the fan base’s expectations for the characters to a point where I felt that Rogen, Chou, Gondry and writer Evan Goldberg really had nothing to prove to them. Much like I didn’t feel disappointed when Superman Returns fell short of my hopes for it to be great movie since the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve more than fulfilled my wishes for a faithful adaptation of The Man of Steel ( even going so far as to set the bar for other future comic book film adaptations ). There is no way Chou can live up to the impact Bruce Lee made in the role of Kato. Nor can Rogen be expected to be taken seriously as a straight up matinee action movie star of Van Williams’ caliber. However the actors, as well as the filmmakers, succeed in making their version exist as its own “animal”. What makes it easier is that it’s subversive concept is what makes the Green Hornet the unique property it is. The actor’s being cast for the characters of Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent, for example, must live up to or meet the same fan expectations associated with Batman or Superman respectively. However, the Green Hornet  and Kato are cult heroes……not cultural icons. The alter egos of Britt Reid and Kato are not so ingrained in the pop culture psyche, that they must adhere to a set list of criteria that demands a specific actor. Bottom line:  everyone knows who Batman and Superman is. Who Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent is. Even if you’re a comic geek or a random filmgoer. Only a handful know who The Green Hornet and Kato is. There isn’t a “general” audience expectation of who should play these roles, and that is what Rogen and Chou have going for them.

In this adaptation of the title character, Britt Reid is the wealthy and spoiled son of a disapproving father, a respected newspaper publisher.  At a young age, Britt had a heroic impulse to help others. This impulse led to a fight at school where he rushed to the aid of a classmate being bullied in the schoolyard. However, instead of  praising young Britt for coming to the aid of others, he sharply criticized the young boy for being a problem ( an incident which would caused Britt to spend the rest of his adult life behaving irresponsibly and being a burden to his father…….causing a deep rift between the two ). On his way home from another one of his decadent parties, however, he learns that his father has suddenly passed away due to an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Now the sole owner of his father’s newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, Britt finds himself having to live up to the legacy that his dear old Dad has established. However, knowing that he’ll never measure up to this standard, he deals with it by getting drunk and firing most of the housekeeping staff of his father’s mansion. He wakes up expecting a cup of his favorite coffee,but finds that it is nothing like the cup of Joe he normally enjoys.  When he realizes that he fired the one person capable of making the fantasic brew, he promptly hires the servant back, a young asian man named Kato. Kato, a mechanical genius, was hired by Britt’s father to maintain his rare collection of automobiles. Soon, the two bond over a couple bottles of beer and their mutual resentment of Britt’s father. This resentment leads to a bit of midnight vandalism on their part of a statue of Britt’s father the citizens had commissioned to commemorate his crusade against citywide criminal corruption.  During this act, the two witness a young couple about to be mugged by a roaming street gang. Rediscovering his childhood impulse to help others, Britt confronts the gang….but is immediately overpowered by them. To Britt’s surprise, Kato comes out of nowhere and dispatches each member of the gang with martial arts expertise backed up by lightning fast precision. Realizing that both he and Kato can continue on their mission, fighting the same corruption in Los Angeles his father tried to expose, Britt creates the persona of The Green Hornet. He also comes up with the plan to for Kato and him to pose as criminal masterminds, in order to get close to the city’s real criminal element. They are successful at first, making a name for themselves and having their exploits grab headlines in the The Daily Sentinel. However, they soon show up on the radar of the murderous and up and coming gang leader, Benjamin Chudnofsky ( played by Christoph Waltz….coming off his recent Oscar win as Col. Hans Landa in director Quentin Tarantino’s film, Inglourious Basterds. Also, their new partnership ( as well as their friendship ) is soon threatened by the introduction of Britt’s new secretary at the newspaper office, Leonore Case ( played by Cameron Diaz ). They both engage in a jealous romantic rivalry between each other over Ms. Case, who’s knowledge of the methods of various criminal organizations ( thru her college courses ) they solicit.  The two must overcome the fallout of their friendship to deal with the growing threat Chudnofsky’s growing power lust poses to the Los Angeles.

The chemistry of the two principal leads is spot on. Jay Chou (tasked to fill the shoes of the late great Bruce Lee ) acquits himself well in the role of Kato. He also holds his own with Seth Rogen in the films more comedic scenes ( in which Rogen is dependable as always ). And as Chudnofsky, Christoph Waltz displays the appropriate balance of both menace and impeccable comic timing.

The only one who falls short in my opinion is Cameron Diaz, although I feel it is not her fault due to being saddled with the largely thankless role of the “love interest” ( which, unfortunately, every production team feels the need to burden an action film with). Finally, this is one of those rare film productions that actually took the time and made a concentrated effort to make the 2D to 3D post film conversion a success. When the 3D effect is married to Michel Gondry’s inspired visual effects, the results are worth the admission price. Although I will always recognize the 1966 T.V. series as being the one true adaptation of the character, that fact didn’t prevent me from enjoying this film adaptation for what it was.