Welcome to the holiday hangover edition of Everyday Hero, your roundup of handpicked headlines from across the fanboy universe. Today is Dec. 26. 2008, and, like the egg nog you find in your fridge in March, there’s nothing but sourness in today’s update….
FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN: Just when you thought the long, strange odyssey of the “Watchmen” film adaptation had settled into a steady stroll toward a March release date, a California courtroom decision looks at the Rorschach test and sees something completely different. Now the release date of the film may actually be pushed back. An old friend, Michael Cieply, has the story: “In a surprise ruling, a federal judge in Los Angeles said he intended to grant 20th Century Fox’s claim that it owns a copyright interest in the ‘Watchmen,’ a movie shot by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures and set for release in March. The decision was disclosed in a five-page written order issued on Wednesday. Gary A. Feess, a judge in the United States District Court for Central California, said he would provide a more detailed order soon. Fox has been seeking to prevent Warner from releasing the film. The superhero adventure, based on the ‘Watchmen’ graphic novel, is being directed by Zack Snyder (who also directed ‘300’) and has shaped up as one of most eagerly anticipated releases for next year. A Warner spokesman, Scott Rowe, declined to comment on the ruling and the studio’s plans. At an earlier hearing, the judge said he believed that issues in the case could be settled only at a trial, which was scheduled for late January. On Wednesday, however, Judge Feess said he had reconsidered and concluded that Fox should prevail on crucial issues. ‘Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the “Watchmen” motion picture,’ the ruling said. Fox acquired rights to the ‘Watchmen’ graphic novel in the late 1980s for the producer Lawrence Gordon, but eventually dropped its own plan to make a movie from its story, about the underside of life for superbeings.” [New York Times]
EARTHA ANGEL: Entertainer Eartha Kitt died on Christmas Day at age 81. Kitt replaced Julie Newmar as Catwoman on the old “Batman” television series starring Adam West, and she was also nominated for an Emmy for her work on “I Spy.” She also gave a delightful edge to “The Emperor’s New Groove” as the villain of the 2001 animated hit. The best Kitt obituary I’ve seen was on the BBC website and here’s an excerpt: “Once described by Orson Welles as the most exciting woman in the world, Kitt’s smouldering, feline drawl in memorable hits, such as Santa Baby, Old Fashioned Millionaire and I Wanna Be Evil conveyed a wealth of innuendo. Ostracized at an early age for her mixed race heritage, international star Kitt defied criticism of her illegitimate past and conquered the entertainment world with finesse. Born in 1927, she endured a tough childhood. Kitt’s mother, who worked on a cotton plantation, was just 14 when she gave birth, the white father thought to have been the son of the plantation owner. Kitt’s features, neither black nor white, led to her being accepted by neither community. She was given away by her mother at the age of eight to live with an aunt in Harlem, New York City. Little did she know that this would be the start of a long showbiz career. With a flair for the dramatic, Kitt, aged 15, auditioned for the famed Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe and won a spot as a featured dancer. The work took her worldwide, and her unique style was enhanced as she became fluent in French during the European tour. It was during a performance in Paris that she caught a certain director’s eye, and was cast as Helen of Troy in Orson Welles’ production of ‘Dr Faust’.” [BBC]
CHOW SAYS CIAO TO “HORNET”: I’m playing a bit of catch-up on news that was reported in the days leading up to Christmas, such as this item in the trades by Michael Fleming about some turbulence with “The Green Hornet,” a film that started as an action movie and then became a comedy and now appears to be losing some of its star power: “There’s been another change in the ‘Hornet’ nest: Stephen Chow has dropped out as director of ‘The Green Hornet’ but will still play Kato in Columbia Pictures’ latest bid to get the crimefighter to the bigscreen. The studio and producer Neal Moritz are in the process of setting a new director to keep the picture on track to begin production by spring. The character began on radio in the 1930s and is best known from the ’60s TV version. But a bigscreen translation is having a long gestation, going through many incarnations, including as a proposed George Clooney vehicle. Chow, who directed and starred in ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ and ‘Shaolin Soccer,’ signed in September to direct the film and play the role originated in the TV series by Bruce Lee. He stepped out as director over creative differences. The film was scripted by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and Rogen is starring as the masked crime fighter. The script will likely be polished, and a director could be in place by year’s end.” [Variety]…BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE: A few days later the AP then reported that Chow might skip on the acting role in Hornet as well to free up his schedule to work on a Jack Black superhero comedy, which we can only pray will be half as funny as this Tenacious D music video for Wonderboy.
THE LION AND THE MOUSE: You know the economy is rough when the Walt Disney Co. walks away from a proven franchise because they don’t want to ante up the investment. Veteran Hollywood reporter Claudia Eller has the lowdown on Disney’s decision to bow out of the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, which is poised for it third installment, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader“: “A Disney spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that the Burbank studio decided not to exercise its option to co- finance the third movie in the franchise based on C.S. Lewis‘ classic children’s books because of ‘budgetary considerations.’ Though the budget of the movie came in significantly below the $200-million cost of ‘Prince Caspian,’ the second film in the ‘Narnia’ series, it could still escalate during production, and that made Disney wary, according to a person close to the movie. Disney was partners with Walden Media, which owns the rights to the books, on the first two ‘Narnia’ films. Disney’s decision not to proceed with ‘Dawn Treader’ shows how it is being more selective in the number of pictures it releases. Studios are scrutinizing costs more carefully and in many instances passing on expensive pictures that until recently might have been given an automatic green light. Disney was also uneasy that the budget of ‘Dawn Treader’ was subject to other uncontrollable factors, such as uncertainty about the tax breaks and rebates, a weak U.S. dollar and the high cost of visual effects. One person close to the matter said there were also ‘creative’ differences between Disney and Walden, and that the two disagreed on when to release the film in 2010. Walden said Wednesday that it hoped to find a new financial partner and proceed with plans to shoot the film in the first quarter of next year with director Michael Apted.” [Los Angeles Times]
ON THIS DATE: Character actor Vincent Schiavelli died on this day in 2005 in Sicily at the age of 57 after a battle with lung cancer. The Brooklyn native enjoyed a long career built around comic timing and his world-weary eyes. Most people will remember him in the films “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Better Off Dead” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” but fanboys will also recall him in the great cult classic “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension,” “Batman Returns” and “Tomorrow Never Dies,” as well as his television in work in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The X-Files,” just to name a few. In his honor today, let’s all say “big-boo-TAY” over and over and giggle when people stare at us.
(P.S.: If you want to see the trailer for “Buckaroo,” it is at the bottom of this post…)
The trailer for “Buckaroo,” a truly loopy film:
PHOTO CREDITS: “Watchmen” photo courtesy of warner Bros. Eartha Kitt photo, circa 1960, from Getty Images. Stephen Chow photo by Lai Seng Sin/Asociated Press. Georgie Henley in “Prince Caspian,” photo by Phil Bray/Disney Enterprises and Walden Media. Vincent Schiavelli photo by Martial Trezzini/Associated Press.