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ZEN: THE MOVIE

Zen Comics and Surge Entertainment announced yesterday plans for a feature film based on Zen Intergalactic Ninja. The film will be co-produced by Eight Celestials Entertainment and Shanghai Film Studio.

Zen is the story of an alien martial artist who is sent to Earth to prevent its destruction by a galactic madman. The concept was created by writer Steve Stern and artist Dan Cote in 1987.

Stern told Comics2Film that he’s been trying to get a movie version of his character together since 1993. Although there have been various partnerships involved with getting the movie made, Stern feels like the deal with Eight Celestials Entertainment and Shanghai Films is promising. “This one looks good to me. This one looks a lot more real to me than some of the scenarios in the past.”

With the movie in development, next week’s American Film Market will hopefully provide a springboard for the development. Sterns understanding is that presales in only a few foreign markets are required to cover the $6 million budget for the movie. While $6 million may seem small to U.S. audiences, Stern reminds us that every penny will be spent in China. By way of comparison Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was budgeted at $15 million while the Hong Kong made The Storm Riders was done for $10 million.

Although the movie is to be filmed entirely in China it will be an English language film. “The goal is to be in preproduction in April and production in June,” Stern said. The studio also hopes to release it in China for the holidays this year.

Stern completed a new screenplay for the film a month ago. Although it is based on his previous screenwriting efforts for the character it is inspired in part by the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  “I had always wanted to set the Zen movie in [Asia],” Stern said. The decision to do this had baffled filmmakers in the past. However the success of Tiger/Dragon has now made that idea chic.

Eight Celestials president M. Lee Chan echoed that sentiment in the announcement of the film. “The success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has opened the West to Chinese filmmakers. Our story of an alien hero who uses his otherworldly martial-arts skills to save the planet will have incredible appeal to audiences everywhere.”

We asked Stern if the screenplay allowed for wire-enhanced fight choreography. “Oh yes,” Stern exclaimed. “You have an ultimate, alien martial artist [doing] feats that even go way beyond what was depicted in Tiger/Dragon. I would say that the martial arts wire work is absolutely essential to this movie.”

The main characters (aside from the titular alien) is a young American boy name Jeremy Baker traveling in China and a Chinese female lead. Stern couldn’t comment on casting except to say, “They’re looking at the highest profile, young, Chinese actresses who are versed in martial arts.”

The studio also has a short list of two Chinese directors for the project. Stern can’t name names but said that both have vast credits in the Chinese martial arts genre. He also said that American audiences would be familiar with the names.

THE TICK

[Frame 1]
[Frame 2]

Fans of comic creator/cartoonist/filmmaker Ben Edlund will want to keep their eyes peeled during the pilot of The Tick TV show. Edlund makes a cameo appearance in the live-action show, which is based on his comic book creation.

In a scene that occurs early on in the pilot, the big blue arachnid is bounding across the rooftops of his newfound (and crumbling) city. At one point his feet go crashing through the roof and into an apartment below, dropping plaster on the heads of two seedy looking residents. Those residents are the show’s producer and director, Barry Sonnenfeld (sitting on the left) and Edlund (sitting on the right). It happens quick, so you may want to set your VCR!

N2 Toys scored big recently with its line of toys based on the hit movie The Matrix. However, ICv2 reports that the next big thing for the toy maker may be a line of action figures based on the upcoming Tick TV show.

According to the report, N2 is planning a line up that includes The Tick, Arthur, Bat Manuel, Captain Liberty and The Red Scare. There will also be a six inch talking Tick.

N2 also has reportedly signed on to do an action figure of Billy Tucci’s Shi as well as a series based on Dan Brereton’s terrific comic The Nocturnals. C2F can’t wait!

SPIDER-MAN

Cinescape reports that a teaser trailer for Spider-Man was recently shown by Toy Biz, promoting their upcoming line of Spider-Man movie toys. Cinescape provides this description of the trailer, “The trailer starts with webs growing strand by strand and then cuts quickly to the webslinger shooting webs and swinging from building to building. Wall-crawling and leaping is done at a very fast pace, described as ‘about 99 miles per hour.’ Swinging on webs is described as very acrobatic, not stiff like old Tarzan films.”

No word is given as to where the screening took place, but presumably it was at the recent Toy Fair trade show in New York.

Moviegoers will have to wait a bit longer to see anything. Dark Horizons reports that a teaser trailer for Spider-Man may run with the upcoming Lord of the Rings movie, which is due out for the Holidays this year.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man Hype reports that Bob Murawski and Arthur Coburn are on board to edit the movie. The pair have worked on many of Sam Raimi’s movies, teaming recently on The Gift.

[The Daily Bugle]

The same website scored some cool movie exclusives. This time the Hypsters present fans with a peek at some of the Daily Bugle props from the film. The series of photos shows the Bugle vending machines. One image also reveals the front page of the Bugle with the headline “Spider-Man, Green Goblin Terrorize Bugle.” The newspaper also features an vaguely recognizable image of J. K. Simmons (Oz, The Gift) as J. Jonah Jameson.

In other Spider-Man movie news, Audiences Associates has sent Comics2Film a last call for “spectators” for the Spider-Man shoot in March. Here’s their press release:

Audience Associates Inc has limited space available for people interested in being “unpaid Spectators” for the last filming dates of Spider-Man that are open to fans. We will be filming March 15 & 16, March 19 through 23, and March 26. Fans may attend as many days as they like. These filming dates are the last ones available for this movie! This scene will be shot outdoors in the Los Angeles area. You MUST be over 16 to participate.

Please visit our website www.tvtix.com for more information and registration.

We will be filming outdoors, on location in Los Angeles. But you will feel like you have been transported across the country when you arrive at this fabulous Hollywood re-creation of New York’s famous Times Square. You will be there…just in time for the “World Unity Festival” scene – an event packed with music, entertainment and activity!

You will be there, as Peter Parker; a reporter for the Daily Bugle, (played by Tobey Maguire), covers the event… You may be there as he becomes Spider-Man… Or will you be there as Spider-Man does battle? And who is in the process of destroying Times Square? What will happen at the World Unity Festival? Come and find out! Every day will be a different action packed scene, special effects and all…

The Producers are looking for a mixed crowd casually dressed for an exciting street festival. You will be an “unpaid Spectator” on the set, part of a bustling crowd of people attending the “World Unity Festival” in a re-creation of New York’s Times Square. There will be special effects. You are not a paid extra today… but the extra casting company will be on the set, with information available on how you may become a “paid extra” in future movies.

YES!!!
  • See Toby Maguire as…Spider-Man? Or…Peter Parker? Maybe both!
  • See Spider-Man face off against enemies of all that is good!
  • See New York’s famed Times Square…in Los Angeles?!?!
  • See Peter Parker encounter not only his alter ego, but also his deepest heart felt feelings for the beautiful Mary Jane (played by Kirsten Dunst).

We know how excited everyone is at having a chance to be in Spider-Man, the movie. For you fans that were with us last month for the Evil Bone Saw McGraw scenes with Randy Savage and Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man… you know how much fun it can be!

This is going to be a great film, an unforgettable experience, and a once in a lifetime opportunity for any Spider-Man fan! This will be a fun filled time for all that participate. There will be great Door Prizes, Food, Contests, and there will be a table set up with information on being a paid extra for future projects. Participants will be provided a free continental breakfast and a box lunch.

Please visit our website www.tvtix.com for more information and registration.

X-MEN 2

[Bryan Singer]
Bryan Singer

Empire Online reports that Bryan Singer will be helming the X-Men sequel. Although it’s long been expected that the director would return, there has been no word that the director is officially on board. However, at the Empire Awards on the 19th Singer told Empire Online, “I am doing the sequel to X-Men, I think its going to be called something like X-Men 2.”

If that wasn’t insightful enough, the director also said the sequel will have a bigger budget and more characters. Singer would not say who the new characters would be.

Singer also told Empire that he’s focusing on the script for the sequel now that his other project Confessions of a Dangerous Mind has run aground. That movie sunk last week due to financial difficulties. However, today’s Hollywood Reporter indicates that Miramax may seek additional partners to help fund the movie and get it going again after any of this year’s potential strikes.

Last week Empire Online reported talking to stunt-coordinator Gary Jensen. Jensen mostly discusses his work on the upcoming Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back. However, he also talked about the possibility of working on X-Men 2, just as he did on the original.

“We’re waiting to get a good script going at the moment,” Jensen told Empire. “I can imagine there’ll be more fantasy, but also trying to make it look more real. I know that if Bryan does it again he’ll want to do it very realistically.”

Jensen expects the sequel to be bigger and better than the original. “I know that when work starts on X-Men 2, there’ll be PLENTY of preparation because we’re going to try to surpass what was done before. It’ll be tough, but I’m looking forward to it. In the film business there’s nothing you can’t do, it just takes time and money,” Jensen said.

The stunt-coordinator said that the Beast is his favorite character.

[Donnie Yen]
Donnie Yen

BLADE 2

The Donnie Yen Official Website reports that the actor/martial artist is officially on board for the upcoming Blade sequel. Here’s a quote directly from that site. “Donnie has recently signed on as the martial arts choreographer with a cameo role special for the upcoming film project, Blade2.”

Yen has previously appeared in Highlander: Endgame and numerous martial arts movies.

[Leonor Varela]
Leonor Varela

In other casting, Variety reports that Leonor Varela has officially been cast in the upcoming Blade 2: Bloodlust. The article indicates that she’ll be playing the daughter of a vampire overlord. The actress is best known for playing the title role in Cleopatra and also appears in the upcoming The Tailor of Panama with Pierce Brosnan and the western Texas Rangers.

Meanwhile, Corona Coming Attractions, Dark Horizons and the IMDB are all reporting that the movie may be subtitled Bloodlust instead of Bloodhunt.

THE ROAD TO PERDITION

Variety reports that Jennifer Jason Leigh is on board to appear in The Road to Perdition. Leigh plays the wife of Tom Hank’s hitman character. The actress has appeared in numerous movies including 1999’s eXistenZ and has done voice work for the animated Spawn. The article also confirms Paul Newman, Jude Law, Tom Sizemore and Daniel Craig to be among the cast members.

Want to be an extra in the movie? Filming is set to begin on the feature soon in Chicago. Dreamworks is seeking extras to fill out the shoot in the coming months. Interested parties that are between the ages of 18 and 80 are encouraged to send their name, address, phone number, height and weight to:

DreamWorks Casting

47 W. Division St.,

P.M.B. #353

Chicago, IL  60610

That tip comes courtesy of Tony Isabella’s Tony’s Tips column from a recent issue of Comics Buyers Guide (#1424, March 2, 2001). Comics2Film has verified that the call for extras is still in effect.

The movie is to be directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and is based on the DC Comics/Paradox Press graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. In his column, Isabella gives a gushing review of the Collins-Rayner work. He also points out that it serves as an American counterpart to Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s epic masterpiece Lone Wolf and Cub. A copy of the column should appear on the Tony’s Online Tips site in a few weeks.

MONKEYBONE

Monkeybone opens in theaters this weekend. Director Henry Selick is making the rounds, promoting the movie. Selick talked to Sci Fi Wire about the movie.

The story centers on a cartoonist (played by Brendan Fraser) who slips into a coma and finds himself trapped in a world of his own imagining. Selick told Sci Fi that he talked to people who had actually been in comas as part of the research for the film.

Selick talked about the differences between his fully-animated Halloweentown (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Monkeybone’s live-action and animated Downtown. “Instead of all animated creatures, there are a lot of people in costumes, but with extreme designs. But there is a similarity in the look of the … films, [as will] probably anything I do that’s set in an imaginary world,” Selick told Sci Fi. “But there are nightmares [in Monkeybone] that we see that are very different. They’re funny and goofy and very creepy. They’re shot in black and white, simply conceived, but they have a lot of power. They’re very different from what you may have seen in my work previously.”

The movie is based on the graphic novel Dark Town written by Kaja Blackley and illustrated by Vanessa Chong. “I think I’ve always been interested in other worlds that coexist … and the original comic had a really fantastic style and look to it, by Vanessa Chong, the illustrator,” Selick told Sci Fi. However, the director did say that the look of the film became more complex and gravitated away from the look of the comic.

In a separate interview with Cinescape, Selick talks about how the movie came to differ from the graphic novel. “I brought in [screenwriter] Sam [Hamm] and over a long period of time it grew into sort of a comedy,” Selick told Cinescape. “We made him a cartoonist instead of a puppeteer. The limbo world his spirit is caught in is more of a live-action world with this sidekick, this character he was famous for drawing, Monkeybone, coming to life in that world. It just grew into something else. It definitely has a trace element of the source, but it’s a different piece.”

The title was changed from Dark Town initially in order to avoid confusion with the movie Dark City, which was released around the time development began on Monkeybone. “There were other reasons,” Selick told Cinescape. “Monkeybone. It’s just fun to say it.”

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS

[Josie and the Pussycats]

For a sneak peek at Josie and the Pussycats tune your browsers to the Launch.com website. Launch has an exclusive download of the Josie music video, “Three Small Words” featuring Rachel Leigh Cook, Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson. The video is presented as a poor-quality Real format download, so you’ll need the RealPlayer to see it. When you hit the site click the “Destination” tab and go to the “CineMatrix” section.

And Dark Horizons dug up the poster for the film this week.

FOOT SOLDIERS

Jim Krueger (Universe X) told Comics2Film that there’s little new news to report on the movie version of his Foot Soldiers comics. There is, however, a Foot Soldiers trade paperback due in comic stores next week. The paperback, from Larry Young’s AiT/Planet Lar collects the outstanding Dark Horse run of the comic which features artwork by  Michael Avon Oeming (Powers, Hammer of the Gods). It is the first of three Foot Soldiers collections that will be published this year.

C2F has heard that interest generated by the trade paperback could help the development of the movie.

THE CROW: LAZARUS

Irony Despair of the outstanding A Boy And His Bird – A Crow Site sent in a response to the recent negative review given to the screenplay for The Crow: Lazarus. The review, posted on IGN FilmForce characterized the script as a rehashing of previous Crow movies with some of the TV series mixed in.

However, Irony reports that the screenplay reviewed was an old version of the script. “We have learned that the script has undergone some significant changes since the version IGN was privy to. The latest version should be handed in to Pressman Films early next week.”

Irony Despair tells us to look for Lazarus announcements soon.

THE CROW DVD

Crowfans.com has opened a website dedicated to the upcoming Crow DVD Boxed set. The site features trailers, promotional materials and a complete list of features that will be found on the March 20 release. The boxed set includes The Crow, The Crow: City of Angels and the as-yet-unreleased The Crow: Salvation.

AKIRA

The remastered video edition of the classic anime masterpiece Akira is tentatively set to go on sale July 3, 2001 according to ICv2. Pioneer Entertainment’s re-release of Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated feature will be shipped both on DVD and VHS. The film may also see a theatrical run in May of this year.

The VHS version will be available in two versions: dubbed and subtitled. The DVD will, of course, include both viewing modes. There will also be a double-DVD collector’s edition which will include a documentary on the making of the movie, a documentary on the making of the soundtrack, a feature on Pioneer’s restoration and more.

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