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GHOST RIDER

[Ghost Rider]Last week Comics2Film presented comments from filmmaker David Goyer about the current state of affairs with the Ghost Rider movie. This week Stephen Norrington (Blade), director and executive producer on the film, provides his perspective on why the movie has lost momentum.

"Contrary to David's comment that we were 'ready to go', the movie was not properly prepped or planned, nor had any meaningful [visual effects (VFX) research and development] been funded or undertaken by the time I accepted Columbia's offer to direct Tick Tock," Norrington told Comics2Film.

"To further complicate matters, both the production financing and the VFX design phases relied fundamentally on knowing who would be playing Ghost Rider, so nothing could move forward until [Nicolas Cage's] deal closed," Norrington said. The filmmakers had been negotiating with the actor for six months. However, Cage had limitations on when and where he could film which the filmmakers were having difficulty working out.

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"By August 2001, after over a year of development, I felt that the project was no closer to being technically and budgetarily viable than it was way back at the beginning of the year when we first put our plan together," Norrington told us. "This was doubly frustrating because we had made detailed plans with major VFX vendors (Tippett Studios, XFX, D.J DesJardin, Joe Viskocil and Sony Imageworks) all of whom expressed real passion for the material and the project. But no development funds were forthcoming so those potential liaisons never came to fruition."

While negotiations were dragging on Columbia approached the director with an attractive offer to direct Tick-Tock, which was good-to-go with star Jennifer Lopez. "After a month of agonizing, I gave the Ghost Rider project two weeks to 'make it real', but still nothing happened," Norrington said. "So I embarked on Tick-Tock with the idea that we could simultaneously continue developing Ghost Rider. Sadly we were only eight weeks away from shooting Tick Tock when Sept 11th put paid to that project for the time being. C'est la vie..."

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The director reports that he's still developing Ghost Rider and the producers have engaged his producing partner, Matthew Justice to further explore the viability and cost of certain visual effects techniques. Norrington has other projects in the works as well, but is committed to making a Ghost Rider movie that fully lives up to its potential.

"It's a drag how these projects can evaporate like smoke, but as far as I'm concerned there's no point in making a challenging project like Ghost Rider until it has been properly developed, planned, and budgeted accordingly."

JUDGE DREDD

Jason Kingsley, CEO of Rebellion and producer on the new Judge Dredd franchise, gave Comics2Film a few bits of information about the movies. Kingsley reports that the two films will have budgets of about $15 million each.

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The good news for fans of the comics is the new deal puts the character under "creative control of the owners rather than a full-blown studio take over," Kingsley said.

Judge Dredd: Dredd Reckoning and Judge Dredd: Possession were announced as collaborations between Rebellion and Shoreline Entertainment a few weeks ago. The films are slated to be filmed back to back and represent what is hoped to be a complete relaunch of the Judge Dredd franchise. The movies will be unrelated to the Hollywood film starring Sylvester Stallone from the mid-1990's.

The folks at Rebellion have given Comics2Film readers a look at the teaser artwork for the movies. The posters were developed by one of Rebellion's games studio artists to promote the recently-announced films.

The artwork for the poster is presented here in virgin form (i.e.. without blurbs). However the detailed posters contain the current taglines for the movies. The tagline for Dredd Reckoning is "Justice without jury. Truth without corruption," while the Possession poster carries the slogan "The end of the world as we know it." Rebellion tells us these are subject to change as the movies develop.

Rebellion is also planning new Judge Dredd video games to accompany the movies. Kingsley said, "We are really excited about the Dredd franchise going into production and aim to release the Dredd Vs Death game to coincide with the release of the film."

AMERICAN SPLENDOR

Inside sources tell Comics2Film that cameras are ready to roll on the big screen adaptation of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor.

The movie, just a few weeks away from lensing, will star Paul Giamatti (Man on the Moon, Planet of the Apes) as Pekar. James Urbaniak (Sweet and Lowdown) will play comic legend Robert Crumb. Hope Davis (Mumford, Arlington Road) is set to play Joyce Brabner, Pekar's wife with whom he co-authored the comic Our Cancer Year.

Documentary directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini are set to helm the feature. Ted Hope will produce for Good Machine.

Our source tells us the film may utilize some documentary footage of the real-life Pekar and Brabner.

Thanks to Michael Rhode of the Comics Research Bibliography.

THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB

Evan Dorkin told Comics2Film that the pilot episode for the proposed Eltingville Club show was completed last week. Now it's up to Cartoon Network to decide if they want to air it or not. "I guess the Network brass will see a tape of it any day now," Dorkin said, "and then one of these days we'll find out just what the fate of our little cartoon project is."

So, is the comic creator happy with the finished show? "I'm not sure what I think of the show yet, because we've been so close to it after 2 yrs of production and a year of negotiation," Dorkin told us. "I'm just sort of numb at this point -- but I'm really happy that the pilot is finished, and I hope that if it ever airs people get a kick out of it."

Dorkin did say that he's very happy with the opening and closing theme music for the show. Those are performed by one of his favorite groups, The Aquabats.

Whether or not the pilot makes it on the air, we haven't seen the last of the rabid fanboys of Eltingville, but we may shortly. "The next thing I plan to do with the characters is to do several more short stories with them, collect all the comics into a trade paperback, and then retire the strip for a long time, if not for good."

JUSTICE LEAGUE

Look for Supeman's foe Brainiac to return as a villain in the upcoming Justice League animated show. The character's profile matches the established continuity of the previous Superman animated show: A powerful living computer from the planet Krypton with the corrupt mission of cataloging, then destroying every life form he encounters.

Press materials for the show names the team of super villains that the League will square off with as The Secret Society. The evil group was founded by Darkseid to rid the Earth of any heroes capable of opposing him. Its roster includes Lex Luthor, Gorilla Grodd, Felix Faust, Sinestro, Poison Ivy, Ultra-Humanite, Chronos, Cheetah and Star Sapphire.

The world's finest heroes will run up against the villainous Manhunters at some point as well. The Manhunters are described as: "Created by the Guardians of Oa, they were sophisticated soulless android bounty hunters designed to bring order to lawless sectors of the universe. Unfortunately, the Manhunters had programming flaws limiting their usefulness, and were soon replaced by the Green Lantern Corps. Now, the Manhunters have reprogrammed themselves to destroy the Guardians and the Green Lanterns."

Another familiar foe is Amazo, described as "a synthetic android whose unique metabolism allows him to absorb and duplicate the powers of all the members of the Justice League. In addition to absorbing their strengths, he also absorbs their weaknesses."

Look for Despero to give the league trouble as well. Despero is said to be "an alien despot with a hypnotic third eye, Despero is a master telepath with the ability to project realistic illusions and entrance virtually anyone. He has controlled entire planets with his mental domination."

BIG NUMBERS

It seems no comic property is too obscure to be adapted for film or television. One such example would be Alan Moore's unfinished masterpiece Big Numbers. The comic, self-published by Moore with art by Bill Sienkiewicz, was to be a departure from superhero and fantasy comics, exploring the criss-crossing lives of forty ordinary people.

In an interview last month with The Onion A.V. Club Moore revealed that the property is in development as a TV series. "I know that Alex Usborne of Picture Palace Productions, the film company that made the film adaptation of Irvine Welsh's book The Acid House, optioned Big Numbers for television."

The comic book series was never completed, but Moore told The Onion he's got the story worked out. "I've got the whole of Big Numbers plotted. I'd got this enormous A1 sheet of paper the size of a tablecloth that had been divided into 40 rows down the side, and 12 columns along the top. One column for each of the 12 issues, 40 rows for each of the 40 characters," Moore said. "And then, in this grid in tiny, incomprehensibly small biro writing which looks like the work of a mental patient, and which gives you a migraine just to look at it, there is what happens to each of the 40 characters in every one of the 12 issues. It's this map of the entire plot. I've never done it with any other work, because it is kind of an insane thing to do. I've kind of got all that stuff in my head anyway, so the only real reason for writing it down on paper is just to impress and frighten."

But, there is another use for this unique plot-sheet. "Because I'd still got the plot, we were able to reconstruct the basis of a 12-episode TV drama series. Whether it'll ever make it to TV or not, no idea. I'm largely leaving that to Alex," Moore told The Onion.

Sadly, comic creator also said that there is little chance that Big Numbers will ever see completion as a comic book.

Thanks to Michael Rhode of the Comics Research Bibliography.

SPIDER-MAN

Sony Pictures has released a new one-sheet poster for the upcoming Spider-Man movie. The new poster features Spidey wall-crawling up the sides of the gold-tinted glass building seen in previous artwork.

Fans can find the poster the official Spider-Man movie site. Word is that copies of the one-sheet are also showing up in movie theaters this week.

Another nice new bit of art found on the official site is a new piece of desktop wallpaper. Fans can download the latest image which features a nice rendering of the movie Green Goblin's pumpkin bomb.

SPIDER-MAN ANIMATED

This month Corona's TV site Test Pattern brings an update on the planned animated Spider-Man show. As has been previously reported, the show is likely to be a CGI affair targeted for MTV. Mainframe Entertainment (Reboot, Beast Machines) may be the animation house creating the show. The series will likely debut in the wake of next summer's anticipated smash web-slinger movie.

Test Pattern adds some new info to the mix stating that the show will be largely based on Marvel's hit comic Ultimate Spider-Man penned by the prolific Brian Michael Bendis. In fact, the site reports that Bendis has penned the script for the first episode of the show.

ROBOT BASTARD!

Rob Schrab's Robot Bastard! movie made its debut late Halloween night bowing as online film. The film can be downloaded directly from the official RobotBastard.com site in formats ranging from a whopping 43.3 MB to a super-colossal 83.8 MB, high-quality version. Bear in mind that this is the actual movie, and not a trailer.

The website itself is packed with extras. Recent additions to the site include Schrab's sketchbook, downloadable MP3's from the soundtrack, a behind the scenes of the film's audio production and the movie DinoWars made in stop-motion animation by an 8 year old Schrab.

KISS

Comics2Film contributor and enlisted KISS Army man Squedge has learned that the animated show based on the makeup metal band looks like it's moving forward.

The band's demon front man Gene Simmons recently told fans on his website, "Today I'll be meeting with Mainframe (Transformers, Reboot, Beast Wars) to discuss the KISS CGI Super Hero Show for television. Contracts are ready to sign and we are all very excited about this project. I've been working on getting a show on the air for over ten years. The finish line is just ahead."

No word on whether or not the show will draw on any of the legendary rock group's previous incarnations as comic book super heroes. After rummaging through his KISS shrine, Squedge was able to tell us that the band had 3 incarnations at Marvel Comics (separate takes in Marvel Super Specials #1 and #5, and again in the KISSNation one-shot). The band resurfaced as fantasy characters in the Psycho Circus comics published by Todd McFarlane and Image.

KISS is slated to return once more in upcoming books from Dark Horse. Squedge tells us that project will probably launch as 4 different comics, 1 devoted to each persona.

X-MEN 2

Screenwriter David Hayter told The Comics Continuum that the makers of X-Men 2 are closing in on a final draft for that movie. Hayter and writer Zak Penn worked on independent takes for the movie, which were blended by director Bryan Singer into a single script.

"We didn't write together, but we were working on the same treatment that Bryan had approved," Hayter told The Continuum. "Now Bryan and I are working together on a final draft."

Hayter reports that recent meetings with the studio were very positive.

DON MURPHY

Don Murphy, the producer of this year's #1 comic book adaptation has renewed his deal with Sony's Columbia Pictures according to a write up in today's Variety. Under the new contract Murphy's Angryfilms will work with Sony for another 15 months.

The producer's latest outing From Hell debuted as the #1 movie last month and has grossed over $26 million so far. The film is an adaptation of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel of the same name.

Murphy is producing several other films based on comics. He has Iron Man, Alien Legion, Parasyte, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Domu, Ecto-Kid and Death: The High Cost of Living in various stages of development with other studios.

Murphy also has Spawn 2, Astroboy and Doctor Strange set up at Columbia. The producer told Variety that the studio had been "like another family for me over the past few years," and he praised studio brass as "smart, talented executives ... who share my passion for film."

Columbia production president Peter Schlessel said of Murphy, "We appreciate Don's extensive knowledge of comic books and graphic novels and we look forward to collaborating in the coming year on some of the interesting ideas that he has brought to us."

SMALLVILLE

[Smallville]Author and comic book movie journalist Andy Mangels sent along these synopses for upcoming episodes of Smallville.

"X-Ray" airs Tuesday, November 6 - How would a teenage boy react to X-Ray vision? - Clark (Tom Welling) reels from his first flashes of x-ray vision and the shock is compounded when he witnesses an inexplicable bank robbery by his friend, Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum). Unsure how to control this new power, Clark discovers the reason for its arrival as a Smallville teen who has developed shape-shifting abilities threatens Lana (Kristin Kreuk). James Frawley directed the episode written by Mark Verheiden.

"Cool" airs Tuesday, November 13 - Clark and Lana head to Metropolis while Chloe falls prey to a chilling Casanova - Clark (Tom Welling) has a chance at an evening out on the town with Lana (Kristin Kreuk) thanks to Lex's (Michael Rosenbaum) matchmaking, but the evening is interrupted when Clark faces an icy enemy (guest star Michael Coristine): the high school lady killer who has a kryptonite-induced case of permanent hypothermia and has to feed off of body heat to survive - starting with Chloe (Allison Mack). Jim Contner directed the episode written by Michael Green.

Meanwhile, Kryptonsite.com gives fans a run down future episodes. Here's what the excellent resource has to say:

An episode called "Hourglass" is slated to air November 30. The show centers on a woman named Cassandra who lost her sight during the meteor shower. She now somehow can show flashes of the future. She offers Clark an unsettling glimpse of the future, while Lex tries to exploit her gift. Jackie Burroughs, Eric Christian Olsen and George Murdock guest star. The episode is written by Doris Egan.

Following that episode is "Craving". This segment features an overweight girl named Jodi. Also in this episode, Lex meets Chloe and learns about her ongoing investigation into the weirdness of Smallville.

Airing some time in December is "Rogue". This episode introduces Kelly Brook as Lex Luthor's former girlfriend, Victoria. This episode has Clark visiting metropolis and is said to deviate from the "freak of the week" formula that earlier shows have had.

Finally, fans who missed out on the early episodes of the show will be given a second chance this month. The WB network will rerun the series pilot and the follow-up "Metamorphosis" episode back-to-back on Thursday, November 22. The episodes will run in a two-hour block starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

BULLETPROOF MONK

Will Stiffler fill the sandals of young Kar in the Bulletproof Monk movie?

The 4Filmmakers database recently added then name Seann William Scott to the cast list for film. Scott is best known for his turn as the dim-witted party animal Stiffler in the American Pie movies. He's also starred in Dude, Where's My Car?, Road Trip and recently appeared in Evolution.

However, Comics2Film checked with a source at Lion Rock pictures who told us that the actor is not attached to the project at this point. However, the source did admit that Scott was one of the many young actors being eyed for the role.

THE HULK

Fans have been speculating about how the title character in The Hulk will be presented for as long as the movie has been in development. Will he be a CGI creation or the product of makeup effects? Up until now, filmmakers have preferred to state only that they would use whatever methods that would allow for the best looking jade-jaws.

Now, ComingSoon.net reports that the decision has been made to render the creature as computer generated imagery. Their unnamed source claims that an all-CGI (and all-green) Hulk will be coupled with on-set motion controls that will be later removed (a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

Last month, the Hollywood trades revealed that Industrial Light and Magic will handle the special effects chores on the movie.

BLADE 2

IGN FilmForce reports that the trailer for Blade 2 may be attached to December's release of The Lord of the Rings.

MEN IN BLACK 2

Dark Horizons reports that additional filming for Men In Black 2 is currently underway in New York City. Their scooper states that filming was recently done in front of the Plaza Hotel. Later scenes are said to be slated for Greenwich Village at St. Mark's Place.

Meanwhile, publicity stills for the movie have shown up online. Here's the two latest for your viewing enjoyment.

Thanks to IGN FilmForce, Coming Attractions and CountingDown.com.

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