Right on the heels of introducing the world to the Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel is on the hunt for a director to bring their next lesser-known comic book hero Doctor Strange to life. While Strange is probably a slightly better known character to non-comic book devotees than the cosmic misfits that make up the Guardians, he still resides firmly on the fringes of public awareness, despite the character being an essential figure in Marvel's long-running comic book universe. Presently, there are four names that Marvel is considering to handle this new project: Mark Andrews, Nikolaj Arcel, Dean Israelite, and Jonathan Levine.
First, a bit about the character: Doctor Strange, a surgeon turned sorcerer, learns the secrets of mysticism after a car accident ruins the nerves in his hands, and ends his medical career. Strange often battles with bigger ideas than his spandexed counterparts, and the character's stories have long been steeped with cosmic questions and mystical settings mixed with '60s psychedelia and psychology. Created in 1963 by the legendary Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the publication ensnared free-minded college students who were surprised to learn that comics could pack such an intellectual wallop. Doctor Strange is far from your typical Marvel superhero. He's a man of fierce intellect, and he often serves as a spiritual guidepost for much of Marvel's crowded superhero landscape. He juggles whiz bang action with serious surrealism and mysticism, and these disparate elements need to be merged into his upcoming adventure.
Marvel is currently courting several directors to craft Doctor Strange's first live-action adventure, and the field is a diverse smattering of directors from all over the filmmaking landscape. They've also approached screenwriters Jon Aibel and Glenn Berger to pen the script, and are considering Hannibal star Mads Mikkelson to play the title character. Depending on who they ultimately choose to direct, the Doctor Strange film could potentialy take a very different shape when all is said in done. Let's look at Marvel's short list of directors:
Notable Works: BraveWhy He Fits: Andrews has had a long and storied career in animation, and has served as a storyboard artist for several animated modern classics, including The Iron Giant and Ratatouille. He also directed and co-wrote Pixar's Brave, an underappreciated gem. Andrews might be able to transfer his long career working with storyboards, which are themselves essentially comic book blueprints for animated films, into the creation of a film based on actual comics.
Notable Works: A Royal Affair
Why He Fits: The characters and stories that make up Doctor Strange's publication history have always had a foreign and even otherworldly flair to it, with the Doctor often going way outside of his Greenwich Village home to investigate different mysteries. The good doctor often bumps into strange creatures on his travels. Director Arcel already has experience directing lavish set pieces and costumes with his work in A Royal Affair, though it remains to be seen if he can translate the detailed production work for a period piece into a film with comic book sensibilities.
Notable Works: Nothing Yet
Why He Fits: Dean Israelite's filmography is very much a work in progress at the moment. The director is by far the least recognizable name on the list, with little on his resume besides a couple of short films. In 2014, we'll see Israelite's first feature film, Welcome to Yesterday: a loopy looking found-footage time travel genre bender that seems like the angsty teenage offspring of Primer and Chronicle. The trailer for the film shows that the director has gained some experience in special effect filmmaking which he can apply to a Doctor Strange film.
Notable Works: 50/50, Warm Bodies
Why He Fits: Comic book movies aren’t all visuals and explosions, and Levine has shown that he can do wonders with a great script. Levine has done some great genre filmmaking with his work on Warm Bodies, but he also has a delicate enough of a touch to hit all the right notes in a film like 50/50, which is full of smaller moments, as well as boisterous comedy. All of his films also share a sharp wit, something that is always present in Marvel's films.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
There is a moment in Kung Fu Panda 2 Dreamworks’ stellar follow-up to its 2008 talking-animal blockbuster that is as clever and subversive as any I’ve seen in recent animated films. Just before the climactic final battle our hero Po (Jack Black) thought to have been vanquished re-appears above a rooftop to declare his challenge to the villainous Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) who sits upon a battleship in the canal below preparing mount his siege. As Po launches into his speech the camera pulls back to reveal that Shen is in fact well out of earshot; he can’t make out a single word the panda is saying. Shen pleas in vain for him to speak up only to give up in frustration and commence his assault forthwith.
There are lovely bits like this scattered throughout Kung Fu Panda 2 little moments that undermine traditional action-movie tropes to hilarious effect. Much praise is owed to director Jennifer Yuh Nelson and returning writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger who have adroitly addressed the chief – and arguably only – complaint about the first film: that its story was too lightweight too formulaic too cautiously adherent to the conventional hero’s journey blueprint. Their follow-up may not be as charming or whimsical as its predecessor but it makes up for it with added depth and emotional resonance.
How much depth you ask? Genocide childhood abandonment issues and industrialization’s destabilizing effects are just a few of the formidable topics touched upon in the sequel. But don’t fret; the filmmakers haven’t suddenly set their sights on Pixar-grade profundity. The tone of Kung Fu Panda 2 is still as earnest and unpretentious – and joyful – as before.
And it’s still anchored by a refreshingly restrained Black as the voice of Po the chubby noodle-slinger turned kung fu superstar. The second installment finds Po and the Furious Five – Tigress (Angelina Jolie) Mantis (Seth Rogen) Crane (David Cross) Monkey (Jackie Chan) and Viper (Lucy Liu) – facing a formidable new foe in the diminutive guise of Lord Shen a seething tyrant whose new invention the cannon threatens to make kung fu obsolete. Po has a personal connection with the peacock: It was Shen who spooked by a soothsayer’s premonition sacked Po’s native village several years prior forcing Po’s parents to ship their infant son off to safety – and onto the doorstep of his adoptive father Mr. Ping (James Hong).
Po’s only hope of victory his mentor Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) informs him is to find inner peace. (That’s all?!?) The path to nirvana is a jagged one marked with dizzying chases and riveting kung fu battles all elaborately choreographed and beautifully rendered. As we’ve come to expect with CG sequels the animation in Kung Fu Panda 2 surpasses that of the previous film retaining its signature look while adding greater detail and more exquisite landscapes. Though the 3D is top-quality I would still recommend seeing the film in 2D if only because of the darkening effect caused by so many 3D projectors. Colors these lush deserve as bright a canvas as possible.
Jack Black is reuniting with Kung Fu Panda writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger for a sort of comedic Bourne Identity, says The Hollywood Reporter. The live-action project sees Black as an American who, after washing up the shores of Cuba with no idea of who he is, decides he must be a superspy – which, of course, he is not.
"For our next live-action project, we knew we wanted to work with either a panda or Jack. Luckily, Endeavor repped Jack," Aibel told The Reporter. "We also figured that if we could write for Jack as a panda, we could write for him as a human."
The writers, also repped by Endeavor, were writer-producers on King of the Hill and are working on Monsters vs. Aliens, which features the voices of Seth Rogen and Reese Witherspoon.
Black will next be seen in Harold Ramis’ Year One.
MORE NEWS: Buy Computers Pre-Loaded with Movies