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7 items from 2004

Hef, Lee hop to 'Superbunnies'

7 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

A silk pajama-clad superhero fights crime with the aid of a superbuxom team of specially trained Playboy bunnies. If that logline sounds like it must be a cross between the oeuvres of Stan Lee and Hugh Hefner, that's because it is. MTV has ordered an animated pilot for Hef's Superbunnies, a collaboration between Lee's newly launched Pow! Entertainment and Playboy's Alta Loma Entertainment division. Hefner's name and likeness will be featured in the pilot, and he also might provide the voice of his cartoon alter ego. Hefner said he sparked to the notion of being involved with an edgy, sexy animated series as soon as Lee, the mastermind behind such Marvel comic book legends as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, approached him with the Superbunnies concept. »

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Reality producer Peters, 53, dies

20 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Susan Peters, a TV producer and former journalist, died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles after a yearlong battle with breast cancer. She was 53. Peters most recently worked in unscripted television, developing and executive producing such shows as MTV's The New Tom Green Show and Surf Girls. She also executive produced syndicated series like Livin' Large, featuring Carmen Electra and Kadeem Hardison. Her most recent project was Spike TV's career-makeover show I Hate My Job, which features the Rev. Al Sharpton and is set to premiere in October. At the time of her death, Peters was in negotiations to executive produce Nash Entertainment's Who Wants to Be a Superhero? for MTV. The reality show features comic book legend Stan Lee. »

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Spider-Man 2

9 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Opens June 30

In only his second movie outing, the makers of Spider-Man 2 have decided to give their superhero an identity crisis and to deepen the emotional complexity of a series that started off on such a light-hearted note. Why else would you hire screenwriter Alvin Sargent (Julia, Ordinary People) to pen a summer action movie? This proves a smart move because Spider-Man's inner conflicts are at least as interesting as his physical battles and serve to strengthen his romantic ties to the woman of his life, Mary Jane Watson, the girl who may have lived next door but seems always out of reach.

With Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst recreating these roles and director Sam Raimi and much of his production team returning to the job, Spider-Man 2 once again should climb into the boxoffice stratosphere. The first film grossed more than $820 million worldwide. This highly anticipated follow-up is poised to reach a similar figure.

The movie opens with Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker, suffering the consequences of leading a double life. On one hand, he is New York's crime-fighting hero. On the other, Peter is getting failing grades as a science student at Columbia University and loses his job delivering pizzas -- both because of constant interruptions to chase down bad guys.

Even more troubling, his love for M.J. has grown along with his determination that a superhero cannot have a soulmate since that woman will always be threatened by enemies. (Given the number of times M.J. is in jeopardy in the two movies without being Spider-Man's girlfriend, one wonders what the difference would be.) So M.J. has moved on to establish an acting career and new boyfriend in astronaut John Jameson (Daniel Gillies), son of the blustering, Spider-Man-phobic newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons).

Peter also suffers lingering guilt over the death of his uncle in the first movie, for which he feels at least partially responsible -- a fact he has yet to disclose to his debt-ridden aunt (Rosemary Harris). Then his old pal Harry Osborn (James Franco) still broods over his father's death at Spider-Man's hands and vows revenge.

Peter's struggles with his identity result in diminished powers. That super-strength cobwebby thing he does as he swings and spins through the urban jungle occasionally fails him. He even wrenches his back in one fall -- though, given that it's a 60-odd-story plunge, this still is a testament to pretty good genes.

All this is bad timing because New York is terrorized by a new supervillain. Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a mild-mannered though brilliant scientist, is experimenting with "fusion" as an alternate energy source. He also has developed a mechanical suit that when fitted into his spinal cord gives him four monstrous tentacles that respond to his brain's command and become an integral part of his body. The trouble is, for reasons that remain vague, the contraption transforms his personality into a diabolically evil scientist, mad with power and determined to harness energy from his other experiment so that the "power of the sun is in the palm of my hand."

Despite this emergency, Peter decides to get out of the Spider-Man business. Crime skyrockets 75%, but at least he can reveal his love to M.J. with a clear conscience. Unfortunately, she is already engaged to John. Who knew a superhero's life could get so complicated?

No, Spider-Man 2 doesn't really dive into a deep-dish psychological drama. There is plenty of action here. Spider-Man and Dr. Ock -- as Jameson's newspaper dubs him -- battle on the side of a skyscraper with Peter's aunt held hostage and later on top and inside an out-of-control elevated train. Dr. Ock robs a bank in flamboyant style, and the two enjoy a climatic duel at the scientist's lab, built for no reason other than metaphoric geography on a dark and decaying pier.

All mental confusion and divided loyalties in Sargent's screenplay -- based, of course, on Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's comic book characters and a screen story by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Michael Chabon -- manifest themselves in comic book terms. Spider-Man's momentary decline is no different than Barry Bonds going into a slump for a few days.

Still it's refreshing to witness a superhero with doubts. Maguire and Dunst again display the depth of talent they bring to these roles by injecting such everydayness into larger-than-life characters. They feel like friends rather than remote creatures of fiction. Most other roles are still played at the cartoon level, but Raimi knows that Spider-Man is, after all, a live-action cartoon. Only at its central core does the movie series maintain the beat of the human heart.

Production values exceed those of the earlier film in creating a comic book world with design, costumes, cinematography and CG effects that deliver the "wow" factor in spades. Danny Elfman once more contributes a rousing music score.


Columbia Pictures

A Marvel Enterprises/Laura Ziskin production


Director: Sam Raimi

Screenwriter: Alvin Sargent

Screen story by: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon

Based on the Marvel comic book by: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Producers: Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad

Executive producers: Stan Lee, Kevin Feige, Joseph M. Carraciolo

Director of photography: Bill Pope

Production designer: Neil Spisak

Music: Danny Elfman

Co-producer: Grant Curtis

Costume designers: James Acheson, Gary Jones

Visual effects: John Dykstra

Editor: Bob Murawski


Spider-Man/Peter Parker: Tobey Maguire

Mary Jane Watson: Kirsten Dunst

Harry Osborn: James Franco

Dr. Otto Octavius: Alfred Molina

Mary Parker: Rosemary Harris

J. Jonah Jameson: J.K. Simmons

Rosalie Octavius: Donna Murphy

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 127 minutes »

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'Fantastic Four' Cast Announcement Approaching

25 June 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

The full cast of anticipated movie The Fantastic Four is expected to be announced next week, with actor Michael Chiklis remaining as favorite for the role of The Thing. The movie, which follows the exploits of mutant astronauts Reed Richards, Susan Storm Richards, Benjamin Grimm and Johnny Storm, better known as Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, The Thing and the Human Torch - will begin filming in August). Producer Avi Arad, who will bring the Marvel Comics favorites to the big screen, is expected to make the public announcement about the movie, which will be helmed by Barbershop director Tim Story. Fantastic Four creator Stan Lee says, "Chiklis is tough and rugged, yet he has a likable quality - and that's The Thing." Mean Girls star Rachel McAdams is emerging as a likely choice to play Sue Storm. Arad hints, "She's be great. We like her a lot." »

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TMG releasing DIC's U.S. fare in Germany

24 June 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

MUNICH -- Germany's TeleMunchen Gruppe will be the exclusive sales agent for U.S. family entertainment producer DIC Entertainment in German-speaking territories for the next three years, DIC announced late Tuesday. TMG and its subsidiary, Concept TV & Merchandising, will handle program sales as well as licensing and merchandising in the German, Austrian and Swiss markets, the company said in a statement. DIC programming, including Stan Lee's Phantom 5, Archie's Weird Mysteries, Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros., has yet to be seen in these markets. TMG is one of the few license dealers to have made it relatively unscathed through the recent media crisis in Germany. »

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IDT, POW! team on animation

7 May 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

IDT Entertainment has acquired a minority equity interest in POW! Entertainment, the production company headed by comic book impresario Stan Lee. The deal gives IDT exclusive distribution rights of all POW! Entertainment animated DVD properties. IDT and POW! will also co-produce and co-develop a minimum of six animation projects for direct-to-DVD distribution and broadcast. According to the terms of the agreement the six new animated productions in the series will be entitled, Stan Lee Presents. IDT Entertainment is a subsidiary of IDT Corporation a multinational carrier, telephone and technology company. IDT Entertainment also holds a minority stake in Vanguard Animation and a controlling interest in Film Roman, Inc. »

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Helmer Story on 'Fantastic' voyage at Fox

7 April 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Tim Story is on board to direct the big-budget live-action adaptation of the Marvel Comic Fantastic Four for 20th Century Fox. Producing are Chris Columbus' 1492 Pictures, Constantin Films and Marvel Studios' Avi Arad. Executive producers are Stan Lee and Ralph Winter. Fantastic Four follows the adventure-seeking quartet of scientist Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic); his love interest, Susan Storm (the Invisible Girl); her brother, Johnny (the Human Torch); and Reed's best friend, Benjamin Grimm (the Thing). The four develop superpowers when their spaceship is exposed to cosmic radiation. Their archnemesis is Dr. Doom, who turns out to be Reed's old college friend. Billed as "the world's greatest comic magazine," the comic first appeared in 1962 and ushered in the Marvel Age of comics, a time when comics began dealing with familial issues. The movie will be set in the present day. »

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