Disney is reshaping ‘Star Wars’ in the model of Marvel

Disney is breaking up the gang

The imminent news of Johnson’s hiring comes after Star Wars owner Lucasfilm appointed two other young directors—one of whom directed Chronicle and the other the recent smash, Godzilla—to helm Star Wars films that for the first time will not be part of a single saga. The spin-offs, rumored to star Yoda and Boba Fett, were part of the plan when Walt Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. Disney seems to be following the game plan of its other subsidiary, Marvel, which it bought for the same price in 2011.

By hiring talented but untested directors and taking some creative risks, Marvel set out to create individual franchises set in the same world, just as in the comics. In this way, audiences have bought into individual characters like Iron Man and Captain America, and each exists as its own money-spinning franchise against the backdrop of a larger universe. Fans are buying into a character’s journey, rather than a Marvel sequel. And stories that unite the universe, such as The Avengers, become must-see global blockbusters that bring together these different fan-bases once every few years. The Marvel method has upended the blockbuster formula, which, ironically, was created by the original Star Wars film in 1977.

Will Disney be able to do the same with Star Wars, credibly expanding the universe beyond the story of the Skywalkers? We will begin to find out when the next film, Episode VII, currently filming with the original cast under the hands of Star Trek director JJ Abrams, is released in December 2015.

Rufus

A vampire movie shot in Dundurn, Saskachewan.  Make sure you watch the trailer.

Rufus is afraid and alone. Stranded in a sleepy prairie town after the death of his hundred-and-seven-year-old traveling companion, Rufus is determined to make a fresh start. Hunted, poked and prodded, Rufus knows people are always pegging him as this or that. If there really are vampires, Rufus has never met one. Sure he has some quirks. So what if he likes the taste of blood? It’s not like he’s addicted. Rufus does not age or feel the passage of time. he’s a boy and will always remain so. When a multi-national drug company discovers Rufus? genome just might be the fountain of youth and a cunning vampire hunter arrives to claim the boy as the property of Bristol Anderson Pharmaceuticals, Rufus knows it’s time to move on. The only problem is, Rufus like his new life and the pretty girl next door.There’s no such thing as vampires! They are just stories in books. What’s a boy to do?

Roger Ebert’s 10 Great Film’s of All Time

Sadly I haven’t seen all of these.  As a tribute to one of my favourite reviewers of all time, I will make sure I see all of them.

At one point in pondering this list, here’s what I thought I would do: I would simply start all over with ten new films. Once any film has ever appeared on my S&S list, I consider it canonized. “Notorious” or “The Gates of Heaven,” for example, are still two of the ten best films of all time, no matter what a subsequent list says.

I decided not to do that–trash the 2002 list and start again. It was too much like a stunt. Lists are ridiculous, but if you’re going to vote, you have to play the game. Besides, the thought of starting with a blank page and a list of all the films ever made fills me with despair.

So there must be one new film.

The two candidates, for me, are Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” (2008) and Terrene Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011). Like the Herzog, the Kubrick and the Coppola, they are films of almost foolhardy ambition. Like many of the films on my list, they were directed by the artist who wrote them. Like several of them, it attempts no less than to tell the story of an entire life,

In “Synecdoche,” Kaufman does this with one of the most audacious sets ever constructed: An ever-expanding series of boxes or compartments within which the protagonist attempts to deal with the categories of his life. The film has the insight that we all deal with life in separate segments, defined by choice or compulsion, desire or fear, past or present. It is no less than a film about life.

In “The Tree of Life,” Malick boldly begins with the Big Bang and ends in an unspecified state of attenuated consciousness after death. The central section is the story of birth and raising a family.

Speaking of Roger Ebert, can I say that it is awesome that someone who on his dying day was still planning new projects.

What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What’s more, I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.

At the same time, I am re-launching the new and improved Rogerebert.com and taking ownership of the site under a separate entity, Ebert Digital, run by me, my beloved wife, Chaz, and our brilliant friend, Josh Golden of Table XI. Stepping away from the day-to-day grind will enable me to continue as a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and roll out other projects under the Ebert brand in the coming year.

I respect Roger Ebert tremendously and I hope he rests in peace but I want to be planning, organizing, and putting together projects until the day I die.  Good for Ebert.

Ebert, 70, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, and who was without question the nation’s most prominent and influential film critic, died Thursday in Chicago. He had been in poor health over the past decade, battling cancers of the thyroid and salivary gland.

He lost part of his lower jaw in 2006, and with it the ability to speak or eat, a calamity that would have driven other men from the public eye. But Ebert refused to hide, instead forging what became a new chapter in his career, an extraordinary chronicle of his devastating illness that won him a new generation of admirers. “No point in denying it,” he wrote, analyzing his medical struggles with characteristic courage, candor and wit, a view that was never tinged with bitterness or self-pity.

Always technically savvy – he was an early investor in Google – Ebert let the Internet be his voice. His rogerebert.com had millions of fans, and he received a special achievement award as the 2010 “Person of the Year” from the Webby Awards, which noted that “his online journal has raised the bar for the level of poignancy, thoughtfulness and critique one can achieve on the Web.” His Twitter feeds had 827,000 followers.

Ebert was both widely popular and professionally respected. He not only won a Pulitzer Prize – the first film critic to do so – but his name was added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005, among the movie stars he wrote about so well for so long. His reviews were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers worldwide.

Warren Kinsella’s take on the Jack Layton movie

Kinsella has some interesting things to say about the Jack Layton film

As such, Layton comes across as he was in life — much liked and, even for some, much loved. Even when a gay-hating constituent tosses a cup of hot coffee at his face, Layton is nonplussed.

Instead of going home and changing his shirt and tie, Layton goes ahead with a date with his future wife, Olivia Chow (played with great skill by Sook-Yin Lee). Chow’s mother tells her daughter that Layton is crazy.

In Jack, Layton isn’t crazy — but it is made clear that he regularly drove his staff and family crazy. His relentless positivism, it turns out, was no act. When things got bad (and they did often before May 2011), Layton would simply pick up his guitar and start singing. And thereby drive his staff and family crazy.

Among those driven batty by Layton’s unflagging optimism were his cadre of loyalists. So, we see actors portraying political legends like Brian Topp (with more hair), Brad Lavigne (with more height), as well as Karl Belanger and Anne McGrath (who has far more real-life charm than portrayed in the film), groaning about Layton’s refusal to ever accept life’s glass might be half empty.

Utterly missing from Jack is a hint, much less an explanation, for Layton’s extraordinary win in 2011.

Was it his shrewd use of his cane and his health issues, a la Lucien Bouchard? Was it his sunny personality, which contrasted so favourably to the glum Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff? His unflappable determination?

The viewer is left with no answers. An explanation might have made Jack better. And it might have assisted the NDP, too, now under Thomas Mulcair, looking like a shadow of what it was under Layton.

That aside, Jack is an enjoyable film about a pretty extraordinary fellow. One who, like Moses, led his followers to the political promised land, but who never got the chance to go there with them.

It’s on TV Sunday night, and it’s worth your time. And, if nothing else, it’ll give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Charles Adler on the CBC!