This is it, the big one. The main reason I wanted to start this blog series. Superman, directed by Richard Donner, is a very significant movie. It featured what was then groundbreaking visual effects, its massive success proved that superhero movies could be blockbuster hits, and it features a number of iconic moments that still influence superhero movies today. Its success, along with Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the previous year, is often credited as helping launching a reemergence of large market science fiction films, after the genre became largely niche in the 50’s and 60’s.
Development for this movie began in 1973 with Mexican film director Ilya Salkind conceived the idea for the film. Negotiations for the film rights were long and difficult, but after about a year, he purchased the film rights along with his father Alexander and their partner Pierre Spengler. DC wanted a list of actors to be considered for the role of Superman, and approved a list that included Muhammad Ali (the boxer), Al Pacino, James Caan, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Dustin Hoffman. They also went through a number of writers before landing on Mario Puzo.
There are other early entries I could look at when it comes to Batman and Superman movies, but my first two blog posts pretty much sum up what came before today’s subject. First, I looked at the 1943 Batman serials, and mentioned its sequel series and a couple of Superman serials from the same era. Then I looked at Superman and the Mole Men, which as far as I can tell, is the first ever superhero feature film. At the very least it’s the earliest DC superhero feature. Today, we’re looking at a movie that shares a number of similarities to Superman and the Mole Men, but of the two, this is the one people generally remember.
As with Superman and the Mole Men, Batman 1966 is strongly connected to a TV series. The movie stars Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, who both also starred in all three seasons of the series. The show itself was created and run by William Dozer, who wanted to make a theatrical film to help boost the show’s popularity. He originally wanted the movie to release while they were filming the show, but 20th Century Fox refused. They didn’t want to cover the full cost of a movie and a show at the same time, and would rather just cover the cost of the show. Instead, the movie ended up releasing two months after the first season concluded.
When people think of the old Superman movies, the Christopher Reeves quadrilogy usually comes to mind. Yet as influential and historically important as those movies are, they weren’t the first theatrically released Superman movies. Like with Batman, there were serials released in the 1940’s but I won’t be touching on those since they weren’t fully live-action. But there is also the live-action Superman and the Mole Men, released in 1951. This happens to be the first theatrically released feature film based on any DC Comics characters. I can’t confirm this, but it may even be the first superhero feature film period, as the only earlier movies I can find were all serials.
Superman and the Mole Man was written by Robert Maxwell and Whitney Ellsworth, under the pseudonym “Richard Fielding”. Maxwell had previously worked on the Adventures of Superman radio show, while Ellsworth mostly worked as an editor for DC Comics, and occasionally wrote comics as well. The movie itself was filmed in only 12 days at the RKO-Pathe Studios. With a runtime of only 58 minutes, it actually served as a trial release for the syndicated Adventures of Superman TV series. The movie would later be split into a two-part episode called “The Unknown People”, and would remain the only 2-parter in the series. The writers would both move on to act as producers for the show.
I’ve been wanting to do a blog series on pre-DC Cinematic Universe Batman and Superman movies for a few years now. It’s about time to kick it off. For this blog series, I’ll only be looking at live action cinematic releases, so no TV shows, no animated movies (as fantastic as some of them are), and of course no DC Cinematic Universe movies. I’m also not completely sure that I’ll cover everything, because this list gets really complicated with multiple film studios, and so many different actors and directors. That said, I’ll throw in a couple of spinoff movies, like Supergirl (1984), Catwoman (ugh) and Steel (starring Shaq). And yes, it’ll also include the 1966 movie that’s based on the Adam West TV show.
The first movie we’re looking at isn’t really a movie. It’s a 15-episode theatrical serial, which you could say was a precursor to TV shows. But since it received a theatrical release, I’m counting it. There were actually two serials, the second released in 1949, but I’m only looking at the first one.
Apologies for the delay with this post. Long story short, I worked a lot of overtime in the last couple of weeks at work, and felt pretty drained. Anyway, to conclude my blog’s celebration of Sean Connery’s career, let’s look at what is quite likely the weirdest movie he was ever involved with, Zardoz.
Zardoz is a science fiction fantasy film taking place in a post-apocalyptic world. I’ve now seen it twice, and if I’m merely going by the movie on its own, I still don’t really understand what it’s about. It’s weird, confusingly put together, and It wasn’t received. Roger Ebert giving it 2.5 out of 4 stars, calling it “a genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators.” Empire magazine gave it one star, saying that it “misses the mark by a hundred miles … it has elements – its badness being one of them – that make it strangely compelling.”
In order to properly sum up Sean Connery’s career with only four movies, one must watch at least one movie where he plays a supporting role instead of the lead. He played a lot of supporting roles over the years, like Indiana Jones’s father in The Last Crusade, the dragon in Dragonheart, Ramirez in Highlander, which I’ve looked at on this blog before, but would to do a proper review of in the future. What better supporting role to look at than the one that earned him an Academy Award?
The Untouchables is based on the book of the same name, which itself is based on real life Elliot Ness’s mission to put Al Capone in prison. The book itself does have some false details and isn’t always in the correct chronological order, but it is broadly accurate.
Also a fun fact on a personal level – this movie premiered the day I was born.
To properly look at the legendary career of Sean Connery, one must dive into at least one of his more dramatic roles. Finding Forrester feels like a good fit in more ways than one. It was the last well-received live-action performance of his career, while also being the first acting gig for actor Rob Brown. It’s the movie that helped inspire one of the internet’s earliest meme sites, YTMND. And for me personally, since this movie’s main characters are writers, it has some personal meaning to me.
Finding Forrester, released in 2000, isn’t directly based on a true story. That said, Connery later acknowledged that author J.D. Salinger helped inspire his performance. As with a lot of dramatic movies, it didn’t reek in the big bucks, but it earned $80 million worldwide. It received positive reviews overall, including Two Thumbs Up from Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper. Roeper considered it one of the best 10 movies of the year, and in 2009, placed it at 64 for his 100 best movies of the decade.
The legendary Sean Connery passed away on October 31 last year, just over two months ago. I’ll get into his backstory in one of my later posts, but that needs to be mentioned off the bat for my Sean Connery theme month. As much as I’d like to get that information out of the way now, the first movie I’m looking has a fairly complex backstory that’s also worth exploring.
Although Never Say Never Again released in 1983, its production goes all the way back to 1961 – the year Ian Fleming’s Thunderball novel released. Fleming, and his friend, Ivar Bryce, started talking about a Bond movie back in 1958. Bryce later introduced Fleming to Kevin McClory, a young Irish film director. The three of them formed Xanadu Productions, named after Bryce’s home in the Bahamas. Xanadu Productions never actually grew into a company, but the group met up for a couple years after that, along with lawyer Ernest Cuneo, working on a story outline. McClory was fascinated by the underwater world and wanted to make a film that included it. They came out with 10 different outlines, treatments and scripts, and a number of potential movie titles.
Let me start this off by saying Happy New Year everyone, and for most, good riddance to 2020.
This movie review is later than I intended, and there are a couple of reasons for that. The most consequential of which is that I wasn’t sure how to approach this one. A full week after I watched this movie, I’m still not entirely sure what I think of it.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, is the second chapter in the Fantastic Beasts film series. It released in November of 2018 to mixed reviews. It’s got a 36% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 5.3/10. It earned $654 million on a $200 million budget. While that does make it profitable, it underperformed compared to expectations, and it’s the lowest earning movie in the Wizarding World franchise (Prisoner of Azkaban is the second lowest, at $796 million).
This post is a bit delayed, but I felt like posting at least one Christmas related movie review before I got to this, and then I spent a couple of days at my parents’ house. Anyway, this is the first part of a multi film prequel/spinoff series to Harry Potter. It’s also the first movie in the franchise to be an original story, and not based on a book. There was a book with the same name released in 2001, although that was basically a “textbook” partly sold to raise money for the Comic Relief charity.
As this takes place roughly 60 years before the books/movies take place, none of the original cast members return. That said, David Yates (who directed the last four Harry Potter movies) returns to direct both this and its first sequel. The movie stars “Newt” Scamander, the writer of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book that’s mentioned in the Harry Potter books and movies. The first movie also takes place in New York City, giving us a very different setting with a fairly different culture within the wizarding world.