This project sounded good, but who could've anticipated it'd look THIS GOOD? Love how they're leaning hard on "No. This is Michael B. Jordan's movie first and foremost," holding back on the idea that this isn't an entirely new franchise until the perfect moment to reveal you-know-who.

And then... Holy hell. You had to know he'd end up wearing... yeah. But still...

Review: TED 2

I bet Seth MacFarlane is one of those guys who has multiple groups of friends who don't know eachother, i.e. "the movie friends," "the neighborhood friends," "my smart friends," "my slob friends," etc. It's somewhat common among "self-made" creatives to begin with, and it'd make sense given the way his TV shows, cartoons and films all feel pulled between competing instincts - all of them sincere, but none of them really compatible. By all indications, he appears enormously self-satisfied with his ability to geek-out about Boston sports teams, STAR WARS minutiae, the Golden Age of dance-musicals and Rat Pack ephemera; but creatively the influences have yet to fully coalesce.

TED 2, like TED and FAMILY GUY before it, careens back and forth between gooey sentiment, bro-comedy raunch, "edgy" black-humor, geek-culture reference-drops, Boston neighborhood-scene deep cuts and "ironic" racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Taken as a set of sketches all framed around the same set of characters, it mostly worked the first time out - but TED 2 makes the Comedy Sequel mistake of assuming that an emphasis on plot and the mechanics of the central joke (re: "How does Ted work, anyway?") will make a satisfactory replacement for jokes that got used-up in Part I. There are some genuine howlers, and the main back-and-forth between John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (MacFarlane) still works, but the law of diminishing returns is firmly in place.

In case you missed it, the original TED had a killer comedy premise: Fashioned as a sequel to a non-existant Disney/Amblin-style "my magical buddy" movie, it took the "Help! My slovenly/immature best pal from my youth is holding back my personal adult development!" buddy-comedy subgenre to its logical extreme: As a child, John wished upon a star and brought his Christmas teddy bear to life... and now both boy and bear are 30-something Bostonian layabouts obsessed with weed, beer, bad movies/TV and avoiding adulthood at all costs.

As TED 2 opens, Ted has married his girlfriend Tami-Lynn not long after a down-in-the-dumps John has permanently split with his love-interest (Mila Kunis) from the original... which basically makes most of the plot of Part I meaningless, but it's a comedy sequel so that comes with the territory. The plot-proper gets going when Ted and Tami-Lynn's unsuccessful attempt(s) to have a baby inadvertently trigger various engines of government to realize that, though it has been treating the living stuffed-animal like a person all this time (John revealed Ted to the world back in the day, and by now the world is no longer impressed by his existance)... legally, he isn't. This leads to everything from Ted's job to his credit to his marriage to be nullified, and sets the duo on a quest to challenge the law with the aid of a neophyte Civil Rights attorney (Amanda Seyfried.) "Where do you even get a lawyer? Everyone we know makes sandwiches," observes Ted in one of the more winning lines.

There's not much structure to be had here, since everything is in service of setting up "bits." The baby-making misadventures, which find Ted and John re-enacting an ancient FAMILY GUY routine and attempting to manually steal sperm from Tom Brady, goes on too long while the court case (which you'd think would be the focus) breezes by en-route to a road-trip sequence so Ted can do jokes outside of the Boston milieu. Act 3, just like last time, droops for an obligatory villain scheme (now that Ted is legally "property" again, Hasbro wants to abduct him for an experiment in mass-marketing) and maudlin sentiment.

That last part, the sentiment, is what's more weirdly prominent this time: as Ted and others namecheck Dred Scott, Slavery, gay-marriage and so forth as precedent/parallel for his personhood quest; it at first seems like MacFarlane is aiming high for a send-up of the "fantastical metaphor" message-movie genre, but nope - it becomes clear that we're supposed to take it as straight (righteous, even) when Ted angrily stands up in court and protests: "Ah, dammit! Y'see? This exactly what you're doin' to the f*gs!!!" It's a bizarre miscalculation, to say the least.

Still, it at least has a higher laff-to-dud ratio than McaFarlane's previous project, A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST, but it also suffers from the same set of issues: The pattern beginning to emerge with MacFarlane's live-action work is that the elaborate" setpiece" gags (with the exceptional of the exceptional "Flash Gordon Scene" from the firs TED) either land soft or not at all, while the small observational material stands up a lot better. A gonzo exchange between Ted and a certain celebrity guest about Trix is a riot, there's a repeat-gag about office candy-dishes that feels swiped from peak-period Woody Allen and a pitch-dark bit about heckling an improv comedy troupe with sad suggestions has no right being as funny as it is. But meanwhile, a massive slapstick sequence involving a brawl in a comic-book covention ("Ha ha! Character X is beating up Character Y! Get it!!??") sounds like a terrible Kevin Smith joke from the 90s and plays like an even worse Kevin Smith joke from now. On the other hand, I did laugh when a pair of cult-TV luminaries from the supporting cast showed up cosplaying their "actual" famous characters.

Problematic or not, MacFarlane is a substantial talent (how he's resisted just making a full-on musical yet I have no idea) and I do think he's got a classic comedy in him yet - but TED 2 isn't it.

The Rock to Star in Classic Arcade Adaptation RAMPAGE

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is an actor the film press loves to cover, but not only because he generates clicks and is a good interview: He's also one of the savviest businessmen in terms of managing a personal brand in the business right now, so watching his moves is a great way to read the tea leaves of the film industry.

Case in point: In case you were wondering - for some reason - whether The Rock (or "his people") had seen and/or had any opinion on PIXELS (the Adam Sandler oldschool-video-game-invasion action/comedy)? The answer(s) would appear to be "Yes" and "They think it's going to be a huge hit" - Johnson has signed on for an adaptation of the arcade classic RAMPAGE.

I'd like to get excited about this. If we're to have video-game movies, I'd much rather see conceptually-interesting material like this (RAMPAGE was "about" a trio of people who mutate into Kaiju-scale gorilla, dinosaur and wolfman monsters and destroy cities) than, say, ASSASSIN'S CREED which - spoiler! - is probably just going to look/feel like a pretty okay (if we're lucky) action movie once you take the interactivity away. But the problem with The Rock as a driving force behind any project is that he's looking for big hits - period; which means you're usually going to get the safest, most test-market-approved version of the premise possible as opposed to the kind of mischievous weirdness that permeated the original game.

Project already has a screenplay, the plot of which is being kept secret for some reason. The game "starred" humans who turned into the monsters, but given that Johnson (and the studio) probably don't want to hide the marketable big-star under makeup or CGI you can almost-certainly bet that won't be The Rock's part. More likely, George, Lizzie and Ralph will be downgraded to villains/co-stars in their own movie, with Johnson as the guy trying to stop/manage the titular rampage. Or not, who can really say?

Not that anyone cares, but if I was pitching a RAMPAGE movie? Broad, bad-taste genre-comedy (think TED but scaled down to a REN & STIMPY-ish PG-13). Cast a "name" male/female comic pairing (think maybe Seth Rogan/Sarah-Silverman) as George and Lizzie, unwittingly turned into giant monsters who then go on the run. They bicker, they get over it, they work together, ultimately they have to fight bad-monster Ralph (the giant wolfman) and maybe somehow turn back (or not.) Save money by leaning on the obvious Godzilla parallels re: pop-culture's collective knowledge that Godzilla = guys fighting in monster costumes and using just-cheezy-enough kaiju suits and miniatures (or maybe the suits are suit-looking but the backgrounds are real/realistic would be a more interesting look?) instead of blowing the FX budget. Mandatory: Keep the naughty/scatalogical sense of humor from the games, including a "money shot" of a skyscraper being "taken out" by asteroid-sized flung gorilla poop.

Two Guys You've Never Heard of Will Direct and Star In MARVEL (and Sony's) New SPIDER-MAN

Marvel's official blog has announced that Tom Holland is the new, Marvel Cinematic Universe official SPIDER-MAN. The young British actor (he's 19 but looks like he's barely out of grade school) will likely (read: definately, but we're supposed to pretend everyone doesn't already know this) be hitting the Atlanta, Georgia set of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR in the near future before embarking on his own franchise-starter solo feature; which the same blog post also reveals will be directed by Jon Watts, who helmed CLOWN for Eli Roth and whose COP CAR (the producers of which are popping champagne right now) turned heads at Sundance.

Holland previously appeared in THE IMPOSSIBLE, a terrible movie you don't need to pretend you saw, remember or have even heard of. Already onboard the project is co-producer Amy Pascal, who'll be in charge of pretending that Sony has any actual creative function on the film apart from following dictates from Marvel boss Kevin Feige.

All of this lines up pretty well with the buzz surrounding the project for a long time now, in terms of
the solo feature looking for a new director with action chops and that Marvel very much wanted a child (or child-looking) actor for the part - both to set Spider-Man apart from the predominantly middle-aged AVENGERS stars and also to let them/Sony ground the initial wave of solo features firmly in Peter Parker's High School (maybe also College) years, which also happen to encompass the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko/Jon Romita eras generally seen as the character's Golden Age in the comics.

It's easy to be cynical about this, since so much of it is being dictated by business needs and (previously) mine-is-bigger-than-yours jockeying by Marvel and Sony: Another reboot (though not, apparently, another full-length origin story) coming right on the heels of the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN disaster(s) and the built-in promise of a lot of "Oh, hey! It's Spider-Man!" stuff popping up in the other Marvel movies (it's assumed that he'll appear in CIVIL WAR and at least one of the INFINITY WAR movies) for however long it takes Marvel to re-assimilate ownership fully - or to just acquire the whole of Sony's struggling film division, which I'm hearing is among Marvel/Disney's ultimate goals down the line.

But I like the casting. Anyone would've been an improvement over Andrew Garfield's mush-mouthed mugging, but the idea of re-framing Spidey as the Marvel hero where the "man" part is a put-on (the best Spider-Man moment ever filmed to date involved the line "He's just a kid...") is getting back to the core original appeal of the character in a way even the Sam Raimi movies didn't: This is the hero who lives in the same world, age and experience-wise, as the target-audience of the Marvel movies. That's an interesting idea on its face.

No one really knows (or is saying) what the setup of the solo movie is, though early rumors included a supporting role for Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man and "SPIDER-MAN: THE NEW AVENGER" as a possible title, with the premise concerning an already-established Spider-Man bugging Tony Stark about joining the team - which, if true, means we already know who wins the CIVIL WAR.

RIP James Horner: 1953-2015

James Horner, probably the most well-known (by cumulative work and by reputation) Hollywood music composer of the last several decades not named John Williams, is reported dead in a plane crash earlier tonight.

He leaves behind a legacy of work that includes such iconic film scores as STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, ALIENS, FIELD OF DREAMS, TITANIC, BRAVEHEART, APOLLO 13, GLORY and AVATAR; along with less well-known but highly-regarded scores for KRULL, THE ROCKETEER, WILLOW and dozens of others.

Horner was also credited as co-songwriter of several massively-popular songs tied to feature-scores, including "Somewhere Out There" from AN AN AMERICAN TAIL and the Celine Dion megahit "My Heart Will Go On" from TITANIC. Horner was 62.

The Collection

Followers of my Twitter are no doubt aware that I've begun a little side-project/hobby in collection every issue of NINTENDO POWER Magazine. It's more of a "spiritual fulfillment" thing than anything, I guess - begun while cleaning old stuff out of my parents' house and realizing that more of my original collection had survived than I'd thought. At this point I've done pretty well, nudging myself just over the halfway mark. Helpfully, I decided early on that I'm not interested in grabbing up "mint" copies of anything - like I said, quasi-spiritual thing, not an "investment." I see it more or less as "re-homing" copies that fans loved like I loved mine and aren't comfortable throwing out.

Thus far, collector shops and eBay have been doing the job well enough. But now that I'm at the point where bulk-buying big collections of random issues will almost-certainly land me more duplicates than "needs," I figured it can't hurt to also reach out to see if there are any fellow fans/collectors among my friends and readership who are looking to unload such items.

To be clear: I am NOT scrounging about for "donations" here - just to buy/sell/trade in a slightly more flexible/personal/"piecemeal" (if necessary) fashion than eBay is. Basically, if anyone out there reading this has any they'd like to unload, I'm interested in seeing what might be workable cash/tradewise. Of course, if anyone IS just looking to make space and doesn't think what they've got has a lot of collector value, I'll happily take (some) of it off your hands - though I really would prefer to give/exchange something for them. Let's talk, in any case :)

To give you an idea what I'm working with, the "need" list currently includes Volumes 1 & 2, 4-7, 9-11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 25, 30, 38, 39, 45, 48, 50, 55, 56, 58, 64, 67-69, 76, 86, 87, 96, 98, 101-112, 114, 116, 123, 124, 133, 176, 180, 194-201, 204-207, 210-2113, 215-228, 231, 234-237, 240, 243, 246, 248, 251, 253-256, 258-262, 265-274, 277, 280, 282, 283 and 284; plus any/all NP-branded Strategy Guides excluding Pokemon (there's just too many.)

Folks looking to talk turkey are invited to use comment section here OR my work email at
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