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The Point Radio: Janet Varney – So Much More Than KORRA

To a legion of LEGEND OF KORRA fans, Janet Varney IS Korra, but there’s so much more to this phenomenally talented lady. Her success checklist contains the legendary SF Sketchfest, YOU’RE THE WORST and of course her weekly JV CLUB podcast. We jump into it all in the first part of our interview. Then, take a good look at your friends or family and see if they have quirks which may result in MY STRANGE CRIMINAL ADDITION. Host, and addition specialist, Dr. Mike Dow, talks about what we will see on the Investigation Discovery series.

Next week marks our 7th anniversary and we’ll be back right here midweek to celebrate with you!

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Emily S. Whitten: Interview with Raphael Sbarge

Whitten Art 131008Currently, actor Raphael Sbarge is playing the character of psychiatrist Archie Hopper (a.k.a. Pinocchio’s conscience Jiminy Cricket) on the modern-day fairy tale show, Once Upon A Time, in which fairy tale characters have been transported to the “real world” town of Storybrooke, Maine, and robbed of their real memories by a powerful curse. It’s a lot of fun!

If you somehow haven’t encountered Once Upon A Time and Sbarge’s character there, however, you may also remember him as one of the main characters on The Guardian, Jake Straka. And if you’ve missed both of those shows, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve seen him in something. Why? Because Sbarge is one of those great TV actors who shows up in pretty much every show I’ve (or anyone’s) ever watched. From Prison Break to Quantum Leap, and Avatar: The Last Airbender to Murder She Wrote, Sbarge has also been on Star Trek: Voyager, 24, Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, Numb3rs, Dollhouse, Lie to Me, Rizzoli & Isles, Dexter, Burn NoticeCastle, and many more.

I always enjoy Sbarge’s roles and guest appearances, so I was delighted to sit down with him at Dragon Con this year for a fun chat about his career and current work. We talked about everything from his background and first forays into acting as a child; to his experiences as a stage, TV, and voice actor; to his diverse TV career and his roles on The Guardian and Once Upon A Time. Sbarge also told me about On Begley Street, a web series he is currently executive producing and directing, which “explores the building of North America’s greenest, most sustainable home” by actor Ed Begley, Jr. and his wife Rachelle Carson-Begley. I haven’t encountered a premise like that before and it sounds pretty cool; so be sure to check that out!

You can watch my full interview with Raphael Sbarge here (and yes, I am actually in this video). And don’t forget to check out Sbarge on Once Upon A Time…and whatever multitudes of other TV shows he might appear on next!

Enjoy! And until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Discusses Paul Levitz

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Discusses Newspapers and Slow Death

 

Emily S. Whitten: Dee Bradley Baker is an Animal!

Whitten Art 130813Well, actually, he’s a lot of animals. From Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb to Appa and Momo on Avatar: The Last Airbender, voice actor Dee Bradley Baker is the man behind a whole slew of animal and creature sounds you might not even guess could come from a human being. Of course, he also voices awesome speaking characters, such as all of the clones on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Klaus the German fish on American Dad! And then there are all of those video games he’s provided voices or sounds for, like the Halo series, Portal 2, Gears of War 1 – 3, Diablo III, Left 4 Dead 2, the Ben 10 video games, and several Marvel and DC games, including Batman: Arkham City. In fact, if you look over his ridiculously long IMDB page  (329 titles!) I think you’ll find that even if you are not a heavy consumer of entertainment, you’ve heard Dee’s voice somewhere and probably didn’t even know it. And that’s the way he likes it.

I had a chance to sit down with Dee at the San Diego Comic-Con and talk about his amazing talents, examples of which you can listen to here, and his experiences as a voice actor (and for those who are interested in getting into voice acting, I recommend Dee’s site, I Want to Be a Voice Actor, as a great resource). It was an awesome interview, which you can watch in its entirety here. Or, read on for the transcript!

You’ve worked on a number of things that are being featured here at SDCC, so please tell me about those.

My first day was a panel for I Know That Voice, which the great John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender and a ton of other voices, is overseeing; and it basically chronicles the history of voice acting and who’s working in voice acting right now – most all of the A-listers – and it also speaks a lot about Comic-Con as well. He just kind of assembled some Avengers of Voice Acting on that panel, and we had a really fun panel. I also did one for Phineas and Ferb, and that went beautifully. I’m Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb (demonstrates Perry). That’s a great and creative show; and I really love that show as a dad, because that’s one you can watch over and over and over again, which is what kids like to do; so that was spectacular. Yesterday we had a big panel in the gigantic hall for American Dad!, which was also a lot of fun. (In character) I’m Klaus the fish on American Dad! And I am in a little bowl.

And what was it that Rob Paulsen said about that voice on the I Know That Voice panel?

It just makes him happy. It makes him happy to hear me speak with a German accent. Or to speak in German, which I will do for him.

It was funny to see the reactions on that panel when you started doing Klaus. I think everybody loves that.

Yes; well, I have a real fondness for the German language. I speak it, and I spent a year in school there, and I studied German writers and philosophers. And it’s just kind of a forgotten language in this country basically since the 20th century, and it’s a fun little thing to pop out and show everyone.

With the German language thing; when you go in and a director says they’re looking for a German voice do you ever do German and they say, “that’s too authentic, we want something hammy”?

No; if they want me to dial down the accent, I’ll do that; but I’ve never gotten that request. I understand what you’re asking; but actually, for me, it usually works out – what’s sometimes difficult for me is if I go in to do a dog or a cat, and they want something that doesn’t sound like a dog or a cat. They want something that’s goofy; or that’s more human. So I have to make myself bend away from something that’s authentic into something that expresses it with the tone that they want.

When you’re doing that process, do you just sit there and try a bunch of noises?

Yes.

Can you give an example?

Well, if you want, like, a dog bark (demonstrates different dog barks) you can humanize it. You can make it more Scooby, or more like a dog. And then you can dial in whether it’s small or big or whatever. But it’s a little different for every show, and that’s kind of what I do as a voice actor.

That’s great. Now you mentioned philosophy – did you study philosophy?

Yes, I was a philosophy major in college, with practically a minor in German.

So how did you go from philosophy and German to voice acting?

Both coexisted fine, really. I’ve done performing all of my life, and had a lot of fun doing everything from plays and operas and stand-up and children’s theater and improv, to singing telegrams, summer stock, Shakespeare-

Singing telegrams, really? Where do you even find that job?

Oh, just look in the Yellow Pages! Or whatever exists now. You can get money to do a live singing telegram.

Did you have to dance, too?

Well, it depends on the character. On what they want the character to do. Whether it’s like a nerd strip-a-gram, or…there are just various characters that they hand you, with this horrible script, and then you have to walk into a situation where either they’re delighted or they’re just completely mortified, and it’s really uncomfortable. And then you have to try to get them to pay you your money, because the company that hires you is not going to help you with that. It’s actually a fairly unpleasant job for me to do. So I didn’t do that for very long; but I did it for a while. But you know, it’s either that, or work in an office; and I don’t want to work in an office. So – I like performing, and I’m happy to try something stupid in front of people. I always have been, and that’s how I earn my living; is basically that.

And you’re fantastic at it, so that’s great! Now, I looked at your IMDB page. With voice actors, it’s impossible to even remotely cover everything, because you all are so versatile, and you do everything.

Yeah, a lot of us are very versatile, and do a lot of different kinds of voices; we do impressions; you know, I specialize in sounds; some are women who do little boy voices; some are known for the sexy; some are known for the powerful, or the evil, or the big; or maybe they can do them all. So yeah, a lot of us have a lot of different shows that we do. That’s how you earn a living as a voice actor, is to do a lot of shows; as opposed to on-camera, where you’re pretty much just doing one show at a time.

And as I was looking through your IMDB, I never actually got down to the bottom of your very first gig. I was scrolling, and I was like, “I’m never going to get there,” so I’ll just ask: what was your first gig, and also, what was your first experience performing in front of people, like as a child or whatever.

My first performing-in-front-of-people experience was I think in first grade, when they asked me to present flowers at the University of Northern Colorado homecoming queen beauty pageant, and I had to present flowers to the gal who was one of the homecoming queen candidates at the university. My second performance was the lead as Oliver in the play Oliver at my school, which was a K through 12 school in Greeley, Colorado, and that was my first really acting/performing gig, was starring in Oliver. I was in second grade, so about eight years old. My first professional gig, being paid, would be performing Oliver, again, at the Chuckwagon Dinner Playhouse in Greeley, Colorado. They paid me something like thirteen bucks a night to be Oliver. I was probably ten or eleven. I did Oliver in Greeley three times! I did it once at my school, once at the university, which was not paid, and then once for the Chuckwagon Dinner Playhouse, which was paid. And that was my first paying gig.

But when I was a kid, you know, I did ventriloquism; I did plays; they’d bring me over as the boy soprano at the university for Bernstein’s Mass or various productions. That was not paid; that was just for fun. That’s how I came to become enamored of acting and performing, was just doing it for fun.

So what was your first voice acting gig that was professional?

My first paid voice acting gig was doing a non-union commercial in Colorado Springs for Mexicana Airlines, in a horrible Spanish accent. That was my first voiceover gig, if I remember correctly. It was terrible. It was truly terrible, but I got paid to do not-my-voice in a commercial.

And it’s all experience, whether you’re paid or not. That’s the best teacher; that’s what you want. You need experience. Not necessarily classroom study, although that can be a very good thing. But you’ve got to get in front of an audience, and you’ve got to convince people to give you money to do what you like to do.

Now you were saying that you’re known for creatures, which I of course knew and appreciate-

(Dee does animal noises!)

So can I ask you, how do you do…

(Dee does crickets!)

that. How do you do the crickets? I love the crickets!

(Demonstrating) The crickets are done with the back of the tongue against the soft palate, like you’re gargling; it’s very relaxed back there. You can do it other ways too, actually. You can do it in the front of the mouth. But I do it in the back of the mouth; and then while I’m whistling, I dial in the uvula; and then I whistle with an inhale, which is a higher whistle for me; and then I just do it in reverse. So that’s what you do. But you can do that! You can practice that and you can do that. I’ve shown people how to do it.

I believe you! And I love the crickets.

Everybody loves the crickets. Except for a writer. A writer doesn’t like the crickets. Because you insert the crickets when there’s a pause or when the joke falls flat. So writers don’t like the crickets; that’s one thing I’ve learned.

That makes sense. Now you do tons and tons of creatures. Have you had any particular ones that have been really difficult to come up with, or that really stressed your voice?

Well roaring and screaming like you often do in video games can be really taxing on the voice. But I try to do it in a way that doesn’t tear up my voice. That’s done by relying on – not the voice. By relying on the throat. (demonstrates) Like that – where I’m using not just my voice but other things to make the sound or the effort. It also helps too to use it on an inhale sometimes, because that can get you a lot of sound but is not as hard on the voice. It’s taxing on the voice, but not terribly so.

When you do that in public and people smile like I’m smiling now, do you get a big kick out of that?

I don’t do it in public, and when I do they don’t smile! Well, they do here! It’s gotta be set up right, otherwise, there’s something wrong. There’s something obviously wrong, and they don’t smile.

Well, I was going to ask, also, because a lot of voice actors are known for the voices that they do, what is it like being the creature guy; being a voice actor who’s most known for animal and creature sounds?

I love that. I’m happy not to be known for anything. I don’t need to be known at all; it’s not really on my agenda. It doesn’t serve my life to be known; other than professionally, in professional circles, for people to know that I do creature and animal sounds. But that’s part of the appeal of a voice acting career, is that you’re not saddled with fame. You can live a relatively normal life and have normal relationships, and have to deal with your own human limitations in a more immediate way than you do in the sort of mediated, buffered world that a famous person has to cope with. So that’s part of why I like voice acting and was drawn to it, is that in particular.

Has that changed any for you since YouTube and having voice actors at cons and things are more prevalent now?

I can still go shopping at a grocery store and nobody knows who the heck I am, so no. But! There are a couple more people at a convention that recognize me; that’s fine. But for the most part, they don’t. And that’s okay.

Okay; now with The Clone Wars, you were saying the other day that it’s strange for you to be doing a normal voice. Can you talk about that experience?

Yes, well, when you’re establishing your career in whatever you’re doing, you kind of start with your default strength, and that for me tended to be more (in character) wacky or comedic character roles, that were more broad or cartoony. And I still have that in my wheelhouse. But when I auditioned for and got on Clone Wars, (in character) it is a straight-ahead soldier; I mean that is a normal human being that is as straight-ahead as you can imagine. There’s nothing bizarre or strange about a clone. They are a soldier, and a human, and that is what is interesting about them.

And so I would never have cast myself in doing that kind of a role at that time. That was kind of a mental limitation I had imposed upon myself, just because of what I’d been doing and what worked. But that kind of opened up for me the realization that I can do normal! That I can do normal and variations of normal; and the acting challenge of applying the gradation of character to the clones really opened up my mind in terms of what I can do and how I look at what I can do. So from that, I will occasionally get a villain character. For instance, Tarrlok, in Legend of Korra. (in character) Tarrlok, he speaks mostly as I do. But he is a character who is duplicitous, and you’re not always sure what he’s going to do; if he’s friendly, or if he’s evil…or what’s up with him. And that was another just straight-ahead character; who was kind of unsavory in a lot of ways. But again, I got to do that. Or Ra’s al Ghul in the Batman: Arkham City video game. I mean, that’s a straight-ahead villain. That’s a heavy. And I booked that, whereas I think a decade ago or so, I don’t think I would have even auditioned for it. No one would have thought to, and I wouldn’t have thought to. I would have said, “Nah, that’s not really what I do.”

You’ve worked a lot in both video games and animation. What’s the difference in experiences there? Do you prefer one?

I like video games in general because I think it’s not just an art form, but an evolution in how humans communicate, and what they do. I don’t think normal society really understands that. The sort of established, grown-up society; I don’t think they understand the profundity of what that means in terms of connecting with millions of other people in different countries and doing something together. Like, with World of Warcraft, or on Xbox or something like that, you’re literally playing against the rest of the planet, or you’re playing with them, as you play against them. It’s competitive but at the same time it’s cooperative. And I don’t know what else we’re doing as nations and countries that is like that. I think it’s a really positive and necessary thing, that has the potential to lead to kind of benevolent connections among societies; that we need, as the world seems to be falling apart. I think it’s a thing that brings large groups of people together, who don’t even necessarily speak the same language. And that’s something; that’s unique.

It also brings in a lot of different art forms in addition to writing and acting. It also puts music into the ear of young people who probably aren’t getting that; because arts and other essential education in this country are being cut, because education is not a priority in this country, sadly. Tragically. And so I like that it brings music into the mind and into the ear; as many of the projects that we have here at Comic-Con do. Whether it’s the X-Men feature film, or a Halo game, the music that you’re hearing, this sort of nineteenth century programmatic music, is really marvelous. It’s a marvelous form of expression. We should know it and appreciate it and cultivate that in our world, I think.

I agree. Now speaking of the con again, were you also doing Wolves?

Yes, I did! I was doing wolf sounds for Wolves. I don’t know what I am allowed to tell about it, but it’s David Hayter’s project, and he’s got a great werewolf-type project, and they brought me in to do some wolves. (demonstrates)

That’s fantastic. Are there any other new projects we should be keeping an eye out for?

I wish there were more that I could talk about. I continue to do a lot of stuff for Disney, and for Phineas and Ferb, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and lots of shows that kids really like. For Jake and the Never Land Pirates, I’m the Croc, and – I’m pretty much the animals in that; whether it’s a bee or a plant or a lizard or a bug or whatever it is, they call me in to do that.

What does it make you feel like if you’re watching a show that you’ve done, and there are people talking, and you are all of the background noises or whatever?

I like that. I mean, it’s fun! It’s fun to be in there, and I like it best if people don’t realize that that’s what that is; that there is a human doing that. The goal would be for it to sound natural and seamless and invisible, sort of like a special effect. You don’t want an audience member to think about a special effect. You want them to experience the scene more accurately to what your vision is as a creator. And that’s what I want to be as a voice actor who adds the weird or the animal or the alien, is to make it feel like this is an organic part of what the story is. Not, “Oh, who’s that guy, doing that sound?” That’s what I don’t want.

I think you succeed very well, because I would never know.

•     •     •     •     •

Dee is a such pleasure to talk with, and I had a fantastic time interviewing him! And, of course, I asked Dee to do a shout-out for ComicMix, which he was kind enough to do. Don’t miss it at the end of the video!

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Goes Super Nigga!

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold Gets Real Small

 

Emily S. Whitten: Phil LaMarr at Awesome Con DC!

Phil LaMarr Emily Whitten

So, ComicMix readers, as per my previous column, Awesome Con DC happened April 20 and 21…and, I say this unironically, it was awesome. I had a blast. I spent time with good friends; I met new friends; I walked the con floor and met comics legends (great chat, Larry Hama!) and witty and charming award-winning artists (hello, Ben Templesmith!); and was delighted with the strong turnout of talented local comics folks. I went to a couple of panels (amazing, for me, since I usually plan to go to tons and then don’t go to…any); and wore my Girl Jayne Firefly costume. And yes, naturally, I bought some stuff (surprise!). I also pretended to be Nick Galifianakis for awhile (don’t tell!) and did three fantaaaastic interviews: with Nick, and with the amazingly talented Phil LaMarr and Billy West. (More convention pictures here, and oh by the way, next year’s Awesome Con dates are already set! April 19-20, 2014! Woo!) So much fun!

 

This week, I get to share with you my Awesome Con interview with Phil LaMarr, who is so fantastic. Seriously, y’all. So fantastic. And multi-talented. If you don’t remember him from his many roles during his five year stint on the sketch comedy show MADtv, then you might remember him as Marvin (poor Marvin! So young, so shot-in-the-face!) from Pulp Fiction. Or you might have seen him on one of the many other shows in which he made guest appearances. Or you might know him from his voice acting, in such roles as Hermes Conrad (and Reverend Preacherbot) on Futurama; or as John Stewart, Green Lantern, on Justice League; or as J.A.R.V.I.S. and Wonder Man on The Avengers TV series; or as Samurai Jack on Samurai Jack; or from Family Guy, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Avatar: The Last Airbender, or Star Wars: The Clone Wars, or King of the Hill, or Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, or Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, or, or, or…really I could go on forever. But instead, why don’t we go to the interview?

If you want to listen to the interview (listen to it! He does voices! We geek out about comics!) you can do so here. Or, you can read the (slightly edited) transcript below!

Hello, this is Emily Whitten, and I am here with Phil LaMarr at Awesome Con, the first comic con in the DC area in something like eight years. Phil, thank you for joining me.

Of course.

And I’m a big fan of your work; who isn’t?

Awww.

And…there’s so much of it, I almost didn’t know where to start; so I’m going to ask you, what was the first time that you were on stage, or acted?

Ooh, wow; first time ever was eighth grade, in a school play; a production of The Phantom Tollbooth. I played Tock the Watchdog.

You played Tock!

I did.

That’s fantastic. So how did you like it; what was your experience there?

Oh, it was amazing. The play opens with the real-world version of Tock, who is the clock in Milo’s room, doing a monologue to the audience. So my first time on stage in front of an audience was alone, on stage, under a spotlight, talking to the full auditorium; and it was a transformative experience. It triggered something in me that has never been the same since. I mean, that’s basically the dragon I’ve been chasing – since eighth grade.

So then were you in all the other school plays after that, or did you feel your way out; how did that work?

Not all of them; I did tech crew, and stuff; you know – because I was in eighth grade. And then in tenth grade, I got the part of Bogart in Play It Again, Sam. Which was arguably the start of my voice work and impressions…I mean, because (as Bogart) “‘Cause honestly, I was doing a Bogart impression and I was fifteen.” When most kids my age didn’t know who Bogart was. I beat everybody out by doing it.

Well that’s amazing! Now since then, obviously you’ve done a lot of work.

I’ve never done Bogart again.

You haven’t? No! But you did do a lot of work for MADtv. Now, tell me how that came to be?

Well, I’d gone through The Groundlings program, so I’d done sketch comedy and improv and over the course of that, created a few characters. I didn’t get MADtv through The Groundlings – I wasn’t there when the casting people came – but I was prepared for it, from creating characters and writing sketches. I’d been at that point, doing it for…that was ‘95, and I’d been in The Groundlings program since ‘89. So I had a lot of experience under my belt doing it. And it translated nicely.

So when you went to MADtv, and you had the characters, like Slick Rick, and you had the UPS—I mean UBS guy…

Right…yeah, that always annoyed me; it’s like, “Really? We can’t say ‘UPS’? We can say UPS.”

It’s unfortunate! So were those characters that you had created and brought over?

The UPS guy I had done at The Groundlings on stage; and in fact the first UPS guy sketch that I did with Mary Scheer on MADtv; I had also done with Mary Scheer on stage.

Oh, okay – because she was in the program as well?

Yeah, she was in The Groundlings with me, and we both got the show at the same time. Of course, for some reason the producers made me change the ending; because, in my version, he got the girl.

Awww. As it should be, you know?

Of course!

I love Jaq.

Everyone does!

He’s great, you know?

Eventually they saw the error of their ways, and then they began to write sketches where he, like, really got the girl. It became increasingly sexual; it’s like, guys, guys: (as Jaq) ‘Well no ’cause he’s just all moving around-‘ it’s like: (exasperated sigh).

The video store one is probably one of my favorites, because you do the embarrassed not-quite-sure-what-to-do very well.

Thank you.

And the fact that he was kind of popping up all over the store, that was fantastic.

Right. Pretending to rent everything except the one he wanted. Yeah, I don’t know where that came from. Out of whole cloth, completely imaginary.

Right; you heard a story once, or somebody had an experience.

Although it’s funny that you mention that one, because that was the one sketch that I got writing credit for.

Really?

Yeah.

Well good job, well done you!

Thank you.

Now when was Pulp Fiction, was that before MADtv?

That was before MADtv. We shot that in ’93, and it came out in ’94; so yeah, next year it will be twenty years, actually.

Wow – and of course it is a classic already, even though it will officially be a classic, you know, when it’s twenty. …I guess, if that’s how you calculate.

It will be an ‘antique.’

Yes; well I hear cars are classics after twenty or something like that…

Oh, okay; and movies…are classic once they reboot them.

Yes, exactly; Spider-Man’s like twelve classics now.

Exactly.

So when you were working on Pulp Fiction, obviously you have a great but not huge part, but what was that like, and what was your favorite part, or did you learn something new from it that you found very valuable in the future?

It was interesting because – you know, I loved Reservoir Dogs, so I was chomping at the bit to audition, and I got the chance. And it was so much fun; because Quentin was just so generous. You know, in the audition process, and later on, you know, in the shooting process as well; and I got to audition with the Jules and Brett scene – Sam Jackson, you know, has the gun on Frank Whaley, and it’s just – it’s like reading fresh Shakespeare. It’s like: “So Romeo and Juliet; but they can’t get togeth-my God, this is amazing!” You know? It’s like, “Where do you come up with these ideas, Will??”

Yeah, it was amazing. It’s the sort of thing where when you’re preparing for the audition, by the second or third time you’ve read it through you realize, “Oh, I’ve got this memorized;” because the words just flow, one into the other; it just makes sense.

That’s really great.

Yes; it was the best set that I’ve been on; still, to date.

In terms of the people you were working with, or the atmosphere, or the direction, or everything?

The vibe and the atmosphere; which, oddly enough, I think came from the script. Everyone who read that script loved it, you know, and wanted to be a part of it. Bruce Willis took a – I mean, I don’t know how big a pay cut he took, but the budget for the movie was eight million dollars; so he took a hell of a pay cut. And again; I mean, I knew going into it that it was a very, very small part – it’s like, five lines; but I also knew, “Well, as small as it is, they can’t cut me out – or they lose forty-five minutes of the movie.” Where did all the blood come from??

Yeah, they call up their friend, and they’re like, “What do we do now?” And what would they do if there was no you? The [plot would] be in trouble.

Exactly.

So, okay, you had done some improv, and you had done the movie, and you’ve done voice work – between the three – or however many different kinds of roles you’ve had – what’s your favorite and/or what do you find the most challenging to prepare for?

Well it’s funny, because the most challenging to prepare for is my least favorite. And that’s things that are badly written.

That’s fair!

Because honestly, that’s the most challenging to prepare for. It’s like, “Oh dear God. How can I make this work?” When something is great? When something is just a fantastic piece? It’s not work. It’s like, “Oh! Oh I could do this!” You’re inspired by what you’re given. So that’s not work at all. And it’s funny, because people always ask, “Do you like live action, or animation, or stage?” And I’m like, “I like things that are good.”

And the truth is, things that are good have more in common than just being something in the same medium. Like Pulp Fiction has more in common with Samurai Jack than Samurai Jack has with Pound Puppies.

Hey! I had a Pound Puppy once. …I still have one.

They’re back!

They’re so cute!

But, now; being someone who’s known for improv and sketch comedy as one of your things, do people give you more leeway in roles that wouldn’t usually call for that, necessarily? Like do you ever go in and say, “Oh, but I could do it this way!” – because I know that can happen with any actor, sometimes, that they can go in and improv something; but do you find that people expect that of you, or like that from you?

At times. It depends on the project. Although, the weird thing is, even though I’m an improviser, as an actor I’m really, really text-driven. So my first impulse is not to go off script; my first impulse is to go into the script and figure out: “Okay, how best can I serve the writer’s intent?” But yeah, I mean obviously there are a lot of comedy things, roles in shows that you get on, where they’re looking for you to, like, “Make it better!” Which is a great challenge, and a great opportunity.

That’s really interesting. Now, speaking of the different kinds of roles, could you pick your top roles that were either the most fun or most challenging, or both? And I know we’ve talked about the connection between fun and challenging. But roles where you could look back and say, oh, my life was more complete because I did these things, or my career was more complete, my experience.

Hm, I don’t know, Justice League [for which Phil does John Stewart, Green Lantern] was definitely a lot of fun, just because it was a wonderful nexus; because I’m a comic book person, and to be able to play in that world was really, really fun and rewarding. It was also made by spectacularly talented people, you know: Bruce Timm, and Dwayne McDuffie, and Sam Berkowitz, and Len Uhley, and Andrea Romano; like basically everybody involved with it was at the top of their game.

Yeah, they’re basically legends in their field. And now you said, as I was aware already, that you’re a comic book fan. Tell me, when you were little, how did you get into it, or what’s your favorite character or storyline?

Well I think I was pretty much a casual comic book reader, until maybe ten or eleven? Then our neighbors had a son who came back from college, and basically bequeathed unto me his entire comic book collection.

WOW.

So he was like in his early twenties-

-You can tell I’m excited about this.

Yeah, he just like, handed me this longbox.

The actual longbox, like what is it, like 300 comics at least in a longbox?

Right! And there were some amazing – I mean, I had some Mad Magazines, some of which I still have, that are older than I am. And I had great old Carmine Infantino Batmans; [and there were] twenty cent comics, and this was at a time when comics weren’t twenty cents anymore. And just a wide range. Stuff that I probably wouldn’t have picked up myself, but I got to read them. And it’s funny, because I’ve never been a “collector;” I’ve always been a reader; and the one time I tried to be a collector in the mid-eighties, I’m like, “Oh, there’s these new issues of this comic book coming out; I’m going to make sure I get number one!” and most of the number ones I have are, like, crap. I have Rom #1; Rom: SpaceKnight.

I don’t even know if I know that one.

No, you don’t. No you don’t.

I should, right?

No, you shouldn’t. It was really, really awful. The main character was a space robot.

Hmm, because “Space Knight” actually sounds kind of cool; but a space robot…?

But there was no there. There was no character, it was like, “No! He’s just a robot. From space. Doesn’t talk!” But I mean, I do also have New Teen Titans #1. So that was one I jumped on. And actually, I have Moon Knight #1, which wasn’t that great at the time

Yeah, but he’s gotten a lot bigger, in the last, I don’t know, I would say five years? I feel like it’s been more recently that he’s gotten more attention and more development.

Well it’s a tough character, just because that initial thing is like: “Okay, so, he’s a rich guy. And a mercenary! …And also a cab driver!” It’s like: “Whaaat??”

Yeah, he’s a little schizophrenic in the character development.

And eventually they wrote that into the character. “No no no, he’s actually just crazy.”

I was thinking, “Are they going to retcon that ever, or is it just going to be part of him now?”

Yes, somebody’s going to erase that. “Oh, the moon came over and it erased that…mental disease that this hero has.”

Yeah…but still, having the #1 of that is pretty good!

Well, especially because it’s early Bill Sienkiewicz. It’s Bill when he was still, like, “Is that Neal Adams? But just with really…with more sketch lines?”

That’s fantastic!

Yeah, I love that.

So yeah, that’s a good one, absolutely.

I’ve got to get him to sign that.

Yes, you should. He goes to cons, right? I haven’t actually run into him at one, but I’m sure…

He was at New York Comic Con last year.

Oh, then I’ve been at one with him and not – just kind of like how I saw you maybe from a distance at NYCC, I don’t know.

Yes, he’s very elusive.

Well I’m sure he’ll be at another one, and we’ll be at another one. So speaking of comics, I am embarrassed to say, that while I was –

That you’ve never read a comic book?

Hah, no! You know that’s not true!

“I’m, I’m just really pretty, aaaand…”

“I’m a fake geek girl, you know, ohmigoood…”

You are the fake unicorn. You are a horse with a horn glued on.

Hah, I am, I exist, the fake geek girl! No; I’ve read – my collection is quite impressive. I actually do have the entire-

You sound like such a dude when you say that.

I know, right?

You have a Ferrari – it’s a little red Ferrari: “My collection is massive. It’s really pretty impressive.”

“It’s amazing, dude. Bro!

“You should see it. But don’t touch it! Or I’ll…”

“Dude, it’s all in the little bags and boards, and if you get your fingerprints on it, I’m gonna be like, ‘Phil LaMarr’s fingerprint versus a mint condition, I don’t knoooow…'”

…But I have the entire Deadpool run.

Oh wow.

From the first appearance in New Mutants all the way through the current…

Really.

Yeah, I’m missing, like, a Black Panther that I cannot find. Black Panther #23.

So you’re kind of a completist?

Oh, I am. When it comes to Deadpool. And then when it comes to current runs that I’m reading if I miss one I go back and I get it.

Oh, well that just makes sense.

But yeah, I’m a definite completist when it comes to Deadpool; my collection is ridiculous.

How are you liking the Posehn/Duggan stuff?

I have to admit, I’m a little behind. Don’t tell! So far I’m liking it…

That’s the problem with being a completist.

I know! And I’ve also done some review copies lately so the stack [of stuff waiting to be read] is always changing. I have a stack right now that still includes Peter David’s X-Men: Gifted prose novel in the plastic and I got it for Christmas! But I read a little bit [of the Posehn/Duggan Deadpool]; I like it so far. But here’s what I’m embarrassed to admit: I was looking at your Wikipedia to prepare for this interview, even though I know some of your work, obviously, and I was like –

“He’s black! What the hell? No one ever told me!”

Right? “I didn’t know!”

No, but I was like, “He was in Spider-Man 2??” Which, I love that movie! And I love the scene that you’re in. And I was always so focused on Spider-Man; I went back and I was like, “Where is he, where is he, I have to find him!” This was last night; I have the movie, but I got on YouTube, because I knew it would be on there, because it’s the train scene – it’s the big scene. So I watched, and I was like, “And he catches Spider-ma – look at that!” How did you make that happen? No, I mean, they probably came to you and were like, “Phil. Come be in our movie.”

No! I auditioned for the Hal Sparks part; the guy in the elevator, when Spider-Man’s powers stop working.

Which is a great scene, where he’s like, “Cool Spidey suit, dude.”

Right.

So you auditioned for that…

And didn’t get it. And then they called, randomly, in August, and said:

“Hey, is Phil available to work from Wednesday to Friday?”

“For what?”

“Oh, Spider-Man 2.”

“Well, what part? Is it the part that he auditioned for?”

“No.”

“Well what part?”

“We can’t say.”

“Well can you send over a script?”

“No.”

And they refused to say anything! Like, “Well, what are we doing?” “They won’t tell me.” “Uhhhh…o-kaaay.” And I’m just racking my brains, like, “Well, this is Spider-Man, but…what am I doing?” And I told my agent, “All right: ask them, will I be working directly with Sam Raimi?” Because I knew, it’s a big, big movie; and I’m not going in there to be some sort of second unit, running from falling building blocks. And they said, “Yes, you will.” “All right, I’m in.” But I had no idea what I was doing. I showed up, and I’m like, “Whaaaaat are we doing?” And it turned out, [Sam] saw that scene, that fight between Doc Ock and Spidey, especially with Spider-Man losing his mask and keeping going, as the action heart of the movie.

And I totally agree!

It is.

That’s actually the reason I never noticed that it was you, because I’m so focused on the whole of the scene!

And it’s a fantastic scene!

Do you know, whenever I watch that movie, I actually watch that scene at least two or three times? Like, whenever I watch it. I cannot stop myself.

Because when else have you ever seen a fight scene at 100 miles an hour? In and out.

I know, with the windows, and the arms, and everything, and he goes in and out of the cars, and then at the end, when he’s stopping it with all the webs; it’s great! It’s fantastic.

Yeah, and the fact that it’s like: Is he going to stop it? No! He fails! No, he’s going to try again! And it’s just really – it’s just about willpower. But Sam knew that he needed emotion in this scene, and he said, “Okay, I’ve got, like, sixty extras,” and he sat us around and he said, “Okay, I’ve hired you eight actors so I can sprinkle you throughout this scene, so that I always have someone amongst the extras that I can cut to, to give me what I need at that moment, in the scene.” And I’m like, “I’ve never heard of that; that’s absolutely brilliant!” Like, if you have a crowd scene; yes, you don’t want to have to cut to extras to deliver the heart or the fear or whatever. And so he said, “I don’t know what the lines will be; we may be playing around with stuff; there’s nothing really scripted; but we may put some things in. You may not have lines, you might have lines, we don’t know .”

And you didn’t actually have a line, did you?

No; I had a line at one point that got cut out in the final cut.

Okay; but in that scene, I vividly remember people catching Spider-Man, and the emotion of it; I just didn’t realize it was you!

And you’re not supposed to! That would have been really distracting.

Well, and actually, the last time I had watched you on TV was more like Pulp Fiction and MADtv and stuff, and then I knew your voice acting; and so I don’t think I had connected the two of them as much. But that’s so great.

Yeah, it was fun. Well it was hilarious, because that two days turned into two and a half weeks.

Because that’s a huge scene! So how was it, working with Sam Raimi and everything?

It was great. I mean, a lot of sitting-around time, because on a movie with that kind of budget, they don’t really care if you sit around for twelve hours and don’t work. They’re like, “Your pay isn’t even going to show up on our budget,” you know what I’m saying? So it’s like, “Yeah, two weeks. Eh.” Actually, they didn’t even tell us that it was going to be extended. Just at one point, it’s like Friday, and it’s like, “Okay, so I guess it’s our last day,” and they’re like, “Oh, by the way, you’re on a weekly contract.” And I’m like, “Whuuu…?”

“See ya tomorrow!”

Right! “Oh, okay, I guess we…” But it was fun. It’s funny, because I wound up meeting Chloe Dykstra, who is a cosplay model and host, and she was fifteen, sixteen? And her dad was doing the special effects – John Dykstra – although it’s funny, because at one point – the subway train was pretty analog, like when the train rocked, there were a bunch of grips pushing a big wooden pole to rock it back and forth; and it looked very practical. They had practical Doc Ock arms, puppet arms that came in; and I passed John Dykstra one day on set, and I was like, “Well, this looks like a pretty easy scene for you, not a lot of special effects.” And he’s like, “…Not really.” And I was like, “Well what do you have to do?” “I have to create all of New York.” And he pointed up, and I realized that the entire three-story sound-stage we were in was a green screen.

Wow, and so he had to do everything rushing by, and when the webs go?

Everything you’re seeing – because actually, even some of the webs were practical; like when he’s holding them? Those were actual, practical webs.

I would think they would have to be, at least in his hands, so that they would look real.

But everything you’re seeing as it goes by, like all of the lighting, and all of the texture and everything – he created.

I find that stuff so fascinating, and I only know a little about it; and so I’m thinking, like, “How do they make his costume rip in just the right places, at just the right times,” you know?

The continuity was insane. And that was the other thing that was really impressive. Because Tobey Maguire was there on set, and at one point, we’re all carrying him. You know, it was that shot from above. And we were actually carrying him. And he was so nice, and I’m thinking, “If you’ve got me glued into a suit, where I can’t pee but once every eight hours? And then you’re going to throw me, with a recent back injury?”

Oh, he had a back injury?

Around Secretariat.

Oh yes, I remember that. [Emily note: We were both thinking of Seabiscuit. Because, you know, movies with horses and jockeys, yo.]

There was this whole talk about, they weren’t sure if he was going to be able to do it. And it’s like, “And you’re going to have me carried by a bunch of extras?” I’m sure if I was him, I would have done it; but I would have been in a bad mood. But he was so amazingly cool.

Did you get to sit down and chat with him at some point?

A little bit.

Because I’m sure everything was rushing around.

Yeah. And you also don’t want to bother him.

No, because he’s concentrating, he’s the main guy, in the main scene…

Yeah; and you know that guy has to – you don’t know what that person’s process is to maintain their energy. Because there’s a lot of sitting around, but when it’s time to go, you have to be ready to go. And it’s all on him.

Well, and everyone has a different method, and some people want the silence and everything.

Right.

That’s so cool though. I’m so glad that you’re in that; now every time I watch it I’m going to be like, “Look, it’s Phil!”

I’m so glad I’m in it every time I get a residual check.

Hah, that’s fair to say! Well I supported you, then, because I have the movie, and I went to see it.

Thank you.

So just a couple of other questions. Obviously, in your voice work, we mentioned the John Stewart role; also Futurama, which is huge and amazing and fun, and you play Hermes Conrad…

(As Hermes) A thirty-sixth grade level certified bureaucrat!

Which is fantastic! And at some point he gets bumped down and then gets back up there. He’s a great character, and you did other voices too…

Yeah; I mean, it’s been ten, fifteen years…I don’t know how long we’ve been doing it; but over the years we’ve all wound up doing additional characters, secondary characters; because there’s always somebody else to do.

Right. And now with that voice work, I have seen where sometimes with voice actors, you go in and you’re by yourself, and you’re doing your part, and then sometimes there are other people. Did you each record your own parts for Futurama, or were you in the room with everybody?

For Futurama we do group records. In shows that are writer-driven and comedy-driven, where the writers care about the comedy? You do group records.

Because the chemistry just works so much better when everybody’s together.

And you can’t really tell if a joke works if you can’t hear the lines before it.

That’s a really good point, obviously.

But people do it all the time!

Yeah, I’ve seen where people are just by themselves, and I’m like, “Wow, that has to be even harder than doing it with the group.”

As an actor it’s really difficult, because you can no longer trust yourself. You can’t take in the line that you’re getting and then respond naturally. You have to basically guess. It’s like, “Well, I don’t know what my response would be,” so you just have to trust the director.

Have you done that too? Jobs where you had to go in by yourself?

Yes.

So you have both experiences. I would much prefer the group to going in by myself.

Of course. It’s the difference between, like if you’re writing, having an editor you know and an editor you don’t know. It’s like, “Okay, well, I don’t know what this person likes, I don’t know what they hate, but I’ll just deliver whatever I’m going to.” You can do it, you still do the same job, but it’s less comfortable. And a lot of the big companies – Disney and DreamWorks – tend to do more individual records than group reads. Occasionally there will be a creator or producer who can insist on, “I really need a group read,” but generally, more and more of the companies lately are doing individual records.

Right; and I have seen some of that, because I follow the Deadpool fandom, and Nolan North does Deadpool for things like Hulk vs., so I saw some clips of that process. Now you actually worked on a project with him fairly recently; the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Yes.

And there are a lot of really great names in there, like Sean Astin, and Rob Paulsen –

 

– and Kevin Michael Richardson, and Jason Biggs, and Greg Cipes.

Yes! Lots of great names on there. So do you actually interact together, or is that one where you’re recording your separate parts?

Andrea Romano directs that, and Andrea’s very good and pretty old-school. So she does a read-through before, which almost nobody ever does, unless it’s a prime time show. But she does a table read the day of, just like she did in Justice League; like we would start the session by reading through the entire script.

Oh, right, so she directed both of those.

Yeah. She’s amazing. She did Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, Pinky and the Brain, Justice League

Yes! Which – Rob worked on a lot of those, I know. Did you ever work on Animaniacs and all of those?

No, those were before I got into VO. But fantastic shows. So she tends to do group records. And the funny thing is, there are directors who have four hours, or however many hours, or an hour for an individual thing and can barely get it done. She has an entire group of actors for just four hours, does a read-through first, and will still get you out early.

Wow. So who have you recorded with for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

I’ve recorded with the gang.

So how did you like that? And is that coming back?

I believe so.

Okay, well, you should know.

I don’t know! No, the actors are the last to know. Seriously? If you’re putting something together, the last people you call are the actors.

I see. Well I haven’t actually gotten to watch [TNMT] yet, so I wasn’t sure exactly where it is right now.

I think they’re still recording episodes; but maybe they’re in second season; I’m not exactly sure.

Well hopefully there will be more of that. Because I’ve loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from, you know, yea big, so I will want to check that out at some point.

You should, because the people behind it – Peter Hastings, and Ciro Nieli are just really, really talented.

Awesome. I will definitely do that. So tell me, is there any other current work you would like to talk about?

Hm, what’s going on right now…? I’m doing some on-camera stuff; I did a comedy series called Inside the Legend, that’s just been picked up by My Damn Channel. It’s a comedy interview show with characters from history, mythology, fiction, and legend; but they’re all a little tweaked. Like we did one where the female host is interviewing Albert Einstein. And then she introduces him, and he starts talking with a Southern accent. And she’s like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry! Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Twain!” And they just keep switching back and forth, and she’s never sure which one she’s talking to.

Okay, I must see that! Where and when is that coming on?

That’s on My Damn Channel on YouTube.

So it’s just a web series?

Yes.

Okay, well that’s fantastic; I will definitely put that link in, because that sounds just right up my alley.

Oh, and you’d also love – I’m also working on Chatroom of Solitude; Jeff Lewis from The Guild has written this. It’s for Stan Lee’s World of Heroes, and it’s really hilarious. It’s basically superheroes and supervillains on Google Chat.

I’m in love already. And that is also online?

Yeah. They’re both out now.

Well I’ll definitely check those out, because that’s fantastic. Yay! Thank you so much for this interview; and I’m going to do the thing that everybody [I assume] asks you to do…will you do the Green Lantern oath for me? Will you do it, Phil? I know you did it once today already, but…

Okay… Well, they’ll pick this clip, or the clip from YouTube, whichever:

 

“In brightest day, in blackest night,

no evil shall escape my sight.

Let those who worship evil’s might

beware my power: Green Lantern’s light!”

Thank you so much, Phil, this has been great.

You’re so silly.

***

Well, he’s right; I am. Big thanks to Phil LaMarr for the interview, and big thanks to the ever-helpful Kevin O’Shea, producer for Made of Fail Productions, for cleaning up the audio file for me. (And as ever, check out the Made of Fail podcasts for fun geek-tastic discussions, in which I have actually appeared a couple of times.

That’s all for now, and until next week, when I’ll be sharing my interview with the excellent Billy West, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

Clancy Brown to attend Premiere of Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite

LEGO Batman cover artClancy Brown, the quintessential voice of Lex Luthor, will walk the red carpet and take part in the post-screening panel discussion when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and The Paley Center for Media present the World Premiere of LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite in New York on February 11, 2013.

Brown set the benchmark for all Lex Luthor voices with his iteration of the role for Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, and he has reprised the voice in several TV series episodes as well as the DC Universe Animated Original Movie, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and now for LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite.

The World Premiere will include red carpet media interviews starting at 5:15 p.m. and the first-ever public screening of the film at 6:30 p.m.  Following the screening, cast and filmmakers will discuss the movie. Joining Brown on the panel will be TT Animation’s award-winning director/producer Jon Burton and director of photography Jeremy Pardon, and renowned videogame/animation actors Troy Baker (Bioshock Infinite, Batman: Arkham City) as Batman and Travis Willingham (Avengers Assemble, The Super Hero Squad Show) as Superman.

LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite, an all-new film from TT Animation based on its popular video game, finds Lex Luthor taking jealousy to new heights when fellow billionaire Bruce Wayne wins the Man of the Year Award. To top Wayne’s accomplishment, Lex begins a campaign for President – and to create the atmosphere for his type of fear-based politics, he recruits the Joker to perfect a Black LEGO Destructor Ray. While wreaking havoc on Gotham, Lex successfully destroys Batman’s technology – forcing the Caped Crusader to reluctantly turn to Superman for help.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has set May 21, 2013 as its release date for LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Superheroes Unite on Blu-ray and DVD.

Brown made his very first theatrical appearance opposite Sean Penn in Bad Boys, and then forever sealed his place in fantasy villainy as The Kurgan in Highlander. Before playing an immortal, though, Brown etched his name in cult classic history as Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Brown is regularly recognized from his standout performance as Captain Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, as the centerpiece of HBO’s Carnivale as Brother Justin Crowe, and to fanboys across the planet as gung-ho Sgt. Zim in Starship Troopers.

Having lent his voice to nearly 600 animated episodes and films, Brown is also widely known as Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants. His voice credits, to list just a few, include roles in The Batman, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Jackie Chan Adventures, Wolverine and the X-Men, Phineaus and Ferb, Ben 10: Alien Force, Kim Possible, Duck Dodgers, Teen Titans, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and Gargoyles.

The Paley Center in New York City is located at 25 West 52nd Street. There is no attached parking, however there is ample parking in numerous structures surrounding the Paley Center.

REVIEW: Prometheus

Ridley Scott rarely repeats himself, avoiding formulaic sequels, useless prequels, and remakes. Instead, the stylist conjures up new works and attempts to be thought-provoking time after time. You might have bought into the hype that this year’s Prometheus is an out and out set up to his Alien, but you’d be wrong. While tangentially connected to the first successful science fiction/horror film hybrid, this film is a pure science fiction film owing plenty to Stanley Kubrick.

The movie, now out on disc from 20th Century Home Entertainment, is an ambitious production with a strong cast, surrounded by amazing visuals. While we laughed at how weak the story and characterizations were in James Cameron’s Avatar, here, we are merely disappointed the story isn’t a match for the visual virtuosity on display. While far from Scott’s best, he deserves credit for trying something different and challenging his audience.

Scott sets his story in 2093, optimistically thinking we will be regularly working in space and ready to traverse the distant reaches of the galaxy. Scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find a map as part of a 30,000-year-old cave painting on the Isle of Skye, confirming there is sentient life elsewhere in the universe. Dubbed The Engineers, they seemingly beckon mankind to find them. The audience has already met them in an opening sequence that suggests they arrived on Earth with some goo that ignited the spark of life (and was also seen as the mummified Space Jockey way back in 1979). To discover the answer, deep-pocketed Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce) funds the construction of The Prometheus, which is thusly launched, its crew in hibernation en route to moon LV-223 and the evidence of intelligent life.

Heading up the crew is Mereditch Vickers (Charlize Theron) alongside the ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba) with android David (Michael Fassbender), geologist Fifield (Sean Harris), and biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall). One trick he does reuse from Alien is that before long, things go horribly awry. The story has gaping, starship-sized plot holes and the grand themes – where do we come from? — do nothing to mask them. It would have been nice if the crew had more depth of character or interacted in more interesting ways.

Fassbender has the toughest job, making his eight generation android different than the others seen in earlier films making up the Alien universe. Theron is strong with her work but Rapace gives us the more interesting, nuanced performance.

Scott shot this for big screen 3-D, framing things to pop just so, and dazzle us with detail. Thankfully, that all transfers pretty nicely to the home screen and 2-D. The transfer is pretty spectacular both audio and visual.

The Combo Pack offers you the film on Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet (a larger Combo Pack with 3-D Blu-ray is also an option, with a fourth disc containing an amazing three-and-half-hour documentary by Charles de Lauzirika). The special features provided on the standard Blu-ray begins with Scott’s audio commentary, supplemented with one from co-writers John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof.

There are thirty-seven minutes of Deleted, Extended & Alternate Scenes which you can on their own or with audio commentary by editor Pietro Scalia and VFX supervisor Richard Stammers. These are all interesting to watch, several of which would have made the film stronger. The Peter Weyland Files (18:57) are culled from the Internet.

Bay: Ninja Turtles to be Equal Parts Sin City and Avatar

While fans continue to rally against explosion producer Michael Bay with his continual nerd-prodding over the recent announcement of the ‘Ninja Turtles’, it seems Bay can’t get enough of the hate. At a recent Transformers: Dark of the Moon Collectors Edition release and signing event at a soon-to-be closed Best Buy in San Paulo, California, Bay dropped a few more details on the upcoming Turtles release.

“We’re taking the best of the property, and trimming off all of the fat. The movie is really sharply written. I know the fans are clamoring against us, but they don’t know all the details. The flick will be equal parts Sin City and Avatar. We have a large part of it ready for pre-production. We’re bringing in [Robert] Rodriguez in to help run the set-shots for the black and white stuff. I’ll be assisting on the 3-D effects. Trust me, seriously, once you see Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo in their Shell Power Suits… you know it’ll be worth all this hype.”

Fans continued to press Bay with questions. One spectator, donning head to toe TMNT merchandise pushed to the front of the line to ask (quite angrily) “What about Donatello?!”

Bay, normally a very jovial celebrity turned cold at the question, and quickly snapped back “Like I said, we trimmed off all the fat,” and had his escort take him out of the back of the store.

REVIEW: Wizards

While guys like Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas spent the 1970s reinventing live action moviemaking, animation had just one lone figure toiling away. Ralph Bakshi, trained on Terrytoons and involved in 1960s television animation, began exploring the possibilities of animated features in the shadow of Walt Disney’s death. His Fritz the Cat made people sit up and take notice, followed by Heavy Traffic, and Coonskin – urban, funky, raw tales set in a familiar world.

After that, he set his sights on something fantastic and gave us, in 1976, Wizards. I’ve been waiting for this film to be restored, cleaned up, and released on Blu-ray given its visual artistry and fun story. Finally, 20th Century Home Entertainment has released it for the film’s 35th Anniversary and they’ve given it a handsome treatment. Encased in a hardcover case with a 24-page booklet, the Blu-ray is striking to watch. (more…)

Real Steel Director Shawn Levy Enters the Ring

Shawn Levy, director of Real Steel, now out on home video, is one of the most commercially successful film directors of the past decade. To date, his films have grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide. His youthfully enthusiastic approach to filmmaking is evident in the storylines and characters he creates and reflects his joyful intensity for each project at hand.

In 2010, Levy released Date Night, a film he directed and produced. Levy’s production shingle 21 Laps also produced the hit comedy What Happens in Vegas, which went on to earn over $200 million worldwide.

Levy both produced and directed the blockbuster Night at the Museum franchise. To date, the global success of this franchise has netted more than $1 billion in worldwide box office.

Previously, Levy directed the 2006 comedy The Pink Panther. Levy also directed the smash hit Cheaper By the Dozen, which went on to gross more than $200 million worldwide.

In addition to his directing slate, Levy is producing the feature-film comedy Neighborhood Watch,” and his production company 21 Laps/Adelstein is producing the ABC sitcom Last Days of Man.

Levy graduated at the age of 20 from the Drama Department of Yale University. He later studied film in the Masters Film Production Program at USC, where he produced and directed the short film Broken Record. This film won the Gold Plaque at the Chicago Film Festival and was selected to screen at the Directors Guild of America. (more…)

MARC ALAN FISHMAN: Make Mine Valiant

So, I’ve spent the last few weeks ranting and raving about DC. And face it, there’s still plenty there to mine. From their recent canning of six titles and announcing six more (none of which I think will last a year) to their recently leaked ”sticker logo”… I could have a field day continuing to bash and dash. But alas, I grow weary of being hypocritical. I bitch and moan about them a ton, yet the majority of the cash flowing out of my pocket to frivolity generally concerns a majority of DC books, and related merchandise. So, for now, I’m waving a white flag, and turning my gaze elsewhere. Somewhere dashing, daring, and dare I say… Valiant.

On May 2nd, Valiant Comics will be reborn. Their flagship title, X-O Manowar, will hit the shelves. I will admit freely to you all that I know nothing of the Valiant universe. Let’s quickly Wikipedia that, for those in a similar boat. Wow, what a story! In 1989, Jim Shooter, one of the Allman Brothers crew, and some other financiers tried to buy up Marvel. They didn’t get it. Thus Valiant was born! They got a few heavy-hitters, and released a line of books. In 1994, they got dumped by their initial investors, scooped up by then-important video game creator Acclaim, and died a slow and boring death as their continuity-heavy line became too heavy a load to bear. Legal battles and the like kept things grounded for a while, but as you’ll now note: it’s all been solved, and the line will reconvene with Free Comic Book Day 2012. And due largely to some lackluster books by DC, and Marvel’s Next-Big-Waste of Time, I’m at a loss for why I shouldn’t take this as a sign to give Valiant a shot.

A recent press release for the budding brand hyped the announcement of the creative team for X-O. Surrogates scribe Robert Venditti and Conan artist Cary Nord will unite to bring us a tale of a time-lost ancient warrior given amazing future technology and plopped on the populace in 2012. Color me intrigued. I happen to love the Surrogates original graphic novel, and sneak peaks at the pencils of Nord show me that the book will look amazing to boot.

But this leads me to the bigger question. What is Valiant’s battle plan? Will they rise up and be a contender with the Big Two? I doubt it. The marketplace is crowded as it is. Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Dynamite, Avatar, and Boom! all struggle to keep a cohesive line. Face it, each of those aforementioned second stringers all have one or two big fish, and then spread themselves thin on bargain-bin fodder from licensed properties that appeal to the niche audiences. Well… the niche of this niche, if you get my drift.

Mind you, I’m not trying to poop on the parade, I’m just wary for any “line launch” in a continually crowded comic rack. And a subsequent Google search doesn’t even have the company site at #1 in the rankings. What appears to be a company website is just a form with “Notify Me!” on it. Bad mojo my friends.

Let us consider Boom! Studios’ Stan Lee line, launched in 2010. Four books with solid concepts released very close to one another. The critics didn’t quite rave about any of them, and I rarely hear anyone discuss them at the shop when I pop in on new comic book day. Valiant certainly has picked a good time to strike, but I’m hoping it’s done more intelligently. Case in point?

Boom’s other cash cow, the Irredeemable universe. Launched as a single amazing comic, smartly spun off into a single other title that has refrained for years before crossing directly into one another. Join that to a solid base of fans consistently purchasing the book due to high standards of art teams and consistent writing… and you have something worth copying. While I myself have recently stopped my subscription to Irredeemable, I don’t knock those still following on. It’s the kind of model I hope Valiant is paying close attention to.

Ultimately, X-O Manowar‘s release got me genuinely excited for a new title to latch on to. With a strong creative team announced, and DC and Marvel knee-deep in their own crapulence, Valiant stands to gain a following again. If they stick to releasing solid books, refrain from event-driven releases, and put their books out on time… I see no reason why they won’t stick around for a long while.

Also, they should hire Unshaven Comics.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander