Tagged: Morena Baccarin

Martha Thomases: Malevolent Ways!


It seems that every few weeks there’s a new animated feature at the movie theater. This is quite different from my youth, when only Disney made full-length cartoons (that were distributed in Ohio) and they took three to four years to produce.

It seems that every television channel has at least some animated content, a lot of it aimed at grown-ups. This is quite different from my youth, when all cartoons were for kids, and were on networks on Saturday mornings and local channels, maybe for an hour after school.

We can have an interesting conversation about why animation grew up and expanded its audience. Was it the influence of anime? The Baby Boomers loving cartoons so much we refuse to give them up, just like with comic books? The (relative) inexpensive production compared to feature films, especially as computers improved?

Who cares why? More animation means more choices for those of us who love the medium.

Recently I had a chance to cyber-meet Jim Cirile and Tanya Klein, of Coverage Ink Films. They’re making the first American animated horror film, Malevolent, starring Morena Baccarin, Ray Wise, and William Shatner, among others. Go to the link, and you can donate to the IndieGoGo campaign. There’s cool stuff there.

1) You say Malevolent is the first American 2-D animated horror film. Was there one (or more) in 3-D?

Tanya Klein (TK): Not that we’re aware of, and we’ve looked pretty hard. These are mostly done in Japan. We’re not sure why there has never been an animated horror feature film made in the US.

Jim Cirile (JC): The closest we can find is Dead Space, which was an amazing film, 2-D animation, but it was sci-fi horror. Ours is just straight-up horror.

2) Why do you think animation is a good technique for horror? What can you do with animation that you can’t do with live-action?

TK: You can do anything with live action that you can do with animation nowadays thanks to CGI. That barrier has been crossed. Just watch any Marvel movie for evidence of that. In our case, it’s more about creating a cool and unique experience. We wanted to do something that’s never been done before and do it in a really fresh way. Animation gives us the ability to have a lot more production value than we might have been able to afford otherwise as a small indie production, while also allowing us to go anywhere the psychology of the story dictates, with off-the-hook visuals. The sacrifice is losing some of the details of the actor’s faces, but great voices actors know how to put all of that into the voice.

JC: There’s something really awesome and unique about this type of experience as animation. We were wondering if people would feel the same level of engagement as with live action. So we screened a scene at a local university for a class full of film students to gauge their reactions. And it was amazing. Even though people were watching drawings, they were gripped. The drama of the scene carries through.

3) Awesome cast. How did you get them?

TK: We were very, very lucky! Our producers Cindi Rice and Paige Barnett, and Jim and I, made a list of all the people we’ve worked with in the past, and then our wish list cast. Amazingly, none of the people we’d worked with were available! That meant we had to go in cold to the rest of the cast. Morena (Baccarin) was our first choice for Gamemaster. She’s just so perfect for the role of the aloof, dispassionate manipulator with perhaps a hidden softer side. We went in cold to her agent, and Morena responded to the script. She told us she loved the darkness of it. How cool is that?

JC: Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) also has plenty of cred as the demented, sociopath patriarch Cyrus DeKalb. Again, we went in cold; same with Bill Moseley (House of 1000 Corpses.)

TK: However, we did have a personal connection to William Shatner. Jim is friends with his son-in-law.

JC: Yeah, makeup artist extraordinaire Andrew Clement, who also did the Deadpool makeup with Bill Corso. I asked Andrew if there was any chance of approaching Mr. Shatner, and he laughed because of course he gets asked this a lot. But he put in a good word for us, and then next thing we know, we get a phone call – “Jim, Tanya, it’s William Shatner. Tell me about your project.” We almost fell over.

TK: So we pitched Malevolent to William Shatner on the phone, and he said to send over the script and an offer. And the Great Bird of the Galaxy smiled upon us, because Mr. Shatner really liked the script.

JC: He’s crazy-busy, and we’re huge fans, so it was such an honor for us for him to come on board. What an incredible man. And by the way, wait till you hear him in this role. You’ve never heard William Shatner “dark.” Wow!

4) The animation (at least in the trailer) seems to me to be limited, sort of like Archer. Will it be more fluid when it’s finished? Was this a style choice or an economic one?

JC: Archer is the exact style we are shooting for. The animated is somewhat limited by budget. Fortunately, one can use the limitations in an artistic and interesting way. As well, Adobe After Effects can fill in the in-betweens that used to have to be drawn by hand. It’s the only way to get the project finished on our budget level.

TK: We will be using a few CG effects in the movie, but it will be 99% hand-drawn.

5) It seems to me (again, my perspective could be wrong) that there are a lot of women working on this film, more than just acting talent. Is this unusual?

TK: So glad you noticed! You know, of course, there’s a fair amount of sexism in Hollywood even to this day. Just look at the DGA and WGA statistics for the amount of women hired in any given year. It’s generally a pretty low percentage. It’s insane, of course. We are fortunate to be working with two kick-ass producers – Cindi Rice and Paige Barnett. About half our art and color team are women as well.

JC: Our director is a dude, and so am I, of course. But the movie focus is on a very complex female character, Miriam, and her relationship with two other complex women – her messed-up sister Kelsey (Florence Hartigan) and Gamemaster. Both represent different aspects of Miriam’s personality in a way – the one that just wants to fall apart and vanish into a haze of drugs, and the one who wants to be powerful and stoic and invulnerable. I think these are all not just things women can relate to, but all of us.

TK: But it’s especially cool I think, in this sort of creative endeavor, to have such a cool team with the unique perspectives all of us bring, and if that in some way comes across as female empowerment and kick-ass, then hell yes, bring it!

6) How will Malevolent be distributed?

TK: It’s a little too early soon to talk distribution. We’ve met with several companies already and will be meeting with more I’m sure. We’ll see where it goes.

JC: This probably won’t be a wide theatrical release, but certainly a festival and limited release run could be in the offing. Certainly comic-cons. We’ll see what makes the most sense when we’re done with the movie this fall.

  1. What is your background? How did you come to animation?

JC: I have a degree in animation and fine art and am a huge animation fan, but soon after college I realized I didn’t have the patience for it, and that my skills were better suited for writing and producing.

TK: It was actually our producers Cindi Rice and Paige Barnett who suggested doing Malevolent as an animated movie. They had done animation for Epic Level Entertainment, such as Xombie and the motion comic sequence from the hit FearNet/Machinima web series Bite Me. Paige thought that going animated would help us stand out. And we all looked at each other and the clouds parted, and it was like, wow, that’s brilliant. As near as we can tell, no one had ever done an animated horror movie in the US before.

JC: Developing scripts is actually our day job – through www.CoverageInk.com.

TK: We develop scripts with writers, producer, and managers and help hone that material and those voices until they’re nice and shiny. The number one issue we’ve seen is, as Jim said, writers not learning the rudiments. There are so many resources out there – online classes, blogs, books, YouTube, etc. It’s easier than ever to learn what you need to learn to be a writer/filmmaker. I took online producing classes recently through one website. Don’t be afraid to rewrite! That’s where the magic happens. Malevolent literally took I think 23 drafts.

JC: Yep, literally submitting it to our Coverage Ink readers for analysis draft after draft until it finally was racking up those ‘considers.’ So don’t be afraid to go for it, and understand that it’s always a learning process. Filmmaking and writing are crafts. They can be learned.

8) Favorite horror movies?

TK: I have to give it up for Army of Darkness. A great combination of genres. Brilliantly anarchic. I’m more of a literary horror fan – King, Koontz and so forth. Sean of the Dead was another great one.

JC: Evil Dead II, The Fly (remake), Alien and Aliens, American Werewolf in London, Dawn of the Dead, Texas Chainsaw I and II, Serpent and the Rainbow, Jacob’s Ladder, The Thing (Carpenter)… it’s a pretty big list, but I tend to like horror films that bring something unexpected or out of the box to the genre. Zombies, vampires, etc., all bore me.

9) Anything else to add?

TK: This has been our geeky passion project for two years now, and we’ve put everything on the line to make this film happen. We had to literally build a team from scratch and figure out how to coordinate everyone, located in 13 different countries and time zones. All to make Malevolent happen. So we’re excited, nervous, scared – you know, all that good stuff. But the amazing thing is that the reaction so far has been amazing, and people seem to really dig what we’re doing. Hopefully we’ll knock it out of the park and show everyone what you can do.

JC: We’re all about DIY and writer empowerment. For years screenwriters have given away their power — nothing happens with your material unless someone else buys it. Thanks to the Internet, crowdfunding, low-cost HD cameras and so forth, now anyone can make movies. It’s a beautiful thing. So get out there and make it happen!

Box Office Democracy: Deadpool

Deadpool is a good superhero movie that people are going to convince themselves was an excellent superhero movie. It’s got a couple good action beats, it feels like a cohesive part of a larger universe without being overly constrained, it has a serviceable (and age appropriate) love story, and it’s clever… but not quite as clever as it thinks it is. You can wink at the camera and tell me that you know that you’re doing all of the usual genre clichés, but that doesn’t make the clichés any less boring. I wanted Deadpool to be a movie that broke the mold, but instead it just spends a lot of time telling you it’s better than the mold and not showing you.

Ryan Reynolds is kind of a fiat movie star; he’s handsome and famous but if you look at his credits it doesn’t seem like an impressive career. I have very few distinct memories of Ryan Reynolds performances but I do remember leaving Green Lantern and thinking, “This movie was kinda bad but it wasn’t Ryan Reynolds’s fault.” These are not the kind of ringing endorsements that careers are built on, but Reynolds feels like the perfect choice to play Wade Wilson. He’s funny and charming and the self-deprecation feels a little more real because he isn’t an A-list actor in his own right. The only other actor I could even imagine playing this part with the same zeal is James Franco, and that’s an objectively worse choice (although think of all the Spider-Man 3 jokes we could have gotten). Everything that doesn’t work about Deadpool is saved by Reynolds’s overwhelming performance, and all the things that work are pushed to even greater heights.

The rest of the cast fine but there are precious few standouts among them. I’m fond of Morena Baccarin but this part, even as the female lead, is small and gives her very little room to show anything. Gina Carano is the most imposing woman working in film this side of Gwendoline Christie and she looks like a million bucks in this, her second consecutive feature film that’s barely asked her to talk. T.J. Miller plays a comic relief character in a movie full of comic relief characters, and while he hits every punchline I never wished he was on screen more often. Ed Skrein might do the movie the biggest disservice as the main villain Ajax, as he’s just so unbelievably boring that while I want Deadpool to get his revenge I wish he could do it without having to hear another generic British bad guy deliver generic bad guy dialogue. Brianna Hildebrand seems like she could be a breakout star if she’s given enough chances to play Negasonic Teenage Warhead, although she’s certainly not in the next X-Men movie, would likely feel shoehorned in to any sequels in this franchise, and might simply never get another chance.

So I’m generally fond of the acting in Deadpool, and the action is a solid B+ (even if three of the top five moments were given away for free in the trailer) but where it fails to deliver for me is in the story. This is the same origin story then damsel in distress formula I’ve seen a thousand times. I was tempted to use hyperbole and say a million but I’m confident it has actually been at least a thousand times by this point. Deadpool loves to show how it knows that it’s a movie and how familiar it is with all these tropes but it isn’t brave enough to actually break out of them in any way. I’m sick of origin stories and telling me I’m going to see one doesn’t make it better. I’m slightly less sick of hostage girlfriends but only because a lot of movies don’t bother to develop enough characters to have compelling alternative hostages. It’s also disappointing that for all the snark they have about the genre that they direct none of it at the sexualized violence the genre is often bogged down in and even contributes some for itself. Deadpool is going to get credit for being clever and subversive and it’s only doing those things at a four out of ten and for it to feel real I need them to aim much higher.

I’m happy that Deadpool exists and I enjoyed watching it (when I wasn’t groaning at the idea of watching another person get experimented on until they develop super powers) but it isn’t there yet, and I hope the praise it’s getting doesn’t make it sit on its laurels. There’s a spark of great potential here and I’m instantly more excited for Deadpool 2 than I am for any superhero movie that isn’t Civil War because it could actually be something unique and clever. Deadpool is a great first step but I need them to keep going.


Dennis O’Neil: Respectability, Gotham Style



In my uncertain early middle years, I occasionally said that it was impossible to know the history of comics without knowing the history of Twentieth Century America. This might have been simply a comment or it might have been an attempt to lend comics some cachet of respectability.

If I meant it as a comment, ‘t’were better delivered while leaning against a mantelpiece, clad in tweeds, eyes gazing into an empty distance, and I don’t think I was encountering either tweeds or mantels in those days. Not too many empty distances, either.

If I meant it to give comics respectability, well,,. hell! Who said that they needed any frickin’ respectability? Okay, yes, some still believed comics to be pernicious and associating some respectability with comics might have had an effect on them, though I kind of doubt it. Do such righteous folk ever change their minds?

Now, abra change-of-subject cadabra.

Seen any popes lately? Pope Frances, who joins my tiny list of religious leaders whom I consider to be the real deal, has been all over the television these past few days. And I didn’t mind a bit. I didn’t watch a lot of the coverage, but it was refreshing to be buried in the papacy instead of Donald Trump.

The happiest day for me was Thursday, when Francis gave Congress some truth and in the process mentioned only two American Catholics: Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, both of whom were profiled on cable news a couple of times later that night. Merton was a Trappist monk who wrote and traveled and urged a uniting of East and West spirituality. Oh, and he made trouble.

Dorothy? Well, you’re not gonna believe this, but…a few hours before Pope Francis addressed the politicians I was speaking to Dorothy’s godson, one of my oldest friends. He’d found some stuff she’d written that he thought I might want to know about, and he was right. A mild coincidence here, because I’d recently learned that Leslie Tompkins, a Batman comics character repurposed for television, was returning to the Gotham show, again portrayed by the truly lovely Morena Baccarin.

Leslie, as I may have mentioned in an earlier column, was inspired by Dorothy. I’ve got to careful not to say that Leslie was modeled on Dorothy because there are differences. But they’re kindred souls who both made choices that wouldn’t occur to most of us and improved the lot of their fellow humans. Sad that only one of them really ever existed.

So I will suggest, but not very loudly, that the aforementioned coincidence is a link between Pope Francis and comics. Would this convince comics nay-sayers that comics aren’t evil, this respectability-by-association? Doubtful.

Did I mention that Dorothy Day was a trouble maker? I don’t know about Leslie. She didn’t really make much trouble in the stories I wrote but she’s still around, in both comics and on the tube, and she has plenty of time to ruffle authoritarian feathers. I wish she would. Pope Francis might agree.

Emily S. Whitten: The Deadpool is in the Details

Right now I’m walking a fine line between “super-excited for the upcoming Deadpool movie,” and “so excited I will finally give in and read the leaked movie script;” but I’m still trying to resist! It’s hard, though. With Ryan Reynolds constantly tweeting about the movie (which, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about!) and now set pictures of Wade Wilson and costumed Deadpool showing up online, I just want to dive into every detail of what we know about the upcoming movie, spoilers be damned!

But for now, I’m managing to restrict myself to IMDB and those sweet, sweet set pictures. (And the test footage, which never gets old. Oh, and of course this April Fool’s Day video.) Even the pictures are pretty exciting, though. The first set shows Morena Baccarin as Vanessa Carlysle, Ed Skrein, Gina Carano as Angel Dust, and Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool with a disfigured face, indicating that this is after he washes out of the Weapon X program. It’s hard to see exactly how bad they’ve made his face close up, but it appears to be closer to this than this or this. I was wondering how they’d do his face; given that in the comics he’s been depicted on all ranges of the spectrum when it comes to his cancer tumors and scars; but this looks at least reasonably bad without being completely out of hand, so I’m happy.

Even more important than his face, given the amount of time we generally see his face versus his mask, is the Deadpool costume we get to see here. I’m super excited about what I’m seeing; it looks both “real-world” practical enough to be convincing as the garb of a mercenary-turned super(hero)(villain)(insert murky moral code here), and faithful enough to the comics to make my inner fangirl jump up and down. It looks like it will appear realistic even in the midst of stunt work, which is cool.

All told, from head to toe it seems the designers are dedicated to getting this movie right for the fans, and like they know what they’re doing.

Details such as the seams and little back point on the mask, the bullet marks, the many pouches (hee!), and the leg holsters and sheathes really bring the comic book Deadpool to life, and that makes me all sorts of happy. (Now, if he had Deadpool symbols on the soles of his shoes and his boxer shorts as well as his belt buckle, I’d really know the designers are on the ball. Sadly at least the shoe soles look like they’re lacking the trademark circles. Who knows if we’ll see the boxers…eh? Eh? ) The one thing I’m not a huge fan of from what I’m seeing are actually his boots – the toe-caps are definitely sometimes canon, but man, do they kind of make the boots look like combat Mary Janes.

Oh well. If that’s the worst that can be said, that’s not bad. I’m also pretty curious to see how the mo-cap on his eye area will work out throughout the movie. In the comics, Deadpool’s uneven squint is a classic and common part of his visual personality. The test footage made the movement of Deadpool’s eye shields in the mask look natural; but we haven’t seen the squint as yet. Hopefully we’ll get at least a little bit of that in the film.

All around what I’m seeing, plus knowing that at least Copycat and Weasel will be showing up in the movie as well, are making it hard for me to bear the wait until February 2016 for the final film. But at least these pictures and everything I’m reading (and, you know, Deadpool fanboy Ryan Reynolds playing the character) are assuring me that the movie will most likely be worth the wait. And if the movie is awesome and does well (oh please oh please oh please), maybe we’ll even luck out and get more Deadpool. I’m thinking Taskmaster; I’m thinking Deadpool, Inc.; I’m thinking an epic Cable & Deadpool buddy flick!!!!! Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Excuse me while I go daydream. And until next time, check out the Deadpool pics and Servo Lectio!

Dennis O’Neil: Gotham’s Doctor, Batman’s Saint

You may have seen it yourself: the scene a while back in which James Gordon and Dr. Leslie Thompkins stand in front of their police department colleagues getting very well acquainted. It happened during an episode of Gotham and although the television Leslie wasn’t the Leslie Dick Giordano and I introduced in Detective Comics #457, I didn’t mind. I know that television shows are not comic books: they have different techniques, strengths, weaknesses, and that the story being told there on the tube wasn’t our story and that serialized characters have to evolve if they are to survive for decades, as Leslie has.

In the weeks since the television Leslie was introduced, we’ve seen her become her own person – witty, intelligent, feisty. Independent. I’d happily watch her if her name were Honorifica Flabdiggle, especially if Bertha, like Leslie, were played by the talented and truly lovely Morena Baccarin.

She was created – Leslie, not Honorifica- to serve the plot of the particular story we were working on, to supplement Bruce Wayne’s biography, and to add an element to the Batman mythos.

I had a real person in mind when I was writing Detective #457, someone I’d once met named Dorothy Day. Dorothy began her professional life as a journalist, wrote a novel, lived the Greenwich Village life. In 1939, she cofounded The Catholic Worker, an organization located in a section of lower Manhattan not much frequented by the white shoe crowd. The Worker had three missions: to serve the poor by providing food, shelter and clothing; to help drunks get sober; and to protest war – all war, any war, and any violence.

We incorporated Dorothy’s pacifism into Leslie. There wasn’t much; I can’t recall any particular story in which it was a major element. But look for it and you could find it.

What the fictional Leslie did for Bruce Wayne was to serve as a surrogate for his murdered mother and to give him information; she told him that not everyone believed that violence solved problems. If Bruce had existed – these are fictions, remember – he might have been sympathized with Leslie’s convictions and regretted his own dependence on violence, while having nothing he considered to be another viable modus operandi.

I don’t expect to hear Dr. Leslie Thompkins endorsing Dorothy Day’s convictions. Gotham is a venue for action/melodrama, after all, and not a pulpit. And there are reasons why we respond to this sort of entertainment and they’re not too distant from the reasons our wonky species hasn’t gone the way of the dinosaurs. But still…what would be wrong with giving the video Leslie a pacifist leaning or two? She could maybe slip them into a subordinate clause where nobody would notice them anyway. And they would give the character Ms. Baccarin and her cohorts are so ably creating a nuance uniquely her own.

Just asking.


Dennis O’Neil: The Bigger Picture

RushdieI thought maybe I’d write about that humdinger of a cliffhanger the creative folk at the Arrow television show left us with a few weeks ago. I also mulled doing a brief piece on Leslie Thompkins who, in the person of Morena Baccarin, popped up in another show, Gotham. The Batman mythos’s resident and, I’m afraid, token pacifist might be worth a few hundred words and maybe will be somewhere down the line.

But now, this week, Monday. . . Je suis Charlie. It is somehow pleasing to type those words.

Certainly, you know the story by now. No need for a rehash here. And my fellow Mixers have weighed in on it and you can see what they had to say someplace near where you’re reading this. I have neither facts nor speculation to add to what’s already been given wherever you go for news.

I was shocked when, in 1988, Salman Rushdie was condemned to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini because the clergyman and his followers were offended by Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, and spent the next several years under police protection. The ayatollah’s fatwa seemed to threaten not only Rushdie, but all of us tale spinners who are just doing our jobs, which happen to be making up stories and drawing pictures. Those massacred at the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo were mostly cartoonists and we all know people like them – some of us are people like them. They are our tribe and slaughtering them was a deep and personal insult to us.

There’s little point in hating the murderers. They are ignorant and – cruel irony – they are doing what they deem virtuous. And look beneath the surface, beneath the unfamiliar rhetoric and alien ideology, and you can find men and women of our own kind who share the murderers’ attitudes and solutions. Anyone who wants to stipulate what others must believe and who wants to dictate what we can read and see and listen to and how we should dress and worship and love is not so very far from the barbarians and given the opportunity and a few assault rifles, who knows?

So, even as we grieve for our fallen brothers and sisters, we should not hate our attackers. You might remember the advice supplied by the Bible: “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. . . ” I think that if you plumb them deeply enough you will find fear and we all know about that.

But we cannot tolerate their actions, either. We have to stop them. Let’s hope it can be done with no further suffering. Let’s hope that we can finally abandon what is obviously not working and find creative and merciful means to bring peace to the barbarians and to ourselves.