Jean Smart is an acting pioneer with a career spanning over 40 years. She’s an experienced dramatic and comedy actress but seldom explored the sci-fi and superhero genres.
However, in 2017, she landed a recurring role on the FX show Legion, which lasted three seasons. As soon as Legion ended, she was cast in Damon Lindelof’s HBO Max series Watchmenas Laurie Blake, aka Silk Spectre.
During the Variety actors-on-actors segment with SNL comedian Bowen Yang Smart reveals that she was a last-minute replacement for Sigourney Weaver, who was initially approached for the role but turned it down. “I was sort of shot from guns because they hired me two days before I started,” Smart told Yang. “I’ll be really honest: I had Sigourney Weaver to thank for turning down the role. So, thank you, Sigourney.”
Smart also had no idea what she was getting into as she hadn’t heard about the Watchmen graphic novel from writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. “I knew nothing about the graphic novel,” she said. “I knew nothing about the story at all. I started reading the pilot, and I said, ‘Oh, my God, this is amazing.’ I’d never really done that science-fiction genre.”
It’s no shade to Sigourney Weaver (who I crowned the Queen of sci-fi), but can you imagine Watchmen without Jean Smart and her cheeky performance as a former superhero turned FBI agent? The Emmys recognized her powerful performance with an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie nomination.
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I highly recommend watching the whole interview to find out her thought on shooting Watchmen and why being a part of the series was a learning experience for her.
Watchmen is currently available on HBO and HBO Max.
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Treating monster films as nothing but dumb schlock that’s all big silly fights and nothing beneath the surface is nothing new. From the genre’s origins all the way up to western hits like this year’s Godzilla vs. Kong, there’s always going to be a place for a monster movie that trades depth—or in some cases even logical coherence—for the wide-eyed spectacle of monster-on-monster action. Who needs brainpower when you can have cities being leveled by larger-than-life titans, anyway? Godzilla’s cinematic career is no exception to this, of course, but 1973’s Godzilla vs Megalon might be the ultimate example of a film that rides or dies on how much you can appreciate some giant-sized shenanigans and gleeful silliness over any semblance of seriousness.
A film that feels almost in equal parts embraced (especially for its special guest star and its final fight sequence) and reviled (for its lackluster plot, over-reliance on reused footage, and its absurdist elements) by the big G’s fandoms in the years since, Godzillavs. Megalon really is the kind of film to know your expectations for going in. It never presents itself as trying to be more than the sum of its parts (parts that are, admittedly, stretched to breaking at times), but if you go in expecting the franchise to say something about the world like its greatest entries are capable of doing, well, what you’re going to find here is instead something more on the lines of “What if Godzilla dropkicked a fool, and it was so nice he did it twice?”
Godzilla vs Megalon’s threadbare plot mostly pulls us away from Godzilla as a focus. After their underwater civilization is ravaged by humanity’s nuclear testing—the same tests that gave us the King of the Monsters in the first place—the vengeful Seatopians, lead by Emperor Antonio (Robert Dunham), unleash their monstrous god Megalon to destroy the surface world. While Godzilla and his pals on Monster Island are sidelined by shockwaves from a recent nuclear test, the Seatopians target a Japanese inventor named Goro Ibuki (Katsuhiko Sasaki). They want to use Ibuki’s latest invention, a humanoid robot named Jet Jaguar, to control Megalon’s path of destruction on Earth. As Goro and his assistants wrestle with captivity to regain control of Jet Jaguar—and the JSDF struggles to stop Megalon’s assault on Tokyo—eventually, Goro succeeds and uses Jet Jaguar’s control system to get the robot to call Godzilla for help. After Jet Jaguar inexplicably gets his Ultraman on and grows to monstrous size, the robot and the King of the Monsters team up to tag-team brawl both Megalon and Godzilla’s then-recent rival, Gigan (mostly via footage reused from 1972’s Godzilla vs Gigan).
That’s… it, really. Godzilla vs Megalon just doesn’t really have much going on to justify its already pretty threadbare 80-minute runtime, as it flits about between the unconvincing threat of the Seatopians and Goro’s attempts to break free of their captivity to regain access to Jet Jaguar. The focus on Jet Jaguar—infamously created as part of a children’s contest by production studio Toho to design a new monster for the franchise—makes the movie feel less like a Godzilla film and more of a pastiche of Ultraman’s greatest hits. As much fun as the robot is, it’s hard not to have it feel like it’s almost out of place for what Godzilla was at this point in his history, well into his arc of evolution from monstrous, horrifying threat to one of Japan’s biggest heroes. Even then, the film struggles with what it wants to do with Jet Jaguar when it brushes up against the liberal re-use of prior footage, as production buckles under the intense asks of Godzilla’s resurgence in the cultural conscience post-King Kong vs Godzilla.
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And yet, when you put aside the bits of Godzilla vs. Megalon that don’t quite gel (which is, admittedly, quite a significant chunk) there is still something there, deeply primal in its base simplicity, that makes elements of it charming. The last fight between Jet Jaguar, Godzilla, Gigan, and Megalon is a messy delight, and the first time the film feels like it actually has any kind of kinetic energy to it after its meandering build-up. Even if you put the infamous dropkick aside—in which Jet Jaguar pins Megalon so Godzilla can slide in on his tail like he’s spitting in the face of whatever god physics answers to in order to deliver a two-footed kick right to its chest—it’s a wonderful bit of monster-on-robot-on-monster action. After making 80 minutes feel more like 120, it feels like Godzilla vs. Megalon finally just goes “Well, you like the fights, don’t you?” The movie never aimed higher, and at least it delivers.
Whether the legacy it left on the franchise in this regard—the perception of the monster movie genre as nothing more than shock and awe, and silly rubber suits smashing against each other—has been an entirely positive thing is a different question altogether. On the one hand, Godzilla vs. Megalon’s cultural cache in the years since means monster movies, Godzilla or otherwise, always face that uphill battle of whether or not they want to be more than spectacle. On the other, it’s a reminder that franchises as big as this, as varied as this, have space to sometimes just go for the cheap thrills that make blockbusters the joy they are. No matter how you feel about Godzilla vs Megalon’s flimsiness, or Jet Jaguar’s bizarre origin in its threadbare roots, there is something satisfying about a giant robot and the King of all Kaiju shaking hands after a job’s well done and calling it a day, no matter how serious you take your monster movies.
As Elton John once cautioned, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids,” but it appears the characters in Settlers—a new sci-fi film from first-time feature director and writer Wyatt Rockefeller—must’ve missed that lyric. The movie’s first trailer has arrived, and it offers all kinds of reasons why the Red Planet isn’t an ideal family environment.
There are robots, scrawled warnings (in blood?), hostile intruders, and… what looks to be completely Earth-like atmosphere and gravity. Here’s the official synopsis: “On a remote homestead amongst the Martian frontier, a refugee family from Earth clings to hope for a better life. But when strangers appear in the surrounding hills and attempt to run them off, nine-year-old Remmy (Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project) is faced with the desperate reality her mother (Sofia Boutella, The Mummy) and father (Jonny Lee Miller, Trainspotting) have tried so hard to keep from her.”
So maybe the “desperate reality” is a twist of some kind, like they’ve actually been on Earth or inside a simulation the entire time? The trailer definitely suggests some kind of Under the Dome situation may be afoot, but it’s hard to tell considering it mostly emphasizes the arrival of the menacing stranger played by Ismael Cruz Córdova—someone you might want to get to know, considering he’s one of the stars of Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series. Young actor Brooklynn Prince (whose other credits include Disney+ gorilla tale The One and Only Ivan) plays Remmy throughout most of the film, but an older version of the character is also played by Nell Tiger Free, who you might recognize from Servant, M. Night Shyamalan’s weird Apple TV+ concoction.
Settlers arrives in theaters and “everywhere you rent movies,” according to IFC Midnight, on July 23.
Megan Fox has made a ton of movies over her career but here she’s best known for her iconic turn in Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body—the horror-comedy, also starring Amanda Seyfriend, in which Fox’s titular character is demonically possessed. In the trailer for Till Death, she may not be in any immediate danger of getting controlled by a supernatural force but she is in danger.
The new film was directed by S.K. Dale (his first feature) and written by Jason Carvey. Outside of Fox, the film also stars Eoin Macken (Nightflyers, Merlin), Callan Mulvey (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Jack Roth (Rogue One), and Aml Ameen (Sense8). Here’s the official summary: “After a romantic evening in their secluded lake house, Emma (Megan Fox) awakens handcuffed to her dead husband. Trapped and isolated in the dead of winter, she must fight off hired killers to escape her husband’s twisted plan.”
As soon as I saw she was handcuffed to her dead husband, all I could think about was the Mike Flanagan adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. Then some thieves came a knockin’ instead of a strange being and my mind immediately went to David Fincher’s Panic Room. That’s not to say Till Death won’t do tons of original things with its dramatic tale, of course, but it was hard for me to ignore. I will say, however, that I am pretty desperate to find out why her husband would be such a shit as to cause her trauma from the grave.
It’s nice to see Fox playing up those horror chops again, even if the story does feel a little familiar. Till Death will be released—in theaters and on demand—on July 2.
William Braddock may have set some kind of Florida record: In the state’s crowded pack of Republican bozos running for Congress, he’s the only one in recent memory (and possibly ever) to allegedly threaten a political opponent with murder by a heavily armed Russian-Ukrainian mafia death squad.
Politico reported on Thursday that Braddock, an attorney and long-shot candidate who was virtually unknown until now, threatened conservative activist Erin Olszewski not to support rival Republican Anna Paulina Luna for Florida’s 13th Congressional District because he had assassins working for him. During a 30-minute phone call—which Olszewski secretly recorded and subsequently handed to the police—Braddock violated the first rule of contract killing and explained his plan to pay for Luna’s murder in excruciating detail over the phone.
About three minutes into the audio, Braddock said “I have access to a hit squad, too, Ukrainians and Russians.” He added that when this Eastern European dream team struck, any bystanders who didn’t endorse him might get added to the kill count: “Don’t get caught out in public supporting Luna… Luna’s gonna go down and I hope it’s by herself.”
Luna has been endorsed by Donald Trump and describes herself as a “hybrid” of Sarah Palin and disgraced Representative Matt Gaetz (another Florida politician involved in a disturbing scandal). She won the Republican primary in the district in 2020 but lost to former Florida governor and incumbent Representative Charlie Crist, a Democrat, in the general by a 53-47% margin. Crist is vacating his seat in Congress to once again run for the governorship. That provides a potentially juicy special election opportunity for Luna and other Republicans to take back the district, which before Crist was elected in 2016 hadn’t sent a Democrat to Congress in 36 years.
As Politico noted, Olszewski herself is a shady character:
Olszewski, a nurse by training, became a conservative figure last year after penning a book called “Undercover Epicenter Nurse: How Fraud, Negligence, and Greed Led to Unnecessary Deaths at Elmhurst Hospital,” which some in the health care industry have called disinformation.
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So this is all kind of a right-wing clusterfuck where everyone involved is some flavor of untrustworthy, but that’s Florida for you.
Braddock, who apparently did not consider the possibility he could be being recorded or that Olszewski might have been pressing him for more specifics for evidentiary purposes, explained on the phone that he would immediately send out the order if polls showed Luna in the lead.
“My polling people are going to charge me $20,000 to do a poll right before the primary. And if the poll says Luna’s gonna win, she’s gonna be gone. She’s gonna disappear,” Braddock said in the recorded call, pledging Olszewski to secrecy. “For the good of our country, we have to sacrifice the few. … For the better or the good of the majority of the people, we’ve got to sacrifice the few.”
Later in the call, Olszewski asked what would happen if “Luna is gonna win” and Braddock assured her that wouldn’t happen.
“She’s gonna be gone. Period. That’s the end of the discussion. Luna is not an issue,” he said.
Olszewski pushed him, asking “how do we make her go, though? I just don’t understand that.”
The voice identified as Braddock continued to clarify exactly on what timeline the killings would be carried out, how they would do it, and even what type of machine pistols would be used:
“I call up my Russian and Ukrainian hit squad, and within 24 hours, they’re sending me pictures of her disappearing,” Braddock said. “No, I’m not joking. Like, this is beyond my control this point… Russian mafia. Close-battle combat, TEC-9s, MAC-10s, silencers kind of thing. No snipers. Up close and personal. So they know that the target has gone.”
At another point in the call, Braddock clarified that he doesn’t “want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America” and that it would “break my heart,” Politico reports. He continued, “But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a fucking speed bump in the road. She’s a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood.”
Wow! That sure is one heck of a plan. Anyone else want to explain how else they could do it better directly into this microphone-sized box in my right breast pocket? No? Didn’t think so. Let’s move on, because that’s not all of it.
Politico reached Braddock via text, because apparently just about anyone can get him to dig a hole deeper over the phone. He responded the recording is “allegedly me… there is no proof of that” and is “a dirty political tactic that has caused a lot of people a lot of stress and is completely unnecessary.”
Florida is a two-party consent state where recording a call without the other party’s permission is a third-degree felony, although Olszewski said police assured her she would not face charges for turning it in. Braddock threatened that whoever was in possession of or shared the recording would face civil suits over lack of consent, and he would also “file with the local police department” for “felony charges.”
“The folks in possession of whatever recording they think they have of myself or someone else (which may even be altered and edited) will be facing civil damages suit(s) when the paperwork is file [sic] with the county and felony charges after I file with the local police department,” Braddock wrote to POLITICO. “I strongly advise not to get involved because the civil suits will continue to be filed until people stop sharing them because whomever is on the recording did not consent to be recorded in my humble opinion.”
While Braddock appears to think this non-admission is very clever, one would think anyone who didn’t explain their plan to hire hitmen in-depth would recall not doing so and simply deny it. For example, I have never done that. As a lawyer, he should also remember that criminal charges aren’t offered on-demand at police stations.
Olszewski and Luna both received restraining orders against Braddock last week. In her request for the temporary stalking injunction, the Tampa Bay Times reported, Luna accused two additional Florida Republicans who failed to win seats in Congress in 2020, Matt Tito and Amanda Makki, of involvement. Makki lost a primary race against Luna in 2020; she told the Times that Luna was simply unable to handle running against another candidate and “exhibiting behavior that I would say is concerning.” Tito, who is considering running in the GOP primary against Luna, said the purpose of the injunction was to “embarrass us” and “keep us out of the race,” adding he barely knew Braddock and Makki. He suggested to local media he’s considering filing a defamation claim.
Braddock didn’t officially register his campaign until Monday, sometime after he would have been well aware the recording would become public.
In William Crain’s 1972 Blaxploitation cult classicBlacula, an 18th century Nigerian prince is unwittingly transformed into a vampire by the Dracula after unsuccessfully petitioning the legendary ghoul for help in destroying the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The original Blacula’s premise was distinct and novel when the movie first premiered, and MGM’s banking on it being the sort of story that current day audiences want to see more of.
Variety reports that Deon Taylor (Fatale) has signed on to direct and co-write with Micah Ranum (The Silencing) a new Blacula reboot set in the modern day that will explore many of the same themes featured in the original, though according to the trade “the reboot picks up where the original saga left off, after the 1973 sequel Scream Blacula Scream, and will be set in a metropolitan city post-coronavirus pandemic.”
The movie’s official description gives even more background: “Blacula is an ancient African prince who is cursed by Dracula after he fails to agree to end the slave trade. Blacula is entombed and awakens 200 years later ready to avenge the death of his ancestors and of those responsible for robbing his people of their work, culture, and heritage as they appropriated it for profit.”
Right off the bat, MGM’s new Blacula feels very much in line with the current wave of horror and other genre fiction that’s attempted to address and unpack the complexities of anti-Black racism. What’s going to end up determining whether the reboot can hold a candle to the original movie, and stand out in today’s pop cultural landscape, is if it has a genuinely interesting story beyond its obvious nostalgic appeal.
Snapchat has rolled out a new filter that turns users into Disney/Pixar characters, and Twitter has diverted resources into exploring its transformative potential. The movie Heat, fictional serial killer Michael Myers, and sad Ben Affleck all demonstrate that in most cases enlarged Disney eyeballs soften the edges. Naturally, we wondered whether Disney could tone down The Shining, a movie about white male brutality based on a book written on a coke bender.
We made you a storybook to see.
Quick acknowledgment for Justin Pinkney and Doron Adler, independent developers who accomplished a Pixar-ification filter called Toonify last year.
We have officially hit the point in the northern hemisphere where it’s very hot outside but every studio wants to tell you about all the festive holiday programming they’ve got coming later this year. We’ll excuse Aardman and Netflix’s latest though, because look how fuzzy those animals are.
The streamer has announced a new partnership with Aardman—the beloved UK-based studio behind Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep, Wallace & Gromit, and more—to develop Robin Robin, a new animated special to launch this Holiday season. The special stars Bronte Carmichael as the titular Robin the Robin, a hatchling whose egg falls from her nest, leading to her being raised by a family of mice, and giving her a life where she’s not quite a bird, not quite a mouse, but a feisty go-getter nonetheless, looking to prove herself in the strange world she’s grown up in.
Carmichael is joined in the main cast by Adeel Akhtar as Dad Mouse, the loving father to four of his own mouse children before adopting Robin into the family, and acting legend Richard E. Grant as Magpie, a collectible hoarder who takes the young Robin under his wing on her journey of self-discovery. But perhaps the most delightful casting of all is X-Files icon Gillian Anderson, who will play Robin Robin’s villain Cat, a…well, cat, whose voracious appetite to eat all things around her puts her at odds with our avian hero. If all the above adorable imagery wasn’t enough, here’s a new poster as well, which is mostly an excuse to melt over Robin’s faux-mouse ears:
Far too cute. You almost forget that it’s hot as hell outside and that you’re going to have to wait another five months before you can see more in action—Robin Robin will stream on Netflix from November 27.
Deadline reports Julia Davis and Elijah Wood have joined the cast of The Toxic Avenger reboot in currently undisclosed roles. It recently picked up Kevin Bacon as the villain.
Evil Dead Rise
THR also has word Gabrielle Echols, Morgan Davies, and Nell Fisher have joined Evil Dead Rise as a trio of “siblings in peril.”
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Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania
Production on Marvel’s Quantumania has officially begun in London according to Paul Rudd in an Instagram post from Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver, Tyreek “Cheetah” Hill.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms
THR reports a sequel to last year’s Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge is in production. In addition to returning cast members Joel McHale, Jennifer Carpenter, Jordan Rodrigues, Patrick Seitz, Artt Butler, Robin Atkin Downes, Dave B. Mitchell, Ikè Amadi as Jax Briggs, Grey Griffin, and Fred Tatasciore, the incoming cast include Matthew Mercer as Stryker & Smoke; Bayardo De Murguia as Sub-Zero/Kuai Liang; Matt Yang King as Kung Lao; Paul Nakauchi as Lin Kuei Grandmaster; Emily O’Brien as Jade; and Debra Wilson as D’Vorah.
Orphan: First Kill
During a recent interview with Collider, Isabelle Fuhrman stated she believes audiences will be “shocked” by Orphan: First Kill.
I think people will be shocked by that story. It’s very different from what most people would expect and [Julia Stiles] is absolutely incredible in it, and we had a lot of fun making the movie together. It’s definitely a story about the two of us and our relationship, and Esther’s way that she came to the United States and how she found herself there.
Chris McKay told Den of Geek he hopes the Chris Pratt-starring The Tomorrow Warwill reignite Warner Bros. interest in his Nightwing movie.
What I hope is that Warner Brothers and DC watch The Tomorrow War and get really excited again about the Nightwing movie that we’ve been talking about, I hope that we get a chance to go out and make that Dick Grayson and Nightwing film. That particular part of Robin, growing from being under Batman to becoming Nightwing, and Bludhaven and all that stuff… It’s a really personal story to me.
The first two films in the Fear Street trilogy have been rated “R” for “strong bloody violence, drug content, language, sexual content, nudity and language throughout.”
Fear Street Part 1: 1994 – Rated R for strong bloody violence, drug content, language and some sexual content.
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 – Rated R for bloody horror violence, sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language throughout.
Meanwhile, M. Night Shyamalan’s Old has been rated PG-13 for “strong violence, disturbing images, suggestive content, partial nudity, and brief strong language.” [Bloody-Disgusting]
A new behind-the-scenes video showcases F9‘s practical stunts.
The Devil’s Tail
We also have a trailer for The Devil’s Tail, a new horror anthology with segments directed by Taz Pereyra, Carlota Martínez Pereda, Samantha Timms, Nicole Goode, Erica Scoggins, and Laurel Vail.
American Horror Story: Double Feature
Deadline has word Arrowverse star Neal McDonough has been cast as Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower in the tenth season of American Horror Story. The outlet notes the character is “not the 34th U.S. President” but rather “a character with the same name.”
J.J. Abrams has already made multiple movies about searching for people in the stars, so if there’s anyone in Hollywood who you can trust to find UFOs, it’s probably him. The director of two Star Trek and two Star Wars movies is set to produce a new documentary called UFO which will premiere on Showtime August 8.
The four-part documentary, according to Deadline, will “look at what clandestine influence the American government, lucrative private companies and the military may have in shielding the truth behind extraterrestrial phenomena to further their own agendas.” Abrams is producting with his team at Bad Robot; the series is directed by Mark Monroe and Paul Crowder.
And look, that sounds great. UFOs have obviously become a hot topic again in recent months with the government all but acknowledging that flying objects seen in the sky are completely unidentified. Reportedly, that will play a part in this documentary. But really, I’m going to hijack this post for a bit to talk about J.J. Abrams.
J.J. Abrams made two Star Wars movies. Both movies are about characters looking for devices that unlock maps to find an ancient Force user. Can you even fathom that? You’re given the chance to make not one, but two Star Wars movies. For the first one? Fine. The map idea is unique to the saga. But then you come back and you’re like, “Oh you know what? let’s do the same thing again!” What the hell is that? He didn’t even write these movies and yet they’re the same premise. Unfathomable!
I mention that because, as I said at the top, J.J. Abrams loves projects about searching for people in space—so his producing a UFO documentary obviously works. But if there’s a fucking relic that someone has to find that leads us to the UFOs I’m gonna explode.
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UFO debuts on Showtime August 8. Feel free to rant about any Abrams Star-project below.
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