Who Should Direct Star Wars 7? Let the Wild Speculation Begin

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Photo illustration by John Seaborn Gray
As you already know, George Lucas has sold Lucasfilm to Disney. In turn, Disney immediately announced plans to release a new Star Wars film in 2015, and not just any Star Wars film -- not another CGI prequel, in other words -- but the next installment in the ongoing saga, the fabled Episode 7.

It's too early to get really excited about the project, but we can't help it. We love the original Star Wars trilogy, and were among the many, many people disappointed at how badly the prequels turned out. Well, okay, Revenge of the Sith was all right, but those first two really made us wonder what happened to George Lucas in the intervening years. How did one guy go from having a bounty hunter badass shoot an adversary dead in cold blood to writing lines like "Mooie mooie I love you!" for a digital frog-faced Stepin Fetchit?

Fears of our own softening and worsening with age as projected onto one filmmaker aside, the fact is that George Lucas won't be involved with Episode 7 as anything other than a creative consultant. That is great, great news. Writers Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan and director Irvin Kirschner gave us the best installment in the series, The Empire Strikes Back, so it's a proven fact that other people can work wonders with Lucas's material. Assuming the studio is smart enough to realize that doing Star Wars right and not letting hacks like Bret Ratner or Michael Bay anywhere near it will make them bazillions of dollars, this could be the resurrection that the fans have been waiting for.

So who should have the honors? Let's take a look at our ideal contenders.


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Slap Fight: Spider-Man & Obama vs. Bad Dudes & Reagan

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Listen here, we're hijacking the Cinema Slap Fight column to talk about something short on cinema, but long on slap fights! In all the years we've been tiptoeing through the tulips of pop culture, we've seen a lot of presidents rescued by a lot of heroes in a lot of different mediums.

That being said, it always seems to be an original character playing the president, not any of the actual leaders who have held the office. In fact, we can only think of two specific incidences that involved actual historic presidents needing rescue. The first is our own incumbent commander in chief Barack Obama. A comic book fan, Marvel inserted him into Amazing Spider-Man #583 as a tribute. He's been the official president in the Marvel universe since then.

We have to go way back to 1988 before we get another similar presidential rescue. In Data East's Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja arcade game, Blade and Striker are recruited to rescue Ronald Reagan using only their fists, cans of Coke for energy, and the occasional nunchuck. Which rescue was the greater? That's what we're here to find out.

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Cinema Slap Fight: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter vs. FDR: American Badass

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Editor's Note: Please congratulate Jef With One F for breaking the record for number of colons used in a Houston Press headline.

Two presidents both alike in regard and respect, in fair Internet, where we store our trailers for upcoming films featuring chief executives that combat supernatural evil. From ancient... ah screw it, Will.

This week we've been happy to get not one but two trailers that reaffirm everything we love about film and America. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, adapted from the so-so novel with an awesome premise, is self-explanatory in regards to its plot. FDR: American Badass needs only a few clues to paint the scene, werewolves, Nazis and a mechanized wheelchair of death.

Both will surely make our current crop of candidates look boring in comparison, though we think that Obama has a certain cachet from hanging out with Spider-Man, something we haven't seen since the Bad Dudes rescued Ronald Reagan from Dragon Ninja. The question is who would win in a fight? Let's find out.

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AFM President Blasts Lionsgate for Outsourcing Hunger Games Music

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For most musicians who aren't playing in orchestras or as session musicians, a musicians' union is about as useful as a roadie who can't lift anything over 20 pounds on doctor's orders. But, for the thousands of musicians who do work in the film, television and recording studio industry, they rely on unions to help them get a fair wage.

American Federation of Musicians (AFM) president Ray Hair (yes, the president of a musicians' union has the last name Hair) is clearly trying to earn his paycheck after taking to YouTube to blast Lionsgate, the film company making the movie adaptation of the insanely popular (and damn disturbing) adolescent book series Hunger Games.

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Cinema Slap Fight: Gandalf Vs. Dumbledore

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When beards attack.
Our combatants this week hail from wildly divergent backgrounds. One was created by an Oxford professor from a combination of Norse and Christian myth, the other is the product of a single mother living on the dole in Edinburgh, Scotland. But thanks to the magic of Hollywood, both Gandalf the Grey and Professor Albus Dumbledore have become iconic characters in two of the most successful film franchises in history.

So let's get to it: Which elderly white man with sorcerous talent and ambivalent sexuality will win the day? And no, Rip Taylor isn't an option.

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Cinema Slap Fight: Ewoks Vs. Oompa Loompas

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Welcome to my nightmare.

In which we answer the question: which creepy diminutive race freaks us out more?

Here at Cinema Slap Fight I've mostly concentrated on pitting individuals against each other, but tough times (and writer's block) call for tough measures. As I strive for more and more ridiculous match-ups, it will no longer be sufficient to concentrate on single combatants.

So for the first go-round, I'm focusing on two deceptively harmless-looking groups: Willy Wonka's Oompa Loompas and George Lucas' Ewoks. May the least disturbing midgets win.


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Cinema Slap Fight: Sex And The City 2 Vs. Highlander II

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Where's the Kurgan when you need him?
The movie sequel, once an rare phenomenon, has now come to make up (along with its dread cousin the remake) the bulk of Hollywood box office receipts. Taking a quick look at the top 10 earners of 2011 so far, my groundbreaking statement is easily proven out:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 - $377m
Transformers: Dark of the Moon: - $347m
The Hangover Part II - $251m
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $237m
Fast Five - $208m
Cars 2 - $186m
Thor - $180m
Captain America - $173m
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $167m
Bridesmaids - $165m

Of course, sequels don't have to be the cinematic equivalent of a sucking chest wound. A handful, especially the ones everybody trots out like The Godfather, Part 2, The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight, are at least as good, if not better, than their predecessors. While the majority of sequels are merely dull affairs, marking time while the studio earns some safe cash from audiences craving the comfort of narrative and character familiarity.

And then there are those installments in a franchise that threaten to destroy all that has come before, whether the original movie was a classic (The Sting II) or not all that good to begin with (Staying Alive). These are the odious sequels that can erase a generation's worth of goodwill, but because there's already been enough written about the Star Wars prequels, today we'll be discussing whether Sex and the City 2 or Highlander II is the worst (non-SW) sequel of all time.


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Cinema Slap Fight: Henry Chinanski vs. Ben Sanderson

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All right men, it's bottles at ten paces.
I can quit whenever I want.

The cinematic alcoholic has a long and storied tradition, dating back to screen drunks like William "Nick Charles" Powell, real-life drunks like John Barrymore and combinations of the two like W.C. Fields.

And for the bulk of the 20th century, the drunk was usually a movie's comic relief (think Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou or Dean Martin in just about anything). More realistic depictions cropped up here and there (The Lost Weekend, Days of Wine and Roses), but it really wasn't until the '80s and '90s that Hollywood finally decided to start cashing in on America's new rehab culture.

Today we're going to take a look at two latter-era onscreen drunks, both based on real people, and both played by actors once (and occasionally still) regarded as two of the finest of their generation: Henry Chinanski from Barfly, and Ben Sanderson from Leaving Las Vegas.


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Cinema Slap Fight: Steven Seagal Vs. Jean-Claude Van Damme

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Seagal never took his shirt off due to scars obtained while in the employ of the CIA.
In which I attempt to do the splits in bikini briefs...journalistically speaking.

Never was there a more fertile era for white guys doing karate than the '80s and early '90s. The previous decade saw the rise of Sonny Chiba, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee (along with countless imitators) and in recent years guys like Donnie Yen, Jet Li and Tony Jaa have seized some of the spotlight, but for Caucasians with bad hair circle kicking each other through drywall, you need to go back to the Reagan-Bush years.

Of course, the godfather of these was Chuck Norris, the only one who could actually lay claim to fighting the original Dragon (in film, that is). A certified badass (he retired from professional karate in 1974 with a lifetime record of 183-10-2), Chuck would be the default winner of any Slap Fight I could put him in, excepting perhaps against Lee himself.

But there were others beating the crap out of each other at the same time. Some were C-level guys whose names were less memorable than the titles of the movies they made (American Ninja's Michael Dudikoff, James Ryan from Kill and Kill Again), while others experience greater fame and success. Two of these guys found their stars on the rise as Norris was relegated to stuff like Missing in Action and Delta Force sequels, briefly eclipsing Lone Wolf McQuade himself.

Of course I'm talking about Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

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Cinema Slap Fight: Ridley Scott vs. Tony Scott

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Who do you suppose the "fun one" was growing up?

Brother against brother; it's like the Civil War up in here.

So far on Cinema Slap Fight we've seen kaiju against kaiju, gangster fighting gangster, and battling icons of female empowerment, but for the first time I'm going to pit real-life brothers against each other. There are other sibling directors out there, but by and large they work together to make films (see the Coens, Wachowskis and Hughes...es). Ridley Scott and Tony Scott aren't rivals in any other sense than that their films occasionally compete against each other for ticket sales.

Until now.


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