Saturday, July 30, 2011

Matt Smith Returns to Ferguson's LATE, LATE SHOW


Well, better late than never.  Of course, "late" is a very relative concept to a Time Lord...

Doctor Who star Matt Smith finally returned to CBS' The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson last night after a scheduling delay that pushed the airing of his recorded interview back to Friday from four days earlier.  Looking considerably more relaxed than his first appearance on the talk show last November, Smith was introduced to Ferguson's quick impression of the Doctor Who opening credits with the miniature TARDIS replica and a clip from the first Oval Office scene of the first episode of Series Six, "The Impossible Astronaut."

The interview opened with a brief discussion of Smith's recent appearance at the San Diego Comic Con and how Doctor Who is gaining more mainstream popularity in America.  When asked to describe the show to an American who had never seen it, Smith remarked, "It's about a man who time-travels through the universe, saving different races that live on sort of different planets, and sort of sweeps up hot companions and takes them on the way."

Smith then turned the tables on Ferguson, asking him how he would describe it.  "I would describe it in the form of a song," Ferguson replied.  Smith proceeded to start beatboxing a rhythm, resulting in the following song:

My Who main man is Doctor Who
and he goes from a planet that goes to you
He comes down and sweeps up your hot companion
and takes them off to...a place in your area

As Ferguson brought up the subject of a Doctor Who film, Smith commented, "Yeah, you know...I think one day...I think these things take a long time.  And they'll probably cast Johnny Depp...I'll probably be dead or something like that."  Ferguson argued that casting an American in the role would probably be as popular as casting an American in the role of Sherlock Holmes...except for Robert Downey, Jr.  This exchange led to the subject of accents, giving Ferguson's robot skeleton sidekick Geoff Peterson the opportunity to go "Exterminate!  Exterminate!" in a quick impression of the Daleks.

Ferguson later remarked that he wants to appear in a Doctor Who episode, something which I personally feel should happen considering everything Ferguson's done to promote the show in America over the past year.  "I've decided I want to make that happen, too," said Smith, "and guess who's here?  The executive producers are backstage."  Smith then remarked about having a conversation about this, mentioning that Ferguson doesn't get much time off.  Replied Ferguson, "But you put me in Doctor Who, I'll (Censored) quit this."  If the producers were indeed backstage, I have to think there was some genuine discussion about letting Ferguson appear on Doctor Who, if only in a cameo similar to Meredith Vieira's upcoming appearance.

An "awkward pause that shifted through the space/time continuum" took place minutes before the traditional close of Ferguson's interviews when Ferguson brought up how Smith had failed to call Ferguson.  "It's like time and space have gone nuts," said Ferguson.  Because of the earlier awkward pause, Smith opted for the mouth organ close to the segment, sharing a harmonica duet with Ferguson.

And thanks to the kindness of TVsCraigFerguson posting the segment on YouTube, you can watch the full interview here...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Harrison Ford Vs. Chewbacca on JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE


Well, this certainly explains why Harrison Ford gets so pissy whenever Star Wars is brought up...

On last night's episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, the former scruffy-looking nerfherder participated in a brief sketch where he continued his "feud" with his Star Wars co-star Chewbacca.  As Ford fields a call from his agent concerning a sequel to Air Force One called Air Force One 2, Chewbacca stops by the makeup room to apologize and the two quickly exchange words...and grunts.

Ford tells the Wookiee, "You think you can just walk in here and say you're sorry after what you did?!  I'm done with that Star Wars crap and I'm done with you!"  As Chewbacca tries to respond, Ford gets all up in his hairy grill and adds, "I'm in Cowboys and Aliens...Daniel Craig is my Wookiee bitch now."  He then proceeds to kick Chewbacca out of the room while yelling "She was my wife!  She's still spitting up hairballs!"

Neither Harrison Ford nor Chewbacca nor the Rebel Alliance could be reached for comment.  You can view the entire disheartening exchange below...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Karen Gillan Returns to Ferguson's LATE, LATE SHOW


CBS' The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson just can't quit Doctor Who...or is it the other way around?

Currently visiting California for the Doctor Who panel at last weekend's San Diego Comic Con, actress Karen Gillan made her second appearance on The Late, Late Show last night under the pretense of promoting the Doctor Who Series Six Part One DVD release.  A clip from the upcoming episode "The God Complex" was shown, showing the same "Don't talk to the clown" footage that debuted at the Comic Con panel.  When asked about attending Comic Con, Gillan remarked that she "didn't expect the scale of it."

And once again, Craig's miniature TARDIS replica that he keeps on his desk found its way into the interview.  When Gillan started listing from side to side from laughter during the conversation, Ferguson began playfully mocking her actions and then brought in the TARDIS replica to simulate the image of the TARDIS being buffeted by the time vortex or what have you.  Gillan, apparently forgetting about her previous encounter with the TARDIS replica, oohed with interest as Ferguson joked about it being "bigger on the inside."

The actress also mentioned that she's staying in Los Angeles for a brief time, expressing an interest in surfing (although she claimed to be scared of ocean waves) and trying out the recent fad of hydro-powered jet packs.  Also, the subject of the porn name game came up. where you take the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on to create your fake porn star name.  When asked, Gillan said that her porn star name would be "Fuzzy Springfield Gardens."

When given the show's traditional choice of ending the segment by either depicting an awkward pause or playing a mouth organ, Gillan opted to let Ferguson choose, which resulted in a grateful (or perhaps somewhat opportunistic?) hug.  Gillan once again showed her comedic skill giving a slightly awkward pause, followed by a brief random set of notes on the harmonica.

If you're interested in checking out the segment, you can view it here thanks to TVsCraigFerguson...


The delayed return of Matt Smith to The Late, Late Show that was originally planned for Monday, July 25th is now currently scheduled to air on Friday, July 29th, while poor Arthur Darvill sits at home and twiddles his thumbs...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

DAMN Good Movies -- CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER


Yes, here I am with another of my infamous movie takes, this time on the film Captain America: The First Avenger, based on the classic Marvel Comics character.  As always, if you haven't seen the movie yet and you don't want it spoiled for you, then please step back from your computer or whatever electronic device you're reading this on and stop reading now.  If, however, you're wise enough to know that movie reviews with spoilers are always more interesting than the ones without them...well...carry on, soldier...

It's been a pretty entertaining summer for fans of superhero flicks, with mostly favorable results.  We started off with Thor, one of the prime components to Marvel's upcoming film The Avengers, saw the X-Men franchise reboot with X-Men: First Class, and watched DC Comics and Warner Brothers dare to step outside their snuggly and warm comfort zone of Batman and Superman films with Green Lantern.  Sadly, Green Lantern underperformed at the box office with only $147 million worldwide, but even though several media outlets are giddily declaring the end of Hollywood's love of superhero movies, Thor pulled in $445 million worldwide while X-Men: First Class earned $347 million worldwide.  And since that's before DVD, Blu-Ray and digital video sales, something tells me that movie studios are going to keep viewing superheroes as a viable product for the foreseeable future.

Now it's Captain America's turn, which should prove interesting to see how the film does internationally.  Originally, it was awkwardly titled The First Avenger: Captain America, with talk of simply retitling it The First Avenger in foreign markets less fond of overt American patriotism.  Somewhere along the way, though, some Paramount studio exec apparently woke up and realized they might get a bit of negative PR by downplaying the America in Captain America, so they flipped the title around to Captain America: The First Avenger.  However, as shown in international posters here, the film is still being marketed as just The First Avenger in countries such as Russia.

As for the film itself, Joe Johnston was brought in as director even though his track record has been fairly hit-or-miss.  Although successful with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Jumanji, Johnston was also responsible for disappointing films such as Jurassic Park III and the recent version of The Wolfman.  Presumably though, it was his work on the fan-favorite but box-office-fail adaptation of Dave Stevens' comic The Rocketeer that got him the Captain America gig.  That film showed Johnston had a great grasp of period superheroics, making them fun, adventurous and exciting as they needed to be.  The problem here is that apart from the Indiana Jones films and X-Men: First Class, audiences have been reluctant to embrace heroes set in the past.  The Rocketeer, The Shadow, Dick Tracy, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow -- All of them tanked at the box office, failing to earn sequels, so Johnston certainly had his work cut out for him.

And sure enough, Johnston brought a healthy dose of old-school filmmaking to Captain America.  Not a lot of flashy quick-cut editing, or lens flares, or shakycam here, just some solid storytelling to convey the journey of a 98-pound weakling named Steve Rogers into a one-man army named Captain America.  And with Alan Silvestri, who did the scores to the Back to the Future films, actually providing the first hummable superhero theme in far too long, there's a very classic feel to this movie even with modern CGI effects. Essentially, Captain America comes off as if you put The Rocketeer, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the first Spider-Man movie into a blender and poured it into an Avengers 7-11 Slurpee cup.  Okay, maybe that's not the best description...

The good news here is, Captain America is a really entertaining movie.  A good portion of the first act is devoted to seeing Chris Evans CGIed into the scrawny Steve Rogers and getting to first know him as someone determined to do his part for the war effort but can't due to his physical limitations that keep him being classified as 4-F.  Even after he gets his mega-dose of Human Growth Hormone--errrr, Vita-Rays and Super-Soldier Serum, Steve still falls into the trappings of a U.S. Senator's USO show promotion for war bonds.  It's only when he goes off on his own to rescue his friend Bucky and other soldiers held captive in a Hydra prison that the real Captain America emerges.

There are also plenty of fun easter eggs for the diehard comics fans.  The original costume design appears as Cap's USO costume, right down to the extended wings and pirate boots, and even includes the original triangular shield that Cap uses when rescuing Bucky and the Howling Commandos.  The Cosmic Cube appears once again, having been last seen in the Thor post-credits Avengers teaser, but is again referred to simply as "The Tesseract."  There's also a very sly nod to the future monstrous incarnation of Arnim Zola when Zola is introduced with his face looking directly at us through a large magnifying screen.  Possibly as an in-joke nod to Chris Evans, or perhaps a nod to Cap's original team the Invaders, a brief shot of the android Golden Age Human Torch is shown at the World Expo attended by Steve and Bucky.  And of course, there's even the inclusion of Captain America Comics #1, which featured Cap's first appearance with the cover showing him punching out Adolf Hitler.  Even this punch gets a nod during the USO show scene as Cap pretends to sock an actor garbed as Hitler squarely on the jaw.

Ultimately though, the story belongs to Steve Rogers and establishing him as the hero America needs him to become.  For someone who's "just a kid from Brooklyn," Steve proves he deserves to have that Super-Soldier serum coursing through his bloodstream and Johnston ably makes both the character and his saga work in this mostly faithful adaptation.  There are occasional missteps by the script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, such as high proliferation of Hydra's Tesseract-powered energy weapons that could easily give them combat superiority over the allied forces, but thankfully they're kept to a minimum.  Also, with the third act becoming one nearly continuous action sequence, you're so busy charging ahead with Cap and the Howling Commandos that you don't think about such nitpicky things until long after the movie has ended.

So what about the performances from the cast and the characters they portrayed?  Well, as you might expect, I have a few thoughts about that...

CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS -- Like many comics fans, I had some initial reservations about Chris Evans in the role of Cap after being such a perfect Human Torch in the two somewhat unfantastic Fantastic Four films.  However, these reservations were quickly put to rest because Evans plays the role of Steve Rogers as straight as he possibly can and certainly does it justice.  The early scenes of skinny and scrawny Steve could've been unintentionally humorous, but Evans makes you root for Steve to succeed and become the hero you want him to be.

PEGGY CARTER -- Hayley Atwell gets the role of Steve's would-be love interest as Peggy, but for all her talk of looking for the right dance partner, she still doesn't express her true feelings until Steve's tragic crash at the end.  She's allowed to punch obnoxious army privates and shoot at Steve's new shield in a huff of jealousy, but her essentially unimportant character sadly remains a solid example of the period she inhabits.

JAMES BUCHANAN "BUCKY" BARNES -- As Cap's sidekick Bucky, Sebastian Stan has to understandably play second fiddle here.  It was an interesting move to age Bucky so that he and Steve are similar and therefore avoid the strangeness of a young teen serving in the miitary.  Even though another change eliminated the presumed death of Bucky at the hands of Baron Zemo, the shot of Bucky falling from a train bridge into a river far, far below still sets up his potential return in a sequel as the Winter Soldier.

THE RED SKULL/JOHANN SCHMIDT -- Hugo Weaving does what Hugo Weaving does, namely turn on the creepy, smooth-talking villainy as he did as Agent Smith in the three Matrix films.  Once the far too perfect "mask" comes off and the Skull's true form is revealed, though, he becomes far more interesting even if you're not quite sure about this "attack everything" plan of his.

COLONEL CHESTER PHILLIPS -- After trying way too hard to be Jack Nicholson's take on the Joker as Two-Face in Batman Forever, Tommy Lee Jones returns to the world of superhero movies with a much more memorable performance.  Showing a snappier edge than he has in a good long while, Jones thankfully delivers his lines with the tone that made him so fun to watch in films like The Fugitive.  Welcome back, Tommy...We missed you.

DR. ABRAHAM ERSKINE -- Stanley Tucci essentially gets the "Uncle Ben" role of the mentor who dies tragically, but Tucci's terrific subdued performance as a German scientist who fled the Nazis and began working for the allies becomes one of this film's most interesting characters.  Before pumping Steve full of Vita-Ray goodness, Erskine imparts the necessary amount of wisdom, secure in the belief that he made the right choice.

HOWARD STARK -- As the father of Iron Man's Tony Stark, Dominic Cooper gets to display some of the flashy and glib brilliance Robert Downey, Jr. gets to bring to Tony, right down to the same moustache.  It's another great example of how well these recent Marvel films weave in and out of one another in an actual shared film universe.  Shame we didn't get to see Howard's wife Maria, though.

DR. ARNIM ZOLA -- Being something of a Doctor Who fan (No, really), Toby Jones first tripped my geek radar with his great performance last year as the Dream Lord.  Jones (Toby, not Tommy Lee) brings much of the unsettling strangeness here as the Red Skull's hench-scientist, although he's all-too-willing to give up the goods when interrogated while Phillips dines on a slab of steak.  Here's hoping Zola returns in a sequel, presumably sporting his current form of having his face displayed on a TV screen mounted in his chest.  That might sell a few more Zola action figures.

TIMOTHY "DUM-DUM" DUGAN -- Although I didn't notice his character being named in the film, Neal McDonough brings an entertaining bit of lightheartedness to Dugan.  He even gets to unleash a classic Howling Commandos "WA-HOOOO!" but I would've really liked to have seen him palling around with Nick Fury as he did in the classic Sgt. Fury comics.

OBLIGATORY NICK FURY CAMEO -- And while I'm on the subject of Nick, Samuel L. Jackson doesn't appear in the film until the very end when Steve wakes up in the 21st century and to keep setting up The Avengers.  I realize the idea of a black sargeant in World War II was rare, but it wasn't completely unheard of, so I have to wonder why the WW II aspect of Nick Fury's character was ignored here.  It certainly would make Steve's transition to the 21st century much easier if he was greeted by someone he knew from WW II, wouldn't it?

OBLIGATORY STAN LEE CAMEO -- Stan turns up this time as an army general sitting in the audience at a ceremony honoring Captain America. Even though Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Cap, Stan "The Man" did write Cap's adventures during the sixties so he certainly deserves a shout-out in this film.

Overall, Captain America: The First Avenger is a solid debut for Captain America into the shared Marvel movie universe and successfully establishes the final key component for The Avengers in 2012.  With the reported $66 million opening weekend box office, it seems more than likely that we'll get to see additional Cap films after The Avengers, especially with Chris Evans already signed for two more of each film.  The Winter Soldier seems like a natural bet for the sequel, and here's hoping they bring in Steve's current love interest (and niece of Peggy), Sharon Carter.

And for those who might be wondering, here's the updated and revised list of my Top 20 Comic Book Films:

1. Superman (1978)
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
3. Watchmen (2009)
4. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
5. Spider-Man (2002)
6. Batman Begins (2005)
7. Iron Man (2008)
8. X-Men: First Class (2011)
9. X2: X-Men United (2003)
10. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
11. X-Men (2000)
12. Thor (2011)
13. Green Lantern (2011)
14. Batman (1989)
15. Superman II (1981)
16. Iron Man 2 (2010)
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
18. Hellboy (2004)
19. Superman Returns (2006)
20. Sin City (2005)

Your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer,

Charles

DOCTOR WHO Series 6 Part 2 Trailer Debuts at Comic Con!


Oh, it's going to be a lonnnnng wait until August 27th.

During today's Doctor Who panel at the San Diego Comic Con, the new trailer for the second half of Series Six premiered, along with an extended clip from the eleventh episode from this series, "The God Complex," written by panel guest Toby Whithouse.

Here's the rundown of upcoming goodness...The Doctor back in his top hat and tails tuxedo from Amy and Rory's wedding reception, "My time is running out," Winston Churchill with a pistol, the return of Craig Owens, Madame Kovarian, "And this is where it begins," the Cybermen, "I'm going to die," "Something has happened to time," Adolf Hitler (of course) thanking the Doctor and the Ponds for saving his life, "Doctor, are you going to kiss me?", "Yes, Craig, yes I am," the TARDIS crashing rather impressively through a window, River Song wearing a Madame Kovarian eyepatch (UH-OH!), more of the Silence, the return of the Weeping Angels, creepy dolls and dummies, the Doctor crashing rather impressively through a door window, Rory punching Hitler (Say, that's Captain America's job!), Amy with a katana and a bo staff fighting robots and looking all slo-mo badass (!), Cybermen exploding from the inside out, "An impossible astronaut will rise from the deep and strike the Time Lord dead," and the Doctor inside the TARDIS console room, smiling knowingly, "Haven't you figured that one out yet...?"

And here's the actual trailer, followed by the two-minute clip from "The God Complex"...





As I said, a long wait indeed.  In the meantime, don't talk to the clown...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hugh Jackman Confirms WOLVERINE Sequel Villain


According to Screenrant, actor Hugh Jackman made a surprise appearance at the San Diego Comic Con earlier today to promote his upcoming film Real Steel.  During the Q&A session, Jackman shared some information on who the slated villain for the sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine will be and when the film will begin shooting:

"I’m filming Les Miserables in February, but before that I will be filming Wolverine 2 in October. Chris McQuarrie has written a fantastic script and it should turn out really good.  I’ll fight the Silver Samurai in it so that should be exciting.  Most of the filming will take place in Japan."


It's been rumored for a while now that the sequel would be set in Japan and will presumably be based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller's 1982 Wolverine mini-series that features Wolverine's romance and eventual engagement to Mariko Yoshida, half-sister to Kenuichio Harada, the Silver Samurai.

One month ago, 20th Century Fox selected James Mangold as the replacement director for the film after Darren Aronofsky dropped out of the production back in March.  The sequel was originally slated for release in 2012, but with no additional casting information, it seems more likely that the film won't arrive until 2013 at the earliest.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Daredevil Film Reboot Villains Revealed?


Director David Slade and screenwriter Brad Caleb Kane, the creators behind the Daredevil film reboot, went on Twitter to give some updates on the project and may have revealed the villains slated to appear.  ComicBookMovie.com captured the various Twitter posts yesterday, which provided the following comments of note...

@bradcalebkane Beware purple men and typhus.

@bradcalebkane Me and Slade cooking up lotsa fun surprises for DD. And most importantly, not talking down to the fans. Rich themes, complex story...

@bradcalebkane Watching lots of Sidney Lumet for inspiration.

The "purple men and typhus" comments certainly seem blatant references to the Daredevil villains the Purple Man and Typhoid Mary.  The Purple Man is Zebediah Killgrave, an international spy doused with a chemical that turned him purple and gave him the ability to produce chemical pheremones that control the actions of others against their will.  Typhoid Mary, meanwhile, is a mutant who suffers from dissociative identity disorder and possesses limited psionic powers, including telekinesis and pyrokinesis.

The shout-out to the recently deceased director Sidney Lumet most likely refers to Lumet's preference for New York City settings and emphasis on issues of social justice in such films as Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict.

It seems as though the tone of this rebooted film may be grittier and more substantive than the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Colin Farrell.  And since former Daredevil writer Brian Michael Bendis has put a fresh spin on both characters in recent years in the collections Daredevil: Hardcore and Alias: The Secret Origin of Jessica Jones, it wouldn't surprise me if those two collections are possible reference material for the script.

The Daredevil reboot isn't currently listed on Slade's IMDB page, but studio 20th Century Fox's rights to the Daredevil characters will expire at the end of 2012 and revert back to Marvel if they don't release another film.  With Slade and Kane working on the script, something tells me we're about to get some casting news soon...

Monday, July 18, 2011

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Teaser Goes Official and Non-Bootleggy


Although several shakycam bootleg versions of the teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan's final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, have been lurking around the internets for the past week, Warner Brothers has finally released the teaser online in a more officially official, less shaky version.  Dig it...



The teaser shows Tom Hardy's character Bane and hints at Liam Neeson's return as Ra's Al Ghul, but doesn't give us a glimpse of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle or Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the mysterious "John Blake" character who I'm thinking is actually Alberto Falcone.  With Gordon lying battered and possibly broken in a hospital bed, you have to wonder if he had a run-in with Bane before this scene.

The Dark Knight Rises is scheduled for release on July 20, 2012.  Between this, The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man, it's looking like another fun summer of superhero goodness.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

DAMN Good Movies -- HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2


Once again, I'm back with another of my infamous movie reviews, this time aiming my wand at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet and don’t want it spoiled for you, then for cryin’ out loud, stop reading now.  If, however, you are wise enough to know that movie reviews with spoilers are always more fun and interesting than the ones without them…well, Expecto Patronum!

"It's the end...but the moment has been prepared for."  No, wait...Sorry, that's someone else entirely.

So here we are, the last Harry Potter movie.  Go on, savor the moment...We've earned it.  It’s been an entertaining ten years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone, with many highs and a number of lows for this unprecedented eight-film saga.  Fans of J.K. Rowling's phenomenon of Harry Potter books have been rewarded by mostly faithful adaptations of the source material, some of which actually improved on their original storytelling format.

In this final film, we concentrate on the second half of good ol' J.K.'s last 750+ page novel, thankfully the half that actually has something interesting taking place instead of camping, camping, camping and oh, yeah...camping.  The stage has been properly set for the ultimate showdown at Hogwarts, with the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's Army and the Hogwarts teaching staff joining forces against Lord Voldemort and his Death Eater minions of villainous bad guy evildoerdom.  LLLLet's get ready to rummmmmblllllllllllllle...

Taking a page from The Lord of the Rings films, director David Yates dives right in from the previous Part One with Voldemort obtaining the Elder Wand and presumes (correctly) that anyone watching Part Two won't need a silly recap.  And once again, cinematographer Eduardo Serra treats us to a film that looks postively stunning, with powerful visuals ranging from the underground Gringotts vaults, the burning Quidditch stadium and a strangely beautiful mystical energy shield that surrounds and protects Hogwarts from attack.  The Harry Potter films have come such a long way from their inception, growing and maturing as the characters (and their audience) have over time.  So with these spectacular visuals and such a stellar cast, it gets a bit frustrating when the film's pacing is uneven at times.  Just when things get good and the adrenaline starts to rush, the film abruptly shuts down into talking heads and any sense of building momentum is lost.  I can't fault Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves too much, however, because they're obviously limited by the poor structure of J.K. Rowling's novel.

That said, the film does what it needs to do.  Rowling's final see-what-I-did-there plot points are adequately addressed, the good guys win (although not unscathed), evil is defeated, and we send the central characters off with the 19-year epilogue that establishes the passing of the torch to a new generation of Hogwarts students.  The conclusion to this saga is satisfying enough that you overlook flaws such as the throwaway emotionless scene of Fred Weasley's death or disappointing blink-and-you-miss-them cameos by some past characters such as Madame Pomfrey or Professor Trelawney.

And about that epilogue...It's intended to be a tear-inducing sendoff that makes you want to find out what happens to the next generation, but instead comes off as more of an underwhelming "Oh, that's nice" bit of supplemental material.  I have to wonder, though, if the epilogue would've been more effective and resonating if the camera had pulled back just before the end to reveal Rowling herself reading the final lines from her book to a group of children: 

The last trace of steam evaporated in the autumn air.  The train rounded a corner.  Harry's hand was still raised in farewell.

"He'll be all right," muttered Ginny.

As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absentmindedly and touched the lightning scar on his forehead.

"I know he will."

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years.  All was well.


There...Isn't that more lovely and fitting of a sendoff?

As always, this last Harry Potter film boasts one of the strongest casts in cinema history with many of them making the most of their spotlight scenes.  Here’s what I felt stood out about their characters this time around…

HARRY JAMES POTTER:  The final showdown between Harry and Voldemort mandated that Daniel Radcliffe step up to the plate and he certainly hit a solid home run.  Radcliffe hasn't always been the strongest of the cast but he seems to give his all here and depicts Harry as ready and determied to end this one way or the other.

RON BILIUS WEASLEY:  Ron gets somewhat marginalized here, understandably, but he finally gets to kiss the girl and sadly loses his older brother Fred.  His best scenes, though, have to be when he impresses Herimone with his cleverness and shows that he's more than just a lovable dolt.

HERMIONE JEAN GRANGER:  As bad as Ron gets sidelined, Hermione gets it even worse.  In addition to her scenes with Ron, she does get a fun sequence where she uses Polyjuice Potion to impersonate Bellatrix Lestrange to amusing results.  Hopefully, she remembers at some point to go back and remove the memory-wiping spell from her parents.

LORD “HE WHO MUST NOT BE CALLED TOM RIDDLE” VOLDEMORT:  After film after film of buildup, ol' Lord Voldemort finally gets to stop posting on Twitter and get down to the business of fighting his teenage nemesis.  Ralph Fiennes is in fine form here, chewing some scenery when not weakened every so often by a destroyed Horcrux.  Unfortunately, his actual death after a wand battle is a bit anticlimactic and looks like someone threw the movie script on a campfire and watched the ashes rise up in the wind.

BELLATRIX LESTRANGE:  Helena Bonham Carter always seems like she enjoys playing the crazed Bellatrix and her last outing is no different.  She shows some nice comic timing portraying Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix, but like Voldemort, she ends up with a POOF-she's-gone death that feels a bit cheap.

SEVERUS SNAPE:  Alan Rickman gives his best Alan Rickman performance as Alan Rickman's answering machine when addressing the Hogwarts students as headmaster.  He does, however, get the best death scene in the movie and the flashback scenes with the younger Snape make you wonder if he's really Harry's father instead of James.

DRACO MALFOY:  After being confronted about his lie to Bellatrix in Part One, we don't really see Malfoy much until he needs to be rescued in the Room of Requirement.  He does manage to be one of the few characters shown in the epilogue to establish his son, Scorpius.

LUCIUS AND NARCISSA MALFOY:  It's always fun to see Jason Isaacs as Lucius, but he gets so little screen time here.  Helen McCrory has a bit more to do as Narcissa when she lies to Voldemort about Harry surviving the Avada Kedavra curse.  Unfortunately, there's no explanation that the Malfoys manage to avoid being sent to Azkaban prison.

NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM:  Matthew Lewis finally gets to truly shine as Neville in a way that he really hasn't since the first film ten years ago.  Apart from giving a big (albeit modestly polite) eff you to Voldemort, he takes out a bunch of Snatchers destroying the Hogwarts bridge, acquires the sword of Godric Gryffindor and uses it to decapitate Nagini, making Voldemort mortal once again in the process.  Oh, and he professess his sudden and abrupt love for Luna Lovegood.  Not bad for a guy who ends up becoming the Hogwarts Herbology professor.

MINERVA MCGONAGALL:  As ever, Dame Maggie Smith is so much fun to watch as McGonagall.  She gets to show off McGonagall's rare playful side with one spell, then turns around and rallies everyone to prepare for the Death Eaters' assault on Hogwarts.  It would've been nice if a quick explanation was worked in to reveal that she becomes Headmistress of Hogwarts after Snape's death.

ALBUS PERCIVAL WULFRIC BRIAN DUMBLEDORE:  Yes, his character is still dead, but Michael Gambon gets one last shot as Dumbledore in a flashback scene with Snape which reveals that Dumbledore was dying anyway.  He also gets a touching scene in the limbo-like King's Cross where he explains, in typical vague terms, that Harry must die because he's another Horcrux.  For a role that the late Richard Harris owned so early on in the series, Gambon quickly managed to make it his own and his portrayal will be the one remembered for years to come.

ABERFORTH DUMBLEDORE:  Ciarán Hinds gets the role of Old Exposition Guy now that his character's brother is dead.  His job is simply to get Harry, Ron and Hermione from one place to another in the story and explain how Dobby the Dead House Elf rescued them from Malfoy Manor.

GRIPHOOK:  After occasional cameos as Professor Flitwick, Warwick Davis finally gets some decent screen time as the backstabbing goblin Griphook.  He also gets another of Rowling's see-what-I-did-there moments by explaining that he was the goblin in the first film that escorted Harry and Hagrid to Harry's vault.

HELENA RAVENCLAW:  As another of Rowling's beloved expository characters, Boardwalk Empire's Kelly MacDonald gets to deliver some necessary plot information as the Grey Lady.  At this point, Macdonald has to be glad she squeaked in as a member of the Harry Potter U.K. Actors Club so she can get invitations to a better societal class of parties.

OLLIVANDER:  Yet another character who was there at the beginning and brought back for the end, John Hurt returns as Ollivander to provide expository information about the Elder Wand.  Hands up if you're seeing a pattern in J.K. Rowling's writing style by now.

RUBEUS HAGRID:  Robbie Coltrane comes back once more as Hagrid just to turn up as a captive in the Death Eaters' camp in the Forbidden Forest and to carry Harry's only-mostly-dead body out of the forest.  At least he gets a quick hug from Harry back at Hogwarts after everything's said and done.

LUNA LOVEGOOD:  I always enjoy seeing Evanna Lynch as Luna and I wish she had gotten more to do in the final film.  She gets to flesh out the Ravenclaw searching scenes a bit and it's fun when she yells at Harry to pay attention and focus.

FRED AND GEORGE WEASLEY:  Fred dies (somehow) and George and some of the other Weasleys are understandably a bit upset about it for a little while.  That's it.

GINEVRA “GINNY” MOLLY WEASLEY:  Bonnie Wright returns as Ginny shows up to give Harry a quick kiss and tell him she knows he loves her before he goes off to duke it out with Voldemort.  She then turns up in the epilogue to look nineteen years older and show that she married Harry.  An appropriately unremarkable end.

ARTHUR AND MOLLY WEASLEY:  Arthur only gets a quick cameo to fight Death Eaters and grieve over Fred, but Molly gets the big "Step back from my daughter, beyotch" moment when she takes out Bellatrix.  Both Julie Walters and David Yates kind of undersold such a classic moment from the book, but at least it was in there and that's really all that matters.

REMUS LUPIN AND NYMPHADORA TONKS:  David Thewlis and Natalia Tena come back just long enough to show that their characters were killed off.  No mention whatsoever that they have a son named Teddy and that he's now an orphan.

SEAMUS FINNEGAN:  At last, someone realizes that Seamus' true talent lies in blowing shit up even if you don't actually get to see him do it here.

LILY AND JAMES POTTER:  In addition to the aforementioned flashback scenes with Snape and give more background on their deaths, Lily and James turn up as ghosts to give their best Obi-Wan Kenobi so that Harry knows his parents are with him when he makes his self-sacrifice at the hands of Voldemort.

SIRIUS BLACK:  The always brilliant Gary Oldman also makes a return appearance, pulling the same Obi-Wan shtick as Lily and James.  Thanks for the help from beyond the grave there, Sirius.

ARGUS FILCH:  David Bradley makes of couple of quick final cameos as Filch, once to grumble that students are out of bed and another to show that he's probably going to be the one stuck with cleaning up that whole damn mess.  Sucks to be you, Filch.

NAGINI:  Dies.  Finally.  Snakes...Why'd it have to be snakes?

All in all, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part 2  was a solid final installment of the series, (Hog)warts and all.  Judging by the initial box office reports, this film could've been half as good and still would haul in a boatload of cash because everybody needs to know how it ends...even if they've already read the book.  I still find it incredible that there was only one major recasting throughout eight films over the span of ten years and even that was due to the actor's death.  It's so rare to accomplish this for four films these days, let alone eight, so I think we should take comfort that these films turned out as well and as consistent as they did.  It was nothing short of...well...magic.

And for anyone who might be wondering, here’s my personal ranking of the Harry Potter films:

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two (2011)
3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One (2010)
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

GAME OF THRONES and SHERLOCK Score Emmy Nominations


Although the miniseries Mildred Pierce and AMC's Mad Men lead the 2011 Emmy Awards nominations announced this morning with 21 and 19 nominations respectively, HBO's Game of Thrones racked up a decent amount for its first season with 13, including Outstanding Drama Series and a Outstanding Supporting Actor nomination for Peter Dinklage.

Other recognized geek-favorite shows include HBO's True Blood, AMC's The Walking Dead and the BBC series Sherlock, which aired in the United States as part of PBS' Masterpiece series.  FOX's Fringe, however, was criminally overlooked and received just one token nomination for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. 

You can read the full list of nominations here, but this is the breakdown for the shows listed above...

GAME OF THRONES (13 Nominations)

Outstanding Drama Series
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series -- Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Outstanding Directing For a Drama Series -- Tim Van Patten, "Winter is Coming" (Pilot)
Outstanding Writing For a Drama Series -- David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, "Baelor"
Outstanding Casting For a Drama Series
Outstanding Costuming For a Drama Series -- "The Pointy End"
Outstanding Hairstyle For a Single-Camera Series -- "A Golden Crown"
Outstanding Main Title Design
Outstanding Makeup For a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) -- "Winter is Coming" (Pilot)
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For a Series, Miniseries or a Special -- "A Golden Crown"
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series -- "A Golden Crown"
Outstanding Visual Effects for a Series -- "Fire and Blood"
Outstanding Stunt Coordination -- "The Wolf and the Lion"

SHERLOCK (4 Nominations)

Outstanding Writing For a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special -- Steven Moffat, "A Study in Pink"
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For a Miniseries or a Movie -- "A Study in Pink"
Outstanding Music Composition For a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score) -- "A Study in Pink"
Outstanding Visual Effects For a Miniseries, Movie or a Special -- "A Study in Pink"

TRUE BLOOD (4 Nominations)

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series -- Alfre Woodard as Ruby Jean Reynolds
Outstanding Art Direction For a Single-Camera Series -- "Beautifully Broken," "It Hurts Me Too," "Trouble"
Outstanding Makeup For a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) -- "9 Crimes"
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series

THE WALKING DEAD (3 Nominations)

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For a Series, Miniseries or a Special -- "Days Gone Bye"
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series -- "Days Gone Bye"
Outstanding Visual Effects for a Series -- "Days Gone Bye"

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards is scheduled to air on September 18th at 8 p.m. EST on FOX.  Hopefully, winter is coming early this year...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS Trailer Debuts


The first trailer for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the sequel to 2009's Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, was released today on Apple's iTunes Movie Trailers.  If you were a fan of the first film, as I was, this one looks just as promising...



And look, here's an official plot synopsis...

Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and Jude Law returns as his formidable colleague, Dr. Watson, in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room...until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large—Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris)—and not only is he Holmes’ intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective. When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder—a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by one Professor Moriarty.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is scheduled to arrive in theaters on December 16, 2011.  I know it's not the clever updating of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle characters by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, in the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but director Guy Ritchie managed to pull off a fresh take on period Holmes and Watson and I'm looking forward to seeing more of this version.

Monday, July 11, 2011

TRUE BLOOD Season 4 Spoilers for August


Official plot synopses for episodes 7 through 10 of True Blood Season 4 were posted earlier today on Comics Continuum.  As you might expect, there are some spoilers of upcoming events, so if you don't want to learn what's coming up on the HBO series in the next few weeks, you'd better bail out now...

"COLD GREY LIGHT OF DAWN," premieres on August 7: With Marnie empowered by spirits of the dead, Bill issues an unpopular order to save vampires from the light. Eric embraces his amnesia; Luna discovers Sam's not the man she thought he was; Lafayette expands his consciousness; Pam gets a body peel; Andy's date with Holly doesn't go as planned; Jessica has doubts about her future with Hoyt; Alcide and Debbie join a new pack.

"SPELLBOUND," premieres on August 14: As Bill and Marnie brace for a dangerous midnight face-off, Sookie and Eric pledge their allegiance to the King. Jason is torn between friendship and passion, and Jessica is spurned from two homes. Lafayette becomes the pawn of a tormented spirit; Tommy takes a walk in someone else's shoes; Sam contends with yet another adversary in Marcus, Luna's ex and the leader of Alcide's new pack.

"RUN," premieres on August 21: Convalescing after her latest near-death trauma, Sookie envisions a world where there's room for both Bill and Eric. Jesus tries to purge the restless spirit out of Lafayette; Marcus enlists Alcide to help him deal with the Sam situation; Bill and Nan Flanagan clash over their respective agendas; Hoyt asks Jason to make a delivery to Jessica. Despite Tara and Holly's misgivings, Marnie plots her next move against the vampires, during a "Festival of Tolerance" event at Shreveport.

"BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE," premieres on August 28: As all hell breaks loose in Shreveport, Sookie summons her most potent powers yet to save Bill, in the process breaking a spell and leading Marnie/Antonia to re-evaluate her mission. Jason urges Jessica to glamour him for Hoyt's sake; Terry drags Andy to "Fort Bellefleur" for an intervention; Alcide reconsiders his allegiances after Marcus' fight with Tommy. Jesus, accompanied by Sookie, Lafayette and Jason, tries to breach the Moongoddess Emporium's defenses to liberate Tara and Holly, while Bill leads a brigade of vampires committed to blowing the place to kingdom come.

Hmmm...With Pam, the words "body peel" could have a completely other meaning entirely.  And is it wrong of me that I really want to see that intervention for Andy Bellefleur, especially if Terry's running it? 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

DC Universe Animated Movie Dream Projects



As a fan of the various DC Universe animated movies, I'm looking forward to the upcoming release of Batman: Year One and the reported upcoming projects Justice League: Doom (supposedly based on the "Tower of Babel" storyline in the JLA series) and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (based on the mini-series by Frank Miller).  Yeah, the current rotation of Batman, Superman and Justice League projects can feel a bit limited at times, even if something like Green Lantern: Emerald Knights manages to sneak in if there's a big-budget movie to justify an animated tie-in.

So I started thinking about some of the DC animated movies I want to see happen, the ones that could broaden the potential for these releases or simply be the kind of dream projects fans hope for but never expect to actually see.  Here's a sample of my own wish list...

The Crisis on Infinite Earths Trilogy -- Yeah, this is the Big One.  Break the 12-issue maxi-series by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez up into three animated movies covering four issues each and treat it like the animated DC Universe version of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.  One installment per year for three years, making it a huge event fans will look forward to for the holidays.
The Flash: Terminal Velocity -- I've been a bit annoyed that Green Lantern has now had two animated movies while The Flash remains conveniently ignored.  After looking through my various trade paperbacks, though, I have to think that Mark Waid, Salvador Larrocca and Carlos Pacheco's definitive Wally West epic would look great animated and give The Flash some of the mainstream exposure he hasn't had since the single season CBS TV series starring John Wesley Shipp back in 1990.
The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract -- As some of you already know, this one came this close to being made after Justice League: The New Frontier, but was put on hold and then quietly shelved in favor of Superman and Batman projects.  Regardless, the story of Terra's betrayal remains one of the finest to come out of 1980s comics and as a diehard Teen Titans fan, it's one that I really want to see someday.




Blackest Night -- Yeah, this was a big 8-issue event mini-series by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis with a lot of spinoff minis, but if you focus on the central event and treat it as more of a DCU story instead of a glorified Green Lantern story, I think it would work well enough.  Or...if that Green Lantern movie sequel actually does happen, you have your tie-in release to go along with it.





Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga -- I know, more '80s material...but how can you not include this one?  Even after the Legion's two-season animated series and their appearances on Smallville, I'm still waiting for the proper Legion of Super-Heroes to arrive on television.  One condition, though...You have to bring back Michael Ironside as the voice of Darkseid.  No one else will do.

STAR TREK: NEW FRONTIER Novel Gives DOCTOR WHO Shout-Outs

I just finished reading the electronic iBooks version of Peter David's latest (and potentially final) Star Trek: New Frontier novel, Blind Man's Bluff, and along the way, I happened to notice a few fun shout-outs to the Tenth Doctor era of Doctor Who that starred actor David TennantObviously, Spoiler Warnings are in full effect here, so if you don't want the novel spoiled for you, why the hell are you still reading this, hmmm?

On page 126 of 333 of the iBooks version, half-Vulcan/half-Romulan character Soleta is introduced to none other than the Doctor from the TV series Star Trek: Voyager but she abruptly compares him to some untold previous meeting with the Tenth Doctor:

Soleta looked momentarily confused"The Doctor?  I met a man called the Doctor once.  Wore a long brown coat and a blue suit.  Very odd person.  This isn't him." 

On page 289, the Doctor has just uploaded a virus designed to remove the out-of-control artificial intelligence calling itself Morgan Primus from the starship Excalibur's computer systems and resets one of the Tenth Doctor's repeated catch phrases:

"It has already wormed its way into your core programming, and requires a simple phrase, spoken by me, to activate it.  And that phrase is," said the Doctor, and there was great sadness in his eyes, "I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry."

And on page 292, there's what appears to be a possible nod to the Tenth Doctor episode "Blink" as the dying Morgan Primus has a final conversation with her daughter Robin Lefler:

And Morgan looked in the direction of her voice, and she reached up and caressed Robin's face.  "Don't look away...from Cwansi...don't blink....if you blink...he grows up..."

There may be other shout-outs in the novel somewhere, but these are what I caught my first time through.  Since Peter David is an admitted Doctor Who fan, here's hoping these aren't the last of his shout-outs to the series or the last of his wonderful Star Trek: New Frontier novels.  If nothing else, I would love to know what exactly happened when Soleta met the Tenth Doctor, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Animated BATMAN: YEAR ONE Adds Bonus Catwoman Short


TV Guide reports that the upcoming direct-to-DVD animated adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's classic Batman: Year One storyline from Batman (vol.1) #404-407 will include a bonus Catwoman animated short film starring Year One actress Eliza Dushku reprising her role of Selina Kyle.

In the 15-minute short, Catwoman will go up against a newly-created crime boss named Rough Cut, voiced by Futurama's John DiMaggio, while being chased through Gotham City as she tracks down a "mysterious cargo shipment."  The story will be written by Batman: The Animated Series veteran Paul Dini and will be directed by Lauren Montgomery, co-director of Batman: Year One along with Sam Liu.

Batman: Year One goes on sale October 18th for DVD, Blu-Ray, On Demand and digital download and also stars Ben McKenzie as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Bryan Cranston as Lieutenant James Gordon, Katee Sackhoff as Detective Sarah Essen, Alex Rocco as Carmine Falcone and Grey DeLisle as Gordon's wife Barbara.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER Score Preview


As someone who enjoys epic orchestral scores with superhero films, I'm often disappointed with many of the recent offerings that tend to feel unremarkable and phoned in.  Thankfully though, it seems that Alan Silvestri, composer for the Back to the Future trilogy, Predator and The Abyss, is at least attempting to give the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger the bold, heroic score it deserves.

Last night on New York City radio station WQXR, their "Movies on the Radio" segment featured a 13-minute preview of Silvestri's upcoming score which you can listen to below via YouTube thanks to the kindness of user MarvelFreshmanTV.  If this preview is any indication, this adventurous score should complement director Joe Johnston's style nicely and harken back to Johnston's previous period superhero film, The Rocketeer