Monday, July 30, 2012

ARROW Cast and Creators Discuss Mythos Changes

Although not exactly a news flash, the cast and creators for the upcoming CW series Arrow, based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, confirmed there will be some tweaking here and there to the Emerald Archer's established comics mythos.

The Hollywood Reporter posted several comments made today during the Television Critics Association press tour.  Executive producer Marc Guggenheim remarked that that the main source material for the series are Green Arrow: Year One by Andy Diggle and Jock and the classic Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell.  "Green Arrow has an origin that's subject to a lot of interpretation," said Guggenheim.  "We always start with the comic as our source of inspiration."  The producers noted some obvious changes, such as keeping Oliver Queen's parents alive and giving him a sister.

The decision to go with star Stephen Amell instead of Smallville's Justin Hartley was also addressed, with Guggenheim explaining, "We certainly wanted to chart our own course and destiny.  Michael Keaton doesn't affect your love for Christian Bale and Christian Bale doesn't affect your love for Adam West.  Multiple iterations are possible."

Having read Superman, Lobo and Spawn comics as a kid, Amell was the first person to come in and audition for the role.  "After we met Stephen and he auditioned, everyone else paled by comparison," said executive producer Andrew Kreisberg.  "Every step of the way it was Stephen…He was always Oliver Queen to us."

Amell trained with Henry Cavill's Man of Steel stunt double on a course where American Ninja Warrior contestants work out, learning archery and the free running variation of parkour.  After ending his training, Amell and company sent executive producer Greg Berlanti footage of his capabilities, which led to the salmon ladder scene in the pilot.  "As a producer, it's a little frightening when your star is doing a quarter of his stunts," said Berlanti.  "It's a little daring but it's what makes the show unique."

As for the series' themes, Guggenheim remarked, "We're exploring the nature of vigilantism...and we'll get into those [moral] issues.  Arrow always gives the bad guy of the week the opportunity to do the right thing, that's one of moral guidelines we're allowing.  When he kills, it's for necessity.  It's not random violence.  He'll have characters come into the universe that question those."

Arrow apparently has a list of targets but the series isn't set up to be Villain of the Week.  "The list is the jumping off point," said Guggenheim.  "Circumstances aren't always the same.  Part of Oliver's evolution of a hero is moving from his mission of revenge to redemption and to help people and stop crimes and moving away from just the agenda of righting his father's wrongs to helping to save the city."

A touch of the character's traditional liberal nature will be brought into the series.  "The people that Oliver is targeting are the wealthy and corrupt," said Guggenheim.  "There are some echoes of the 1% and Occupy Wall Street...He's a man of the people and taking it back for the little guy."

Kreisberg revealed that Arrow is telling two stories, one set in the present day and the one set on the island where Oliver was marooned for five years and became Arrow.  "Every episode will be telling the chronological story of the island," he said.  "Ideally by the last episode of the series, the last shot will be the boat coming for Oliver and being rescued."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Where Does the Batman Movie Franchise Go from Here?

Now that the third and final film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, has arrived in theaters, it's only natural for Batman fans to start wondering when they're going to see another movie starring their favorite DC Comics character.  I mean, another film is going to happen eventually, right?

Of course it is.  Nolan's three films have pulled in a combined total of over $1.9 billion in worldwide box office, not including home video, so don't think for a second that studio Warner Bros. is going to just put Batman back on the shelf for another twenty years or more. Sure, they're trying focusing attention on reviving Superman as a replacement franchise with the Nolan-produced Man of Steel, and supposedly The Flash is still in development, but it shouldn't be too long before we see Batman back on the big screen...in some form.

So after three films with Christian Bale growling his voice to shreds, where does the franchise -- and yes, it is a franchise now, make no mistake -- go from here?

The initial thought is to continue right where The Dark Knight Rises ends, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character Robin John Blake inheriting the Batcave and, presumably, the role of Batman's successor.  Maybe he would become Batman II, maybe he'd be Robin, maybe Nightwing, or maybe something else entirely.  The idea of continuing on with Blake has merit, especially since we could watch Gotham City rise from the devastation caused by Bane and essentially find out What Happens Next.  However, when you think of seeing a Batman movie, most people probably go in expecting to see Bruce Wayne, and only Bruce Wayne, wearing the Batsuit.

Well, that probably means another reboot.  It's worked before, obviously, after Joel Schumacher's 1997 trainwreck Batman & Robin starring George Clooney put the franchise in intensive care on life support.  Yeah, it took eight long years before Warner Brothers came back strong with Batman Begins, but the important thing was that it worked and worked well.  Campy rubber Batsuits with nipples were replaced with tactical armor and cowls that actually allowed Batman to turn his head.  Camera shots of crotches and posteriors with scene angles right out the '60s Adam West TV series were dumped in favor of stylish cinematography and dark urban atmosphere.  In short, a complete 180 in terms of execution, with Batman movies becoming Batman films.

It would be nice if the next director carries on Nolan's level of filmmaking while bringing his or her own style to keep things fresh.  However, the list of contenders seems pretty short -- Guillermo del Toro, Neill Blomkamp, Darren Aronofsky, Ben Affleck, Guy Ritchie, or Peter Jackson perhaps -- unless Warner Bros. decides for go for a relative unknown with hopefully a talented vision of the character.

Personally, I wouldn't make the next Batman film an origin story.  After Tim Burton's Batman (1989) and Batman Begins, not to mention decades of Batman comic books and cartoons, I think it's a safe bet that most of us understand by now that Bruce Wayne became Batman after a criminal murdered his parents.  No, I think it's better to just dive right in as Burton did and briefly recap the origin in an early scene or a flashback sequence.  And if there is a considerable hiatus between films, fans will want to see Batman being Batman from the start without slogging through a mopey origin yet again.

Oh, and there's this tiny notion of a possible Justice League movie to consider.  Marvel Studios has had considerable success with separate character films building up to a big Avengers event, so it's not hard to imagine that Warner Bros. would love their own version of that.  If Man of Steel succeeds at the box office, and The Flash movie gets officially greenlit, it makes sense to reboot Batman in one film and then bring them all together with Wonder Woman, Aquaman and possibly Cyborg and/or The Martian Manhunter.  This would mean hiring a director that's not a protective artiste like Nolan, but one willing to play along with other directors and share his Batman for a Justice League movie.

Whatever ends up happening, I'm guessing we won't see the next Batman film until 2017 at the very earliest.  Let's just hope, for all our sakes, that it's a good one.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

DOCTOR WHO: Memories of the First Romana

Another one gone now, far too many.

Just less than two months after the death of Doctor Who actress Caroline John, Whovians around the world are once again in mourning following news of Tom Baker era actress Mary Tamm, who played the first incarnation of the Fourth Doctor's Time Lady companion Romana.  Tamm passed away this morning at the age of 62 from a reported 18-month battle with cancer.

As I've mentioned in previous "Doctor Who Memories" posts, I didn't start watching the series until very late in the Tom Baker era, so I missed both Romanas the first time.  I had to wait until my local PBS station, WVIZ out of Cleveland, cycled through the entire Peter Davison era and then about halfway through a repeat showing of Tom Baker's era before watching my first Romana story, "The Ribos Operation."

I liked her right from the start.  Although deliberately cold and haughty at first, the character Romanadvoratrelundar quickly settled down into a clever and charming companion for the Doctor.  Here at last was a companion not only capable of being on the Doctor's level, but occasionally surpassing it.  However, because Romana was centuries younger than the Doctor and less experienced in fighting all sorts of alien monsters, the mentor/student relationship kept the character from taking the series' focus away from the Doctor.  And okay, it didn't exactly hurt that she was one of the most attractive companions in the series' history.

I was disappointed to find out that Tamm's Romana only lasted one season, the entire "Key to Time" story arc of Season 16.  There were some solid Doctor Who classics in this season -- the aforementioned "The Ribos Operation," Douglas Adams' "The Pirate Planet," "The Androids of Tara," and the final story of the first Romana, "The Armageddon Factor."  The less said about "The Power of Kroll," however, the better.

"The Androids of Tara" was the true spotlight story for Tamm, where she acted once again as Romana, but also as physical match Princess Strella and both of their android doubles.  Wearing a distinctive purple outfit that Tamm supposedly designed herself, she stole as much attention as anyone could away from Tom Baker.  She gets to do some very Doctorish things like facing the monster and finding the segment to the Key to Time early on, but because she's a companion, of course, it's not long before she's twisting her ankle and ends up on an operating table about to have her head cut off.  I did, however, quite like the bit where Romana tries to "start" a horse.

At the time, it was a little frustrating as a fan to see Lalla Ward take over as Romana at the beginning of "Destiny of the Daleks" and also a bit weird, considering Tamm and Ward had shared scenes together in "The Armageddon Factor" with Ward playing Princess Astra.  The idea of Romana being able to try on different bodies before settling on her second incarnation's appearance seemed pretty frivilous and convenient, but hey, you just have to roll with these things sometimes with Doctor Who.  Later on in 2007, I read that Tamm was willing to come back a film a regeneration scene but wasn't invited to do so, another tragically missed opportunity for the series.

So one season and done for Mary Tamm's Romana, apart from appearances here and there in Fourth Doctor novels and Companion Chronicles audio adventure stories from Big Finish.  Thankfully though, Tom Baker's recent agreement to create new Fourth Doctor audio adventures has resulted in seven new Fourth Doctor and First Romana stories, with Tamm reprising her role.  The first one, "The Auntie Matter" is scheduled for release in January 2013, followed by "The Sands of Life," "War Against the Laan," "The Justice of Jalxar," "Phantoms of the Deep," "The Dalek Contract" and "The Final Phase."

It's going to be a bit sad though, listening to those audio adventures recorded prior to Tamm's death and realizing these seven stories will be the last we'll get to hear of her Romana.  In the meantime, if you haven't watched "The Key to Time" season (and shame on you big time if you haven't), I definitely recommend seeing for yourselves what made Mary Tamm's Romana such a wonderful, and far too brief, addition to the series.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

FRINGE Promises Series Finale Fans Deserve

You'd better enjoy those strawberry milkshakes while you can, Fringe fans.  The Fox science-fiction TV series is about to begin its fifth and final 13-episode season, jumping ahead to the year 2036, where the Observers have taken over Earth and the planet's only hope lies in the former members of Fringe Division (of course).

In a recent interview on TV Guide, showrunner J.H. Wyman discussed how Season 5 will pay off for longtime fans and moving the series forward to the world of 2036, last seen in the Season 4 episode "Letters of Transit."  He remarked that this episode was similiar to a backdoor series pilot, adding, "We had talked about this being a possibility.  We wanted to see how people would react to it and if they would engage with it."

Season 5's main objective, according to Wyman, is to pay off on the relationships of the show's characters.  "We've always said the show is this great family drama that is masquerading as this science-fiction show," he said. "For me, [Season 5] is a metaphor for how difficult it is to have a family in this day in age."

Concerning fans getting proper closure on the series' intricate mythology, Wyman remarked, "Another part of the challenge was to bring back things that you've forgotten about, some things maybe you haven't forgotten about, recontextualize them and make the series make sense, and that was a very big part of what I was after," he said.  "There's going to be a lot of those [moments] and one specifically that's going to be very impactful, I hope."

"I truly believe that the show has a natural end," he said.  "I want to see [fans] get what they deserve to get...I want to feel like what they get has been earned."

Executive Producer J.J. Abrams also weighed in by way of a pre-taped video.  "Fringe is a show that I'm enormously proud to be associated with," he said.  "Fox has been unbelievable, going far beyond any expectations allowing the show to be on the air.  Fringe has always been true to its name -- a little more of an outside-the-box series.  [Wyman] has come up with some remarkable stuff, and I think this is going to be far and away the best season yet."

Fringe Season 5 is scheduled to begin on September 28, 2012 at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Yes, I'm back with another of my movie takes, this time on the film The Dark Knight Rises, based on the classic DC Comics superhero Batman.  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...time to turn on the Bat Signal...

It's been four long years since director Christopher Nolan crushed it with The Dark Knight, which earned Heath Ledger a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his powerful portrayal of The Joker.  Initially, Nolan was hesitant about returning for another sequel at first, but signed on after his brother Jonathan and David S. Goyer came up with an ending to the series that he liked.

This film borrows elements primarily from two classic Batman comics stories, "Knightfall" and "No Man's Land," weaving them into leftover plot threads from the previous two films that aren't mandatory viewing but highly recommended.  As a result, the storyline is something of a patchwork quilt that isn't quite stitched at first and only comes together toward the very end of the film.  While not the convoluted maze of Nolan's previous film Inception, you spend a good deal of the film's first act wondering where the story is ultimately headed.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

Unfortunately, what we start off with is a bit depressing for Batman fans.  Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, which ended with Batman taking the fall for Harvey Dent and becoming a criminal fugitive, Bruce Wayne has become a Howard Hughes-esque recluse hiding out in one section of the rebuilt Wayne Manor.  Years of punishment from crimefighting have taken their toll on his body, giving him a limp in his left leg and also some unfortunate facial hair.  Meanwhile, thanks to a piece of legislation called the "Dent Act," crime in Gotham City is at an all-time low, so who needs Batman around, anyway?

Well, along comes the muscular powerhouse Bane, masked throughout the entire film with a breathing apparatus that garbles his voice somewhat and makes him sound like Bond villain Auric Goldfinger dressed as Darth Vader.  Bane, it turns out, is a firm believer in the 99% crowd and is all about ripping Gotham City society to shreds before turning his attention on Batman after Bruce Wayne finally gets back in the Batsuit.

What was initially depressing turns even worse when Bane dislocates one of Batman's vertebrae and then dumps him into a deep pit that only one person -- a child -- has ever escaped from.  So Batman obviously isn't exactly overjoyed by this and neither is anyone else in Gotham City.  Commissioner Gordon is hospitalized early on and feels all kinds of guilt (as he should) for going along with the pointless lie of what really happened to Harvey Dent.  Catwoman just wants to be left alone and disappear using a handy device called a "Clean Slate" that erases all computer records of your existence.  Bruce's butler and surrogate father Alfred just wants Bruce to give up being Batman and go sit outside at a cafe somewhere with a chick, and even quits Bruce's employ in the process.  Lucius Fox just wants Wayne Enterprises to make some damn money now that Bruce Wayne spent it all funding Miranda Tate's project that really isn't a nuclear bomb, swear to God it's not.  Oh, and new character John Blake is the only other cop in Gotham worth a damn who just wants Batman to come back and for somebody -- anybody -- to actually give a crap about the orphanage where he grew up.

Nope, nobody is happy in this movie.  Okay, maybe Bane is, but that's only because he pretty much owns everyone's ass.

After about two lonnnng hours of Gotham City gradually being turned into the island of Manhattan from Escape from New York and everyone trapped inside going "Well, this sucks," Bruce Wayne finally heals and figures out how to get out of Bane's timeout pit.  At last, we have our finale, the ultimate showdown between Bane and the Dark Knight with a wicked but not unexpected little Gotcha moment from Miranda Tate thrown in for good measure.  Score composer Hans Zimmer cranks up all his musical highlights from the trilogy, while Nolan just lets everything fly in one big chaotic and screen-splitting hullaballoo.

And then suddenly, just like that moment right after a big fireworks display, things are pretty much over.  The characters quietly disperse, some fading abruptly without knowing what happens to them, while others get their endings that may or may not be entirely satisfying depending on your personal point of view.  But at least, thankfully, there is an ending to Nolan's Dark Knight saga.

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

BATMAN/BRUCE WAYNE -- Yes, Christian Bale still insists on making his Batman growl as if he smoked twenty packs of Marlboros a day, but it's hard to deny his skill acting as Bruce Wayne.  Especially in the film's first act, Bale gives an especially nuanced performance as the reclusive and drained Bruce, then gradually ratches things up as the storyline dictates. Easily his strongest outing since Batman Begins.

CATWOMAN/SELINA KYLE -- Redeeming the character of Catwoman from The Film That Must Never Be Discussed starring Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway displays some very impressive physical skills beyond her sleek catsuit.  It sometimes felt that her part was a tad underwritten, but that's definitely not any fault of Hathaway's and I'd love to see her take on the character get a solo spinoff film.

BANE -- Tom Hardy had the thankless job of trying to act around a mask covering his nose and mouth the entire film, as well as the vocal distortion effect added to his line delivery.  Despite these limitations though, he makes Bane a formidable and worth adversary, second only to Ledger's Joker in the trilogy, and you have to give mad respect to the amount of physical bulk he packed on for the role.

COMMISSIONER JAMES GORDON -- In his least effective outing as Gordon, Gary Oldman gets treated like a punching bag both physically and emotionally.  His character has a moment to step up and admit his mistakes but ends up being turned into a coward instead of the Commissioner Gordon we respect.  A disappointing outcome for the character.

ALFRED PENNYWORTH -- Alfred isn't given much in the way of screen time, but he does help coax Bruce out of seclusion only to then turn right around and abandon him right when Bruce needs him most.  Michael Caine turns in another solid job as Alfred though, and thankfully, Alfred gets a happy ending of sorts after learning what ultimately happens to Bruce.

ROBIN JOHN BLAKE -- Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a strong outing as Batman's sidekick, Not Robin.  As the successor to the Batman legacy, his character gets to reassure Bruce that he can retire as Batman, although whether Batman would actually retire is open to fan debate, obviously.  I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that Nolan didn't have Blake suit up as Batman #2 when needed, but I'm kind of glad that he didn't.

MIRANDA TATE/TALIA AL GHUL -- Diehard Batman fans probably saw the plot twist of Miranda Tate coming a mile away, as I did, but Nolan still makes it pay off beautifully.  The timing of the revelation is perfect, literally twisting the knife in Batman's side even further and making the bleak situation even more threatening.  Marion Cottilard seems to be Nolan's go-to Bad Girl now and as excessively long as this film was, I wish we could've had more scenes with her acting openly as Talia.

LUCIUS FOX -- Once again, Morgan Freeman does his best Morgan Freeman impression.  It doesn't matter though, because all Lucius really needs to be is Batman's version of James Bond's armorer Q.  He gets to show off all the cool new Bat toys to the audience but it was interesting to see his reaction once Bane turns up to claim all those cool Bat toys for his own purposes.

All in all, The Dark Knight Rises is the satisfying conclusion to the Christopher Nolan trilogy that it needs to be.  Yes, it's about a half-hour too long, too overly depressing and Bane is a bit too garbled at times, but Nolan still manages to pull everything together in the end.  His game is still far ahead of other directors in the superhero genre and there are some absolutely stunning visuals that demand everyone else to step up just to stay in the same conversation.  I'll be sad to see him leave but with his creative influence as producer on Zack Snyder's upcoming Superman film Man of Steel, next summer has the potential to bring us something just as entertaining as these three Batman films have been.

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

1. Superman (1978)
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
3. The Avengers (2012)
4. Watchmen (2009)
5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
6. Spider-Man (2002)
7. Batman Begins (2005)
8. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
9. Iron Man (2008)
10. X-Men: First Class (2011)
11. X2: X-Men United (2003)
12. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
13. X-Men (2000)
14. Thor (2011)
15. Batman (1989)
16. Superman II (1981)
17. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
18. Green Lantern (2011)
19. Iron Man 2 (2010)
20. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer,


Thursday, July 19, 2012


Tied with AMC's Mad Men to lead the 2012 Emmy Awards nominations announced this morning, FX's American Horror Story earned a total of 17, including acting nominations for Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, Denis O'Hare and Frances Conroy.

Other recognized geek-favorite shows include HBO's Game of Thrones, AMC's The Walking Dead and a surprising 13 nominations for BBC series Sherlock, which aired in the United States as part of PBS' Masterpiece series.  FOX's Fringe, however, was criminally overlooked once again, as was HBO's True Blood, with both shows failing to earn even a single nomination. 

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


Outstanding Miniseries or Movie
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie -- Connie Britton as Vivien Harmon
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie -- Frances Conroy as Moira
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie -- Jessica Lange as Constance Langdon
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie - Denis O'Hare as Larry Harvey
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie -- "Open House (Part 7)"
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie -- "Part 1"
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special -- "Halloween, Part 1"
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie -- "Birth"
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or Movie
Outstanding Main Title Design
Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries or Movie (Non-Prosthetic)
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special -- "Piggy, Piggy"
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or Movie -- "Piggy, Piggy"
Outstanding Stunt Coordination

SHERLOCK (13 Nominations) -- All for "A Scandal in Belgravia"

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie -- Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie -- Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special -- Paul McGuigan
Outstanding Writing for a MIniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special -- Steven Moffat
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a SpecialOutstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie
Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special
(Original Dramatic Score) -- David Arnold and Michael Price

Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or Movie

GAME OF THRONES (12 Nominations)

Outstanding Drama Series
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series -- Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Outstanding Art Direction for a Single Camera Series -- "Garden of Bones"
Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series
Outstanding Costumes for a Series -- "The Prince of Winterfell"
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series -- "The Old Gods and the New"
Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Enhancement to a Television Program or Series
Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) -- "The Old Gods and the New"
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special -- "Valar Morghulis"
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series -- "Blackwater"
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour) -- "Blackwater"
Outstanding Special Visual Effects -- "Valar Morghulis"

THE WALKING DEAD (3 Nominations)

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special -- "What Lies Ahead"
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series -- "Beside the Dying Fire"
Outstanding Special Visual Effects -- "Beside the Dying Fire"

The 64th Primetime Emmys is scheduled to air on Sunday, September 23rd on ABC at 7 p.m. EST.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


There's another storm coming to Gotham City...but this one started way back in 1992.

To promote their upcoming 10-episode marathon of the classic Batman: The Animated Series beginning Friday, July 20th at 4 p.m. EST, cable network The Hub created a special TV promo called "Batman: The Animated Series Rises."  The promo features footage from Batman: The Animated Series edited to mimic this trailer for the upcoming Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, directed by Christopher Nolan.

And as an added bonus, they appear to use new audio of Dark Knight Rises trailer dialogue voiced by the original Batman: The Animated Series actors, including Kevin Conroy (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Adrienne Barbeau (Catwoman/Selina Kyle) and Henry Silva (Bane).  Very nice.

You can check out the Hub promo below.  Anyone else want to see an animated recreated trailer for The Dark Knight featuring Mark Hamill as Heath Ledger's Joker?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Next Wave of Marvel Films Announced at Comic-Con 2012

Not wanting to be marginalized by yesterday's Man of Steel trailer debut, Marvel Studios offered up some news of their own at their panel in Hall H at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con.

Marvel officially confirmed rumors that their Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man properties would be adapted into movies and that Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim director Edgar Wright would be handling Ant-Man.  They also announced the full titles for the sequels to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, which will be called Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World.

So with these announcements, the upcoming Marvel Studios film schedule leading up to The Avengers 2 looks like this:

May 3, 2013

November 8, 2013

April 4, 2014

August 1, 2014

Sometime in 2014

Sometime in 2015

(Not an official logo)
Hulk not get sequel.  Hulk sad.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

MAN OF STEEL Trailer Debuts at Comic-Con 2012

Hall H at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con felt rather superb this afternoon with the debut of the first teaser trailer for the 2013 Superman film Man of Steel.

Director Zack Snyder and Superman/Clark Kent actor Henry Cavill were on hand to premiere the trailer, which was confirmed to be attached to next week's release of The Dark Knight Rises in theaters.  The following are descriptions of the trailer taken from the site io9:

The first part of the trailer consisted of scenes of Clark Kent's childhood, intercut with the grown-up Kent walking around a snowy landscape like Alaska or someplace. The childhood glimpses included blades of grass with the Kent farmhouse in the distance, and then a rusty toy wagon on its side, a toy butterfly, and a swingset. Then a little kid wearing a red towel as a cape and running in a field with laundry hanging. There are lots of shots of laundry.

A voiceover says: "What if a child dreamed of being something other than what society intended? What if a child aspired to be something great?" We see the older bearded Clark, looking alienated, as he works at a fishery in the middle of nowhere, struggling with his identity.

And then there is a glimpse of a sequence when Clark is a little kid, and a schoolbus crashes into a river, falling in slow-mo. And then water is flooding inside the bus, and the kids are drowning. And Clark somehow swims up to the emergency door and saves the kids using his superpowers. A woman says in a voiceover, "My son was in the bus. He saw what Clark did."

Kevin Costner, playing Pa Kent, says "People are afraid of what they don't understand." He takes young Clark into the Kent barn with a flashlight. There is a weird dark shape in there, full of tubes and ridges — and like we said, it looks squidlike, or whale-like. "It's not from this world, Clark, and neither are you," says Pa Kent. He hands Clark a small object, like a signet ring, with the "S" shield on it.

And something squid-like lifts up into the air, a small item, levitating.

We see the older bearded Clark saying, "All these questions, like where do I come from." He looks positively grief-stricken and miserable.

Then we hear Pa Kent again: "It was left to you to decide what kind of man you want to be, Clark. Whatever that man is, good or bad, he's going to change the world."

And during this, Clark is going into a space in the middle of the tundra — and maybe it's the Fortress? He's wearing The Suit and looking pensive. He closes his eyes for a moment. And then he opens them — and rockets skywards, leaving a little Jetstream behind him. He soars over the clouds like a bullet, and it looks frankly incredible. The flying in this movie looks like nothing we've seen in a superhero movie.

And then there is some weird action with cars and trucks being lifted upwards as if by an anti-gravity ray.

We see a grief-stricken Jor-El (Russell Crowe), exposing the S-Shield on his chest, as if revealing a secret.

And then Clark is in a series of horrible situations — he's being buried in rocks and shouting "NO!" He's on fire and apparently stark naked. He's thrown through the air and through the wall of a building, landing next to a bank vault (as in the photo we've seen.) He's handcuffed, wearing the Superman costume, and being led away by guards. And there's just a glimpse of General Zod, the movie's villain, scowling.

Oh, and Clark is holding a baby protectively, in the middle of a nightmare battle. And we also see Clark kissing Lois, and an explosion on the side of a building, as Metropolis gets trashed. There are also shots of CG blue flames going everywhere.

And Clark says, in a voiceover: "My father believed, if the world found out who I really was, they would reject me out of fear. He was convinced the world wasn't ready. What do you think?" And we see Clark walking into the Daily Planet office, past the famous globe and logo, and putting on the glasses.

There are soldiers raising machine guns to Superman — and Superman walks towards them, fearlessly. Smash to the "S" shield.

Snyder also confirmed that the legendary John Williams Superman themes will not be incorporated into Hans Zimmer's score for the film.  "We had to act as if no film has been made. When we approached it, we had to say 'this is a Superman for the first time.'  And you can’t say, 'Oh, now let’s steal a little music.' So yes, it’s awesome music but Hans (Zimmer) is going to do something awesome."

Cavill remarked on approaching the film cleanly.  "I just wanted to bring as much of the modern Superman into the world.  You guys know everything about him.  You’re there through thick and thin.  This is for everyone else out there, to bring him to the modern world that everyone can associate with."

On the subject of a Justice League film, Snyder said, "Let’s say this: We know that Superman is the jewel in the DC crown.  We wanted to get this house in order.  And then...Who knows what’s possible?"

Man of Steel is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on June 14, 2013.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Neil Gaiman Returns to THE SANDMAN in 2013

Seventeen years after the DC Comics/Vertigo classic series The Sandman ended with its 75th issue, critically acclaimed co-creator and writer Neil Gaiman will return for a new Sandman mini-series to be published in 2013.

Gaiman made the surprise announcement by video at the DC Comics' Vertigo panel at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Karen Berger, Vertigo Executive Editor, then announced that acclaimed Batwoman artist J.H. Williams III will draw the series.

One of the few graphic novels ever to be on the New York Times Best Seller list and The Sandman #19, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", won the World Fantasy Award in 1991 for Best Short Fiction. Also, The Sandman and its spin-offs have won 26 Eisner Awards, including three for Best Continuing Series, one for Best Short Story, four for Best Writer (Neil Gaiman), seven for Best Lettering (Todd Klein), and two for Best Penciller/Inker (one each for Charles Vess and P. Craig Russell).  The Sandman: The Dream Hunters was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Related Book in 2000. Both Endless Nights and The Dream Hunters won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Illustrated Narrative in 2004 and 2000, respectively.

"When I finished writing The Sandman," said Gaiman, "there was one tale still untold. The story of what had happened to Morpheus to allow him to be so easily captured in The Sandman #1, and why he was returned from far away, exhausted beyond imagining, and dressed for war.  It was a story that we discussed telling for Sandman's 20th anniversary...but the time got away from us.  And now, with Sandman's 25th anniversary year coming up, I'm delighted, and nervous, that that story is finally going to be told."

"There's nothing like a Neil Gaiman story," Berger remarked, "and there's nothing like having Neil back home on The Sandman, his dark, soulful, literary epic that transformed comics and continues to captivate countless new readers year after year.  Working with him again, and with J.H. Williams, the extraordinary and groundbreaking artist, is truly the stuff dreams are made of."

DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio added, "As accomplished as Neil Gaiman is in other media—whether it be novels, film and even music—he still has an incredible passion and love for comics.  It’s exciting to have him back.  J.H. Williams will be the perfect complement to Neil’s writing.  He has a history of creating art that pushes the boundaries of the medium."

More details concerning the new mini-series will be announced at a later date.  If you'd like to see the video of Gaiman's announcement, you can view it below thanks to Comic Book Resources...

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Yes, I'm back with another of my movie takes, this time on the film The Amazing Spider-Man, based on the classic Marvel Comics superhero.  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...let's go web-swinging...

Once upon a time, The Amazing Spider-Man was going to be a little movie called Spider-Man 4After the poorly-received Spider-Man 3, Spider-Fans were understandably concerned about the future of the film franchise and even more so after learning of director Sam Raimi's plans for the fourth film as of 2009.  Instead of having actor Dylan Baker finally develop his character Dr. Curt Connors into The Lizard, or featuring more visually impressive villains like Electro or Mysterio, John Malkovich was set to portray The Vulture.  Oh, and Anne Hathaway was going to be Felicia Hardy, but not as her alter-ego Black Cat.  No instead, Felicia would become a female Vulture named...wait for it...The Vulturess.

Even the suits at Sony Pictures realized what a trainwreck this would be and instead opted to part ways with Raimi and the original film cast to go the reboot route.  (Poor Anne Hathaway, having to settle for that trivial Catwoman role in The Dark Knight Rises as a consolation prize...)  They brought in the aptly-named Marc Webb as Raimi's replacement, using a story by Steve Vanderbilt with some tweaking on the script by Spider-Man 2 and 3 screenwriter Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves.

Essentially, The Amazing Spider-Man tries to be to the first Spider-Man film what Batman Begins is to the 1989 Batman film starring Michael Keaton, a fresh retelling of the legend using a completely different creative team and stylistic approach.  And for the most part, Webb succeeds with the relaunch, although nowhere near as effectively as Christopher Nolan did.  There's a distinct effort to be different here, from the unfortunate Spidey costume tweaking to color schemes, orchestral score and overall film tone.  So if nothing else, you can't accuse Webb of trying to be a Raimi clone.

One of the major influences for this film appears to be Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley's stellar run of Ultimate Spider-Man, which reimagined the Spider-Man saga for the 21st century and a more modern audience.  Bendis and Bagley gave us a scruffier Peter Parker with messy hair and updated fashion sense than the sweatervests and ties favored by original Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko.

Thankfully, all the important bits remain mostly intact in Webb's film.  Peter is still bit by an altered spider, Uncle Ben is still killed by a criminal that Peter doesn't stop when he could have, but the little details are just a bit different.  One significant film series mprovement though, is the return of the web-shooter devices that Peter, once again a scientific prodigy, invents himself.  Also, The Amazing Spider-Man wisely adds the mystery of Peter's missing parents, Richard and Mary Parker, to this new film mythos, bringing in a fresh story playground to explore and presumably develop in sequels.  If the closing credits bonus scene of Curt Connors talking with a mysterious figure is any indication, a trilogy is definitely in play here.

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

SPIDER-MAN/PETER PARKER:  This entire film (and probable sequels) rides entirely on Andrew Garfield's skinny shoulders and he definitely steps up.  Garfield has Peter's neurotic but charming nature down cold, making a welcome change from Tobey Maguire's mumbling approach.  His Peter is understandably bitter over his missing parents, troubled without being annoying, but also quick with the quips and comebacks as Spider-Man.  This is the Peter some of us wanted to see in Raimi's movies. 

GWEN STACY:  A welcome upgrade from Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone seems like she would be a more natural Mary Jane Watson but turns in a solid performance as Gwen.  She and Garfield have great chemistry together on screen, making you forget all about Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.  It also helps that this version of Gwen is Peter's intellectual peer, making her feel less of a girl hostage simply waiting for her neck to be snapped after being thrown off a bridge.

THE LIZARD/DR. CURT CONNORS:  Rhys Ifans shows his range from being just Luna Lovegood's father Xenophilius in the Harry Potter films.  His Curt Connors is just as tormented over losing his arm as his original comic depiction, but the emotional attachments of his wife and son are abandoned here for some reason.  As a result, he's far less sympathetic than he is in the comics and I'm still trying to work out what he hoped to accomplish with his sudden "Hey, I think I'll turn all of New York into lizard creatures" masterplan.

CAPTAIN GEORGE STACY:  In an interesting switch from James Cromwell in Spider-Man 3 to Denis Leary, Captain Stacy has a bit more edge to him.  There's a fun scene at the Stacy dinner table with George and Peter debating the ethics of vigilante justice.  However, after finally helping Spider-Man after hunting him, Stacy comes off like a Commissioner Gordon ripoff.  And then he ultimately does what Stacys do best.

BEN PARKER:  With Cliff Robertson sadly no longer with us, the role of Uncle Ben is handed off to none other than Martin frickin' Sheen.  He sets Peter off with the important lesson of power and responsibility nicely, showing how close the two characters are before the tragic incident that claims Ben's life.  So glad he agreed to do this role.

MAY PARKER:  You can't deny Sally Field's talent as an actress, but after Rosemary Harris' performances as Aunt May, it's really hard to accept this particular casting change.  Field does just fine, but her surprisingly underwritten role doesn't exactly help sell her take on the character.

OBLIGATORY STAN LEE CAMEO:  Smilin' Stan appears in the Midtown High library as a librarian grooving to his headphones and oblivious to the chaos and destruction from the Spidey/Lizard battle going on right behind him.  Very fun.

So after trading away Mary Jane Watson for Gwen Stacy, J. Jonah Jameson for Gwen's NYPD captain father and the Green Goblin for The Lizard, things may feel a little off.  It's only been ten years since we covered the ground of Spider-Man's origin, after all, so it seems a little too soon for this kind of continuity reboot.  However, if you can set those memories of the first three Spider-Man films aside and appreciate The Amazing Spider-Man on its own merits, you should enjoy this flick quite a bit.

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. The Avengers (2012)
4. Watchmen (2009)
5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
6. Spider-Man (2002)
7. Batman Begins (2005)
8. Iron Man (2008)
9. X-Men: First Class (2011)
10. X2: X-Men United (2003)
11. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
12. X-Men (2000)
13. Thor (2011)
14. Batman (1989)
15. Superman II (1981)
16. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
17. Green Lantern (2011)
18. Iron Man 2 (2010)
19. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
20. Hellboy (2004)

Your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer,


Friday, July 6, 2012

Home from a DAMN Good Vacation

Hi, remember me?  You know, that Charles guy who used to post about comics, movies, TV shows and whatnot before dropping off the face of the Earth three weeks ago?

Well, my wife Lori and I are finally home from an exhausting but incredible tour of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Visiting Ireland has been top on my bucket list of things to do before I die since I was sixteen years old and after saving up our tax refunds for the past three years, Lori and I finally decided to do the trip properly.

We bookended our vacation in London, with stops in Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and numerous other smaller cities and villages in between.  Most of our vacation was spent in an intense two-week Globus bus tour with getting up at 5 or 6 in the morning and getting to bed around 11 p.m. or later, essentially rounding the entire area of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

We hit as many famous landmarks and locations as we could, including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, The London Eye, Hyde Park, The Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle, Edinburgh Castle, the Globe Theatre, the home of William Shakespeare, and even the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street (even though 221B doesn't technically exist).

And yes, there were many pubs to be found with much beer to be consumed with fish and chips (No mushy peas, thanks).  This one, the Conan Doyle in Edinburgh, Scotland, was obviously my favorite.

Oh, and as you might expect, I was always on the lookout for Doctor Who filming landmarks.  Here's the view from Westminster Bridge in London, where I kept waiting for the Daleks to start ambling across at any moment.

Imagine my disappointment that the London Eye wasn't activating any Autons or that the Cybermen weren't marching down the steps at St. Paul's Cathedral.  Ah, well...Maybe next time I visit.

So normal blogging here at DAMN Good Coffee...and HOT will hopefully resume tomorrow with my long-winded review of The Amazing Spider-Man that I saw earlier this afternoonI'm sorry for not being able to post at least a few things here and there during my trip, but time and decent wi-fi access were extremely hard to come by with our rather punishing schedule.  And hey, it was supposed to be a vacation after all, right?  If you'd like to check out some more pictures, I should have them up soon at my Facebook page here.

In the immortal words of Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, here we go again...