Wednesday, October 31, 2012

STAR WARS EPISODE VII Story Will Not Adapt from Novels

Since yesterday's bombshell news of Disney acquiring Lucasfilm and that Star Wars Episode VII would arrive in 2015, fans have been wondering if the new film's story would come from the popular series of novels set after Return of the Jedi.

A natural enough assumption, of course, considering the books were considered canon for over two decades, starting with Timothy Zahn's beloved "Thrawn Trilogy" that began with Heir to the Empire in 1991.  The novels continued the Star Wars saga in an Expanded Universe, marrying Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo, giving them the twins Jacen and Jaina and their younger brother Anakin, marrying Luke Skywalker to Mara Jade, giving the Skywalkers a son named Ben, killing off Chewbacca, having Luke train a new generation of Jedi Knights, and so on.

Well, guess what...These novels aren't the story you're looking for.

According to E! Online, a Lucasfilm source says the plot for Episode VII will be an entirely original story (based on a treatment by George Lucas mentioned in the Disney news) and not on any of the existing novels.  This also means you can forget about any of the Star Wars comic books and graphic novels previously published by Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics.  In addition, E! Online mentions that no director has been officially attached to the project so far.

So are the Star Wars novels and comics officially no longer considered canon?  Or will Lucas' original story treatment be worked into the Expanded Universe at some point in the timeline? 

If the plan is to bring original actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and even Harrison Ford back for cameo appearances or what have you, that probably sets Episode VII at least 35-40 years after the Battle of Yavin in Episode IV.  Looking at the timeline established in the novels, Episode VII could be placed between the "New Jedi Order" series of novels featuring the New Republic battling the invasion of the Yuuzhan Vong and the "Legacy of the Force" novels involving the secession of the Corellian system from the New Republic and the turning of Jacen Solo to the Dark Side of the Force. 

Plenty of interesting characters and situations here for Lucas to work into the treatment, but again, there's the very likely possibility that he may have his own ideas that wipe the Expanded Universe from official Star Wars continuity.  As a fan of the novels through "The New Jedi Order," I hope the characters carry over into Episode VII somehow or aren't contradicted at the very least.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Disney Acquires Lucasfilm, STAR WARS EPISODE VII in 2015

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if a million voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced..."
-- Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi, Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope)

After recent acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel Comics, The Walt Disney Company has announced they have agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. from Chairman and Founder George Lucas for the sum of $4.05 billion in cash and stock.

This means that Disney will now control the rights to Lucas' treasured Star Wars franchise and the two companies also announced there will be another Star Wars film in 2015.  And yes, it's Star Wars Episode VII.

Oh, look...Here's a press release from Disney!

Global leader in high-quality family entertainment agrees to acquire world-renowned Lucasfilm Ltd, including legendary STAR WARS franchise

Acquisition continues Disney's strategic focus on creating and monetizing the world's best branded content, innovative technology and global growth to drive long-term shareholder value\STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 feature film targeted for release in 2015.

Lucasfilm to join company's global portfolio of world class brands including Disney, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel and ABC.

STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 feature film targeted for release in 2015.

Burbank, CA and San Francisco, CA, October 30, 2012 – Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.

"Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas," said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. "This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney's unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value."

"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney's reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products."

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and "evergreen" Star Warsfranchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney's global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

The acquisition combines two highly compatible family entertainment brands, and strengthens the long-standing beneficial relationship between them that already includes successful integration of Star Wars content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.

Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm's legendary Star Warsfranchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks.Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world's top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms, putting the acquisition in strong alignment with Disney's strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.

The Lucasfilm acquisition follows Disney's very successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, which demonstrated the company's unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling through the application of innovative technology and multiplatform distribution on a truly global basis to create maximum value. Adding Lucasfilm to Disney's portfolio of world class brands significantly enhances the company's ability to serve consumers with a broad variety of the world's highest-quality content and to create additional long-term value for our shareholders.

The Boards of Directors of Disney and Lucasfilm have approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, and other customary closing conditions. The agreement has been approved by the sole shareholder of Lucasfilm.

About The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company, together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a leading diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise with five business segments: media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment, interactive media, and consumer products. Disney is a Dow 30 company with revenues of over $40 billion in its Fiscal Year 2011.

About Lucasfilm Ltd.

Founded by George Lucas in 1971, Lucasfilm is a privately held, fully-integrated entertainment company. In addition to its motion-picture and television production operations, the company's global activities include Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, serving the digital needs of the entertainment industry for visual-effects and audio post-production; LucasArts, a leading developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software worldwide; Lucas Licensing, which manages the global merchandising activities for Lucasfilm's entertainment properties; Lucasfilm Animation; and Lucas Online creates Internet-based content for Lucasfilm's entertainment properties and businesses. Additionally, Lucasfilm Singapore, produces digital animated content for film and television, as well as visual effects for feature films and multi-platform games. Lucasfilm Ltd. is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Frank Grillo Confirmed as Crossbones in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

After days of speculation, Variety has confirmed that Frank Grillo has been cast as the villain Crossbones in the Marvel Studios film Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The 49-year-old actor tweeted last week that he had tested for a role in the sequel to last year's Captain America: The First Avenger, and hinted at Crossbones' appearance using the hashtag "#bones."  Grillo has recently appeared in End of Watch, The Grey and Warrior, and will next have supporting roles in Gangster Squad and Zero Dark Thirty.

Crossbones first appeared in Captain America (vol.1) #359 and 360 in 1989 as the creation of writer Mark Gruenwald and artist Kieron Dwyer.  Usually appearing as a major henchman for Captain America's arch-enemy the Red Skull, Crossbones was a major player in the storylines "Red Menace" and "The Death of Captain America."

In addition to Grillo, Chris Evans is once again reprising Captain America/Steve Rogers and Sebastian Stan is returning as Bucky Barnes, who will become his current comics depiction as the Winter Soldier.  Anthony Mackie will portray The Falcon/Sam Wilson, Scarlett Johannson will reprise Black Widow/Natasha Romanov, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is rumored as Captain America's modern-day love interest Agent 13/Sharon Carter.  Other rumors suggest that Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders will reprise their roles of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury and Maria Hill respectively, probably in brief cameo roles.

Anthony and Joe Russo will direct the film from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote the screenplay for Captain America: The First Avenger.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on April 4, 2014.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Peter Jackson Thinks Stephen Colbert is the Biggest Tolkien Geek Ever

Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, established his geek cred long ago with his various nods to comic books, science fiction, James Bond and whatnot.  Hell, the guy even devoted an episode to explaining the debt crisis using Lord of the Rings action figures.

So there was no surprise when rumors began swirling that Colbert landed a cameo in one of Peter Jackson's three upcoming films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novel The Hobbit.  In an interview given to Playboy magazine, Colbert remarked that he was invited by Jackson last year to visit the set and saw a 25-minute cut that he described as "amazing."  When asked if was going to be an extra in the films, Colbert reportedly smiled and said "Could be."

Well, Entertainment Weekly pressed Jackson on the rumor, who did not deny that Colbert would appear.  "I read that too," Jackson said with a laugh.  "It was very, very interesting.  It's yet to be confirmed or denied."  However, Jackson would confirm that Colbert is definitely a serious Tolkien fan.  "I have never met a bigger Tolkien geek in my life," he remarked.  "Philippa Boyens is our resident Tolkien expert, and when Stephen came down to visit the set, we put him head to head with Philippa on a Tolkien quiz...and Stephen triumphed.  I have to say, his encyclopedic knowledge of Tolkien is spectacular, and points to a deprived childhood in some respects."

It's believed that Colbert's cameo will be in the second Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug, which is scheduled to arrive in theaters on December 13, 2013.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Doctor Who continues to work its way into mainstream American pop culture.

The world's longest-running science fiction series received another primetime TV shout-out, this time on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory.  In last night's episode, "The Holographic Excitation," characters Sheldon Cooper, Rajesh Koothrappali and Howard Wolowitz are sitting around discussing plans for their Halloween party.

On the subject of featuring a photo booth at the party, Raj flips through a catalog and suggests the booth could be "creepy like a mummy's tomb or else they have the TARDIS from Doctor Who."

"A TARDIS makes no sense," counters Sheldon.  "It's a time machine from a science fiction show.  It has nothing to do with Halloween.  That being said, if you don't get a TARDIS, you stink and your whole party stinks."

Raj asks Howard if he has a preference, who merely shrugs and tells him to get the TARDIS.  Sheldon approves wholeheartedly, declaring "This party just became a major rager."

If you'd like to see the scene, you can view it below thanks to YouTube user TheDoctorWhoMedia...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ming-Na Wen Cast in S.H.I.E.L.D. TV Pilot

The list of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents keeps growing.

The Hollywood Reporter announced today that 49-year-old actress Ming-Na Wen, best known for NBC's E.R. and as the lead of Disney's animated movie Mulan, has signed on for the ABC television pilot S.H.I.E.L.D., based on the Marvel Comics property.  Avengers movie director Joss Whedon is slated to co-write and direct the pilot.

She will play a new character called Melinda May, who was not included with the previous list of casting details leaked earlier this month.  May is described in the article as "a top-notch pilot, weapons expert and soldier" and "being soulful but damaged by her time spent in combat."

This is the second cast role in the pilot, with the first being actor Clark Gregg reprising his role as Agent Phil Coulson.  It's not yet known how Coulson will be featured, considering that his character was presumably killed off in the first Avengers movie.  It's possible Coulson could appear in some form of flashback sequence prior to his death, or since this is S.H.I.E.L.D., perhaps the villain Loki murdered a Life Model Decoy duplicate instead.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

IRON MAN 3 Full Trailer Has a Lesson from The Mandarin

Looks like Tony Stark is in for a world of hurt.

After a few days of comics and movie news sites racing to post 17-second teases of the new trailer for Iron Man 3, the full two-minute trailer has been officially released.  The movie, directed by Shane Black, begins Wave Two of Marvel's cinematic universe that eventually culminates in 2015's The Avengers 2.

With a darker overall tone, the trailer opens with falling snow at night.  "I've got a lot of apologies to make," says Tony in a voiceover as a battered Iron Man falls back into a snow-covered field and removes his armor's faceplate.

"Nothing's been the same since New York," he continues with a shot of Tony stepping out to face a large group of reporters.  Presumably, this is a reference to the events of the first Avengers film where the Chitauri invasion practically leveled Manhattan.

"You experience things...and then they're over."  A shot of an armored gauntlet flying across the room to Tony's hand follows, hinting at the "Extremis" storyline from the comics.

"I can't sleep..." Tony confesses with a fleeting image of his friend James Rhodes in military dress uniform, "...When I do, I have nightmares."

The next sequence shifts to Tony speaking to his love interest Pepper Potts.  "Honestly, there's a hundred people who want to kill me.  I hope I can protect the one thing I can't live without."  An abrupt image of Tony's armor hovering over their bed immediately follows.

Things quickly turn more violent, as the various Iron Man armors begin to explode one by one in their display stands.  The film's central villain, The Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley), removes his hood and begins to speak in an accented voiceover.  "Ladies...children...sheep..." he begins, "Some men call me a terrorist.  I consider myself a teacher."

The Iron Man armor looms over Tony menacingly, then proceeds to throw him about.  "Lesson number one..." continues the Mandarin, "Heroes.  There is no such thing."  All at once, a group of attack helicopters fires a series of missles on Stark's lavish home seen in the previous Iron Man films.  The house is destroyed and debris falls down the cliff into the ocean below.  A shot of Iron Man pulled down deep underwater by cables follows.  Finally, after the film's titles appear, the last teasing image returns to the snowy landscape at night and has Tony struggling to drag his armor through the snow.

You can view the trailer below, thanks to MarvelUK on YouTube...

Iron Man 3 is scheduled to arrive in theaters on May 3, 2013.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

STAR TREK TV Captains Unite at London Convention

Okay, it's not quite Doctor Who's "The Five Doctors," but it's pretty damned close.

BBC News has details on the United Kingdom's first official Star Trek convention in over a decade, Destination Star Trek at London's Excel Centre.  In addition to hosting the UK's first Klingon wedding with a Swedish couple and breaking the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of fans dressed as Star Trek characters, Destination Star Trek brought together all five principal Star Trek captains for the first time outside the United States and just the second time ever.

Yes, that means William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek), Sir Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Avery Brooks (Captain Benjamin Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Kate Mulgrew (Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager) and Scott Bakula (Captain Jonathan Archer from Star Trek: Enterprise).  I take it Chris Pine's invitation was lost in the mail?

According to the article, there was some initial concern when Stewart failed to appear for the group's press photocall to promote the gathering of captains.  However, he did arrive later on stage for a question and answer session, which hundreds of fans paid £95 each (currently about $152 American) to attend.  VIP tickets for spending time with the stars sold out at £3,000 (over $4,800 American) each.

The session was hosted by none other than Torchwood and Doctor Who star John Barrowman, who kept things light-hearted.  Questions to the five actors ranged from if they believe in alien life, which all said they do, to titles of their favorite books and what they would be doing if they weren't actors.  Among other responses:

If you could add anything to the captain's chair, what would it be?  "A Twitter account," replied Stewart, while Shatner suggested "A toilet."

Most embarrassing fan moment?  "The lady who brought out her left breast to be signed," said Shatner, who went ahead and obliged.  Bakula remarked that he had yet to experience an embarrassing fan, so apparently Barrowman went across the stage and pulled his jeans down so that Bakula could sign his right buttock.

One fan asked the group to sing "Happy Birthday" to him to celebrate his day, which resulted in a rendition from Stewart, Shatner and Mulgrew.

What one thing would they change about their series?  "To be renewed for another three years," replied Shatner and Bakula, whose shows were cancelled after their third and fourth seasons respectively.

And of course, what's the one thing missing from your Star Trek jumpsuit?  According to Avery Brooks..."Pockets."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

JUSTICE LEAGUE Movie Targets 2015 After Superman Legal Victory

2015 is shaping up to be the biggest superhero movie summer EVER.

In addition to Marvel Studios' The Avengers 2, Warner Bros. is moving forward with their plans for a big-screen version of DC Comics' flagship superteam, the Justice LeagueThe Los Angeles Times reported earlier today that the studio's legal victory yesterday against the heirs of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster hoping to terminate a previous 1992 agreement allows Warner Bros. to speed up development on Justice League.

The studio intends on shooting the film next year for the summer of 2015 and already has a script by Will Beall.  The next steps will be to find a director and cast the lead roles that may or may not include Man of Steel star Henry Cavill reprising Superman.

If Warner Bros. had lost the decision against Shuster's heirs, they wouldn't have been able to use key elements of the Superman mythos, including his super-strength and speed, secret identity as Clark Kent and love interest Lois Lane, without making a costly new agreement with the estates of Shuster and co-creator Jerry Siegel.  The decision also allows Warner Bros. to produce sequels to Man of Steel, should the box office be successful enough to justify them.

Warner Bros. motion pictures group president Jeff Robinov has wanted to make Justice League the focus of the studio's superhero film strategy to compete with Marvel.  According to the Times article, the plan is "to spin out other superheroes into their own movies" after Justice League, basically the reverse of what Marvel did by releasing films based on Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America that built up to this summer's The Avengers.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

ARROW Sizzle Reel Debuts at New York Comic Con 2012

Just days after the Green Arrow TV series Arrow premiered to the highest ratings the CW network has seen in three years, we now have a trailer for what's coming up in this first season.  The network debuted a two-minute sizzle reel at New York Comic Con 2012 that showcases the initial enemies Stephen Amell's character Oliver Queen will face in (Star)ling City.

"My father left me with a list of names, those who rule my city through intimidation and fear," Oliver begins in a voiceover  And then, "This Season on Arrow"...Oliver's mother Moira getting into a car with a grinning, well-dressed John Barrowman, "I didn't become a lawyer to break the law," Arrow vs. Michael Rowe as Deadshot, "He's a vigilante and nothing and no one is gonna stop me from bringing him down," Darren Shahlavi as Constantine Drakon, Arrow leaping over things and shooting bad guys, "You have failed this city!", Arrow vs. Jeffrey C. Robinson as Deathstroke, the Royal Flush Gang, Arrow vs. Kelly Hu as China White from Green Arrow: Year One, (Dinah) Laurel Lance pulls a gun on Jessica De Gouw as Helena Bertinelli, and "Every last one of them will wish I had died on that island."

Upcoming episode titles and writers are:

"Honor Thy Father" by Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim
"Lone Gunmen" by Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Bertlanti
"An Innocent Man" by Moira Kirland and Lana Cho
"Damaged" by Wendy Mericle and Ben Sokolowski
"Legacies" by Moira Kirland and Marc Guggenheim
"Muse of Fire" by Geoff Johns, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg
"Vendetta" by Beth Schwartz and Andrew Kreisberg
"Year's End" by Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti

As for the aforementioned sizzle, you can check it out below, thanks to YouTube user TheWB...

Arrow airs on the CW network Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. EST. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Unshot Scene of Rory's Dad Revealed in DOCTOR WHO: "P.S."

"Someone has to water the plants."

When last we saw Brian Williams, father and father-in-law of the Doctor's companions Rory and Amy Pond/Williams, at the end of "The Power of Three," he encouraged the pair to go off with the Doctor and "Go save every world you can find.  Who else has that chance?"  Well, they did of course, but in the following episode "The Angels Take Manhattan," Rory and Amy were tragically stranded in New York fifty years before Rory was even born.  The fate of the two companions was even more sad with the realization that Brian would never know what happened to his son and daughter-in-law.

That is, until now.

The BBC has just released an unshot scene from "The Power of Three" writer Chris Chibnall called simply "P.S.," which features deleted scene descriptions from Chibnall's script accompanied by artwork, music and even vocal work from Arthur Darvill, who played Rory, reading the words of Rory's letter to his father.  The letter is delivered by a stranger named Anthony, who is soon revealed as someone very special.

You can view the four-minute video below, thanks to the BBC's official YouTube account...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

DAMN Good Comics -- BATMAN #13

He's baaa-aaaaack...

One year after having his face removed in the relaunched Detective Comics #1, Batman's arch-nemesis The Joker has returned to Gotham City.  And he hasn't been this menacing -- or this entertaining to Batman readers -- in a long, long time.

If the opening chapter of this latest event storyline, "Death of the Family," is any indication, this promises to be one hell of a ride from writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo.  The regular creative team has produced some terrific Batman tales since the New 52 relaunch and if the rest of this storyline pays off, their status as one of the all-time greatest Batman storytelling pairs should be assured.

The Joker returns in "Knock Knock," seemingly out of the blue from wherever he's been hiding all this time, and promptly and methodically creates an incredible body count inside Gotham City police headquarters.  Snyder's take on the Joker is instantly recognizable, with his dialogue written in such a way that you find yourself imagining the late Heath Ledger voicing the character's lines from beyond the grave.  The Joker verbally tortures Commissioner James Gordon from the shadows, snapping the necks of police officers one by one and hinting that he's hidden underneath Gordon's bed while he sleeps.  Creepy, creepy stuff.

In a particularly welcome nod to the past, Snyder murders John Claridge, son of diamond magnate Henry Claridge, who was the first person the Joker ever murdered in Gotham.  As diehard Batfans know, Henry Claridge was indeed the first person killed by the Joker all the way back in the first Batman #1 in 1940.  The original version by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson had the Joker breaking into radio programs to announce that he would kill Claridge at midnight and steal the Claridge Diamond.  Now, Snyder naturally updates the radio announcement for television, but it's reassuring that the very first Joker story still counts in current New 52 continuity.

Capullo excels at bringing Snyder's script to life.  He makes effective use of shadows, as always, but captures the necessary moods perfectly.  There's a genuine sense of horror and dread in these pages, culminating in a cliffhanger where the Joker finally emerges into full view.  Some absolutely fantastic storytelling here.

Even the title's regular backup feature is strong, with Snyder reuniting with his Detective Comics partner Jock along with co-writer James Tynion IV.  In "Tease," we learn what happened when the Joker and Harley Quinn reunited before the events depicted in the main feature.  It's an especially brutal short story and one that defines Harley's relationship -- such as it is -- with this latest version of her Mister J.

All in all, a very impressive opening to "Death of the Family."  This latest event will be weaving through the Batman-related titles for the next three months, so let's hope the rest of this storyline proves to be just as epic.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DAMN Good Television -- ARROW: "Pilot"

2012 has been a pretty good year for archers, hasn't it?  Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Merida in Pixar's Brave, Hawkeye in The Avengers, and now comes DC Comics' Green Arrow in his very own CW network television series, Arrow.

When word of this series first leaked back in January, I was understandably concerned about what the final aired version would be like.  It wasn't all that long ago that Justin Hartley was appearing on Smallville as Green Arrow, and let's face it, other recent DC Comics TV series (the short-lived Birds of Prey, the Aquaman pilot also starring Justin Hartley, the Adrianne Palicki Wonder Woman pilot, and a number of others never greenlit) haven't exactly fared well.

So how did the Arrow pilot turn out?  Pretty damn good, actually.  The setup for the series is strong but easy for non-comics fans to follow.  Millionaire playboy Oliver Queen returns home after five years marooned on an island and being presumed dead by his mother Moira and younger sister Thea.  The thing is, his experiences on that island (whatever they may have been) affected Oliver so much that he's decided to engage in vigilante-style justice and work his way through a long revenge list of targets that wronged Ollie's dead father Robert.  Oh, and in case the series title wasn't enough of a clue for you, he does it in Robin Hood fashion with a bow and arrow.  Because he can.

This pilot episode directed by David Nutter, who also directed the Smallville pilot, borrows origin elements from Jack Kirby's "The Green Arrow's First Case" in Adventure Comics #256, Mike Grell's Green Arrow: The Wonder Year and Andy Diggle and Jock's recent Green Arrow: Year OneA number of new elements are worked into this take on Green Arrow as well, such as expanding and developing Ollie's family to include a father with dark, tragic secrets yet to be revealed, a mother who is more than she initially appears, and a sister affected by her brother's presumed death.  Ollie's traditional love interest, Dinah Laurel Lance, is here but given additional dramatic tension because of her dead sister and her police detective father Quentin, who blames Ollie for his daughter's death while also hunting him as the vigilante Arrow.  And if that wasn't enough, there's the very Smallvilleian (Smallvilleish?) friendship with Tommy Merlyn, who presumably becomes his arch-nemesis Merlyn at some point down the road.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of minor tweaks to the mythos that seem to have been made for no discernible reason whatsoever.  Ollie's hometown of Star City is now "Starling City" because Star City rolled off the tongue far too easily.  Meanwhile, Dinah is called "Laurel" (apparently "Dinah" isn't hip enough) but her full name is stated as "Dinah Laurel Lance," so rabid Green Arrow and Black Canary fans can step back from their keyboards.

On the plus side, there are a few sly nods to DC Comics fans beyond the basics.  Ollie refers to his sister Thea as "Speedy," either as a shout-out to Green Arrow's sidekick or possibly hinting that Thea could become his sidekick at some point?  Legendary Green Arrow writer/artist Mike Grell is acknowledged by a reference to a "Judge Grell," while Ollie's bodyguard John Diggle is presumably named after the aforementioned writer Andy Diggle.  And in a quick blink-and-you-miss-it shot, the mask of supervillain/antihero Deathstroke can be seen in an early scene when Ollie's lights his signal bonfire to be rescued.

As for the cast, this series lives or dies on the shoulders of Canadian actor Stephen Amell, who thankfully has more acting range than Justin Hartley in order to sell the dramatic, less-superhero moments.  Amell is likeable and engaging, but able to convey the distinction between Ollie's playboy facade and the real traumatized man underneath.  It also doesn't hurt that he trained extremely well for the part, showcasing his fitness using a salmon ladder and various uses of parkour.  Among the rest, I think Katie Cassidy has potential as Laurel but it would nice to see her character expanded beyond legal aid attorney plot device and conflicted love interest.  I also enjoyed seeing British actor Paul Blackthorne again as Quentin Lance, using an American accent similar to his Harry Dresden in the Dresden Files TV series that ended far too soon.

All in all, a promising start for Arrow and hopefully, the ratings will be strong enough to allow the series to develop further.  There are a number of DC Comics characters coming up in future episodes, such as The Huntress, Deadshot and China White, so it's encouraging that Arrow is diving right into where it took Smallville several seasons to fully embrace.  Here's hoping that viewers keep embracing Arrow week after week in return.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Returning Companions Rumored for DOCTOR WHO's 50th Anniversary

Yep, we still have over thirteen months until Doctor Who's 50th anniversary on November 23, 2013 and the anniversary special rumors are already gaining steam.

The Express in the United Kingdom is proclaiming that "some of the Time Lord's most famous companions" (Sorry about your luck, Kamelion) will be making cameos in the show's 50th anniversary special.  That seems like something of a no-brainer given the occasion but The Express also throws out a few names to fuel speculation amongst Whovians.  Those listed in the article are:

Amy Pond/Williams -- Karen Gillan just ended her 2.5-season run as Amy Pond in "The Angels Take Manhattan" and even went on the record in August that she'll never return to Doctor Who, but it's certainly possible that could be just a smokescreen.  I mean, why would you leave so close to the 50th anniversary and not want to be a part of it?  And if she does come back, does that mean Arthur Darvill will be returning as her husband Rory? 

Rose Tyler -- Still the favorite of younger fans of the 2005 series, Billie Piper seems determined to make Rose Tyler this generation's Sarah Jane Smith with yet another return to Doctor Who after her last appearance in "The End of Time, Part Two."  The Express makes the not-so-bold statement that ultimate Whovian David Tennant will be returning as the Tenth Doctor, so reuniting him with Rose is natural enough.

Susan Foreman -- Now this makes perfect sense.  Carole Ann Ford was the Doctor's first-ever companion as Susan, so what better person to bring back for the golden anniversary?  We last saw Susan on television way back in 1983's "The Five Doctors," but she recently appeared in the Eighth Doctor audio adventure "To the Death," where she expressed her hope of being reunited with her grandfather again one day.

The article also mentions the recent tragic passing of Elisabeth Sladen and Mary Tamm, who played past companions Sarah Jane Smith and the first Romana respectively.  It remains to be seen if Fifth Doctor companion Tegan Jovanka, played by Janet Fielding, will be able and/or willing to return after the actress was diagnosed with cancer last month.

Friday, October 5, 2012

50 Years of James Bond Films

Fifty years ago today, author Ian Fleming's famous British spy with a license to kill James Bond debuted on film and megalomaniacs with dreams of world domination and secret volcano lairs have been owned ever since.

The first Bond film adaptation, Dr. No, starred Sean Connery as MI6 Agent 007 and his six official films in the series made him the essential Bond to many fans.  However, I was introduced to the world of James Bond on Halloween of 1976 when television network ABC aired Roger Moore's first Bond film Live and Let Die after an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man.

I remember watching the movie with my parents and being thrilled with scenes of Bond leaping across several crocodiles to escape certain doom and being chased across the Louisiana bayou in speed boats.  Some pretty cool stuff for a 7-year-old, mind you, and I made a point of catching Moore's next two movies, The Man with the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me, when they aired on ABC as well.

In 1979, Star Wars was still the only thing that mattered and Bond producers wisely decided to make the next film, Moonraker, more sci-fi to capitalize on the trend.  The plan worked (at least as far as I was concerned) because I somehow persuaded my parents to take me to see the movie in the theater.  My first big-screen James Bond experience was a fun one, which also clinched my lifelong fondness for the character.  Space shuttles, something barely thought of in 1979, blasting away at one another in outer space was just the thing a kid like me wanted to see.  And hey, how can you not love a giant henchman with metal teeth like Richard Kiel's Jaws?

In addition to catching up on Sean Connery's movies and the underrated George Lazenby classic On Her Majesty's Secret Service whenever they aired on ABC, and absolutely loving 1981's For Your Eyes Only, I started getting into James Bond books with a paperback of John Gardner's first novel License Renewed.  This encouraged me to track down paperbacks of the original Ian Fleming novels, which had been reissued in conjunction with License Renewed and Gardner's second novel, For Special Services.

The summer of 1983 was big for Bond fans with the release of Roger Moore's official film Octopussy and the unofficial return of Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again, an updated remake of Connery's fourth film Thunderball.  I remember one of the local newspapers asking at the time, "Which movie will YOU see?", a question ridiculous to any real Bond fan who would obviously go see both even though Octopussy crushed Never Say Never Again at the box office.

By this time, Roger Moore was in his middle fifties and starting to look too old to continue as Bond, so of course he ended up doing one more, A View to a Kill, in 1985.  This prompted the producers to finally recast the role, bringing in Timothy Dalton for The Living DaylightsBy this time, I had just finished high school and really enjoyed the intensity Dalton brought to the role over Moore's cheeky humor.  Unfortunately, Dalton's follow-up Licence to Kill (Gotta have the British spelling) was cheap-looking and dreadful and legal disputes delayed his third film so much he quit the role in 1994.

So along comes Pierce Brosnan, who almost became Moore's replacement but was prevented because of his contract on the NBC TV series Remington Steele.  Brosnan debuted in 1995's GoldenEye, which brought in the first female M with Judi Dench and a post-Cold War freshness to the series thanks to director Martin Campbell.  Here at last was a Bond with Dalton's intensity, Moore's charm and Connery's overall natural Bondness.  And thankfully, Tomorrow Never Dies continued the franchise's revival with another successful outing.

I think a lot of Bond fans had real hopes for Brosnan finally taking the title of "Definitive James Bond" away from Sean Connery, but 1999's The World is Not Enough was mainly worthwhile for saying a sad goodbye to Desmond Llewelyn's Q.  2002's Die Another Day, meanwhile, was intended as a 40th anniversary tribute to the film series but FUBARed the moment the great story idea of Bond being captured and tortured in a North Korean prison for over a year is abruptly abandoned for an embarrassing plot involving a death-ray satellite and a North Korean bad guy who surgically alters himself into a posh white Brit.

With Brosnan turning 50, negotiations for him to return for a fifth film broke down in 2004 and he was eventually replaced by the younger Daniel Craig a year later.  Craig encountered considerable criticism in the press and on the interwebz, but managed to shut most of them up with his superb performance in his first film, Casino Royale.  By adapting Fleming's first James Bond novel with a new lead actor, this gave producers the ability to essentially reboot the film series and show Bond just before he becomes a Double-O. 

The end result was a solid success, with Craig and returning director Martin Campbell bringing a more realistic approach that reflected the tone of Fleming's novels.  Once again, there was talk of comparisons  to Connery, but 2008's Quantum of Solace caused fans to step on the brakes a bit.  While Craig's performance appeared just as solid as before, attempts to turn Bond into shakycam Jason Bourne, a seemingly rushed script, and the lack of a formidable central villain helped add to the mediocre final product. 

After a four-year break to resolve studio MGM's financial troubles, Bond is about to return once again in Skyfall, which appears very promising based on trailers and TV commercials.  Early reports of the film suggest replacing Judi Dench's M with Ralph Fiennes and bringing in a new, younger Q played by The Hour's Ben Whishaw, so this could be a very pivotal film for the series and Craig's future as Bond.

And here we are, fifty years of martinis, girls, gadgets and guns.  Here's hoping that Bond keeps his license and stays alive for another fifty...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

S.H.I.E.L.D. TV Series Characters Revealed

Ever since the upcoming ABC TV pilot based on Marvel's spy comic series S.H.I.E.L.D. was announced back in August, fans have been wondering who the featured characters would be.  Fortunately, TVLine has just provided casting details for the TV pilot, which will be directed by Avengers movie director and Astonishing X-Men writer Joss Whedon depending on his schedule.  Whedon will also be writing the pilot along with his brother Jed and Jed's wife Maurissa Tancharoen.

The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division should have ties to the same agency depicted in The Avengers, but characters such as Nick Fury, Maria Hill or the presumably dead Phil Coulson weren't listed in the casting details.  Instead, the following characters are described:

SKYE: This late-20s woman sounds like a dream: fun, smart, caring and confident – with an ability to get the upper hand by using her wit and charm.

AGENT GRANT WARD: Quite the physical specimen and “cool under fire,” he sometimes botches interpersonal relations. He’s a quiet one with a bit of a temper, but he’s the kind of guy that grows on you.

AGENT ALTHEA RICE: Also known as “The Cavalry,” this hardcore soldier has crazy skills when it comes to weapons and being a pilot. But her experiences have left her very quiet and a little damaged.

AGENT LEO FITZ and AGENT JEMMA SIMMONS: These two came through training together and still choose to spend most of their time in each other’s company. Their sibling-like relationship is reinforced by their shared nerd tendencies – she deals with biology and chemistry, he’s a whiz at the technical side of weaponry.

So...How many currently unemployed veterans of Firefly, Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Angel will become agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?