Sunday, June 17, 2012

Steven Spielberg Almost Directed a TWIN PEAKS Episode

Steven Spielberg?  I've heard about you.

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Twin Peaks, the classic ABC series created and executive produced by David Lynch and Mark Frost.  Hell, this blog is named after one of my favorite lines from the series, so imagine my surprise when I read that legendary film director Steven Spielberg almost directed an episode.

In an interview with Brad D Studios, Twin Peaks producer and writer Harley Peyton reveals that Spielberg almost directed the second season premiere (Episode 8, also known as "May the Giant Be with You").  Here's what Peyton said during the interview:

"After the first season a lot of crazy things happened, like me and Mark [Frost] sitting at Steven Spielberg’s house convincing him to do the opener for the second season.  That was all ready to go.

"This is a long story, but my first wife is and was Kate Capshaw’s best friend so I knew Steven pretty well and he was a huge fan of the show – watched it every week, I mean a huge fan.  Because we were friendly we talked about it a lot and he said to me in passing how fun it would be to direct an episode so I went to Mark over the summer and said, 'This probably is not a bad way to kick off the second season, right?'  So we sat down with him and had this very long meeting about the second season and Steven just said “I want it to be as weird as possible, it’ll be so much fun” so whether or not he would have even done it – we’ll never really know, but when Mark told David he didn’t even hesitate saying, “No, no, I think I’ll direct the first one.  Maybe he can direct later in the season” – which he obviously didn’t."

Personally, I'm glad that Lynch directed the episode instead of Spielberg.  I know the Old Waiter delivering milk to FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, who is lying on the floor of Room 315 at The Great Northern with a gunshot wound, is annoying and frustrating as hell, but there are other moments in the episode that only Lynch could deliver so well.  The Giant's first appearance, Ed's revelation of Nadine's eye patch, Leland with white hair, Andy's being whacked by a plank, and of course, Ronette Pulaski waking up from her coma with glimpses of the night that Laura Palmer died.

Now Episode 17, "Dispute Between Brothers," that's the episode that definitely could've used Spielberg instead...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

DAMN Good Comics -- BATMAN #10

At long last, ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a Big Bad.

The penultimate issue of the year-long Court of Owls storyline, titled "Assault on the Court," brings some much-desired answers to all the death, destruction and despair surrounding Batman and Gotham City since "The New 52" began.  Month after month, writer Scott Snyder has steadily built up one of the most epic Batman storylines in several years, pushing the Dark Knight to his limits and beyond.

Interestingly, the more Batman begins to piece together the true mastermind behind the Court of Owls, the more questions he ends up having.  Ultimately, his quest takes him to The Willowwood Home for Children, a former hospital for children suffering from mental illness and neurological disorders.  After being partially consumed by a sinkhole eighteen years ago, Willowwood is now dark and abandoned, a perfect place for Batman's nemesis to finally reveal himself.

Secrets are exposed as we learn that a man calling himself Thomas Wayne, Jr., Bruce's "brother that never was, from the other side of the mirror," is the one behind the Court of Owls.  Thomas claims that he was "born early, born hurt" after Bruce's mother Martha was in an accident while pregnant and he was hidden away at Willowwood until he healed.  However, this only brings up more questions -- Is Thomas really Bruce's brother or is he just delusional?  Or is Thomas really the villain Owlman from a parallel Earth?  We still have one more issue to go in this storyline, but it seems the classic issue World's Finest Comics #223 was a major source of inspiration for Thomas.

Artist Greg Capullo produces another stellar issue here, using shadows and lighting to superb effect in terms of mood.  His Batman continues to become more imposing with each issue, while the amount of detail he puts into backgrounds only enhances the creepiness of Snyder's script.  Rafael Albuquerque doesn't far as well in the backup story "The Fall of the House of Wayne, Part 2," but still conveys the appropriate tone to carry the additional background effectively.

So next issue is the conclusion to this incredible saga, Batman vs. Owlman, owl to bat.  Can't wait.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's Time to Reboot The X-Men

Remember the last time you liked an issue of an X-Men comic?  I mean, really liked one?

Chances are, it was all the way back in 2007 when Joss Whedon and John Cassaday ended their stellar 25-issue run of Astonishing X-Men.  The run was notable for stripping away decades of convoluted continuity baggage that had built up like soap scum in the shower over time and focusing on a streamlined roster of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Wolverine, Colossus and Kitty Pryde.  Or to put it another way...Cyclops. Emma Frost. Beast. Wolverine. Colossus. Kitty Pryde. Children of the atom, students of Charles Xavier, MUTANTS -- feared and hated by the world they have sworn to protect. These are the STRANGEST heroes of all! THE UNCANNY X-MEN!

Seem a little familiar?  That's almost the exact series concept description that used to adorn the title page of most Uncanny X-Men comics during the classic Chris Claremont/Dave Cockrum/John Byrne era.  Simple and effective, giving you just enough information to start reading.  Well, Whedon and Cassaday's run of Astonishing pretty much echoed the glory days of Uncanny X-Men.

Stories were straightforward with crisp, distinctive art, introducing new villains and concepts that didn't require you to be a hardcore X-Fan with a mastery of mutant continuity just to understand what the hell was going on.  Or if previous concepts were being used, they were succinctly explained and not thrown in with a bunch of other characters to overwhelm unfamiliar readers.

This meant no time-traveling X-Men like Cable, Bishop, Rachel or Hope convoluting the landscape with all their foreboding of dark days of futures past to come and excessively long-winded family histories relating to Scott Summers.  This meant no "Schisms" between Cyclops and Wolverine that split an unmanagable number of X-Men into two unmanagable numbers of X-Men, just so you can have one group of X-Men acting like an army and another acting like a school with Wolverine as (sigh) headmaster.  But that's a separate rant altogether.  And this definitely meant Jean Grey not coming back from the dead just to become the Phoenix and dying all over again, either.

Speaking of Hope and the Phoenix, it seems the two have become predictably linked to one another in the current 12-issue limited series imaginatively titled Avengers vs. X-MenI'm not sure how this series will play out, but the idea of the Phoenix in the same series as the Scarlet Witch presents a terrific opportunity to wipe all the time-travel/Utopia/Mr. Sinister/Apocalypse/Schism blahdeeblahblahblah off the board and finally simplify X-continuity into something clear and understandable once again.  Think of it as Ultimate X-Men done the way you want it done.

If the various X-Men movies taught longtime X-Fans anything, it's that the X-Men have wider appeal as characters the more you adhere to the series' basic premise of mutants with superpowers struggling in a world that hates and fears them.  And X-Men: First Class showed us last year that you can leave Wolverine off the team, set the team in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis and still tell a decent X-Men story, a crazy concept that the comics haven't quite come to grips with yet.  So maybe it's time to simplify the X-Men's world into something without an X-Force, an X-Factor, an Excalibur, a Generation X, the occasional Exiles, X-Terminators, an X-Statix, a District X, New X-Men, Dark X-Men, or even some New Mutants.

Some well-written and well-drawn stories about a small team of mutants called The X-Men.  The idea shouldn't be all that astonishing, should it?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


After twenty-five long and controversial years, we have brand-new comic stories set in the Watchmen universe created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and yes, this first one is definitely worth your valuable time and money.

The past few months have seen comics fans pretty evenly divided over DC Comics' decision to finally give up on getting writer Alan Moore's official okey-dokey to publish several Watchmen mini-series prequels.  Those opposed to the Before Watchmen prequels raced to message boards all over the Interwebz, insulted and angered that DC would blaspheme the Holy Book of Alan by acting like a business and making the most of a potential financial and creative opportunity.  Others, meanwhile, countered with arguments that Moore had no problem writing for characters he didn't create or own, such as Superman and Swamp Thing, and seemed perfectly cool with writing "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?", which closed the door on the Superman saga before DC relaunched the character in a brand-new continuity.


Personally, I don't begrudge anyone that chooses to not support Before Watchmen on the grounds of respecting the creators.  That's a decision fans are well within their rights to make, although I would hope they would in turn respect others who disagree and just want to revisit the creative playground that Alan and Dave built.  So with all this fanboy drama hopefully set aside, how did the first Before Watchmen comic turn out?

Actually, pretty damn good...Imagine that.  After crafting the retro classic Justice League: The New Frontier, writer/artist Darwyn Cooke was a natural choice for the Minutemen characters that essentially serve as Watchmen's version of the Justice Society of America.  Using Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl, as the narrator, Cooke reintroduces us to the various Minutemen characters in 1939 just before Captain Metropolis brings them together.  The expected details of Hollis' life are here, including his novel Under the Hood and the golden miniature statue of himself as Nite Owl that ends up being the object of his demise.

Overall, this first issue is mostly setup that gives us Hollis' initial takes on Hooded Justice, the first Silk Spectre, the Comedian, Mothman, Dollar Bill, the Silhouette and Captain Metropolis.  Each character is more than faithful to Moore's depictions and Cooke's clean animated style helps give the visuals the needed Golden Age feel.  And wisely, he abandons Dave Gibbons' nine-panel grid, adhering to his own artistic whims instead of trying to directly mimic what's already been done. 

All in all, this isn't a mere rehash of Moore and Gibbons, it's a tribute.  If you loved Watchmen and were on the fence about picking up some Before Watchmen comics, go ahead and try them for yourself.  If you don't worry so much about what self-important fanboys believe, or what you think Alan Moore wants you to do, you could end up enjoying some great comics by some of the top talents in the industry.  As Moore himself wrote in the final panel of Watchmen, I leave it entirely in your hands.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Well, what a surprise.

After the phenomenal success of the movie adaptation of Marvel Comics' The Avengers, which has presently earned over $1.63 billion worldwide in just over a month, Warner Brothers is making some moves on a Justice League movie, based on the DC Comics superteam equivalent.

Variety reports that Gangster Squad screenwriter Will Beall has been tapped to write the script, a move that was supposedly made in anticipation of The Avengers' box office take instead of reacting to it.  Beall hasn't turned in his script yet, but is also writing the studio's reboot of the Lethal Weapon movies and remake of the film Logan's Run.

In addition, the article mentions that Green Lantern screenwriter Michael Goldenberg was hired to write for a Wonder Woman film, which at one point had Avengers director Joss Whedon on board.

There was a previous attempt to make a Justice League movie several years ago, called Justice League: Mortal, that would have been directed by George Miller from a script by Kieran and Michele Mulroney.  That film had even reached the casting stage, with D.J. Cotrona as Superman, Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Adam Brody as The Flash, Common as Green Lantern/John Stewart, Santiago Cabrera as Aquaman and Hugh Keays as The Martian Manhunter.  Miller was supposedly off the project in December of 2008 and the film was officially cancelled in 2010.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mads Mikkelsen Cast as Dr. Lecter in NBC's HANNIBAL

Break out the fava beans and the Chianti, because it looks like NBC has found their new Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen has been cast in the leading role for the upcoming TV series Hannibal, based on the Dr. Lecter novels by writer Thomas Harris.  Mikkelsen is best known as the James Bond villain Le Chiffre from the 2006 film Casino Royale and as Draco from the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans.  He will be the fourth actor to take on the role, after Brian Cox, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Gaspard Ulliel.

NBC gave the series, produced by Bryan Fuller, an initial 13-episode order back in February as a mid-season replacement.  Starring actor Hugh Dancy as FBI profiler Will Graham, Hannibal is set before the first Dr. Lecter novel, Red Dragon, with Graham recruiting Lecter for assistance solving murders while being unaware of how dangerous Lecter truly is.

"It’s before he was incarcerated, so he's more of a peacock," remarked Fuller.  "There is a cheery disposition to our Hannibal.  He’s not being telegraphed as a villain.  If the audience didn’t know who he was, they wouldn’t see him coming.  What we have is Alfred Hitchcock’s principle of suspense — show the audience the bomb under the table and let them sweat when it’s going to go boom.  So the audience knows who Hannibal is so we don’t have to overplay his villainy.  We get to subvert his legacy and give the audience twists and turns."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

University Academics Link PROMETHEUS to DOCTOR WHO

Well, of course Prometheus links to Doctor Who.  Anything worthwhile in the universe certainly does.

Those lucky, lucky Brits are already able to see director Sir Ridley Scott's prequel to his 1979 science-fiction horror classic Alien and some university academics have made a few interesting observations after seeing the film.

According to the Conventry Telegraph Geek Files column, Dr. Jack Cohen, Honorary Professor of the University of Warwick, and one of the authors of Evolving the Alien: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life, says he's glad the film avoided the usual design of extraterrestrials as humanoids with ridged brows.  "The Alien universe," he said, "which Prometheus may also be part of, at least avoids the more preposterous fictional universes where most of the aliens look exactly like humans, but with slightly different types of bumpy foreheads.  Aliens are likely to be much more alien."

Dr. Nicolas Pillai, a researcher at the University of Warwick's Film and Television Studies department, remarked, "While its trailers promise spectacular special effects, Prometheus follows a very traditional science-fiction narrative pattern.  Archaeologists with conflicting agendas unearth a Pandora's Box -- the curse of Tutankhamun by way of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Erich von Däniken."

However, it seems Dr. Pillai is also a bit of a Whovian, correctly observing Prometheus' connection to a classic Doctor Who character from the Jon Pertwee era.  "Raised in Teesside, Scott was a young BBC designer in the early days of Doctor Who and narrowly missed the chance to design the Daleks.  By calling Rapace's character Dr. Elizabeth Shaw -- also the name of a Doctor Who companion in 1970 -- the screenwriters slyly reference a road not taken in Scott's past."

In addition, Pillai makes a connection to a Doctor Who story from the Patrick Troughton era.  "While previous prequels have been restricted by an inevitable narrative end point, Scott's new film draws upon a wealth of transmedia artefacts -- philosophical tracts, Egyptology, a 1967 Doctor Who serial called 'Tomb of the Cybermen' and the current thirst for TEDtalks."

"Tomb of the Cybermen" involved the Doctor's TARDIS arriving on the distant planet Telos, where an Earth archaeological expedition is trying to uncover the lost tombs of the advanced race known as the Cybermen.  With help from the Doctor, the archaeologists seek the origins of the Cybermen, but instead discover the threat of the Cybermen is still very much alive.  Prometheus' plot, meanwhile, centers on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they follow a star map discovered among the remnants of several ancient Earth civilizations.  Led to a distant world and an advanced civilization, the crew seeks the origins of humanity, but instead discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race.