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Friday, May 31, 2013

Karen Gillan Cast as GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Villain


At least one or two Marvel Studios casting directors must be serious Whovians.

After former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston took on the role of lead villain Malekith in the upcoming Thor sequel Thor: The Dark World, along comes word that former Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan has been cast in James Gunn's adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Hollywood Reporter announced that Gillan will be "the film's lead female villain," although the specific character has not been revealed.  In 2012, Gillan left the role of Scottish companion Amy Pond on Doctor Who after playing the character for two and a half seasons.  The 25-year-old actress will soon appear in the movies Oculus, co-starring Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff and The List, co-starring Once Upon a Time's Jennifer Morrison.

Guardians of the Galaxy is targeting a late-June shoot in the United Kingdom and has made several other casting moves recently.  Glenn Close was recently announced as playing "a leadership role in the Nova Corps," an intergalactic police force in the Marvel Universe.  John C. Reilly has been offered the role of Rhomann Dey, a character that essentially serves as a liaison between the Guardians and Earth, reporting to S.H.I.E.L.D. about the group's movements.

Other members of the cast include Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, Michael Rooker as Yondu, and Lee Pace as the film's unnamed villain.

Guardians of the Galaxy is scheduled for release on August 1, 2014.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sam Mendes May Return to Direct JAMES BOND 24


In the immortal words of one Buffy Anne Summers..."Add it up, it all spells Duh."

Deadline claims that Skyfall director Sam Mendes is currently in talks with Sony Pictures and MGM to return for the 24th James Bond film, the fourth starring Daniel Craig in the role.  This should surprise no one, considering that Skyfall brought in over $1.1 billion in worldwide box office, becoming the top-grossing James Bond movie of all time.

The news dismisses reports from March that Mendes wouldn't return as director due to prior commitments with his West End launch of a stage musical based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  However, it seems Mendes and Bond producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli resumed discussions, apparently with the intention to hold production on Bond 24 until next year after Mendes' theater commitments have ended.

Other names have been previously mentioned, of course, ranging from Inception director Christopher Nolan to Ang Lee, Shane Black and David YatesSkyfall ended with Bond's supporting cast of a new M (Ralph Fiennes), Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) firmly set in place for a new era, so it certainly makes sense that Mendes would want to follow up with his MI6 team.

As for the release date of Bond 24, Skyfall was released roughly a year after full production began.  If Mendes begins production by summer or fall of next year, we could see Bond 24 by November of 2015, three years after Skyfall.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX Trailer Debuts


"World War III...Maybe I could've stopped it, if I just ran a little faster..."

The trailer for Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox debuted on IGN earlier this week, giving us our first solid look at the upcoming animated film based on the DC Comics limited series FlashpointWhen time travel changes an event for Barry Allen, The Flash, and his family, the event’s temporal ripples prove disastrous, creating a fractured, alternate reality where the Justice League never formed, and Superman is nowhere to be found.  Trapped in an alternate Earth being ravaged by a fierce war between Wonder Woman’s Amazons and Aquaman’s Atlanteans, Flash must team with a grittier, more violent Batman and government agent Cyborg to restore the continuity of Flash’s original timeline.

"The Speed Force allows the Reverse-Flash to travel through time," The Flash (Justin Chambers) tells Batman as we see the Reverse-Flash (C. Thomas Howell) detonating an explosive device.

An alternate Batman, voiced by Kevin McKidd, says to Barry Allen, "He changed something in the past."  Barry replies, "We have to find out what he changed and change it back before they kill everyone on the planet."  We then see Alternate Batman attempting to restore Barry's lost super-speed powers using an electric chair.

"In my world, I'm a hero," Barry says to his mother Nora Allen, who was never killed in this alternate timeline.  "You mean like Batman?" replies Nora.

"No matter how fast you run, you can't save everyone," remarks the Reverse-Flash, as we see quick images of Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, Captain Atom, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Cyborg.

"War's over, everybody lost," remarks the alternate Batman as we see the Rogue known as The Top and the exterior of the Flash Museum.  "You'd be amazed the monsters this world can create..."

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is scheduled to arrive on DVD, Blu-Ray, On Demand and digital download on July 30, 2013.  If you'd like to see the trailer, you can view it below thanks to DC Comics on YouTube...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

AMC CEO Sees No End in Sight for THE WALKING DEAD


Just like the Image/Skybound comic book series from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, The Walking Dead will go on and on...at least if AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan has his way.

In an article for The Hollywood Reporter, Sapan is asked about the end of acclaimed AMC shows Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead while attending the Barclays Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference.  "We’ll all suffer from some minor heartbreak when these shows come to a natural close," said Sapan.  "Like some of the best shows in history, there will be a mantle that exists sort of virtually in people’s minds, and in the world maybe they’ll actually put a statue somewhere.  We will bring them to a close with the people who created them at the right time."

The Walking Dead, meanwhile, recently ended its third season and is currently filming the fourth with apparently no end in sight.  "We hope that zombies live forever and we’ve just begun to find out what the post-apocalyptic world is like," said Sapan, "so that we’ll be sitting here at the Barclays conference in 2022 discussing the fact that Walking Dead is not over.  At that point, I think any one of the companies will have replaced the United States government and we’ll be in a complete free enterprise world in which there are no nations."

Issue #113 of The Walking Dead comic series is currently scheduled for August 2013, almost ten years since its debut in October 2003.  With each season of The Walking Dead television series covering roughly twelve issues (or two trade paperbacks), there could potentially be at least ten TV seasons even if the top-selling comic abruptly ended publication.

As long as the ratings hold up, of course.

Monday, May 20, 2013

DAMN Good Television -- DOCTOR WHO Series Seven


Doctor Who Series Seven has ended some seventeen months since it began, leaving us with another interminable wait until the 50th Anniversary Special on November 23, 2013.  With all the various breaks and hiatuses we've had to endure, I thought I'd save up my thoughts, rankings and assorted nonsense on each of the Series Seven episodes until the end. It's been a somewhat rough ride in the TARDIS this year, but thankfully with a few gems to be treasured for years to come.  So here are my thoughts on this season, and shhhh, spoilers...
  1. The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe (2.5 out of 5 Sonic Screwdrivers) -- After the stellar 2010 Christmas Special, "A Christmas Carol," this story came off as a considerable letdown.  There was a nice story idea here by writer Steven Moffat, with the Doctor as "Caretaker" of a widow and her children during Christmas of the London Blitz, but it stumbles as the Doctor Who version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  Unfortunately, we don't really care much about the widow or her children and the period has been way overdone of late.
  2. Asylum of the Daleks (4.5 out of 5) -- After a loooonnnnnng hiatus of almost nine months, Doctor Who finally begins Series Seven with the best Dalek story since...well..."Dalek."  With the season split into five and eight episode chunks, Moffat opens with a solid attempt to make the Daleks scary for the first time since 2005.  And then, as only he can, he surprises us with the Doctor's new companion (Or is she...?) five episodes early.  Oswin's tale ends in total heartbreak and makes us wish Jenna-Louise Coleman would hurry up and get here already.
  3. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (3 out of 5) -- Another in the series of "Hey, I came up this great episode title, now I just need the actual story," writer Chris Chibnall returns with a lighthearted romp with surprise, dinosaurs on a spaceship.  The real highlight here isn't Harry Potter's David Bradley as special guest villain Solomon, but Harry Potter's Mark Williams as Rory's dad Brian.  He's the best companion family member since Wilf and develops Rory as more of an individual instead of "Mr. Pond."
  4. A Town Called Mercy (2.5 out of 5) -- The first western story since "The Gunfighters" all the way back in 1966 was eagerly anticipated, especially with the casting of Farscape's Ben Browder as Isaac.  Unfortunately, Being Human creator Toby Whithouse turns in another misfire that wastes Browder and the beautiful Spaghetti Western filming location of Almeria, Spain.  Firefly has totally spoiled us, it seems.
  5. The Power of Three (3.5 out of 5) -- Chibnall's second script for Series Seven is an odd one, focusing on a slow invasion of small black cubes and the growing realization that Amy and Rory are ready to leave the TARDIS and settle down.  Rory's dad Brian is back thankfully, and we get a long overdue update on UNIT with the official TV introduction of the Brigadier's daughter, Kate Stewart.  Jemma Redgrave is just lovely as Kate and I'm glad to know that Kate will be returning for the 50th Anniversary Special.
  6. The Angels Take Manhattan (3.5 out of 5) -- Amy and Rory's exit episode brings us to the end of Series 7A with mixed results from Moffat.  He brings back the Weeping Angels with some nasty little Weeping Cherubs this time, and also his favorite Mary Sue creation, River Song.  There's some lovely location filming in New York's Central Park and the mandatory emotional heartbreak, but the major plot hole of the Doctor being unable to rescue Amy and Rory from being stuck in the 1930s New York seems absolutely ridiculous if you realize they could just drive to Pennsylvania or wherever and meet the Doctor there.  And no, I don't buy Moffat's explanation one bit.
  7. The Snowmen (4 out of 5) -- Moffat's 2012 Christmas Special is a wonderful return to form.  The opening titles get a solid upgrade with a colorful, somewhat psychedlic look and a classic diddlydum, diddlydum, diddlydum theme arrangement by composer Murray Gold.  Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax from "A Good Man Goes to War" are back and surprisingly, so is the Great Intelligence, who was last seen in 1968's "The Web of Fear."  We also get our first look at the new TARDIS console room desktop theme, a stylish set with a retro feel to lead into the 50th anniversary year.  Of course, the real highlight is the official debut of Jenna-Louise Coleman, who ends up dying once again and leaves both the Doctor and the audience with more questions than answers.
  8. The Bells of Saint John (3.5 out of 5) -- Another hiatus brings us to the end of March, when Series Eight should have began instead of Series 7B.  Finally, Moffat introduces us to the proper Clara Oswald and gives us a fun tour of modern London in the process.  We see some classic filming locations like Westminster Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral and the Great Intelligence pops up at the end to hint that he's Series 7B's Big Bad.  We're also introduced to Angie and Artie Maitland, the children Clara oversees as nanny, who factor in later on in the series.
  9. The Rings of Akhaten (3.5 out of 5) -- I know a number of people loathe this episode, but I consider it Clara's version of "The End of the World" that served as Rose Tyler's first encounter with outer space.  Neil Cross' first script seems to be a bit all over the place, but the opening with Clara's parents is just lovely as is Clara looking after Merry, the Queen of Years.  There's also another great "Pandorica Speech" moment by The Doctor and even a reference to his granddaughter Susan.
  10. Cold War (3 out of 5) -- At long last, the Ice Warriors return for the first time since 1974's "The Monster of Peladon."  (Can't tell they're building up to the 50th anniversary, can you?)  This is one of Mark Gatiss' better efforts, with a great 1980s Cold War (Get it?) setting and David Warner's Professor Grisenko, an older Russian scientist obsessed with Ultravox and Duran Duran.  Unfortunately, Liam Cunningham (Davos from Game of Thrones) is totally wasted and it seems odd to hear Soviets speaking TARDIS-translated English without any hint of a Russian accent.
  11. Hide (4.5 out of 5) -- My personal favorite story of the season is this Neil Cross tale set in 1974.  It looks and feels like something pulled straight out of the early Tom Baker era, albeit with considerably better effects.  There's also a Metebelis III crystal, a shout out to the final third Doctor story "Planet of the Spiders" that aired (surprise!) in 1974, although Matt Smith sends old-school Whovians ranting on Twitter by pronouncing it "Meh-teb-bell-is" instead of "Meta-bee-lis."  A slight stumble at the end with a rushed ending keeps this episode from being perfection, but it still should be a well-regarded classic.
  12. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (2.5 out of 5) -- And of course, my least favorite episode of the season follows immediately after.  Stephen Thompson is given the wonderful, glorious premise of exploring the unrevealed interior of the TARDIS for the first time since the 1978 story "The Invasion of Time" and it's mostly wasted.  We see a few extra rooms -- the library, the architectural reconfiguration system, the Eye of Harmony -- and even glimpse the swimming pool through a doorway at long last.  There's also another series first, an all-black guest supporting cast, but sadly they turn out to be a bunch of complete jerks who think it's hilarious to convince their memory-wiped brother that he's an android.
  13. The Crimson Horror (3 out of 5) -- Gatiss returns to script the "Doctor-lite" episode, mercifully filled with another appearance by Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax.  Jenny gets a surprising action sequence in a leather catsuit (a deliberate nod to guest star Dame Diana Rigg, who played Emma Peel in the British Avengers series) and the Doctor references Fifth Doctor companion Tegan Jovanka saying that he "spent ages trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport" with a "Brave heart, Clara" nod for good measure.
  14. Nightmare in Silver (3.5 out of 5) -- Noted comics and fantasy author Neil Gaiman provides his second Doctor Who script which isn't as good as "The Doctor's Wife" but still entertains.  The Cybermen get their first signficant upgrade since coming back in 2006, with a sleeker, less stompy design along with some new cybertricks.  They aren't quite as scary as we'd hoped, but definitely more of a threat for future stories.  Angie and Artie return, having blackmailed Clara into arranging a TARDIS trip the previous episode, but are thankfully rendered silent for most of this story.  Clara steps up a bit, proving to be a decent military leader, and Matt Smith gets to flex his acting skills in a battle of wits against...himself.  Oh, and there's Warwick Davis as well, which makes everything better.
  15. The Name of the Doctor (4.5 out of 5) -- And finally, Moffat closes out Series Seven by wrapping up the mystery of Clara Oswald and setting up the 50th Anniversary Special.  Old-school Whovians go "Oh, my giddy aunt..." during the opening teaser, seeing Forrest Gump style interactions of past Doctors with Clara, including a quick scene of The First Doctor and Susan stealing the TARDIS from Gallifrey.  There's a nifty "conference call" with Madame Vastra, Jenny, Strax, Clara and yes, River Song, because it's been nine whole episodes since we've seen her. Also, there's the expected arrival of the Great Intelligence, with some new henchmen/spare bodies called the Whispermen that somewhat resemble the Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Moffat then detonates the Cliffhanger Bomb for the Anniversary Special by introducing actor John Hurt "as The Doctor," sending everyone racing to Twitter and various message boards in a predictable panic.
So now we have the 50th Anniversary Special to look forward to along with the 2013 Christmas Special, and then only the Doctor knows how long for Series Eight.  But at least we know for certain, all officially official, that there will be a Series Eight.  It's going to be another long six months, but if the appearances of past Doctors in "The Name of the Doctor" are any indiciation, not to mention the return of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart, and the Zygons, it should end up being worth the wait.

Friday, May 17, 2013

DAMN Good Movies -- STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS


Yes, I'm back with another of my movie takes, this time on the film Star Trek Into Darkness, the second in the rebooted/alternate timeline Star Trek universe.  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...ahead warp factor one...

It's been four long years since director J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production team relaunched Star Trek with younger actors portraying the classic characters from the original television series.  Despite some mostly unfair criticism from older Trekkies, the 2009 film brought in over $385 million worldwide and more importantly, introduced Star Trek to a much broader audience and an entirely new generation of fans.  Abrams took considerable time before committing to the sequel, directing his Steven Spielberg tribute Super 8 in the interim, and the script by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof took several months longer than expected to arrive.  In addition, actor Benicio del Toro had been lined up as the film's villain, but later bowed out and was replaced by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch.

Opening on the planet Nibiru, we get a lesson on the importance of Starfleet's Prime Directive as the crew of the Enterprise attempts to save the primitive inhabitants from a deadly volcanic eruption.  Captain Kirk is faced with the dilemma of either allowing First Officer Spock to die inside the volcano or violating the Prime Directive by revealing the Enterprise's existence to the native population.  Since this is Kirk we're talking about, he quickly makes the call to rescue Spock, despite Spock's disapproval of his decision.

Kirk is cocky and prideful of his success as captain, especially his low crewmember casualty record, until Spock throws him under the bus by being truthful about the events on Nibiru in his report to Starfleet.  Kirk's mentor, Admiral Pike, also voices his disappointment as Kirk ends up temporarily losing his command and busted down in rank to Commander.  At this point, we presume Kirk will win back his command and redeem himself somehow, but don't really have a sense of the personal growth he needs to undergo along the way.

During an emergency meeting at Starfleet Command to discuss the bombing of an installation secretly belonging to the covert intelligence division Section 31 (Deep Space Nine shout-out!), the meeting is attacked by a mysterious figure named John Harrison who was also responsible for the bombing.  Pike is killed during the attack, with Kirk losing another father figure, but under the instruction of Admiral Alexander Marcus, Kirk is given back his command at tasked with hunting Harrison down.  It turns out Harrison is holed up on the planet Kronos, giving us our first good look at the alternate timeline Klingons.

All of this leads to the film's second act game-changer with the revelation that -- Surprise! -- Harrison is actually Khan Noonien Singh, the classic Star Trek villain from the 1967 TV episode "Space Seed" and the 1982 movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, played originally by the late Ricardo MontalbanApart from justifying a younger cast, the whole point of the alternate timeline concept introduced in the 2009 film was to create a playground for classic characters to be brought back.  And with Khan, arguably the most sacrilegious to fans, the screenwriters definitely make the most of it.

Deliberately playing off Trekkies' preconceived notions of what Khan should be and how events should play out, we're initially presented with Khan as a more sympathetic character.  We're told Marcus and Section 31 actively went looking for things like the S.S. Botany Bay after the destruction of Vulcan in the last movie.  It seems Khan was woken from his 300-year cryogenic sleep to develop weapons for war against the Klingon Empire, with the rest of the 72 comatose Botany Bay crew used by Marcus as hostages.  Even more insanely, we also see Khan actively teaming up with Kirk to stop Marcus in an impressive sequence with the two jetting through space using only protective suits.  And why wouldn't he?  Remember, the alternate timeline Kirk has never met Khan before and has no knowledge of the events of "Space Seed" or Wrath of Khan.

But since this is Khan we're talking about, he naturally betrays Kirk and everything goes to hell.  Khan seizes control over the much larger and sinister USS Vengeance and after the inevitable battle, both damaged ships are sent hurtling towards Earth.  It's here that Wrath of Khan is flipped around, with Kirk (who has been humbled and is doubting himself) now making the sacrifice to save the Enterprise that Spock so nobly made in the 1982 film.  This time, we see how Spock handles the loss of his best friend, made even more fascinating because this Spock is still emotionally compromised from the destruction of Vulcan.  As the physical equal of the genetically-augmented Khan, Spock is relentless in his pursuit, chasing Khan through San Francisco and pummeling him over and over until Uhura gets him to stop.

So yeah, not an overly dull film.  Despite the legitimate criticisms made against Abrams as a director, such as his silly obsession with lens flare, there are two things he seems to have a solid grasp on -- pacing and character moments.  He knows how to stir things up, how to bring the feels, and how to stage action to keep things moving along.  The talented cast certainly helps, as does another emotionally-charged score by his preferred composer Michael Giacchino, but ultimately it's up to Abrams to tell the story even if some of it is already familiar to a lot of us.

As things are brought to a close, we jump ahead one year with a rebuilt Enterprise about to embark on the five-year mission to explore strange new worlds and Chris Pine's Kirk finally allowed to utter the classic "Space, the final frontier..." mantra beloved by Star Trek fans.  It's a defining moment for this alternate timeline, setting things up for just about anything to happen in the third film.

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

CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK -- Chris Pine seems a bit more settled in as Kirk and although there are some lighthearted moments early on, Kirk is understandably more serious following the initial attacks by Harrison/Khan.  His scenes with Zachary Quinto's Spock are among the most effective, giving the two characters a solid "bromance" as they interact with one another.  It would've been nice to see Kirk outmaneuvering Khan once again, but at least things are left open for a rematch.

COMMANDER SPOCK -- As for Quinto, his Spock is becoming more intriguing with the exploration of unchecked emotions.  The destruction of Vulcan continues to weigh heavily on the character to the point of affecting his relationship with Uhura and causing him to completely lose control in his physical beatdown of Khan.  Either Spock is going to continue to have emotional outbursts in the next movie, or he's going to have to tighten his control through the Kohlinahr ritual.

DR. LEONARD "BONES" MCCOY -- Karl Urban is sadly given not as much to do this time, but gets a couple of notable scenes of Bones flirting with Carol Marcus and his discovery of Khan's blood as a healing agent.  I do, however, hope that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Aliens?) doesn't exist in the 23rd Century to give him grief for experimenting on a Tribble.

JOHN HARRISON/KHAN NOONIEN SINGH -- Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan is a truly excellent piece of guest villain casting.  Yes, he's a British actor playing an Indian superhuman, but considering Ricardo Montalban was Mexican, I really think it's okay to let that petty argument slide.  Cumberbatch is simply a superb actor who sinks his teeth deeply into the role and makes it his own despite Montalban's legacy.  And thankfully, Khan is placed back into cryogenic sleep at the end, which leaves room for his possible return.

LT. COMMANDER MONTGOMERY "SCOTTY" SCOTT -- After being underwritten in the previous film somewhat, Simon Pegg's Scotty gets a bit more to do with his protest to Kirk over bringing 72 untested and unscannable photon torpedoes aboard the Enterprise.  He's also a significant player in helping Kirk and Khan infiltrate the Vengeance and disabling it at a key moment.

LIEUTENANT NYOTA UHURA -- Zoe Saldana asked to have Uhura involved in the action more, so she gets to be part of the away team landing on Kronos to find Harrison.  She gets to showcase her linguistics mastery by speaking Klingon, for all the good it does when things rapidly turn into a phaser fight.

LIEUTENANT HIKARU SULU -- Given a sizable action sequence in the last movie, it's no surprise that John Cho has less to do this time around.  He gets to take the conn as Acting Captain in Kirk and Spock's absence, with a quick nod to fans familiar with his original destiny as Captain of the U.S.S. Excelsior.

ENSIGN PAVEL CHEKOV -- I'm sure Anton Yelchin worried a number of Trek fans the moment he put on a red shirt to replace Scotty as Chief Engineer.  The move gives Chekov more to do thankfully, and it's always fun to watch him running around in a panic.

DR. CAROL MARCUS -- Alice Eve is another British replacement, but this can be explained away by Carol growing up with her mother in England.  She also appears to be an attempt to add another female character to the central cast, which is certainly welcome and if she returns for the third film, it should be fun to see Kirk and Carol becoming a couple.  The only question, of course, is whether they stay that way this time.

ADMIRAL CHRISTOPHER PIKE -- Bruce Greenwood reminds us of his cool Batman voice and to give Kirk more "I dare you to do better" motivation.  Sadly, his character is killed off early on, but it's time for Kirk to step his game up as Captain and at least Pike won't be rendered a pathetic burned mute and confined to a boxy wheelchair that beeps yes or no.

ADMIRAL ALEXANDER MARCUS -- Sci-fi veteran Peter Weller returns to Star Trek after his appearance as John Frederick Paxton on Star Trek: Enterprise and gets to shout a little as Carol's father and the film's secondary villain.  He's obviously no match for Khan, who murders him, but there's an interesting circular connection made by revealing him as Pike's mentor.

THOMAS HAREWOOD -- As a diehard Whovian, I can't overlook Noel Clarke, Doctor Who's own Mickey Smith, as the guy Khan manipulates into suicide bombing Section 31's installation early on.  He doesn't get much dialogue, if any, but you can feel the weight of the world on this guy's shoulders as he desperately agrees to help Khan in order to save his dying daughter's life.

SPOCK PRIME -- Leonard Nimoy defies the odds once again by returning as the original timeline Spock in a brief but vital cameo appearance.  Now residing on New Vulcan, because there had to be one, Spock Prime gets to inform his younger alternate self that yes, Khan Noonien Singh is a total douchebag and should not be trusted.  The scene wasn't necessary, but keeps nitpicky Trek trolls from whining about Spock not picking up the damn phone to get some information on Khan.

All in all, people who loved Star Trek 2009 are going to love Into Darkness and Haters Who Hated Star Trek 2009 With Hating are probably going to hate this movie as well, especially since they've already made up their minds before seeing it.  With J.J. Abrams off to hopefully fix the Star Wars franchise, things have been positioned to take Star Trek just about anywhere.  Will we see Klingon Captain Kang from "Day of the Dove" next?  Or Trelane from "The Squire of Gothos"?  Or something completely unique and original?  As a certain Vulcan once remarked in a certain 1982 movie, there are always...possibilities.

And for those who may be wondering, here's the updated list of my favorite Star Trek movies:

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
2. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
3. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
4. Star Trek (2009)
5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
6. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
7. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
8. Star Trek: Generations (1994)
9. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
10. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
11. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
12. Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer,

Charles

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Amell and Kreisberg Tease ARROW Season 2


I know, I know, Season 1 of the CW series Arrow just ended and here we are already looking ahead to Season 2.

Last night's season finale "Sacrifice" featured non-stop action and some unexpected twists as (SPOILER WARNING) the Glades district of Starling City suffered significant destruction and Colin Donnell's character Tommy Merlyn died from a severe case of rebar poisoning.  So what happens next?  Zap2it offered up a few clues last night with some quotes from Arrow star Stephen Amell and executive producer Andrew Kreisberg.

The assassin Deadshot is slated to return once again, following up on the subplot of John Diggle's vendetta against the man who killed his brother Andy.  "Diggle's pursuit of Deadshot is going to be a big part of Season 2," said Kreisberg.  "The finale was already bigger and crazier and more nuts than we ever envisioned, so it's not like we dropped the ball with that story.  It was just a story we knew could live on into Season 2.  Don't worry, it is far from dropped."

This could also include some flashbacks to Diggle's past.  "The producers have done a really good job this year of really molding the rest of our cast into people that can carry episodes at a time," said Amell. "I don't think any part of the fan base would complain if all the sudden we announced we were going to have a Diggle-centric episode.  David [Ramsey] has earned the right and I hope he gets it."  Kreisberg chimed in on the subject as well, adding, "Doing flashback episodes to Diggle's life -- whether it's in Afghanistan, or when his brother was alive -- we're definitely interested in that.  We have this amazing table of actors.  Certainly David Ramsey could be the lead of his own show if he wanted to, so we'd love to see more of him."

Meanwhile, future Team Arrow member Roy Harper will continue looking for Green Arrow The Hood.  "We'll definitely find out how Oliver feels about taking Roy on as part of the team in Season 2," Kreisberg remarked.  "Oliver Queen and Roy Harper will have a long and storied career together.  As with all of these things, especially stuff that's derived from the comic books, we've tried to both satisfy fans' expectations, and turn them on their head.  I think that Roy's desire to be under the Arrow and Oliver's desire to be as private a person as possible are going to collide."

Fans can also expect more island flashbacks on Lian Yu.  Amell remarked, "I think the story on the Island is really mapped out.  If you talked with Andrew and Marc [Guggenheim], they would say that this year in Epsiode 5 when we introduced Edward Fyres and faux-Deathstroke, that was when they really discovered what the Island can be.  I think they have a really cool idea and really have it mapped out for what the Island will be in Season 2."

In addition, Oliver's sister Thea Queen will have her character developed further.  "Nobody is ending this season the way they started," said Kreisberg.  "She really underwent an evolution this season, and in Season 2 when the characters pick up, we'll see a Thea who has really internalized her experience, one who has really grown a great deal.  That's exciting for Willa [Holland] and it's exciting for us as writers."  Amell, meanwhile, wants to see Oliver and Thea on more of an equal footing.  "Willa continues to impress," he said.  "I think it's really fantastic because Willa is such a wonderful actor and I feel like she is just sitting there just waiting to be really utilized.  I think it would be very exciting in coming seasons to put them more on an adult level relationship because [Willa] is so capable and is going to be a huge asset to the show."

Lastly, with the arrest of Oliver's mother Moira Queen in the season finale, there will be some changes at the Queen Mansion"We had a line we had to cut out of episode 22, which was Felicity saying, 'Man, Thanksgiving at the Queen house is really going to suck this year,'" said Kreisberg.  "If ever there was a hero who could understand what Moira has done, it's Oliver.  Oliver made a lot of difficult decisions himself those five years on the island, and not all of them were the right decision.  He can understand how she can find herself in the place that she did."  As for Amell, he just wants Oliver to finally move out on his own.  "God, I hope so," he said.  "I mean, he's like thirty years old!  He needs to get his own apartment.  Quote me on that one."

Arrow Season 2 begins later this year, probably around September.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Impending BOOSTER GOLD Rush

Get ready to hear more about The Greatest Hero You've Never Heard Of.

While perusing various comics news sites, I've noticed a certain time-traveling superhero's name popping up more and more in recent weeks.  Nothing big, nothing flashy mind you, but just a few items about one Michael Jon Carter -- a.k.a. Booster Gold -- to make me wonder if it's time to connect a few dots.

Just today, there was a piece on SuperheroHype that provided a brief update on the Booster Gold television series pilot project for Syfy that was first announced way back in November of 2011.  It seems the project still lives and Arrow executive producer Andrew Kreisberg is currently working on the script.  The article features a quote from an interview taken from KSiteTV, in which Kreisberg is asked if the Arrow and Booster Gold characters could potentially meet:

"DC has been really good about letting us play with their roster," said Kreisberg.  "We’d never say never to anybody.  Kord Industries actually plays a part in my Booster Gold pilot, so, who knows.  He might be on two different shows, played by two different actors...There’s a line in the Booster Gold pilot where somebody says 'we finally have our own hero. Not like that nut in Starling City with the hood.'  I don’t know if they’re going to let me keep that line over there, if they [Syfy] actually make the pilot, but it sort of makes me smile to think that it’s the same universe."

Now, in a recent interview with Collider, DC Comics Chief Creative Officer (and former Booster Gold writer) Geoff Johns confirmed that Booster Gold is still in development and teased that there may be some DC TV show announcements at this year's San Diego Comic Con.

Of course, the big DC Comics media adaptation this year is Man of Steel, but there's a possible Booster Gold connection here as well.  An article on ScreenRant posted four days ago mentions an Easter Egg hidden in the third Man of Steel trailer that features a billboard for Blaze Comics in the background of downtown Metropolis.  Blaze Comics, as Booster Gold readers know, is the fictional comics company that published Booster Gold comics in the DC Universe, hinting at a possible shared movie/TV universe.

And then there's Booster's recent comics' appearance in All-Star Western to consider.  After disappearing for months following the cancellation of Justice League International, Booster turned up in the 19th Century and crossed paths with Jonah Hex.  It's been hinted that there are significant plans for the character, and with four titles ending in August, it seems highly possible that a new Booster Gold series could replace one of them.  On May 3rd, artist Kevin Maguire posted the following on Twitter, along with a picture of one of his Booster Gold depictions as his profile icon:
So is Maguire working on a new Booster Gold project?  Even if he's not the artist, it seems more than likely there's a new monthly series in the works when you think about all the Booster Gold media currently in play.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Picked Up by ABC for Fall 2013


It's officially time to not yield and back S.H.I.E.L.D.

As expected, Joss Whedon's pilot for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been picked up by ABC for their fall 2013 season.  The pilot was greenlit for production back in August 2012 and wrapped filming in February, with the corporate synergy of Disney divisions ABC Television and Marvel Entertainment making the full series order almost certain.  This will be the first television series produced by Marvel.

The official announcement mentions that there will be an "exclusive first look" during the season finale of ABC's Once Upon a Time on Sunday, May 12th at 8:00 p.m. ET.  And here's the full press release...

Clark Gregg reprises his role of Agent Phil Coulson from Marvel’s feature films as he assembles a small, highly select group of Agents from the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Together they investigate the new, the strange, and the unknown across the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary. Coulson's team consists of Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), highly trained in combat and espionage, Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) expert pilot and martial artist, Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker); brilliant engineer and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) genius bio-chemist. Joining them on their journey into mystery is new recruit and computer hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet).

From Executive Producers Joss Whedon ("Marvel's The Avengers," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"); Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen, "Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." pilot co-writers ("Dollhouse," "Dr.Horrible's Sing-Along Blog"); Jeffrey Bell ("Angel," "Alias"); and Jeph Loeb ("Smallville," "Lost," "Heroes") comes Marvel's first TV series. "Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is produced by ABC Studios and Marvel Television.


Entertainment Weekly also claims to have an exclusive first look at the series' logo...which can also be mostly found on Marvel's site as shown here:


Now let's just hope ABC doesn't schedule Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the exact same time as the CW series Arrow...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Russell Crowe Explodes MAN OF STEEL Krypton Rumor


Okay, comics fans...Back away from your keyboard and cell phones, nice and easy now...

Some of you have been freaking out a bit online over recent rumors that Superman's home planet of Krypton isn't destroyed in the upcoming Zack Snyder film Man of Steel, which potentially ruins a key element of Superman's origin as the last survivor of a doomed planet whose entire culture has been lost.  Kal-El is launched into outer space as a baby, supposedly because he’s special and considered dangerous by other Kryptonians.  The rumors also claimed that Kal-El is the only Kryptonian who wasn't genetically engineered to be a soldier or scientist, and instead was just born naturally, which makes him an abomination on Krypton.  In additional, there was possibly a Kryptonian civil war and when the film's villain General Zod comes to Earth, part of his plan is to bring Kal-El back to Krypton.

However, according to actor Russell Crowe, Krypton is apparently destroyed in the film as Rao intended.  In a recent post on his Twitter account, Crowe made the following statement:


That's right, "as my planet dies."  And hey, if you can't trust Superman's natural father Jor-El on the subject of Krypton's destruction, who can you trust?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

DAMN Good Movies -- IRON MAN 3


Time once again for another of my movie takes, this one on the film Iron Man 3, 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...get ready to armor up...

After a successful first phase of Marvel's cinematic universe that culminated in last summer's The Avengers, Phase Two opens with the third Iron Man solo film.  The previous movie, Iron Man 2, was decent enough, but lacked the impact of the first and felt somewhat creatively disappointing.  This paved the way for director Jon Favreau to step aside to an executive producer role, with Shane Black coming in as his replacement and co-writer of the screenplay with Drew Pearce.

The film borrows elements primarily from the comics storyline "Extremis" by writer Warren Ellis and artist Adi Granov while picking up on events from The Avengers.  Tony Stark, our self-glossed "genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist," is experiencing a form of post-traumatic stress disorder after almost checking out in the process of stopping the Chitauri invasion of New York.  He's not sleeping and secretly obsessed with designing multiple versions of his Iron Man armor, to the point of surgically implanting small remote control devices inside his forearms.  Naturally, this causes friction with his love interest Pepper Potts, who isn't down with empty suits of Iron Man armor looming over her bed whenever Tony is having nightmares.  Go figure.

Meanwhile, the world is apparently going to hell thanks to global terrorist The Mandarin, leader of the Ten Rings organization that was teased briefly back in the first film.  After his longtime security chief Happy Hogan is injured during an attack on the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Tony throws down the armored gauntlet and dares The Mandarin to come over to his Malibu mansion, even going so far as to include the full address.  So to the surprise of no one, The Mandarin sends his hired goons over to knock on Tony's door with some air-to-ground missles launched from several attack helicopters.

As large chunks of Tony's home crumble spectacularly down a cliff into the Pacific Ocean, we begin to see how overwhelmed he truly is.  He passes out from the battle, but his pre-programmed armor rockets him off to rural Tennessee and he crash-lands, stranded during the winter with his armor in pieces and without power.  At this point, we see Black's main goal as a storyteller, to strip away Tony's technology and explore the man inside the can.  Physically exhausted and suffering from anxiety attacks, this is Tony at his most desperate since he was held captive by the Ten Rings in an Afghanistan cave in the first film.

Black also seems to be fond of walking into someone's house and abruptly kicking their dining table over just to see what happens next.  Characters you think are good do unexpected heel turns and random things just happen to send events in a completely different direction.  This sort of unpredictablility is good for the most part, keeping things moving, but the overall chaotic nature of the script results in a series of jumbled sequences instead of a smooth, flowing film.

One particular highlight however, is the mid-air assault on Air Force One that features seventeen people falling helplessly without parachutes.  Lacking the speed and strength of Superman to rescue these people with no problem, Iron Man is forced to grab them one by one and build a "chain of monkeys."  It's a fantastic action sequence, perfectly shot, until all at once, Iron Man flies across a nearby bridge and is hit by a speeding truck.  See what I mean by random?

With the help of a his best bud Rhodey and a kid named Harley, Tony battles his way back literally piece by piece as you would expect.  He uncovers the true nature of The Mandarin, grinding the movie to an embarrassing standstill and pissing off a number of comics fans in the process.  As the focus shifts to Tony's real threat, everything builds to a final showdown atop a Roxxon Oil platform with Black throwing everything at the screen no matter what.  Dozens of Iron Man armors controlled by J.A.R.V.I.S. battle dozens of orange glowing henchmen powered by Extremis, while Rhodey rescues President Ellis (Yeah, a Warren Ellis shout-out) and Tony faces The Real Mandarin.  And then out of nowhere, Pepper saves the day instead of Tony.  Because.

The movies closing scenes are perhaps the most interesting for Iron Man fans.  Everything is tidied up neatly and all the debris is swept away, as if emptying the house for the next family to move in.  With his multi-film contract with Marvel ended, there's no telling for certain if Robert Downey, Jr. will appear in The Avengers 2 in 2015, let alone an Iron Man 4 in 2016.  (Okay, he's probably doing The Avengers 2, but still...)  One thing we do know?  According to the very end of the credits, Tony Stark will return.  Just like James Bond.

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

IRON MAN/TONY STARK -- The role of Tony Stark fits Robert Downey, Jr. like a year-old pair of blue jeans by now, so it would be so easy to phone things in.  Thankfully, Downey continues to refuse, showcasing the character's fragile emotional state and bantering with everyone he encounters along the way.  If this is indeed Downey's last outing as Tony Stark, which I highly doubt, he certainly gave his all once again.

VIRGINIA "PEPPER" POTTS -- Usually relegated to watching Iron Man getting pounded by a supervillain and screaming "TONNNNYYYY!!!", Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper gets do this once again...and finally some other things as well.  For a brief time, we get to see her inside a suit of Iron Man armor, possibly hinting as her future as the superheroine Rescue.  And then at the very end, we get an Extremis-charged Pepper taking out the bad guy only to be cured later on by Tony...somehow.

IRON PATRIOT/JAMES "RHODEY" RHODES -- As the rebranded and repainted War Machine, Don Cheadle is something of a non-presence for the film's first two acts and only gets to cut loose in the third.  He looks considerably fitter than he was in Iron Man 2 and throws himself in the military role when Rhodey and Tony storm the Roxxon Oil platform.

THE MANDARIN/TREVOR SLATTERY -- Sir Ben Kingsley starts off so good in this movie as The Mandarin.  He gives the character a truly menacing Osama bin Laden feel, speaking with a deep, unsettling voice that makes you think that yes, YES, it was totally worth waiting until the third movie to finally see Iron Man taking on his arch-nemesis.  And then the unthinkable happens...

ALDRICH KILLIAN -- The evolution of Guy Pearce's Killian in this movie makes me wonder if it should've been called Iron Man 3: Revenge of the Nerd instead.  Because that's basically what this movie is -- dorky, awkward Killian being snubbed Tony Stark on New Year's Eve 1999 and then showing up fourteen years later as Mr. Smooth Supervillain.  Of course, if Black and Drew Pearce had stuck to the comics source material, Killian would've shot himself dead within the movie's first ten minutes.

DR. MAYA HANSEN -- Another significant deviation from the original comics, Maya Hansen is still the scientist behind Extremis but in this version, she doesn't help Tony adapt it as an upgrade to integrate his body with Iron Man tech.  Rebecca Hall has considerable screen presence that almost makes you wonder if Pepper could be sidelined as Tony's love interest until a heel turn blows that idea completely out of the water.

HARLEY KEENER -- Ty Simpkins could've easily been the Annoying Kid Character as Harley.  As soon as I read an early plot synopsis, I was dreading the scenes of Tony forced to rely on a kid for help, but Simpkins' interaction with Downey plays so well that it works.  Tony and the audience both see Harley as a young Tony Stark, which seems to give Tony an "inner child" to help him work things out.

HAPPY HOGAN -- Despite not directing the third film, Jon Favreau thankfully returns in his acting role as Happy.  In his best scenes since "teaming up" with Black Widow in Iron Man 2, Happy gets to be a significant plot point early on with his suspicion of Killian and there's even a fun flashback of him wearing a mullet.  Best of all though, you find out that's he's a Downton Abbey fan.

HO YINSEN -- Shaun Toub has a brief scene during the New Year's 1999 flashback where we finally see him encountering Tony Stark years before saving his life in the Afghanistan cave.  A fun Easter egg for Iron Man fans.

OBLIGATORY STAN LEE CAMEO -- Stan "The Man" has a "blink and you miss him" cameo as a beauty pageant judge during the scenes in Tennessee.  So now you know, True Believers.

DR. BRUCE BANNER -- Continuing the tradition of post-credits Avengers tie-in scenes, we learn that the person that Tony has been relating his story to at the beginning and ending of the movie is none other than Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner.  It's a fun appearance, but doesn't exactly hint that Thanos is coming.

All in all, Iron Man 3 isn't as good as I had hoped but was at least an improvement over the second film.  There are a number of things to love about this movie and some incredible action sequences worthy of the screenwriter of Lethal Weapon.  Unfortunately, there's a bit too much emphasis on humor and the "What a twist!" revelation of The Mandarin is such a disappointing waste of one of Marvel's biggest bads.  If Tony Stark does end up going the James Bond "new actor as the same character" route, let's hope we go from Sean Connery straight to Daniel Craig instead of Roger Moore.

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. Iron Man (2008)
9. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
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. Iron Man 3 (2013)
16. Batman (1989)
17. Superman II (1981)
18. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
19. Iron Man 2 (2010)
20. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer,

Charles

Thursday, May 2, 2013

SCOOBY-DOO Enters the World of TWIN PEAKS


Those Scooby Snacks you like are going to come back in style.

In a touch of brilliance, the Cartoon Network animated series Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated featured a dream sequence set in none other than the Red Room from the surreal ABC television series Twin Peaks by David Lynch and Mark Frost.

The episode "Stand and Deliver," written by Caroline Farah, has a scene where the Mystery Incorporated gang is inside a library researching a villain called Dandy Highwayman.  Scooby falls asleep and has a strange dream similar to Dale Cooper's from Twin Peaks' third episode.  Entering a replica of the Red Room inside the Black Lodge, Scooby encounters the unsettling walls of red curtains, zig-zag floor patterns and Venus statues.

Best of all, he counters a familiar little man dancing to melodic music, voiced by Michael J. Anderson, who played The Man From Another Place on Twin Peaks.  "Welcome to the Sitting Room, Scooby-Doo," says the little man in the same "forwards/backwards" speech effect, which scares Scooby and snaps him out of his nightmare.

Scooby falls asleep again later on, returning to the Sitting Room.  "Scooby-Doo, your time has come," says the little man, gesturing to the curtains.  "She is here."  The curtains part to reveal a female dog named Nova (voiced by Amy Acker), whose body has been possessed by a spirit of the Anunnaki, interdimensional beings that visit the Earth every few thousand years.  The being possessing Nova mentions the Anunnaki arrive during an event called Niburu, when the barrier between their world and ours grows weak.  This references the Twin Peaks entrance to the Black Lodge called Glastonbury Grove, which can only be entered when Jupiter and Saturn meet.

If you'd like to see the two dream sequences, you can view them below thanks to YouTube user Gabriel Benedetti...


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

No Classic Doctors in DOCTOR WHO 50th Anniversary Special


"Oh, dear.  We are in trouble, aren't we...?"
-- The Second Doctor, DOCTOR WHO: "The Three Doctors"

Unless this is part of deliberate misdirection, the worst fears of Whovians across the globe may have just been realized.  Doctor Who TV reports that the newest issue of Doctor Who Magazine (Issue #460) confirms that no other previous Doctors besides David Tennant's Tenth Doctor will join Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special.  DWM features the following statement:
"Although David Tennant has returned to his role of the Tenth Doctor, the other old Doctors will not be taking part."
Fans have been increasingly concerned since word leaked earlier this month that Christopher Eccleston had decided to not return as the Ninth Doctor after meeting with showrunner Steven Moffat to discuss Moffat's plans for the 50th anniversary.  John Barrowman recently expressed his disappointment at not being asked to reprise his role as Captain Jack Harkness.

The Doctor Who TV article also cited a previous quote from Moffat concerning the special -- "It is important you don’t turn it into a fanfest. We can’t make this all about looking backwards.  It’s actually got to be the start of a new story."

DWM #460 also claims that production on the anniversary special is almost complete, with production on the 2013 Christmas Special and "possibly further episodes" beginning after Matt Smith finishes his work on the film How to Catch a Monster.  This comment opens the door for speculation on whether or not Smith will continue on after the 2013 Christmas Special.

On the upside however, Doctor Who fans can take some small comfort in knowing that Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann will reprise their roles as Doctors Four through Eight respectively in the 50th anniversary audio adventure "The Light at the End" from Big Finish that was announced back in January.