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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

DAMN Good Comics -- THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE #1

It's been far too long of a time, but welcome back to The Dreaming.

Neil Gaiman's 75-issue masterpiece The Sandman came to a close in 1996, leaving fans heartbroken but thoroughly satisified with the conclusion.  The dark fantasy series had brought critical acclaim to the world of comics, with The Sandman #19, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," earning the World Fantasy Award in 1991 for Best Short Fiction.  In 1993, the series became the flagship title for DC Comics' new VERTIGO imprint became a cult success that attracted a strong young female readership, many of whom never read comics before.

Gaiman returned to the world of The Sandman twice, once in 1999 with a novella called The Sandman: The Dream Hunters that was illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano and later adapted for comics by P. Craig Russell.  In 2003, Gaiman wrote a graphic novel, The Sandman: Endless Nights, that was broken up into seven chapters, one for each of the Endless with a different artist per chapter.  As great as these projects were, they weren't proper Sandman.  Not really.

But now, at long last, we have a new six-issue Sandman story titled Overture, which essentially serves as the prequel Before Sandman.  Some things are different, such as the cover price being two dollars more, with a glossy cover stock and a four-page foldout supposedly justifying the additional expense.  The truly important things remain, however, with Dave McKean providing one choice of covers, Todd Klein lettering the characters as only he can, and even Karen Berger's name listed as co-editor.

Gaiman finally reveals the tale of what happened before Dream, the Lord of Dreams, was captured in an occult ritual and held prisoner for seventy years as shown in the pages of Sandman #1.  In "Chapter One," longtime fans are reunited with old friends such as Dream's older siblings Destiny and Death, his support staff Lucien and Merv Pumpkinhead, and even his deadliest creation, The Corinthian.  Oh, and if that isn't enough, one of the Endless dies on page five, setting off a rather troublesome mystery.

And per Sandman tradition, there's a different artist for this new story arc.  J.H. Williams III, best known for his work on Batwoman and Promethea, feels like the perfect choice of a modern artist reintroducing The Sandman for a 2013 audience.  Williams is at the top of his game right now, with swirling, stylish layouts and innovative panel design.  One sequence has panel borders progressively catching fire, another has them arranged one panel per tooth within a mouth (or is that an eye?), and still another as pages within a book within the actual comic.

The true price for all this, of course, is that the limited series is bimonthly, meaning we have to endure two whole months before finding out what happens next.  But compared to the past seventeen years, two months should feel like tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

First X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Trailer Released


Well, we were promised a darker tone and it looks like we're getting it.

The first trailer to Bryan Singer's film X-Men: Days of Future Past, based on the classic Marvel Comics story by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, was released today, giving us a taste of what's in store for everyone's favorite mutants feared and hated by a world they have sworn to protect.

The fifth X-Men film (seventh if you count the two Wolverine spinoffs) opens with Patrick Stewart, reprising his role as Professor Charles Xavier, asking "What's the last thing you remember?"  Ian McKellan's Magento replies, "I had a glimpse into the past."

We see glimpses of a bearded Iceman with Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat and Anna Paquin returning as Rogue.  "You're going to have to do for me what I once did for you," continues Xavier.  "You need me as well...side by side to end this war, before it ever begins," remarks Magneto.

Fleeting images of four new mutants -- presumably X-Men -- are shown, including Omar Sy as Bishop, Adan Canto as Sunspot, Booboo Stewart as Warpath and Bingbing Fan as Blink.

However, instead of the older Kitty Pryde time-traveling into her younger self's body, the movie adaptation has Wolverine going back to the 1970s.  "So...I wake up in my younger body and then what?" asks Wolverine, sporting a touch of gray in his temples.  "Find me," replies Xavier, "convince me of all this."

"It's going to take the two of us," remarks Magneto.  "And where do I find you?" asks Wolverine.  Magneto replies, "With a different path, a darker path."

"Logan, I was a very different man," adds Xavier.  "Lead me.  Guide me.  Be patient with me."  "Patience isn't my strongest suit," counters Wolverine.

There are more fleeting images, including the younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender) aiming a gun at someone, a close-up of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique with a tear running down her face, the younger Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) blowing dust off the Cerebro helmet, a group of guys foolishly empyting their guns into younger Wolverine, Cerebro shattering all around the younger Xavier, President Richard Nixon, chaos at some Chinese demonstration involving the younger Magneto and Mystique, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) roaring at the camera, and a great look at Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinels.

"I don't want your suffering!" cries the younger Xavier.  "I don't want your future!"  And then interestingly, a shot of the two Xaviers facing one another.  "Please," begs the older Xavier to his younger self.  "We need you to hope again."

X-Men: Days of Future Past is slated to arrive in theaters on May 23, 2014.  If you'd like to view the trailer, you can check it out below thanks to YouTube user X-Men Movies...


Friday, October 25, 2013

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Casts Saffron Burrows as Victoria Hand


Is it almost H.A.M.M.E.R. time?

Latino Review claims that British actress Saffron Burrows has been cast as Agent Victoria Hand in a future episode of the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.DAs fans of Marvel Comics may know, Hand first appeared in 2008 as a S.H.I.E.L.D. accountant in Invincible Iron Man #8 and was a major character in the "Dark Reign" storyline running through various Marvel Universe titles.

Hand was appointed to the position of Deputy Director of H.A.M.M.E.R. by Norman Osborn after he assumed control of S.H.I.E.L.D., dismantled the spy organization and then replaced it.  As Osborn's second-in-command, Hand believed he would bring peace and order to the world and supported his agenda to subvert superheroes and replace them with supervillains he could control.  Later on, it turned out that Hand was actually a triple agent, pretending to work for Captain America while pretending to work for Osborn while actually working for Captain America, to help set a trap for Osborn.  She was eventually killed by Brother Voodoo's brother Daniel during a revenge assault on the New Avengers.

Burrows, now 41, is probably best known as Lorraine Weller on the ABC series Boston Legal and Detective Serena Stevens on NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent.  She also appeared as Andromache in the 2004 movie Troy.  In addition, the actress is openly bisexual but it's not known if this was a factor in casting her as Victoria Hand, who was revealed in the comics as a lesbian.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs on ABC at 8 p.m. EST on Tuesdays.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

DAMN Good Comics -- VELVET #1

The name is Templeton, Velvet Templeton.

For any comics fans living in a cave without wi-fi for the better part of the last decade, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting arguably crafted the definitive Captain America run from 2004 to 2012, breathing new life into the Marvel superhero with a healthy amount of espionage style twists and adventures.  And now, Brubaker and Epting have reunited for Velvet, a new espionage series from Image Comics that looks to be even better.

The first issue, "Before the Living End," opens in 1973 Paris with Jefferson Keller, a British secret agent for ARC-7, which according to the cover, stands for Allied Reconnaissance Commission 7.  Keller, codenamed X-14 (possibly because he's twice the agent OO7 is), resembles your typical dark-haired superspy in a tuxedo that looks and acts every bit of James Bond.  One problem, though -- He's assassinated within the first four pages.

Surprise, the series' central protagonist isn't Keller after all, but Velvet Templeton, the personal secretary to ARC-7's Lieutenant Director.  Velvet is no mere secretary along the lines of Miss Moneypenny, however, but a more than capable agent who was able to have affairs with a number of X-operatives without any of them being aware of the others.  And since Keller was one of those affairs, she takes it upon herself to investigate his death, starting us off on what promises to be an engaging tale of shadows and secrets.

Ever since the nineties on Marvel's The Avengers, Epting has steadily grown as an artist.  His work has evolved so much over the years, from DC's Aquaman to Crux and El Cazador for CrossGen, and eventually onto Captain America, Fantastic Four and New Avengers for Marvel.  Together with his Captain America colorist Elizabeth "Bettie" Breitweiser, Epting gives Velvet the perfect look and tone to complement Brubaker's vision.

And with the series' 1973 setting (think Live and Let Die, which was released in the same year), Velvet is able to avoid the traditional early Cold War stereotypes without getting sucked into modern technological intel storytelling.  As long as Brubaker and Epting maintain the level of intensity, and there's no reason why they shoudn't, this looks to become a spectacular series.  As of fan of comics and spy fiction, Velvet is the espionage series I've been wanting to read for years.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ARROW Casts FIREFLY's Sean Maher as Shrapnel


So how long before Shrapnel shares scenes with Isabel Rochev?

The Hollywood Reporter announced today that former Firefly/Serenity actor Sean Maher has been cast as Shrapnel for the CW series Arrow.  The DC Comics supervillain will make his first appearance in Episode 10, "Blast Radius," described in the article as "a serial bomber who places Starling City in a grip of terror and threatens the life of Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro)."

Shrapnel made his first appearance in Doom Patrol (vol.2) #7 in 1988 and was created by Paul Kupperberg and Erik Larsen.  Little is known about the character, apart from that his real identity is Mark Scheffer and that he used to be a normal human with an ex-wife and two daughters before becoming a being made of organic metal pieces that can be projected outward in explosive bursts.

Maher, now 38, is the second Firefly actor to join Arrow, after Summer Glau debuted earlier in the show's second season as the recurring character Isabel Rochev.  He recently appeared in the short-lived NBC series The Playboy Club and performed the role of Don John in Joss Whedon's film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Shrapnel is the latest in a series of DC Universe characters to be adapted this season for the series, including Black Canary, The Flash, Brother Blood, Bronze Tiger, Amanda Waller, Sin and Professor Ivo.  Of course, with the character's comic book appearance requiring considerable makeup and/or CGI to pull off a decent live-action version, it seems likely there will be some changes to the character's depiction on television.

I don't suppose an appearance by Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan is in the works as well...?


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SHERLOCK Series 3 Spoilers on Holmes' Return


As the world continues to wait and wait for Series 3 of the BBC crime drama Sherlock (premiere date in the U.S. is January 19, 2014), Sherlockians and Cumberbitches are eagerly anticipating the return of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson.

The Latin Times has posted a rundown of several spoilers for the upcoming season, which will include the episodes "The Empty Hearse" written by Mark Gatiss, "The Sign of Three" by Stephen Thompson, and "His Last Vow" by Steven Moffat.

First and foremost, there's the pesky matter of Sherlock's faked death to resolve.  When last we left Holmes and Watson at the end of "The Reichenbach Fall," Sherlock was seen throwing himself off St. Bartholomew's Hospital, but the last scene showed Sherlock alive and well.  "How did he survive the fall?" inquired Freeman.  "All the clues were on screen.  It's not going to be a cheat -- Everything that we saw on that final episode offers hints as to how he did it."  Viewers saw Sherlock asking pathology lab assistant Molly Hooper for help with something, hinting that she helped Sherlock fake his death.  "There really are only a few ways you can fall from a roof and survive," said Gatiss at the San Diego Comic Con.  "It's not black magic."

Sherlock, it turns out, has been hiding in plain sight.  "He actually has a line in [Series One finale] 'The Great Game,' which is 'The art of disguise is knowing how to hide in plain sight' and that was because, right from the start, I thought modern day Sherlock Holmes would not put putty noses on, he would basically be standing behind you now and you wouldn't know he was there," said Gatiss.  In the original short story "The Adventure of the Empty House" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock disguises himself as an elderly book collector so he can get into 221B Baker Street before revealing his true identity.  "I always found it a little unlikely that Dr. Watson's only reaction was to faint...as opposed to possibly a stream of terrible swear words," remarked Gatiss.

As for Holmes' archnemesis Jim Moriarty, he's back as well...but only as a corpse.  Fans have been wondering if Moriarty would've also faked his own death, but Moffat has turned down the notion of Moriarty being alive.  "He can't come back from that," said Moffat. "He shot himself in the face.  What more do you want?"

So that means Holmes will be in the market for a new archnemesis, who makes his debut in "His Last Vow."  The villain's name is Charles Augustus Magnussen (played by Dutch actor Lars Mikkelsen) and is presumably based on the character from the short story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton."  In the story, Milverton was "The king of blackmailers" and blackmails Lady Eva Blackwell, threatening her with a scandal that would end her marriage engagement.

However, it's not certain who will say "His Last Vow," because Dr. Watson will be getting married in Series 3 to Mary Moirstan (Amanda Abbington, Freeman's real-life girlfriend) and Sherlock will be his best man.  "Hot off the presses from 110 years ago, John does get married," joked Moffat. "We hoped that you wouldn't sneak ahead and read the books."  Remarked Abbington, "Working with Martin on Sherlock is really quite inspiring, 'cause he's so good at his job.  And he and [Benedict Cumberbatch] have this fantastic chemistry.  Coming into Sherlock, you have to up your game, 'cause they're so good together."

And perhaps the best news of all, there will be a Series Four...someday.  "All I know at the moment is I'm doing these three [episodes of the upcoming series] and another three," said Moffat.  "We had to inform the BBC that Martin and Benedict had commissioned a new series.  They signed themselves up.  They both announced that they were carrying on -- so that's good.  Benedict, at some red carpet event somewhere, said he was carrying on forever.  Martin, at another one, said, 'Yep, Series Four is happening.'  The BBC can do what they like.  They're massively powerful, don't provoke them!  But I assume that unless we've really screwed up Sherlock [Series Three] -- which we haven't -- it's a big success and it will carry on, so long as Benedict and Martin want to do it."


Monday, October 21, 2013

Tim Burton & Michael Keaton May Return for BEETLEJUICE 2


Is it finally showtime once again?

The Wrap confirmed rumors that director Tim Burton is officially in talks with Warner Bros. to return for a sequel to Beetlejuice, his supernatural comedy classic from 1988.  The Geffen Company, which produced the 1988 classic, will produce the sequel with Seth Grahame-Smith and David Katzenberg of KatzSmith Productions.  Grahame-Smith, who wrote the adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter produced by Burton, wrote the script for Warner Bros.

And yes, 62-year-old actor Michael Keaton is expected to reprise his role as The Ghost with the Most, although nothing is certain at this point.

Burton is currently in post-production on the film Big Eyes, a 2014 drama starring Amy Adams based on the life of painter Margaret Keane.  It was believed that his next project was going to be the 20th Century Fox fantasy film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ bestselling novel.  However, The Wrap claims that Burton hasn't decided what his next movie will be and even though it probably won't be Beetlejuice 2, it seems the sequel could end up on his schedule if talks go well.

After the creative and box office failure of Burton's 2012 movie version of Dark Shadows, it seems audiences are more than ready for Burton to part ways with actor Johnny Depp and a reunion with Michael Keaton may be just what the director needs.  His next film, Frankenweenie, was good enough to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Film, but it would be nice to see Burton recapture some of that magic once again in live-action.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Elon Musk Buys James Bond's Lotus Sub to Make It Real


Nobody does it better than James Bond...but Elon Musk is going to try.

The Lotus Esprit car submarine, famously used by Roger Moore in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, was discovered in a Long Island storage locker that was purchased for less than $100 in 1989.  The fully functioning underwater vehicle prop was auctioned in London last month and went for $968,000.

According to Jalopnik, the secret buyer was none other than Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of the Tesla electric car company and the SpaceX rocket maker, who is definitely not the inspiration for Tony Stark.  "It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater," said Musk in an email response to a query from USA Today.  "I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform.  What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real."

In the movie sequence which you can see HERE, Bond drives the Lotus Esprit sports car along a road when it is attacked by villainess Naomi (actress Caroline Munro) in a helicopter.  Despite concerns from Anya Amasova/KGB agent Triple X (Barbara Bach) in the passenger seat, Bond drives the car off a pier.  The car's wheels then retract, fins extend and the car becomes a submarine.  Bond then sails along, taking out the helicopter with a missile.

As for what happened to the Esprit after the film, the studio had kept it in paid storage for a decade, but a mysterious turn of events led to the storage locker's fee going unpaid and the vehicle being forgotten until, two years later in 1989, it was found collecting dust.  "It just fell through the cracks," said Doug Redenius, co-founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation.

An anonymous "blue collar" guy, as he described himself, came across the vehicle underneath a bunch of blankets in his storage locker.  He didn't recognize the Esprit at first, having never seen a Bond film and having bought the locker with no knowledge of what was inside.  But when other people pointed out the resemblance, he rented the film on VHS, though was unable to discover how exactly it ended up in his hands for less than $100.

Years later, the Ian Fleming Foundation authenticated the vehicle as the actual working submarine from the film with the help of its original builder, who happened to be a submersibles expert and former NAVY Seal.  Multiple versions of the Lotus were made, including road ones for the street shots and promotional models, but the Lotus Esprit found in the Long Island locker was in fact the only one capable of submerging, though it has no function as a road car and does not contain the ability to swap in wheels.

Apart from Musk's comment to USA Today, it's not certain how far he intends to take his conversion.  It's possible he could attempt to make it dry inside like a true submarine, like the Lotus in the movie, or make it so it continues to be driven only by those with scuba breathing gear.  Perhaps he already has Q in his cell phone contacts list...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Will ARROW's Black Canary Replace Laurel or Inspire Her?


Ever since actress Caity Lotz was announced as Arrow's version of DC Comics character Black Canary back in July, fans have been wondering what that means for the future of Katie Cassidy's character Laurel Lance.

In Season One, Dinah "Laurel" Lance was introduced as a legal aid attorney for the City Necessary Resources Initiative, or CNRI (Canary, get it?), and the ex-girlfriend of Oliver Queen.  Five years earlier, Oliver cheated on Laurel with her sister Sara, then took Sara along with him and his dad Robert aboard the Queen's Gambit yacht, only to have the ship go down, killing Sara and marooning Oliver on the island of Lian Yu.

Even though Laurel was an attorney, it was presumed she would eventually evolve as a character into her Black Canary persona, especially since she was shown with some self-defense kills taught to her by her father Quentin.  However, the on-screen chemistry between Oliver and Laurel has been somewhat lacking, and Lotz' casting as Black Canary created some understandable concerns about Laurel's future on the show.

Shortly after the casting, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg spoke with TV Guide and revealed that Black Canary would not be her comic book identity of Dinah Drake.  "The character that Caity is portraying is the beginning of the Black Canary story and we're really excited for the fans to go on the journey with us," said Kreisberg.  "So much of our show is about defying expectations, meeting expectations and exceeding expectations, and we really want our fans to experience the show by watching it and enjoying it and enjoying all the twists and turns and surprises the way we intend."

Kreisberg compared Black Canary's story to other characters the show has already introduced in unexpected ways.. "Everything about our show is about origins and evolution," he said.  "When we met Deathstroke, everyone automatically assumed it was Slade Wilson (
Manu Bennett) in the mask, but then we revealed we met Slade Wilson later.  With Tommy (Colin Donnell), we thought that that was Merlyn, but Tommy was really the beginning of the Merlyn story because we saw how it evolved to John Barrowman and beyond.  Oliver himself, when we first meet him, he's not the Green Arrow yet. The series itself is an evolution of this character."

Concerning Laurel's future, Kreisberg remarked, "Everyone knows that Laurel Lance is the Black Canary.  That's the way it is in the comic books, but how we get from A to B is the story of our show.  In the same way that Oliver, when we meet him, is the vigilante, but this season he's going to becoming the Arrow, that's the step of his journey to eventually becoming the Green Arrow.  Laurel Lance right now is a lawyer with a lot of heart and a lot of humanity and courage.  But it takes more than that to put on the mask and go out and fight crime.  Our series is the evolution of that.  People will see how Caity Lotz fits into Laurel's journey along the way.  For us, it's very emotional and surprising and exciting.  I would say to everybody, we haven't let you down so far.  Keep going on this ride with us."

A little while later, the Huffington Post apparently confirmed that Black Canary's true identity is actually (SPOILER WARNING) Laurel's sister Sara, somehow still alive after going down with the Queen's Gambit.  So if Black Canary is indeed Sara Lance, presumably there will be an interesting love triangle involving her, Oliver and Laurel.  In the comics, Green Arrow and Black Canary are ultimately destined to be together, but now the question becomes, which sister ends up as Black Canary whenever that happens?

In another recent interview with TV Guide, executive prodcer Marc Guggenheim was asked how Black Canary's introduction pushes Laurel in a new direction.  "You'll get your first glimpse of Black Canary in the premiere," said Guggenheim.  "Laurel needed a bit of a makeover.  Last year, as a result of her job at CNRI and her relationship with Tommy, it sometimes felt like she was in a different show.  One of our main goals this year was to really bring her into the fold in a way that made her an integral part of the stories we were telling.  Black Canary's appearance is going to coincide with Laurel really struggling with a great number of things.  We're throwing a lot of things at Laurel this year."

So if Laurel is now working as an assistant district attorney, her character is going to have to go through a lot to get to the point where she's dressing up in a superhero costume and fighting crime.  Does Sara die for realsies this time, inspiring Laurel to take up her sister's legacy as Black Canary?  Or does Laurel die, clearing the way for (Green) Arrow and Black Canary to become a couple?  Depending on Lotz' chemistry with star Stephen Amell, fans may end up wanting the latter.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Duchovny & Anderson Open to Third X-FILES Movie

Yes, I know, we can all feel old now. The X-Files turned twenty last month.

And while most of geekdom spent the past weekend at the New York Comic Con, stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reunited yesterday at the Paley Center for Media in New York for an X-Files 20th anniversary panel discussion.

The Associated Press had details of the event, which covered the Fox television series that aired nine seasons from 1993 to 2002, had two feature films (The X-Files: Fight the Future and The X-Files: I Want to Believe) and a shortly-lived spinoff series, The Lone GunmenCurrently, there is an official continuation in The X-Files: Season 10 comic book series from IDW Publishing.

The good news is that Duchovny, now 53, and Anderson, now 45, are both open to making a third X-Files movie and reprising their roles as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully"All the principals are on board," said Duchovny, including X-Files creator Chris Carter.  "Gillian and I want to do it, so it's really up to Twentieth Century Fox at this point."

Anderson said if fans want another film, they need to get the word out to the movie studio.  "If it takes fan encouragement to get Fox interested in that, then I guess that's what it would be."  Unfortunately, Fox did not return an email from the AP to comment on a third film.


Asked about where their characters left off in the 2008 film I Want to Believe, the two actors seemed a little uncertain.  "Well, they (Mulder and Scully) were married the last movie," said Duchovny.

"Were we actually married?" asked Anderson.

"I believe so.  That was my impression."

Even though their characters became romantically involved in the TV series and were a couple during I Want to Believe, it wasn't stated whether they were married.


In another article on the panel discussion from the Wall Street Journal, Anderson and Duchovny said they met at The X-Files audition when she asked him to practice a scene with her.  Duchovny said only one other actor was considered for the role of Mulder, while Anderson said several, including Cynthia Nixon and Jill Hennessey, competed for her part of Scully.  She remembered that her second audition was on a Thursday and by Saturday, they were in Vancouver, British Columbia, to shoot the pilot episode.

Both actors gave praise to Carter, who remained active in the series for all nine seasons despite also overseeing other shows.  "He took so many risks in the scripts he wrote," remarked Anderson said.  "He’s a perfectionist — I think that comes across in the episodes."

And for anyone interested in lobbying 20th Century Fox for that third X-Files movie, there's a petition up at Change.org.  Let's get this movie made already, X-Philes!  The truth is still out there...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DOCTOR WHO: "The Enemy of the World" & "The Web of Fear" Returned!


Oh, my word!  Two missing Doctor Who stories from the Patrick Troughton era have been returned to the BBC Archive!

The BBC has officially confirmed that all six episodes of "The Enemy of the World" and five episodes of "The Web of Fear" from Doctor Who's fifth season in 1967 and 1968 were discovered in Nigeria.  They were found by Phillip Morris, director of Television International Enterprises Archive, in a television relay station in Jos, central Nigeria.  According to the article, Morris tracked records of shipments made by the BBC to Africa, that contained tapes for transmission.

"The tapes had been left gathering dust in a store room at a television relay station in Nigeria," said Morris.  "I remember wiping the dust off the masking tape on the canisters and my heart missed a beat as I saw the words 'Doctor Who.'  When I read the story code, I realized I’d found something pretty special."

Until now, only episode three of "The Enemy of the World" and episode one of "The Web of Fear" were found and released onto DVD as part of the Lost in Time DVD collection in 2004.  The stories are now being released digitally on iTunes but are expected to have DVD releases in the United States early in 2014.  The still-missing episode three of "The Web of Fear" has been reconstructed using still image "telesnaps" of the episode and the original audio soundtrack, which has been restored.
 

"The Enemy of the World" sees Troughton take on the dual-role of both the Doctor and his antagonist, Salamander, in a thrilling tale of spies, natural disasters and one man’s desire to control the whole world.  "The Web of Fear" introduces Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart (who later returns as the Brigadier) and sees the Doctor do battle with the Great Intelligence and the Yeti for the second time.

Fiona Eastwood, Director of Consumer Products, BBC Worldwide commented on the discovery.  "We are thrilled with the recent discovery of 'The Web of Fear' and 'The Enemy of the World' and we’re very happy to be working with iTunes on bringing remastered versions of these treasured episodes to fans as we celebrate the fiftieth year of Doctor Who."


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Six Suggestions to Salvage AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.


Okay, we're three episodes into ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and while it's been a pretty decent series so far, it still feels like something's missing.  Or something's a bit off.  Or perhaps something of a general "Trust me, it's not you, it's me" feeling.

The second episode of the much-hyped series lost roughly 1/3 of its 22 million viewers that tuned in for the pilot directed by Joss Whedon, meaning at least 30% didn't like what they saw enough to give it another shot.  Granted, some of those folks that bailed were possibly expecting Iron Man and Thor instead of a series centered around Agent Phil Coulson and a bunch of nonsuperpowered people dealing with strange events.

And don't get me wrong, there are a number of things to like about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Clark Gregg's dry and stoic line delivery as Coulson is a particular highlight every week, we've had fun cameos by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, and last night's episode "The Asset" gave us an actual supervillain origin in the form of Dr. Franklin Hall, a.k.a. Graviton.  But this doesn't feel like a proper S.H.I.E.L.D. series, not yet at least, so here are six suggestions of mine to help Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to get closer to where it needs to be:

1.  Regardless of the Whedon cliché, someone needs to die -- There are six main characters in this series and the stories so far only seem to require four at the most, namely Coulson, one badass, one tech geek, and someone to react in an unexpected way.  That renders at least two characters as nonessential/expendable, so killing one off shouldn't affect the overall dynamic and would give the other five more screen time.  A sudden character death would also raise the stakes, making the missions afterward more dramatic as the other characters' safety wouldn't feel so automatically certain.

2.  The whitebread cast needs more diversity -- Personally, I'm not a fan of diversity just for the sake of political correctness alone, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels whiter than the Republican National Convention, even with Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May.  I was hopeful when I saw Firefly's Ron Glass briefly appear in the pilot as a S.H.I.E.L.D. lab guy along with Angel's J. August Richards, but they haven't been seen since and I'm guessing Sam Jackson isn't up for a weekly TV series.  If nothing else, killing off one character (Grant Ward, preferably) would provide an opportunity to create a new African-American role.

3.  The Big Bad needs to step up quickly -- The tease of Graviton's return at the end of last night's episode seems to be a flashing "Eat At Joe's" neon sign that he's coming back but he'd better do it fast and he'd better do it in a big way.  Apart from setting up Graviton, the team missions so far seem purely random events without any sense of a looming menace in the shadows adding to the overall drama.  Without a Big Bad to focus their operations on, this S.H.I.E.L.D. team is essentially Torchwood, right down to being a "secret" organization that has their logo plastered on the sides of their vehicles. 

4.  Honor the original source material -- While it's great seeing Nick Fury and Maria Hill cameos to connect the series to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are a ton of S.H.I.E.L.D. characters from various comics that could (and should) be brought in for the occasional episode.  Abigail Brand (Head of S.W.O.R.D.), Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Nick Fury's fellow agent/love interest), Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Daisy Johnson (Fury's assistant Quake from Secret Warriors), Gabe Jones, Clay Quartermain, Jasper Sitwell, Jimmy Woo and others would be wonderful nods to the comics and could add a lot to the TV series mythos.  At least we finally got to see a classic flying car in the form of Lola...

5.  Embrace the strange -- One of the better criticisms that definitely S.H.I.E.L.D. artist Jim Steranko nailed in his review for the Hollywood Reporter was that the series needs to be "much tougher, much stranger, much edgier to reach its potential."  Strange X-Files story plots are a start, but you can't rely on just those to make this series stand out from NCIS.  Where are the agents diving off tall buildings or jumping out of The Bus in S.H.I.E.L.D. glider suits?  The agents with telepathic abilities?  The LMDs/Life Model Decoys?  Well, I suppose we might already have at least one LMD in play...because Tahiti is a magical place.

6.  Opening credits would be nice -- So let me guess this straight...You hire Bear McCreary, the guy who made his name with the recent Battlestar Galactica series and The Walking Dead, as your music composer and you don't let him have a theme for an opening credits sequence?  If nothing else, use the opportunity to set the tone while introducing your actors and their characters so new viewers can get a quick handle on them.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Two Missing DOCTOR WHO Episodes Found...with More to Follow?


Oh, my giddy aunt...The rumors were true!  Well, at least to some point.

For the past year, various websites have been posting unsubstantiated rumors of a huge treasure trove of missing Doctor Who episodes, known in some circles as the Omnirumor, only to have them denied and scoffed at by the BBC.  The skepticism by Whovians was perfectly understandable, considering that several years would go by before one or two would be recovered, but a large stash?  Sadly inconceivable.

Well, in possibly the biggest 50th anniversary present that longtime Doctor Who fans could ever dream of, the Radio Times announced today that not only have two episodes, "both believed to be from the Patrick Troughton era," have been recovered, they will be made available for purchase digitally on platforms such as iTunes starting Wednesday.

According to the article, the episodes are believed to originate from a haul discovered in Africa and have been digitally remastered for sale, but specific details about the episodes were not made available.  Officially, a BBC Worldwide spokesman refused to confirm the discovery or speculation concerning additionaly missing episodes.  Other episodes have also been found, but there's no information yet when those will be made available.

The Mirror now reports that BBC Worldwide has called a press conference for Tuesday in a London hotel, and journalists will be informed specifically which old episodes have been recovered and shown some of the previously missing footage.

They quoted a senior BBC source, who said, "There will be big news this Tuesday regarding lost Doctor Who episodes.  It is great that in the show’s fiftieth year, fans will now be able to look back with classic episodes as well as looking to the future with the new film-length episode ["The Day of the Doctor"] in November.  For some fans watching their lost episodes will be like going back in time."

To be continued.  Cue the Doctor Who cliffhanger sting music...


Friday, October 4, 2013

Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch Cast for THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON


In the immortal words of Stan Lee, the old order changeth!

Two days ago, Avengers actor Samuel L. Jackson spoke with The Wall Street Journal about The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the 2015 sequel by Joss Whedon to last summer's Marvel superhero blockbuster The Avengers.  In the article, Jackson apparently confirms that actress Elizabeth Olsen has been cast as Wanda Maximoff, the mutant Avenger known as the Scarlet Witch.

"I don’t think we begin shooting before March of next year," said Jackson.  "I know we’re shooting in London, that James Spader is Ultron and going to be the bad guy, and that we added Ms. [Elizabeth] Olsen [as the Scarlet Witch], but I don’t know what she’s doing, if she’s on the inside or the outside.  I haven’t seen a script."


Meanwhile, Latino Review posted an article yesterday claiming that Kick-Ass star Aaron Taylor-Johnson has been confirmed as Pietro Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch's brother Quicksilver.  They also quoted a Total Film article from August in which Taylor-Johnson discusses the character.

"There's years -- over fifty years -- of backstory on him all there to use, and I like doing that. Him and his sister [Scarlet Witch] have been abandoned by their parents and their father, and they grew up in Eastern Europe defending and looking out for themselves and each other.  His sister really is his guidance.  Emotionally she's the one who looks after him, and vice versa.  He's very overprotective physically.  He doesn't want anyone touching her.  He has real anger frustration.  I like that.  I always thought it'd be quite funny if you saw him eating loads and people asked him why and he'd explain it's because he's burning so much energy all the time.  Or ideas that you'd see him come back round, but he's already nipped out and got his lunch somewhere else.  He just got bored.  His attention span is so fucking quick."

On the subject of his depiction of Quicksilver, Taylor-Johnson added, "That's what we're in talks about really, right now -- how I could become that character and not feel forced.  I might not look right with white hair, and the accent may be wrong...It just doesn't work like that."

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is slated for release in theaters on May 1, 2015.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

ARROW Season 2 Spoilers Including Barry Allen


As the CW series Arrow enters its second season, the strict "no superpowers" rule has been abandoned with the addition of Grant Gustin as DC Comics character Barry Allen, destined to become the superhero known as The Flash.

TVLine has offered up some spoilers for Arrow's sophomore year, including new details on Barry's depiction and how he interacts with Team Arrow.  "He has a very easy relationship with Felicity [Smoak], because Barry’s a forensic scientist," said executive producer Andrew Kreisberg during TVLine’s visit to the show's Vancouver set.  "He’s young and a little socially awkward, like she is, so there’s a lot of fun with that."

Barry is described in the article as "a bit of a fanboy" when it comes to Oliver Queen's alter ego The Hood, even though the two characters are very different.  "He comes to Starling City," said Kreisberg, "and he says to [Felicity], ‘I heard the vigilante saved you.  What’s he like?’"  Barry's time in Starling City is "definitely going to have an impact…because he’s seen that it’s possible to put on a mask and change the world."

"For Barry, it’s one of those things where it’s like, 'Be careful what you wish for,'" added Kreisberg.  "In the [DC] comics themselves, Barry was a fan.  If you look at Justice League, you have Superman and Aquaman and Wonder Woman…then you’ve got Barry Allen, who’s just a guy."  As a regular guy, Barry "appeals so much to [executive producer] Greg [Berlanti], [writer] Geoff [Johns] and me, and it’s also why it’s a really good fit in the world of Arrow.  While we’re introducing fantastical concepts to things, we also want to try to keep the show grounded and as realistic as possible."

As realistic as someone able to run a thousand miles an hour gets, one presumes.

Some other tidbits of note from the article:

The season premiere has Felicity and John Diggle traveling to the island of Lian Yu to find Oliver, who has gone missing.  When they get there, "They’re completely astounded and overwhelmed with the fact that Oliver spent five years there and decided to go back," said Emily Bett Rickards, who plays Felicity.  "What kind of psychological state are you in that you go back to the worst time of your life where you became this killer?  We end up trying to get a ‘lost ‘Oliver found."

The relationship between Oliver and Felicity will be changing somewhat.  "I definitely think that Oliver is changing his idea of who Felicity is and what she is capable of, because she’s proving herself over and over again," said star Stephen Amell.  "We go to the island to save him," added Rickards.  "And yes, that’s ‘I’m here for you.  We’re you’re friends.  You’re not alone,’ but it just has to be so much more than that because there's chemistry between them."

Oliver's sister Thea is "better off than most at the beginning of the season," as the new manager the Verdant nightclub, but her relationships with her mother Moira and boyfriend Roy Harper will continue to be “rollercoaster rides."  Roy ends up annoying Oliver, who is "dismayed to discover that Roy Harper is hellbent on being his ally, whether he wants him to be or not," said Kreisberg.

Summer Glau’s businesswoman character, Isabel Rochev, is more of an adversary than a villain, with a very negative view of Oliver and "is not interested in working with him at all to save Queen Consolidated," said Amell.  "That dynamic is interesting because I'm a lot more intelligent than I necessarily let on as Oliver."

Arrow returns to the CW on Wednesday, October 9th.