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Saturday, November 30, 2013

SHERLOCK Series 3 UK Air Date Revealed in a Hearse


Too subtle?

While Americans were busy getting into fights at Walmart on Black Friday, Londoners were treated to something a little less violent but still somewhat gruesome yesterday.  According to the Express, the long-awaited transmission date for Series 3 of the BBC series Sherlock was revealed in a the back of a black hearse that was driven around London.

As a promotional stunt arranged by the BBC, the empty hearse (pay attention to that, it's important) was pictured with a floral tribute that spelled out "Sherlock 01 01 14," meaning Series 3 premieres in the U.K. on January 1, 2014.  In addition, there was a sign in the driver's window that read #SherlockLives, directing fans to use the hashtag on Twitter to follow and promote the series.

Episode one of Series 3, "The Empty Hearse," is written by Mark Gatiss and is based loosely on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story "The Adventure of the Empty House."  Episode two, "The Sign of Three," will air on January 5th and episode three, "His Last Vow," will air a week later on January 12th.

The publicity stunt was first hinted at the night before when Sherlock producer Sue Vertue posted the message "Keep your eyes peeled in the morning rush hour and pay your respects."  According to the article, the hearse was noticed outside the hospital of Sherlock's apparent demise on Gower Street at 9:30 a.m. yesterday morning.  At the end of Series 2 in "The Reichenbach Fall," Sherlock Holmes appears to hurl himself from the roof of St. Bartholomew's Hospital and is believed dead in an apparent suicide, only to be shown alive -- somehow -- at the end of the episode.

A short, 30-second teaser trailer for Series 3 was released last week that also promoted the #SherlockLives hashtag.  You can view it below thanks to the BBC's official YouTube channel.



Sherlock premieres in the U.S. on January 19, 2014 at 10 p.m. EST on PBS, provided you haven't found alternative means to watch the U.K. version beforehand.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Eminem Channels Max Headroom in "Rap God" Video


Max Headroom fans, get ready to jump twenty minutes into the future again...

Rap music star Eminem, a.k.a. Marshall Mathers, once again shows his love of classic pop culture in his just-released video for "Rap God," the third single from his eighth studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2The song debuted at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the album has already sold at least one million copies within three weeks of release.

For those of you who aren't geezers that grew up in the eighties, Max Headroom is a fictional character portrayed by actor Matt Frewer as a stuttering artificial intelligence billed as "The world's first computer-generated TV host."  Max first appeared in a 1985 British cyberpunk TV movie called Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into The Future and was soon given his own music video program, The Max Headroom ShowThe character became a cult hit, even earning a science fiction drama series on ABC, called simply Max Headroom, that lasted for two seasons.

Max Headroom became a significant pop culture icon of the '80s, appearing with the band Art of Noise in the song "Paranoimia," as a television spokesman for New Coke, on the children's program Sesame Street and even at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Also, as he often does in his song lyrics, Eminem uses comic book references in "Rap God," by name-checking Superman villain General Zod, Superman's birth planet Krypton, Thor's realm of Asgard and even The Walking Dead.

Kneel before General Zod, this planet's Krypton...No, Asgard, Asgard

So you be Thor and I'll be Odin, you rodent, I'm omnipotent
Let off then I'm reloading immediately with these bombs I'm totin'
And I should not be woken
I'm the walking dead, but I'm just a talking head, a zombie floating


If you'd like to check out the video, you can view it below thanks to EminemVEVO on YouTube...


Saturday, November 23, 2013

DAMN Good Television -- DOCTOR WHO: "The Day of the Doctor"


"Let me get this straight. A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?"
-- Ian Chesterton (William Russell), DOCTOR WHO: "An Unearthly Child"

Exactly fifty years ago today, the world of science fiction was forever changed when a British television series called Doctor Who premiered on November 23, 1963, one day after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.  In the first episode, "An Unearthly Child," two teachers named Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright become concerned about Susan Foreman, a very mysterious student of theirs.  Following Susan to her home at 76 Totter's Lane in Shoreditch, London, they discover it's actually a junkyard belonging to someone called "I.M. Foreman."  The schoolteachers hear Susan's voice inside, coming from a strange British police box and are confronted by Susan's grandfather, a brusque, suspicious man known only as The Doctor, who tries to dismiss them away.  Forcing their way past the old man, Ian and Barbara step through the police box doors, only to find that it's considerably bigger on the inside with a futuristic design and a central hexagonical control console.  And from there, the rest is history...or the future, take your pick.

Fifty years later -- or just a couple of minutes, depending on how you travel -- Doctor Who is the world's longest-running science fiction series after 26 seasons from 1963 to 1989, a TV movie in 1996, and then another seven seasons and assorted specials since the show's return in 2005.  After eleven Doctors, umpteen companions and a whole lot of running, the series celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with "The Day of the Doctor," a special written by current showrunner Steven Moffat.

Obviously, hardcore Whovians would love to see a sprawling epic, filled with all eleven Doctors and each of their companions squared off against a grand alliance of Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Omega and any number of Masters.  However, the practicality of pulling that off with the first three Doctors sadly no longer with us, the next four considerably older than their respective eras as the Doctor and Christopher Eccleston declining to reprise his role as the Ninth Doctor made that pretty much impossible.

So Moffat decided to introduce a Ninth Doctor replacement in the form of John Hurt, playing a previously unrevealed incarnation known as the War Doctor.  In the six-minute prequel "The Night of the Doctor," we learn that Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor regenerates into the War Doctor (with the help of the Sisterhood of Karn) and chooses to become a warrior in order to put an end to the Time War between Gallifrey and the Daleks.

After a lovely nod to the opening of "An Unearthly Child," the very first Doctor Who episode, the special begins Clara teaching at the Coal Hill School, the very same school that the Doctor's granddaughter Susan attended.  Old-school monsters the Zygons make their long-awaited return to Doctor Who after 37 years in 1562 Elizabethan England, in connection with a mysterious three-dimensional painting from Gallifrey turning up in London's National Gallery in 2013.  The Eleventh Doctor and his companion Clara Oswald are literally brought in by UNIT are the Brigadier's daughter Kate Stewart to investigate, ultimately leading to the Eleventh Doctor joining up with his previous incarnation, played once again by David Tennant.  Meanwhile, the War Doctor is confronted by a sentient interface calling itself the Bad Wolf, which has taken on the form of Ninth Doctor companion Rose Tyler just as the War Doctor is about to activate the weapon that will destroy Gallifrey in the process of wiping out the Daleks once and for all.  (Yeah, right.)

Moffat can't help but indulge in some fan-pleasing banter between the three Doctors, each of them taking playful jabs at one another's clothes, appearance, etc. while reminding everyone around them that they're the exact same Time Lord.  There are sly nods to the past, a repeated line of dialogue here, pictures of former companions there, but nothing intrusive to the actual story.  We also get to see the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS interior once again, while the War Doctor's TARDIS features classic roundel wall design that Ten and Eleven can't help but geek out over.

But ultimately, we figure out that "The Day of the Doctor" is actually Moffat's attempt to resolve the rather disturbing issue of The Doctor sacrificing his home planet and his people to end the Time War.  The three Doctors realize that even their own timeline can be rewritten, sending them off in their own TARDISes to save the day, but to surprise of Whovians around the world, they're joined by the other Doctors in their TARDISes...even Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor, who hasn't debuted yet!  The thirteen Doctors shunt Gallifrey off at the moment of its destruction, preserving the web of time and keeping the Doctor's personal timeline intact.  Gallifrey falls...no more.

So where has Gallifrey gone?  Well, that's a pretty interesting question, one posed by none other than Tom Baker himself in an absolutely lovely cameo as a future Doctor wearing one of his former faces, now seemingly in retirement as a National Gallery curator.  The Eleventh Doctor (or is that Twelfth now?) finds new purpose, to search for Gallifrey wherever it may be, although it seems likely his next incarnation, and perhaps others down the line, will have to do the heavy lifting.

Although a bit shaky at first, "The Day of the Doctor" ends up producing tears of joy for everyone who loves Doctor Who and after all the criticism Steven Moffat gets online, he can feel vindicated that he didn't screw up the most important anniversary story ever.  And now we wait for Christmas, the final episode with Matt Smith's Doctor.  Silence, please...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Affleck & Damon Producing Film of DC Comics' SLEEPER


And the race to adapt every comics property for film and television continues.

Variety has announced that Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Jennifer Todd are producing an film adaptation of the superb DC Comics/Wildstorm series Sleeper for Warner Bros.  According to the article, their production company Pearl Street Films has a first-look deal with the studio, which has brought in Shawn Ryan and David Wiener to write the adaptation.

Written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Sean Phillips, Sleeper was a series that ran for two "seasons" of twelve issues each from 2003-05.  Set in the Wildstorm Universe imprint under DC Comics, the series centered around Holden Carver, a morally ambiguous character also known as The Conductor, who had the ability to absorb pain and trauma and release it onto others when touched.  Under the direction of a man named John Lynch, Carver is placed undercover inside the criminal organization run by a supervillain known as TAO.  However, Carver begins playing both sides against one another in the hopes of freeing himself from the situation and be with Miss Misery, one of TAO's lieutenants.

Ryan is best known as the creator and showrunner of The Shield, a drama series for FX that focused on police corruption.  Wiener worked with Ryan on the ABC series Last Resort, which Ryan co-created, and also on season two of The Killing.

The project has been in the works since 2008, when Spider-Man director Sam Raimi and John Donen were producing through their company, Stars Road Entertainment.  Tom Cruise was reportedly interested in the role of Holden Carver, but was not formally attached.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

ARROW Casts Katrina Law as Ra's al Ghul's OTHER Daughter


That's right, not Talia.  The other one.

TV Guide revealed that Spartacus actress Katrina Law has been cast as Nyssa al Ghul in an upcoming episode of the CW series Arrow.  According to the article, Nyssa is "a powerful member of the League of Assassins, who comes to Starling City in pursuit of The Canary."

Nyssa will make her debut in Episode 13 of this season, which is titled "Heir of the Demon" and will probably air in early 2014.  Law is the third person from Spartacus to appear on Arrow, after series regular Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke and guest-star Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Amanda Waller.

The character, created by Greg Rucka and Klaus Janson, first appeared in 2003's Detective Comics #783 as Nyssa Raatko.  In the limited series Batman: Death and the Maidens, comics fans learned that Batman villain Ra's al Ghul had another child out of wedlock during his time in Russia during the 19th century, making her the half-sister of his first daughter Talia al Ghul.  Nyssa was later killed off in 2006's Robin #148, when her car suddenly explodes and her death was confirmed by Lady Shiva in the following issue.

With Marion Cotillard appearing as Talia in the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises, introducing Nyssa seems a clever way to feature Ra's al Ghul story elements on Arrow without showing Ra's and Talia, who may be restricted from being used elsewhere by Warner Brothers.  However, rumors persist that Summer Glau's character Isabel Rochev is actually Talia, so perhaps the rights aren't that restricted...

Arrow airs on The CW on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST.

Monday, November 18, 2013

CW's THE FLASH Now Standalone Pilot Separate from ARROW


You know that upcoming Episode 20 of this season's Arrow featuring The Flash many of us we're looking forward to watching?  Looks like there's been a slight change of plans...possibly for the better.

Deadline announced today that the CW has decided to decided to do a proper standalone pilot for The Flash instead of using Episode 20 as a backdoor pilot for the proposed spinoff series.  According to the article, the CW suits made the call after seeing Episodes 8 and 9, titled "The Scientist" and "Three Ghosts" and were written by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.  Here's the official synopsis for "The Scientist":

BARRY ALLEN COMES TO STARLING CITY — A seemingly impossible robbery at Queen Consolidated’s Applied Sciences Division brings Central City police scientist Barry Allen (guest star Grant Gustin) to town. Citing a similar case back home, Barry offers to help Oliver (Stephen Amell) and team with the investigation. Oliver senses there is more to Barry than meets the eye, but he’s distracted by the similarities between this current case and something that happened on the island. Meanwhile, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) takes a liking to Barry, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Oliver. Sin (guest star Bex Taylor-Klaus) asks Roy (Colton Haynes) for help when a friend of hers goes missing. Roy is surprised when Thea (Willa Holland) not only encourages him to help, but joins the search. Unfortunately, Sin’s friend is connected to Brother Blood (guest star Kevin Alejandro), and their search ultimately gets one of them seriously injured. Michael Schultz directed the episode with story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kresiberg and teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns (#208).

The two episodes, which introduce Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and serve as an origin story, were apparently "very well-received."  Episode 20 was going to have Barry debut as The Flash, in a red costume, but he will now debut in the Flash pilot.  The planned creative team will remain the same -- Berlanti, Kreisberg and Johns writing the pilot with Arrow pilot director David Nutter directing.  Berlanti, Kreisberg and Nutter will executive produce the pilot, with Melissa Kellner Berman co-executive producing.  And while not a full spinoff from Arrow, The Flash will remain in a shared TV DC Universe, meaning potential crossover episodes.

As for what's going to feature in the replacement Episode 20, that hasn't been decided yet but the show's producers are expected to discuss ideas with the CW this week.

"The Scientist" and "Three Ghosts" are currently scheduled to air on The CW on Wednesday, December 4th and 11th, respectively, at 8 p.m. EST.

** UPDATED **


It looks like TVLine has pictures of the first look at Grant Gustin as Barry Allen from "The Scientist," which you can view HERE.  Let the "Kid Flash" jokes commence...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

AMC Orders PREACHER Pilot from Seth Rogen?


At long last, is Preacher finally coming to television?

Once upon a time in the middle to late nineties, there was a rather fantastically blasphemous Vertigo comic book series from writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon.  Running for 66 issues (plus some one-shot specials and a spinoff mini-series), Preacher told the story of Jesse Custer, a preacher in a small Texas town who was accidentally inhabited by a supernatural creature called Genesis that was created by the mating of an angel and a demon.  Custer goes on a quest across the United States to literally find God, along with his former girlfriend Tulip O'Hare and an Irish vampire named Cassidy.

There have been a number of attempts to adapt Preacher for both film and television over the years, most notably having X-Men actor James Marsden as Jesse Custer in a film version and HBO developing the series until they found it too religiously controversial.  Well, according to Badass Digest, the project has some life again...this time over at AMC, who have ordered a pilot for a potential series.  The article claims that AMC is looking for another buzzworthy show in addition to The Walking Dead now that Breaking Bad has ended and Mad Men will shortly reach its finale.

The Badass Digest article doesn't mention who was developing the series for AMC, but actor/producer/director/screenwriter Seth Rogen posted these two interesting tidbits on his official Twitter account...


Rogen may be working on the project with longtime friend Evan Goldberg, who has collaborated with Rogen on films such as Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Green Hornet, The Watch and This is the End.

But since Preacher adaptations have fallen apart before, there's no guarantee that this attempt will be any different.  The pilot order by AMC is encouraging though, and makes sense from AMC's standpoint, so we'll see if this actually goes to Texas...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Eighth Doctor Returns in "The Night of the Doctor"


The Eighth Doctor is back...and it's about time.

The hopes of many longtime Doctor Who fans were realized this morning with the return of Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor in "The Night of the Doctor," a six-minute prequel to "The Day of the Doctor" written by Steven Moffat.


The prequel mini episode opens aboard a crashing spaceship piloted by a woman named Cass, played by Emma Campbell-Jones.  Cass admonished the shipboard computer for talking about doctors, followed immediately by the Eighth Doctor revealing himself.  "I'm a Doctor," he begins, "but probably not the one you were expecting."

As the ship continues to crash, The Doctor takes Cass to the back where his TARDIS is located.  "Don't worry, it's bigger on the inside," remarks the Doctor.

Cass suddenly becomes deeply concerned.  "Is this a TARDIS?" she asks.

The Doctor attempts to reassure her about his role in the Time War involving Gallifrey and the Daleks.  "I'm not part of the war.  I swear to you, I never was."

"You're a Time Lord."

"Yes, I'm a Time Lord, but I'm one of the nice ones."

Cass becomes horrified by this point.  "Get away from me!"

"Well, look on the bright side, I'm not a Dalek."

"Who can tell the difference anymore?!"  Cass deadbolts the door, separating her from the Doctor and his TARDIS.  "Go back to your battlefield," she admonishes, tearing up in the process.  "You aren't finished yet.  Some of the universe is still standing."

The ship crashlands on the planet Karn, familiar to fans of the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who.  We're reacquainted with the Sisterhood of Karn, a female society last seen in the 1976 Fourth Doctor story "The Brain of Morbius," who are dedicated to protecting the Sacred Flame, which produces the Elixir of Life.

The Eighth Doctor is revived by the Sisterhood and is told that he only has a little under four minutes to live.  Ohila, the leader of the Sisterhood, offers to use the Elixir to help the Doctor regenerate into whatever form he needs, but the Doctor wonders why they would be willing to help.  "The war between the Time Lords and the Daleks threatens all reality," Ohlia remarks.  "You are the only hope left."

Cass is brought out, but appears to have died and the Sisterhood is unable to restore her to life.  Ohila tells the Doctor that Cass wouldn't care he was a Time Lord if he could end the war.  "She would beg your help...as we beg your help now.  The universe stands on a brink.  Will you let it fall?  Fast or strong, wise or angry, what do you need now?"

The Doctor picks up a shoulder strap he took from Cass.  "Warrior," chooses the Doctor.  "I don't suppose there's any need for a Doctor anymore.  Make me a warrior now."

Before drinking the Elixir of Life, the Doctor says goodbye to his previous companions from the Big Finish audio adventures series starring the Eighth Doctor.  "Charley, C'rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly...Friends, companions I've known, I salute you.  And Cass, I apologize.  Physician, heal thyself..."

The Doctor drinks the Elixir and we finally get to see the Eighth Doctor regenerate...only not into Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor.  The newly-regenerated figure, a young version of actor John Hurt, puts the shoulder strap on and says "Doctor no more" to his reflection.  The end credits then reveal his new name as The War Doctor.

"The Day of the Doctor" airs in simulcast around the world at 2:50 p.m. EST on November 23, 2013, Doctor Who's 50th anniversary.  If you'd like to watch "The Night of the Doctor," you can view it below thanks to the BBC's YouTube account...


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES Get Showrunners


We're one step closer to Jessica Jones dropping f-bombs on TV.

One of the curious things about last week's ginormous announcement of four Marvel Comics series coming to Netflix was the lack of creative names attached to each project.  Despite the lack of official confirmation from Marvel, it appears two of the showrunners have been found.

The Wrap announced yesterday that Drew Goddard is in negotiations to write and executive produce Daredevil, the first 13-episode series in 2015.  Goddard's impressive resume includes writing and producing Lost and Alias for ABC, and writing for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.  He also helped write this summer's World War Z and directed the horror movie The Cabin in the Woods. 

The article also cited a previous Collider interview with Goddard earlier this year, where he expressed his interest in the character.  "You’re talking to a guy who had quotes from Daredevil painted on his wall while growing up," said Goddard.  "Even when I was eighteen, I still had the blood red door with the, ‘I have shown him that a man without hope is a man without fear.’  That was what I loved and so it’s the sort of thing that if we can find the right project, I would love to do it."

This will be the third live-action adaptation of Daredevil, after the character first appeared on television in the 1989 TV movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (played by Rex Smith) and the more notable 2003 film Daredevil starring Ben Affleck that was directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Meanwhile, Deadline revealed later that same day Melissa Rosenberg is attached to be the writer and executive producer for Jessica Jones, which will be the next to air after Daredevil.  Rosenberg, best known for the screenplay for the movie Twilight, was previously asked to create a drama series on the character three years ago, when the project was called AKA Jessica Jones and was at ABC.

The series will be the character's first depiction in live-action.  Created by Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos, Jessica Jones first appeared in the Marvel MAX series Alias in 2001.  The character is a former superhero called Jewel (and briefly Knightress) who fell victim to the supervillain Purple Man's mind control, became traumatized and demoralized as a result, then gave up superheroics to form a detective agency called Alias Private Investigations.  Jessica later returned to superheroics as Power Woman and joined the New Avengers, only to give it up once again to take care of her and Luke Cage's daughter, Danielle.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

DAMN Good Movies -- THOR: THE DARK WORLD


Yes, I'm back with another of my infamous movie takes, this time with the film Thor: The Dark World, the sequel to 2011's Thor, based on the Marvel Comics character. As always, if you haven't seen the movie yet and you don't want it spoiled for you, then in the name of Great Odin's Raven, please 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...you are worthy to hold the hammer of Thor...
 
After the first Thor movie grossed almost $450 million worldwide, a sequel was pretty much a given...but not without some production issues.  Previous director Kenneth Branaugh dropped out early on, citing the length of time for the special effects and the urgency of the script process to meet Marvel Studios' 2013 target.  Game of Thrones director Brian Kirk entered negotiations and passed due to contractual sticking points, then was followed by Monster director Patty Jenkins, who later left due to the traditionally vague "contractual differences."  Finally, another Game of Thrones director, Alan Taylor, ended up with the gig.
 
And while all of this was going on, the script from returning writer Don Payne went through rewrite after rewrite.  Saving Private Ryan screenwriter Robert Rodat had the first crack, with Christopher Yost, Christoper Markus and Stephen McFeely ending up with screenplay credits.  If five writers isn't enough for you, Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought in (by plane no less) to rewrite several scenes in the film that weren't working.
 
So with all this upheaval and six different writing voices in the script, it's to Alan Taylor's credit that the film actually turns out to be a pretty decent sequel.  The movie starts off with backstory narrated by Anthony Hopkins' Odin, involving new Big Bad villain Malekith, Odin's father Bor, and the MacGuffin superweapon called the Aether and how this is all really important.  Meanwhile, back on Asgard, Loki is thrown in the Realm Eternal Slammer for that awkward bit of business in the first Avengers movie.  Thor's off with the Warriors Three and Sif fighting off a bunch of marauders on Vahaheim, while his love interest Jane Foster is hanging around London these days still looking for a scientific way to find her Honeybunny of Thunder again.
 
All of this ties in together eventually, thanks to a plot device called the Convergence, a rare alignment of the Nine Realms (Earth/Midgard, Asgard, Vanaheim, Svartalfheim, etc.) that brings about Gozer the Gozerian is very bad.  Things hit the fan when Jane is infected with the Aether, resulting in Jane being brought to Asgard and Malekith being woken up from his eons-long nap.  And to make things more interesting, Asgard is attacked by Malekith's army of Dark Elves, forcing Thor and his friends to spring Loki from jail for help.
 
Yeah, to say there's a lot going on in this movie is something of an understatement.  Taylor jumps back and forth across Realms with considerable skill, although I'm not sure how someone walking into The Dark World completely cold is going to keep things straight without a scorecard.  But it's lovely to see London and Greenwich getting trashed for a change instead of New York and Washington, D.C., and Asgard feels more of an actual place this time instead of just a few elaborate sets.
 
There's a deliberate attempt to inject humor throughout as well, with some scenes such as Thor's ridiculously simple defeat of Korg the Stone Giant (a great nod to Thor's first appearance in Journey Into Mystery #83) feeling like pure Joss Whedon.  Overall though, the film lacks the impressive majesty of the first movie and comes off patched together at times, most likely because of numerous scriptwriters.  Some scenes are absolutely wonderful, such as the powerful funeral scene at night on Asgard, while others like subtitled conversations between Malekith and his Dark Elves are a chore to get through.
 
Thankfully, Taylor is blessed with a talented cast to make the uneven script work and bring the film together.  There are a lot of great character moments in this movie and here's some of what I noticed...

THOR ODINSON -- In his third film as Thor, Chris Hemsworth brings considerable maturity to his character.  He's not the arrogant hothead God of Thunder we saw in the first film, still having disagreements with Odin and Loki but now played with more rationality and subtlety.  It's going to be interesting to see where he ends up by the third movie.

JANE FOSTER -- Natalie Portman falls victim to the plight of being the Superhero's Girlfriend, with Jane being still hung up on Thor, failing at moving on with someone else, being infected by the Aether, and having to be protected several times by various Asgardians.  She does get to use her scientific skills during the Greenwich battle sequence, however. 
 
LOKI LAUFEYSON -- Yes, once again, this is Tom Hiddleston's movie in Loki: The Dark World, no matter what the title says.  Even imprisoned for most of the movie, Loki still owns every scene he's in that doesn't involve The Hulk.  But apart from expected smarmy villainy, we do see another side to the God of Mischief with his reaction to Frigga's death and his desire for vengeance.  And you have to wonder how his and Thor's relationship as foster brothers will change with Thor keeping his word to tell Odin of Loki's bravery...even if it wasn't actually Odin he told.

ODIN BORSON -- Sir Anthony Hopkins thankfully reprises his role as the All-Father, but now at 75, it's no real surprise that he's not doing all that much here.  Oh, he gets to shout at Loki and shout at Jane being brought to Asgard, but you don't really get to feel for him losing his wife.  And with the revelation at the end that Loki is impersonating Odin, there's now a nagging question if we've seen the last of him.
 
MALEKITH THE ACCURSED -- As a Doctor Who, I was really looking forward to seeing Christoper Eccleston as Malekith.  So you can probably guess my disappointment that even as the Big Bad, he's not actually in the film all that much and when he is, he's either speaking Dark Elvish with subtitles or given generic Bad Guy dialogue to rattle off.  Such a waste of a great actor.
 
ALGRIM THE STRONG/KURSE -- And speaking of wasted actors, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was positively stellar as Mr. Eko on Lost, so why is he given maybe two lines before being turned into the monster Kurse?

ERIK SELVIG -- Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd also gets some character development this time.  It seems poor Erik has had a spot of bother ever since he "had a god in his head" thanks to Loki brainwashing him in The Avengers.  As a result, he's way more eccentric now and also way more interesting as Dr. Walter Bishop taking off his pants to help him think better.

DARCY LEWIS -- Kat Dennings returns as the Comic Relief Intern Sidekick, only now she has her own Comic Relief Intern Sidekick named Ian.  Her primary role is to snark strange events and be interrupted in the middle of saying "What the--?!", but still a welcome way to offset Jane's dry personality.
 
SIF -- Reminding us all that Warner Bros. is insane not to cast her as Wonder Woman, Jaimie Alexander gets to show off during the early Vanaheim action sequence then becomes horribly neglected for the rest of the film.  She gives Jane the look of death, then gets briefly paired with Volstagg to stall some Asgardian warriors, then doesn't do anything until the mid-credits bonus scene at the end.  Sigh.
 
HEIMDALL -- Idris Elba reprises his role as the all-seeing Heimdall, but thankfully gets to leave his observatory this time.  He gets a small showcase scene with him running down one of the Dark Elves' blade-looking spaceships and proves he's down with Thor by distracting Odin.  Still would love to see him get more screen time, though.
 
FRIGGA -- In presumably her last appearance as Frigga, Renee Russo gets a little screen time with Loki inside his cell but it's her scene defending Jane from Malekith that truly matters.  Frigga doesn't go down in defeat easily, giving Malekith a few nice cuts to his face, but still ends up getting Whedoned.

VOLSTAGG THE VOLUMINOUS -- Ray Stevenson isn't the presence he was in the first film, but we do see a brief glimpse of him with his large family along with a couple of fun scenes with Sif. 

HOGUN THE GRIM -- Tadanobu Asano's Hogun gets a brief showcase at the beginning as his home of Vanaheim is rescued by Thor, Sif and the rest of the Warriors Three.  After smiling (Say what?) in gratitude to Thor, he leaves the Warriors Three (Say what?) and stays behind in Vanaheim.

FANDRAL THE DASHING -- Zachary Levi takes over for Josh Dallas, who had more pressing duties as Prince Charming on ABC's Once Upon a Time.  Levi has his Errol Flynn voice down cold but is little more than background scenery.
 
OBLIGATORY STAN LEE CAMEO -- Stan "The Man" turns up as a patient inside a psychiatric observation facility listening to Erik Selvig explaining the Convergence.
 
CHRIS EVANS AS TOM HIDDLESTON AS LOKI AS CAPTAIN AMERICA CAMEO -- Evans gets a much better cameo than Stan, giving him the chance to make fun of his patriotic persona.  Too bad it was in that horrible Avengers version of his costume and not the USO one.
 
THE COLLECTOR CAMEO -- In the mid-credits bonus scene, we finally get our first look at Benicio del Toro as The Collector, which teases his upcoming appearance in next year's Guardians of the Galaxy.  More importantly though, we learn that the Aether and the previous MacGuffin called The Tesseract are actually two of six Infinity Stones/Gems that are ultimately used to make the Infinity Gauntlet, one of the most powerful weapons in the Marvel Universe.  Oh, yeah.

Overall, Thor: The Dark World is a fun film worthy of its predecessor even if it doesn't surpass it.  For a movie that had to be a sequel, as well as follow up on what happened in The Avengers while setting up a third film and other Marvel Universe movies, it does pretty well.  And yes, even with all these characters, I'd still like to see Balder the Brave and Beta Ray Bill fighting Surtur.  Maybe in summer 2016?
 
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. Man of Steel (2013)
5. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
6. Spider-Man (2002)
7. Batman Begins (2005)

8. Watchmen (2009)
9. Iron Man (2008)

10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
11. X-Men: First Class (2011)
12: The Wolverine (2013)
13. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
14. X2: X-Men United (2003)
15. X-Men (2000)
16. Thor (2011)
17. Batman (1989)
18. Superman II (1981)

19. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
20. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer,

Charles


Thursday, November 7, 2013

DAREDEVIL, IRON FIST, LUKE CAGE, JESSICA JONES & THE DEFENDERS Coming to Netflix


Remember that whole thing about how Marvel only had Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on TV with maybe an Agent Carter series in the works?  Well, so much for that pathetic sadness.

Disney and Netflix have announced multiple series of live-action shows based on Marvel Comics characters Daredevil, Luke CageIron Fist and Jessica Jones, which will lead up to a miniseries event featuring the superteam The Defenders.  Daredevil will be the first of four 13-episode series beginning in 2015.

The arrangement apparently grew out of a deal giving Netflix exclusive rights to Disney movies in the premium TV window beginning in 2016. 

And yes, there's an official press release...

BURBANK, Calif., Nov. 7, 2013 – The Walt Disney Co. (Marvel is a known and loved brand that travels,” sNYSE: DIS) and Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) today announced an unprecedented deal for Marvel TV to bring multiple original series of live-action adventures of four of Marvel’s most popular characters exclusively to the world’s leading Internet TV Network beginning in 2015. This pioneering agreement calls for Marvel to develop four serialized programs leading to a miniseries programming event.

Led by a series focused on “Daredevil,” followed by “Jessica Jones,” “Iron Fist” and “Luke Cage,” the epic will unfold over multiple years of original programming, taking Netflix members deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Netflix has committed to a minimum of four, thirteen episodes series and a culminating Marvel’s “The Defenders” mini-series event that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.

Produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Television Studios, this groundbreaking deal is Marvel’s most ambitious foray yet into live-action TV storytelling.

“This deal is unparalleled in its scope and size, and reinforces our commitment to deliver Marvel’s brand, content and characters across all platforms of storytelling. Netflix offers an incredible platform for the kind of rich storytelling that is Marvel’s specialty,” said Alan Fine, President of Marvel Entertainment. “This serialized epic expands the narrative possibilities of on-demand television and gives fans the flexibility to immerse themselves how and when they want in what’s sure to be a thrilling and engaging adventure.”

“Marvel’s movies, such as ‘Iron Man’ and Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’, are huge favorites on our service around the world. Like Disney, Marvel is a known and loved brand that travels,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “With ‘House of Cards’ and our other original series, we have pioneered new approaches to storytelling and to global distribution and we’re thrilled to be working with Disney and Marvel to take our brand of television to new levels with a creative project of this magnitude.”

This new original TV deal follows last year’s landmark movie distribution deal through which, beginning with 2016 theatrically released feature films, Netflix will be the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for first-run, live-action and animated movies from the Walt Disney Studios, including titles from Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Disneynature and Lucasfilm. Netflix members can currently enjoy a wide range of Disney, ABC TV and Disney Channel films and shows across the 41 countries where Netflix operates.


Time to announce that Wonder Woman movie, Warner Bros...


THE COLBERT REPORT Warns of Muslim Ms. Marvel


Yeah, you knew Stephen Colbert was going to weigh in on this one.

The host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report opened last night's show with another rant about comics news, this time focusing on Marvel Comics' announcement of a new teenage Ms. Marvel that happens to be a Muslim.  The new Ms. Marvel series by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona will focus on Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim who takes on the former identity of her idol Carol Danvers (currently calling herself Captain Marvel) after discovering that she has superpowers.

"I am sorry to bring you bad news," began Colbert, "but ladies and gentlemen, America has lost another battle in the culture war, which is surprising because we've got all the guns.  This time, the battlefield is comic books and folks, that saddens me because I'm a fan.  They have everything I love -- colorful pictures and a lack of grammar.  Hulk smash?  Stephen like.  And tonight folks, I got a real bee in my cape over a dangerous new addition to the Marvel Universe."

Colbert then showed a news clip of Darlene Rodriguez, the co-anchor of Today in New York on WNBC, who discussed the Ms. Marvel story while repeatedly mispronouncing "Marvel" as "Mar-vell."  "Thank you for that report on Ms. Mar-vell, Ms. Rod-ri-gweeze," mocked Colbert.  "Folks, this affront has taken me aback.  A Muslim cannot be a supehero.  For Pete's sake, they're on the no-fly list.  Her name is Kamala Khan and as Ms. Marvel, she can 'grow and shrink her limbs and her body and shapeshift into other forms.'  Folks, if she can shapeshift, that means literally anything could be Muslim -- a lamp, a sandwich, a tiger, a non-threatening Muslim [Kareem Abdul-Jabaar]."

Colbert continued his faux-conservative outrage, showing this image from the cover to Ms. Marvel (vol.1) #1.   "It's even more upsetting when you consider the original Ms. Marvel [Carol Danvers].  She was wholesome and all-American, blonde, family values, with two bulging chest muscles, and clearly wearing her Sunday church panties.  This is nothing more than Sharia Creep, plain and simple.  First she's a comic character, then she gets her own movie, then action figures, and the next thing you know, my kids are dressing up as her for Halloween and shouting 'Trick or treat! Death to Captain America!'  It's coming, mark my words."

If you'd like to see the segment, you can view it below thanks to Colbert Nation...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

CW Developing DC Comics' HOURMAN for TV


Marvel may own DC Comics when it comes to movies, but DC continues to lead when it comes to adapting their properties for television.

The Hollywood Reporter announced that The CW is developing a drama series based on the DC Comics superhero Hourman.  According to the article, Hourman "centers on a brilliant-yet-troubled pharmaceutical analyst who discovers that the visions that have plagued him since childhood are actually glimpses of tragic events occurring one hour in the future.  Determined to win back his ex-wife and son, he heroically prevents these tragedies from unfolding, finding both purpose and redemption along the way."

Michael Caleo (The Sopranos) will write the pilot script and executive produce the series with Dan Lin and Lin Pictures' head of television, Jennifer Gwartz, for Warner Bros. Television as part of a new two-year overall deal.

Over the years, there have been three incarnations of the character.  The first Hourman, Rex Tyler, debuted in Adventure Comics #48 in 1940 as a biochemist who invented a drug, Miraclo, that gave him superhuman strength, durability and enhanced speed for the span of one hour.  Joining the Justice Society of America, Rex later married a woman named Wendi Harris and they had a son, Rick Tyler, who first appeared in Infinity, Inc. #20 in 1985. 

Rick soon adopted his father's mantle as Hourman, using Miraclo dermal patches at first instead of pills, then later switched to injecting the drug directly into his bloodstream from a pair of gauntlets show above.  As time went on, he was given a special hourglass that caused him to experience visions of one hour in the future.  Rick later married Jesse Chambers, the daughter of Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle, and it was revealed Jesse had become pregnant shortly before the DC Universe was rebooted into "The New 52" and the characters were erased from current DC continuity. 

A third Hourman, Tyler, first appeared in JLA #12 in 1997 as an android from the 853rd Century that was modeled on Rex Tyler's DNA.  As the only Hourman that ever received his own Hourman comic book series, Tyler originally possessed a device called the Worlogog that gave him mastery over time before being limited to an "Hour of Power."  He was later destroyed in a battle with the supervillain Extant.

Hourman is the latest in a series of DC Comics properties in various stages of development for television.  Arrow is currently on The CW, with this season including a backdoor pilot for a spinoff series based on The Flash starring Grant GustinFox has a straight-to-series committment for Gotham, centered around Batman supporting character Commissioner Gordon, and NBC has Constantine, based on the supernatural con man/magician John Constantine.  And The CW still has Amazon, a Wonder Woman prequel TV series, still under consideration.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Jaimie Alexander in Talks with Warner Bros. for Wonder Woman?


Well, that's much better than a LEGO movie...

In what has to be one of the biggest comic book movie casting no-brainers in a long while, Forbes has revealed that Jaimie Alexander has had talks with Warner Bros., possibly for the role of Wonder Woman.

The 29-year-old actress, best known as the Asgardian warrior Sif in the two Thor movies for Disney/Marvel, attended the comics and pop-culture convention Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center and moderated the AMC movie panel "Movie Talk."  During the panel, the discussion moved onto the subject of a possible Marvel/DC superhero team-up movie someday, with Alexander surprising people by mentioning she has had discussions with "both companies" about superhero movies — "both" being Marvel and Warner Bros.

Alexander then answered a question about Ben Affleck's casting as Batman for the upcoming Batman vs. Superman (or whatever it ends up being called) and expressed her approval, noting the previous criticism of Michael Keaton back in 1989.  She followed up, remarking that her confidence of Affleck in the role is due to that she "kind of knows the storyline for that movie."

Oh, really?  And why would Marvel's Sif know anything about a DC Comics movie?

After the panel, Forbes asked Alexander about how much should be read into her comments talking to both Marvel and DC Comics/Warner Bros.  "I would love for DC to put Wonder Woman in one of their upcoming flicks," she replied, "either in her own movie or Batman vs. Superman, or just something even to introduce her."  She then focused more on the question, providing a more delicate response.  "Being in the comic book world, we know a lot of the same people at DC and Marvel, so we hear a lot of things, but it’s all speculation right now.  But I would absolutely love that [Wonder Woman appearing in one of the upcoming films].  Thankfully and gratefully, I’m appreciative to the people who ask my opinion of the character, and that’s been pretty amazing."

Alexander was asked her about Sif's two appearances proving there's potential for a great Wonder Woman movie.  "I’m a huge fan of Wonder Woman," she said.  "I really think if this is the closest that we’re ever going to get to Wonder Woman, then I’m proud to play Sif.  I hope that other comic book entities can learn a lesson from Marvel in how to execute a female character the way it should be done."  She also commented on the lack of many female role models in comic book films, but doesn't want them rushed or done poorly.  "I really would like to one day see a Wonder Woman film or Wonder Woman character, but until it’s done with class, I’d rather it not be done."

There have been a number of speculative rumors that Wonder Woman could be introduced in Batman vs. Superman, or held until a following Justice League movie, or featured in her own solo movie, or something else entirely.  It's hard to say exactly what will happen right now, but at the very least, there's going to be a third Thor movie unless for some inexplicable reason, Thor: The Dark World tanks at the box office.

And what if Marvel wants to do a Sif spinoff film, if only to beat Wonder Woman to the big screen?  "I would love for there to be a spinoff film," said Alexander.  "I would absolutely say ‘Yes!’  If the fans want it and there’s a strong enough desire for it, it will happen.  So, fingers crossed!"