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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Syfy Adapting Frank Miller's RONIN as Miniseries

If you intend to adapt Frank Miller, you can do anything.

The Hollywood Reporter has announced that Syfy is developing Frank Miller's six-issue DC Comics series Ronin as a potential miniseries.  A search has begun for a writer, with the exact number of episodes yet to be determined.

Released from 1983-84 and written and drawn by Miller, Ronin told the story of a dystopic 21st century New York where a nameless ronin (a masterless samurai) is reincarnated from 13th century feudal Japan and given a second chance to avenge his master, who was assassinated by a demon called Agat.

According to the article, Syfy's miniseries "takes place eight centuries after a Japanese Ronin samurai failed to protect his master from a demon.  He awakens in a futuristic, nihilistic New York in the body of Billy, a medical experiment.  Now Billy/Ronin is chasing the demon, which has reawakened.  Both parties want control of a sword with magical properties and will stop at nothing to get it back."


This news follows on failed attempts to bring Ronin to the big screen since 1998.  Noted director Darren Aronfsky signed a deal with New Line Cinema for a film adaptation, but the project stalled.  In 2007, Gianni Nunnari, the producer of 300 which was also based on a Frank Miller work, announced that he would produce the film with Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) as director and Joby Harold and Chad St. John writing the script.

The cyberpunk samurai drama will be produced by Syfy from Warner Horizon Television and DC Entertainment.  Ronin is the latest in a line of various movie and television projects adapted from Miller's comic book stories, including 300, 300: Rise of an Empire, Sin City, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, The Wolverine, Elektra, Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

STAR WARS EPISODE VII Cast Announced


Gollum and Ming the Merciless are in the same movie as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo! 

Well...sort of.

Less than a week before Star Wars Day on May the Fourth, the official Star Wars site has announced the principal cast to J.J. Abrams' Star Wars Episode VII.  And yes, the rumors were true -- Luke, Han, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 are returning.

In addition to the cast photo shown above, here's the official announcement...

The Star Wars team is thrilled to announce the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII.

Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film.

Director J.J. Abrams says, "We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud."

Star Wars: Episode VII is being directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Abrams. Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk are producing, and John Williams returns as the composer. The movie opens worldwide on December 18, 2015.

So what news will May the Fourth bring?  The movie's full title, perhaps?


Monday, April 28, 2014

JUSTICE LEAGUE Confirmed with Zack Snyder Directing


If you had any doubts that the Justice League movie was going to happen, feel free to put them away now.

Last night, The Wall Street Journal officially confirmed speculation that DC Comics' superteam Justice League will follow 2016's still-untitled Man of Steel sequel with Zack Snyder directing.  Warner Bros.' president of worldwide production Greg Silverman commented on the project, saying, "It will be a further expansion of this universe.  Superman vs. Batman will lead into Justice League."

This confirmation follows on the recent addition of Ray Fisher as Cyborg to the cast of Superman vs. Batman, which also includes Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Presumably, the two will also appear in Justice League, along with Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck reprising their roles as Superman and Batman.

It remains to be seen whether Aquaman, The Flash and Green Lantern will appear as well, although The Wrap suggests that Affleck's friend and collaborator Matt Damon is being sought for Aquaman.  Game of Thrones' Jason Momoa has been rumored for Aquaman as well, and is expected to appear in Superman vs. Batman...somehow.

The Justice League script is still being developed and there's no release date yet, but The Hollywood Reporter claims their sources say it will arrive in 2017.  Superman vs. Batman and Justice League will reportedly be shot back-to-back.

There are no current plans for a solo Wonder Woman movie, but Warner Bros. executives are supposed open to the idea.  "That is our hope,” said Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing.  "With the right script, that could be viable.  The world is ready for her."

Created by writer Gardner Fox and editor Julius Schwartz, the fictional superhero team made its debut in Brave and the Bold (vol.1) #28 in 1960, over three years before Marvel's The Avengers.  A previous attempt to bring Justice League to the big screen, directed by George Miller, was supposed to film in 2008, but was officially canceled by Warner Bros. executives in 2010.

The Wall Street Journal also mentions that Warner Bros. has several other DC Comics and VERTIGO properties in development.  According to Silverman and Toby Emmerich, president of Warner's New Line Cinema, those films include Shazam!, The Metal Men, 100 Bullets and Fables.

Superman vs. Batman is currently set to arrive in theaters on May 6, 2016.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Marvel's Netflix Series Connected to Cinematic Universe


Daredevil meeting Phil Coulson?  It could happen.

Speaking with Kevin Smith on the Fat Man on Batman podcast, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada provided more details on the four Marvel series coming to Netflix starting in 2015.  It seems Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage will indeed be connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe featured in Marvel films and on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series on ABC.

"There will be some interconnectivity, much like the movies," said Quesada. "They will exist within the cinematic universe again, so this is all the same world as S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers."

However, the tone of these four series won't be what we've seen so far in films and on television.  "Although these are superhero stories, this is different now," Quesada remarked.  "This is the street level…This is the street level noir side of the Marvel Universe.  Something that you haven’t really, really seen in any of our Marvel movies, and probably more ground level, than I think you’ve seen.  This is not like us doing Batman, Dark Knight or any of that stuff.  This is very Marvel doing street level superheroes."

He added, "The scripts are coming in.  They are pretty fantastic.  They’re really emotional. They’re very, very original.  But at the same time, it's Daredevil.  It's Matt Murdock.  We will eventually, hopefully start casting really, really soon, but I’m very, very excited about it."


And for those of us who are hoping to binge-watch each series right away as you do a new season of Netflix's House of Cards, Quesada confirmed that yes, the entire season will be posted at the same time.  "You’re going to get all these episodes, and you can binge watch them however you want, and then binge watch them again."

On the subject of filming, Quesada remarked how glad he is about using areas of Brooklyn and Long Island City as the locations.  "We’re shooting in New York," he said.  "That’s the fantastic thing about it is that we’re shooting at home.  We’re shooting where these characters belong.  These stories take place in Hell’s Kitchen."

"It thrills me to no end to have these things happening in New York," he added.  "That alone is going to give it an incredible vibe.  It’s just once again…It’s like Marvel taking ownership of New York, saying this is where we’re from, this is our universe, this is where it started."  Describing the setting for Daredevil, Quesada said, "It smells of dark alley, vomit, and piss."

And lastly, which villain will Daredevil be facing off against in his series?  The Kingpin?  Bullseye?  The Owl?  "I’m not going to say who the villain is in our story," said Quesada.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Lucasfilm Reboots STAR WARS' Expanded Universe

It's as if a million Star Wars EU fans suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.  I fear something terrible has happened.

Well, it's officially official.  Lucasfilm has announced that from this point forward, the Star Wars Expanded Universe, commonly known as the EU to fans, is being rebooted.  Any Star Wars comics, novels, videogames, etc. that you enjoyed outside of the six Star Wars films and Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series are no longer considered canon.

"Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU," states the press release on StarWars.com.  "He set the films he created as the canon.  This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align."

The reason, of course, is to free Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX or any other upcoming projects from being tied down to any previously established EU characters or continuity.  However, since there's still demand for certain beloved Expanded Universe stories, and therefore money to be made, the previous Expanded Universe canon is being rebranded under a banner called "Legends."  This means classics such as Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy will be kept in print or available to download electronically, but they just don't count as canon anymore.

Here's the full press release with the details...

The Legendary Star Wars Expanded Universe Turns a New Page

For over 35 years, the Expanded Universe has enriched the Star Wars experience for fans seeking to continue the adventure beyond what is seen on the screen. When he created Star Wars, George Lucas built a universe that sparked the imagination, and inspired others to create. He opened up that universe to be a creative space for other people to tell their own tales. This became the Expanded Universe, or EU, of comics, novels, videogames, and more.

While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU. He set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align.

Now, with an exciting future filled with new cinematic installments of Star Wars, all aspects of Star Wars storytelling moving forward will be connected. Under Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy's direction, the company for the first time ever has formed a story group to oversee and coordinate all Star Wars creative development.

"We have an unprecedented slate of new Star Wars entertainment on the horizon," said Kennedy. "We're set to bring Star Wars back to the big screen, and continue the adventure through games, books, comics, and new formats that are just emerging. This future of interconnected storytelling will allow fans to explore this galaxy in deeper ways than ever before."

In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in roleplaying game material published in the 1980s.

Demand for past tales of the Expanded Universe will keep them in print, presented under the new Legends banner.

On the screen, the first new canon to appear will be Star Wars Rebels. In print, the first new books to come from this creative collaboration include novels from Del Rey Books. First to be announced, John Jackson Miller is writing a novel that precedes the events of Star Wars Rebels and offers insight into a key character's backstory, with input directly from executive producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman.

And this is just the beginning of a creatively aligned program of Star Wars storytelling created by the collaboration of incredibly talented people united by their love of that galaxy far, far away....

StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.


And here's a rather bittersweet video of Lucasfilm staff talking about what they loved about the original Expanded Universe...


Thursday, April 24, 2014

SUPERMAN/BATMAN Movie Casts Ray Fisher as Cyborg


At this point, Warner Bros. should probably just call this movie Justice League: Origin.

Variety has just announced that theater actor Ray Fisher has been cast as Cyborg/Victor Stone in Zack Snyder's still-untitled Man of Steel sequel often referred to as "Batman vs. Superman."  Having previously tested for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars Episode VII, Fisher joins a cast that includes returning Superman Henry Cavill, new Batman Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Jesse Eisenberg and Jeremy Irons.

According to the article, Cyborg isn't a major part in the Superman/Batman movie, but as a current member of the Justice League in comics, the role will become more significant as Warner Brothers and DC Comics develop more films connected to the Justice League universe.

The article also mentions that in a bonus feature on the recent Man of Steel home video release, Cavill remarked that Cyborg holds considerable promise as a character.  "I think he would create an incredible bridge between superheroes and humanity."

Created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez in 1980 in DC Comics Presents #26, Cyborg is a gifted young athlete who is gravely injured during an accident at S.T.A.R. Labs, where his scientist father Silas works.  Silas does everything he can to save Victor's life by grafting robotic prosthetics to replace his missing body parts, turning him into a cybernetic organism.  Originally gaining popularity as a member of The New Teen Titans, Cyborg became a founding member of the Justice League when DC Comics rebooted its fictional universe with the relaunch known as "The New 52."

Fisher will be the second actor to portray the character in live-action, after Lee Thompson Young appeared in several episodes of the CW television series Smallville.  Other actors, including Ernie Hudson, Khary Payton, Bumper Robinson, Michael B. Jordan and Shemar Moore, have voiced the character for various DC Universe animated projects.

Zack Snyder is directing from a script by David S. Goyer, based on a story by Goyer and Snyder.  Production is currently under way in Michigan with a current release date of May 6, 2016.

The Future of ARROW After Season 2's Big Death


Another season, another character death.

Although nowhere near the body count of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, the CW series Arrow featured its second major character death in last night's episode, "Seeing Red."  The slackers among you who haven't watched the episode yet should probably consider a SPOILERY SPOILER WARNING, even though you clicked on a post with "Season 2's Big Death" in the headline.

Okay, so the regular cast of Arrow was reduced by one with the death of Moira Queen, played by Susanna Thompson.  Finally enacting his twisted sense of revenge of the death of Shado, this season's big bad Slade Wilson/Deathstroke put Oliver Queen in the dilemma of either watching his mother or his sister Thea die.  When it appeared as though Slade was going to kill Thea, Moira stepped up and took a rather fatal sword to the chest.  And since last season's major death, Tommy Merlyn, became the game-changer for Oliver ending his murder of Starling City criminals, how will Moira's death affect Oliver, Thea and everyone else?

The Hollywood Reporter has some details on that, as well as the decision to kill off Moira, provided by Arrow executive producer Andrew Kreisberg.  "It wasn't something we were talking about last year," said Kreisberg.  "I don't want to give the impression that [it was like] 'Welp!  Somebody has to die, let's spin the wheel and bad luck, Moira.'  Susanna has been with the show since the beginning and she was one of our big gets early on that really signaled to the audience and to reviewers that this wasn't your average CW show, it wasn't your average superhero show.  Like with Colin Donnell [Tommy Merlyn], these last episodes are her pinnacle."

"When we were talking about the future," he continued, "knowing that it was only going to be powerful if Slade was going to change the game by doing something truly monstrous -- if Moira wins the mayorship, if she makes up with her kids, what is Moira without a giant secret?  If they all forgive her and then there's some other giant secret, for us it felt like we were becoming a soap opera."

"[Moira] could die a hero's death," said Kreisberg, but seconds before the car accident, Moira was going to reveal yet another secret.  "You can't change her.  She literally goes to the grave despite the fact that she sacrifices herself for her children."  He then hinted that Moira's final secret plays out "sooner than you think."

The next episode, "City of Blood," begins with Moira's funeral but Oliver is missing.  "There's a line in the next episode where Walter says to Thea, 'Your mother showed you how much she loved you in ways few parents can,' and yet she was still lying," said Kreisberg. "Ending it at this time left you with that great feeling of what a great character she was rather then let her become a caricature."

Moira's death continues to have an impact on Oliver and Thea for this season as well as Season 3.  "That was the math -- it was horrible math, it was tearful math, but her death has a profound impact on everyone on the series," remarked Kreisberg.  "It's certainly what's going to drive Oliver in these last three episodes.  It's going to drive Thea, not only in these last three episodes, but also into [season] three.  Sometimes the worst thing you can do personally is the best thing you can do professionally."

And don't think the revelation that Oliver had fathered a child before his time on the island is going to be glossed over.  "The seeds for season two were planted in season one and again, the best part of the success that the show has had is knowing that we were going to make more and knowing that we could drop these things in and pay them off later," said Kreisberg.  "This is something that will be paid off in season three."

As for Thea, she's going to be reunited with her birth father, Malcolm Merlyn, in the May 7th episode, "Streets of Fire."  "All hell is going to break loose in the city and Thea will find herself in a precarious predicament and she will be saved by her father," revealed Kreisberg.  "Malcolm is going to offer her what she doesn't have anymore."

Some other tidbits from Kreisberg for the rest of Season 2 and Season 3...

After breaking up with Oliver, Sara Lance left at the end of the episode to parts unknown, but it won't be the last we'll see of her.  "Sara will be back.".

Roy Harper won't be in play until the Season 2 finale.  "He's in a coma for a couple of episodes," said Kreisberg.  As for the man Roy murdered during his Mirakuru-induced rage, "that’s going to play out in Season 3."

Without Moira as his challenger, Sebastian Blood apparently has an easy road to becoming Starling City's mayor.  "The politics of Starling City are probably less important than there are going to be supervillains running around the city.  Maybe Slade didn't just kill Moira to piss Oliver off -- and maybe somebody realizes that."

Oliver and Thea's financial problems will continue to be a factor.  "We’re going to start Season 3 in very different circumstances than [Oliver’s] been before," said Kreisberg. "Which, obviously, him being in different circumstances changes the circumstances of his paid bodyguard and his paid assistant, since he can no longer pay them.

"It’s like any long-running show you turn on in reruns," he continued.  "You can watch the episode for about four seconds and know, ‘Oh, that’s Season 3.  Or that’s Season 4.  And it’s not just the haircuts.  The show has a different feel."  This means some sets will be completely retired "for reasons that will become apparent as you see these last episodes.  We’ve already seen designs for some of the new sets for Season 3, which are amazing."

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


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Simmons Reveals DOCTOR WHO Fandom on AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.


Agent Leo Fitz may want to seriously consider investing in a David Tennant Tenth Doctor costume.

During "The Only Light in the Darkness," tonight's episode of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., life sciences specialist Agent Jemma Simmons revealed her fondness for a certain world's longest-running science fiction television series by the name of Doctor Who.

As fans of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and/or Captain America: The Winter Soldier are aware by now, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been extremely compromised by the evil forces of HYDRA, to the point of complete FUBAR where no one knows exactly whom they can trust.  Enter Agent Eric Koenig (Patton Oswalt), who insists that no one is leaving until they go through "orientation," which turns out to be a highly advanced lie detector test.  The lie detector was designed by Nick Fury himself so that even Black Widow couldn’t beat it, though it's not mentioned whether she did or not.  (Let's face it, she probably did.)

Koenig begins examining the team with the hypothetical question "
You wash up on a deserted island, alone.  Sitting on the sand is a box.  What is in that box?" and we get a montage of answers.  However, it's Elizabeth Henstridge's character Jemma Simmons who proves the most revealing with her response.  "The TARDIS," she replies to the delight of Whovians everywhere.

The Doctor Who reference makes perfect sense of course, given Simmons' British geek background and the perfectly logical reasoning that The Doctor's machine of time and relative dimensions in space could get her off that deserted island rather easily.  "The Only Light in the Darkness" was written by Monica Owusu-Breen, a former writer and producer of such sciencey fictiony shows as Lost, Fringe and Revolution.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rockne S. O'Bannon Updates Fans on FARSCAPE Movie


"Who’s your daddy?  C’mon, you know who your daddy is.  Who’s your daddy?  D’Argo, tell him who his daddy is."
"I'm your daddy."
-- John Crichton and Ka D'Argo, Farscape: "Thanks for Sharing"

About two months ago, Scapers all over the world were excited to learn that a movie based on their beloved TV series Farscape is officially in the works.  The innovative television series, which ran for four seasons on the Sci-Fi channel from 1999-2003, received a three-hour miniseries called Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars in 2004 to tie up dangling plot threads from the Season 4 cliffhanger and give fans desperately-needed closure. 

But apart from several series of comic books from BOOM! Studios published from 2008-2011 that continued the saga, fans pretty much resigned themselves to the notion that Farscape was finally done.  That is, until word broke that Brian Henson, son of the late Jim Henson and Farscape executive producer, was planning to direct a Farscape feature film.

According to Tor, the script by Justin Monjo would involve this premise -- "Set to follow the awesome comics written by our favorite Keith R.A. DeCandido, the film would follow John and Aeryn’s son, D’Argo (or Little D, as we will always refer to him).  Because their baby was exhibiting a set of interesting powers that made him a magnet for galactic villains, we find that John and Aeryn hid their son on Earth to grow up.  Now the kid is 19 and ready to go into space with his parents."

Well, Comic Book Resources has an update on the project, made by none other than Farscape showrunner Rockne S. O'Bannon during yesterday's panel for NBC's Revolution at WonderCon Anaheim.  "We are, in fact, in the script stage of a Farscape feature," announced O'Bannon to an enthusiastic crowd.

"[We’re] still in early, early stages," O’Bannon continued, cautioning fans that the film still isn't a done deal...yet.  He went on to credit Brian Henson’s efforts in bringing the film project to life.  "He was like a dog with a bone," said O’Bannon.  "He would not give up on it."

Friday, April 18, 2014

SPIDER-MAN Producers Crush Hopes of Marvel Film Crossovers


Spider-Man teaming up with the Avengers or the X-Men?  Pffft!  Fanboy, please.

In a recent interview with IGN, Spider-Man movie producers crushed any hopes that Marvel fans may have had of seeing the amazing Spider-Man joining forces with Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, The Human Torch or Wolverine.

"I think I’m probably a little bit of the militant here," said longtime Spider-Man producer Avi Arad.  "I think it will take a moment in which we’ve run out of ideas.  There's so much to tell about Spider-Man.  There's so much to tell about the Sinister Six.  The relationship between Spider-Man and Venom will bring a whole other world in."

It's no coincidence Arad seems more interested in The Sinister Six and Venom, considering there are spinoffs planned for both of those properties to develop a self-contained Spidermovieverse for Sony Pictures to compete against the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  According to Variety, both films are slated to be released before The Amazing Spider-Man 4 in 2018.

"We did it in the books.  We did team-ups all the time," he continued, referencing Marvel Comics' regular character interactions.  "Even with DC.  You know, we'd flip a coin, 'Okay, who's going to win, Batman or The Hulk?  We'll make a cover out of it.'  But we really feel very confident that we have so much to do […] Peter Parker is unique -- he's really different.  He's not an Avenger.  He's not an X-Man.  He's unique and we revere that.  And we'd rather work really hard to have the right ideas than -- you know in the toy business we used to make toys glow in the dark when they weren't selling well and it gave at least another Christmas.  We don't need it yet."

Arad's Amazing Spider-Man 2 co-producer Matt Tolmach seems to share the same fondness for isolationism.  "You know Avi always refers to that question as a stunt," he said.  "If you were to do that, you know, Spider-Man in the Avengers is a stunt.  And I get why everybody -- you know, fans and audience members and movie goers -- I understand it.

"When you think about the Sinister Six and you think about Venom and you think about Carnage and you think Spider-Man in whatever way you want in association with those movies, they feel like they're built for Spider-Man.  Like that's where his story needs to go and wants to go and it has to be about more than a stunt.

"Stunts can be cool but it's also a business, and so the other side of the answer is they're owned by different companies.  And there's a ton left in Sony's world.  There's a lot of business left because there's a lot of story left.  So for them to want to take this character and put it with Marvel and Disney is a huge undertaking and probably, as Avi's saying, isn't necessary until you feel like, 'Wow, we're sort of out of ideas.  What should we do?'  And we're far from out of ideas."


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FLASH GORDON Approaching Return to the Big Screen


Gordon's alive!

Eighty years after his debut in a comic strip by Alex Raymond, science fiction adventure hero Flash Gordon may finally be making his return to the big screen.  According to Film Divider, Star Trek 3 screenwriters J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay are also writing a new Flash Gordon film with producer Jon Davis and are in the process of making a studio deal.

Their take on the character is more serious adventure, designed to "reclaim Flash Gordon from his current reputation in the way that Tim Burton redirected the public conception of Batman."  Although the classic character has appeared in various movie serials and TV shows, the 1980 film Flash Gordon starring Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Topol and Max Von Sydow remains the most widely remembered adaptation.

This movie by Mike Hodges was recently featured in Seth MacFarlane‘s Ted, with an appearance from Jones, referencing the film's campy, cult charm along with rock band Queen’s unforgettable score

Initially conceived by Alex Raymond as competition for the popular Buck Rogers, Gordon was a polo-playing Yale graduate who, with companions Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, journeyed into space to find the source of fiery meteors that were bombarding Earth.  Gordon soon found his arch-enemy in Ming the Merciless and the group's adventures on the planet Mongo included meeting Ming's daughter Princesss Aura, Prince Barin in the forest kingdom of Arboria, and Prince Vultan, leader of the flying city of the hawkmen.

Universal had director Breck Eisner linked to a new, big-screen Flash Gordon in the mid-2000s, which failed to happen.  The rights reverted to Hearst Entertainment, who then optioned them out to Sony, where Eisner remained attached as director.  Together with Dracula: Year Zero‘s Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, Eisner attempted to develop what would have been a lavish 3D feature film.

The character's last notable live-action adaptation was in the 2007-08 Sci Fi channel television series Flash Gordon, which starred Eric Johnson and Gina Holden and ran for just one season of 21 episodes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pierce Brosnan Has "No Desire" to Watch Himself as James Bond


And here you thought Die Another Day was a bad Bond movie.

In an interview posted yesterday by The Telegraph, former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan dismissed his own era as the famous British secret agent, calling his performances "never good enough."

Now 60, Brosnan starred in four James Bond films -- GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002) -- with each film arguably being worse than the one that preceded it.  During promotion for his fourth and final Bond film, Brosnan expressed interest in returning for a fifth, saying "I'd like to do another, sure. [Sean] Connery did six.  Six would be a number, then never come back."  But after former Bond Roger Moore received criticism for staying in the role until he was 58, fiftysomething Brosnan ended up announcing in 2005 that he was finished with the role.  Daniel Craig, 37 at the time, was announced as the sixth James Bond eight months later.

On this time as James Bond, Brosnan told The Telegraph.  "I felt I was caught in a time warp between Roger and Sean.  It was a very hard one to grasp the meaning of, for me.  The violence was never real, the brute force of the man was never palpable.  It was quite tame, and the characterization didn’t have a follow-through of reality, it was surface.  But then that might have had to do with my own insecurities in playing him as well."

When asked if he ever watches any of his Bond movies, Brosnan replied, "I have no desire to watch myself as James Bond, 'cause it’s just never good enough.  It’s a horrible feeling."

However, Brosnan apparently holds no animosity toward his successor, Daniel Craig.  In a recent article for ShortList, Brosnan was asked what he thought of Craig's recent Bond film Skyfall and if seeing Craig on screen is like watching him date an ex-girlfriend.  "It's all his," laughed Brosnan.  "He’s the man, he’s the dude.  There’s only one Bond and that’s him.  I didn’t see any of the others, but I loved Skyfall.  I thought what [director] Sam Mendes did was very rich and textured and had real balls to it – I was very impressed."

Friday, April 11, 2014

BATMAN: STRANGE DAYS Animated Short Released


Bruce Timm, we really missed you.

This past Wednesday, the much-anticipated Batman 75th Anniversary animated short Batman: Strange Days debuted during Cartoon Network's Teen Titans Go!  The three-minute short from Warner Bros. Animation celebrating Batman's 75th anniversary was produced by Bruce Timm, most famous for his work on the classic Batman: The Animated Series.

The DC Nation short features Batman, voiced once again by Kevin Conroy, tracking a mysterious giant who has kidnapped a young woman to the lair of Professor Hugo Strange, one of his oldest enemies.  Strange insists that the giant be careful with the young woman, because Strange needs every drop of her blood for his experiment.

We then see Batman, depicted in his original 1939 costume, swooping down from the sky in a vintage Batplane and firing tear gas cannisters at Strange and the giant.  The gas quickly overwhelms them, allowing the young woman to escape.  Switching the Batplane to autopilot mode, Batman leaps out and begins brawling with the giant, surrounded by clouds of mist.

Meanwhile, Strange recovers the young woman, threatening Batman to stay back or he will kill her with a medical scalpel.  Saying nothing, Batman moves forward, causing Strange to step back and fall down a steep cliff.  Batman fires a Batarang cable to save the young woman from falling, but allows Strange to fall (apparently) to his doom.

"Is it...Is it over?" asks the young woman.

"For now," Batman replies in vocal perfection that only Conroy can give.

Another short from Darwyn Cooke, celebrating the animated series Batman Beyond, is expected later this year.  You can view Batman: Strange Days in full below, thanks to the official DC Entertainment account on YouTube...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Peter Mayhew Reprising Chewbacca for STAR WARS EPISODE VII


At last we have the mighty Chewbacca...

The Hollywood Reporter confirms that actor Peter Mayhew will reprise his classic role of Chewbacca the Wookiee for J.J. Abrams' Star Wars Episode VII.  Mayhew, now 69, has been rumored to return for Episode VII ever since he canceled an appearance at the Texas convention Comicpalooza "due to filming."

Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn revealed last week that filming for Episode VII has already begun and that most of the cast is set.  "We have a lot of them [in place]," said Horn about the central cast, whose names have not been announced.  "We’re just not completely done yet."

Mayhew joins Adam Driver, announced in February as the film's lead villain, and original trilogy stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, who are expected, but not officially confirmed, to give their characters a proper sendoff.  Mayhew last reprised the character on film in 2005's Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Little has been revealed about the film's premise apart from that it will be set thirty years after Return of the Jedi and will introduce the next generation of Star Wars heroes, who will take over the franchise starting with Episode VIII.  "There will be some very familiar faces along with a trio of new young leads," said Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger during Disney's annual shareholder's meeting in Portland, Oregon.

Star Wars Episode VII is currently scheduled to arrive in theaters on December 18, 2015.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

DAMN Good Movies -- CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

 
Yes, here we are once again for another of my infamous movie reviews, this time on the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, based on the classic Marvel Comics character.  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...welcome to Level 7...

Although the previous Captain America movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, only made $176 million domestically, the $370 million worldwide total made a second Steve Rogers solo movie a no-brainer.  Moviegoers who weren't feeling the patriotic superhero in a World War II setting came to appreciate the character in the modern-day The Avengers, which set up a completely different approach to the Cap sequel.

Instead of bringing back director Joe Johnston, Marvel Studios went with Anthony and Joseph Russo, primarily known for helming several terrific episodes of the NBC geek sitcom Community.  Thankfully, the pair were fans of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting's superb storyline "The Winter Soldier" from the Captain America comics and wisely met with Brubaker to discuss his various thoughts about the character.

The Russos, working with a script from the returning Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, decided on approaching the film as a political conspiracy thriller, essentially a Marvel superhero version of classic films such as Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View and Marathon Man.  And just to emphasize that concept, they somehow managed to bring in Robert Redford, the legendary film actor who starred in, yes, Three Days of the Condor.

Picking up two years after the events in The Avengers, Steve Rogers is still trying to find his way in the 21st Century after nearly seven decades of being frozen in ice.  He continues working with the intelligence and espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and is quickly brought in to join a mission to free captured S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives from Algerian pirates led by none other than Batroc.  It's here we get our first hint that things aren't as they seem, when Steve discovers his fellow agent and Avenger Black Widow is more concerned with saving data from the ship's computers on a flash drive than kicking Algerian pirate ass.

From that point on, it's one S.H.I.E.L.D. trust fail after another.  Executive Director Nick Fury is blocked from accessing the data Black Widow extracted, then ends up ambushed by a bunch of fake cops and a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier on the downtown streets of Cleveland Washington, D.C.  Thanks to his trusty S.H.I.E.L.D. ride, Fury escapes and heads for Steve's apartment, hands him the flash drive and pulls a Fox Mulder by telling him to "Trust no one" before being gunned down by the Winter Soldier.

And if that isn't enough of the Worst Monday Ever, Cap is summoned by S.H.I.E.L.D. uber-bigwig Alexander Pierce to reveal what Fury learned and refuses, which results in Pierce branding him a fugitive.  With the help of Black Widow, Cap uncovers information that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been totally compromised by everyone's favorite comic book terrorist organization, HYDRA.  Joy.

The Russos keep things moving briskly, with heavy S.H.I.E.L.D. intrigue balanced well against seat-gripping action sequences and some zippy lines of dialogue along the way.  Henry Jackman does well enough with the score to heighten the tension at just the right moments, but ultimately pales in comparison to previous composer Alan Silvestri.  Unfortunately, the films biggest problem is cinematographer Trent Opaloch, who seems determined to turn Captain America into Jason Bourne with frustrating and confusing close-ups of action sequences, mixed with quick-cut editing and nauseating shakycam.

Despite those issues, the film's cast turn in some terrific performances with a lot of great character moments.  Here are some of the things that stood out:

CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS -- Now halfway through his reported six-film contract, Chris Evans continues to add considerable depth to his character.  You genuinely feel for Steve as a man out of time, struggling to adjust to life seventy years from what he knows.  He's desperate for something to believe in, which makes it all the more tragic when he's betrayed by what he believes in most.

BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF -- Scarlett Johansson proves once again how ridiculous it is that the Black Widow has never received a solo film.  For most of this movie, Natasha acts as Steve's full-fledged partner, casually flirting with him at times even though both seem to know nothing's going to happen beyond friendship.  And finally, we get to see Natasha's darker, secretive side in full display, giving her that morally grey distinction that makes her all the more fascinating.

THE WINTER SOLDIER/JAMES "BUCKY" BARNES -- Although he doesn't get much in the way of dialogue, Sebastian Stan is near perfect casting as the Winter Soldier.  Due to his facial mask early on and the minimal dialogue, Stan is forced to express his character through his eyes projecting everything from mind-controlled emptiness to tormented recollection of fleeting memories.  It's going to be interesting if Stan ends up taking over as Captain America when Evans leaves, as the Winter Soldier does during Brubaker's epic "Death of Captain America" saga.

THE FALCON/SAM WILSON -- Right from the start, Anthony Mackie nails his role of Sam Wilson without being obnoxious or wacky comedy relief.  Sam and Steve quickly form their bromance while running laps around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool, bringing to life one the best superhero friendships to come out of '70s comics.  Although we don't get to see him in full flying action until the third act, The Falcon more than proves his worth and I really hope we get to see him join the Avengers.

NICK FURY -- At 65, Samuel L. Jackson seems ready to let Nick Fury vanish into the shadows.  He finally gets a significant action sequence of his own, but there are some very symbolic moments at the end that strongly hint he won't be coming back.  Fury leaves his eyepatch behind in a burning fire, and then we get a shot of Fury's gravestone, which features a much-beloved Bible quotation from Ezekiel 25:17, made famous by Jackson in the Quentin Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction.  What better way for Jackson to go out on?

ALEXANDER PIERCE -- Robert Redford is another aging veteran at 77 and unfortunately, it shows all too well.  In an apparent nod to Brubaker's Aleksander Lukin, Pierce is ultimately revealed as the Big Bad mastermind serving HYDRA, but Redford seems too old to project the edge needed to make his character a truly menacing villain.  He comes off as just another Evil White Guy in a Suit, something we've seen hundreds of times in action movies.

MARIA HILL -- Once again, Cobie Smulders is supposed to be Nick Fury's number two but serves little purpose apart from helping Cap and Black Widow escape S.H.I.E.L.D. and to update the audience on how the Helicarriers are being disabled.  Perhaps she'll get more to do working in Stark Industries' human resources department.

AGENT 13/SHARON CARTER -- This was Emily VanCamp's introduction as Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers' love interest after her aunt Peggy.  It feels like Sharon's being saved for the third Captain America film, but she does get a nice sequence where she defiantly refuses to roll over for Rumlow activating the Helicarriers.

PEGGY CARTER -- After wowing fans with her Agent Carter one-shot on the Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray release, Hayley Atwell returns to give some much-needed modern-day closure between Peggy and Steve.  It's tragic she and Steve never got to have that dance, but hopefully the rumored Agent Carter television series actually happens.

CROSSBONES/BROCK RUMLOW -- Unfortunately, Frank Grillo doesn't assume his Crossbones identity in this film, but he's solid as Pierce's go-to henchman heading up the S.H.I.E.L.D. strike team.  He also gives The Falcon someone to fight while Cap's busy with the Winter Soldier.

BATROC THE LEAPER/GEORGES BATROC -- Former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre portrays one of Cap's oldest bad guys from the comics, now reinvented as an Algerian pirate.  The casting makes perfect sense, allowing St. Pierre to showcase Batroc's mastery of savate, a French form of kickboxing.

ARNIM ZOLA -- Toby Jones returns as Zola, albeit in audio form only now that his character's consciousness has been uploaded into a supercomputer.  We're one step closer to finally seeing Zola as a headless monster with his face projected holographically on his chest.  Can't wait.

JASPER SITWELL -- Maximiliano Hernandez reprises his role of Sitwell, showing us how deep HYDRA's corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D. runs and to inform Cap about Zola's data-mining algorithm.  Unless Sitwell ends up in that wonderful place known as Tahiti in a future episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this may be the last we see of him. 

SENATOR STERN -- The same goes for Garry Shandling, returning after his previous appearance in Iron Man 2.  However, Stern ends up arrested and not dead, so perhaps he'll end up cellmates with Trevor Slattery.

ED BRUBAKER CAMEO -- The co-creator of The Winter Soldier has a "Don't Blink" cameo as one of the scientists overseeing Bucky's mental conditioning.  Very appropriate.

OBLIGATORY STAN LEE CAMEO -- In a fun moment, we find Smilin' Stan serving as a security guard at the Smithsonian Institution, bemoaning that he's going to lose his job after Steve Rogers takes his original Captain America uniform.

BARON STRUCKER, QUICKSILVER AND SCARLET WITCH CAMEOS -- Thomas Kretschmann, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen appear in the mid-credits bonus scene.  Inside a HYDRA lab, we see Baron Strucker admiring Loki's scepter left over from The Avengers and two prisoners very familiar to Marvel fans.  The Avengers: Age of Ultron can't get here fast enough.

Overall, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a welcome upgrade over the previous two lackluster Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  It has the far-too-rare distinction of being a sequel that's better than the first film, with some genuine game-changing implications for future Marvel movies as well as ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.  It may be a little convoluted for someone who walks in cold with no knowledge of all the various characters and previous movies, but pay offs huge for those who are.

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. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
9. Watchmen (2009)
10. Iron Man (2008)

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

20. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Your friendly neighborhood movie reviewer,

Charles


Friday, April 4, 2014

CONSTANTINE Pilot Script Details Revealed


It's been about a month since we got our first look at Matt Ryan in the NBC pilot Constantine, with only sparse information about the actual pilot itself.

Shock Till You Drop posted some interesting new details yesterday, claiming they've read the actual script by Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer.  They described the script as "a fun read" with "a bit of a playful edge to it" and made comparisons to Fox's Sleepy Hollow and The CW's Supernatural.  Without spoiling everything that happens, they listed these ten items of interest...
  1. The pilot takes place in and around New York City (which I don't think has been known about until now).

  2. When we first find John, we learn he has voluntarily checked himself into a psychiatric clinic. He's haunted by an incident in which he lost a 9-year-old girl to a demon who has dragged her soul to Hell. This incident has a significant impact on his life and it's that is driving him. He checks himself out of the hosptial after six months to find something sinister is afoot in the realm of the supernatural.

  3. John's a clever wise-ass. His business card reads "Exorcist, Demonologist and Master of the Dark Arts," but as he tells his doctor, he should replace "master" with "petty dabbler" because he hates to put on airs. He also doesn't like to talk much about his past; he masks his emotions with wry humor.

  4. We won't see John in his classic trenchcoat right away, but he gets there.

  5. An angel – Manny [Harold Perrineau] – has been assigned to John to help ease his soul into damnation. John hates angels.

  6. Liv Parsons [Lucy Griffiths], a young woman who works at a rental car facility, gets caught up in John's world when she discovers something is after her. Liv's deceased father, Jasper, knew John and John owes a debt to him.

  7. Papa Midnite – an imposing Cuban man who can dream the future – is ailing when we first find him. He's doing a lot of cocaine because he has to stay awake.

  8. Expect to meet "Chaz" [Charles Halford], John's driver who is a tall, sensitive, quiet type yet is quite knowledgeable about the supernatural himself.

  9. The pilot is brimming with possessions, ghosts (Liv discovers a way to see the dead) and demons and the story does an adept job at not losing its audience in the mythology. Liv is our conduit to John's world of rituals, pendants, black magic and more and handles the exposition well.

  10. The foundation is set for a long-lasting partnership between Liv and John. Now that she's aware of the world beyond ours, she wants to use her knowledge to help others. But is John willing to assist her?
As Hellblazer comics fans know, the incident involving the nine-year-old girl is a reference to Astra, an abused girl who conjured a monster that took revenge on the adults who tormented her but the monster refused to leave.  Constantine and several of his occultist friends attempted to destroy the creature by summoning a demon of their own, but the demon remained out of their control.  After destroying the creature, the demon tormented Constantine's friends and took Astra to Hell.  Constantine suffered a nervous breakdown as a result and was committed to Ravenscar Psychiatric Hospital.
 
Papa Midnite will be the "Big Bad" if the pilot is picked up for a full series.  The character was previously portrayed in live action by Djimon Hounsou in the 2005 film Constantine.
 
 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

GOTHAM Casts Cory Michael Smith as The Riddler


And here you thought Jim Gordon had his hands full with The Penguin...

Entertainment Weekly has just announced that the upcoming Fox series Gotham has cast Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma, better known to Batman fans as The Riddler.  According to the article, Smith will guest star in the pilot with an option to expand into a series regular.

Nygma is described in the article as "a brilliant young forensic scientist working for Gotham PD and a penchant for speaking in…rather cryptic language.  Inquisitive, eccentric and outgoing — yet socially awkward — he wants to be liked, but he doesn’t quite know how."

Smith will be the fourth actor to portray the character in live action, after the memorable Frank Gorshin and John Astin in the 1960s Batman television series and Jim Carrey in the 1995 film Batman ForeverHis past work includes the film Camp X-Ray and the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge..


Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang in 1948's Detective Comics (vol.1) #140, The Riddler is a intellectual genius obsessed with riddles, puzzles and word games and uses question marks as his visual motif.  His criminal modus operandi makes it rarely impossible for him to commit crimes without providing complex clues to Batman and the Gotham City police.


AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Producers Address Criticisms


As some of you are all too aware, it's been a somewhat rocky first season for ABC's Marvel Cinematic Universe series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  The show debuted last September with an impressive viewership of over 12 million (a 4.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic) but has progressively lost half of its audience, with the most recent episode, "Yes Men," earning 5.99 million viewers (a 2.1 rating).  The erratic scheduling hasn't helped either, with only five new episodes airing so far since the beginning of 2014.

Regardless, the series still entertains and does well enough to continue on, so a second season seems more than likely at this point.  In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon address some of the issues critics have had while attempting to lower fan expectations.

On what they've learned so far fifteen episodes in, Tancharoen remarked, "We've learned what works and what doesn't and we're sticking with the stuff that works. It's an eight-day shoot and we knew from the outset that there were a lot of eyes on the show with very high expectations. People were expecting to see a Marvel movie every week. With the reality of our accelerated post schedule, we are living up to that standard as much as we possibly can. In the beginning, we may have tried to apply too much to an episode. Now we understand the right balance that we need of scale as well as story and quiet moments in between. That is what our show is about: real people living in this extraordinary world. We've found how to lean into that; to show the same great universe as you see in the movies, but through a different lens."

Concerning critics of the show, such as former S.H.I.E.L.D. artist Jim Steranko, Whedon commented, "Everything that everybody has seen that has come from Marvel has been a giant multimillion-dollar film and we can't do that. The expectation that they're going to see a Marvel movie each week -- that's a hard expectation to live up to. The only way we can live up to it is with story and long-term storytelling. That's the one advantage we have over the films: we can develop story arcs over this period of 22 episodes. Early on, we had to be careful with making sure we honored the Marvel universe they created. They spent millions and billions of dollars, time and energy and very cleverly created this awesome massive universe that we are playing in."

Added Tancharoen, "We didn't want to bombard our new audience -- an audience that includes people that aren't familiar with the Marvel universe -- we didn't to want to bombard them with a superhero week after week."

On the subject of bringing in big-name characters, such as Nick Fury or Sif, Tancharoen said, "It wasn't one of our main goals to have one of the big stars from the movies come in week to week. We knew that would be setting an expectation that just realistically we couldn't pursue. Our goal was to have a show that stands on its own, which I think we've done. It's Marvel's goal to show and respect that it is all connected and our show has a unique opportunity to participate in that so it's always a possibility to have someone coming."

The two ended up contradicting one another somewhat on the topic of making adjustments to the series based upon fan response.  "We think of it as a band playing a song," said Whedon.  "If everyone goes to the bar when we play a slow number, maybe we don't play as many slow numbers. We try to see what people are responding to and hit those notes harder and test the audience and make those notes interesting."

However, Tancharoen has a slightly different perception.  "There hasn't been a course correction of any kind," she replied.  "The way the season is laid out is how we originally planned it. We're excited for people to see these last seven and see how everything comes together."

On the pair's plans for Season 2, Tancharoen responded, "We have a board going right now. We just don't have a season two yet. But we are planning on it and at the end of season one, we are tying a lot of things up as well as teeing things up for a possible season two."

And lastly, will the Season 1 finale serve as a possible series finale if there's no renewal from ABC?  "No, you'd be so desperate to see another season and you'd be sad," said Whedon.  "It'll definitely be a satisfying season finale but we definitely are teeing up stuff to come."