Star Wars Episode VII Cast Announced

Well so much for waiting for May 4th to make the announcement. After months of speculation from fans and the press, Lucasfilm has just announced the cast for the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII.

As expected many of the actors from SWcastthe original Star Wars trilogy will reprise their iconic roles including Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia (will she be a queen by this time?). Also returning are Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, and Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker as the droids C-3P0 and R2-D2. At this point, Billy Dee Williams has not been announced as returning to play Lando Calrissian.

new castNow for the new actors, there hasn’t been any official announcement as to who will play who, but the following actors have been confirmed: John Boyega, best known for his role in Attack The Block; Daisy Ridley, a newcomer who may be playing Obi-Wan Kenobi’s descendant; Adam Driver, from the HBO series Girls, is rumored to be playing the villain; Oscar Isaac, who won a lot of acclaim for his recent role in the film Inside Llewyn Davis; Andy Serkis, who is known by genre fans everywhere for his groundbreaking mo-cap work as Gollum in The Lord Of the Rings trilogy, the title character in the King  Cast 2Kong remake and Caesar in the recent Planet Of The Apes films; Domhall Gleeson, recognized by fans for playing Bill Weasley in the latter Harry Potter films, and legendary actor Max von Sydow. It would be fun if von Sydow played a similar scene-chewing role as he did as Ming in Flash Gordon. However, it’s more likely he may play a diplomat, perhaps the leader of the New Republic, or maybe a clandestine villain ala Palpatine.

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Well, we can breathe a sigh of relief that Star Wars Episode VII director J.J. Abrams hasn’t picked anyone cringeworthy like Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen. In fact, some of these picks like von Sydow, Isaac and Serkis are quite inspired. Whether or not one is thrilled with these choices, the fact remains that a feeling of excitement is palpable among Star Wars fans now that a new Star Wars film is going to be a reality. Announcing the cast now just whets our appetites for next year.

Annette DeForrester

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Candidate Directors For The Next Star Trek Film

abrams 2J.J. Abrams isn’t available to direct the next Star Trek film because he’s busy playing in the other major sci-fi franchise. However, with the 50th anniversary of Star Trek just two years away, Paramount Pictures needs to find a new director for the next Star Trek movie. Due to the fact that the film will be produced by Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, the eventual director will probably be someone known and trusted by that company. Most recently many fans became visibly nervous when Abrams’ longtime associate writer Roberto Orci stated his wish to direct the next Star Trek film. He wrote the rebooted Trek movies and co-wrote other sci-fi movies like Transformers, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Cowboys & Aliens. Orci also co-created and wrote for TV shows like Fringe and Sleepy Hollow. baird trekHowever, he has never directed a film before, so it seems unlikely that Paramount is willing to entrust the keys of their popular franchise on an unproven director. Reinforcing that is the fact that the big budget, high profile film Transcendence failed with freshman director Wally Pfister.

So, Paramount has to be careful in hiring the right director for the next Star Trek film. History has shown that the success of Star Trek movies largely rests on the talents of its directors and the film series’ spotty record is a testament to that notion. An infamous example is Stuart Baird and Star Trek: Nemesis.

While obviously, they’re not going to get someone like Spielberg or Brad Bird to helm the film, there is actually a decent pool of directors who could be the next Nicholas Meyer. Perhaps this director could bring something different to the franchise; maybe some intellectual heft, while telling an exciting tale. Here are some candidates:

Matt Reeves: Perhaps best known for Cloverfield, Reeves is a solid choice to direct a Trek film and he could have some favor with Bad Robot Productions. Cloverfield was produced by that company so he is a known quality to Abrams and company. Plus, he directed the revered horror film Let Me In and the upcoming Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. Even though he has been named to direct another Planet Of The Apes film, perhaps he can be lured into the world of Star Trek.

duncan jonesDuncan Jones: His previous sci-fi films, Moon and Source Code were grounded, entertaining and thought provoking fare with great characters. Such qualities would be a perfect fit for a Star Trek film. Currently Jones is directing Warcraft, which is due on March 2016. Maybe if he can finish up that film soon, Jones may have time to squeeze in a Trek film for later that year.

Rian Johnson: The well-regarded, time-travel action film Looper put the director on the map. Johnson has also recently directed some of the most acclaimed episodes of Breaking Bad. That alone should be enough to earn some serious consideration. Remember that Nicholas Meyer’s previous movie before Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan was the underrated time-travel gem Time After Time. Maybe history will repeat itself?

carruth

Shane Carruth: He is another director who helmed a time-travel film. This one being Primer, more of a thinking person’s sci-fi movie rather than an actioner. But Primer is a respected movie among genre fans, and Carruth’s hand would lend some sorely missed intellectualism to a Star Trek film. The problem is that Paramount is probably convinced that a more cerebral Trek movie won’t sell as many tickets as an action piece. That may be true, but a more serious minded Trek film would probably bring back many disaffected fans turned off by Abrams’ flashy and action-oriented directing style that is better suited for Star Wars.

Rupert Wyatt: This director seemed to have come out of nowhere in 2011 and presented the surprisingly great Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, which revived the dormant franchise. Last year, he was mentioned by Abrams as a likely contender for the Trek directing gig until the buzz shifted to Joe Cornish. Who knows what happened? But if they’re smart they should get back to the negotiating table to bring him onboard because Wyatt demonstrated some genuine storytelling skill with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

singerBryan Singer: Fans of superhero films generally agree that Singer’s X-Men films have been some of the best superhero movies of the sub-genre. An avowed Star Trek fan, Singer even had a cameo in Star Trek: Nemesis. Now throw in his directing prowess, especially with ensemble casts, and we may have a perfect choice for the next Trek adventure. However, he is busy with the X-Men film franchise and is now prepping the followup to X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

William Eubank: Love was an unusual and eubankadmittedly obscure sci-fi movie about a stranded astronaut in the International Space Station. Nevertheless, it was a thought-provoking and beautifully shot film thanks to Eubank. What is more impressive is that it was done on a shoestring budget, yet had topnotch production values. If Paramount wants to cut corners with the budget, Eubank can stretch a dollar out while delivering a winning film. If his upcoming film The Signal is successful, he should be considered by Paramount.

Joseph Kosinski: Tron: Legacy and Oblivion were sci-fi films that sharply divided many viewers. They were very entertaining with fantastic visual effects, imagery and production design. But many had issues with the emotional tone and narrative of the films. Still, they weren’t empty action films and Kosinski can deliver a sci-fi film with some food for thought.

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Now these candidates may be a bit out of left field but if Paramount gets desperate they  would be better choices than Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) or Roberto Orci.

At one point, Attack The Block director Joe Cornish was the person picked to direct the upcoming Trek movie, but he dropped out late last year. With looming deadlines, he can possibly be lured back to the franchise. If not him Paramount can pull a Hail Mary pass and turn to Nicholas Meyer or even Jonathan Frakes for another go around. Of course, that won’t happen. Right?

meyer kirkOn a serious note, because of the pending fiftieth anniversary of the beloved franchise, the next Star Trek film needs to be a super event that rivals the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who and James Bond. Many fans are dissatisfied with Abrams’ take on Star Trek and want not just a replacement but someone who they think will treat the property with respect and put out a great movie. There is still time but Paramount needs to step up its efforts to find the right director. After all, it is a special occasion.

Lewis T. Grove

A Farscape Sequel Film In the Works

 

Fans of the beloved and quirky sci-fi series Farscape should be pleased to know that concerted efforts are underway for a Farscape TV movie.

In this weekend’s WonderCon in Anaheim, series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon confirmed that one of the show’s writers Justin Monjo is working on the script and while the project is still in the preliminary stage, he is optimistic that it will be made.

Supposedly the film will be about D’Argo Crichton, the son of John Crichton (Ben Browder) and Aeryn moyaSun (Claudia Black), who was introduced as a baby in the mini-series Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. The younger Crichton has grown up on Earth as part of an effort to hide him because he is exhibiting unique powers that interested Farscape’s baddies. But now at the rebellious age of 19, D’Argo Crichton is ready to rendezvous with his parents who are still traipsing across the cosmos.

What is interesting about the project is that the film will take place after the comic book stories that followed the show, making it one of the few instances where a comic book story line is actively considered as cannon for a film or TV medium.

farscape oneNow many Farscape fans will take this news with a grain of salt. A few years ago, there was supposed to be a web-based series but that project was ultimately shelved. But now with Farscape recapturing many fans’ imaginations and bringing in new converts, perhaps the time is right to revisit the slightly eccentric astronaut and his bizarre but lovable alien friends. Finding a way to bring back Ka D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe) would be a nice bonus. But until news that production is underway and the original cast has been reunited, it’s best to stay guardedly optimistic.

Lewis T. Grove

The Aftermath Of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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First off, if anyone reading this hasn’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier or the most recent episodes of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. then stop reading this because MAJOR SPOILERS will be discussed. Last warning, if anyone doesn’t want to be spoiled then go and watch that excellent movie or watch the TV show online somewhere and come back here when done.

Enemies Within

The events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, without exaggeration, completely changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What happened in that movie probably has more far-reaching consequences than the alien Chitauri attack on New York City seen in The Avengers.

S.H.I.E.L.D., the elite spy agency of the Marvel Universe, no longer exists by the film’s end thanks to Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his partners. It turned out that the ultra spy organization was infiltrated long ago by Hydra, the Nazi off-shoot organization led by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) in Captain America: The First Avenger. That revelation halfway into the film was a big WTF moment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, especially with the disclosure that Hydra was responsible for orchestrating many chaotic and destructive events in our history since the end of World War II. This was something that is disturbing to learn given our violent history and is the stuff conspiracy fans thrive on. But in hindsight, Hydra’s malevolent influence was there in the open for everyone to see.

fury and starkThink about it, ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was introduced in Iron Man, there was something a bit too Big Brotherish about S.H.I.E.L.D. They seemed to know too much, had too much access as seen when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the agency’s director, turned up uninvited in Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) place in the post-credit scene in that film. The man was for all intents and purposes a trespasser but everyone was too busy wetting their pants when Fury mentioned the Avengers Initiative. Then they came off as a bit nefarious with the way they coldly confiscated scientific equipment and data from Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her group in Thor. Their blasé attitude throughout the movie didn’t alleviate this feeling, it was as if they were untouchable and they were. In the climax of The Avengers, the World Security Council ordered a nuclear strike on New York City to stop the alien Chitauri invasion. Nick Fury refused to carry out the order, but the Council overruled Fury and had S.H.I.E.L.D. pilots carry out the order nonetheless. Being that the head of the Council, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), was revealed to be part of Hydra, this decision makes sense since he would be fine with sacrificing the city.

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As with real-life spy agencies, it would be par for the course for S.H.I.E.L.D. to be philosophically gray and murky when it came to getting their hands dirty when carrying out missions. To them the ends do justify the means; that is just the unshakable mindset of spies. Nick Fury at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was fine with this concept. He even scolded Rogers and told him to just accept the questionable philosophy of Project: Insight and get with the program. For that initiative, S.H.I.E.L.D. constructed three state-of-the-art helicarriers that would preemptively take out human targets before they could commit any acts of terror or criminal activity. Helping the project was a computer program that analyzed and predicted the behavior and actions of prospective targets. Later in the film, Pierce ordered the helicarriers to eliminate all potential threats, which numbered in the millions and included Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, the Avengers and Stephen Strange. While those name drops are cool Easter eggs for fans they point out the fact that Pierce and Hydra’s extreme plan would’ve eliminated any resistance to their plan to instigate world order.

At one point in the film, Fury wanted to preserve S.H.I.E.L.D., but Captain America was adamant about taking down the entire structure. Unlike Fury, he saw that the organization was corrupted and unsalvageable. Even without Hydra’s influence S.H.I.E.L.D. was too omnipresent and powerful. The agency was a perfect example of power corrupts. Thus, it had to be disbanded. This decision would immediately impact the lives of many S.H.I.E.L.D. agents around the world. Continue reading

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Upends The Marvel Cinematic Universe

cap 2 posterI’m not exaggerating when I say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the greatest superhero films ever made. It ranks right up there with Iron Man, The Dark Knight and The Avengers. It’s that great! It’s exciting, intriguing, full of action and, most importantly, character defining moments that elevates this film above your standard superhero flick.

While the first Captain America film was a pleasant salute to World War II Americana, this sequel just elevates the character and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a whole new level. In fact, Captain America: The Winter Soldier completely upends the carefully crafted world created with ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????these Marvel movies and it does so in a logical way that actually reflects on the impact of the events from The Avengers. As much as 9/11 radically changed our world, the alien attack on New York City in The Avengers has had far reaching ramifications. Iron Man 3 explored the personal impact as seen with Iron Man’s post traumatic stress disorder. This Captain America film examines the impact on the world stage and how it has made the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. just a tad bit too omnipresent. That was something that was underlying in past Marvel films, the spies were everywhere, seemed too powerful, had too much carte blanche. This film shows how the agency overreached with a diabolical plot hatched by traitors from within.

The film begins with Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America (Chris Evans) leading a strike force that includes fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff a.k.a Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) to rescue hostages onboard a hijacked freighter ship. It turns out that the hostages are actually S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Black Widow has a separate agenda to download encrypted files from the ship’s computer. Captain America then learns that S.H.I.E.L.D. is about to launch Project: Insight, which will use a trio of new generation helicarriers to preemptively take out potential threats worldwide.

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All this causes Rogers to question his allegiance to S.H.I.E.L.D. and magnificently echoes the unease he’s having with adapting to this new world. Despite its fast-moving plot, time is taken to feature quiet, reflective moments where he sees how much the world and his country has changed. They are the emotional highlights of the film and allow Evans to prove his acting chops. He undeniably owns this role and it’s now difficult to picture another actor playing this character.

Anyway, it turns out that he is not the only one wondering about the spy agency’s ambiguous nature. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), S.H.I.E.L.D.’s director also has his doubts and his inquiries launch a devastating chain of events that includes having Rogers and Romanoff hunted by S.H.I.E.L.D. and ultimately leaves the agency and the world changed forever. The stakes are that high.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As he eludes S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America has to face a specter from his past. This being the lethal Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a super assassin with a bionic arm. I won’t give away who the Winter Soldier is in case anyone reading this doesn’t know but his storyline is very tragic considering his relationship to Rogers. Putting that aside the directors Anthony and Joe Russo make him one of the most formidable super villains seen on film and while the Red Skull was Captain America’s chief nemesis, the Winter Soldier is both a physical match to Rogers and a genuine threat. At times I actually wondered if the good Captain would prevail in their fights.

Speaking of action, this film has lots of it. It does have that annoying shaky cam for some scenes, but the directors knew enough to control it and let the spectacular stunts speak for themselves. It’s incredible how Marvel Studios were able to make a perfect, unorthodox directing choice. This duo was known for directing comedies, ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????who would’ve known they could pull this off? But what underlines all the action sequences are the characters, they’re so well written and acted and the actors have their moments, even the newcomers. Take Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon. This version of the Falcon was so cool and likable, it’s easy to see why Rogers gravitated to this guy when he needed help. The Falcon definitely has his moments with his flight outfit that seems so formidable and believable.

cap on bike

Captain America: The Winter Soldier works in so many ways because writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely took the best elements from the Captain America comic books and fused them to make this unforgettable cinematic wonder. The movie left me wanting to see more and it set up enough questions and material to carry over to another sequel. Honestly, since Marvel Studios has signed on these directors for the next film, I cannot wait to see it.

Waldermann Rivera