Comic-Con 2017 Movie & TV Highlights

San Diego is host once again to Comic-Con and after a slow couple of days, interest exploded into unbridled passion today with the reveal of several high profile trailers and announcements. By no means does this mean that the news coming out of Comic-Con before today wasn’t anything to laugh off, it’s just everyone was waiting for the big guns today.

ben-affleck-as-batmanBefore today’s revelations, the biggest news coming out of the comic book/genre convention could have been considered negative. First, was the rumor that Ben Affleck was stepping away from the role of Batman in the DCEU. That was disturbing to the fledgling cinematic universe since his character was supposed to be the lynchpin tying the DCEU films together. It was kind of ironic because when he was first announced as Batman/Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, his casting was widely derided among fans but since the release of that film, many have come around to embrace his portrayal as an older and embittered Batman. In fact, many have claimed that Affleck has been the best actor to play the legendary superhero to date. Today, the actor dispelled the gossip and stated his intention of remaining in the role. Whether that holds up as filming starts with The Batman remains to be seen, but hopefully it will be true.

Next was the unveiling of the second trailer for Marvel’s upcoming TV show Inhumans. Overall, it was a better looking trailer compared to the first bland teaser, but what ruined it was the cheap looking CG used to animate Medusa’s hair, something that everyone was waiting for and it was a disappointment. With the IMAX pilot coming in less than two months it is hard to see how the effects will improve significantly. The other disheartening news was that 20th Century Fox is apparently not letting go of the Fantastic Four film rights with the announcement that a Doctor Doom film is in development. If this were to happen, the rights will stay with the studio instead of going back to Marvel Entertainment since Marvel’s premier supervillain is so closely associated with the Fantastic Four. The fact that the film is being developed by the showrunner of Legion is a bittersweet salve for fans hoping and desperately wishing that Marvel Studios would get back the rights to the superhero team given Fox’s abysmal record with their versions of the Fantastic Four.

Today, the big guns were brought to bear as trailers after trailers were released to hungry fans attending the crowded convention or scouring the Internet. In many ways, Warner Bros. and DC Studios won the day with the universal acclaim received for the third trailer for this year’s Justice League. Building on the success of this summer’s Wonder Woman, the new trailer opens with the Amazonian princess doing her thing then quickly cuts to showcase the other members of the team and a tantalizing tease of the film’s villain Steppenwolf. The Flash stole the trailer with his awkward and funny demeanor that called to mind Spider-Man. Sadly, although he was teased, there still isn’t any sign of Superman. Come on DC throw us a bone!

Speaking of Superman’s absence, DC Studios announced their updated slate of films and a sequel to Man of Steel was not on the roster, which is disappointing. However, some of the announcements made up for it with Green Lantern Corps, Justice League Dark, Batgirl, Wonder Woman 2, Shazam, Aquaman (this one is no-brainer given that it’s currently filming and footage was shown tonight), Suicide Squad 2, The Batman and The Flash: Flashpoint. The last film sounds very exciting since it can be the method used to reboot the DCEU if needed, and on the other hand could explain the recasting of Batman if that were to happen.

Marvel Studios, like DC Studios, had a huge presentation with stunning announcements and teases of their upcoming films. We got a glimpse of concept art for Captain Marvel and sweetening that presentation was the news that Captain Marvel will be set in the ’90s and have her fighting the Skrulls, one of the core enemies of the Fantastic Four. We also learned that Lawrence Fishburne and Michelle Pfeiffer are joining the cast of Ant-Man and the Wasp as Bill Foster/Black Goliath and Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp.

The highlights for Marvel Studios’ presentation were the trailers for Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War. While the visually stunning and trippy Thor: Ragnarok trailer was released online, the ones for the latter two films so far are absent. This has been super frustrating for fans online since we have all been teased for a week about how jaw-dropping the footage is in Avengers: Infinity War. It was first shown in the ultra-exclusive D23 expo last week and everyone was hoping to see it this weekend. For some reason, probably for marketing, Marvel has refused to drop the trailer and most of us have to contend with leaked grainy footage. Our best hope is that enough leaks forces Marvel to release the trailer like DC did with Suicide Squad two years ago. But seriously, Marvel stop the tease, you could have topped DC tonight but you let that victory slip from your fingers!

Other trailer highlights include these nuggets:

Stranger Things 2! With our favorite ’80s geeks cosplaying the Ghostbusters as they come upon another sci-fi mystery!

Defenders, which has a kick ass trailer featuring a grounded and gritty version of the Avengers and Justice League!

A new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, looks stunning though the Klingons seem weak compared to the classic space viking look!

But the most exciting trailer for the day was the first teaser for Steven Spielberg’s next sci-fi epic, Ready Player One. This trailer about a futuristic video game player is so loaded with genre Easter eggs, it warrants multiple viewings! Who knows how jammed the final film will be? But the awesomeness of this trailer will make anyone want to go out and read the book that inspired Ready Player One. Those shots of the Iron Giant and the DeLorean from Back to the Future sold it!

That does it for this year, sure there is one more day left of Comic-Con 2017, but no major announcements are expected, but you never know. Maybe first looks of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Predator, or Avengers: Infinity War will finally be unveiled to the entire world. Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates, and here, of course!

The Greatest Star Trek Hallmark Ornaments

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When it comes to ornaments, Star Wars may be the big thing given the abundance of Hallmark ornaments that are all over the stores now. However, Star Trek fans know all too well that their beloved franchise started the Hallmark ornament craze back in 1991 with the release of the original Enterprise ornament.

Over the years, Hallmark has made some truly beautiful Keepsake ornaments about Star Trek and that tradition continues. While the amount of ornaments available may pale when compared to Star Wars, there is solid demand for Star Trek Hallmark ornaments and it looks like it be with us for a long time.

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What makes these Star Trek ornaments so beloved are Hallmark’s attention to detail. Each ornament is a painstakingly accurate rendition of the ship or character. They can be displayed all year long on your desk or wherever, they don’t just belong on a Christmas tree, though they’re often the highlights of a decorated one. Fans also can look forward to the featured lights or sounds that many of the ornaments have. One advantage the Star Trek ship ornaments have over the Star Wars ship ornaments is that they light up. For some reason few of the Star Wars ship ornaments have this feature, they mostly just make noise or have dialogue.

enterprise-dThis light up feature has been with the ornaments from the very beginning and hopefully will remain with future ornaments. But one problem with the older ornaments (and this applies to the earlier Star Wars ship ornaments) is that they had to be screwed into the light socket of a Christmas tree light. There is a limit to how many ships you can do that with and it’s a real pain to yank out a light bulb, stick in the ornament plug then replace the bulb at the end of the Holiday season. Also the lights have changed over the years necessitating having to use adapters.

The newer ornaments instead come with batteries but now the ships won’t stay lit continuously. But it’s a good solution and Hallmark should give serious thought to re-issuing the older ornaments like the Romulan warbird or the Enterprise-E with this feature.

As long as there are the fans and the creators at Hallmark can come up with new ideas each year, the Star Trek ornaments will be a mainstay in any fan’s Holiday wish list.  And yes, they make wonderful gifts for Star Trek fans. Listed below are the ten best Star Trek ship ornaments and the ten best character/diorama ornaments.

Characters/Dioramas

TIE: 10. Arena (2013)/Amok Time (2010): Both ornaments feature Star Trek’s memorable battle music, perfect for the Holidays.

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9. Lt. Commander Worf (1999): The mighty Klingon is ready to fight in this striking pos and it’s one of the best sculpted character ornaments.

8. Star Trek Legends #1 Captain James T. Kirk (2010): What list would be complete without a solo ornament of Star Trek’s greatest captain?

7. To Boldly Go (2016): Good luck finding this one! Perfect diorama of to-boldly-goKirk, Spock and McCoy to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

6. The Needs of the Many (2015): From the final moments of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock’s farewell to Kirk evoked the sad passing of Leonard Nimoy.

5.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (2007): This diorama ornament lets you relive the confrontation via viewscreen between the Enterprise and the Reliant.

4. Locutus of Borg (2005): What makes this ornament stand out are the bright lights of Locutus’ station, which goes well in a Christmas tree.

3. Transporter Chamber (2006): No one can stop pressing the button on this ornament to hear the sights and sounds of the transporter in action.

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2. City on the Edge of Forever (2004): The first Star Trek diorama ornament is still one of the best looking ones as Kirk and Spock dive through the Guardian of Forever.

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1. The Trouble with the Tribbles (2008): True story; yours truly inspired this ornament. Years ago I used to leave comments on the forum Trekbbs.com. Some of the threads were about a wish list for ornaments and I left a reply that Hallmark should recreate the iconic funny moment in “The Trouble With The Tribbles” where Kirk is flooded with hundreds of tribbles. Lo and behold, a couple of years later this ornament comes out and on another thread on the site about ornaments, I commented that someone at Hallmark must be reading the forum. To my surprise someone replied to my comment stating that he or she was a sculptor at Hallmark and usually perused the forum for ornament ideas. You’re welcome. I’ll take one of those rare convention ornaments as a reward, please.

Ships

10. U.S.S. Enterprise “pilot version” (2016): Another re-issue of the Enterprise is highlighted by its shiny gold covering to commemorate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

TIE 9. U.S.S. Enterprise-C (2015)/Klingon Battle Cruiser (2009): This Enterprise is the most underrated ship ornament, while the Klingon ship looks quite imposing hanging from a tree branch.

8. Romulan Warbird (1995): Its large size and greenish tones/lights make this one of the best looking Star Trek ornaments.

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7. Klingon Bird of Prey (1994): This ornament surprisingly blends in well in Christmas trees thanks to its colorful detailing and lights.

TIE 6. U.S.S. Enterprise (2006)/ Delta Flyer (2002): For those who couldn’t get the original Enterprise, and the Delta Flyer is the best of the obscure ship ornaments.

ds95. Deep Space Nine (2001): This larger than normal ornament allows you to hook on mini-ornaments of Star Trek ships to its pylons.

4. U.S.S. Enterprise-D (1992): Don’t bother with the 2012 unlit version, get this one instead, it looks awesome lit up.

3. U.S.S. Defiant (1997): A personal favorite recreation of one of the best looking and hardiest Star Trek ships.

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2. U.S.S. Enterprise-A (2005): The first ornament to require batteries to operate and a lovingly detailed replica of the best movie ship.

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1. U.S.S. Enterprise (1991): The one that started it all is still the best and most prized Star Trek ornament. Trying to find one at a reasonable price online or in a convention is a feat unto itself but it’s worth it because it’s the Holy Grail of Star Trek ornaments.  The other ornaments that followed may be more detailed and more refined than this Enterprise ornament but this one holds a special charm in its elegance and function. A definite must-have for any collector.

José Soto

 

Set Phasers to Fun: Celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary

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Star Trek has gone boldly where no franchise has gone before. The iconic Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 8th and the TV show has paved the way for science fiction and modern technology. It’s hard to pick a favorite series, movie, ship or character from the phenomenon that has survived five decades.

Star Trek (the original series), The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise. Has any other franchise produced five television series as Star Trek did?  Each show has had its own challenges led by different captains: James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko, Kathryn Janeway and Jonathan Archer. There was also an animated series based on the original show back in the ’70s. Many stations are running Star Trek marathons and specials like the Smithsonian channel’s Building Star Trek. But it doesn’t end there. CBS plans to launch a Star Trek: Discovery, a new series slated for streaming on May 2017.

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The big screen has seen 13 films. Star Trek the Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, (Yes the even numbered films were better) Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. Surely, there will be more.

Getting back to Star Trek, the original show was light years ahead of its time. Modern technology is moving at warp speed and catching up to some of the gadgets used on the original series. iPads/tablets were always signed off on by Captain Kirk. Siri and talking computers are common now. Communicators are like flip cell phones. In fact, Think Geek is releasing a communicator cell phone for the anniversary. It works off your current bluetooth cell phone.

Denise Crosby and fan

Besides watching the specials, series or movies there are many events to celebrate the occasion. Star Trek conventions are drawing huge crowds. The cons are a lot of fun and resistance is futile at the vendors’ tables. The conventions feature actors from all the series and movies. Vendors have a huge selection of uniforms, props, collectables, shirts and other merchandise. One company, Simplicity Creative Group produces a Star Trek series of dress uniform patterns called Make it Sew. The Star Trek: Mission New York convention featured a mock-up of the original Enterprise bridge for photo ops and a virtual reality gaming zone.

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The U.S.S Intrepid is hosting the Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience. Like the conventions it features original costumes and props from the series and movies. You receive a watch-like wrist band that keeps track of your tour. You can play games, beam up in a transporter and take photos on a replica of the Next Generation bridge. When you are finished you can have your quiz results, Starfleet diploma and a video of yourself beaming up in the transporter emailed to you. The Intrepid also features a life-size Galileo Seven shuttlecraft perfectly placed next to the NASA Enterprise shuttle.

The Experience and the con is just a sampling of how Star Trek’s 50th anniversary is being celebrated. The U.S. Post Office has released a new Star Trek inspired forever stamp series in honor of the 50th anniversary. These stamps were presented by Walter Koenig at the Mission New York convention.

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Since 1991, Hallmark has released highly detailed Christmas ornaments of the Star Trek ships designed by Lynn Norton, as well as famous characters and scenes. For this year’s golden anniversary they released a gold TV pilot version of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

It’s music for your Vulcan ears, Star Trek the Ultimate Voyage is a live concert featuring a symphony orchestra playing a score set to footage from the classic Star Trek films and TV shows. The tour has played in over 100 American cities.

For fans who enjoy cosplay, M·A·C cosmetics has launched a Star Trek make up collection of astral hues. The cosmic women of Star Trek made the series immortal, their powerful sense of style sent space-age fashion to a new frontier and M·A·C lets you dress the part.

It’s not logical to miss out on the anniversary celebrations. Star Trek has flourished for 50 years. May it keep going strong. Live Long and Prosper Star Trek!

Article and Photos by Jim McLernon

Enterprise photo by José Soto

 

Celebrating A Star Wars Day At Sea

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For this year’s Spring Break, my family and I decided to spend the vacation taking a cruise. Not just any cruise…but a Star Wars cruise! Actually it was a vacation on the Disney Cruise Line ship Disney Fantasy and on one of the days at sea, onboard festivities were devoted to Star Wars. The cruise by itself was fantastic with impeccable service and amenities, in short, a Disney cruise is well worth the money and despite it not being a theme park visit you do feel the Disney experience.

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The icing on the cake for myself, however, was the Star Wars aspect, of course. Even though the Disney Fantasy was themed after all things Disney, the presence of Star Wars was felt throughout the cruise even before the Star Wars Day at Sea.

20160320_135155For starters there was the merchandising; the gift shops sold the typical Star Wars toys and paraphernalia that can be found just about anywhere on the planet. However, the stores did have moderate to expensive clothing, accessories and other keepsakes like art printings, t-shirts, shoes, magnets and bags. Then there were other collectibles near the ship’s theaters.

The Disney Fantasy has two theaters that played live musical productions and films as well. Of interest to fans was that the entire Star Wars saga was shown at various times throughout the cruise. It was a lot of fun sitting down and watching the films again on the big screen with like-minded audiences while munching on popcorn.

During the actual Star Wars Day at Sea, the Star Wars property took center stage, which was on a Wednesday, the halfway point of the cruise vacation. Throughout the Disney Fantasy, iconic music from the films were played and the ship’s horn blared out the infamous “Imperial March” at certain times of the day. Many passengers were decked out as their favorite Star Wars characters. Several took part in a costume celebration where they got to mingle with other fans or with the Star Wars characters that patrolled the ship.

The characters were well done and looked 20160323_122420_resizedauthentic, but more importantly stayed in character. For instance, Jawas popped out of nowhere near the atrium and tried to steal jewelry and other personal effects from passengers (it was all in good fun, mind you). Villainous characters like Darth Maul or Boba Fett silently intimidated passengers as they posed for pictures. However, Darth Vader took the prize for the most authentic recreation. Not only was the costume spot-on perfect, but he actually spoke to one young member in my party with James Earl Jones’ distinctive voice as he mocked the rebels.

On the Star Wars Day at Sea both theaters hosted Star Wars-related events. At the Walt Disney Theatre, for most of the day the production/attraction seen at Walt Disney World and Disneyland called Jedi Training: Trials at the Temple was shown. This is the one where a Jedi Knight teaches young Padawans on how to use the Force to defeat Darth Vader (who also appears and fences briefly with each youngling). The other theater, the Buena Vista Theatre, presented a Guest Speaker Series featuring Joel Aron, the special effects guru for Star Wars Rebels. The same theater also had a Star Wars-related PowerPoint presentation called Star Wars 101, which actually helped members of my party get caught up on the intricacies of Star Wars and was presented with lots of enthusiasm.

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On The Precipice Of The Superhero Movie War

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Well fans, we are just about a month away from the commencement of the Superhero Movie War when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuts in theaters. Roughly six weeks later, the second round of the Superhero Movie War goes off with the release of Captain America: Civil War. Both cinematic juggernauts are the opening salvo between DC Comics/Warner Bros. and Marvel Comics/Disney and the duel between the rivals promises to be way beyond epic.

Some may say that the war started already with the release of Deadpool but that wouldn’t apply here since Deadpool was released by 20th Century Fox and is therefore not part of Disney/Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). On a side note, an argument can be made that Deadpool and therefore the rest of the Fox X-Men films are part of the MCU because of the wrecked helicarrier plainly seen in Deadpool’s climax.

Putting Deadpool aside, the next two superhero films to be released this year represent the apex of both rivals and have many similarities. Chiefly, the concept of superheroes fighting one another and public mistrust of superheroes. Luckily, just by looking at the trailers and what’s been revealed so far, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War are different enough from each other though the average low-information film critic who hasn’t read a comic book in decades may disagree.

On that note, can anyone predict how good will these two films be? Got me. The trailers look fantastic, but we all know better. Both films have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

superman meanThe first film to enter the Superhero Movie War is the  monumental first meeting between DC’s comic book giants and the second film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).  2013’s Man of Steel was the first film of the DCEU and while successful it wasn’t the super-hit that Warner Bros. hoped for. Many purists complained that it was too dark and humorless and went against Superman’s character. These critics, obviously, can’t be pleased that Man of Steel’s director Zack Snyder is directing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the two-part Justice League film coming out in 2017 and 2019. There are complaints about the casting of Lex Luthor, the look of the villain Doomsday, the inclusion of too many characters starting with Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

There have been recent Internet grumblings that the second DCEU film is making Warner Bros. nervous because of mixed reactions from early screenings. The rumblings were so bad, that many websites starting speculating if Zack Snyder would be replaced as director for Justice League and that even that film would be shelved for another Batman solo film. OTH, last year there were reports that screenings for Warner executives brought about standing ovations. But news of less-than-enthusiastic reactions to the film this late in the game is cause for worry. snyder JLLet’s be clear here, this film isn’t going to flop, it will rake in hundreds of millions at the box office, but it’s also a very expensive film and according to many sources has to gross $1 billion dollars to make a profit. That is a tall order given its release date. Originally it was a summer film but was slated directly against Captain America: Civil War so DC/Warner Bros. blinked and instead of releasing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice later in the year, it was decided to beat Marvel/Disney to the punch by premiering it first without any competition. But Ben Affleck’s interpretation of Batman has won over many skeptics and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman looks incredible and beautiful. To dispel the negativity, Warner Bros. announced today that Justice League, Part I will begin filming this year on April 11 and that Snyder will be directing it and its conclusion. So all the nervousness among DC fans could just be jitters and sensitivity over been beaten over the head for many years by MCU fans.

cap 3As for Captain America: Civil War, it has a similar problem in that it is jammed with so many characters. This might’ve been fine with a superhero team movie but it’s a Captain America film. How can he be the main character if there are so many distractions? Having too many players helped sink last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Another potential problem is that Captain America: Civil War is the third film in the Captain America trilogies and historically the third films in trilogies are considered weak entries. Then there is a unique MCU film curse in that this film is the second film directed by the same team that directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Joe and Anthony Russo. The second Captain America film was hailed as a masterpiece and all that, but the last two times a director helmed a second MCU film, the results weren’t great. That would be Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon, who directed Iron Man & Iron Man 2, and The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron respectively.

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Honestly, it’s hard to say if the Russo Brothers can break this curse. But Marvel Studios has confidence in them and showed this by giving them the next two Avengers films to direct. Then there go the Internet rumors again about early reactions, however, in this case, there are reports that the third Captain America film delivers the goods. One thing that is different with this film and the DCEU film is that to date, there have only been two trailers shown and neither gave us a peek at the one superhero everyone is dying to see: Spider-Man. Whereas, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has had a few trailers (including TV spots), some of which gave away vital plot points. The lack of trailers for the MCU film is a good way to build up anticipation and demand, while the DCEU film marketing is designed to raise awareness and put butts in theater seats. Frankly, both approaches work.

So which film will end the opening round? Which one will be the critical and box office darling? Seriously, there is good reason to say that both films will do fine and we should be thankful that A) We’re getting some plum choices to watch and B) that both studios were wise enough not having their films directly compete against each other and forcing us fans to choose which film to watch on the opening weekend.

T. Rod Jones