Reactions To Some Comic-Con News

None of us here went to the San Diego Comic-Con, but we learned about the announcements made there and even saw some bootleg footage from the presentations (we won’t bother to post the links to them, they’ll probably be disabled before long). This piece is basically our reactions to what was revealed about certain films and shows for the coming months and 2013.

Elysium

Director Neill Blomkamp previewed footage from his next sci-fi epic which stars Matt Damon. It showed Earth as a futuristic, debris-filled wasteland and what was surprising was that Blomkamp didn’t need to do any special effects since he filmed these scenes in the slums of Mexico City. To some of us it felt like Blomkamp’s previous District 9 (but with a more naturalistic feel since there weren’t any shaky cam shots) and that’s a good thing. The viral campaigns touting the futuristic utopian city of Elysium were well done and whetted our appetites.

Fringe, The Final Season

The Fringe team appeared for the final time at Comic-Con and actor John Noble teased about the possibility of a Fringe movie. While enticing and unlikely if it happens let’s hope it doesn’t wind up like The X-Files films. They premiered a special trailer for the final season of Fringe which takes place primarily in the future. In that time period our heroes are trying to overthrow the enigmatic Observers who’ve taken over the world. Plus, it seems as if William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) will appear again. Sweet!

Iron Man 3

A mixed bag here, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley) will be the villain in Iron Man 3 instead of another armored villain. However, we were less than enthused with the look of Iron Man’s new armor which is mostly gold with red highlights. It’s not known if this is to be his main armor but why not just stick with the suit he wore in The Avengers?

The Man Of Steel

Sadly what was learned about Zack Snyder’s reboot of Superman wasn’t very inspiring. The footage shown had Snyder’s typical empty but flashy filmmaking style. If you’ve seen Watchmen and Sucker Punch then you can imagine how The Man Of Steel footage appeared. At the same time the scenes from The Man Of Steel looked like they were desperately trying to emulate Christopher Nolan’s look for the Batman films. It just didn’t look right and in light of the recent X-Men and Spider-Man reimaginings it screamed “Me too!” The worst news came when Snyder revealed that John Williams’ iconic Superman score will not be used. That is a huge mistake since that score has become so ingrained with Superman it’s almost as bad as radically changing his costume. We feel that if they could get away with getting rid of the cape and S shield Snyder and Nolan would’ve done so just to be different. Let’s hope DC has better luck with their Lobo movie.

Miscellaneous Marvel Movies

The official titles for Marvel Studios’ next sequels were revealed. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, who has one of our staff members very excited since it seems to indicate the movie will cover one of his favorite Captain America storylines. The other title is Thor: The Dark World, and little else was revealed about the thunder god’s further escapades. But the most interesting announcement was that a film based on the Guardians Of The Galaxy is coming in 2014. Based on the artwork released, this team will not be the classic version featuring Vance Astro but rather one that has Starlord, Gamora and Rocket Raccoon (!). It’s a big risk since the team isn’t as well known or popular as the Avengers and the movie will probably be a big budget epic. The last space-based superhero film Green Lantern proved to be a dud (many blamed the aliens-filled space scenes which lacked a human touch, frankly those were the highlights for the dull, Earth-bound film), let’s hope Guardians Of The Galaxy doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Oz, The Great And Powerful

It seems as if Sam Raimi has moved beyond the Spider-Man movies with this astonishing prequel to the classic Wizard Of Oz. The transition from a small black and white screen to a gorgeous, colorful, widescreen Oz is stunning and rivals Tim Burton’s work. In addition to Oz (portrayed by James Franco who is a great casting choice), other characters appear like Glinda, and the flying monkeys. Oz, The Great And Powerful could be a new fantasy classic.

Pacific Rim

Guillermo Del Toro supposedly blew the audience away with footage from next year’s Pacific Rim. Actually it’s the only film that can compete with Godzilla due to its epic scope and level of destruction. In the film, giant monsters have overrun the Earth and humanity’s last hope lies with human operators of gigantic robots that can go head to head with the monsters. Bottom line: Pacific Rim sounds terrific just based on the talent behind it and can be described as a love letter to kaiju movies and fans of that Japanese genre.

The Walking Dead Season Three

Our resident fan of The Walking Dead is very psyched up for the upcoming third season of the show. We saw the prison our heroes occupy, the evil Governor and badass zombie killer MIchonne, who looks like her comic book counterpart. What was shown looks exciting, suspenseful and harrowing (especially with the scenes featuring the sadistic Governor). Honestly, October can’t come here soon enough.

Star Trek Sequel and Proof Of Concept

There isn’t anything to report about the still untitled Star Trek sequel by J.J. Abrams because the filmmakers decided not to present anything at the Comic-Con. This is just baffling.  Maybe they’re saving the big guns for a Trek convention. Regardless, in a crowded marketplace where films are vying for business and word-of-mouth the people behind Star Trek should’ve had at least a bone to throw to the fans. The film comes out next May and attendees got more info about films set to debut further ahead in time. We hope this isn’t a bad harbinger for the movie. Being that the last film left Star Trek fans divided over its quality, Abrams and company need to hit this one out of the ballpark and they can start by wowing fans now.

There were proof-of-concept footage shown of Ant-Man, Godzilla and Thomas Jane returning as The Punisher at the convention. While they’re cool (esp. seeing Punisher in R-rated action), until there is an actual project being produced they won’t amount to much unless something concrete comes out of showing the footage. However they seem more promising than some of the actual films being promoted.

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Top 10 Season Finales

As the traditional TV network season dies down, many shows will conclude their seasons with memorable finales. Many sci-fi, fantasy and horror shows have had some of the most-talked about finales that included thrilling cliffhangers, WTF revelations and dramatic game-changing developments. WARNING: Major Spoiler Alerts Ahead.

10. “Lucifer Rising” Supernatural (Season Four); Sam and Dean Winchester are betrayed by their allies who want to bring about the coming apocalypse by unleashing Lucifer upon the Earth.

9. “How To Stop An Exploding Man” Heroes (Season One); the show fell apart after its terrific first season but many episodes from that season are still great including the season finale that featured several super-powered heroes confronting the power-stealing villain Sylar.

8.Zero Hour” Star Trek: Enterprise (Season Three); the conclusion of the season-long Xindi arc finds Captain Archer and the Enterprise crew on a last-ditch, desperate gamble to prevent the alien Xindi from destroying Earth. Aside from all the action and ship battles, the episode had a surprise ending which unexpectedly stranded our heroes on an alternate Earth during World War II.

7. “Over There, Part 2” Fringe (Season Two); Olivia Dunham and Walter Bishop continue their mission in the parallel Earth to retrieve Peter Bishop. Viewers are treated to a fascinating look at another Earth with doppelgangers, advanced tech, quarantine zones and many alternate cultural Easter eggs, plus a nefarious plot to destroy our universe. The cliffhanger was pretty nifty too with Olivia trapped in the parallel universe while her sinister double takes her place.

6. “Die Me, Dichotomy” Farscape (Season Two); the show’s main character, lost-in-space astronaut John Crichton, had a neural chip implanted in his brain by his enemy Scorpius in order to access Crichton’s hidden knowledge about wormholes. Throughout the episode, Crichton battles himself as the chip asserts control of his mind and makes him attack his friends and results in the death of his would-be lover Aeryn Sun. After a doctor finally removes the chip, Scorpius appears, takes the chip and leaves behind a helpless, broken Crichton on the operating table so he can live with the agony of what happened.

5. “Chrysalis” Babylon 5 (Season One); this season finale would prove to be the swan song for the show’s main character Jeffrey Sinclair (replaced off-screen in season two by John Sheridan) as ominous events unfold. Sinclair’s station security chief unsuccessfully attempts to stop a conspiracy to assassinate the Earth Alliance president. His efforts leave him shot and in critical condition. Meanwhile, the mysterious aliens called the Shadows emerge and attack an outpost of one of the major races, thus setting the stage for a deadly galactic war. Towards the end, Sinclair’s ally D’Lenn undergoes a physical transformation to fulfill a prophecy as Sinclair laments elsewhere that “nothing’s the same anymore.”

4. “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II” Battlestar Galactica (Season Two); fleetwide presidential elections are held pitting President Roslyn against the enigmatic Baltar. An issue of the election and the series itself is whether or not the fugitive humans should abandon their quest to find Earth and settle down in a discovered habitable world. The episode jumps ahead more than a year later and shows how miserable the humans are living in their makeshift shanty towns. Things get much worse when their enemies, the robotic Cylons, arrive on the planet and the humans’ new leader Baltar surrenders the colony to the Cylons.

3. “Through The Looking Glass” LOST (Season Three); the final minutes are a true game changer for LOST. The castaways are trying to find their way off the mysterious island as flashbacks show a despondent Jack Shephard back in L.A. at the end of his road. For a while it was the standard format for the series, feature flashbacks on certain characters while advancing the present-day plotline. However, aside from the foretold death of a popular character, LOST stunned fans with the revelation that the episode’s flashback was actually a flash forward and that Jack was desperate to return to the island.

2. “Call To Arms” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Season Five); the peaceful Federation goes to war with the Dominion in this exciting season-ender. This development is a first for the Star Trek shows, which often preached peace above all. Viewers were treated to an effects-laden spectacular as hordes of Dominion ships attacked the Deep Space Nine space station. The episode ended with so many outstanding closers, each of which would’ve sufficed as any show’s final moments. For example, the episode could’ve just ended with Captain Sisko’s speech to his Bajoran colleagues that he will return, or with Dominion lackey Gul Dukat being “welcomed” to the station, or with Dukat’s discovery of Sisko’s baseball indicating that Sisko and company are coming back. The episode then topped itself with a final breathtaking scene of Sisko’s Defiant warship joining a vast Starfleet/Klingon armada ready to do battle.

1. “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part 1” Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season Three); this was the first and best cliffhanger shown on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The cybernetic and invulnerable Borg race begin an invasion into Federation territory with the goal of reaching Earth. Despite their best efforts, the Enterprise and its crew are nearly powerless to stop the Borg, which leads to a crisis of confidence faced by Captain Picard. Meanwhile, First Officer Riker has to contend with an overly ambitious officer/Borg specialist who is out for his job. The tension runs way overboard as Picard is kidnapped by the Borg but the true jaw-dropping moment comes when the Enterprise crew attempt a rescue. They find that Picard has been horribly transformed into a Borg, who then coldly orders the Enterprise crew to surrender. Equally as chilling was Riker’s three-word response, which ends the episode…to be continued.

Honorable Mentions:

“Besides The Dying Fire” The Walking Dead

“Redemption” Star Trek: The Next Generation

“The Jem’Hadar” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

“Basics, Part I” Star Trek: Voyager

“The Parting Of The Ways” Doctor Who

“Shock Theater” Quantum Leap

“The Fall Of Night” Babylon 5

“The Day We Died” Fringe

“Evil Is Going On” True Blood

Waldermann Rivera

Fringe Concludes Its Fourth Season

While the fate of two universes was in the balance in the final fourth season episode of Fringe, until very recently so was the show itself. Many Fringe fans breathed a relieved sigh when the show was given a final reprieve by Fox for a fifth and final season because now the show can properly finish its complex storyline. Yet by looking at the final episode “Brave New World, Part 2” one could tell that the show’s producers meant for this episode to also serve as a series finale if needed. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, but TPTB have to be careful not to fall into the trap that Babylon 5 did. In that show, the proper storyline came to a conclusion at the end of its fourth season only to be given a new season but felt tacked on and aimless.

As for the episode itself, it was one of the best of the series. Tightly plotted, suspenseful, and it featured all the elements of a classic Fringe episode. Meaning time-traveling Observers, reanimated corpses, weird and gross pseudo science, end-of-the-world theatrics and FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) doing a turn as one of the X-Men by emulating Jean Grey and Wolverine’s mutant tricks. This episode explained many of Fringe’s mysteries such as why was Olivia dosed with the fictional drug cortexiphan (which gave her psionic powers); what did the wounded Observer called September mean in previous episodes when he cryptically stated that Olivia Dunham had to die and most importantly what was the goal of the ultimate baddie.

The head villain was revealed in the penultimate episode of the fourth season to be Walter Bishop’s (John Noble) old partner William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) and he wanted to recreate the universe to his own design. William Bell had created a modern-day Noah’s Ark with new creatures and meant to use Olivia Dunham’s powers to fuel the collision between our universe and the parallel one that had been seen many times on Fringe. Naturally, it’s up to Olivia and her lover/partner Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson) to stop this mad scheme.

What was surprising and oddly reasonable was his motive. Bell was dying of cancer and came to hate the unfairness of life. He reasoned that if we were created in God’s image then it was only natural that we try to be like God-hence all the scientific experiments and aberrations throughout the series. But what was surprising was that Walter Bishop came up with the scheme to destroy and remake the universe. Actually, Bishop concocted this back before the show when he was an evil mad scientist. This revelation also explains why the current Bishop is more benign and doesn’t have his full mental capacities.

There is a feeling of conclusion in the final minutes of the episode (Walter even finally calls his assistant by her proper name!), the Fringe Division of the U.S. government receives full funding and resources and Olivia and Peter are ready to live happily ever after. But luckily for us fans, a final nugget and indication of what is to come arrives in the form of the Observer, who delivers a warning. This is probably alluding to the future timeline seen in the recent episode “Letters Of Transit” where the Observers take over the world.

Thankfully, there are now a few more episodes left to answer this mystery and the other remaining ones. Thirteen episodes to be exact.

José Soto

New Fringe & Supernatural: All Is Right!

Ah, last night was great for TV watching. Wasn’t home to see the new episodes of Fringe and Supernatural but I DVRed them and finally caught up to them today. Wow, both new episodes hit the mark(s) with some amazing, wonderful and disturbing developments.

Fringe began its run of the final eight shows for the season (and maybe the series unless Fox renews it for a fifth season) with “A Short Story About Love.” There were basically three storylines; one about Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) realizing the memories and feelings from the Olivia of Peter Bishop’s (Joshua Jackson) universe were supplanting her own. The problem is that Peter’s Olivia is in love with him, while the “regular” Olivia has no romantic feelings towards him. Meanwhile, Peter is following clues left behind by the Observer that apparently died in the previous episode. The third storyline was pretty average procedural junk about a deformed madman out to create a love potion from killing lovers. It was the kind of stuff you may find in a typical X-Files episode. Luckily, this storyline didn’t dominate the show.

The big reveals were pretty surprising. It turns out (SPOILERS AHEAD) that Peter is in fact in his own universe so that Olivia’s new feelings for him is probably the universe correcting itself. Luckily for us soft-hearts, Olivia independently decided to give in to her new memories and feelings and the end was so blissful and romantic. It was a heartwarming reminder to us cynics that love is the greatest force in the universe. Even on Fringe.

Supernatural began airing new episodes last week, and just as it all seemed hopeless for the ally-challenged Winchester brothers, Sam (Jared Padelecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Castiel (Misha Collins) returned!

Yay! Our favorite stoic Angel that supposedly died earlier this season (and gave rise to those dumb Leviathan baddies) is back. In this week’s episode “The Born-Again Identity” Sam is committed to a psychiatric ward because the Lucifer hallucination in his head has driven him crazy. Desperately calling anyone for help, Dean finds out about this genuine faith healer. So when he goes to the guy’s place it turns out the healer is none other than Castiel. It turns out that he lost his memory and doesn’t remember being an angel or anything else.

Anyway, he decides to help Dean out. It was so great to see our pal Cass, it helps that he’s easy on the eyes LOL. Eventually, he remembers who he is and is wracked with guilt over his previous actions when he tried to play God. He gets to Sam in time to save him from a demon. But it turns out he can’t cure Sam of his hallucinations so in an act of self-sacrifice he transfers the debilitating hallucinations onto himself and he winds committed. Frankly it sucks that they had to leave him there in that ward. I guess the producers still wanted the brothers on their own to take on those Leviathan. Still sucks anyway because I know Castiel would kick the Leviathan’s butt all over the place. It just makes me wonder why can’t the Winchesters find some supernatural allies to help them with the Leviathan? Hopefully, they will be done with when the season finale comes around.

Annette DeForrester

 

Alcatraz Plays It Too Safe

Alcatraz is the latest show that premiered on Fox from executive producer J.J. Abrams (for anyone who doesn’t know, he’s the guy behind Alias, LOST, Fringe, Super 8 and the Star Trek reboot). It’s co-created by Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lillen and Bryan Wynbrandt and is about the manhunt for prisoners who escaped from the infamous Alcatraz prison.

The twist? Back in 1960, 256 prisoners and 46 guards disappeared from Alcatraz without a trace and now they are popping up all over modern-day San Francisco and haven’t aged a day. Was it time travel? Hibernation? Not even the prisoners know. After being captured and interrogated, they reveal that they’re just as mystified as the show’s main characters, though there are hints of time travel during nuggets of revelation.

The show stars Rebecca Madsen as Sarah Jones, a local police detective with unexpected ties to one of the escaped prisoners; she is recruited by a mysterious government agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), who was once an Alcatraz guard and knows a lot more about what is going than he’s willing to reveal. Sarah is teamed up with comic book store owner and geek Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia, well known as the beloved Hurley from LOST), who is a walking encyclopedia of Alcatraz trivia that proves useful in the investigations.

The rundown of each episode aired to date goes like this: some escapee appears in the city unaged and continues the same criminal activity that had him jailed in the first place. Sarah and Diego run around the city, tracking him down with half-hearted help by Hauser, (who sometimes seems as if he’s impeding them) and his aide Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra), who like the prisoners hasn’t aged since 1960. In between, the manhunts, we’re shown flashbacks to life in Alcatraz before the prisoner escaped so that he can be fleshed out and given some motive. Here and there, viewers are given clues and riddles without an answer such as how did the prisoners and guards disappear and why? Who is behind this? What is the deal with Hauser’s assistant? Why hasn’t she aged? Will Hauser stop beating around the bush and just explain it all to Sarah? After all, she is supposed to be working for him now and should be privy to what is happening in order to better perform her duties.

There lies the flaw with Alcatraz. It has some good moments and hooks to keep viewers watching, but it doesn’t have the drive and real mystery that LOST and Fringe had. The mythology isn’t as compelling and many of the characters aren’t as interesting. Maybe it’s a response to complaints about J.J. Abrams’ shows being too mythologized, so he plays it safer this time. Sarah comes off as a pale imitation of Fringe’s Olivia Dunham, just a younger, bustier version without Dunham’s inner toughness. Hauser, as portrayed by Neill, seems bored half the time. Garcia’s Diego is the most interesting character but only because he isn’t a law enforcement type and the show wisely shows how he is more like an ordinary person swept up in this mystery. And while the stories about the prisoners are so far interesting, the basic setup of each episode is starting to get repetitious. In many ways, Alcatraz seems more like a procedural cop show that belongs on CBS.

Then there are some nagging problems about the premise. Chiefly with the way the prisoners so easily get by in modern society without drawing attention to themselves. Sorry but if someone from the early ’60s were to suddenly appear today, that person would experience a future shock over how things have changed. They would speak differently, act a bit strange, not know how to use modern devices or how to blend in. Yet none of this is shown, unless the prisoners are lying about not knowing anything and had time to assimilate into modern society.

So is it worth watching? Short answer: yes. When compared to ninety percent of the garbage on TV now, it stands above them. But so far it isn’t as captivating as Abrams’ other shows.

José Soto