Comics Worth Reading » Movies/TV Independent Opinions on Comics of All Kinds Mon, 23 Feb 2015 22:16:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Win a Copy of The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness Sun, 22 Feb 2015 23:35:07 +0000 The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness cover

Thanks to the studio, I have two copies of The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, the documentary about Studio Ghibli, to give away in a new contest.

To enter to win, post a comment below telling me your favorite Studio Ghibli film and why. A winner will be picked randomly from all entries on Friday, February 27.

(U.S. addresses only, please. Winners will be emailed to confirm address. If email is not answered within 24 hours or a valid email address is not provided, a replacement winner will be selected. Your email won’t be used for any other purpose.)

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She Makes Comics – A Documentary on Women in Comics Sun, 22 Feb 2015 22:29:17 +0000 I got a chance to watch the Sequart documentary She Makes Comics, which covers “the history of women in comics as creators, fans, and everything in between.” The movie is available from that link as a DVD or digital download.

She Makes Comics cover

From the start, it’s a jolt, a shot in the arm full of passion and enthusiasm as women talk about why they love and make comics. Simply seeing so many women puts the lie to comics being a male-oriented medium, but the content goes on to point out key names and accomplishments in history, accompanied by archival footage and images.

As directed by Marisa Stotter, the film kept my attention with well-paced editing, well-identified commentators, and well-chosen visuals. Key contributors include all the expected names:

  • Trina Robbins
  • Ramona Fradon
  • Wendy Pini
  • Colleen Doran
  • Jackie Estrada
  • Jenette Kahn
  • Michelle Nolan
  • Karen Green
  • Ann Nocenti
  • Louise Simonson
  • Jill Thompson
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick
  • Gail Simone
  • G. Willow Wilson
  • Heidi MacDonald
  • Janelle Asselin
  • Karen Berger
  • Shelly Bond
  • Raina Telgemeier

and many others, including many young creators, as well as a few men, including Paul Levitz and Chris Claremont. Key moments explored are the original diversity of comic genres, the rise of underground comics, convention cosplay, the founding of Friends of Lulu, internet fan culture, the importance of key titles like Elfquest, X-Men, Sandman, and Captain Marvel, and the rise of indy and webcomics supporting diversity. Levitz makes the essential point that simply having Kahn in a leadership position brought in more women, since they saw that there was a space for them. That’s an idea DeConnick returns to, the importance of providing visibility of achievement to the next generation.

I would have liked to have seen more explicit exploration of the conflict between saying that women like more than just superheroes and yet that women aren’t considered successes until they work at DC or Marvel and that much female comic culture revolves around superhero cosplay and fandom. Other than that, She Makes Comics, at an hour and ten minutes, was everything I hoped for and more. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

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Man From U.N.C.L.E. Trailer Shows Retro Spy Movie Fri, 13 Feb 2015 23:46:52 +0000 There’s an awful lot that can be unpacked from the new The Man From U.N.C.L.E. trailer, as shown below. We still have a fascination with the 1960s, a decade 50 years ago, particularly when it comes to clothes and strong-jawed leading men. Perhaps it’s easier to contemplate clear-cut good and bad guys back then, when the world was simpler. The clothes were more defined (both in terms of lines and in terms of what was acceptable to wear), and that provides a substantial immediate visual image. It’s also a lot more fun to do spy movies without modern tech, which makes these kinds of action guys obsolete.

I’m much too young to remember the original, although I’ve read about it. I’m sure watching it now would be dull in pacing and old-fashioned geopolitics, but the idea of our guy and their guy, both handsome, having to work together is timeless. Mostly, I’m glad to see Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer get additional chances on-screen after headlining huge flops — Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger, respectively. (Well, maybe Man of Steel wasn’t a flop, exactly, but it sure was disappointing.)

The film is scheduled for release in mid-August, not a promising time for movies the studios have a lot of faith in, but so far, it seems like a fun summer distraction.

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Marvel and Sony Team Up for Next Spider-Man Movie Thu, 12 Feb 2015 03:25:46 +0000 As someone who cared so little about the most recent Amazing Spider-Man movie that I haven’t even seen it yet, I have mixed feelings about the news that Sony Pictures (who has the wall-crawler’s movie rights) will be teaming up with Marvel Studios on the next film.

Spider-Man art

I do want the character to be a success, because I like fun superhero movies, and Spider-Man is the poster child for wisecracking. I hope that they don’t feel the need to make yet another origin story, though. And I will miss Andrew Garfield, who seemed to have a great handle on the character, but at 31, he’s considered too old. (I’ll miss Emma Stone even more.) One of Marvel’s biggest strengths has been its cross-continuity, and this decision expands the Cinematic Universe in a significant way.

Spider-Man will be appearing in a Marvel movie before a new film comes from Sony on July 28, 2017. (Moviemaking: they have a release date but no star, script, or creative staff.) The “new creative direction” will be produced by Marvel’s Kevin Feige (who’s been the guiding force behind Marvel’s current successful slate) and Amy Pascal (former head of Sony Pictures who recently left). Thankfully, Avi Arad is gone, bumped upstairs to executive producer.

The Spider-Man movie means future Marvel films will be shifted back in a domino effect:

MovieOld DateNew Date
Thor: RagnarokJuly 28, 2017November 3, 2017
Black PantherNovember 3, 2017July 6, 2018
Captain MarvelJuly 6, 2018November 2, 2018
InhumansNovember 2, 2018July 12, 2019

The two Avengers: Infinity War movies will keep their May dates in 2018 and 2019.

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Shout! Factory Launches Free Streaming Service Tue, 10 Feb 2015 02:17:43 +0000 Shout! Factory has launched Shout! Factory TV, a new digital entertainment streaming service available on computer, connected devices, and via Roku. And it’s free!

Shout! Factory TV logo

They’ll be showing “cult TV shows, movies, comedy, original specials, and more” with the following titles available now or soon:

· MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (beginning with over 30 episodes)
· Gerry Anderson collection (hand-picked episodes from Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Fireball XL5, Joe 90, and Supercar)
· Roger Corman’s Cult Classics (select movie titles)
· The Marx Brother’s A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA
· Award-winning films such as THE LONG VOYAGE HOME (John Wayne), THE STUNT MAN (Peter O’Toole, Steve Railsback, Barbara Hershey), STAGECOACH (John Wayne), Bruce Beresford’s BREAKER MORANT (Jack Thompson), and THE RULING CLASS (Peter O’Toole)

That’s a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t mind watching! Particularly Dobie Gillis and MST3K (which I haven’t seen enough of). Find out more in this promo video:

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Birdman Out on DVD Next Week Mon, 09 Feb 2015 23:39:31 +0000 Birdman cover

Birdman, the quirky independent film nominated for nine Oscars, will be coming to home video next week. It stars Michael Keaton as an actor, previously known for playing a superhero, trying to launch a Broadway play. The movie was directed, written, and produced by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

I’ve been curious about it, but I didn’t get to see it in its limited run. Did anyone watch it? Did you like it? The cast, which includes Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts seems particularly interesting, although I’m a little leery of artists making pieces about making art. And I’m more interested in the “shaking the superhero stigma” piece than the “coming to terms with his family” aspects.

The Blu-ray and DVD will have an “all-access” special feature as well as a gallery of on-set photos by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. The Blu-ray will also feature “a conversation with Michael Keaton and Alejandro G. Iñárritu”.

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Let’s Watch Some Marvel Trailers Mon, 09 Feb 2015 02:21:20 +0000 Marvel has released an ad for the return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on March 3 that emphasizes the women on the show.

Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) is awesome (because she’s basically Wolverine), and I like deadpan Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg — not in this trailer), but … while I want to see more of Mockingbird (Adrianne Palicki — have they called her that yet?), I don’t want to see Skye (Chloe Bennet) get powers, and too many of the plot twists are predictably overdone. Also, the show has had too many killings for cheap drama, in my opinion.

Highlighting the women ties into Agent Carter, which has been in the same timeslot for the winter. I like that retro show much better — it’s got a stronger viewpoint, more interesting characters, faster pacing, and wonderful chemistry, as you can see in this interview clip with Hayley Atwell (who plays Peggy Carter) and James D’Arcy (Edwin Jarvis). (Ignore the drippy interviewer.)

As for Daredevil, coming April 10 on Netflix and starring Charlie Cox, this teaser trailer is too dark, gritty, and bloody for my tastes, but it’s nice to see that they’re acknowledging his Catholic background in the confession narration setup. This won’t get me to subscribe to the service, but the Jessica Jones show might.

Moving to movies, there’s a trailer for the Fantastic Four relaunch, which comes to theaters in August.

It seems to be going for a majestic feel, which nicely balances the younger age of its stars — Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, and Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm. (Reminds me of Interstellar, actually.) I’m glad to see Fox willing to shake things up, although I’d like to see more humor, but then, I say that about every superhero project. Cause heroing should be fun, not dire! Maybe that’s coming in a later commercial.

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Mythbusters 10th Anniversary Collection Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:29:04 +0000 I’ve watched a bunch of Mythbusters episodes, although I couldn’t tell you what order they all came in. That’s one of the virtues of the series, that any given show can be watched in any order, since they stand alone.

If you’re not familiar with the show, each installment takes on a few “myths”, although these days, it’s as likely to be a viral video as a classic urban myth. The team, with their special effects experience, builds something — a measurement apparatus, a fake house, a rebuilt car, a dummy equivalent to a person — to test whether an assumption is plausible, confirmed, or busted. Many times, things blow up, or firearms are involved.

I was looking forward to the Mythbusters 10th Anniversary Collection because I loved the concept. Each of the five cast members — Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci — picked ten favorite episodes, making for fifty shows to watch (on ten discs, out of 222 episodes through 2014).

Unfortunately, this set isn’t nearly as interesting as it could have been, since there’s nothing here but episodes. There’s no explanation of why a particular person chose their selections, and there’s no information on where in the series a particular installment fell, and there are no special features. So instead of seeming like an anniversary celebration, this seems more like a way to sell the show in another arrangement. (I’m also confused by the 10th Anniversary mention, since the show debuted in 2003, making this year the 12th Anniversary.)

Fans probably already know all these episodes. As a less dedicated follower, I found this set neat as a kind of sampler pack, with famous show moments like “Alcatraz Escape”, “Confederate Rocket”, and “Five Second Rule”. The full episode listing is (with each person’s picks in alphabetical order, as the set has it — and episode numbers via Wikipedia):

Adam’s Picks

  • Airplane on a Conveyor Belt – Season 6, Episode 3
  • Alcatraz Escape – Season 1, Episode 8
  • Birds in a Truck – Season 5, Episode 8
  • Bullets Fired Up – Season 4, Episode 7
  • Inverted Underwater Car – Season 8, Episode 19
  • Jet Assisted Chevy – the original pilot
  • Lead Balloon – Season 6, Episode 2
  • NASA Moon Landing – Season 6, Episode 10
  • Penny Drop – Season 1, Episode 4
  • Swimming in Syrup – Season 7, Episode 5

Jamie’s Picks

  • Big Rig Myths – Season 5, Episode 11
  • Breaking Bad Special – Season 11, Episode 10
  • Confederate Rocket – Season 3, Episode 16
  • Drain Disaster – Season 9, Episode 17
  • Fire vs. Ice – Season 10, Episode 2
  • Motorcycle Water Ski – Season 11, Episode 6
  • Ping Pong Rescue – Season 2, Episode 13
  • Seesaw Saga – Season 7, Episode 7
  • Shattering Subwoofer – Season 4, Episode 15
  • Trench Torpedo – Season 10, Episode 13

Kari’s Picks

  • Blue Ice – Season 9, Episode 2
  • Chinese Invasion Alarm – Season 3, Episode 15
  • Duct Tape Hour 2 – Season 8, Episode 8
  • Exploding Pants – Season 4, Episode 10
  • Fright Night – Season 10, Episode 15
  • Myth Evolution – Season 7, Episode 18
  • Paper Armor – Season 9, Episode 11
  • Phone Book Friction – Season 6, Episode 12
  • Red Rag to a Bull – Season 5, Episode 16
  • Viral Hour – Season 6, Episode 11

Tory’s Picks

  • Alaska Special – Season 6, Episode 7
  • Cannonball Chemistry – Season 10, Episode 17
  • Duel Dilemmas – Season 10, Episode 10
  • Indy Car Special – Season 11, Episode 4
  • Killer Brace Position – Season 3, Episode 9
  • Revenge of the Myth – Season 10, Episode 7
  • Salsa Escape – Season 3, Episode 2
  • Titanic Survival – Season 10, Episode 12
  • Vodka Myths – Season 3, Episode 17
  • Zombie Special – Season 11, Episode 11

Grant’s Picks

  • Baseball Myths – Season 5, Episode 14
  • Bikes and Bazookas – Season 9, Episode 12
  • Bouncing Bullet – Season 10, Episode 8
  • Bubble Pack Plunge – Season 10, Episode 9
  • Coffin Punch – Season 6, Episode 18
  • Crimes and Myth-demeanors 1 – Season 4, Episode 11
  • Flu Fiction – Season 8, Episode 11
  • Prison Escape – Season 7, Episode 9
  • Underwater Car – Season 5, Episode 3
  • YouTube Special – Season 7, Episode 4

Inspired by the spirit of scientific exploration that drives the Mythbusters show, here’s a breakdown of how many episodes from each season are represented. The small showing for the first two years makes sense, since Grant, Tory, and Kari weren’t in place as a trio until season 3. All the Season 1 picks are from Adam. Season 10’s showing is helped by Tory picking four of those episodes, with Grant and Jamie each picking two.

Mythbusters Episodes per Season in Anniversary DVD Set

(The studio provided a review copy.)

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Supergirl Has Been Cast Fri, 23 Jan 2015 03:32:03 +0000 Melissa Benoist

The Supergirl series announced last fall now has a star: Melissa Benoist. She’s best known as one of the “new class” from season four of Glee, playing a “girl next door” type that would be well suited to the character. As described,

Benoist will play Kara, who after arriving on Earth was taken in by a foster family, the Danvers, who taught her to be careful with her extraordinary powers (which she shares with her famous cousin, Superman).

Now 24, Kara feels un-empowered, a slave to having repressed her innate abilities. She’s still pretty, but with her face hidden behind glasses and her hair pulled back, she doesn’t know it herself. An unexpected disaster forces her to use her powers in public. Energized by her heroic deed, for the first time in her life, Kara begins embracing her extraordinary abilities.

Sounds like the addition of a coming-of-age twist, but the Supergirl comic series quite often went in for soap opera and emotional dramatics, focusing on a young woman finding her place in the world. That aspect, if foregrounded in the show, could be quite appealing.

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Batman: The Second Season Part 1 Out on DVD Next Month Sun, 18 Jan 2015 21:57:57 +0000 Batman: The Second Season Part 1 cover
Batman: The Second Season Part 1

I’ve already talked about how much fun Batman: The Complete TV Series was, but if you don’t want to invest in all 120 episodes at once — it can be quite overwhelming — Warner Bros. is now breaking out the seasons into more reasonably sized sets.

Batman: The Second Season Part 1 will be available on February 10 as a four-disc DVD set with 30 remastered episodes list-priced at $39.98. Foes for Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) include the Joker (Cesar Romero), Catwoman (Julie Newmar), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Egghead (Vincent Price), Chandell (Liberace), and King Tut (Victor Buono). There appear to be no special features. Here’s the episode listing:

  1. Shoot a Crooked Arrow
  2. Walk the Straight and Narrow
  3. Hot Off the Griddle
  4. The Cat and the Fiddle
  5. The Minstrel’s Shakedown
  6. Barbecued Batman?
  7. The Spell of Tut
  8. Tut’s Case Is Shut
  9. The Greatest Mother of Them All
  10. Ma Parker
  11. The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes
  12. The Clock King Gets Crowned
  13. An Egg Grows in Gotham
  14. The Yegg Foes in Gotham
  15. The Devil’s Fingers
  16. The Dead Ringers
  17. Hizzonner the Penguin
  18. Dizzonner the Penguin
  19. Green Ice
  20. Deep Freeze
  21. The Impractical Joker
  22. The Joker’s Provokers
  23. Marsha, Queen of Diamonds
  24. Marsha’s Scheme of Diamonds
  25. Come Back, Shame
  26. It’s How You Play the Game
  27. The Penguin’s Nest
  28. The Bird’s Last Jest
  29. The Cat’s Meow
  30. The Bat’s Kow Tow
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Kingsman: The Secret Service Fri, 16 Jan 2015 05:21:17 +0000 I just got back from a free preview of the upcoming Kingsman: The Secret Service, due out February 13. I had fun, since there were twists I wasn’t expecting (although I didn’t like some of them). Then again, I didn’t remember much about the comic it was based on.

Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service

It’s an action-adventure spy film, emphasis on the action. The plot threads are familiar: young aimless dude Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is taken under the wing of accomplished, well-dressed older man (Colin Firth, codenamed Galahad, which is so silly I kept forgetting it). Although Eggsy doesn’t follow the rules of the spy organization, he wins through in the end, demonstrating the value of spirit and initiative over propriety.

Kingsman: The Secret Service movie poster

The two men of Kingsman: The Secret Service

I found the spy setup amusing, with the use of classic British symbols. The Kingsman organization sets up in a tailor shop, and the operatives are beautifully dressed, with brollies and glasses. Their spy gadgets are gold lighters and signet rings and such, and they’re always gentlemen, in addition to being perfectly trained. The people in the organization we see most are the leader (Michael Caine, of course) and the tech genius/trainer (Mark Strong, in a nice change for him). I wish Jack Davenport (another Kingsman) had been in the film more, since I’ve liked him since Coupling.

Kingsman: The Secret Service agents

The pacing is similarly British, slower than other movies in its genre, and several of the scenes go on too long. Typical of Mark Millar’s work, there’s a certain amount of self-referential foregrounding of cliches to say “see, I know the cliches, and I’m smarter, so I’m pointing them out and doing something else” — yet there are still an awful lot of cliches that the film relies upon.

There are a number of major female roles, but none of them interact with each other. We’re told the female Kingsman recruit, Roxy (Sophie Cookson), is incredibly talented, but we only see her do things after Eggsy holds her hand or encourages her to overcome her fears. Super-rich bad guy Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, with a lisp and a series of baseball caps) has a female second-in-command, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who uses the blades inside her prosthetic foot-hooks (think running blades, but really sharp) to kill people.

The bad guys in Kingsman: The Secret Service

It’s with Valentine that the movie’s costs becomes most apparent, because for a billionaire tech genius, there are rarely any people around him, just Gazelle. I think they spent all the money on the extensive fight scenes, which go into great detail, in slow motion, with different creative ways to violently kill people. It’s so lovingly filmed and so cartoony, though, that it didn’t bother me. It is very violent, though, so take note. (Update: I have since realized that this film is not yet rated, so some of the most violent scenes may be trimmed or edited.)

Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) co-wrote and directed the film. There’s a training section, as Eggsy competes against other, higher-class possibilities for the organization opening. There’s a “show how tough he is” fight scene for Firth (as shown in the second trailer) that belies his proper appearance. There’s an abusive stepfather for Eggsy to rescue his mother from. There’s some pasted-in class debate to provide the superficial appearance of depth beyond the fight scenes, as well as a cartoonishly bigoted Southern church to attack. There’s the “saving the world” final third act, where lots of anonymous henchmen get mowed down. There’s even a cute dog.

For an alternative perspective, the friend I went with said it was “bad. Gloriously bad. They’re clearly working very hard at making something this bad.” It’s true. There’s a lot of effort on the screen. Whether you enjoy it or not may depend on your expectations. Mine were extraordinarily low — I was happy just seeing Colin Firth in some nice suits. Oh, and Mark Hamill plays a supporting role, which may please fans of the comic.

Kingsman: The Secret Service and the gear

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Will Brandon Routh Get His Own Superhero TV Series as the Atom? Sun, 11 Jan 2015 23:55:10 +0000 That story is really in the headline. As part of the CW upfront television presentations, there was brief mention from Flash and Arrow show runners Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Marc Guggenheim that “they’re in ‘very early talks’ on the ‘very general idea’ of an Atom series”. I hope it happens!

Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer

Brandon Routh has been playing Ray Palmer, super-smart corporate head, on the third season of Arrow. Comic fans are expecting him to soon become the Atom, superhero able to shrink.

Previously, Routh came to attention playing Superman in the 2006 Superman Returns. He has also appeared in comic book films Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.

The CW was promoting its superhero shoes to the TV critics and reporters, with a display of costumes, as shown in these tweets from Alan Sepinwall:

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iZombie First Look, Show Background Sun, 11 Jan 2015 23:37:55 +0000 Rose McIver in iZombie

Apparently, I can no longer say “I don’t like zombies”, because I’m looking forward to the upcoming iZombie TV series, launching March 17 on the CW. Here’s the first look teaser:

The show is very loosely based on the Vertigo comic by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, but restructured into more of a procedural, with a case of the week that Liv (Rose McIver) helps solve after eating brains to give herself a victim’s memories and skills. It’s adapted by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright of Veronica Mars, so they clearly know “young women solving crime”.

Alan Sepinwall has more detail, including that “Mike Allred draws the show’s opening credits, as well as the comic book-style panels that appear at the beginning of each act”, which sounds like something to look forward to. Lots more on the show’s goals and influences at that link, including this exchange:

iZombie exists in a universe where all those other zombie movies and TV shows exist, and Liv frequently rents zombie movies to get a better handle on her condition. “It was something we really enjoyed about the show,” said Ruggiero-Wright. “It’s so prevalent in pop culture that we’re having fun that she’s doing that for research. If I became a zombie, that’s what I would do. I would watch The Walking Dead.”

iZombie will run after The Flash, which should make for an enjoyable comic-themed night of TV.

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Bruce Campbell to Host Last Fan Standing Sat, 10 Jan 2015 17:09:17 +0000 Earlier this week, I wrote about Wizard’s upcoming digital streaming network CONtv. Now comes news that the project will launch next month, and one of the original programs will feature Bruce Campbell hosting a game show.

Last Fan Standing with Bruce Campbell

Last Fan Standing will also be produced by Campbell. It will film live at comic conventions, beginning today at New Orleans Comic Con. The audience will play along, competing for cash and prizes, until the top four players battle for the title. More shows will be shot at various Wizard World events, and the series will premiere on CONtv later this year. It’s a neat idea, well suited to the audience, cheap to make but with the potential to be a lot of fun.

Wonder how much Thor’s hammer weighs? Or how much damage the Vorpal Blade would inflict on a 5th-Level Cleric? Fans finally find vindication in their hours studying comics, films, movies, and more with host and horror icon Campbell in this outrageous new quiz show. A collaboration between his own production entity and Pop Quiz Entertainment, this will be Campbell’s first digital series.

“At a live preview during Wizard World’s Chicago Comic Con last August, six hundred screaming fans could barely hold their seats! It was obvious to us that this would be a hit,” said Chris McGurk, CEO of Cinedigm Entertainment. “With a host as beloved in the fan community as Bruce, there’s no better fit for CONtv than Last Fan Standing. We think of this series as a celebration of the pop culture obsession and fan engagement that makes the CONtv audience so special.”

“The audience went crazy for Last Fan Standing when we debuted the game at Chicago Comic Con this summer! CONtv is the perfect place to reach true fans, and we can’t wait to challenge our audiences to find out who is the ultimate pop culture guru,” said Campbell.

“We love that CONtv will be bringing the excitement and action of our conventions to fans across the country,” says John Macaluso, CEO of Wizard World. “By shooting Last Fan Standing on location, CONtv viewers will be able to join in on the fan experience even when they aren’t able to be at the convention in person.”

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Some Like It Hot-Buttered Thu, 08 Jan 2015 22:43:44 +0000 Since I enjoyed Jeff Cohen’s The Question of the Missing Head, I thought I’d check out another comedy mystery he’d written. Some Like It Hot-Buttered is the first of three in the “Comedy Tonight” series, named after the theater the protagonist runs that only shows comedies. (The other two are It Happened One Knife and A Night at the Operation.)

It’s the story of Elliot Freed, a divorced Jersey guy who wrote a book that became a bad movie. He turned his profits and savings into the Comedy Tonight movie theater, a one-screen revival house that runs double bills, one classic and one modern (which Freed, and by extension one assumes Cohen, is universally dismissive of). While the classics are named — including Young Frankenstein, Horse Feathers, and Help! — the modern are parodies, non-real pictures that still sound oddly familiar.

Freed is barely making a go of it, assisted by Anthony, a college student/film buff/projectionist, and Sophie, Goth-lite ticket and snack seller. Things aren’t helped when a patron is discovered dead in his seat after a showing. Then the cops find a whole bunch of pirated DVDs in the basement.

As events unspool, the cast widens to include a friendly chief of police, a very friendly blonde officer, Freed’s ex-wife, his father, and a film professor at the local college. It’s an entertaining mystery, with a lot of larger-than-life characters and a strong sense of place. You’d better like, or at least sympathize with, Freed to get through it, though, because we spend a lot of time in his head. I tried to focus on his good qualities, mostly his love of movies, to balance the less-entertaining bits about having to live on his own and never bothering to buy furniture for his apartment.

The denouement turns on a convenient coincidence, although it had been subtly foreshadowed through the book, and I enjoyed the setting enough that I’ll be looking for the other two.

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Wizard Launching CONtv Digital Network in 2015 Tue, 06 Jan 2015 21:40:37 +0000 2015 appears to be the year of direct-to-consumer TV network offerings, whether from established networks, movie studios, or specialty outlets (like the WWE, which sells its own network of nothing but decades of wrestling programming for $10 a month).

CONtv logo

Now Wizard World has announced CONtv, planned to launch early this year as a digital network sold direct to consumers and geared towards “fans in the Comic Con community”. It’s a joint venture with independent content distributor Cinedigm. Programming will include “cult television, sci-fi, horror and fantasy films, grindhouse classics, thrilling martial arts adventures, and more”, with the following content acquired already:

· Superhero Action: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Voltron, Trial of the Incredible Hulk, She-Ra: Princess of Power

· Cult Classics: Godzilla, Death Race 2000, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, Beware the Blob, Transylvania 6-5000, Night Patrol

· Horror: Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Hellraiser, I Spit on Your Grave (#1 and #2), Hellboy: Blood & Iron, Rob Zombie Presents The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, Ichi The Killer, Puppet Master, Embrace of the Vampire

· Martial Arts: Fists of Fury, Shaolin, Man From Nowhere, War of the Arrows, Legend of the Fist, Yakuza Weapon, Blade of Kings, Lady Ninja

· Gaming: Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Stargate Infinity, Street Fighter Alpha, Heavenly Sword

· Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television: UK’s Being Human, Farscape, Highlander, Demon King, Stargate Infinity

· Anime: Yu-Gi-Oh, Beyblade, Digimon, Ghost in the Shell, High School of the Dead, Saint Seiya

They’ll also do original programming, such as the horror competition series Fight of the Living Dead, which will follow “nine YouTube stars as they work to survive the first 24-hours of a simulated zombie apocalypse.” Says CEO of Wizard World John Macaluso, “We are excited to offer fans a robust cross section of content curated especially for them. Clearly nobody knows the comic community better than our staff — we’ve got the most rabid fans amidst our own ranks shaping CONtv’s content offering.”

The network will be available for a subscription fee of $6.99 a month “with content exclusives, audience rewards, [and] a dynamic second-screen experience”, or as a “free ad-supported platform” on Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation, and Android. They also plan to offer “ticketing bundle opportunities for fans planning to attend Wizard World conventions.” (I can imagine X months for free being offered as part of their high-ticket VIP packages.) Those interested in being kept informed can sign up for a newsletter at their website.

I wish more Wizard programming was included — it would be awfully neat to see panels and appearances on the channel — but I suspect that includes rights negotiations that would be very complicated.

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Does Anyone Else Remember Late for Dinner? Tue, 30 Dec 2014 03:25:37 +0000 Late for Dinner movie poster

Late for Dinner is a 1991 science fiction movie (but focused on relationships instead of technology) that is the answer to a trivia question. W.D. Richter, the director of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, only ever directed one other movie. It’s this one.

It’s the story of two brothers (played by Brian Wimmer and Peter Berg) from 1961 who accidentally get frozen and wake up 30 years later. One has left behind a wife (Marcia Gay Harden) and daughter, and a large part of the appeal of the movie for me — from what I remember of it — is how they have to relearn to interact with each other. It’s a small, sweet movie that no one seems to have heard of.

Anyway, it’s coming out on Blu-ray in April from Kino Video. I’m not sure many people remember the film, or will seek it out, but I wanted to make brief mention of it.

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Why Doesn’t Anyone Remember Avatar? Tue, 23 Dec 2014 16:22:40 +0000 Avatar movie poster

I’m not sure the premise of this article, on how Avatar “is all-but-forgotten in the pop culture landscape”, will remain true — particularly when Avatar Land opens at Walt Disney World in 2017 — but it’s a fascinating reminder of how something well-known can burn out quickly, and how fickle popular tastes can be.

The James Cameron film is the highest-grossing of all time, and it made 3-D a reputable artistic technique, not just a gimmick, but on its fifth anniversary, there are no “multimedia spin-offs”, no merchandise, and no value in the brand. Perhaps that’s because the plot is not particularly clever or original. Under everything, I believe, it comes down to story. Summing up,

Avatar was not the first mega-blockbuster where Hollywood learned all of the wrong lessons (examples: nearly every other blockbuster ever made). But considering how big a deal it was for a brief period in time, it is all the more odd that exists solely as “that 3D movie that made a bunch of money.”

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See My SPX Panel: How Comics Get Reviewed Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:12:38 +0000 SPX 2014 panel: How Comics Get Reviewed

I hosted a panel at the Small Press Expo in September called “Pro Tips: How Comics Get Reviewed”. Brigid Alverson, Michael Cavna, Dan Kois, Heidi MacDonald, Douglas Wolk, and I talked about how to get coverage for comics and what editors and critics are looking for. Now, the SPX team have posted the panel video here, in case you’d like to see it:

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Disney and Turner Classic Movies Team Up Sun, 14 Dec 2014 15:39:20 +0000 There are a couple of things in this new Disney/Turner deal that I like the sound of.

Great Movie Ride presented by TCM

Disney is revamping its Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World with the help of Turner Classic Movies, which will get “Presented by” credits at the attraction.

TCM will periodically (four-five times a year) air a programming block called “Treasures From the Disney Vault” that will feature “vintage movies, cartoons, documentaries, and episodes of TV series like Disneyland and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”. Exciting! The first block airs the evening of December 21, with some classic Mickey Mouse and Chip and Dale cartoons; the pilot of Wonderful World of Color, featuring a preview of the upcoming Disneyland park; The Reluctant Dragon, a 1941 movie about how Disney Studios created their cartoons; and more.

The ride changes are due to debut in the first quarter of 2015. The introductory film and the ride finale clips will be updated (and good thing, since they’re long overdue), as well as adding footage of Robert Osborne, the voice and best-known host of TCM.

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