Saturday Night Live Makes Fun of Marvel Movie Success
September 30, 2014

From Saturday Night Live this past weekend, guest-starring Chris Pratt.

Two key points: They’re already making fun of the idea of Ant-Man as a movie. And the line “We don’t even need comic books any more” I hope is not prophetic.

New Kingsman Trailer Emphasizes Action
September 23, 2014

I’m guessing the folks behind Kingsman: The Secret Service want to show viewers what they’re waiting for, now that the film has been moved from next month to next February. Here’s the official second trailer. (For comparison, I previously posted the first.)

This one has more Samuel L. Jackson as the bad guy, a lot less Michael Caine. It’s centered on an action scene with Colin Firth and his umbrella — yay for more Firth! — with a lot more of the action scenes shown overall. I was more interested in the class conflict and cheeky humor of the first one, but I’m not the target for this kind of movie; the audience that is will likely be more attracted to this kind of spectacle. Plus, the trailer has a snippet of a new track from Iggy Azalea featuring Ellie Goulding.

Arrow: The Complete Second Season
September 21, 2014

I found the first season of Arrow a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t tried it on the CW, but I discovered it on disc, and watching several episodes at once allowed me to appreciate the character aspects of the superhero adventure series.

Last week, the second season came out on home video. Thankfully, the first episode is a refresher. “Year One” consists of character profiles and event summaries from the first season, reminding the less-than-devout viewer where things left off.

That leads into the season premiere, with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Diggle (David Ramsey) journeying to the island to convince Oliver (Stephen Amell) to return to the city. The island flashbacks have become even more prevalent and substantial, with a parallel team of Slade (Manu Bennett) and Shado (Celina Jade) replacing the original mentor. I’d rather see more character work, less tropical suspense and conspiracy, but the latter is more true to current superhero trends.

Stephen Amell in Arrow

Stephen Amell in Arrow

There were several changes in season two that I enjoyed even more, and a couple that really turned me off. I miss Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell); I thought he was an important character to keep Oliver grounded, as opposed to his fun but unrealistic heroing buddies. There were more of those this season, with Felicity joining the team of Queen and Diggle and Black Canary (Caity Lotz) appearing frequently. It was neat to see more women as substantial cast members (although I’m still disappointed by a late-season plot point with one of the female characters I won’t spoil).

However, I dislike hero shows where all or most of the cast are super or vigilantes. Having a good mix of regular people and the more extreme is more entertaining to me to watch, but this season has a lot of supergroups, from ARGUS and the Suicide Squad to the League of Assassins. Most everyone had abilities of some kind, with the only exceptions being Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and Thea Queen (Willa Holland), who each got kidnapped and threatened. Even Felicity is a super-hacker, and Diggle ran around with an attack group for a bit.

Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson and Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak in Arrow

Shouldn’t Felicity look a bit more worried about the sword at her neck?

If I had any advice for the show, it would be to rebalance the personal moments against the multitude of action scenes — more relationships instead of more explosions, more family moments instead of more island flashbacks. But there are plenty of other shows to watch for character work, and (until later this year) few with this kind of superhero adventure.

And now I’m going to contradict myself, since one of the high points of season two for me was the introduction of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) in episodes 8 and 9, in preparation for the upcoming spin-off Flash TV show. He does a wonderful job bringing some lighter touches to the sometimes dour CW superhero world.

Special Features and Formats

Colton Haynes as Roy Harper and Willa Holland as Thea Queen in Arrow

Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) is a bad boyfriend to Thea (Willa Holland) when he’s on drugs

As in the previous set, most of the extras are deleted scenes from various episodes. Beyond that, disc three has 26 minutes of the “Arrow 2013 Comic-Con Panel” with executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, Katie Cassidy, Colton Haynes (Roy Harper), Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, and executive producer Greg Berlanti. At the time, they were promoting this season, so the entertainment comes from seeing how they were plugging items that the viewer now knows how they turned out. Plus, they tease the audience with relationship hints, and I liked the surprise guest.

Disc four has a small grouping of extras. “From Vigilante to Hero” (24 minutes) features mostly the producers discussing the Arrow’s anti-hero status. They summarize and show clips from what they see as key moments from the season, many of which deal with the decision whether or not to try and kill someone. It’s a difficult question, one that can inspire lots of discussion.

Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance and Stephen Amell as The Arrow

Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance and Stephen Amell as the Arrow

“How Did They Do That? The Visual Effects of Arrow” is about as generic as the title suggests. It’s only 11 minutes about the computer-generated effects involving the plane scene from the first episode.

“Wirework: The Impossible Moves of Arrow” is a 10-minute analysis of how they needed to start using wires as characters became more super-powered this season, so people hit would fly farther. The Gag Reel, five minutes, features people falling down, breaking up, or props going awry. Deathstroke doing the robot dance was pretty funny, and I felt for Black Canary trying to do the salmon ladder exercise.

The Blu-ray season set also comes with DVD and UltraViolet copies of the episodes; there’s also a DVD-only version. (The studio provided a review copy.)

There’s Going to Be a Supergirl Show!
September 21, 2014

This is surprising but exciting news. I guess superheroes are still a hot trend.

Supergirl comic

According to Deadline.com, CBS has committed to a Supergirl series produced by Greg Berlanti, who’s also been responsible for Arrow and The Flash. Ali Adler will write the pilot; she previously worked on No Ordinary Family and The New Normal.

The title character will be Superman’s cousin, and unlike the long-running Smallville, she’ll have and use superpowers for heroing. “Also closely involved in the development of the project has been DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer Geoff Johns,” of course.

CBS was the only network without a superhero series — Fox has the hotly anticipated Gotham, the CW hosts Arrow, The Flash, and iZombie, ABC runs Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and NBC is launching Constantine. Warner Bros. TV, which produces all these shows (except for the Disney/ABC/Marvel one), is doing very well on the small screen.

Supergirl is the second female-led hero series announced (scratch that — it’s fourth, see the comments); Netflix is working on a Jessica Jones series as part of their Marvel character programming. CBS traditionally has older-skewing shows, so it’ll be interesting to see how an action series centered on a young woman does for them. Let’s hope they ditch both the belly-baring crop-top costume and the “look at my crotch” current redesign for something more timeless.

Powers TV Show a PlayStation Exclusive
September 21, 2014

They first started trying to make a TV show based on Powers, the comic by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, back in 2009. A pilot was shot in 2011 for the FX network, but it didn’t fly. Now, there are more definite plans.

Sony will air the Powers TV show exclusively to subscribers of the PlayStation Network beginning in December. The first hour-long episode is free; following episodes will require subscription to PlayStation Plus. This is the first original programming through that venue, and it’ll be an interesting experiment. There’s a lot of discussion around alternatives to the traditional network/cable programming model, and connected game consoles make up a small but substantial potential audience.

Powers stars Sharlto Copley as Christian Walker and Susan Heyward as Deena Pilgrim

Powers stars Sharlto Copley as Christian Walker and Susan Heyward as Deena Pilgrim, both homicide detectives in a world where many people have superhuman abilities. The comic uses superhero tropes in a police procedural with noir overtones. Also appearing in the show are Eddie Izzard, Michelle Forbes, Noah Taylor, and Olesya Rulin.

There is speculation about the show eventually becoming available through some other venue, but nothing definite. Perhaps Sony might also stream through other devices, such as their internet-connected TVs or Blu-ray players. Mine allows for content through Sony’s Video Unlimited programming service, as well as Amazon, Netflix, Vudu, and Crackle. That last, Sony’s online distribution outlet, is my guess for an eventual venue for Powers. The free-to-watch channel airs Sony Pictures movies and TV shows, as well as original programming. It’s available through mobile devices, smart TVs, streaming players (such as Roku or Apple TV), and game consoles.

For example, right now they’re airing Sequestered, an original show about a jury that includes fan-favorites Summer Glau (Firefly, Arrow, Alphas), Patrick Warburton (The Tick), Bruce Davison, Dina Meyer (Birds of Prey), Ryan McPartlin (Captain Awesome from Chuck), and Jesse Bradford. It’s a 12-episode show with the first six out now and the second half coming next month.

Disclaimer: I work for a division of Sony that has nothing to do with the TV business.

What Defines a Writer of a Popular Property?
September 21, 2014

I did a double-take when shown this poster for the upcoming video-on-demand movie Wolves. As you can see, the tagline reads “from the writer of X-Men and Watchmen“. I was surprised to think for a minute that Alan Moore wrote a werewolf movie.

Wolves poster

The name they’re actually crediting is David Hayter, who wrote the screenplays for those films and has written and directed Wolves, which will be available on VOD on October 16 and stars Lucas Till, who played Havok in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: First Class.

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