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X-Men: Days of Future Past Trailers Build Excitement
April 18, 2014

The first trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past, released last fall, focused on closeups of the many stars populating the mutant film — Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence — mixed with shots of the new characters, emphasizing the many superpowered mutants, all with a mysterious Patrick Stewart voiceover. That was followed by scenes of the typical blockbuster destruction, complete with voiceless choir music, to show us what the stakes are.

The second trailer, out last month, emphasized the high stakes, with scenes of destruction and mention of the need to work together to avoid extinction. More of the footage is shown from the 70s scenes. (Love the costumes!)

The third, presumably final, trailer came out this week. In it, Wolverine explains the plot to Professor X, and thus, us. The Sentinels make their appearance as well. It’s the most exciting of the three, at least in terms of what interests me about the movie, particularly the humor. I’m now eager to see it!

X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which “the beloved characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in an epic battle that must change the past — to save our future” is in theaters May 23.

Son of Batman Premieres Tonight at WonderCon; Video and Images for Those of Us Not There
April 18, 2014

The next original DCU animated movie, Son of Batman, will be available for home video purchase on May 6, but attendees of this weekend’s California show WonderCon will be able to see the film tonight, followed by a panel discussion with stars Jason O’Mara (Batman), Sean Maher (Nightwing), Xander Berkeley (Langstrom), Stuart Allan (Damian), and filmmakers James Tucker (producer), Ethan Spaulding (director), Phil Bourassa (character designer), and Andrea Romano (dialogue director). (Can you believe this is the 20th!?! original animated DCU film?)

For those of us who can’t attend, here are some video clips. This one shows a whole bunch of Man-Bats attacking Batman and Robin:

This one looks more at Bruce Wayne and his son Damian’s home life, with the child acting as a baby ninja. Cute! And Alfred gets to be dry and witty, which is always fun.

Last, Batman faces off with Killer Croc, who brags about his upgrades.

And here’s an image gallery of promo pictures released so far.

Son of Batman promo image - Damian

Son of Batman promo image - Bruce Wayne and Alfred

Son of Batman promo image - Batman and Damian

Son of Batman promo image - Bat-gun

Son of Batman promo image - Damian and Robin costume

Son of Batman promo image - Killer Croc

Son of Batman promo image - Deathstroke

Son of Batman promo image -  Nightwing

Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings
April 13, 2014

Out this coming Tuesday is an odd little animated movie, Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings. It opens with a cartoon Stan Lee (voiced by The Man himself) driving his convertible (one-handed!) down a windy mountain road at night as he tells us he’s known for the legendary superheroes he’s created.

Stan Lee's Mighty 7: Beginnings

He’s been hired by Archie Comics to create new characters for them, but he’s not having much luck. He’s in the desert to clear his mind when a spaceship carrying seven aliens, each with a superpower, crashes in front of him. Five of them are prisoners of the other two. Stan takes them all to a friend’s beach house, where he hides them from the government in return for making a comic book about them and teaching them to be a superhero team.

Stan Lee's Mighty 7: Beginnings

This leads to lots of fight scenes, and frankly, I lost track of who was battling whom and why. I think both the government (led by Mr. Cross, voiced by Jim Belushi, as head of a covert military division) and other aliens are after the group, because later, they save the world in some way. The animation is generic and the scenes familiar to anyone who likes superheroes or science fiction, but the voice cast is amazing for such a project. And Stan fans will love seeing so much of him!

  • Armie Hammer as Strong Arm, with super strength
  • Christian Slater as Lazer Lord, who shoots laser energy (my favorite, since he does a great voice job as an anti-team rogue)
  • Teri Hatcher as Silver Skylark, a winged woman
  • Mayim Bialik as Lady Lightning, with superspeed
  • Flea as Roller Man, who turns himself into a big ball (think Bouncing Boy)
  • Darren Criss as Micro, who shrinks
  • Sean Austin as Kid Kinergy, with telekinesis

Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings only runs a little over an hour. It aired on the Hub Network earlier this year and was intended to be the first in a trilogy of animated films, although I’m not sure the others are still in production. Only three issues of the print comic were published from March to July 2012; it was canceled in favor of TV potential (an effort that has reportedly been in progress now for ten years).

Stan Lee's Mighty 7: Beginnings

My favorite part of the show is when the military captures Stan Lee and the team has to come save him. The government has some kind of mind-scanning device, and the bad guys keep getting defeated by how far back Stan’s memory goes, and how it’s full of nothing but him making up comic characters.

Stan Lee’s Mighty 7: Beginnings is available as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack (list price: $19.97) exclusively at Walmart on April 15 as well as a plain DVD ($14.93). Only the Blu-ray has these extras, though:

  • A 4-and-1/2 minute interview with Stan about the project.
  • Two minutes of “Stan’s Rants”, where he goes through the character list in terms of how they’d be as roommates. Since it’s Stan, the two women are described in terms of who they’re in love with or girlfriend to.
  • “Script to Screen” has three sequences: “Stan the Man”, “The Escape Plan”, and “The Final Showdown”. Each 1-and-1/2-minute section compares layout sketches, script, and final footage.
  • Three extended scenes lack sound effects, creating a somewhat surreal viewing experience.
  • A two-minute trailer (not the one seen below, but one that focuses on showing the character names).
  • Stan Lee trivia questions.
  • A gallery of production sketches of the characters and full-color background art.
  • Composer’s favorite music cues, which plays various bits of music from the movie.

Clarence, Cartoon Network’s Newest Series, Debuts Tomorrow Night
April 13, 2014

I don’t get modern cartoons, I’m afraid. I was sent a screener for Clarence — a new Cartoon Network animated series that launches tomorrow, April 12, at 7 PM ET / 6 PM CT — and the whole time watching it, I didn’t see much that would bring me back.

Clarence

First, there are the designs. Clarence is a chubby kid whose cheeks are much bigger than the rest of his head, which makes his outline look weirdly obscene. His friend Jeff’s head is perfectly square, while most everyone else gets a circle head. Except for Sumo, the third kid in the banner there, who resembles a humanoid rat.

Clarence, his mom, Sumo, and Jeff eating fast food

Clarence, his mom, Sumo, and Jeff eating fast food

Then there’s the lack of female characters. We get to see Clarence’s mom (Katie Crown) in the first 15-minute episode, “Fun Dungeon Face Off”, since she’s the one that takes the three boys to the fast food restaurant where Clarence torments Jeff (Sean Giambrone). The second segment, “Pretty Great Day with a Girl”, has Amy (Elizabeth Hope) biking Clarence around town, which was an improvement. She’s not listed in the main cast, though, so I don’t know if we expect to see her again. All the other kids in that episode are boys.

Clarence and Amy

Clarence and Amy

(I’m sure that hanging out only with your own gender is typical for certain ages. My objection is that so many cartoons already exist with mostly-boy casts that I’m not very interested in watching yet another one. But that’s the demographic Cartoon Network is proud of attracting.)

The show is the first created by Skyler Page, a former storyboard artist for Adventure Time. He also voices Clarence, who’s described as

an optimistic, spirited, lovable boy who sees the best in all things and wants to try everything. Because everything is amazing! Celebrate the best of childhood: epic dirt fights, awkward crushes, trampoline combat, sleepover pranks, and secret tree forts all through the eyes of Clarence. Clarence’s novel perspective transforms nearly any situation, however mundane, into the best day ever. No matter what happens, good or bad, nothing brings Clarence down.

That’s a nice attitude, although it’s not necessarily one I would recognize in the first episode, which featured Clarence teasing Jeff for not being more like him. Perhaps that appears more later; there will be a total of 12 fifteen-minute segments. Regardless, the flat-looking animation, although a currently popular style, isn’t pleasant for me to watch. I suspect kids and parents who can relate to the kids’ behavior will like the show more.

You can watch the first episode, “Fun Dungeon Face Off”, here:

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Want to Ride Captain America Movie’s Coattails
April 8, 2014

It’s no surprise that Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a dynamite opening weekend, setting a new box office record for April with a $96+ million take. Internationally, it’s also doing well, taking in more already than the first Captain America made overseas in total. The sequel is expected to far surpass the original overall.

Thus, it’s also no surprise that the struggling Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing its best to grab some of that success and interest. Marvel sent out a press release yesterday that said:

Nothing will ever be the same for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. following the jaw dropping events of the blockbuster film Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, now in theaters! In the series’ latest episode “Turn, Turn, Turn,” airing Tuesday, April 8th at 8|7c on the ABC Network, Coulson and his team come face–to-face with the Clairvoyant and must deal with the greatest threat of all … one that will hit closer to home more than they’ve ever imagined.

with the following video clip:

I’m still confused on what this actually means. They talk about how the TV show and film both deal with S.H.I.E.L.D., but didn’t we know that already? Promotion of this kind actually makes me LESS likely to watch the show, since I haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet and I’m now vaguely concerned that I’ll either have something spoiled for me, or I’ll miss something because I won’t know the reference. Of course, it’s probably nothing, just attempted cross-marketing to raise the show’s viewership. And it’s probably a fair assumption on their part that plenty of people did see the movie already, given the ticket sales. I seem to have heard that Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson wasn’t even in the movie, which strikes me as a poor choice, since he’s been the glue of the cinematic Marvel universe so far.

The Muppets Character Encyclopedia
March 30, 2014

Whatever you thought about Muppets Most Wanted, it’s a great thing that the movie means more Muppet stuff. Like this attractive reference.

The Muppets Character Encyclopedia is chock-full of profiles of muppets both well-known and obscure. I thought I was a big fan, but I learned a bunch, while also having plenty of moments of “oh, yeah, I remember that!” with Angus McGonagle, the gargling gargolyle, or Bill the Bubble Guy.

Some entries are more general, such as pages on Chickens (although of course Camilla gets her own entry) or Frog Scouts, but I was surprised to find out how many of the monsters had actual names. Others are characters I’ve never heard of, which stunned me. (For an all-ages book, it’s really thorough.) The text information, while brief, is in keeping with the Muppet attitude and has plenty of humor. There are also cast photos from the film sprinkled throughout and the occasional picture of a special topic, like Miss Piggy’s fashions or Muppet Food.

I liked that the book is a smaller size than the usual hardcover encyclopedia type, which makes it easier to hold, particularly for little hands. My main criticism is that I wish that it had also included a list of all the Muppet projects and shows. Each character has their debut noted, and some of them are references I’m unfamiliar with, such as “Muppet Classic Theater” or “The Great Santa Claus Switch”. Also, they don’t include Skeeter, who isn’t even mentioned on Scooter’s page. Perhaps that’s because she was never a traditional puppet, but I always liked her. (The publisher provided a review copy.)



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