Archive for the ‘Couch & Tube’ Category

Captain America

Posted by Greg Butler On March - 25 - 2013

Captain America: The First Avenger 4fa6cb6bcdc388ed13f5f68a

 

 

A dedicated but scrawny and sickly Steve Rogers (Chris Evans rebooted from the Fantastic Four) agrees to go through an experimental serum that would transform him into the Iconic, flag waving Captain America. Another in the never ending stable of superhero adaptation for the geek squad

Cap is the counterpoint to the evil Red Skull, played in cackling 101 Nazi-ness by Hugo Weaving.

The film jets back and forth between Captain being used as a prop to sell war bonds, all the while the Skull develops weapons of mass destruction, and trying to tap into the power of  a rubic shaped cosmic cube, imbued with the powers of the Gods (Don’t ask).

The military and especially Colonel Chester Phillip (Tommy Lee Jones phoning this one in from his sleep) have doubts and trepidation about losing their lab rat Captain to the front lines, But help by boring love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and a suave Millionaire inventor Howard Stark ( father of Tony Stark’s Iron man), fly Rogers into enemy territory where he rescues  friend Bucky Barnes ( Sebastian Stan) as well as hundreds of other military prisoners, proving he’s more than a road show commercial. This pushes the evitable confrontation to come between Captain America and the Red Skull.

 

Sounds good on paper, but on film, not much to cheer about.

 

Director Joe Johnston seems clueless in how to make a memorable battle, Action scenes are stitched together with no rhythm, and its all run, punch, leap, surrounded by a background of things exploding. The hero’s trademark speeches of American values while kicking ass, is muted for political correctness for the international film market. He’s just a guy in blue tights that just wants to help out.

Hugo Weaving doesn’t fair much better as the Red Skull, with old school villainy and no dynamic personality to really make him interesting, the trick relies on selling the trademark disfigurement as a makeup gimmick to keep you from not being bored and even that carries no weight, unlike the horrid visage of Nolan’s Two- face from The Dark night. It’s simply a marketing mask for this year’s Halloween.

Probably the biggest issue is Chris Evans as the titled character, he’s plain as un-buttered toast, the Captain is so bland, as to being nonexistent, and in some ways the film is simply a prelude to the video game, although from what I heard, it wasn’t much better.

The Walking Dead: Season 1 Overview

Posted by Jose On February - 27 - 2011

October 31, 2010. Halloween. For many, it was a night to dress up, go trick-or-treating, and get more hammered than a hardware store. For many this year, it was the night to stay home and turn their televisions to AMC. Why? It was the night the world was introduced to The Walking Dead. Though based on the hit series written by Robert Kirkman and published by Image Comics, there were many who went into the show cold, not having reading the comic. Present company included. Going into it cold, how did the six episode season fare? What made it stand out and made it a hit success?

The show takes place in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The world, much like the zombies is a shell of it’s former self. You’re probably asking yourself, “Hasn’t this been done a million times, already?” In a sense, you’d be right, but the saving grace of this show is this; where as movies that portray a zombie apocalypse spend very little time on the setting itself—a mere transition to establish the world isn’t what it used to be—this show makes the setting a character in itself. Everything has a dull, muted tone. When we think back to how things were, we remember them as a shining glow of memory. In the wake of such a horrible event, the world mirrors the zombies in that it’s decayed, it’s dirty and no matter what you do, it will never be what it once was. The cinematography is used to full effect, giving everything an uneasy feel.

In contrast to that, the area of the woods, a haven for a group of survivors is placed in vibrant greens and browns. There is life in those woods and is really one of the few settings in the show that gives you a chance to breathe and relax. You the viewer feel at peace during these scenes…well, about as much at peace as the story allows you.

The acting on this show is astounding. Leading the cast is Andrew Lincoln, playing Rick Grimes. A deputy sheriff wounded in the line of duty, Rick awakens to find the world he knew is all but gone and now overrun with zombies. He searches for his wife Lori (played by Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (played by Chandler Riggs). Rick is our anchor, the person we relate to most on the show. When he struggles to search for his family, we’re rooting for him every step of the way.

But, as good as Lincoln is, he’s backed up by a strong supporting cast. Jon Bernthal plays Shane, Rick’s partner who finds and takes care of his family after believing Rick to have died in the hospital. Shane’s story is complex as he watches over Rick’s wife and son, while falling in love with Lori, Rick’s wife. Once Rick re-enters the picture, it is not an easy thing to live with. Laurie Holden plays Andrea, a woman who is taking care of her sister. Andrea has one of the stronger emotional journeys throughout the entire season, as she struggles with what it means to lose everything you know and love. A fan favorite, Jeffrey DeMunn plays Dale, an elderly camper who often serves as the heart of the group. Though other actors portray the survivors, these three give the show a look at all ends of the spectrum of what it is to hold on to a shred of good in such a bleak environment.

Though, not everyone is good. Although he must be sick of playing the bad ass, Michael Rooker does a spectacular job as Merle Dixon, a red neck who doesn’t play well with others. Though, ultimately left to get his comeuppance in the second episode, Rooker plays Merle with such anger and charisma that you wish he wasn’t handcuffed to a pipe on the roof. Playing his brother Daryl, Norman Reedus shows you that Dixon men aren’t the type to take bad news laying down. Daryl, often choosing to shoot his crossbow first and asks questions never, straddles the line between concern for his brother and violent rage doesn’t grow much as a character but then again he doesn’t need to. And finally, Noah Emmerich as Dr. Jenner, the last man in the Center for Disease Control or CDC for short. Jenner isn’t quite good nor is he all bad. Jenner is a man locked in quarantine trying his hardest to find some reasoning behind the zombie outbreak, unfortunately he isn’t the best at what he does and solitude has gotten to him. Jenner may be one of the more tragic characters of the show.

And that’s something else that needs to be addressed. From what’s been said of this adaptation, it follows the comic in terms of how bleak it is. There are small blips of hope and happiness like Rick finding his family or Andrea smiling as she finds the perfect birthday gift for her sister, but those moments are few and far between. The show takes something as happy as riding a horse along the empty streets of Atlanta to something as horrible as a horde of zombies around the corner (literally) ripping said horse to pieces.

Speaking of Zombies, what I found most interesting about this show was how sparingly they were used. In this world, Zombies are more a force of nature. They arrive, they inflict damage and discord and that’s the end of it. They’re always on the periphery waiting. And thanks to practical effects, they feel all too real. The prosthetics give the zombies a look of true decay. Whether they’ve risen from the grave or have recently been turned, the undead look like shells of former people as opposed to a bunch of zombie fans in poor make up chewing the scenery more than human flesh. Had the zombies not worked, I don’t think the premise of the show would have, either.

That’s the thing about this show. While it may not be the happiest of shows out there, and while it may spend more time focusing on the people more than it does the zombies, that’s its ultimate strength. The show is more about how people struggle to survive themselves than an unseen destruction of society. And while the formulaic “People are the real monsters” cliché is alive and well here, what keeps us coming back for more is people like Rick Grimes who, despite constant kicking while he’s down, continues to get up and make hard decisions simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Though only six episodes, this first season told a story that started and ended with a bang. And not just in the metaphorical sense. Going into this show cold, there is no way to tell what’s going to happen to the characters. Will we ever find out what caused the Zombie outbreak? How do you cope with the notion that there are more of them then there are of you? Where the hell do you go from here? We’ll have to wait a year for those answers. I guess that’s the appeal of the show. Even when it’s filled with bleak and hopeless moments, you still hold on to that shred of hope things will be okay. In a nutshell, that is The Walking Dead season 1.

NYCC DC Animated Panel

Posted by Jose On October - 19 - 2010

DC Animated: Moving Forward or Going Back?

By: Jose A. Rivera

New York Comic Con held many panels this year. One I was looking forward to in particular was the DC Universe Animated panel. Moderating was Warner Bros Animation’s Greg Miereneau. His guests on the panel? Writer of the animated feature Wonder Woman, Michael Jelenic and DC animation legend Bruce Timm!

They started the panel talking about what gave birth to the next DC Animated feature under the DC Showcase banner, Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam. Timm said the project came about when those at DC Animated wanted to do something new, but were also realistic in getting an established character like Superman or Batman to sell it for marquee value. With that in mind, Captain Marvel was chosen as he’s been shown here in there in animation, but hasn’t been given the chance to shine.

With that, we were shown three clips of the 22-minute animated feature. The first clip showed Superman battling Black Adam in what has to be an impressive battle across the city for animation. The second clip involved what many Captain Marvel fans have been waiting to see in animation for years, a young Billy Batson meeting the Wizard Shazam and having his ancient power bestowed to the young man. The final clip showed Billy first transformation into Captain Marvel while battling Black Adam. All three very impressive.

Reprising their roles on Justice League Unlimited are George Newbern as Superman and Jerry O’Connell as Captain Marvel. Michael Vosloo of The Mummy fame voices Black Adam, while screen legend James Garner plays the wizard Shazam. Amongst the highlights of this panel were Timm and Jelenic’s reverence and excitement for having Garner in the cast.

The theme of this Showcase short is all about what you do when you have power. Timm and Jelenic chose Superman and Black Adam to be opposite ends of the spectrum for Billy; Superman represents what power does when used correctly, while Black Adam represents what power does when used irresponsibly. There was a fun debate as to whether or not Captain Marvel was Billy in an adult body or if Captain Marvel was another person all together. Jelenic tried to keep it vague but said it was Billy. And on the topic of Showcase shorts, both men assured us this is the longest of the Showcase shorts. Sadly, it may be the last.

If that wasn’t enough, we were treated to the opening five minutes of the 10th DC Animated Direct-To-DVD Feature, All-Star Superman. On the whole, I was impressed. Based on the story by Grant Morrison, this feature seems to be one both Timm and DC Animated seems to be the most proud of. Coming this spring, the cast features James Denton as Superman, Anthony Lapalgia as Lex Luthor and Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane. And best of all? Dwayne McDuffie of Justice League Unlimited fame is penning the adaptation.

The opening five minutes, which details Superman rescuing Dr. Quintum’s ship after it’s sabotage by Lex Luthor not only mirrored the story, but Frank Quitely’s art style; something Timm noted took a long time to accomplish as Quitely’s style isn’t easy to mimic in animation. We were then treated to a clip of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor visiting The Parasite, who escapes once he feeds on the power given off by Superman. It’s clear they are pushing the boundary of their PG-13 rating with the amount of violence detailed in that scene alone.

As with all panels, a Q&A session was held. While most of it was ass-kissing towards Bruce Timm, there were three questions I’d like to mention above all else. The first was a question on what happened to the promised third movie in the DC Animated line that didn’t make it: New Titans: The Judas Contract. Bruce Timm had mentioned that the script needed a lot of work and most of the big decision makers felt it wasn’t a bankable idea. Timm also noted that since the Teen Titans animated series had done the story in their style, it wouldn’t make sense to tell almost the exact same story all over again.

The second question posited the idea that since we got All-Star Superman and The New Frontier adapted, would we see other big DC Universe stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Kingdom Come get animated adaptations as well. The sad answer is no. Timm explained that Crisis is too big a story to tell, even in a mini-series; there are too many characters and too many stories going on. As for Kingdom Come, he said it couldn’t be seen in traditional 2D animation, because that story relies so much on the art work of Alex Ross that traditional animation couldn’t do it justice. He said maybe someday in a motion capture CGI venture, but not to hold our breaths.

The final question is one I’ve often thought about myself when the announcement that future DC Animated features would stop focusing on other DCU characters like Wonder Woman or Green Lantern, and stick with recognizable names like Superman, Batman and the Justice League. The question was whether or not we’d see some more risks taken with future features. What we got was something of a mixed answer. From a business point of view, having Superman, Batman or the Justice League increases the chance for profit because everyone knows them; sadly both the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern features did not sell well. Wonder Woman sold so poorly that an announcement stated they probably wouldn’t take the chance on another female lead in a DC Animated feature. On a personal level, I’d like to see them break out of their safety zone. I’d like to see more risks taken. But, as it stands, expect to see in the span of a year the following formula: Superman-themed feature, Batman-themed feature and Justice League-themed feature. That’s not to say we won’t get other heroes in these films, but the focus stays on the safe marquee those names represent.

So, it begs the question: with a line that depends on strong sales, is the decision to stay safe with Superman and Batman features keeping the line back from it’s true potential, or is that safety zone just enough to keep it moving forward? Only time will tell.

Look for Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam November 9th, 2010, All-Star Superman in Spring 2010, and after that…Batman: Year One?

NYCC Robot Chicken Panel

Posted by Jose On October - 19 - 2010

Robot Chicken: Firing on All Cylinders
By: Jose A. Rivera

At this year’s New York Comic Con, Adult Swim held a few panels. Among them was for fan-favorite show Robot Chicken. Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know Robot Chicken was still on the air. I loved the show but with my schedule, it slowly fell by the way side for me on my list of shows to watch. After seeing this panel, I think they got me back in!

Moderating the panel was Keith Crawford, Vice President of Adult Swim. Strangely, Crawford, complete in suit and tie came out wearing a funny skull-cap hat. He introduced the panelists. One would assume he’d start with Seth Green, but his first panelist? Macaulay Culkin! The entire crowd (me included) were both stunned by the announcement but gave Culkin a thunderous ovation, despite his funny hat. Next on the panel was Robot Chicken co-creator Matt Seinreich who was also wearing a funny hat. Next was actress and wife of Seth Green, Clare Grant in, you guessed it, a funny hat! Finally, the man we’d all been waiting for, Seth Green who not only wore a funny hate but took it a step further with finger cut gloves and a tail! You got to give it to these guys; they sure know how to make an impression.

They wasted no time in showing us an assortment of clips, but given that it was such a scattered panel in terms of information, I thought I’d organize it all.

Star Wars Special III ­– Coming at us again with another Star Wars Special, Robot Chicken has decided to do something different this time. Where as the previous two specials just spotlighted sketches from whatever Star Wars material they thought was funny, this special will start from the moment Vader throws Emperor Palpatine down the shaft in Return of the Jedi. In true sitcom fashion, the camera stops on the falling Emperor narrating the line “Did you ever just stop and take a look at your life and wonder how you got there?” And that, in a nutshell is how this special will work. It will cover all six Star Wars films running through the life and times of Emperor Palpatine. And, unlike the previous specials, the run time will be an hour. They also announced that Billy Dee Williams and Zac Effron will be providing voices. The special debuts December 12th, 2010.

Robot Chicken Christmas Special – If you were wondering just why Macaulay Culkin was there (besides him being buddy-buddy with Seth Green), it turns out we’ll get a Home Alone parody dealing just how dangerous young Kevin’s traps could be to someone in real life. Expect a Christmas race between Santa Claus and Superman! Ever wonder what it would be like if G.I. Joe went Christmas caroling? Well, too bad! You’re getting it anyway! All this and yet another Composite Santa sketch! I have to admit, it really looks worth watching.

Season 5 trailer ­– There was so much to look forward to in the next season. You thought the two shuck-and-jive robots from Transformers two were bad? Try two Indian Transformers who transform into cabs! Thrill at Oompa-Loompa’s learning their dance routine to a strict Willy Wonka. And if you’ve ever wondered just how bad Batman pummeling the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill…naturally!)  Could get…boy, you don’t want to see this!

We then opened up the floor to questions. Amongst those rose were why the seasons take so long to produce. Seth Green and Matt Seinreich said that it’s all done by hand and that takes time. When asked what was one of the most obscure references that will be brought up in the show’s fifth season, they said one word: Silverhawks! We were told that the God of War parody will make you believe Brian Austen Green is a bad ass as he voices Kratos. And, the strangest of all, they boys at Robot Chicken have some apparently gut busting Gandalf sketches coming up.

When asked about their other show, Titan Maximum, we were assured there was another season planned; episode one, picking up where the cliffhanging season finale has already been written. But, with Robot Chicken and their slew of other projects, they said they hope to get the chance to do it sometime soon, but not to hold our breaths as these things take time. Still, as TM fan, I’m excited.

Lastly, a question about the Robot Chicken, the character that is forced to watch these shows in the opening, was raised. The panelists said that the chicken might finally emerge from that castle and will be an integral part of the shows upcoming 100th episode.

The best part of this panel was how much fun everyone was having. Both the panelists and the audience fed off each other’s energy. The clips were hilarious, the news was exciting, and even when someone asked Macaulay Culkin when will we get a chance to see The Good Son 2, he took it with a grain of salt and laughed. I was out of the loop on Robot Chicken for a long while, but with all this news, I think I’m going to come back to a show that hasn’t lost any momentum.

Zombies invade your TV

Posted by ron On August - 5 - 2010

AMC is the latest to venture into the popularity of comic book adaptations with the Walking Dead. This post apocalyptic world created by writer Robert Kirkman chronicled a Georgia policeman awoken from a coma, only to face a world populated by moving corpses hungry for living flesh. The title itself was a reference to the uncertain future of the remaining survivors who may lose their sanity before their number is up. One wonders about the TV ratings for such a bleak existence. It’s a safe bet that the first couple seasons will be atop the ratings chart. However, the zombie craze hasn’t been known to have a long life span. How will television succeed where cinema has failed in sustaining a serious zombie horror story?


Garfield may not look like Rick Grimes but if he can channel him, the Walking Dead will do justice to its fans.

Zombies pose a unique challenge. They don’t exhibit much personality. Watching only lifeless corpses roam around aimlessly would test even the most enthusiastic nature channel lover. Therefore, the story doesn’t sell without compelling characters. All eyes will be on Love Actually’s Andrew Lincoln to deliver the goods as Rick Grimes. Lincoln is the only actor cast that has very little resemblance to his comic book character. One can only assume his tryout was so impressive that comic book creator Robert Kirkman and director Frank Darabont were willing to disregard the aesthetic differences. Hopefully, Lincoln learned not to use the same cliche’ Southern twang that most U.K. actors use like a crutch in their dialogue. Modern American audiences are well traveled enough to realize these characters are in the South without reminding them in every single sentence of dialogue. Otherwise such a grievous error ceases to become pertinent to the character and more of a characteristic to a dated stereotype.


Survival of the Dead’s box office returns were more frightening than the actual movie. Not even Romero’s die hard fans came out to embrace this chapter of his never ending zombie saga.

Zombies are not an easy subject to keep the audience’s interest. Just ask the legendary George Romero. Twenty years after Day of the Dead (1985), Romero tried a comeback with diminishing returns. Different directors have tried to switch the formula up with some success. Zombie satires seem to be en vogue. However, no one has touched the idea of a TV series till now.


With Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim’s director Edgar Wright had greater success breaking the box office ice with a hysterical satire on the zombies.


Ruben Fleischer followed with Zombieland. Will zombies ever be taken seriously again?

Frank Darabont was challenged with adapting this monthly title into a weekly TV series. Darabont has the resume to make even the most hardened zombie cynic hopeful. He directed several adaptations of Stephen King’s works such as the Woman in the Room, the Shawshank Redemption, the Green Mile, and the Mist. If there’s one thing Darabont can capture, it’s desperation. It will be a recurring theme on a show where the elevator of emotions only leads to the basement. If the TV series is loyal to its source material, there will be no stylized acts of zombie killing. It’s really a drama about human beings clinging to what shreds of humanity that they have left. Survival and morality will be the two muses tormenting them at every step. With both Kirkman and Darabont overseeing the project, I recommend the Walking Dead for your viewing pleasure in a dark world. The Walking Dead debuts on AMC in the Fall.

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