Thursday, April 10, 2014

Path to Ultron

With The Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's pretty obvious what the new threat/villain is. But the question is, how exactly will the story take shape and how will Ultron go bad? In the comics, Hank Pym (Ant Man) creates Ultron. Long story short, Ultron gains self awareness and comes to resent and hate his human creator and decides to become an enemy of humanity. If you have not heard already, the film version of Ultron will be created by Tony Stark. My guess is the past films, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, have laid the ground work for Ultron's creation. Important note though, Age of Ultron will note be based on the story of the same name which played out in the comics. Don't look for any time travel.

With S.H.I.E.L.D now laid to waste and fractured with all of it's secrets gone, it seems likely that entities it kept in check will run wild, or idea of the threats that face the world without S.H.I.E.L.D will make governments go to extremes. As revealed in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D on ABC, HYDRA now controls some of S.H.I.E.L.D's major facilities around the world. I think Tony Stark will be asked to become Iron Man again to help police the brave new world ahead. But Stark gave up being Iron Man and might not want to be a hero again. So stark will take a play from a previous enemy and create drones. He'll either do this voluntarily or feel very pressured to do this by the U.S. Government and or multiple governments.

Now you may be asking, drones? Plural? Ultron is supposed to be one character. And it is one character. In the Age of Ultron comic book story, Ultron commands an army of machines which he uses to conquer the world. Ultron may be the command unit, much the way War Machine was supposed to be in Iron Man 2. It's a long shot to put out any theory this far away, but this seems the likely setup for Ultron. And having an Army of Ultron drones would be a big enough threat, and provide enough enemies to warrant an Avengers team on screen. Joss Whedon could just have a film with the Avengers fighting one Ultron, but that would be difficult to pull off on screen having everyone in one spot for minutes on end. Not that Whedon couldn't pull that off, because he could. But as brilliant as Stark is, could he build a machine that could take on all the Avengers by itself? Possibly, but for the sake of story we'll assume Ultron will not be alone. But how does Ultron go bad?

It could be similar to the original comic story and events could unfold Terminator style with a rise of the machines. It could be another HYDRA plot, but that was just done. There are also possibilities of external threats. As in not of this world. Thanos will be the threat for Phase 3 of Marvel's films, most likely being the villain of Avengers 3. Could he somehow be behind Ultron? Again, maybe. But probably not likely. If any hint of the Mad Titan is in Age of Ultron, it will be Thanos continuing to observe Earth and the humans. Again, any kind of speculation is just a long shot for now.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently in production. No matter what way the story unfolds, it looks like it will be good.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Obscure sci-fi of my youth

Well, maybe not completely obscure. Some of these are known more than the others. There are obvious choices that are more known, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. And there are the obvious cult classics like Highlander and Flash Gordon. These were movies that showed up at one time or another on either HBO or Showtime, whichever movie channel we had at the time one of the times we had cable. I watched these over and over again on VHS after my dad recorded them. It’s taken me a while but I have managed to collect most of these on DVD. There are still a few out there that I have yet to find. And there are a few that I am probably forgetting right now.

Rock & Rule

I have written about this one before. An interesting story about the mutant decedents of dogs cats and rats that now populate the Earth after nuclear war destroyed humanity. Basically it’s a rock & role saves the world kind of tale. It sounds kind of cheesy, and it is. But it is great old school animation with one of the best soundtracks you will ever hear. Cheap Trick, Blondie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Earth, Wind, and Fire contribute their music to this masterpiece of old school animation.

The Wraith

Possibly the most obscure film on this list is The Wraith. It is one of Charlie Sheen’s earliest roles and one of the least known. Fans of the Crow might find this interesting. It is a tale about a guy who is brutally murdered by a gang and come back as an avenging spirit who can find peace only after all of his murderers are killed. And the lease capable and comical member of this gang was named Skank. The difference in this film, other than it was made years before The Crow, was that the avenging spirit comes back with a futuristic car. This film also served as advertising for the Dodge Aries, Datona, and M4S concept.

Space Camp

There have been a lot of movies about kids stuck together in tough situation. This one involves the real NASA Space Camp and a group of campers who get launched into space by a well-meaning, yet naïve robot. It’s like many other youth ensemble cast, coming of age type story, just with NASA being the backdrop. It’s still a good film though. One I had to add to my collection.

Cloak & Dagger

To cope with the death of his mother, Davey becomes obsessed with an RPG spy game that is also an Atari video game. Davey constany fantasizes about being a spy to the point that he sees his favorite game character, Jack Flack, in real life. Jack Flack looks like his father, just more daring. Davey’s over active imagination causes him to stumble into the middle of real case of espionage with real spies.


A military experiment designed to make super soldiers creates a prototype, D.A.R.Y.L (Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform). Technically he is a cyborg. He is set free by a scientist trying to protect him and he ends up in the foster home of an unsuspecting couple. In one way it is a story about a kid who is different. In another way it is a story about where does the line between man and machine end. As one of the characters outs it. “… a machine becomes human… when you can’t tell the difference anymore.”

Enemy Mine

In a way, this is a story that could be adapted to any time period. It is essentially about two soldiers, from warring countries, who get stranded together on a desert island together and have to depend on each other to survive. Dennis Quaid plays a human and Louis Gossett Jr. is a Drak, a reptilian race. Both are fighter pilots in the future and crash land on an isolated planet after a dogfight. The enemies become close friends and learn about each other’s cultures after years in isolation. That is the very stripped down version of the story. It’s a good film that not too many have seen.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Clockwork Girl

I've had some pretty good luck finding graphic novels and trade paperbacks at used bookstores. Finding The Clockwork Girl was another incident of good fortune. It is an all ages story published as a collected edition in 2008 by Arcana Studio. Creators Sean O'Reilly and Kevin Hanna crafted an amazing sci-fi/fantasy story about Tesla, a girl robot and Huxley, a monster boy, finding each other.

It is a Romeo and Juliette type story, but not as intense. The characters are kids after all. Their fathers, Wilhelm The Tinkerer and Doctor Dendrus, are former friends who had a bitter falling out and are now bitter rivals each year at a festival where scientists show off their latest creations. To me it is more of a first love/crush kind of story. Tesla and Huxley forming a bond and friendship is the salvation of the other love story, the lost friendship of their fathers.This being a story for kids, but to me still enjoyable for us big kids, does end on a high note. Sorry if this is a spoiler for anyone. It's a story you can be comfortable reading to your children. There is also an animated film based on the comic that is now in post production.

It features the voices of Alexa Vega (Tesla), Jessee McCartney (Huxley), Jeffrey Tambor (Wilhelm), and Adrian Hough (Dendrus). Brad Garret and Carrie Ann Moss will also be providing their talents. The film will expand the story and the world of The Clockwork Girl and based on the preview material available on YouTube, it looks like it will be good.

Here is the link to the official site of The Clockwork Girl film: TheClockworkGirl.Com

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What if Batman was a BBC series?

Not being one to shy away from the “what if?” question (obviously) when it comes to hypothetical casting, I’ve come up with this one: What if Batman was a BBC TV series? Fair warning, there might be a few Doctor Who alumni in this list. But then again, there is the old joke that the BBC only uses the same ten actors for everything. Okay, so maybe this started off closer to what if the cast of Doctor Who were Batman characters. But I’ve diversified a little for this final version. You may not know all these people and suggestions would be welcomed.
Batman / Bruce Wayne – David Tennant
If you have only seen Tennant in Doctor Who and more recently Broadchurch, you could picture him be the dark and brooding Batman as well as the playboy Wayne. Playing the tortured hero would also come easy to Tennant after being the 10th Doctor.

Robin / Jason Todd – Asa Butterfiled
 The young Robin was difficult to figure out until my wife reminded me of Asa Butterfield. Enders Game proved that Butterfield can handle physical situations and he is a good and experienced young actor. I’m not versed in young actors in general and even less versed in the teen acting pool of Britain, but based on Enders Game, I am confident Asa can handle Robin. 

Nightwing / Dick Grayson – Aidan Turner
He is currently Fili, the dwarf in love with an elf in The Hobbit, and he was the vampire roommate of a ghost and a werewolf in the original Being Human series on the BBC. Why not Batman’s former sidekick all grown up and crime fighting on his own?

Alfred Pennyworth – Bill Nighy
Bill Nighy has played roles across the spectrum; Jane Austen adaptations, sci-fi, comedies, sci-fi comedies... He can be funny and scary. He could be the fatherly figure in Bruce Wayne’s life who also has a brilliant sense of humor and charm.

Commissioner Gordon – Alan Rickman
Commissioner Gorgon was the last character I fictionally cast. And I go with Rickman for two reasons. Well three really. Alan Rickman is a great actor. But mostly I would cast him because I think he and my pic for Barbara Gordon would play off each other really well, and the inevitable epic eye rolls and sighs would be… epic.

Batgirl / Oracle / Barbara Gordon – Karen Gillan
Gillan would be most recognizable as Amy Pond, companion to the 11th Doctor. But she is taking on a more physical and menacing role as Nebula in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. Dial it down somewhere in between, but more on the Amy Pond side, any you might find Barbara Gordon.

 Azrael / Jean-Paul Valley – Arthur Darvill
Arthur Darvill played another Doctor Who companion who grew through going through a lot. But even though he played Amy Pond’s bumbling husband, he has moments of darkness and instability. He has the ability to be a much darker character than what we have seen.

And what would the Batman be without his villains?

Joker – Matt Smith
Matt Smith was funny and at times menacing as the 11th Doctor. Now imagine pushing that to even further and darker extremes and he would make one hell of a Joker. The raggedy man, in an alternate dimension, could have been one of the best Jokers ever.

Harley Quinn / Dr. Harleen Quinzel – Ruth Wilson
You may have seen her in the Lone Ranger movie, but I won’t hold that against her. But she is my pick for Harley Quinn because Ruth Wilson was great as a genius level serial killer in Luther. Youe should Check out Luther by the way. Alice Morgan was funny and brilliantly psychotic. Wilson could bring that to the Joker’s side.

The Riddler / Edward Nygma – Simon Pegg
There is a morbid kind of humor that can go with the Riddler. Simon Pegg can fit that bill very easily. He played villainous briefly on Doctor Who once. And really, you know he'd do the Riddler justice.

The Penguin / Oswald Cobblepot – Martin Freeman
He is usually the everyman type person in TV and film, and he does a great job. But Martin Freeman is my choice here because I want to see him explore a darker character and not necessarily play a comical version of the Penguin.

Two-Face / Harvey Dent – Benedict Cumberbatch
Most of you would see Benedict Cumberbatch in anyhintg. But here specifically he could play up Harvey’s intelligence and bring the Smaug and Khan ruthlessness and intensity to Two Face.

Poison Ivy / Dr. Pamela Isley – Billie Piper
I had to put Billie Piper somewhere. And her recent Bad Wolf girl (the self-aware weapon of mass destruction) appearance in Doctor Who showed that she can go darker (yet still funny) then what most Who fans remember.
Bane / Antonio Diego – Idris Elba
Bane needs someone that can play intelligent with a powerful and dangerous presence at the same time. Idris Alba can nail that. Imagine him playing the brilliant criminal who is the product of a harsh prison upbringing. He can most definitely bring that confident intimidating presence to Bane.

Ra’s Al Ghul – Alexander Siddig
Most people (me included) still think of Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But that was only one role. He has has more in film and TV series. I think he could be a proper villain that is immortal.

Please comment and add suggestions. I'd love to have your thoughts on these.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Review of Ms. Marvel #1

As usual when I try to write a review with something I have this tendency to overthink it. I want to sound really brilliant and insightful hoping people will be impressed and want to keep reading everything I write and share my writings with others. I just want people to like me, dammit. And therein lies the reason why the new Ms. Marvel is relatable. She just wants to fit in.

But trying to fit in as a teenager can be a tricky thing. Kamala Khan comes from a conservative family. Yeah, hers is a Muslim family, but that does not make them any more or less religious than anyone else. Muslims are not the only ones who don’t want their daughters staying out late and partying with the others kids. And they certainly not the only ones who want to keep their teenage daughters away from teenage boys. Her name, religion, and families’ nationality are an obstacle in the harsh world of teenage culture. But her biggest issue to being accepted into the popular crowd isn’t her background. She could rebel against all that. Her biggest problem is self-created. She is a fan girl. Though the jury is still out on weather being a nerd is a choice or something we are born as. Again, anyway…. Kamala writes fan fic online about the Avengers, which apparently has almost 1000 votes on (not real)

Ms. Marvel #1 introduces us to this new hero who has a ways to go to figuring herself out. And she just wants the popular kids to like her. Her family likes her, and loves her. But they are her family so that doesn’t count. She also has a friend, who is a boy, who likes her. He just can’t say it and she just can’t see it. Ah the clichés of teen life. We do not get to see Kamala as the new Ms. Marvel in this first issue. But it does a good job of showing us who Kamala is. She is Peter Parker before he was Spider-Man. Ms. Marvel has a long journey ahead of her. And like a lot of us when we are teenagers (and sometimes as adults), what she wants does not turn out the way she thinks.

It's a great start and since her story is her own and not yet part of a larger continuity, I would recommend this to anyone who wants to start reading a comic.

Thanks to my wife for helping me focus my thoughts. You can read her thoughts on Ms. Marvel # 1 here: OwlAllowIt: My thoughts thoughts that occurred after reading Ms. Marvel #1 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Spinoffs and other things that should happen

Spinoff series are nothing new and in some cases they become more popular than the originals. And as fan fiction shows us, there are plenty of stories and characters we wish would get their own series. Here is a few I wish would happen. I might be dropping some SPOILERS if you are not familiar with these shows. And I know, I know, I listed three Doctor Who spinoffs. But if you have seen Doctor Who, you would understand. It lends itself so well to spinoffs. There have already been three to my knowledge.

Time Bandits (Doctor Who)

It came up a while ago that while at an event for the CW’s Arrow series, John Barrowman and Alex Kingston met and thought it would be a good if Captain Jack and River Song had their own spinoff. Fan reaction was pretty much, “DO IT!”  You know this series would be all kinds of fun. The title Time Bandits already belongs to a cult classic film that I am a fan of, but honestly, it just feels right if this did become a series.

Valkyrie (Doctor Who)

While on one of his many adventures, the 10th Doctor had a daughter. Well, kind of. His daughter is actually a clone of the Doctor who was also programmed with military training. Jenny was born both a Time Lord and a soldier at birth. After it seemed like she died, Jenny returned to life and set off on her own adventures in space. But we never heard from the character again. Seems like there should be a story there. As for the title, it is apparently a Time Lord tradition to not use their given names and choose a name for themselves. Valkyrie seems like a good name for Jenny. Kinda interesting side note, David Tennant later married the actress who played his daughter on the show, Georgia Moffett.

The Paternoster Gang (Doctor Who)

Madam Vastra, Jenny (different Jenny) and Strax. A Silurian (reptilian race), a women from Victorian London, and a Sontaran (a cloned soldier race). They have been a topic of possible spinoff for a while and even the 11th Doctor himself, Matt Smith, has voiced his approval for this. They consult on crime and mysterious things in London the regular authorities can't handle. Vastra and Jenny are married and Strax is their slightly psychotic assistant. Aliens solving crimes in Victorian London sounds interesting to me. Though technically Strax is the only alien. The Silurians are native to Earth and predate humans.

Star Trek: Akira (Uh… Star Trek)

At some point Star Trek will return to television. Why not with characters we know. Nog, the first Ferengi in Star Fleet proved himself as a capable officer. In an alternate time line he was even shown to be a Captain in command of his own ship. Why not make give him command in a new series? As for the ship? A new class could always be made up, but why not use a design that we only got to see a little of and was a nod to an anime classic, Akira. The Akira class was developed at the same time as the U.S.S. Defiant also in preparation for action against the Borg. U.S.S. Akira has a nice ring to it. But no matter the ship or the crew, we need a new Trek series on the air. Oh, and for the hardcore nerds, I know the picture is not of the Akira. It's the USS Thunderchild. But it's the best picture I could find of an Akira class.

Alpha (Dollhouse)

Dollhouse is just one of those shows that didn’t get much of a chance. Plus it was created by Joss Whedon, before he was given The Avengers, and it was on FOX so it seemed like it was destined to be canceled. Alpha, played spectacularly by Alan Tudyk, was a serial killer who integrated all of the personalities (and their abilities) that he had been programmed with over time and rebelled in a violent fashion. While he started as a villain, the final episode, which took place in a dystopian future, showed that he had become an ally to Echo, the series heroin played by Eliza Dushku. Alpha was intelligent, highly skilled, prone to violence, and funny. We’ll never get a new episode of Firefly, but maybe we can get a new series from Joss Whedon with a Firefly alumni.

Gender roles in comics and sci fi

“It’s important for little girls to know not every story has to be a love story and for boys to know that soldiers aren’t the only ones to triumph in war.” Guillermo del Toro said this during an interview last summer when promoting Pacific Rim. It’s an important statement that can be applied to the discussion of gender roles that is not just going on in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, but in the real world as well.

I have been trying to wrap my head around this topic for a while now. Every time I have tried to put my thoughts into words, what I was writing just felt awkward. Now, hopefully I can make my point in an eloquent and diplomatic fashion. And I can’t go on without giving credit to some of the people I follow on Tumblr (The Mary Sue for example) for posting some great points and fantastic articles and information.

So what is my position? Let me start out by telling you about a situation I’ve had to deal with, and from what I’ve seen, others have had similar experiences. Just this past weekend my family welcomed a new niece into the world. In the days leading up to that my wife and I were doing some shopping for baby cloths and whatnot. There is literally nothing nerd related that we could find for girls. All the cool stuff was in the boys sections. And primarily, all the girls stuff was in pink. Not that pink is bad. I have nothing against pink as a color. But why is it a girls color? The more I read about how gender roles are marked to us from birth, the more it weirds me out. It gets worse for girls as they get older. Mostly girls stuff and toys are about being feminine and pretty. Again, noting wrong with that, but girls like stuff that go boom too. Things for boys are more “masculine” and adventure oriented. And god forbid if a boy likes and wants to play with the “girlie” stuff. Society is getting better about letting kids and people feel out and build their own identities, but lets face it, we still have a ways to go.

But there are signs of hope. I recently bought Ms Marvel #1, the first new comic I’ve purchased in years I might add. I enjoyed the comic. It was funny, I related to the character, and if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t have any reservations if she wanted to dress up as the new Ms Marvel. Look it up if you have not seen the new costume already. I’ll be posting a full review of the comic later. But back to the point, Marvel has launched a superhero that boys and girls can look up to and relate to; who’s drawing power is not going to be how tight or revealing her costume will be. Sure, it’s obvious body issues will be discussed, going by the end of the issue, but we all have those. And the story looks like it will be one of Khamala Khan (Ms Marvel) becoming comfortable in her own skin, rather than becoming what pop culture views as what a female hero should look like. This also reminds me of when I was at San Diego Comic Con two years ago. During a women in comic panel (I forget the exact title) a teen girl asked when there was going to be costumes that would be age appropriate for the under 18 fans.

This is the point where my train of thought tends to break down and I struggle to solidify what I’m trying to say. So let me go back to Guillermo del Toro’s quote and simplify it even more. Not every story has to be a love story. Boys and girls should be told that. And especially when it comes to younger characters. And to ad on to that, if there is a love story, it does not have to be the man saving the woman. Nor does the woman have to look like the typical feminine damsel in distress. Girls can look and be tough too, just as men can be soft. I was in the Army. I know this. And while we are on the subject, it doesn’t always have to be Adam and Eve. It can be Adam and Steve or Eve and… What rhymes with Eve? But you get my point. Which is… (and I admit it got a little jumbled there)

We should not restrict kids and people to predefined roles, gender or otherwise. We are born wired specific ways, though life experience can either enhance or short circuit us. Girls can “act” like boys and still like boys. Boys can “act” like girls and still like girls. And if girls like girls or boys like boys, that is okay too. We all need to find our own way and do our best not to get in the way of other peoples journeys.

My apologies for this getting a tad unfocused.