Tuesday, August 30, 2011

COMIC: Top of the Stack - Flashpoint #1 (Review)

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Andy Kubert
Cover by Andy Kubert

Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

A change had been on the horizon, something that was in the making for a long time now ever since Dan Didio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns were elevated to positions of control inside DC and while the 'New 52' is starting to appear as I write this review it is interesting to look back at the second week of May and the release of FLASHPOINT #1, the event book that was the beginning of the end to the DCU fans were familiar with.

There were two all-ages titles that were very strong that week - MEGAMAN #1 from Archie Comics, and ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #7 from DC - but while fun and entertaining neither had the emotional pull and shattering revelations that FLASHPOINT #1 had in its pages. Usually I am not too enthusiastic with the first issues of event books, they tend to say a lot but show little - looking at you, FEAR ITSELF #1 - but this book seemed to change that formula around, showing a lot of what's different and leaving it to the reader to keep up with the story of the new world.

Writer Geoff Johns is no stranger to big event books, having just written last year's DC event, BLACKEST NIGHT, and a few years before he helmed the DC Universe through INFINITE CRISIS. Teaming up with Johns for FLASHPOINT is big name artist, Andy Kubert, who DC fans will remember drew the two issue Neil Gaiman written Batman story, "What Happened to the Caped Crusader?".

In the issue, the premise for the event is simply laid out for the reader. A brief history of the Flash is told with a narrator readers are not told immediately who it is. Barry Allen awakes from a nap at his job and finds himself in a world he is not familiar with. Patty Spivot was there in the lab, but it took Barry stumbling down the stairs when he realized he was not wearing his Flash ring and landing in front of his alive mom to really bring the fact that things were not the same to the forefront.

The world is different, the Justice League doesn't exist, no one has heard of Superman, but there is still a Batman so Barry does the logical thing, head to Gotham City to get Batman's help. But in Gotham readers learn that the world beyond Barry Allen is drastically changed, with the likes of Aquaman and Wonder Woman leading their respective kin in wars against the world in attempts to overtake it. Throw in the threat of Professor Zoom lurking in this new world, and the final page reveal in this issue and I have no doubt that FLASHPOINT will be as entertaining as it is momentous.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

FILM: Toy Masters Documentary Preview (News)

News of an interesting documentary came out during San Diego Comic-Con last month along with a video preview that is now also available online.

Titled TOY MASTERS, the documentary aspires to be the first ever feature-length documentary on the billion dollar toy franchise "Masters of the Universe". Featuring interviews with creative personnel from every version of the toy line and incarnation of the franchise on tv, film, stage and print, including J. Michael Straczynski, a staff writer of the original animated series and Alan Oppenheimer, the voice of the big baddy, Skeletor.

TOY MASTERS is still currently in production but the end of the preview does mention 2012 as a target release date.

Friday, August 26, 2011

FILM: D23 Expo - Wreck-It Ralph (News)

One last tidbit to mention on the blog from Disney's D23 Expo that happened earlier this month in Anaheim would be the presentation of WRECK-IT RALPH, an animated feature film coming in late 2012.

Unfortunately the four and a half minutes of footage shown at the presentation is not available online but there is a video of the game the movie's main character, Wreck-It Ralph, is from in a display at the show in an arcade cabinet.

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) longs to be as beloved as his game’s perfect Good Guy, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer). Problem is, nobody loves a Bad Guy. But they do love heroes… so when a modern, first-person shooter game arrives featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. He sneaks into the game with a simple plan—win a medal—but soon wrecks everything, and accidently unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade.

Ralph’s only hope? Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman), a young troublemaking “glitch” from a candy-coated cart racing game who might just be the one to teach Ralph what it means to be a Good Guy. But will he realize he is good enough to become a hero before it’s “Game Over” for the entire arcade?

WRECK-IT RALPH smashes into theaters on November 2, 2012.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

FILM: Portal Fan Film 'Portal: No Escape' (News)

Gaming fans may be familiar with the world of Aperture Science and PORTAL. Well there is a new short film that was released online this week set in that universe created by Valve Software that has gained quite a buzz since its debut.

Titled PORTAL: NO ESCAPE, this brilliantly shot and executed short film directed by Dan Trachtenberg is a must watch.

A woman wakes up in a room with no memory of who she is or how she got there..

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

COMIC: Top of the Stack - Avengers Academy #13 (Review)

Written by Christos Gage
Art by Sean Chen & Scott Hanna
Cover by Billy Tan & Leonardo Olea

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99

Picking the Top of the Stack for the first week of May was helped with a slightly lighter stack, only 11 comic books made it into my reading list that week. DC had very little presence with most of the comics being from Marvel or BOOM! Studios.

The main contenders that just fell short was BOOM!'s CHIP N' DALE'S RESCUE RANGERS #6 and AVENGERS ACADEMY GIANT-SIZE #1, the latter being an especially welcome change of pace for the characters in that book but it was not to be because AVENGERS ACADEMY #13 also came out and was even better.

Writer Christos Gage is joined by artists Sean Chen and Scott Hanna for an issue that breaks away from the questions of whether the academy kids will learn to be heroes or choose to be villains and focuses on the fact that they are all teenagers dealing with their place in life and trying to learn to accept who they are. A school dance story was the perfect way to embrace these aspects of the characters.

For this story the Avengers Academy is hosting a dance so that their students can mingle with other young superheroes from around the Marvel Universe. There is little action in the issue but the best parts deal with the social ramifications due to the dance and the relationships made around it. Reptil getting trapped in the bickering between Komodo and Hardball from the original Avengers Initiative, Hanky Pym and Tigra finally taking a step a Skrull had enjoyed instead, Starfire getting her frustration out on Justice, Mettle and Hazmat starting to bond, Veil getting through to Striker and Spider-Girl helping Reptil realize it was okay to be his teenage self.

The art for AVENGERS ACADEMY has always been consistently solid and this issue is no different. Outside of one panel, all of the characters looked good and there were no awkward moments that disrupted the flow of the story. Maybe even better was that the characters that were not even regulars of the book were easily recognizable and true to their designs.

I will admit there are aspects of this series that I am not too fond of, but I have stuck around with it because I am enjoying the choice of Avengers teachers and the possibilities around the young cast of students with the relationships that can be produced as proven in this issue. Issues that deal with less action-related things like a school dance are probably few and far between but I will hold out hope that the series will have more gems like this one that focus less on the blurred lines of these young kids when it comes to being a hero.

Monday, August 22, 2011

FILM: D23 Expo - First Look at Mike and Sulley in Monsters University (News)

Disney's D23 Expo happened this past weekend down in Anaheim, CA and as a convention for fans of everything Disney a lot of news is coming out from the Expo - like yesterday's post about TANGLED EVER AFTER. Another such news item from the Expo would be the progress Pixar has made with MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, the prequel to their 2001 hit animated feature film, MONSTERS INC.

As the new film is a prequel, Pixar animators have been tasked with the chore to tweak the looks of the main characters, Mike and Sulley, to fit with their younger personas being at a university, well before their time at Monsters Inc. Among the changes made, they were both slimmed down, Sulley getting a shaggier look than his older self while Mike has brighter skin and is wearing a retainer.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY puts a scare into theatergoers on June 21, 2013.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

FILM: D23 Expo - Tangled Ever After Poster (News)

Disney's D23 Expo is going on in Anaheim, CA this weekend and as a convention for fans of everything Disney a lot of news is coming out from the Expo. One exciting tidbit is that the TANGLED universe will be coming together one more time in the form of an animated short much like the TOY STORY one that was in front of CARS 2 earlier this summer and the other TOY STORY short scheduled to be in front of THE MUPPETS movie this fall.

Directed by the feature film team of Nathan Greno (TANGLED) and Byron Howard (TANGLED), the short, named TANGLED EVER AFTER is scheduled to premiere on the Disney Channel sometime during Spring 2012. The poster unveiling the return of most if not all of the characters from the feature film, including the Stabbington Brothers, has been released online.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

COMIC: Top of the Stack - Brightest Day #24 (Review)

Written by Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark & Joe Prado
Cover by Gary Frank & Rod Reis

Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99

For the last week of April once again my stack of comic books waiting to be read was well over 15 titles. And it was a very good week with several titles contending for Top of the Stack recognition. Those just falling short were Marvel's MIGHTY THOR #1 and SPIDER-GIRL #6, both worthy of being at the top on any other week but there was an emotional beat in another comic that made it impossible not to be the one at the top of my stack.

I'm talking about BRIGHTEST DAY #24, the final issue of the series and for the second straight week a title makes it to the top for consecutive issues. The writing team of Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi have masterfully maneuvered readers for a whole year with this story about twelve heroes and villains being resurrected by a white light, leading to an ending no one could have expected when the series started.

In this extra-sized finale issue, the previously reborn heroes that had been turned into elements now combined with the skeletal remains of Alec Holland and one more dead hero to bring about the return of the true Swamp Thing to defend the planet against the corrupted version of Swamp Thing. But the emotional fallout from the events that needed to happen for the light to succeed is what truly puts this book on a whole other level.

Finally seeing the dreaded moment readers had been teased about for most of the length of the series - Captain Boomerang throwing at Dove - happened but not with the result feared yet one just as painful. Deadman stepped in the way and took the hit, dying for Dove and being the final piece for the white light's plan. The moments between a dying Deadman and Dove tug at your heartstrings and again after the battle when back into his Deadman ghost form, Dove is still able to hear him and they declare their love for each other.

That and the return of the elemental heroes: Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Firestorm and Hawkman, with the latter two not having the happiest of returns. I do not think you can read this book and not be affected by the story.

And the army of artists that have worked diligently on the series the entire time, again knocked it out of the park with quality that matched the high level of writing. Some might feel it is a bit awkward now that all of these artists are working on the same parts now that the character they had been doing separately for the whole series but they are all so talented that for such a huge concept story it worked perfectly.

BRIGHTEST DAY ranks right up there with 52 and SUNDAY COMICS as brilliant concepts that also turned into great executed series that readers miss once they are done. Anyone that was hesitant to commit to such a paced out story or were discouraged by the slow start of the story in the early issues should definitely look to pick up this series when it gets collected because it continued to get better with every subsequent issue and makes you care about some of the less promoted characters of the DCU. It made me care about Deadman and Dove, two characters I only had faint interest in prior to BRIGHTEST DAY. Read it, you will not regret it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

FILM: Ghost Rider - Spirit of Vengeance Trailer + Poster (News)

Five years after the first movie, Johnny Blaze is riding into theaters once again in GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. Footage of the sequel was shown at San Diego Comic-Con last month and now the first trailer has hit the web.

Nicholas Cage (THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE) returns as the title character but this time he is directed by the team of Mark Neveldine (GAMER) and Brian Taylor (GAMER).

Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Columbia Pictures' and Hyde Park Entertainment's Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. In the successor to the worldwide hit Ghost Rider, Johnny - still struggling with his curse as the devil's bounty hunter - is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciaran Hinds). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy - and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE burns into theaters on February 17, 2012.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

COMIC: DC 'The New 52' Trailer (News)

DC's new comic universe is getting ready to debut in a few weeks (52 new #1 issues) and the marketing campaign is ramping up with the release of a video trailer that will air in movie theaters as part of National CineMedia’s “FirstLook” pre-feature programming.

Here is the extended trailer:

The first issue of DC's new initiative, JUSTICE LEAGUE #01 comes out on August 31, 2011.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

FILM: The Woman in Black Trailer (News)

The Harry Potter film series may have come to the end with the release last month of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 but fans of the boy-who-lived need not worry of never seeing movie Harry again because the career of actor Daniel Radcliffe is only in its beginning stages.

And the next step is already in progress with the trailer debut of a supernatural thriller, THE WOMAN IN BLACK, the first role for Radcliffe post-Potter. Directed by James Watkins (EDEN LAKE), Radcliffe plays lawyer Arthur Kipps, who is sent to a remote village to settle the affairs of a deceased woman only to discover that the scorned woman's ghost is wrecking havoc and seeking vengeance.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK haunts theaters on February 3, 2012.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

COMIC: Top of the Stack - Tiny Titans #39 (Review)

Written by Art Baltazar & Franco
Art by Art Baltazar
Cover by Art Baltazar

Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99

*In an effort to get caught up this month (August) for next month's DC Reboot, the piles of unread comics - four months worth - will begin to be gone through and hopefully this is the first of many reviews.*

April's third week actually ended up being a huge week of comics with over 20 issues in my stack. There was a wide variety of contending comics worth Top of the Stack status: two mini-series, WOLVERINE & JUBILEE and SKARR: KING OF THE SAVAGE LAND were in the running, two regular contenders, DARKWING DUCK and GREEN LANTERN had solid issues, but in the end it was another comic very familiar with being at the Top of the Stack that came away with the win for the week, TINY TITANS #39.

The regular TINY TITANS creative team of Art Baltazar and Franco continue to produce an entertaining comic with witty words and adorable art, the perfect combination for an all-ages title and raising the bar when it comes to the expectations for adult fans when it comes to reading such comics.

In this issue it is laundry day for the Tiny Titans and Alfred and the penguins have taken the Bat Family and Super Family costumes for a wash. Unfortunately the penguins have not figured out the need to separate colors and as a result the Super Capes got mixed in making everyone's uniform pink! Of course this causes the most trouble for Batman, Robin and Superman.

Because of the story plot, pink takes a big focus in the issue, with most of the costumes being now pink or the characters themselves being pink like Plasmus. Robin's experiment with food coloring also brought the introduction to a rainbow-colored Nightwing outfit and Superman got to debut his 'man clothes' , which funnily enough may have been the inspiration for the new look Superman is wearing on the cover of September's ACTION COMICS #1.

TINY TITANS has been around for over three years now and I think it is safe to say that I will never tire of reading this universe and its unique take on the DC characters and the fun little adventures they get themselves mixed up with. If there is one book that I would like to see go on for the forseeable future it would be this one, so go out and read this series, you will not regret it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

FILM: First Look at Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises (News)

Warner Bros. continued its press push this week for their line of DC Comics feature films with the release of the first official image of Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

The studio has been mum on the exact details of Selina Kyle's role in the film but if the character is kept true to its roots, it is expected that Hathaway will be playing a sexy thief counterpart to Batman - whether or not that means actually becoming Catwoman is unknown.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES into theaters on July 20, 2012.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

FILM: First Look at Superman in Man of Steel (News)

Currently in production but still two years away from release, Warner Bros. has decided to release today the first official image from their next Superman movie, MAN OF STEEL. The hi-res photo showcases actor Henry Cavill as the new Superman in action wearing the movie costume.

Directed by Zack Synder (300), the film also stars Amy Adams (ENCHANTED) as Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne (CSI) as Perry White, Diane Lane (UNFAITHFUL) as Martha Kent and Kevin Costner (FOR LOVE OF THE GAME) as Jonathan Kent.

General Zod is played by Michael Shannon (BOARDWALK EMPIRE), Faora is Antje Traue (5 DAYS OF WAR). Playing Lara Lor-Van is Julia Ormond (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON), and Jor-El is Russell Crowe (GLADIATOR).

Also in the cast is Harry Lennix (THE MATRIX RELOADED) as General Swanwick and Christopher Meloni (LAW & ORDER: SVU) as Colonel Hardy.

MAN OF STEEL flies into theaters on June 14, 2013.