Thursday, December 26, 2013

Castle Grayskull's Secrets Unboxed!


The older you get, the more you realize that much of the excitement that surrounds the holiday season is based on nostalgia — that warm, fuzzy feeling that calls to mind the Christmases of our childhood as last-minute shopping, family bickering and cringe-inducing travel days threaten to shrink our hearts three sizes too small.

It’s that Yuletide wistfulness that made my Christmas night unboxing of the 2013 Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull a welcome, cathartic experience that brought me back to one of my earliest Christmases. It was nearly three decades ago that I found He-Man’s imposing fortress under my parents’ Christmas tree, and might actually be one of my first Christmas morning memories. Now, standing on the precipice of 30, I freed Grayskull from its cardboard confines, momentarily casting aside my concerns that A) This this is going to be a nightmare to store and B) I destroyed its resale value.


But, I mean, look at this thing. Far from a mere recreation of the 1980s cornerstone of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe collection, this thing has been rebuilt from the ground up, maintaining the overall look and spirit of the original playset while making it bigger, better and more detailed. This is Castle Grayskull as we remember it — not necessarily as it really was.

From the opening “Jawbridge” to the working elevator to the “trap door” in front of the throne, this new Castle Grayskull hits all the right notes, and even includes some added features that weren’t present in the original including a jail cell (with real chains!), secret doors and an additional third-floor ledge so you can stage epic battles in your displays.

Speaking of battles, I intended to pose a few of the MOTUC figures in this interior shot to show the playset’s scale and, well, this happened (click to enlarge):


I am almost 30, right?

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Christmas Movies Not About Christmas


Merry Christmas, Wortmaniacs! If you’re like me, the holidays just aren’t complete without watching some classic Yuletide films. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Scrooged, Bad Santa and Elf are required yearly viewing as far as I’m concerned, but many of the best Christmas flicks out there aren’t directly related to the holiday at all. Grab a glass of eggnog and peruse this handy (and non-paginated) list of my favorite Christmas movies that aren’t technically Christmas movies.

5) Trading Places (1983)
John Landis’ Trading Places, the story of a commodities broker (Dan Aykroyd) and a homeless man (Eddie Murphy) switching lives as part of a bet/social experiment, is a film that always makes me nostalgic for a time when Eddie Murphy was one of the funniest comedians around. The film takes place from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, and might be the only time we’ll ever get to see a Santa suit-clad Dan Aykroyd eating salmon on a bus.

4) Rocky IV (1985)
Leave it to ol’ Sly Stallone to cram the Cold War, Kenny Loggins, and a robot that sings “Happy Birthday” into an uber-patriotic Christmas package that’s worth opening early. Although Christmas has been a part of the Rocky series from the beginning, this film pitted the titular Italian Stallion against Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in Russia on Christmas Day. By defeating Drago and garnering respect from America’s enemies, Rocky Balboa taught us all how to love. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Guys? Hello?

3) Batman Returns (1992)
Between Lee Bermejo’s Batman: Noël, the Christmas setting of the Arkham Origins video game and just about everything in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, The Dark Knight just might be a bigger Christmas icon than Frosty the Snowman. This 1992 sequel to Burton’s Batman kicks off with a villainous attack during a Gotham City tree-lighting and ends with The Penguin (Danny DeVito) hatching a twisted Christmas Eve plan to abduct and drown children. ‘Tis the season, amirite?

But most importantly, Batman Returns taught us one of the most important lessons of the season: No matter how delicious it looks, don’t eat mistletoe. It’ll probably kill you.

2) Die Hard (1988)
“Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.” — John McClane

Office Christmas parties tend to get out of hand, but there’s usually a lot less shooting and explosions involved. John McTiernan’s classic Die Hard pits grizzled New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) against terrorists in a Los Angeles skyscraper on Christmas Eve. There’s little about the premise that screams “Santa,” but the film’s constant holiday allusions makes it a must-watch when the weather outside is frightful.

1) Gremlins (1984)
Christmas served as the backdrop for Joe Dante’s too-terrifying-for-children tale of a furry (and toyetic) holiday pet that spawns legions of mischievous monsters that terrorize a Norman Rockwell-esque small town. The chaos caused by these demonic green abominations is not all that dissimilar to what one might find at Target during the holidays, but at least no one in the film runs the risk of having their credit card information stolen. Zing!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bilbo Baggins Slays Orcs, Emcees in 'Misty Mountains Rap'

The Warp Zone has transformed the “Misty Mountains” song from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey into a pretty fun rap video, and I discovered it at the right time. I’ve had Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” stuck in my head for the last three days, and this new earworm has subdued my urge to knock myself unconscious with the nearest Yule Log. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Watch Thorin Oakenshield, Bilbo Baggins, Legolas and Gandalf spit rhymes below and, if you haven’t already, check out my review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

‘The Desolation of Smaug’ Blows Smoke


Bloated, overwrought and needlessly busy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug provides 161 minutes of additional proof that Peter Jackson is in dire need of more discerning editor. Though far more entertaining than An Unexpected Journey — the first installment of the film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s landmark children’s tome — Smaug often buckles under its own ambitions, deluded into thinking that bigger is always better. Much like Bilbo Baggins himself in his later years, this film feels like “butter scraped over too much bread,” and it ultimately isn’t all that appetizing.

The Desolation of Smaug picks up shortly after the conclusion of the previous film, with Bilbo — played spectacularly by Martin Freeman — accompanying a group of Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to the lost Dwarf city of Erebor, where the titular dragon slumbers. But before they contend with that fire-breathing menace, the group encounters spiders, Elf warriors and legions of snarling Orcs. As the Dwarves fight to reclaim their home under the Lonely Mountain, Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) is drawn to the East, where an ancient and malevolent force threatens all of Middle-earth.

Since The Hobbit is a relatively brief novel compared to the sprawling Lord of the Rings epic, some padding was necessary for Jackson to craft what amounts to nine-hours of screen time. As such, Smaug introduces characters and situations that were not part of Tolkien’s original story. Orlando Bloom reprises his role as Legolas, a character who did not interact with Bilbo & Co. in the original story, while Lost star Evangeline Lily plays Tauriel, a a Mirkwood Elf created solely for the movie adaptation. Purists might balk at Tauriel’s inclusion in this version of the story, but she brings to the film a welcome female presence. Her romance with Kili the Dwarf (Aiden Turner) is a bit forced, but it’s also a welcome emotional hook in a film that has a tendency to devolve into a non-interactive video game cutscene.

Indeed, there’s far more action in this outing than its predecessor but, much like the first film’s ludicrous chase through Goblin-town, most of the battle sequences come dangerously close to being goofy. In fact, it never even appears as though any of the heroic characters are in danger during even the most harrowing scenes. When your protagonists are effortlessly fending off legions of CGI monsters while simultaneously defying the laws of physics, even the most dazzling of set pieces can become a chore to sit through … even in 3D.

Despite its flaws, The Desolation of Smaug isn’t a total disappointment. Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a technical marvel, and there are several moments in the film that remind us why we first fell in love with Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth twelve years ago. However, as both an adaptation of a beloved classic and as a prequel trilogy to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit seems to be falling short thus far. Let’s hope for redemption when There and Back Again hits theaters next year.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Godzilla Wreaks Havoc in New Trailer

As maligned as the Americanized Godzilla was back in 1998, you’ve gotta admit: Everything around the movie was pretty spectacular. Godzilla: The Album introduced millions of pre-teens to the work of Led Zeppelin by way of Puff Daddy/P. Diddy, and Edy’s “Limited Edition” Godzilla Vanilla Ice Cream was a thing of confectionary beauty. The toys by Trendmasters were also kind of neat, allowing kids everywhere to create monster adventures that didn’t involve Ferris Beuller playing with irradiated worms.

Now, after Toho did its best to wash the taste of Sony’s effort out of moviegoers’ mouths overseas, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures are preparing to unleash The King of the Monsters once again with next summer’s Godzilla. The first trailer’s been released online, and although we don’t really get a good look at the big guy himself, the tone of this rebooted monster mash seems just about right. Check out the teaser below.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

10-Year-Old Bruce Wayne to Appear in 'Gotham'

Oh, dear.

According to casting details on tvshowauditions.info, Fox’s forthcoming Gotham television series will feature a 10-year-old Bruce Wayne as a regular, all but confirming suspicions that the Batman-themed series will not feature The Caped Crusader himself and will be set years before Bruce dons the iconic cape and cowl.

So, in essence, this will be a police procedural starring a young Jim Gordon ridding Gotham’s streets of … well … generic thugs. In most versions of the lore, it’s Batman’s presence that inspires the city’s most psychologically depraved criminals to develop a “taste for the theatrical” and become the iconic Rogue’s Gallery we all know and love. So unless this show deviates dramatically from canon, we shouldn’t expect appearances by Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Clayface, The Joker, The Riddler or even Clock King.

Without Batman or his colorful assortment of adversaries, why exactly should we watch this show again? At least with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there’s always a chance Iron Man or Bruce Banner could drop by and say hello to the series regulars. It’s slim, but it’s there.

'Indiana Jones' Distribution Rights Shift to Disney

You knew it was coming. More than one year after Disney acquired Lucasfilm Ltd. and revealed plans to continue George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, The House of Mouse has secured the rights to market and distribute future films in the Indiana Jones series. Deadline.com reports that the original studio, Paramount Pictures, retains the rights to the original four Indiana Jones films, and will also be entitled to “financial rewards” for any future Indy flicks produced by Disney.

The big question is, does this mean Disney is actually interested in more sequels after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was savaged by critics and reviled by fans? Personally, I’d love to see Indiana Jones in an animated series of films, sparing us the indignity of seeing “tough guy” Shia LaBeouf in Mutt Williams and the Lost Opportunity.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bryan Singer Drops Huge 'X-Men' News on Twitter

X-Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters next summer, but director Bryan Singer is already hinting at where he’ll take Marvel’s mutants in the next installment of the franchise.

On Thursday, Singer tweeted the following:


Whether or not this means we’re getting some sort of “Age of Apocalypse” adaptation in 2016, it’s clear we’re finally going to see Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and the rest of the movie-verse X-Men tangle with one of their greatest, nigh-invincible nemeses. Who will play the everliving mutant adversary? Let the speculation commence!

Villains Abound in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

Remember how Spider-Man 3 mucked up the blockbuster Marvel franchise so badly that Sony needed to reboot the series entirely just 10 years after it began? Most folks attribute Sam Raimi’s baffling narrative misstep to the film’s surplus of supervillains, forcing Sandman, Green Goblin II (or “New Goblin”) and Venom into a single, overwrought story due to studio mandates. It didn’t work, making it all the more refreshing when Marc Webb’s 2012 reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, stuck with one baddie — The Lizard — and helped us all forget that Spider-Man 3 had more scenes featuring Tobey Maguire’s scrunched-up boo boo face than genuine superheroic spectacle.

Now, Sony is preparing to unleash The Amazing Spider-Man 2 upon the moviegoing populace next summer, putting Andrew Garfield back in the tights as Peter Parker uncovers new truths about his parents’ mysterious past while furthering his relationship with doomed high school sweetheart Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Oh, and he also has to deal with Electro (Jamie Foxx), The Rhino (Paul Giamatti) and an already-evil Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). So yeah, we’re back with three villains … because that worked so well for these movies last time.

Skepticism aside, this movie looks pretty damned entertaining, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Webb takes the story this time around. This series is clearly borrowing a great deal from Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, which is what got me back into comics in a major way in the early 2000s. There’s promise here, let’s just hope Sony’s learned from their previous mistakes.

Check out the first official trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 below.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

'Batman: Arkham Origins' Avoids Prequel Pitfalls


Just days after DC Comics announced they will be dressing Bane up like Batman because they’ve seemingly lost their minds, I finished up Batman: Arkham Origins, a title that might be one of the last great video games of the current console generation. It features the same game mechanics that made me obsessed with Arkham Asylum and Arkham Origins — both of which cemented The Caped Crusader as a bonafide video game star — and it has enough replay value to keep me hooked on side missions and repeat playthroughs for the foreseeable future.

New developer Warner Bros. Games Montréal ably steps in for the franchise’s previous developer Rocksteady Studios, crafting a Batman story that puts us into Bruce Wayne’s boots just two years into his career as Batman. The Dark Knight, at this point in the chronology, is viewed as a pseudo-myth by the populace of Gotham City, while the police force has yet to realize that Batman is their greatest ally in the fight against crime.

The entirety of the game takes place on Christmas Eve, when The Black Mask has placed a bounty on Batman’s head, drawing eight of the world’s most deadly assassins to Gotham City (including Bane, dressed appropriately). To keep these mercenaries from causing untold havoc on the city to draw him out, Batman instead takes the fight to them. Of course, through some twists and turns that I won’t spoil here, Batman ultimately finds himself face to makeup-smeared face with one of his most iconic adversaries for an epic series of confrontations that are no joke.

Okay, maybe they are. Because it’s The Joker. Although if that’s really a spoiler for you at this point, you probably deserve the heartbreak.

Aside from the yuletide setting that instantly reminded me of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (one of my childhood favorites), I also really appreciated that Arkham Origins puts us in control of a Caped Crusader that doesn’t have all of the answers just yet. He makes mistakes, and has yet to earn the title of “The World’s Greatest Detective.” This portrayal of the character is far more interesting than his treatment in recent comics like Justice League, in which Batman is perceived as the most powerful guy in the room even when he’s sitting next to Superman. The Dark Knight’s humanity in the midst of chaos makes him interesting, and it’s always cool to see that brought to the surface whether it’s in comics, film, animation or, yes, video games.

Judging by Arkham Origins’ ending, this franchise can go in any number of directions — some of which might not even necessarily involve Batman — and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. Even though my life doesn’t afford me much time for video games these days, this is one series that is consistently worth the investment.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Enter The Gooker

Blogging is something I do in my spare time, so when free moments are a rare commodity, it’s nearly impossible to carve out quality time to rant/rave about Star Wars/Trek. So if you thought I’d vanished two weeks ago, rest assured that my absence was due to a busy schedule and not spontaneous human combustion. Thor: The Dark World wasn’t that good.

What have I been busy with? Well, let’s just say I’ve been collaborating with a certain WWE icon whose rubbed elbows (and feathers) with everyone from “Mean” Gene Okerlund to Koko B. Ware since he debuted live on pay-per-view 23 years ago.

In all honesty, I’ve worked with better … but not many. Watch WWE’s latest video series below, starring sports-entertainment’s most polarizing ornithological oddity.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Marvel Brings the Hammer Down with 'Thor: The Dark World'

Marvel Studios is coming dangerously close to spoiling us.

At a point when most franchises are seriously running out of steam, The House of Ideas has given us Thor: The Dark World, the eighth film to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s technically a sequel to 2011’s Thor but, more than, that, this is the proper follow-up to The Avengers we all hoped Iron Man 3 would be.

But just how good is it? Well, I’ve seen it twice already, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw it a third time before it bows out of theaters. No, I’m not ashamed to admit that.

I’m clearly not alone in my appreciation for this surprisingly entertaining sequel, which has reportedly pulled in more than $86 million domestically. Think about that for a second. Did anyone really care all that much about Thor before 2011? Now, the hammer-swinging demigod has emerged as a pop-culture icon, his story made far more interesting on film than it had been over the past several decades in print. For example, remember Thunderstrike? No, you don’t remember Thunderstrike.

As noted previously by my pal Kevin Powers over at Comic Odyssey, part of the appeal of The Dark World is that it never stops feeling like a comic book. Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) balances the heavy stuff — including at least one major character’s death — with some welcome moments of levity. Pants are misplaced. Bad guys are smacked around with hilarious ease by our flaxen-haired hero (Chris Hemsworth). Even Loki (Tom Hiddleston) gets a few laughs this time around as the audience tries to figure out whether his decision to assist his brother against the evil Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is a genuine one. Kat Dennings continues to steal scenes as Darcy Lewis, Dr. Jane Foster’s intern who, for some reason, has acquired an intern of her own. As for Jane herself, Natalie Portman steps back into the role with ease, flip-flopping from hard-nosed scientist to lovelorn teenager depending on whether or not she’s in the presence of her godlike kinda-sorta-boyfriend. Even Odin (Anthony Hopkins) cracks a smile or two.

There’s a pervading sense of fun throughout The Dark World’s brisk 112-minute adventure, which is appreciated when so many other blockbusters  — including this summer’s Man of Steel — can be too serious for their own good.

Sating audience’s desire for action on a massive scale after the city-smashing finale of The Avengers, The Dark World doesn’t skimp on fight sequences, something its 2011 predecessor was sorely lacking. The physics-defying finale in London is particularly satisfying, with our heroes battling Malekith and his Dark Elf minions across dimensions as the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. Spoiler alert: Things work out okay. After all, we’ve got Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to look forward to, and that’s just over the next two years.

Thor: The Dark World is just about everything you’d want out of a Thor sequel, not only furthering the story of the title character but expanding the mythology of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. One might even say it’s a sight for “Thor” eyes!*

*Editor’s Note: Ugh. Sorry.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

'Star Wars: Episode VII' Gets a Release Date


Jaws might have been the first summer blockbuster in 1975, but it was George Lucas’ Star Wars films that made big, loud movies a time-honored tradition during the hottest months of the year. However, Disney and Lucasfilm are balking at that popcorn-munching ritual in 2015, and will be bringing us the seventh installment of the Star Wars saga on Dec. 18 of that year.

As confirmed by StarWars.com, Episode VII will be the first film in the franchise with a winter release date. The later-than-expected opening might lead many to believe that the Star Wars sequel is experiencing some production woes, but I think it’s more likely that Disney’s putting forth a concerted effort to make this upcoming trilogy, you know, good.

Production on Episode VII will begin this spring. For the full story, click here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

'Star Wars' Bloopers + Trailer = This

If you’re like me, it takes a lot to make you laugh on a Monday, but Slackstory got a good chortle or two out of me this morning with this video that splices footage from the Star Wars: A New Hope blooper reel into one of the original theatrical trailers. The results are pretty fantastic, giving us a glimpse into Harrison Ford’s mental state while he was hanging out in the Millennium Falcon cockpit for all those takes. “Blahp!”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

'X-Men: Days of Future Past' Might Be Awesome



Bryan Singer’s forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past doesn’t exactly follow Chris Claremont’s popular 1980 storyline of the same name — Wolverine steps in for Kitty Pryde as the body-swapping time-traveler in the film — but are we really expecting these X-Men movies to be faithful at this point? Enjoy the new trailer, which is pretty spectacular despite its noticeable lack of Sentinels. Make with the giant purple robots, Fox!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

‘Captain America: The Winter Solder’ Trailer Flaunts Explosions, Scarlett Johansson



The first trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier is online, and if you aren’t geeking out about it, that simply means you haven’t seen it yet. I love the look and feel of this film, which appears like more of a spy thriller than its lighter predecessor. I also really dig the banter between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Yet, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this trailer is that this film apparently pits Cap against S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. I can’t say I saw that coming.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits U.S. theaters in March 2014.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Captain America Rejects Parachutes in New 'Winter Solder' Poster


Steve Rogers is ready to leap into action (and presumably not to his death) in the new poster for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which hits theaters April 4. As Cap stands in an open S.H.I.E.L.D. cargo hold, we catch a glimpse of the Helicarrier along with a birds-eye view of Washington, D.C in front of our hero. What does it all mean? The teaser trailer to be released later this week will hopefully answer such questions and give us plenty more to obsess about. Until then, let’s all continue to tweet voraciously about how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the best/worst Marvel thing since The Avengers/Spider-Man 3. And ... go.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Oh, Hey George Romero


I usually try to avoid getting starstruck, but when I stumbled upon the opportunity to snap a photo with horror legend George A. Romero at New York Comic Con on Saturday, it was hard not to get a little bit jittery. The guy completely revolutionized a genre with 1968 zombie touchstone Night of the Living Dead and its sequel Dawn of the Dead, teaching a generation of filmmakers how combine blood-and-gore theatrics with social sensibilities. Romero also helped bring us Creepshow, which provided me with ample nightmare fuel growing up in New York thanks to WPIX’s “Shocktober” programming slate. So yeah, I was excited to meet him.

It’s difficult to describe exactly what it was like to have a chance encounter with someone like Romero, the czar of zombies, but I take solace in the fact that such moments still affect me as much as they do. Tonight, more than ever, I’m damn proud to be a geek.

Check out more photos from NYCC by following me on Twitter.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

NYCC 2013 Awaits!


It’s early on a Saturday, but not even sleep deprivation can stop me from being hyped about New York Comic Con, yet another excuse for the geek community to celebrate our love of comic books, movies, video games and waiting in line for things.

I’ll be snapping pics of all the weirdness on the show floor this weekend, so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to experience the sights (but mercifully not the smells) of the Big Apple’s most massive pop culture extravaganza.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Spiders, Orcs and Explosions Abound in New ‘Hobbit’ Trailer

For whatever reason, I’m not exactly clamoring for the next installment in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Maybe it’s because I’m not really sure J.R.R. Tolkien’s original story needed to be told over three films, or perhaps there are so many huge movies coming out in the next few months, namely Thor: The Dark World, that the next Hobbit film just isn’t registering on my radar like it should.

That being said, this new trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is pretty darn cool, showing us glimpses of the dwarves battling the horrors of Mirkwood and Bilbo Baggins’ encounter with Smaug inside the Lonely Mountain.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug hits theaters Dec. 13.

The Buy Pile for Oct. 2, 2013


Tonight marks the conclusion of my first vacation in more than a year — seven days of comic books, horror movies, Breaking Bad binge sessions and excessive amounts of Grand Theft Auto V. I know many of you are sucking your teeth at me for not taking this opportunity to do some traveling, but I had business to take care of in Los Santos … Paris can wait.

My regular Wednesday trip to Stamford, Conn.’s A Timeless Journey netted me a relatively light haul, but that doesn’t mean I was in any way disappointed with this week’s new offerings. Marvel’s “Battle of the Atom” still has me hooked despite the time-travel weirdness, and there’s definite promise in DC’s Forever Evil book, which hints at big things to come next month. I’m also thoroughly entertained by Glen Brunswick’s Reality Check over at Image Comics, which released its second issue this week.

Here’s a rundown of what I’m bagging and boarding this evening:
  • Captain America: Living Legend #1 (Marvel)
  • All-New X-Men #17 (Marvel)
  • Iron Man #16 (Marvel)
  • Batman: Detective Comics #24 (DC)
  • Batman: Black and White #2 (DC)
  • Forever Evil #2 (DC)
  • Reality Check #2 (Image)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

TMNT + Super Mario = This

There are plenty of pop culture mash-ups on YouTube these days, but James Farr has hit the nostalgia sweet spot with his loving homage to both the Super Mario Bros. series and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Check out “Teenage Mutant Koopa Troopas” below, and enjoy the rest of your weekend, for cryin’ out loud!

Friday, September 27, 2013

World Without a Batman: My Thoughts on 'Gotham'

I’ll go on record in saying that I’m wholly unimpressed with DC Comics’ “Villains Month,” and I honestly can’t wait until the gimmickry has run its course. Yet, even though DC seems to be struggling in the printed storytelling department at the moment, the company is making some major strides on TV. On top of an ongoing Arrow series, Warner Bros. is prepping a Flash spinoff, a Constantine series and, most importantly, a series set in Batman’s stomping grounds called Gotham. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the series will star a young James Gordon and will be set before The Caped Crusader prowled the city’s rooftops.

It remains doubtful whether Batman will actually appear in the series at some point, making Gotham more of a CSI-esque procedural drama set in the DC Universe. The reaction has been mixed: After all, wouldn’t prime-time viewers rather see Batman punch dudes in and around the face area? It worked in the ‘60s …

One might argue that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has proven that a studio need not fill a genre TV series with franchise heavy hitters — The Avengers don’t appear on the show — yet it’s important to distinguish that Marvel Studios has been building an interconnected universe for the past five years, while DC Entertainment’s live-action stories are fragmented without anything resembling a shared mythology. Arrow’s Oliver Queen does not appear in the Dark Knight continuity, while Henry Cavill’s Superman will never visit Christopher Nolan’s vision of Gotham City. Green Lantern exists entirely on its own, which is perfect because that movie kinda sucked.

Meanwhile, I can be be totally cool with watching S.H.I.E.L.D. go on a mission without Iron Man, because I’ve witnessed Tony Stark existing in that universe elsewhere (in four previous movies, in fact). I’m observing a multi-tiered story from a different point of view, and it makes that world feel like an organic place. A Batman-less show disconnected from any pre-existing continuity robs us of that satisfaction because it isn’t part of something bigger. That’s what makes comic books so awesome: Our favorite heroes share the same expansive space ... assuming they share a publisher.

If Gotham somehow served as a bridge between Man of Steel and the upcoming Batman/Superman crossover, then we’re talking. The show would enrich the film universe, while moviegoers who followed the series would have a better understanding of where Bruce Wayne is coming from. Otherwise, it’s just an insular cop show that might or might not include Little Jimmy Gordon chasing down Clock King. I’m not sure I want that.

For more on Gotham, click here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Three Reasons to Love 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'

The geek community is buzzing following the debut of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week, and, shockingly, we’re all more than okay with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s move to the small screen. Already, there’s rampant speculation about how the series will tie into future Marvel Studios films — namely The Avengers: Age of Ultron — and there’s even talk of a spinoff starring Steve Rogers’ World War II-era sweetheart Agent Carter.

But why are we so enraptured by Joss Whedon’s latest jaunt in Marvel Universe? Here are three reasons we’ve become True Believers after just one episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

1) It’s not Heroes
During the first few moments of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a super-powered dad saves a woman from a burning apartment building, a feat that attracts media attention and earns him the moniker of “The Hooded Hero.”

Wow! Regular people as super heroes! Cool, right? What if that happened!?

Ugh.

Fortunately, the show soon proved that it isn’t a retread of the facepalm-worthy Heroes, which gives us all the more reason to care about it for more than one season.

2) It rewards those of us who have been paying attention
Like any good comic book series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. assumes you’re caught up on the mythology, and if you aren’t, well, that’s your fault. Right off the bat, the show tosses out several references to Loki, the Chitauri, the Battle of New York and Extremis, refusing to lag behind for those of you who’ve better things to do than put Thor in your Netflix queue. Heimdall frowns on your shenanigans.

3) Agent Coulson
Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson has garnered a deserving cult fanbase since his first appearance in 2008’s Iron Man, which made his death in The Avengers one of those weird cultural touchstones for us geeks … like when Brett Ratner tried to murder the X-Men back in 2006.

The promos for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. promised Coulson’s return, rallying Marvelites around the #CoulsonLives hashtag. The how and why of the situation were kinda-sorta explained in the pilot. Now, it seems, the rumors of Agent Coulson’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Or have they? The nature of this character’s apparent survival will no doubt unravel over time, giving the series a fascinating thread that will have a lasting effect on the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe moving forward. And that’s pretty damn cool.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How Are You Celebrating 'Hobbit Day'?

If you’re a hardcore J.R.R. Tolkien geek, you might be aware that Sept. 22 is kind of a big deal. It’s the day in which Frodo and Bilbo Baggins celebrate their birthday, an event that kicks off the Lord of the Rings trilogy in both the original text and Peter Jackson’s films.

So how will you mark the occasion? You might want to start a Lord of the Rings movie marathon, or maybe you’ll re-read the epic story in its entirety, beginning with The Hobbit. You could even kick back all day and partake in some Longbottom Leaf passages of The Silmarillion.

Yet, perhaps the purest way to honor the spirit of The Lord of the Rings today is to embark on an unexpected journey, whatever that may be. Because as Tolkien himself wrote, “Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy Birthday, Adam West!

I’m having “one of those weeks,” but that didn’t stop me from cracking a smile when I realized that Adam West turned 85 today. I don’t quite know how the star of the 1966 Batman TV series celebrates his birthday, but I hope it looks something like this:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Buy Pile for Sept. 11, 2013

Another “New Comics Day” has come and gone, leaving us with a new assortment of DC’s “Villains Month” covers, complete with glorious lenticular razzle-dazzle. Based on the insanely negative press the publisher has been receiving as of late based on their refusal to allow Batwoman to marry her girlfriend and, well, this, perhaps placating fans with 3D imagery is DC’s strong suit for the moment. So … good for them?

On the plus side, Marvel’s X-Men: Battle of the Atom is off to a strong start, which is really saying something since X-Men crossover “events” can be head-slappingly, face-palmingly convoluted. I’m sure there will be plenty of time for that in the seven remaining installments, but let’s enjoy what we have thus far.

Speaking of enjoyment (worst transition ever, I know), but you likely got pretty excited that not only does the new Jurassic Park flick have a release date of June 12, 2015, but it’s got a title as well: Jurassic World. This leads me to believe that the Steven Spielberg-produced 3D film will be fairly large and ambitious in scope, which will give the series a necessary shot in the arm after two mostly-forgettable sequels. Or it’ll just be a lot of people running away from prehistoric monsters which is ... still pretty cool, regardless.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Buy Pile: Black Hats Edition

Creating the ultimate marketing ploy-within-a-marketing ploy scenario, DC’s “New 52” has unleashed “Villains Month,” in which the most evil antagonists in the DC Universe take over all of the publisher’s titles throughout September. The first of these books have hit the racks this week, rocking lenticular covers that harken back to 1990s gimmickry in the best/worst way.

I’m not above the allure of a cool presentation, and I picked up five of the new books fully expecting some solid “meh” behind the pretty, pretty 3D imagery. In that sense, I haven’t been too disappointed thus far. But hey, at least it’s gotten us talking about DC’s actual comics again, right guys and gals (but mostly guys)?

Also, the covers sound like death when you rub them together. Here’s proof.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Honest Trailers Team Skewers 'Iron Man 3'



This Honest Trailer for Iron Man 3 is harsh, but it’s pretty spot-on if we’re being honest with ourselves. Also, the name “Osama bin Kingsley” made me shoot pineapple juice out of my nose, which is worrisome from a medical perspective since I haven’t had pineapple juice in four years. And my week was going so well …

For more Honest Trailers, subscribe to Screen Junkies on YouTube.

Drinking Pumpkins

Everyone’s got their own signifier that fall has unofficially begun. For some, it’s the beginning of the school year. For others, it’s the start of the football season In my case, it’s that first sip of pumpkin-flavored iced coffee that lets me know it’s finally okay to get hyped for Halloween and spend every weekend watching horror flicks while wrapped in a hooded sweatshirt.

I had my first taste of the sought-after spiced beverage this morning at my local Dunkin’ Donuts, confusing the women behind the counter who have gotten so accustomed to my usual order — large, toasted almond iced coffee with skim milk — that I rarely need to ask for it. Sorry, ladies. It’s all pumpkin errrthing ‘til fun-sized candy goes on clearance.

Cheers to fall, Wortmaniacs!

Monday, September 2, 2013

1989 'Batman' Trading Cards Unwrapped!

While rummaging through the pockets of my suitcase this weekend, I came across a sealed pack of 1989 Batman Topps trading cards, commemorating a magical time in pop culture when Jack Nicholson’s mug was plastered everywhere and kids around the globe were doing the Batdance or some horrifying variation thereof.

I picked up the pack for $2.00 during my trip to San Diego for Comic-Con International this year, a purchase fueled by that unique combination of nostalgia and “Why not?” that inspires approximately 95 percent of all SDCC decisions.

Before we dig into the pack, let’s check out the wrapper.


Featuring the words “#1 hit movie!” on the front, the package boldly predicts that not only will Tim Burton’s film resonate with audiences, but will reach the top of an unnamed ranking system. If I throw the words “#1 must-read blog” at the top of this page, maybe The Wort Report will finally net me one of those steak dinners I hear so much about.

As an aside, I kinda love the fact that the image of The Joker on the front of this wrapper shows Ol’ Jack Napier during that “oop, oop”  scene in Carl Grissom’s office, which makes me laugh uncontrollably every time I see it because haven’t we all been there? Just me then? Moving on.


The cards are pretty standard given the time period, featuring movie stills coupled with captions that play fast and loose with punctuation marks. Here are my three favorites:


Two exclamation points! The card depicts a scene in which a dirty criminal preys upon a tourist family, showing us that Gotham City is a not-so-nice place to live. The description on the back says that the family “marches into the darkness” when they enter an alleyway, but I always thought is was more of a trot. I guess that’s why I don’t write trading cards.


I’ve never heard Batman referred to as “The Caped Fury,” and I doubt that moniker will ever catch on in the DC Comics offices. However, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to come out of “The New 52.”


Ah, yes. I actually collected a number of these Batman trading cards before seeing the movie, and I remember this card scaring the crud out of me when I was younger. This nightmare-inducing card shows The Joker tightening the necktie of poor Antoine Rotelli, a Gotham City crimelord who had the misfortune of falling victim to The Joker’s electrifying joy-buzzer. Why this image only warranted one exclamation point in its caption is still a mystery to me.


Along with a fairly bland sticker card featuring Michael Keaton’s Batman, the pack also includes a pink slab of gum, which has somehow maintained its original texture after 24 years. When I really want to slice up my teeth and gums, I know where to turn.

For more nerdiness from yours truly, follow me on Twitter! (@JamesWortman)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why Ben Affleck as Batman Isn't the Worst Thing Ever

Well, that escalated quickly, didn’t it?

Mere moments after Variety reported that Ben Affleck would be donning the cape and cowl for an as-yet-unnamed 2015 Superman/Batman team-up flick, the Internet was awash in hateful comments as discontented DC fanatics mashed their keyboards and pounded their smart phones in outrage. From lambasting Warner Bros. for their apparently poor grasp of the filmmaking business to snarky Gigli and Daredevil remarks, geeks were quick to criticize the casting choice. Why not spend the dough to lure Christian Bale back to the character or, better yet, choose a less established actor to move this franchise toward Warner Bros.’ inevitable Justice League film? Such questions plagued innumerable comic book fans as they tossed and turned in their beds whiile visions of Armageddon danced in their heads.

This isn’t the first time DC fans have wildly criticized a casting decision at this scale. Hell, about a decade before Heath Ledger proved the haters wrong with an Academy Award-winning turn as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, a pre-Internet fanbase cried foul when Warner Bros. cast Michael Keaton as Batman in Tim Burton’s groundbreaking 1989 film. Both times, those critics were proven wrong. Although it’s clearly too early to say whether or not Affleck is the right choice to play Bruce Wayne in the Man of Steel sequel, it also might be too early for us to get bent out of shape about it. Relax, guys. Affleck can be an incredibly talented performer under the right conditions (see Argo, The Town, Hollywoodland or even Chasing Amy for examples).

And to those still asking why Bale isn’t back in the suit, consider that Nolan’s trilogy is a closed story, and that bringing his version of Batman into a world of aliens and red capes doesn’t  make all that much sense. This is a new universe with a new story and, yes, a new Batman.

For the full story from Variety, click here. And to check out my thoughts on Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, read the review.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Getting Punchy (with Mike Tyson)

Since I’ve been living in a bubble for the past two weeks with a couple of big work-related projects, I’ve pretty much fallen behind when it comes to nerdy stuff on the Internet. Hopefully, circumstances will allow me ample time to obsess about movies and comic books in the very near future, but until then, enjoy this Fox Sports video of Mike Tyson playing Punch-Out!! for the very first time. Spoiler alert: He has some difficulty with Glass Joe.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dark Horse Unearths Classic Origins with ‘The Star Wars’ Miniseries

Let’s face it: The Star Wars Expanded Universe is kind of a mess. From clones to contrivances to storylines that only resemble coherence if you squint just right, there’s little actual Star Wars magic to be found in the countless books and comics spawned from George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away.

However, this fall, Dark Hose Comics hopes to change all that by bringing us a fresh new take on the franchise with The Star Wars, an eight-issue series adapted from Lucas’ 1974 rough-draft screenplay. The first issue hits on Sept. 4, 2013, and judging by the teaser available on EW.com, the concept has a lot of promise as an alternate reality to the space opera we know and love (or revile ... you know who you are).

If you thought it was impossible for such an oft-trodden mythology to surprise us after all these years, check out the trailer for The Star Wars by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

'Dark World' Trailer a Sight for 'Thor' Eyes

It might not necessarily get the pre-release attentionthis summer’s Iron Man 3 received, but Thor: The Dark World is already shaping up to be the superior Marvel Studios offering in 2013. Check out the new trailer below, which reaffirms my appreciation for the first film as well as my longstanding crush on Natalie Portman.

The Buy Pile for Aug. 7, 2013


Happy Wednesday, Wortmaniacs! How’s your week going?

Oh, wow. That bad, huh? Well, if it makes you feel any better, there’s a slew of new comics that just hit the racks, so that should help you get through the next couple of days … unless you’re not into comics at all, in which case you’re probably here by accident and stopped reading at “Wortmaniacs.” So why am I still talking to you? This is awkward.

Anyhow, below is a list of what I’ll be reading tonight whenever I’m not completely distracted by Shark Week on Discovery. I really like the bitey parts.

  • Iron Man #14
  • All-New X-Men #5
  • Deadpool Kills Deadpool #2
  • Detective Comics #23
  • Green Lantern #23

Monday, August 5, 2013

Are ‘Star Wars’ TV Shows Headed to ABC?

It was a long, long time ago that rumors began circulating about a Star Wars TV series, but the televised adventures in George Lucas’ galaxy are finally beginning to materialize, according to an ABC exec who has been working closely with The House of Mouse’s most talked-about acquisition, Lucasfilm Ltd.

“We’ve started conversations with [Lucasfilm]," said Paul Lee, president of the Disney-owned ABC Entertainment Group. “I have an inkling in my mind, but they have a lot on their plate.”

I suspect that the fate of Star Wars on TV will hinge on the success of this fall’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., an ABC series born out of Disney’s ownership of Marvel. If that show is a hit with general audiences as well as the vocal legions of Marvel geeks — many of whom are also Star Wars fanatics — then we might see a Star Wars TV show (or multiple shows) go into production long before Disney’s Episode VII hits theaters in 2015.

For Reuters’ full story, click here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

'Pacific Rim' Gets the Toho Treatment

Despite reports that Pacific Rim is cleaning up at the international box office, Guillermo’s quirky and ambitious movie about giant robots battling equally giant monsters didn’t exactly catch on domestically. Why? I wish I knew.

Whether or not Pacific Rim ultimately spawns a franchise, it has no doubt reignited interest in old-school Kaiju films, which is a good sign for Warner Bros. forthcoming Godzilla reboot stomping into theaters next summer. While we await city-stomping goodness, check out this fan-made trailer reimagining Pacific Rim as a Godzilla-esque Toho flick, complete with Japanese dubbing and some familiar music.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Buy Pile for July 31, 2013

This week’s Wednesday comic book haul is comprised of a healthy mix of new and old, with a predominantly Marvel selection due to the fact that A) I really dug The Wolverine this past weekend and B) I recently got my hands on the Deadpool video game, which has reignited my interest in The Merc with a Mouth in a major way.

Along with two Marvel trade paperbacks, Deadpool vs. The Marvel Universe and Vol. 3 of Mark Waid’s outstanding Daredevil run, here’s what I’ll be thumbing through tonight:

  • All-New X-Men #14 
  • Uncanny X-Men #9 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #5 
  • Daredevil #29 
  • Hawkeye #12 
  • Wolverine: In the Flesh (one-shot) 
  • Batman Annual #2 
  • Adventures of Superman #3

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Movie Review: Did Wolverine Get His Claws Back?

Following the dismal X-Men: The Last Stand and the facepalm-worthy X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it’s easy to forget that the film franchise starring Xavier’s gifted youngsters is the reason why superheroes have become summer box-office mainstays. Had Bryan Singer’s X-Men tanked in 2000, we wouldn’t have seen Spider-Man two years later, nor would Marvel Studios had the opportunity to bring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the rest of The Avengers to the silver screen. The last movie memory of Batman might have involved molded rubber nipples.

Over 13 years, we’ve seen the X-Men franchise soar (with Singer’s outstanding X2: X-Men United), plummet (Brett Rattner’s maligned third film), bump its head (X-Men Origins) and regain its footing (Matthew Vaughn’s refreshing X-Men: First Class). That spotty track record is likely why this summer’s The Wolverine arrived with far less geek fanfare than other recent superhero flicks like Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel.

The experience no doubt enhanced by the all-powerful force known as lowered expectations, I’m happy to say that The Wolverine lives up to the standard of the Singer entries in the series, and is certainly the best film that includes a computer-animated urinating bear in the first act. I wonder if that’ll be an Oscars category this year.

Loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on the iconic Wolverine mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank MIller, The Wolverine catches us up with Logan (the always game Hugh Jackman), who is haunted by the memory of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the woman he loved and was forced to kill at the end of The Last Stand. Leaving the X-Men team and living a solitary life in the woods, Logan is found by pint-sized ass-kicker Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who beckons the cantankerous clawed Canadian to Tokyo to visit the bedside of dying businessman Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). You see, years ago in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki, Logan saved young Yashida from the infamous nuclear explosion. Yashida has a final request for Logan, which might in turn give the invincible warrior the peace he has sought for many lifetimes.

A trip to The Land of the Rising Son puts Logan in the middle of a sinister plot by the Yakuza to eliminate Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). Ever the hero, Logan takes it upon himself to protect her, because he’s the best at what he does, but … well, you know the rest.

In an apologetic departure from the type of lifeless filmmaking that made X-Men Origins: Wolverine a frustrating mess, director James Mangold brings to life an excellent examination of Logan as a character, giving vulnerability and pathos to a superhero that could become boring in the wrong hands (for example, those attached to the wrists of X-Men Origins director Gavin Hood). We come for the slicing and dicing, sure. But it’s also important for us to feel the pain of a soldier who, thanks to his mutant healing ability, has outlived everyone he cares about. Between energetic fight sequences — including an exhilarating battle atop a speeding bullet train — Mangold isn’t afraid of slowing things down to explore Logan’s human side, pulled closer to the surface by a burgeoning relationship with Mariko.

If The Wolverine is missing anything, it’s compelling villains. Aside from The Silver Samurai, a character that is more or less shoehorned into the final act, we get The Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a venomous, serpentine mutant with a set of powers that seems to expand whenever the story demands it. There’s also a slew of forgettable evil businessmen and ninjas, whose sole purpose seems to be getting dispatched by Wolverine in a suitably PG-13 manner. Granted, this movie demands faceless claw fodder, but an intriguing main antagonist would have made the third act far more focused.

In the end, The Wolverine is a worthy follow-up to X-Men: First Class, and gives fans a reason to remain hopeful for next summer’s Days of Future Past. Oh, and speaking of that upcoming X-Men sequel, be sure to stick around through the credits, bub.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Over the Lines: Reflections on Comic-Con International 2013

Yet another San Diego Comic-Con is in the books, giving geeks a whole slew of new movie announcements to pontificate and argue about until the smaller-scale hysteria of NYCC hits the Big Apple in October. From huge Marvel Studios reveals to the announcement of a Batman/Superman team-up film to the surprising buzz swirling around Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla, many of us — especially those of us who attended the chaotic convention — are experiencing the kind of sensory overload that’s usually impossible to attain legally.

Is SDCC fun and exciting? Absolutely. However, as awesome as it might be to be crammed into a convention center with 135,000 like-minded weirdos, Comic-Con in San Diego can also be one of the most frustrating experiences for a fan … and this is coming from someone that’s been to three of them in a row.

Part of that frustration — if not all of it — stems from the fact that SDCC is just too damned crowded. Getting where you want to be is an arduous task even for the most seasoned of convention-goers, and formerly mild-mannered funnybook fanatics can become downright rude in a tightly-packed swarm, especially when exclusive goods are at stake (more on that later).

In a span of five days, I’d been pushed, shoved and otherwise displaced far more often than I would have liked by those who’d neglected to pack their common courtesy in order to fit those exclusive Star Wars Angry Birds in their carry-on bag. There were innumerable kind and courteous people sprinkled throughout San Diego last week, but it’s the rude geeks that threaten to ruin a good time for everyone else.

Perhaps, though, the reason so many of us are so pushy and/or shovey at Comic-Con is the fact that full enjoyment of everything the event has to offer requires the kind of line-waiting that would make Walt Disney blush. Want that SDCC-exclusive action figure set? Well, you’d better be prepared to sleep on a sidewalk so you can wait in a line for another line that earns you a wristband that grants you access to a third queue to obtain said product if supplies last. Phew.

Oh, and forget about witnessing those aforementioned big studio announcements … Hall H is as impenetrable as Wonder Woman’s corset. In other words, don’t even think about it, fanboy.

As SDCC grows and transforms into more of an entertainment juggernaut, it’s worth asking: Is Comic-Con getting too big for its own good? This is the question that I’m mulling over as I thumb through my new stack of comics: those paper things that brought us all together in the first place.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Teaser Poster for 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Released

It’s a simple visual, but stripping the red, white and blue from Captain America’s iconic shield is pretty damned poignant. With the first teaser poster for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios is hinting at dark times ahead for the star-spangled superhero in his next solo adventure, due to hit theaters April 4, 2014. 

The House of Ideas will no doubt have plenty of Winter Soldier surprises in store next week at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Check out Marvel.com for the latest on this anticipated sequel.

The Buy Pile for July 10, 2013

San Diego’s Comic-Con International is one week away, but there was plenty of paneled pandemonium happening at comic book stores today, including the second issue of Superman Unchained, the latest installment in Scott Snyder’s Batman: Zero Year storyline and a fantastic tale in the pages of Mark Waid’s Daredevil.

Here’s the complete list of the books I’ll be reading, bagging and boarding this evening:
  • Daredevil #28
  • Savage Wolverine #6
  • Superman Unchained #2
  • Batman #22
  • Justice League #22
Although it’s only tangentially related to comic books, I’d like to take the opportunity to gush a bit about Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, which hits theaters this weekend. Yes, it’s another movie about giant robots causing property damage, but it’s hard not to look forward to witnessing del Toro running on all cylinders. I recently revisited Pan’s Labyrinth and the exceptional Hellboy II: The Golden Army, so I’m excited to see how he handles a blockbuster of this scale. Bring on the Kaiju!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Del Toro’s ‘Justice League Dark’ Could Fit into ‘Man of Steel’ Universe

Although I really don’t think Warner Bros. should even consider a Justice League Dark film until they successfully pull off a proper Justice League movie, the latest news about Guillermo del Toro’s forthcoming project project starring John Constantine and his supernatural buddies is pretty promising.

The Hellboy and Pacific Rim director told MTV that the upcoming film will likely take place in the same universe as Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, bringing DC and Warner Bros. that much closer to recreating the magic that Marvel Studios has enjoyed for the last five years.

“I think that the great thing about the Dark universe is that you have this possibility of basically creating this supernatural group, and you can play with different worlds, but I would love to see the DC Universe become as cohesive as the Marvel Universe," he told MTV. "So if there is any correlation I will honor it."

Del Toro is in the process of rewriting the outline for the as-yet-unnamed Justice League Dark film. For more info, head over to MTV.com.

The Buy Pile for July 7, 2013

Another Independence Day weekend is in the books and, hopefully, you all made it through your BBQ festivities with your fingers and your dignity intact.

In terms of comics, these are books I actually picked up on Friday, but the last three days haven’t been all that conducive to blogging. Here’s what I was reading when I wasn’t grilling, chilling, avoiding a sunburn or concocting inappropriate lyrics to popular songs around a bonfire.
  • Iron Man #12
  • Daredevil #27
  • Legends of the Dark Knight #10
  • Detective Comics #22
  • Green Lantern #22
Even though I haven’t been reading the series in its original digital form, Legends of the Dark Knight could very well be my favorite book coming out of Marvel and DC right now. Since so many mainstream titles dole out larger story arcs across multiple issues, it’s refreshing to get these self-contained Batman stories that aren’t tied to the current “New 52” continuity.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to do some shopping. Stay nerdy!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Buy Pile for June 26, 2013

Damn, that’s a lot of books.

Despite the fact that I’ve been spending a lot less cash on comics these days, it was hard to resist parting with some greenbacks when I stepped into Stamford, Conn.’s A Timeless Journey this evening on the most nerdiest of occasions: New Comics Day. With the debut issues of DC’s Batman/Superman and Larfleeze hitting the racks along with the latest installments in Marvel’s hottest series, there’s a lot to be read, dissected and complained about on the Internet over the next few days.

Here’s what I snagged, bagged and boarded this week:
  • Larfleeze #1 
  • Batman/Superman #1 
  • Justice League #21 
  • Justice League of America #5 
  • Batman: The Dark Knight #21 
  • Deadpool #12 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #4 
  • Nova #5
  • All-New X-Men #13 
  • X-Men #2
Speaking of things that make comic book geeks more excited than Wade Wilson in the back of a taco truck, Marvel has officially confirmed that Robert Downey Jr. will reprise the role of Tony Stark in the next two Avengers films! Concerns that Downey Jr. would abandon the armor after Iron Man 3 can officially be put to rest, making room for entirely new anxieties and rampant speculation about people from the funnybooks. Because that’s what we do.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

'Man of Steel' Packs Punch


Though I take many of my hairstyling tips from Lex Luthor these days, once upon a time I was a huge Superman fan. One of my most cherished toys growing up was a Kenner “Super Powers” version of The Man of Steel, I had Superman II memorized word-for-word and I even had Superman pajamas with a cape attached at the shoulders. No, I don’t still wear them.

Like many geeks — though certainly not all — my interest in Ol’ Supes waned with age. Batman’s fight against crime without the luxury of superhuman abilities interested me as I approached my teenage years, and the edgier, more youthful heroes that populated the Marvel Universe were infinitely more relatable than a nigh-invincible being from a dead planet.

It was not until the lead-up to Superman Returns back in 2006 that I had rediscovered my childhood fascination with Kal-El, a hero that represents a godlike ideal and an oft-overlooked burden: Superman can save just about anyone, but not everyone, all the time.

Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns touched on The Man of Tomorrow’s weaknesses that don’t come in the form of glowing green rocks (that would be Kryptonite), and in many ways it succeeded at humanizing one of the most superhuman characters in literature. Yet, it was Singer’s unfettered reverence toward the original Richard Donner films — the very movies that entranced me as a youth — that ultimately prevented it from finding an audience.

Flash forward seven years to the release of Man of Steel, Zack Snyder’s reboot of the dormant Superman franchise that aims to do for DC Comics’ blue-and-red boy scout what Batman Begins did for The Caped Crusader. The “gee whiz” tone of Donner’s lighthearted universe has been replaced with the “oh, s***!” spectacle of the modern Hollywood blockbuster, just as John Williams’ sweeping, romantic themes have been replaced by Hans Zimmer’s driving, percussive score.

It’s loud, it’s dark and it’s loaded with enough explosions to make Michael Bay blush. It’s also the best Superman film since 1978.

Snyder (Watchmen, 300) has gone on record in saying that he didn’t craft Man of Steel with the Donner films in mind. Rather, with Dark Knight veteran Christopher Nolan overseeing the project, the film takes us through a brazen re-telling of Superman’s origin that assumes we’re already fairly familiar with the character’s early years. Sure, we get glimpses of Clark Kent’s Smallville upbringing, but what we really want to see is Superman punching things, right? For once?

Fortunately, Snyder gives Kal-El (Henry Cavill) plenty to pummel in the form of General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his Kryptonian soldiers. You see, Superman’s dad Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sent his infant son to Earth with a codex that could preserve the Kryptonian race. Naturally, said codex is of particular interest to Zod’s forces, who were freed from imprisonment in the Phantom Zone when Krypton exploded. The bad guys make their way to Earth and intend to use the codex to rebuild Krypton, terraforming the planet and killing its current inhabitants (us) in the process.

There’s much to be said about the tremendous cast in Man of Steel, from Amy Adams’ impetuous Lois Lane to Shannon’s sneering Zod, but it’s Cavill’s Superman who truly shines. Never once doing a Christopher Reeve impression, Cavill embodies what we like about the character — namely his undying sense of duty — without trying to imitate any prior on-screen versions of the character.

Man of Steel isn’t short, clocking in at 143 minutes, but it seldom drags nor does it linger on sentimentality. The intense final act of the film is nearly nonstop action, as Superman battles Zod in a skyscraper-toppling final battle unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a superhero film. Just as Donner made us believe a man can fly, Snyder makes us believe a man can fly, punch people through buildings and level entire city blocks with his heat vision … if he wanted to, of course.

It is the conclusion of that final battle that has spurred much controversy among some circles who disagree with the way in which Kal-El ultimately deals with Zod. Without venturing into spoiler territory for those of you who haven’t seen the film, I’ll simply state that Superman does what is necessary for the greater good, and makes a difficult decision he didn’t want to make. For a character reviled for being godlike, don’t we want to see him at his most human?

Man of Steel might offend purists for its overwhelming emphasis on action and certain creative liberties taken with the character, but we’ve wanted a fresh cinematic take on Superman for decades and Snyder has finally delivered. Up, up and away.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Microsoft: Our Bad!


Microsoft hasn’t been making many friends over the past few weeks. With the unveiling of the Xbox One, the company boldly admitted that the new system will not only place restrictions on the trading and buying of used games, but will require users to sign in to Xbox Live at least once a day to play their titles. These prohibitive features of the new console spurred many longtime Xbox loyalists to pronounce their early allegiance to the PlayStation 4, which debuted last week at E3. Meanwhile, Sony’s next-gen console promises to place no such restrictions on gamers, and was announced at a $399 price point — $100 less than Microsoft’s forthcoming system.

Given the uproariously negative response to the Xbox One, the folks in The House That Bill Gates Built have now reversed their prior decisions regarding digital rights management (DRM), and have done away with the previously announced online requirements.

“We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity,” said Dan Mattrick, Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment Business. “While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.”

But is this knee-jerk reaction to the harsh criticism of Microsoft’s policies truly enough to sway gamers who have already decided to join the Sony camp this fall? Regardless, Microsoft’s backtracking at least evens the odds enough to let us focus on what really matters when the warring systems hit shelves this coming holiday season: the games themselves.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Buy Pile for June 12, 2013

If you ventured into a comic book shop today, you already know that the big “must-buy” title released this week was the inaugural issue of Superman Unchained, DC’s attempt to make The Last Son of Krypton relevant in comics for the first time since the launch of The New 52. The new book, written by Scott Snyder with pencils by Jim Lee, is a pretty good read and a promising sign of things to come for our favorite red-and-blue boy scout. Plus, with the release of Man of Steel this Friday, the timing’s just about right. It’s funny how that worked out, ya know?

Here are some other titles I’ll be bagging and boarding this evening:
  • Batman #21 (Scott Snyder/Greg Capulllo)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #3 (Brian Michael Bendis/Steve McNiven & Sara Pichelli)
  • All New X-Men #12 (Brian Michael Bendis/Stuart Immonen)
  • Iron Man #11 (Kieron Gillen/Dale Eaglesham)
In related news, not only is a Man of Steel sequel confirmed, but scribe David S. Goyer is rumored to have begun work on a Justice League screenplay! Is Warner Bros. finally on track to bring us a fully realized DC cinematic universe?

For more Man of Steel news, head over to io9.com.

Oh, Xbox One ...

One of the biggest conversations among gamers during E3 this week is the battle between Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. More accurately, those  discussions have centered on the fact that Sony scored the easiest victory in the latest console war on Monday. Its winning strategy? Not screwing up its PS4 reveal. I hope Microsoft was taking notes.

By offering users the opportunity to swap games freely and purchase used titles without restrictions—revealed to be impossibilities for owners of Microsoft’s new device—Sony won over no small amount of Xbox loyalists. The fact that Sony’s new system will cost $100 less than Microsoft’s certainly helped matters.

I’ve been a proud Microsoft gamer since the summer of 2003, when the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic inspired me to purchase the original Xbox. Over the years, and with the release of the exceptional Xbox 360, I’ve grown to love many of Microsoft’s exclusive franchises like Halo and Gears of War, never once feeling the urge to hop the fence and see what the PS3 had to offer.

Consider that fence hopped. With the PS4, I’m a PlayStation guy.

Between the aforementioned restrictions to the inherent creepiness of having the Kinect camera on at all times to the system’s reported need to connect to the Internet every 24 hours, I just don’t see the value in supporting the Xbox One at this time. Hopefully, Microsoft resolves the glaring issues with its new console, if only to level the playing field before both systems hit retail this fall. Right now, it’s looking like a landslide.

Friday, June 7, 2013

It’s a Trap! Fanboys Can’t Repel an Exclusive of This Magnitude!




And here I thought I was doing a pretty good job resisting the lure of San Diego Comic-Con exclusives this year. Gentle Giant has unveiled their new SDCC-exclusive mini-bust of Star Wars cult icon Admiral Ackbar, and it’s a little bit of incredible even if it isn’t necessarily “movie accurate.”

This mustachioed and tassled “what if?” version of our favorite Mon Calamari strategist, called “Magnitude,” is based on artwork by Steven Daily, and is currently available for pre-order at GentleGiantLtd.com.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Oh Geez, There’s a Lego Ewok Village Now



I’m not a Lego collector or anything, but it’s hard not to appreciate the work that went into designing the company’s new $250 Ewok Village set, which hits shelves in September. Since Hasbro has yet to remake the original Kenner Return of the Jedi playset — and likely never will — this might be as close of a reproduction as Star Wars fans are gonna get. It’s awesome nevertheless.

But don’t take my word for it. Take a tour of Wicket’s spacious pad by checking out the announcement video on Lego’s official YouTube channel.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A 'Pivotal Meeting' to Take Place in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past,' Plus Jennifer Lawrence Bares All


With all of the buzz surrounding Warner Bros.’ The Man of Steel and Marvel Studios’ upcoming releases, it’s easy to forget that Twentieth Century Fox is chugging along with its X-Men franchise. Later this summer we get The Wolverine — an apologetic sequel to the dismal X-Men Origins: Wolverine — and next year we get Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Singer’s return to the franchise, loosely based on the timeline-jumping comic book story arc of the same name, serves as a bridge between X-Men: First Class and the original trilogy.

In other words, the film intends rectify a muddied chronology. That’s X-Men for ya.

Earlier today, Bryan Singer tweeted out a photo from the set of the sequel, hinting at a “pivotal meeting” in the Oval Office involving Richard Nixon. I’m not a betting man, but I’m guessing the meeting could have something to do with the growing mutant menace. Fingers crossed for Sentinels, Nixon-style!

In related Days of Future Past news, Jennifer Lawrence was recently spotted exiting her trailer in her Mystique body suit and blue makeup, and although I can’t post the photos here, I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t point you in the right direction. Get an eyeful over at TMZ.

New Photos Emerge from 'The Dark World'


Dark Elf Malekith the Accursed (Chris Eccleston) looks how I feel in the new batch of Thor: The Dark World photos up now at Marvel.com. Given the outlandish characters and large-scale battles the sequel promises, it looks like we’re going to be getting that “epic” follow-up to Marvel’s The Avengers that we didn’t quite get with the more subdued Iron Man 3.

For more photos from the flick — including a look at more elves that make neither cookies nor toys — head over to Marvel.com.

Thor: the Dark World hits theaters Nov. 8.

I Never Thought I'd Say This ...

... but "Weird Al" Yankovic totally rocks in concert. I had the privilege of seeing His Weirdness at Port Chester's Capitol Theatre, and I'm more convinced than ever that many of his tunes are more iconic than the songs they parody. Also, "White & Nerdy" is still in many ways my theme song after all these years.

For more snapshots from the show, visit me on Tumblr.

Friday, May 24, 2013

YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, MEMORIAL DAY!


If you’ve been in my general vicinity for more than five minutes these days, you’ve probably noticed two things:

1) I’m quite bald in real life.

2) The Room is one of my new favorite things.

The bizarre 2003 cult film directed, written by, starring and oddly not regretted by Tommy Wiseau was introduced to me recently by coworkers, and it’s not uncommon to hear me muttering quotes from the film to myself followed by the type of unsettling chuckle typical of guys who find styrofoam peanuts to be hilarious. I’ll let you ponder whether or not I’m among them.

My obsession with the unintentionally hilarious piece of cinema has absolutely nothing to do with popular culture, which might explain why Urban Outfitters’ out-of-nowhere choice to position Tommy Wiseau as their YouTube ambassador of all things Memorial Day kind of freaks me out. And you should be freaked out too.

Stop being so “fed up with this world” and watch the video below.