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!?


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)