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Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi Return with Ash vs. Evil Dead

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With Sam Raimi and Fede Alvarez currently hard at work on A Man in the Dark it looks unlikely that an Evil Dead sequel will be coming any time soon. Don’t fear though as Starz has just given the go ahead for a 10-episode Ash vs. Evil Dead follow-up series. Groovy Bruce Campbell will be back with a vengeance as Ash as he re-teams with director Sam Raimi and his longstanding producing partner Robert Tapert.

Having spent the last 30 years doing his utmost to avoid responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead, waning philanderer Ash finds himself forced to face his demons again when a Deadite plague threatens to destroy mankind.

Raimi, who will direct the first episode of the series, said: “Evil Dead has always been a blast. Bruce, Rob, and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the next chapter in Ash’s lame, but heroic saga. With his chainsaw arm and his ‘boomstick,’ Ash is back to kick some monster butt. And brother, this time there’s a truckload of it.”

Burn Notice fans will be well aware of his recent success as Commander Sam Axe (AKA Chuck Finley) and Campbell can’t wait to kick even more butt: “I’m really excited to bring this series to the Evil Dead fans worldwide – it’s going to be everything they have been clamoring for: serious deadite ass-kicking and plenty of outrageous humor.”

Raimi penned Ash Vs. Evil Dead  together with Ivan Raimi (Army of Darkness, Drag Me to Hell) and Tom Spezialy (Reaper, Desperate Housewives) so it certainly sounds like the series is in good hands.

STARZ plans to air the series in 2015.

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Star Wars: Rebels – Spark of Rebellion

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I never watched The Clone Wars.  There, I said it.  The idea never really did anything for me, and I’m a huge Star Wars geek that actually LIKES the prequels, but when I saw the trailer for the Clone Wars movie and saw a baby Hutt (apparently, Jabba’s son – I don’t even WANT to know how he made him!), I decided no thanks, and steered clear.  So when Star Wars Rebels was announced, I was sceptical, but the setting intrigued me, placed just 5 years before the events of Episode IV, the premise promised a much more Star Wars feel from my childhood, with the less flashy Old Republic designs and the more Imperial utilitarian feel to the ships, buildings and planets.  So I gave it a shot.

Best decision ever.

There are some great character designs.  I was expecting to find the main protagonist, Ezra, a 14-year old street urchin, to be incredibly annoying, as with most child/teenage characters, but he actually isn’t… In fact, none of them are, and each design evokes the Star Wars universe, in particular Zeb, the strong arm of the Ghost crew, who is based on a concept design for Chewbacca by the great Ralph McQuarrie.

The chase scene early in the episode is wildly entertaining, but feeling more like Indiana Jones than Star Wars, with even the soundtrack taking an Indy lilt as the titular Rebels weave their way through the city.  Speaking of the soundtrack, it is heavily reminiscient of the original trilogy’s soundtrack, taking several beats from Episode IV in particular, which helps to capture the magic and excitement of the movies.  The battle scenes throughout are just as exciting, with my fears of Disney making every skirmish with the Empire resulting in a hundred A-Team moments being completely unfounded (For those of you who don’t get that reference, then shame on you!  The A-Team was notorious for having no-one die.  A hundred bullets would be fired by the guys, but there wouldn’t be a scratch on anyone.  Cars would explode, and helicopters would fall out of the sky, but people would always get out).

The Star Wars accent game kicks in too, but instead of Asian Neimodians, we get the very, VERY English Imperials, with the higher the rank, the posher they become, but all the voice work of the principal characters is well done, feeling natural and fitting in well with the character they belong to, with the exception of a brief cameo from Obi-Wan Kenobi, which sounds like someone doing a poor impersonation of Ewan McGregor.

On the whole, if this episode shows only a small portion of what this series brings to the Star Wars table, I’ll be a very happy chappy indeed, as this might just tide me over until Episode VII’s release in December next year.

And in case you were waiting for the eye-rolling referential quote about what I thought about it;

The Force is indeed strong with this one…

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The Walking Dead – No Sanctuary

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The Walking Dead is one of the few series I’ve managed to stick with all the way through.  I never made it all the way through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, I only made it 4 episodes into Lost, and as controversial as this may be, have only seen the first two seasons of Breaking Bad.

So that alone should demonstrate just how much I like this series, and therefore just how much it pains me to say that the last season was weak tea.  The overall season arcs didn’t seem strong enough to carry the entire season and so the fourth season seemed very anaemic.

But nevertheless, after the season close with Rick and the rest trapped in Terminus inside a train carriage, I was looking forward to seeing how they were going to escape and make good on Rick’s closing words of how the residents of Terminus were going to feel stupid when they find out they’re “screwing with the wrong people”.

It seems that I wasn’t alone in my feelings of disappointment with the previous season, with a few people falling by the wayside (Greg, I’m talking to you!), and it seems that the producers and writers have either heard, or thought the same thing when approaching season 5.

From the short resolution to the predicament season 4 closed on, all the way to the end of the episode, it seemed to never let up, making for easily one of my favourite episodes since season 3… Hell, maybe even the second season.

Themeatically, the episode seems to revolve around change and the loss of humanity.  Just what does it take to survive in this particular apocalypse?  How much of your humanity do you give up in order to cease being the prey and become the predator?  What does it take to instigate the change? And possibly is there any way back?  These themes best exemplified by Rick Grimes, the former police officer and moral compass for the last four years with a single line from him “Nobody gets to live today.”, and his decision to let any fallen members of Terminus to turn.  And of course Carol, who’s evolved from abused wife to legitimate badass who could probably take on John J. Rambo.  And this is one of the strengths of this series, and a reward for anyone who’s stuck with it, to see how these characters have changed so much since their introduction.

On a final note, some friends have mentioned to me how they feel that the Terminus leader, Garrett is just a carbon copy of last season’s Governor, so I’ll say here for posterity, they couldn’t be more wrong.  The Governor was a fantastic character, driven by grief, passion and more than a little bit of insanity.  Garrett however is a different kettle of fish.  He runs Terminus clinically, dispassionately because he has to for the sake of it’s residents, and so they don’t return to being, as he says “the cattle”.  As a famous villain once said, all it takes is one bad day…

Bring on the rest of the season.  I personally cannot wait.

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Gotham – Pilot

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I love The Batman.  I’ve read the comics, played the games, watched the movies, and loved the cartoon (the one from the 90s on Saturday mornings).  I think I might’ve even eaten the shaped spaghetti pieces…

When WB announced that they were making a series centred around James Gordon, before he became commissioner and chief ally of The Dark Knight, I was curious, and a little wary.  What is The Batman without The Bat?  What is Gotham city without his adversaries?  It was this wariness that I felt when I watched the first episode of Gotham today.

There are plenty of moments that’ll give a Batman fan a grin, from a brilliant translation into live action life of Harvey Bullock, played by the suitably dour Donal Logue, to several other cameos such as Catwoman (or in this series, more like Kittengirl), Carmine Falcone, The Riddler, Poison Ivy and what I suspect will be the beginning of a weekly game of “is that going to be The Joker?”.  I particularly enjoyed Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald ‘don’t call me Penguin’ Cobblepot, with his slimy, almost perma-nervous energy giving him an slightly dangerous edge… He would’ve made a pretty good Joker…

There were several characters I remain unsure of, and some I just don’t like.  Jim Gordon seems very one-dimensional at the moment as the only honest cop, etc.  The man might as well be wearing a white hat, tin star and a couple of silver six-shooters, if they wanted to make it plainer.  Here’s hoping as the episodes continue, the writer’s will put some meat on his bones so we can engage with him more.

Alfred.  The backbone of The Batman in many ways, should have been ably performed by the usually excelleny Sean Pertwee, but I felt ultimately let down, as I compared him to previous incarnations played by Michael Gough and Michael Caine (As a sidenote, I’m interested to see how Jeremy Irons plays out in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).  One of the things I loved about Caine’s version of Alfred was how he would slip from a very prim and proper received pronunciation English, to a very warm and more human cockney accent as his concern or love for Bruce Wayne shone through.  With Gotham’s incarnation, it just seems that there’s been a cockney ragamuffin bundled into a suit.  He just doesn’t seem to be the butler type.

So onto the one scene that does need to be addressed.  Once again we yet again see the defining moment in Bruce Wayne’s life.  The mugging and murder of his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne.  For me, this has been done over and over again to the point of this being now so unnecessary, that I actually chuckled to the overdone screams of anguish from young Bruce as he knelt beside his slain parents.  Come on guys, we really don’t need to see it anymore… I think everyone in the western hemisphere and beyond knows how Bruce became Bats!!

In summary, is was OK.  Aside from a few nods to the Batman universe, this would be yet another procedural cop show alongside all the other CSIs, NCISs, Castles and all the rest.  Here’s hoping it becomes something more than that.  It certainly has the chance to become something great, despite this lackadaisical start.

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Guardians of the Galaxy TV Series: First Footage

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It’s official! The biggest movie of the year so far is now making its way to the small screen, despite producers recently claiming that a Guardians of the Galaxy series was only a rumor. Marvel’s Head of Television Jeff Loeb made the announcement at New York Comic Con this week, stating that “Everyone wants more of Star-Lord and his crew – now they’ll get it.” 

While this is only basic test footage, it’s hard to deny that the animation itself is extremely impressive. The backgrounds alone are incredibly detailed, evoking the epic tone of the film and the anime inspired style gives the animation a slick, modern look that should appeal to viewers both young and old.

Fan favorites Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon are the only characters featured in the test footage, but they’ve survived the transition from the big screen to animation seamlessly, perhaps due in part to their comic book origins. It’s obvious to anyone who’s actually seen Guardians of the Galaxy that neither Chris Pratt or Bradley Cooper voiced their characters in the clip and sadly, it’s unlikely that they will reprise their roles for the series as both are huge stars in their own right. However, another Disney XD series called Star Wars Rebels used some of the live action performers for voice roles, so it’s not completely unheard of.

Marvel fans will have to wait until 2015 to catch the Guardians of the Galaxy on Disney XD, but in the meantime, take a look at the test footage below to catch a glimpse of what lies in store for the intergalactic team.

Back in the 1990’s, Marvel ruled over the world of comic book animation with the cult success of the X-Men and Spider-Man series, but in recent years, the quality of their cartoons has decreased in direct proportion with the popularity of their feature film output. This raises three very important questions. First, will Guardians of the Galaxy match the high standard set by DC animation? Second, will the series become too child-centric or will the producers try to appeal to adults as well? And most importantly, will the Guardians of the Galaxy animation capture the irreverent tone of the live action film?   

The answers to all of these questions will become apparent in 2015, but that’s a pretty long wait, so if you’re eager to catch a glimpse of how the Guardians of the Galaxy will look as a whole team right now, check out their animated counterparts in the artwork below.

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Guardians of the Galaxy is set to premiere on Disney XD in 2015.

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Doctor Who Review: Time Heist

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While this is again an attempt at being spoiler-free.  You read this at your own risk!

 

So here we are, almost at the halfway point for the series.  With 12 episodes in this eighth series, we should be in full swing.  For the most part we are.  We’ve had the obligatory regeneration craziness, The Doctor redefining himself and who he is, the relationship between Clara and he broken down and redefined.  After the solidification of this new Doctor with last week’s episode, this week’s Time Heist should have been a belter.  Except for some reason, it fell somewhat flat for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it.  For me though, while it had all the ingredients for a really great stand-out episode of the series (I love a good heist film… Or even a rubbish one – Ocean’s Twelve springs to mind), it just felt a little underwhelming and as though there was something missing.

Maybe we’ve been spoiled with the last few series.  Grand overarching series arcs that interweave and hide in the background before popping up to make sense of scenes from previous episodes, and with this episode being co-written by Steven Moffat, then maybe this to has scenes that won’t make sense until a few more episodes down the line, but it doesn’t feel that way.

Time Heist, feels very much like a filler episode, with solid performances from the principals (Is it just me, or are they putting these little moments that show Clara’s life less and less Doctor-focussed in preparation for her rumoured departure?).  The guest cast also do a good job, with Keeley Hawes on good form as the prim and efficient Ms. Delphox, however the two other members of ‘Ocean’s 4’, Psi and Saibra, are ultimately boring, cookie-cutter characters that do not seem to be very interesting and are virtually forgotten by the time the credits have finished rolling at the end of the episode.

Maybe this episode would have been better served by being longer, or by paring down the story elements within – The Teller seeming to be a rehash/adaptation of the separated creature/mate maguffin as used in series seven’s Hide, but the creature design has to be applauded, making the Teller look fresh and interesting.

There’s also a nice couple of easter eggs to listen/watch out for, from little comments about long scarves and bow ties, to sneaky picture’s of the comic universe’s Abslom Daak and even the Gunslinger from A Town Called Mercy.

This episode is far from being weak tea, with a great little story idea that is ultimately well executed with plenty of great little moments contained within it, but feels slightly dissapointing and as though it could have been so much more than a mid-level standalone filler episode that does little to advance the series arc or characters along.

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Doctor Who Review: LISTEN

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This is an attempt at being a spoiler-free review.  I can’t promise this will be maintained!

With any new Doctor, there is a turn around the already well-documented ‘regeneration cycle’;

The outgoing Doctor announces his retirement, and a million teenagers cry out in anguish (Sci-fi was REALLY different in my day).  The new Doctor then gets announced and that then gets replied with scores of comments about them being too old, too young, etc.

Then the episodes air.  We watch them and aren’t sure.  Until one particular episode where the new Doctor finally comes into his own and shakes off his predecessor.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is that episode.

Doctor Who has always been great at picking up at the little things that set off our imaginations – Statues that move when we don’t look (Blink) and shadows that move on their own (Forests of the Dead).  Both written by current showrunner, Steven Moffatt.  The most recent episode, Listen, also written by Moffatt, has a similar premise. – Why do we talk to ourselves when we know we’re alone?

After last week’s episode (Robots of Sherwood), where The Doctor threatened to punch Robin Hood in the face, I’ve been steadily warming up to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and his child-friendly Malcolm Tuckerisms that work so well to bring this curmudgeonly, grumpy Doctor out from the shadows of Matt Smith and bring him firmly into his own.  His delightfully clueless and oblivious comments that he makes to Clara about taking her makeup off (she hadn’t) just serve to make him more interesting.

Back onto this week’s episode.  The central idea is one of the things that always set us off as kids – The thing under the bed.  The image that moves just out of the corner of your eye.  What if this was something that was real?

For me, this episode was more of a character showcase, separating the Doctor and Clara so that we can see them in action as they operate on their own, and it works.  Clara is in my opinion, a well-rounded and believable character, which has been helped by the current arrangement between her and the Doctor of her life going on as he drops in and out on her world and whisking her off, like that crazy friend that always gets you in trouble.  Their dynamic has now shifted more from the borderline romantic to a more paternal one, as well as another glimpse of one of the many times that Clara has saved The Doctor, this time when he was a boy!  Her words to him showing that The Doctor is not only afraid of the dark, but it is this fear that motivates him through his life and makes him the man he is.

Finally, the third member of this episode, Danny Pink.  Still not a lot is told about him other than what we already know and I find him to still be a bit of a caricature rather than a three-dimensional character, but hopefully that will be remedied as this season develops.

One thing is for sure though as the credits to Listen roll.   The Doctor is definitely in.

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