Review: Agent Carter explodes with action and sacrifice

AgentCartersnafuAs I was drying my tears following the dramatic conclusion of this week’s episode of Agent Carter, ‘Snafu’, all I could think about was that I wanted more. More Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, whose range and presence eats up every frame of this small-screen show that plays like a big-screen adventure. More of the fabulous, smart dialogue and fantastic supporting cast; more of the beautiful costumes and period lighting — just more! More than just next week’s season finale. If you haven’t been watching Agent Carter yet, in the name of good comic-based television I implore you: read the recaps at ABC.com, binge watch episodes 3-7 and set your DVR to ABC next Tuesday at 9pm/8c.

When we last left Agent Carter she was handcuffed to a desk at SSR, on the receiving end of what was sure to be an impassioned interrogation at the hands of Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj). So it was a surprise when ‘Snafu’ opened instead on the show’s second flashback to Russia. While the last flashback showed us a young Dottie (Bridget Regan) snapping necks in 1937, this one takes place in 1943 and concerns the whereabouts of that other Russian mole: Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown). It seems during WWII, Ivchenko was already in full command of the Professor X-like mind control powers he used to push Agent Yauch to commit suicide in last week’s episode. Here he uses them as mental anesthesia on wounded soldier undergoing an amputation.It’s an odd bit of exposition that serves only to define the mechanism of Ivchenko’s powers, which are pretty clearly articulated in later scenes.

Thankfully, the episode quickly plugs us back into the Carter vs. the SSR interrogation scene we’ve all been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Agent Sousa seeks to pin nearly all of the SSR’s unsolved mysteries on Carter’s double-agent machinations: the Raymond/Brannis/Krzeminski murders, theft of the Nitramene bombs and connection to Stark’s weapons cache.

Chief Dooley (Shea Wigham) looks on from behind a one-way mirror with Ivchenko by his side, pulling Dooley’s strings with every twist of his gold hypno-ring. Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) comments on Dooley’s “unorthodox” choice to allow the Doctor to view the proceedings; thank goodness someone is looking on with a critical eye. Sousa, blinded by his heartbreak over Carter’s perceived betrayal, lays into Carter in the most brutal way possible: crediting her defection from SSR to Howard Stark’s ability to “get in deep” with her.

Incredibly, the temperature is turned up still higher on the proceedings as the interrogation drags on. There’s some smart direction in cross-cutting the scenes of Sousa, Thompson and Dooley all taking their turns grilling Carter. It builds the tension so that when Carter unleashes her thus-far concealed opinions on their opinions of her it feels like a revelation. Rather than take umbrage at being seen as a “stray kitten” left at Dooley’s doorstep, a “secretary turned damsel-in-distress” to Thompson or Sousa’s “girl on a pedestal transformed into some daft whore,” Carter remains calm and stands firm. “You’re behaving like children,” she tells them, “what’s worse, what’s far worse, is that this is just shoddy police work!”

And this is the appeal of Agent Carter in a nutshell: using the rampant sexism of the 1940s as a cloak of invisibility for women who serve as double agents on both sides of the emerging Cold War conflict. This being a Captain America spin-off, Agent Carter is clearly the white hat: empowered by the integration of women into the war effort, now struggling to maintain her position. Dottie shows us the other side of the same coin: empowered by integration as a child into a super-spy program, she relishes in her amoral, powerful position post-war.

Jarvis (James D’Arcy) arrives with a half-baked plan to spring Carter from her interrogation with a faked Stark-confession, but only succeeds in throwing suspicion off of Carter long enough to buy them some time to try and figure out Leviathan’s endgame. Ivchenko continues his campaign of brainwashing the Chief. By acting as a mental marriage counselor to Dooley, whose marriage seems to have suffered from to his devotion to SSR, he hopes to gain his trust — and access to Stark’s weapons store. Carter soon realizes the only way out is through, and finally divulges the truth of her double-life to the SSR team. Sousa and Thompson both believe her confession, and that’s enough for Dooley to send the boys off on Dottie’s trail.

What follows is one of the best action sequences to date. Dottie smiles as each SSR Agent underestimates her: hesitating to attack as she disarms or kills them, one after the other. Her prowess leaves even Sousa speechless: as she escapes he watches her execute a controlled fall through the center of a ten-story staircase as effortlessly as if it were a jungle-gym. Meanwhile, Dooley clears the SSR lab of it’s staff with Ivchenko by his side, shopping for Stark technology. Ivchenko makes off with “Item 17″ in just in time for Dottie to appear driving the getaway car. But before they can truly get away, says Ivchenko, they must test item 17 to ensure it “still works.”

Unfortunately, before he left, the bad doctor talked the Chief into strapping on a glowing prototype vest of Stark design. Jarvis, apparently the wikipedia of bad baby technologies, explains it was intended as a heat source for troops in cold conditions. Like nearly all of the Stark bad babies, though, there’s a dangerous flaw: the self-sustaining battery invariably overheats when activated, eventually becoming an explosive device. Warning the team that Ivchenko got inside his head, the vest nears it’s boiling point and Dooley says goodbye to SSR. Wigham, Murray and Atwell play the scene for all it’s worth: wringing every bit of heartbreak from Dooley’s parting lines to both Thompson; “Tell my wife I’m sorry I missed dinner” and Carter: “Promise me you’ll get the son of a bitch that did this!” It’s a nice touch that he leaves the avenging in the hands of Carter, who knows a thing or two about Avengers. Dooley spares Carter a parting: “atta-girl!” before bravely taking a swan-dive through the office windows just in time, exploding in mid-air.

The remaining SSR team mourns the loss of Dooley before discovering that Ivchenko stole item 17 — one of the few bad babies Jarvis can’t identify. Dottie, however, knows exactly what item 17 can do as she wheels it into a movie theater concealed in a baby carriage. A twist of the knob and the device begins to emit gas. She abandons the carriage and locks the theater doors behind her as the gas begins to take effect on the unsuspecting theatergoers. They cough, then get angry and begin to fighting each other like wild animals. They scream and tear at each other, sparing no one and leaving behind a pile of bloody corpses. It seems we finally have our answer to the mystery of Finow! Ernst Mueller (Jack Conley) may have been a creepy Nazi but he wasn’t lying when he claimed the Russian soldiers had “already been torn apart” before he and his soldiers arrived on the scene. Whatever item 17 contains, it made those unlucky Russians and movie patrons tear each other apart.

More favorite moments (there were so many!):

  • I won’t pat myself on the back too hard that my earlier suspicions of the Doctor proved correct; he was so shady I rewound episode 5 to make sure I hadn’t missed him hypnotizing Carter into bringing him back to the US.
  • Funny that the episode opened on Ivchenko playing mental chess with a wounded soldier; wonder how he’d fair against Magneto
  • “Howard Stark has never scrambled my mind or any other part of me!” Oh Peggy, you slay me!
  • Bravo to Bridget Regan, who can even make buying a baby carriage effectively sinister
  • All the switchboard ladies of the SSR telephone center giving a collective “ooh” at Jarvis’ claim to have a signed confession from Stark
  • Hayley Atwell breaking my heart with: “just wanted a second chance at keeping him safe.”
  • The moral of the story is: always look for street parking!

Playstation offers up a “Behind the Scenes” look at Powers

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For those excited about the upcoming Playstation Network debut of Powers, the live action adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming‘s superhero procedural, here’s an 8 minute featurette detailing how the production came to be and lots of new footage.

Powers, which stars Sharlto Copley and Susan Heyward, will be the Playstation Network’s first original series. It should make for a fascinating experiment for the network going forward, particularly to see how many viewers opt to pay the per-episode rate rather than get a Playstation Plus subscription.

Powers will be available on PSN starting March 10th.

The first three Daredevil episode titles and directors are revealed

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According to the British Board of Film Classification, we now have the first three episode titles for Marvel and Netflix’s soon to be released Daredevil.

Here they are, along with the directors who will take on each episode (via CBM):

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Phil Abraham has directed 14 episodes of my favorite series on television, Mad Men, along with some work on Orange is the New Black and Ray Donovan, among others.

Adam Kane, who helms episode 3, is most recently known for his work on Hannibal.

These are some very stylized choices, and while it should be a big surprise given most of Netflix’s original output, it’s likely that Daredevil will have more of a cinematic quality than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Carter. Given the collective $200 million budget for these Netflix series that Disney has invested, I’d be disappointed otherwise. Either way, Mad Men and Hannibal are two of the best looking shows in the medium, so the right talent is definitely in place.

Once again, here’s the synopsis for Daredevil, with all 13 episodes hitting the streaming network on April 10th:

Marvel’s Daredevil follows the journey of attorney Matt Murdock, who in a tragic accident was blinded as a boy but imbued with extraordinary senses. Murdock sets up practice in his old neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, New York where he now fights against injustice as a respected lawyer by day and masked vigilante at night.

 

Kodi Smit-McPhee cast as Nightcrawler in X-Men: Apocalypse

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Didn’t I tell you to follow Bryan Singer‘s Instagram?

Late last night, the X-Men: Apocalypse director announced another piece of news regarding the production: the casting of Kodi Smit-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Let Me In) as Nightcrawler.

It was really only a matter of time before one of Singer’s favorite mutants re-appeared, as the director almost included a Nightcrawler scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but scrapped it at the last minute.

Smit-McPhee joins new cast additions Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, and Alexandra Shipp in playing a younger version of a role previously cast by Singer. In this instance, he will be taking over for Alan Cumming, who was one of the stand-outs of X2: X-Men United.

This isn’t Smit-McPhee’s first shot at the X-Men Universe, as he was originally cast as Young Logan in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but dropped out to instead film The Road. He clearly dodged a bullet, hopefully his good senses have remained and it’s a good omen for Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse opens on May 27, 2016.

Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar is coming to TV

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The story of Vanth Dreadstar, and his struggle to end the intergalactic war between The Church of Instrumentality and the Monarchy, is coming to television; with Jim Starlin teaming with Universal Cable Productions and Benderspink to do it, per THR.

Dreadstar was a 64 issue series created by Starlin for Marvel’s Epic imprint, its initial trailblazing creator-owned line that published Dreadstar as its very first title. After 26 issues, the title was moved over to First Comics, the home of Howard Chaykin‘s American Flagg!. Starlin left the book with Issue #41, with Peter David and Angel Medina taking over creative duties through its then final installment. A 6 issue mini-series was published by Malibu Comics’ Bravura imprint in the 90’s.

At one point, Starlin’s creation was headed to the big screen with Illuminati Entertainment teaming up with Benderspink. But, in light of the latter’s collaboration with UCP in adapting Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham‘s Five Ghosts for Syfy, the dramatic long-form potential of a weekly series probably proves a better bet.

Here’s Starlin on the big announcement:

I consider Dreadstar to be an extension of my family, so it took me a while to feel comfortable letting anyone else take care of this project. It has taken some time, but I know I’ve put my trust in the right team and I’m excited to collaborate with Universal Cable Productions and Benderspink to bring Dreadstar‘s unique brand of chaos to television.

Starlin is penning the initial script and will executive produce the series along with Ford Gilmore (Catacombs). Starlin and Gilmore were represented by attorney Harris Miller.

No network is currently attached to the project.

This is incredibly exciting news, and it’s fantastic to see one of comics most influential creators getting the Hollywood love he’s long deserved. Between this and the lead-up to Avengers: Infinity War, I can’t wait for the tidal wave of Starlin material and press focus that’s sure to come.

Entertainment Round-Up: Deadpool Casting Call, Johnson interviews Nolan, Downey Talks Civil War

INTERSTELLAR

If you had the day off yesterday, we hope you had a lovely Presidents Day! Here are a few of the big headlines of interest making the rounds this morning…

– There’s a Deadpool Casting Call that appeared on Casting247, under the fake-title of “WHAM!”, and has led to speculation as to which roles these place-holder names represent. As I’ve said before, my X-Men knowledge is awful, but people better in the know think that “Ridge” is at least Garrison Kane, the villain of the film.

The Dark Knight trilogy director Christopher Nolan sat down with Looper and Star Wars Episode VIII director Rian Johnson for a 30 minute interview regarding last year’s Interstellar at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. It’s a pretty great, lengthy chat for anyone interested in the art of filmmaking. (recording made available via SoundCloud user TheBigKahoona)

Robert Downey Jr. was interviewed by Empire regarding Captain America: Civil War, and states that the lead-up to the new Captain America sequel is in Avengers: Age of Ultron:

The clues are in Ultron about where we might find [Stark] next, but what would it take for Tony to completely turn around everything he’s stood for, quote-unquote, because he was the right-wing guy who could still do his own thing. The idea of Tony being able to march into Washington and say, ‘I’ll sign up’, wouldn’t have made sense if the political climate in the real world hadn’t shifted the way it has. It’s a little bit of things following a real world continuum in, ‘What would you do?’ You have to figure, ‘Were you to ask the question, what would the American government do if this were real? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Tony doing something you wouldn’t imagine?’

Bryan Singer has posted another tease for the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, this time a piece of production art that shows…something. If you’re on Instagram, it’s worth following Singer’s posts, as he shares a ton of info via his account.

Some production art. #XmenApocalypse #GrantMajor I was a little busy but will continue to snap more.

A photo posted by Bryan Singer (@bryanjaysinger) on

Gina Carano joins Deadpool cast, Colossus to appear

gina carano

And we were just talking about Deadpool yesterday…

Former mixed martial artist and Haywire star Gina Carano has signed on to the Ryan Reynolds starring X-Men spin-off. THR has relayed that she’ll be playing a character named Angel Dust, and while my X-Men universe knowledge is deplorable, I understand she’s a part of the Morlocks.

It was only a matter of time before one of these superhero flicks picked up Carano, whose action chops are impeccable.

Additionally they report that T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) is in place for a comic relief role, and that Colossus will also be returning for the picture. There’s no indication whether or not Daniel Cudmore will still be playing him, but fans of the character have to be a little excited that there’s a chance he’ll get some of the spotlight finally.

Here’s their description of the film, directed by Tim Miller and scheduled to open on February 12, 2016:

Reynolds is an assassin who is dying of cancer who undergoes a procedure that is supposed to cure him but ends up twisted and scarred while also imbued with super-powers.

 

Report: Joel Kinnaman may replace Tom Hardy in Suicide Squad

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Per The Wrap, Warner Bros may finally be on the verge of casting a new Rick Flagg for their super-villain establishing feature Suicide Squad.

According to their report, the studio is looking at Robocop remake star Joel Kinnaman to step into the role recently vacated by Tom Hardy. Hardy left the production citing scheduling concerns with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant and his upcoming promotional work for Mad Max: Fury Road. Though, there have been some reports that Hardy was also unhappy with his amount of screen-time in David Ayer‘s film.

Regardless, the studio is moving forward and it sounds like they’re on Plan C right now, as Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t pan out either.

Kinnaman is a capable enough actor and given how the role has apparently shrunk a good deal since the casting of Jared Leto as the Joker, a less big name probably makes sense here.

If he signs up for the film, he’ll be joining Leto, Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, Cara Delevigne as Enchantress, and potentially Viola Davis as Amanda Waller.

Suicide Squad is scheduled to open on August 5, 2016.

 

Can a fan-led branding campaign save Constantine?

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When people talk about saving John Constantine, usually it’s a hopeless task, as the scouser magician’s soul has long been consigned to hell for his many sins on earth. But another campaign to save Constantine is under way—and this time it’s fans attempting to keep his TV show going past a 13 episode commitment despite middling ratings.

Arrested Development has plans for a fifth season on Netflix, Twin Peaks will see you on Showtime twenty-five years from the 1991 series finale, and Yahoo Screen will bring Community closer to its promise of #sixseasonsandamovie, airing new episodes this spring. It’s a golden age of fan campaigns with the ability to resurrect dead and mostly-dead shows with measurably vocal fan bases. It’s a golden age fans of NBC’s Constantine are counting on, as the last of the series’ 13 episode initial run airs this Friday, February 13 at 10pm. The network has halted any further production on the show, prompting fans to organize on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag #saveconstantine in support of its renewal — whether on NBC or another network entirely.

Fan campaigns to save television shows are nothing new, with the late sixties fan campaign to save the Star Trek original series largely credited as the first of its kind. Still, there does seem to be a trend in the growing power of fan campaigns to have an impact on programming, even those who represent much smaller audience shares than the high-profile efforts of yesteryear, prompting fledgling networks to pick up where network and even cable channels have left off.

Constantine - Season 1

So what does all this mean for fans of Constantine, starring Matt Ryan as trench-coated demon hunter John Constantine? Do they feel a campaign to save the show, based on the long-running DC/Vertigo series Hellblazer, has a better chance of being saved now than it would have 10 years ago? “They definitely are more successful — especially with social networking being the way it is,” said Breanna Conklin, who has been active in the campaign to #saveconstatine since NBC confirmed in late November they would stop production on the series. “I am in a few nerd groups on facebook. You’re able to spread the word to like minded folks and your friends within a few seconds. Social media gives awareness that wasn’t available to us ten years ago.”

The #saveconstantine effort began to gain momentum when a slick-looking website, saveconstantine.com, went up in December. In addition to links to the petition and fan communities, saveconstantine.com offers a detailed description of the importance of the recently introduced Twitter TV ratings model from newly-formed group, Nielsen Social. An off-shoot of the more traditional Nielsen ratings, Nielsen Social “identifies, captures and analyzes conversation on Twitter in real time for every program aired across over 250 of the most popular U.S. television networks, including Spanish language networks, as well as over 1,500 brands” according to the company website.

The challenge for Constantine fans is to ensure that their awareness of the need to campaign for the continued life of the series is leveraged in a way that speaks both to NBC and their advertisers. It’s not enough to simply prove there’s interest in Constantine from the hallowed 18-49 age demographic; advertisers need to ensure that ad placements can actually have an impact on that demographic. As television consumption proliferates on an increasingly diverse group of content platforms, strong same-day viewing ratings don’t necessarily show advertisers that their ads will be seen instead of fast-forwarded on a DVR viewing post-broadcast.

It’s a challenge the organizers of the #saveconstantine effort hope to meet by being better educated on the increasingly complex world of network tv ad buys. “It’s a big group effort,” said Allison Gennaro, one of the campaigns many organizers. A fan of the Hellblazer comics, Gennaro became involved in the campaign upon hearing “NBC had capped the airing to just 13 [episodes],” which she took to mean the show was “in trouble” but also that the “ratings might not be meeting the NBC demo of choice.” Hoping to convince NBC not to cancel the series, the #saveconstantine organizers publicized a petition for the show to get a second season across social media platforms in late November. The petition cites a “38% bump in the ratings and an 87% viewer retention rating (after Grimm) with the introduction of The Spectre” as evidence of the viability of the series which currently boasts over 20,000 signatures.

The description on saveconstantine.com explains the impact live tweeting Constantine episodes can have on the Twitter TV ratings. The site believes the live tweets “denote that a show has a consistent and loyal audience,” and may show advertisers they “are being rewarded for their investment in the network…so if you want to save Constantine, please watch, tell your friends, and tweet.” Gennaro cultivated a group of Constantine fans through a mailing list to help push the #saveconstantine hashtag and live tweet campaign. “We even threw Friday night twitter parties before the show to trend and gain attention,” she said.

Fan campaigns of the past relied on letter writing, placing ads in trade magazines like Variety, even buying billboards to plead for their respective shows. While Constantine fans have also employed letter writing and email to NBC executives in this campaign, their informed approach in targeting advertisers and leveraging their consumer power is in step with more recently successful ‘save our show’ campaigns. In 2009, Wendy Farrington began a campaign to save another NBC series with supernatural overtones: Chuck. Her game-changing approach acknowledged the fact that the show enjoyed better ratings on off-network viewing platforms and galvanized fans of the series to support a major advertiser of the show, Subway.

According to a 2014 article by Christina Savage for Transformative Works and Cultures, which examined fan-run ‘save our show’ campaigns, on the day of Chuck’s season finale hundreds of fans went to their local Subway and bought a $5 foot-long sandwich featured on the series via product placement. They then left behind comment cards explaining their purchase was in support of Chuck. Savage explained that by “focusing on Chuck as a business transaction, fans used their knowledge of the industry” to support their effort. Shortly thereafter, NBC ordered 13 more episodes of the series. Savage wrote: “co-chairman of NBC Ben Silverman said that this campaign was one of the most creative he had seen, and as a result, Subway would increase its presence within the show.”

John Constantine may not eat at Subway, but fans of the demon exorcist are invoking similar brand marketing powers with their #saveconstantine efforts. Only this time, the fans themselves are the product. By targeting Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings specifically, Constantine fans “become valuable social ambassadors for programmers and advertisers alike as they amplify content and messaging through their social spheres,” Nielsen Social wrote in a an article posted in September. But will it be enough to push NBC to order another season of Constantine? Could it make the show attractive enough to warrant a rumored move to sister-network Syfy, which has released several high-profile interviews with network executives seeking to return the channel to it’s Sci-fi/fantasy genre roots? NBC president Jennifer Salke told IGN in January that “we wish the show [Constantine] had done better live. It has a big viewership after [it airs] in all kinds of ways and it has a younger audience, but the live number is challenging.”

We spoke with Dr. Balaka Basu, a professor specializing in pop culture and fan studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte about the viability of the type of campaign #saveconstantine is waging. “Campaigns helped to save Chuck and Roswell, and gave Firefly fans closure in the less-than-successful Serenity,” she said. “ I think the key was demonstrating an understanding of how television economy works. With Chuck, for instance, fans literally gave their monetary support to the chain sandwich shop Subway…this demonstrates a comprehension of the relationship between advertisers and television producers.”

Fans like Miguel Gonzalez Cabañas, who lives in Madrid, show the global reach of the #saveconstantine fan efforts. He calls Constantine “the best series with a paranormal plot” on television. He, along with Allison, Breanna and the thousands of other fans who make up the campaign to #saveconstantine will be redoubling their efforts tonight: tweeting their support for the show before, during and after the season finale. But beyond the comic book fanbase, beyond charismatic lead Matt Ryan or the show’s arcane mythology: what is it about Constantine, or any other fan-campaigned series, that produces this kind of fan advocacy? “Whether it’s a show like Constantine, where many fans came into the show already in love with the character,” says Dr. Basu, “or shows like Buffy and Angel, where they were allowed to fall in love over the duration of the show, it’s really when the characters feel like real people that you don’t want your relationship with them to end, ever. And that’s been true since the days of Star Trek.”

 

Entertainment Round-Up: Suicide Squad, Deadpool, and Sam Hamm Returns!

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It’s almost the end of the week, so let’s gather up a few more of today’s entertainment headlines:

– While on the press circuit promoting their new film, Focus, Will Smith and Margot Robbie discussed with USA Today the casting situation with the now-vacant Rick Flagg role in David Ayer‘s Suicide Squad:

Robbie: This happens all the time. People act like, ‘Oh my god, the movie must be ending!’ It’s just the deal with movies.” Not to mention “a lot of the characters haven’t been portrayed before so it’s a pretty big undertaking. And it’s a big undertaking for the people who are going to play the characters who have been played, like the Joker (to be played by Jared Leto). It’s big shoes to fill.

Smith:  Ayer “turned the screenplay in before Christmas. What happens is Hollywood shuts down. But he was still working and he wanted to (start shooting) April 13th. So it takes a couple weeks to gear back up at the top of the year and people have taken (other) movies. He’s moving really quickly.

A few days ago, Umberto Gonzalez over at Latino-Review stated on Twitter that the Rick Flagg casting may be announced this week. We still have a day to go, so it’s possible that we may see some resolution there. I’m going to throw my money on Joel Edgerton, but it’s probably just because I just saw Zero Dark Thirty again on FX last night.

Ryan Reynolds took to twitter today and celebrated being one year out from the release of 2016’s Deadpool, teasing fans with the mask that will be used in the upcoming film:

 

The fact that they’re even using a mask is cause for some celebration.

– It’s been some time since Sam Hamm had last been on the scene. The Tim Burton Batman, Monkeybone, and one-time Watchmen screenwriter’s most recent on-screen credit was for an episode of Masters of Horror about ten years ago. That all changes today, as Viz Entertainment has announced that Hamm will be adapting Sayuri Ueda‘s short story The Street of Fruiting Bodies, which originated in the Phantasm Japan anthology, into a feature-length film. That anthology, it’s worth noting, comes from the same imprint (Viz Media’s Haikasoru) as All You Need Is Kill, which was eventually adapted into last year’s Edge of Tomorrow.

Viz describes the story in detail:

The Street of Fruiting Bodies depicts the sudden spread of a mysterious and lethal species of hallucinogenic mushroom. The infestation is deadly, but it also offers visions of deceased loved ones to the infected, hinting at the reality of an afterlife, or at least a new kind of existence that is beyond human comprehension.

Hamm elaborates on the project:

Ueda creates a world in which the most profound human emotions – love, grief, longing, and hope – can lead to one’s salvation or one’s undoing, and the true horror is that it may be impossible to tell the difference. ‘The Street of Fruiting Bodies’ is not only disturbing, it is moving.

– Lastly, do you have $375 bucks to spare? Then you can be the owner of this pretty stunning looking Ultron Figure from Hot Toys/Sideshow Collectibles, expected to ship in early 2016.

Kirkman and Azaceta’s Outcast is headed to Cinemax

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After The Walking Dead became a massive hit for AMC, it was only a matter of time before another network came calling for Robert Kirkman. This time around it’ll be Cinemax, as Variety reports that the premium channel just picked up his and Paul Azaceta‘s Image series Outcast for a full series order.

Patrick Fugit (Gone Girl, Almost Famous) stars in this 10 episode series centered on a young man who sets off to find answers as to why he’s been possessed by demons since he was a child. Philip Glenister co-stars as the evangelist who assists him.

The initial pilot has already been filmed and was directed by Adam Wingard, who you may know best as the filmmaker behind last year’s The Guest (a really fun film) and 2013’s You’re Next. The pilot’s script was written by Kirkman.

There’s no word on when the series will see an air date, but given the timing and the status of the pilot, it’s quite possible that it debuts as early as the Fall of this year.

Will this be enough to get you to subscribe to Cinemax if you haven’t already?

Your first “Behind The Scenes” look at Spectre

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Wasn’t Skyfall just the best?

I know there are a few people that disliked the walk back into Bond’s past from the slightly grittier first two Daniel Craig offerings, but beyond that, its hard to deny the technical marvel that was Sam Mendes‘ first foray into the adventures of 007.

With the sequel, Spectre, just around the corner, the production team has released a fun little Behind the Scenes vignette to whet your appetite a bit:

Here’s the official synopsis for the film, which releases on November 6th and stars Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Andrew Scott, Naomie Harris, and Rory Kinnear:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

 

What?!? When!?!: Your Updated Comics Cinema Calendar, February 2015 Edition

pixels3Here’s the updated dance card for superhero movies, selected animated films, and geek-centric films.

Updates are in bold.

2/13/2015 Kingsman: The Secret Service Fox
5/1/2015 The Avengers: Age of Ultron Marvel
6/19/2015 Inside Out Pixar
7/10/2015 Mininons Universal
7/17/2015 Ant-Man Marvel
7/24/2015 Pixels Sony/Columbia
8/7/2015 The Fantastic Four Fox
8/14/2015 Underdogs (Metegol) Weinstein
10/23/2015 Jem and the Holograms Universal
11/6/2015 The Peanuts Movie Fox
11/25/2015 The Good Dinosaur Pixar
12/18/2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Disney
Unknown 2015 Popeye Sony
     
     
Unknown 2016 Untitled Lego Movie Warners
2/12/2016 Deadpool Fox
3/4/2016 Zootopia Disney
3/25/2016 Batman v Superman DCE
5/6/2016 Captain America: Civil War Marvel
5/27/2016 X-Men: Apocalypse Fox
6/3/2016 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 Paramount
6/17/2016 Finding Dory Pixar
7/8/2016 ??? (Was Doctor Strange) Marvel
7/8/2016 Star Trek 3 Paramount
7/22/2016 Power Rangers Lionsgate
8/5/2016 Suicide Squad DCE
8/5/2016 Untitled Smurfs Movie Sony
8/19/2016 Kubo and the Two Strings Focus/Laika
9/23/2016 Ninjago Warners
10/7/2016 Gambit Fox
10/7/2016 Monster High Universal
11/4/2016 Doctor Strange Marvel
11/18/2016 HP: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Warners
11/23/2016 Moana Disney
12/16/2016 Untitled Star Wars Disney
     
Unknown 2017 Wonder Woman DCE
Unknown 2017 Justice League, Part One DCE
Unknown 2017 Lego Batman Warners
2/10/2017 Untitled Warner Animation Group Project Warners
3/3/2017 Untitled Wolverine Fox
3/10/2017 Captain Underpants Dreamworks
4/14/2017 Ghost in the Shell Disney
5/5/2017 Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Marvel
5/26/2017 Untitled LEGO Movie Warners
6/2/2017 The Fantastic Four 2 Fox
6/16/2017 Toy Story 4 Pixar
6/23/2017 Untitled DC DCE
7/7/2017 Pirates Of The Caribbean 5 Disney
7/28/2017 Unititled Spider-Man Sony/Marvel
11/3/2017 Thor: Ragnarok Marvel
11/17/2017 Untitled DC DCE
11/22/2017 Untitled Pixar Animation Pixar
     
Unknown 2018 Flash DCE
Unknown 2018 Aquaman DCE
Unknown 2018 Lego Movie 2 Warners
Unknown 2018 HP: Fantastic Beasts Warners
2/9/2018 Untitled Warner Animation Group Project Warners
3/9/2018 Untitled Disney Animation Disney
3/23/2018 Untitled DC DCE
5/4/2018 Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 Marvel
5/25/2018 Untitled Warner Animated Film Warners
6/15/2018 Untitled Pixar Animation Pixar
7/6/2018 Black Panther Marvel
7/13/2018 Untitled Fox / Marvel Fox / Marvel
7/27/2018 Untitled DC DCE
11/2/2018 Captain Marvel Marvel
11/16/2018 Untitled WB Event Film Warners
11/21/2018 Untitled Disney Animation Disney
     
Unknown 2019 Shazam DCE
Unknown 2019 Justice League Part Two DCE
4/5/2019 Untitled DC DCE
5/3/2019 Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 Marvel
5/24/2019 Untitled Warner Animated Film Warners
6/14/2019 Untitled DC DCE
7/12/2019 Inhumans Marvel
     
Unknown 2020 Cyborg DCE
Unknown 2020 Green Lantern DCE
Unknown 2020 HP: Fantastic Beasts Warners
4/3/2020 Untitled DC DCE
6/19/2020 Untitled DC DCE
11/20/2020 Untitled WB Event Film Warners
     
UNKNOWN Sinister Six Sony

Dwayne Johnson dishes a bit about Black Adam

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While Marvel Studios is making news of fairly unprecedented proportions, its most likely challenger for king of the Superhero Movie mountain, Warner Bros, has been quiet in recent weeks.

Sure, we know that after a three year long absence from the big screen, the studio will be rolling out their two big universe establishing properties in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad in 2016, but what can we expect after that? Other than titles, a few stars, and a director; details are relatively slim.

Dwayne Johnson, star of Shazam! (one of the later films of the DC Comics-based slate), was able to shed a little light on his character, Black Adam, in a recent interview with Total Film (via GamesRadar):

I think Black Adam is going to grow into becoming an anti-hero…It’s all written within the spirit of respecting and paying homage to the comics. As we know, Black Adam started out as a slave. When he’s given the powers, he utilized them. Then in the wake of his powers, tragedy strikes, which turns his sentiment and tone in terms of psychology.

Not surprisingly, it sounds as though scriptwriter Darren Lemke (Jack the Giant Slayer) is taking some cues from the popular Geoff Johns version of the character.

But what about the actual in-universe continuity between Shazam! and the rest of the DC films? There had been some concern that, since New Line was co-producing, Billy Batson’s first big screen adventure in over 70 years might not even take place in the same universe as Zack Snyder‘s Justice League. Johnson addressed this as well:

It was all agreed that the worlds are all interconnected… One day you will see Black Adam go at it with Superman or Batman or any of the DC characters. But that said, there’s a great independence to Black Adam from the DC world, allowing us to inject, not only viciousness, but also winking humour.

Shazam! is scheduled to open on April 5, 2019.

Matthew Vaughn wants to make Kick-Ass 3 and a Hit Girl prequel

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While on the press circuit for this weekend’s release of Kingsman: The Secret Service (review), Matthew Vaughn discussed with JoBlo the possibility of returning to another Mark Millar property: the Kick-Ass series, of which he directed the first entry:

Do you know what’s going to be next if I do it… we’ve finished plotting it. What we have to do is, we’ve got to do the First Class to the Kick-Ass world. We lost a few fans on Kick-Ass 2. It wasn’t as loved as one would’ve hoped. So we have this idea for a Hit Girl prequel. It’s a really strong, really simple prequel where I think we can regain the love and the passion. If that happens, I’m pretty sure I can persuade Aaron and Chloe to come back and finish the story of Kick-Ass with Kick-Ass 3.

Saying Kick-Ass 2 wasn’t as loved as he would have hoped is a bit of an understatement, though to be fair, the second entry was directed by Jeff Wadlow, whereas Vaughn stepped back to produce. For those who really loved the initial Kick-Ass, perhaps Vaughn’s enthusiasm is a welcome turn?

Additionally, Vaughn mentions that The Raid helmer Gareth Evans had been in discussions for the Hit Girl film, which is certainly a choice that makes some amount of sense given the hyper-violent world those films present.

The Jig is up for Agent Carter

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Peggy kisses a girl. Dottie kills the dentist. Ivchenko has a hypnotic ring.

Oh yeah, spoilers to follow.

With only two episodes left to go, Agent Carter is building toward a fairly serious implosion at SSR headquarters. The momentum of episode 6, A Sin to Err, was primarily pushing towards Carter’s ass-kicking escape from her fellow SSR agents, who have identified her as the girl in the blonde wig. After her cover was blown, things were still mostly going well for Carter – she and Jarvis took down a diner full of SSR agents in a rather jaunty fight scene, complete with punchy music. Carter used her magical combination of violence and goodwill with her co-workers to escape, headed back to her own apartment – where everyone was looking for her – and still managed to evade the authorities, thanks to some theatrics and lies from her neighbor Angie, who kept her safe.

The theme of the week seemed to be women being underestimated, unsuspected vehicles for espionage.

So, fittingly, after Carter’s multiple escapes, Dottie managed to use Carter’s knock-out lipstick formula to incapacitate her with a kiss in the hallway. I’m not sure why she first had to kiss Carter, and then try to stab her with a pointy object, except oh right I am sure because it’s television and Hayley Atwell is gorgeous. I  can’t even blame them for falling into that trope. The SSR agents show back up right as Carter falls and take her into custody, and the episode closes with Carter in cuffs.

Though this was still a solid episode, and the action and plot movements were there, I couldn’t help feel like there was a lot of mustachio-twirling silliness this week that held it back from being a stellar one.  Aside from the they-couldn’t-help-themselves-if-we-have-a-hot-spy-woman-she’ll-kiss-another-hot-spy-woman, we had:

  • Pretty much every scene with Ivchenko. SSR thought they’d captured a valuable asset in Ivchenko, but it turns out he’s basically a double agent. He’s also a psychological mastermind with level 20 persuasion and a weird ring that makes people do whatever he tells them to do. So they put him in a room with a low-level redshirt for supervision. Basically, I hated all of these parts.
  • Dottie killing a dentist in an office opposite of SSR so that she can point a sniper rifle at Ivchenko. But – gotcha! Instead of using the rifle, she uses its reflective light to communicate with him.
  • Ivchenko uses hand signals to communicate back to her, and she goes to the trouble of writing down everything he says for the camera, in English. It says kill Peggy Carter. Dun-dun-dun.

The above is where the episode just felt a little too silly for me. Without Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy, Agent Carter wouldn’t be half the caliber that it is, and it’s never clearer than it is in this thread.

Meanwhile, in a plot thread that could have been equally silly but ended up being my favorite of the episode, prior to her capture, Carter teams back up with Jarvis to review a full list of the women Stark has been sleeping with over the last six months, presuming at least one of them will have been a Leviathan agent bred out of the Black Widow program they discovered overseas. Because what better way to get information from Howard Stark than an attractive woman?  Jarvis is uncomfortable, Carter is disgusted – these are what these characters do best, and it’s great.

Nitpicking aside, a middling episode of Agent Carter is still a pretty damn good episode relative to its competition. Tracking tweets this week, it appears that a small campaign has emerged to drum up more interest in keeping the show around for a second season, in spite of its declining ratings.

#RenewAgentCarter. I’m still on board.