Friday, April 25, 2008

FanBoyWonder Cinema—Iron Man

Next week, fanboy film season formally kicks off with the May 2 release of Iron Man, starring Robert Downey Jr. as the title character.

Here’s the Upshot from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios: Oscar ® nominee Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the story of a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, using his intelligence and ingenuity, Stark builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity.

When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, Stark dons his powerful armor and vows to protect the world as Iron Man. The film also stars Oscar ® winner Gwyneth Paltrow and Oscar ® nominees Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges and is directed by Jon Favreau.

FanBoyWonder has been digging the slow but steady buzz around this picture. We’ve been quite impressed by what we’ve seen in the trailer but our enthusiasm is tempered by the memory of two summers ago when both X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Returns both boasted visually appealing, if narratively misleading, preview trailers of films that utterly failed to deliver when the house lights dimmed for the full-length film.

Nonetheless, we’re hopeful that we just may have a winner in Iron Man. Why? Because even as we’ve acknowledged that looks (and previews) can be deceiving, director Jon Favreau gives every appearance of having gotten the memo—that to make a good comic book motion picture, it’s character, character, character, THEN the funky super-powers.

As we’ve noted before, we like the selection of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark as they are a lot alike in many ways. Both brilliant talents in their own right who suffer from the demon of addiction—in the comics Tony Stark is a recovering alcoholic. In life, RDJ is a recovering addict of booze, drugs and being a Hollywood ass.

From what we understand, Favreau won’t be dealing with Stark’s substance abuse in this movie but it’s definitely potential for the sequel, assuming all goes well opening weekend. If they simply just adapted the classic Demon in a Bottle storyline for the screen, they would have a dead-bang character driven winner.

We are also encouraged by the reported cameo of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the upcoming Incredible Hulk, staring Edward Norton and in theatres June 13 (we’ll be doing our own separate Hulk write-up another time).

With Downey’s cameo in Norton’s picture, it would seem to be a statement that Iron Man and the Hulk exist in the same motion picture universe. Dare we hope that an Avengers picture might not be too far behind?

Other films that FanBoyWonder is looking forward to this summer—Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in theatres May 22 and of course, long awaited, much anticipated sequel Batman Begins—The Dark Knight, in theatres July 18.

Like (Stan) the man said…EXCELSIOR!…and we’ll see you…at the movies.

UPDATE--April 27: Iron Man director Jon Favreau told Comics Continuum that he already has ideas for an Iron Man sequel.

"I think Mandarin, for sure. I think War Machine, for sure," Favreau said during the Iron Man press junket in New York City on Sunday afternoon.

"I think you've got to go with War Machine. You've got to give Terrence (Howard, who plays James Rhodes) more to do. He really had to be patient in this one. He could have been Tony Stark if you wanted to go against the grain from what was in the books."

Howard was the first key actor cast in Iron Man, and like Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), was signed for three films.

"Once you break him out of the role he was relegated to in this one, I think he could go toe-to-toe with Robert and it could really be a cool buddy story," Favreau said. "And then you need some big bad guys and I think the bad guys are going to be tech-based for the most part."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Battlestar Galactica—The Ties That Bind

(Oh My Gods! They killed Cally! You Frakers!!!!!!! )

A quick aside before we get rolling—FanBoyWonder would like to shout out a quick thanks to Joy and Cheryl and Diane who took the time to stop in to FBW’s Washington, D.C. workplace and take us out to a nice meal during a business lunch yesterday.

In the midst of conversation, in-between the explanation of their company’s business model and the state of the mortgage finance market, Cheryl confessed that her husband also was a devoted Battlestar Galactica fan. So this one is for Cheryl and the guy of obvious taste and sophistication to whom she is married. Thanks again for lunch ladies.

Now then…let’s get it on.

The Upshot From Sci-Fi Channel: With Kara Thrace commanding a skeleton crew aboard the Demetrius on a lonely search for Earth, political intrigue and marital discord aboard the Galactica are paralleled by deep rifts in the Cylons' solidarity.

We’re still stunned at the death of the much beloved Cally Tyrol who had been among our most favorite supporting characters since the original 2003 BSG mini-series.

The Gods honest truth is that we had accidentally happened upon a spoiler in the run up to Season 4 where we heard that Cally (Nicki Clyne) would suicide early in the season. Yet, even knowing it was coming, we were NOT prepared for the plot twist that came during the moment of decision.

We’ll get back to Cally’s tragic death but first the other aspects of the episode out of the way.

It would seem that the Password for this week’s episode is—“division.” Whether it be humans or Cylons or Cylons that thought they were human, it seems that everybody has to be at odds with somebody during this episode.

Here’s the short version of What The Frak’s Going On: The Cylons are officially in the midst of a civil war, the “final four” Cylons it turns out are not all for one and one for all, President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) still holds a grudge against newly minted Quorum of Twelve Delegate Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) and morale aboard the good ship Demetrius is dropping lower than a child molester as their distrust of Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) grows.

Let’s break it down—Aboard the Demetrius, its 22 days into their mission to find Earth and the skeleton crews’ collective patience wearing thin as Capt. Starbuck has them jumping around in circles while her Dr. House-like people skills aren’t helping.

Later, as Anders (Michael Trucco) tries to talk to his estranged wife, Starbuck gives him (yet again) the back of his hand but they frak….all she wants to do is frak…to feel something. In the post-coital linger, Kara tells Sam that she’s felt different since her “return.”

She feels as if she were watching herself from another "alien" body far away. Okay—not a good way to convince people that you are not a Cylon but good thing that Anders is actually a closet Cylon.

Aboard the Cylon basestars, factions have formed between Number One/Cavil (Dean Stockwell) and Natalie/Number Six (Tricia Helfer). Number One wants everyone to get along again and agrees both to stop lobotomizing the Cylon Raider models and to “unbox” the Number Three/D’Anna (Lucy Lawless) model.

Natalie Six sees Cavil’s bid for unity and raises—she wants to unite ALL twelve of the Cylon models, which is blasphemy to Cavil. As Natalie instructs a Centurion to escort Cavil off their ship, the newly self-aware, fully-thinking “toaster” model hesitates until she says “please” prompting Cavil to warn that she has opened up a big can of worms by giving the big scary robot models with guns free will.

A funny thing happened on the way to the Resurrection Ship to unbox D’Anna. Cavil’s basestars surround Natalie’s ships and open fire in a classic ambush. It’s telling that Natalie is surprised, even shocked by this course of action, which is ironic considering she shed first blood.

Yet so is Boomer (Grace Park), the one-time Galactica sleeper agent and the lone model who broke with the rest of her fellow Number Eights to side with Cavil.

As Natalie Six's ships are destroyed, Boomer weeps as her “sisters” die and she realizes that it’s come to Cylon killing Cylon. Cavil says God will save the rebel Cylon's immortal souls, but when Boomer asks what of their own souls, ever the sardonic Cylon, he responds: "We're machines, dear. Remember. We don't have souls."

Back among the fleet aboard Galactica in sickbay, Doc Cottle (Donnelly Rhodes) administers another diloxin (think Chemo) treatment to combat Roslin’s cancer. Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) silently sits at her bedside and begins to read aloud a mystery novel.

It’s a lovely scene between these two intimates where Adama never speaks beyond the words on the printed page but the sweetness of the gesture is not lost on the ailing Roslin.

Cut to Colonial One, in contrast, as the civilian and military leader share a frosty exchange over Adama’s decision to sent Starbuck searching for Earth aboard the Demetrius and Roslin’s resentment at being forced to spend precious political capital to cover for him.

Prior to this scene, we see that Delegate Lee Adama has been sworn in as the new representative of Caprica on the Quorum of Twelve. A reporter asks The President if has questions about Delegate Adama’s loyalty following his brutal cross examination of her during the trial of Gaius Baltar.

Roslin dismisses the notion, noting that Mr. Adama stood up on principle to defend his client and she hoped he would bring that same devotion to duty in representing his constituents.

Now as an aside, FanBoyWonder has worked in our nation’s capital and observed the levers of political power exercised long enough to know that the more effusive the public praise, the more fraked the individual being praised is.

The translation of Roslin’s response: “You crossed me Mother Fraker and now you are dead to me. Ya hear me? DEAD!”

Vice President Tom Zerek (Richard Hatch) not only confirms this and but he has to clue neophyte Delegate Adama to the ways of the force this snake pit called parliamentary politics.

It’s like Roslin told Lee’s father during Colonial Day during Season One—In combat, you can only die once but in politics, it’s a contact sport where they can kill you every single day.

Zerek tells Lee that he nominated him for the vacant quorum seat not so Lee can undermine the President but to stand up to her and ask questions that others are too afraid to ask.

Security and secrecy have become the norm for this administration and her declarations are reading more and more like dictates with little legislative oversight desired and less and less required (of course this is just Sci-Fi. Nothing like this could ever happen in the “real world”….right?).

We found it interesting to finally see an actual Quorum meeting, how the legislative process functions in the fleet and the political side of Roslin. When fielding questions from the Delegates about the Demetrious, Delegate Adama extends the olive branch to Roslin by publicly supporting her position and seemingly calming fears by noting it’s prudent to seek all possible routes to Earth.

Roslin will have none of it and tells Lee that she doesn’t need a junior delegate as her spokesperson. Okay…no more Mister Nice Guy. Lee brings up another issue – Executive Order 112, which deals with the method by which the President establishes a tribunal.

He says believes it gives the President too much power. Roslin hastily back peddles by declaring that was an unfinished draft and says she will make amending the order a priority at the next meeting.

Okay, lucky punch but the former viper jock is clearly overmatched in the political arena and the junior delegate from Caprica had best remember that HE’S the nugget now.

Cally Henderson Tyrol—R.I.P.

From the start of the episode we see that not only is Cally’s marriage with Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) strained but it’s all Cally can do to find some sort of emotional equilibrium.

Small wonder that he has become distant and doesn’t talk to her anymore—Tyrol just found out he’s a Cylon and has been all his life. His wife, like just about everyone else aboard ship, hates Cylons so that would seem to be a ready-made recipe for marital conflict.

For her part, Cally seems to look and act the part of a frazzled new mother at her wits end—nothing unusual or unheard of except for the fact that she’s part of a tribe that is frequently under attack and constantly on the run for their lives, living in conditions where uncertainty is the norm and hope is both a luxury and a premium.

Director Michael Nankin, in concert with Bear McCready’s musical score, does a masterful job to convey the haze that an emotionally frazzled, pharmaceutically-impaired person (suffering from postpartum depression perhaps???) would experience as they try to navigate a world that seems to be closing in on them from all sides.

Frustrated by his long absences (due in great measure to meeting in secret with his fellow final Cylons), Cally with baby Nicky in hand, tracks Tyrol down to Joe’s Bar where he’s seated with fellow secret Cylon Tory Foster (Rekah Sharma).

Naturally, Cally assumes the worst (at least the worst as far as she can imagine) in that Tyrol and Tory are having an affair. Not helping the matter was the fact that Tory made a pass at Tyrol at the very moment she spotted Cally.

Later, Cally finds a note in their cabin with instructions for a time and place for a meeting. Thinking that it is a note from Tory, she goes to the place thinking she’ll catch them in the act when instead she discovers not only her husband and Tory but Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan) going into a weapons locker together and closing the hatch—the number on the hatch is marked “1701D”—the number of Picard’s Starship Enterprise. Very nice touch.

As Cally opens a panel in the corridor and squeezes into a crawlspace, she overhears enough to discover that to her horror, she discovers that her husband is a Cylon.

Tory discovers the loose panel after the meeting breaks up and immediately knows the score. When Tyrol returns to their cabin, she brains him with a heavy wrench and then takes Nicky to the hanger deck with the obvious intent of doing a murder-suicide by expelling the baby and herself out a Viper launch tube.

Irony alert. This is how she and Tyrol narrowly avoided buying it last season during a Day in the Life. But then, Tory is there and she seemingly talks Cally down then offers to carry Nicky.

As soon as she has the baby, Tory swats Cally across the hanger deck. She must have been eating her Cylon spinach. By the time Cally stops seeing stars, she views Tory in the control room, from which she expels Cally into space and an early final shot of Cally frozen and floating in space, looking through lifeless eyes.

Oh Cally. How we will miss you so.

Fleet head count: 39, 675 survivors of the human race.

Tory has some explaining to do and we find out she is one cold customer. It seems that conflict in the not-too-distant future among the Final Four is inevitable.

As Galactica deaths go, this was nearly as powerful as the death of Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) early last season at the hands of her husband Saul (in an Emmy-worthy performance by Michael Hogan) when he killed Ellen for colluding with the Cylons (before he found out that he was one).

Major kudos to Nicki Clyne. Starting out as little more than a speaking extra, Cally never got a lot of attention due to her supporting character status but in a huge ensemble cast, she was always solid in the scenes she did have and she made the viewer care about her.

Like so many characters who have been killed off before her, her final scene on the show was the best. Clyne carried this episode and that makes all the more tragic lamentable that we won’t see Cally anymore. Or will we?????

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Return of ‘Earth-2’ & The Original Justice Society of America

It’s been quite a long while since DC Comics has given FanBoyWonder much cause for excitement but we must admit that our pulse started racing when we spied first the cover then the preview for Justice Society of America Annual #1—on sale in July.

The beautiful Alex Ross cover was like viewing a window back in time—circa 1983—as it shows the Justice Society of America and Infinity Inc.—the heroes of Earth-2—just as we remembered them back in the day.

Here’s The Upshot From DC Comics: "Welcome to Earth-2!" Power Girl has made a life for herself on our world, as a member and chairwoman of the Justice Society of America and as a hero in her own right.

But she's never stopped dreaming of one day returning to her Earth — the parallel world where the members of the Justice Society were the only heroes. Where her best friend was The Huntress/Helena Wayne, the daughter of Batman. And where evil was a little easier to fight…wasn't it? As her greatest wish comes true, Power Girl's about to find herself back on Earth-2, surrounded by friends she thought she'd lost forever.

A quick primer about Earth-2 for those of you not yet alive prior to 1985’s universe shattering event CRISIS on Infinite Earths, here’s a quickie explanation lifted (with credit) from Comic Book Resources:

Earth-2 -- or Earth-Two, as it was known -- was an alternate reality Earth and home to the Justice Society of America and many of DC’s Golden Age characters including the Superman of the 1940s and 1950s, also known as Kal-L. Originally, Power Girl was introduced as Kal-L’s cousin and lived in the Earth-2 universe as Kara Zor-L.

Earth-2 was itself restored, in a fashion, in the pages of “52” and with the appearance of the “Justice Society of America Annual” teaser, it would seem the writer has set his restorative sights on Earth-2’s Huntress, the daughter of Earth-2’s Batman and Catwoman.

“Huntress is the reason we are doing this. She’s Batman’s daughter and she kicks ass,” JSA writer Geoff Johns told CBR. “She’s awesome. And it’s a thrill to write her.”

The thrill for FanBoyWonder is seeing that Mr. Earth-2 himself Jerry Ordway will be the issue’s artist. Back in the days of Roy Thomas’ All Star Squadron and later Infinity Inc., Ordway became the single-most artist associated with the heroes of the Golden Age and their next generation Infinity Inc.

Pictured prominently on the Alex Ross cover is the Huntress and Earth-2 Robin. As daughter and adopted son of the Earth-2 Batman, there was no way that they could survive the post-CRISIS universe as Power Girl did.

However, PG suffered a fate worse than death over the years as her origin and her personality were frequently and seemingly haphazardly retro-coned. The only good thing to come out of DC 2005 clusterf**k called Infinite Crisis was restoring Power Girl’s Kryptonian origin as the sole survivor of the multiverse.

Even as we are excited to see Robin and the Huntress of our youth, we also have regretfully concluded that their deaths were necessary. We think that blending the Justice Society into “New Earth” as the predecessors to the Justice League was one of the best things DC ever did—even as DC kept trying to kill off the JSA (see Last Days of the Justice Society and Zero Hour).

As we see the message boards lighting up with the question of “New Earth” JSA vs. Earth-2 JSA, we ask why there has to be a choice. DC restored the multiverse (after a fashion) in 52 so why isn’t there room for New JSA and Justice Society “Classic”?

Place your orders now—Justice Society of America Annual #1, one sale July 30.
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