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Notes from New York Comic Con: Dark Shadows Panel

16 Oct

I believe Saturday afternoon, I might have found my inner-geek.  And while I would not dress up as a character from the show (although all I’d have to do is put on a late 1960s dress), I found myself enjoying the panel for Dark Shadows as a (sshhh!  please don’t let anyone else hear this) f-a-n.  Ok, a fan but unfortunately also a trained academic and unimpressed person who has worked in film.  But as fanlike as I can probably ever be in my life.  To appreciate this fandom… you must travel back with me to around 1974.  Yes.  I’m that old.  I was a little girl.  I hated school.  I mean HATED school (ironic that I would end up teaching university courses for so many years) and I discovered one day in the summer when it was too hot to leave the house that there was this GREAT soap opera on (obviously re-runs) called Dark Shadows.  I became addicted.  I watched religiously.  It was on in late afternoons.  I planned on coming home from school every day to watch.  After the first day of school, I practically ran home to discover… cartoons.  WTF???  What happened to my show?  I went nuts.  I made my mother buy the TV Guide and combed through it.  I discovered the ultimate betrayal:  they switched the time to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays.  I knew what I had to do.  I snuck out of school at lunch and ran home to watch Dark Shadows and somehow managed to make it back everyday without being late.  This went on for about two months until they pulled it.  Before the end of the show.  Thanks a lot channel 26.  I wouldn’t see the rest of the show until I was an adult.  But that show stayed with me.  Poor Barnabus Collins, the misunderstood vampire.  It wasn’t that Barnabus was in any way hot, but there was just something appealing about him.  The threat of violence?  The fatality of his love?  I don’t know.  I was a child but even though I got a bit creeped out and scared, I had to watch.  What other show on the air had storylines about parrallel time, flashbacks, vampires, werewolves, witches, and ghost children?  Oh yes, and an evil doctor, Dr. Hoffman, hopelessly in love with Barnabus Collins while he lusted after someone else.  Even better, someone dead (alive somewhere though in a parallel time, probably).  I might not get excited about sword fights and trolls and otherworldly creatures whose names I can’t pronounce when I’m reading but apparently, I do like the supernatural stuff.   I guess it is time to admit it to myself and accept it.  I am a secret geek.  Or not so secret if you ask any of my friends.

What does all this have to do with the Dark Shadows panel at NYCC?  Everything really.  Because that is why the panels exist.  For fans like me.  I was actually excited to finally see Kathryn Leigh Scott who played Maggie Evans and Josette DePrés.  Since this was more about the publisher, Hermes Press, trying to exploit their newest re-issue of Dark Shadows comic books, only Kathryn Leigh Scott was making a personal appearance.  Lara Parker (the evil Angelique who was a witch who was in love with Barnabus in 1795 and started off the entire vampire thing) appeared on Skype.  What I began to find more interesting as I watched this panel was the power dynamics going on between these two women.  It is abundantly clear that Kathryn Leigh Scott has managed to exploit her roles as Maggie Evans/Josette DePrés/Lady Kitty Hampshire/Rachel Drummond, and milk them for everything they’re worth.  That is in no way a criticism.  I was impressed how well she’s done it.  Books, personal appearances, audio books, etc. I also notice Scott is far more able to keep everything on track than Parker.  Her adeptness at handling crowds made me think she might consider a second career as a politician.  Seriously.

All of this also made me think of Galaxy Quest, one of my favorite films of all time.  And if you have not seen Galaxy Quest, you are missing out on quite a ride.  It’s a comedy/science fiction/adventure film and if you don’t like it, then I think you might have to have your head examined.  But the dynamics of the stars of the old TV show in Galaxy Quest eerily reminded me of what I witnessed yesterday on the panel.  Ok, just Kathryn Leigh Scott but listening to her description of the reactions of the original actors to the new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film made me think about how some characters/roles become so much of an actor’s personality that it is difficult to let them go.  So I can understand the reluctance Kathryn Leigh Scott has at relinquishing her title as Maggie Evans/Josette DePrés.  Because after this film gets released, if it is any sort of hit, Kathryn Leigh Scott will from that point forward be known as ‘the original’ Maggie Evans/Josette DePrés and that is far different from being her (Maggie Evans and company).  Yes a few others have played the role but this time it’s different.  This time it’s a major Hollywood film and suddenly I felt very bad for Kathryn Leigh Scott who was promoting her new book about the shooting of the film that just may strip away part of her being for the rest of her existence.

If you are wondering why I’m not covering what was said, that was because nothing much was said.  The original cast went to do cameo appearances in the new film.  That’s about it.  They signed non-disclosure statements so they couldn’t talk about it.  Now, this is where I think Tim Burton and Warner Bros. made a mistake.  Uh, you have a built in fan base.  Couldn’t Tim or Johnny have made an appearance at NYCC for this film?  Them talking along with Kathryn Leigh Scott would have upped the ante significantly – a combination of old and new Dark Shadows.  I’m sure the audience would have eaten the trailer up.  I’m not entirely sure what Warner Bros. was thinking but their marketing people might want to get their heads out of their asses and exploit something that is already in place.  What a wasted opportunity.  Oh, and some promo stuff would have gone a long way.  Now that I’ve experienced a Comic Con for the first time in my life, I cannot believe how short-sighted Hollywood can be.  They aren’t exploiting enough film and television panels on the East Coast.  And just an FYI, almost every single TV panel I went to was standing room only, or close to it.  Word of mouth among geeks is worth a lot more than some wasted advertising, marketing people.  Just remember that.

As for Dark Shadows, I will be going to see it next May, it’s tentative release date, but I won’t forget Warner Bros. wasted a great opportunity.  Just for that, I’ll go at the matinee price.

Notes From New York Comic Con: Haven Panel

16 Oct

Eric Balfour discussing his character on the "Haven" panel at NYCC.

First of all, the good news for Haven fans is that Syfy announced the series was renewed for Season 3 and there was an order for 13 episodes which will air in the Summer 2012.  This panel was added at the last-minute so it was a pleasant surprise.  There was no formal screening but the audience was treated to an out-takes reel as well as a sneak preview of the special Christmas episode which is a stand-alone episode so it won’t take place after the action of the Season 2 finale.  I was a bit wary of it as I tend to dislike special holiday episodes but this one looked fun since the “trouble” was that everyone thought it was Christmas in July.  It will be airing on Syfy on December 6th at 10pm.

The Haven panel consisted of the shows stars, Emily Rose (Audrey), Lucas Bryant (Nathan) and Eric Balfour (Duke) along with the shows writer/producers Sam Ernst and Jim Dunn.  Ernest and Dunn talked about the beginnings of the show, and how initially it didn’t have any supernatural elements until they sent a draft of the story to Stephen King who felt there needed to be one so they added it to the show.

Eric Balfour talked at length about Duke and has given a great deal of thought to his character.  He wants to ensure that Duke is “as badass as possible” and finds ways to increase his “badassness.”  For example, in the episode when Duke’s boat is hijacked, he insisted he pull a gun on the perpetrators and he should shoot them.  The compromise was that they took the bullets out of the gun.  But Balfour believes the appeal of Duke is that he’s a reluctant hero who is extremely violent.  He’s looking forward to more opportunities for this next season.

Complimentary "Haven Herald" Newspaper handed out to fans at NYCC.

There were questions whether the producers would be bringing Dwight (“Edge”) back to the show this coming season.  They said although there aren’t any concrete plans they would love to have him back.  This topic extended to former cast members who were troubled.  Fans wanted to know if any would be brought back and the answer was yes, sporadically fans will see previous guest stars return.

The producers revealed they have at least eight seasons worth of shows they’d like to do and that’s the goal they’re aiming for but right now; in this climate, they just seemed pleased they get another year of making Haven.  Audience members were given an edition of the Haven Herald upon entering the room which includes “local stories” and a promo for a Stephen King book, Trouble In Mind.  It’s a clever giveaway that represents the two mysterious characters (Vince and Dave) that seem to be at the heart of the mystery with the show.  I hope in Season 3 more about their involvement gets revealed.  Hint.  Hint.

Haven: Season Finale or Series Finale? “Sins of the Fathers”

5 Oct

As Haven wraps up season 2, there are only more questions that need answering.  SPOILER ALERT:  What happened to Audrey (Emily Rose)?  Did Duke (Eric Balfour) take her?  Someone else?  Dave (John Dunsworth) or Vince (Richard Donat) ?  It could have been anybody.  And why?  To kill her?  Reprogram her?  Who is she?  Is she the one who starts The Troubles every time she appears?  And what does that say about women?  Her in particular.  If it is a woman who triggers this, and Audrey can bring trouble and ultimately control trouble, that makes her not only powerful but a threat, especially to the masculine element in town.  Think of Duke’s dead father who tells Duke he has to kill her.  Think of the weapons cache that he and his ancestors procured over the generations.  Duke’s family is the masculine answer to The Troubles while Audrey is the feminine.  Duke’s family kills and saves generations from their curse/trouble.  Audrey practices something else altogether:  understanding and tolerance.  Audrey understands and tries to impart knowledge about how each trouble is triggered and how to control it in the future, almost like living with mental illness or an addiction.  Duke’s family (and the Rev (with his followers) believe annihilation of The Troubled is the smartest way to go.

There seems to be an underlying current of misogyny in Haven.  Not all the men hate Audrey.  The Chief (Nicholas Campbell) respects her importance.  Duke can’t stop caring about her.  And Nathan (Lucas Bryant) is in love with her.  She’s the only person who can make him feel.  Yet one can never really know if either brother, Vince or Dave, un/official keepers of all of Haven’s secrets, are truly supportive of Audrey or not.  But the Rev wasn’t.  Neither was the Duke’s father, alive or as a ghost.  In this particular episode, “Sins of the Fathers,” the dead have come back to either get revenge or deal with unfinished business.  Ironically, Audrey cannot see any of them.  The most important thing, it seems, is that Duke’s father comes back to try and get Duke to see he cannot be on Audrey’s side and The Chief lets Nathan know how important Audrey is to the safety and future of Haven.

If fans were hoping Audrey and Nathan would be consummating their relationship before, during, or after pancake eating, they were disappointed since somebody abducted Audrey in the middle of her preparations for her “pancake” date with Nathan.  Even more disturbing is that when Nathan discovers Audrey is missing, he heads for Duke’s and as he attacks Duke, convinced he has abducted Audrey, the telltale tattoo that Duke is terrified of appears on Nathan’s arm.  Now we have to wait until Christmas to see what happens.  And I’m confused:  are things resolved or is the Christmas Episode a stand-alone one?  But if it is, how is Audrey ok?  Do we get an explanation for her abduction and, I’m guessing, Christmas Trouble?  Does one of Santa’s reindeer go nuts?  A elf that turns into a murderous giant snow monster?  Will Santa forget who he is and what Christmas means?  Who knows.  I’d just like the series to continue.

Syfy channel, I hope you are not waiting until the Christmas Special to make a decision to renew this show.  You have a strong fan base.  You should exploit the show more.  So, get your act together because I would really like to see a Season 3.  As would the show’s other fans.

Haven: “Business As Usual” pays off its fans

25 Sep

SPOILER ALERT:

If you’re a Haven fan and you are hoping for Audrey (Emily Rose) and Crocker (Eric Balfour) hooking up, you might be disappointed with last night’s episode; however, if you are on the Audrey/Nathan (Lucas Bryant) bandwagon, you might be very happy since last night’s episode gave the fans what they were finally waiting for… the kiss.

Writing about the “trouble of the week” doesn’t inspire me, although it’s fascinating how each trouble is usually caused by an emotional trigger and once its out there, there’s no going back.  Kind of like a mental illness you can never get rid of  and must learn to live with using only cognitive therapy as there doesn’t seem to be any medicinal cure for the “troubled”.  Which begs the question, just how does Audrey know how to fix the troubled?  I’m glad the writers/producers are finally beginning to address the mythology of Audrey’s past a bit more heavily into the narrative, although it wouldn’t have hurt to introduce it in slightly sooner.  And that introduction to the real Audrey at the end of season one and the beginning of season two left a great deal to be desired.  If you are going to build a premise up that far then you should go a bit deeper.  It would have been simple enough for Audrey to come across her memory double in another way that was less invasive if all they wanted to do was introduce the idea that Audrey’s memories weren’t her own.  Then after all the leading up to Lucy Ripley, we see her for a few minutes and while yes, we get some key information, I’m hoping we get to see more of her.  This is all contingent on whether or not Syfy actually renews a third season.  Which they should.  I already invested in the Season 1 DVD set and I rarely do that.  It even cost me more because I bought it in Canada so Syfy creative executives, I’d appreciate some good faith as I would be very upset if you failed me now.  Besides, there appears to be a hardcore fan-base for the show if you look at Dave (John Dunsworth) and Vince’s (Richard Donat) twitter following numbers.

If there is a season 3, as I sincerely hope there will be, I am anxious to see how the Audrey/Nathan relationship progresses since his father (in the preview for the season finale as a ghost, no less) tells Nathan that Audrey is too important to be in love with him (considering she does need to focus to save the entire town).  But Nathan’s dad is from the old school of thought.  There’s nothing that says Audrey can’t be in love with Nathan, have to figure out if Duke will end up turning on her on his own or because a trouble might possess him at some point, and fighting whatever ‘force’ it is that is causing all the havoc in the small Maine coastal town.  I will be watching closely, considering Audrey isn’t really Audrey or Lucy so if she finds out who she is, will that cause a problem with her relationship with Nathan?  More interesting, although Nathan is the troubled one who can feel nobody but Audrey, he seems a bit healthier in the ability to attempt a relationship.  At this point, it is almost as if the gender roles were reversed since Nathan never lived up to being a man for his father while Audrey was more than capable of handling many of the troubles.  I wonder if there are any other gender-bending issues that will arise if we are lucky enough to get a third season of Haven.

Follow Dave and Vince on Twitter.

Attack the Block: A teen gang in South London battles aliens

4 Aug

Attack the Block One SheetAttack the Block is a fast-paced Science Fiction/action/horror/comedy film that won’t disappoint its audience.   Joe Cornish (writer/director) expertly weaves a mutli-genre narrative  into a tense, fun and entertaining journey of terror and… self-discovery.  Yes.  Self-discovery.  All this for a £9,000,000 budget.

Moses (John Boyega) is the leader of a London street gang, a group of young juvenile delinquents who have far too much time on their hands and too much testosterone coursing through their veins (the affliction of most males, teenage and otherwise).  We follow the narrative that begins with Moses’ bad decision to have his group rob a nurse, Sam (Jodie Whittaker), which puts him and his group in the spot where an alien crash lands into a car.  Sam escapes the group who were holding her at knifepoint, and honestly, at this juncture of the film, I was wondering how Cornish was going to turn this around for me.  I was so disgusted with the group of mini-thugs, I was hoping the aliens would crash-land into them and the film would end.  I don’t have a lot of patience for armed robbery.  Moses forgets about Sam and is far more curious about the car the alien has crash-landed into.  He goes to investigate and in the process, almost gets killed.  He’s so mad the alien attacked him, he and his gang follow the alien to an abandoned structure and they rush in.  We don’t see the fight, but the boys come out victorious, with a dead alien that looks a lot like a gorilla with lots of shark teeth.  And yes, these aliens are cheesy but as the film progresses, their presence becomes increasingly menacing.  I enjoyed them far more than the aliens from Cowboys & Aliens or the one from Super 8.

SPOILER ALERT FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

It’s Moses desperate need for acceptance and inability to control his emotions that actually causes all the peril in the film.  His desire to kill the alien, and the direct action of the killing, starts the narrative of horror in motion.  Cornish essentially makes Moses a complete wanker at the beginning of the film, challenges us as viewers to see if we can look beyond his violent interior and exterior and somehow identify with him.  Moses takes the audience on his journey:  from being a self-serving juvenile  to becoming a man willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the community.

When the aliens (who as I said are basically scary looking gorillas with ice blue glowing teeth that like to tear people up and bite them) come after Moses’ block, it’s a matter of pride in the beginning.  Turf as well.  The neighborhood drug dealer, who attempts to recruit Moses early on in the film warns him though, that the block Moses is living on isn’t really Moses’ territory, it’s the dealer’s.  In this assertion lies a challenge for Moses, so while defending his block against the aliens, he inadvertently angers the drug dealer who becomes his nemesis, so now Moses and his gang must avoid not only an alien threat but the human threat as well.

If Moses hasn’t brought on enough problems for himself and his group of friends, they end up having to seek help from the very same woman, Sam, who they robbed.  This challenge for our anti-hero becomes one of his greatest tests in the narrative:  to look beyond what he perceived as someone outside the block, apologizing for his actions and accepting her as a trusted friend.  In that same spirit, Sam, the nurse, must put aside her anger and fear of Moses and his friends, attempt to help the injured party in the group, and ultimately, trust Moses with her life.

Now, you might ask yourself if this is an action/horror comedy movie or a tender coming of age/tolerance movie.  It’s all of the above – because the coming of age elements come out of the action/horror/comedy narrative.  It is no small feat to pull that off and Joe Cornish must be given his due.  Whenever things get far too intense we are allowed a moment of comic relief either through dialogue and familiar issues in the lives of every teen (the guys can’t call for help, they’re all out of credit on their mobile phones (cell phones if you’re reading in the US), or watching two young residents of the block trying to get accepted by the gang.  They look like they’re about 8 or 9.  They do get their moment though – which is another gold star for this script – Cornish pays off the plot points that he sets up.  Things are not left hanging or unanswered, they are always dealt with, which is more than I can say for many Hollywood studio films that suffer through the development process with multiple writers.

Although this is primarily a horror film and there is plenty of blood and nerve-wrecking scenes, this film is about far more.  It is well worth the price of admission – full price.  I rarely say that.  I liked it so much that I would probably go again.  Now I never say that about any horror film out in the theaters.  I’m looking forward to watching Joe Cornish’s career.  It’s also nice to see Nira Park got it right again (the producer that brought us the UK horror/comedy zombie film, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).   Don’t miss Attack the Block.  You’ll be sorry if you do.

Watch my Vlog Review on YouTube.

Trailer for Attack the Block:

Cowboys & Aliens: A misplaced action hero in a mixed up genre

1 Aug

I liked the trailer for Cowboys & Aliens. Enough to make me go to the movie. The trailer was better than the film itself. I didn’t hate the movie. It was fine. But that’s the problem for me. It was just fine. And if Hollywood thinks they can pass one over on me by selling this as a mixed-genre action film that is new and exciting, they’re sorely mistaken.  There was Wild, Wild West which was a comedy in addition to the Science Fiction-Western hybrid but that movie felt a bit more – organic.  I never thought I’d say that but compared to Cowboys & Aliens, I’d watch it any day.

Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directs this misguided vehicle.  To be fair, I’m not convinced that anyone could tackle a Science Fiction-Western and come out shining.  Actually, I can’t believe I’m saying this because I have issues with him but Quentin Tarantino might pull it off.  Perhaps the issue with the movie that I find troubling is that Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) is technically a comic book action hero.  And while his role might have been consistent with the action hero genre, it feels like the rest of the cast was patched together for part alien/part western films to satisfy the plot devices.  In fact, it felt like they threw in the whole kitchen sink into the film.  It was simply too much.  Too many creepy aliens by the third act when the big showdown begins.  Too much western riding across the range, etc. and no science fiction action to equalize it.  Most importantly, I never felt that I had a grasp on why the aliens so desperately wanted to mine gold from earth.  It felt like a plot device because gold mining was a part of the old west.  And, if you are going to make such a big point about how important the gold is to the aliens, then seriously, explain it to all of us a bit better.  We deserve that much for contributing to your opening weekend with $11+ depending on where you are in the U.S. watching this film.

SPOILER ALERT FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.

While Jake Lonergan’s character was consistent for an action hero, that is, his character adhered to the rules of the genre for the most part, there were still issues that arose.  His character was one-dimensional.  This was the result of Lonergan having to react to his environment and the plot points rather than us being able to watch his character drive the story forward.  We must follow Jake on his journey to figure out who he is.  But I never truly believed he really cared who he was.  He seems to follow Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) because he suddenly cares about the same community that just allowed him to be arrested and shackled to go to New Mexico to stand trial for a host of crimes he doesn’t remember committing.  Yes, he has his mysterious bracelet/shackle on and it is the only defense against the aliens that suddenly fly into town but the whole thing seems – disingenuous.  Why bother attacking the earthlings?  They’ve already had a giant sampling of what makes earthlings weak.  They’ve decided they can kill them at any time.  Are these attacks pleasure-seeking behavior for the aliens?  Or… are they attacking because they have located some sort of beacon/homing device on Jake’s wrist (the shackle/bracelet we discover he stole in a very late flashback)?  Or, was it because he pissed off an alien and escaped with the wrist bracelet/shackle?  I know I wasn’t clear on that.  The writers certainly weren’t clear on that.  And therein lies the problem once again, with this film.  Things just randomly happen to  move the plot forward.  And –  if while everything that happens technically is touched off by Jake’s heist and stealing of the gold from the train robbery we never see but hear about, then guess what?  This film becomes noir as well.  Because in noir, your anti-hero’s action from the past, if it is a crime, will come back to haunt him and he is somehow doomed from before the film began.  That fits into noir guidelines.  So, now we have a noir/action hero/science fiction western.  I hope you can see why I would argue this film just doesn’t quite fit the bill.

Jake’s foil, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) is even more disappointing.  No, not because of Ford’s acting.  Because of the way it was written.  This is what happens when they have had 7 writers on a project (and those are just the writers that were credited after WGA arbitration).  Everyone associated with Ford’s storyline is such a cliche that I knew what would happen and how it would happen through the entire film.  When I am able to predict those things, I’m disappointed with the writing.  I want to be surprised.  I can think up a story myself, at home, for free.  In contrast, Jake’s love interest Ella (Olivia Wilde), was a small bright spot.  She gets killed by an alien in the second act but miraculously regenerates on a funeral pyre when the group is captured by Indians.  I didn’t see that coming.  Then we discover she’s an alien.  Now, a bold choice would have let her live happily ever after on the range with Lonergan.  But no, for once these writers don’t break the rules (which sometimes are meant to be broken) and Ella must leave (remember aliens have to leave), so she dies spectacularly, sacrificing herself to bring down the alien ship.  The moment she does this, she makes Lonergan a sissy.  Come on, this is the western, an action film and science fiction and we have just witnessed a woman doing ‘a man’s job.’ Now before anyone gets angry with me for asserting that, I’m simply saying that it would have been more interesting for him to die.  Or seemingly die.  Maybe with her.  Now that would have been a much more exciting ending.  Then, at the end, we are supposed to believe she revisits Lonergan as a hummingbird, or has the hummingbird let him know she’s ‘in a better place’ because at this point, I’m just not clear and hoping the movie will end.

Overall, for special effects, especially if you love to see things blown up and people killed (like a giant video game), then you’ll enjoy the third act of this film.  Because that was one of the longest drawn out battles between humans and aliens I’ve ever seen.  It did kind of feel like a B-movie where they were just recycling aliens at some points.  I started worry more about the horses falling over than the people on them.  By the time the humans (including the Indians who miraculously killed many aliens with their spears) defeat the aliens, it almost feels like an empty victory.

I’d like to recommend this movie.  I’d say, see it as a matinee or wait for Netflix.  Or cable.  Or, if you haven’t seen it yet, watch Starship Troopers or Galaxy Quest, two science fiction films that aren’t westerns or noirs but at least entertained me.  Better yet, go see Attack the Block.  A British film done for a fraction of the budget but a far superior film in every way (because I honestly don’t need special effects to make my film-going experience a good one).   I’ll be looking at Attack the Block next.

Watch my Vlog Review on YouTube.

Watch the Trailer:

Falling Skies: LOL

23 Jul

I made it through 9 minutes and 44 seconds of Falling Skies and was certain I’d been watching for at least an hour.  Am I supposed to care that the aliens have taken the children of Earth and put metal harnesses on them?  Am I supposed to say, Oh!!! It’s Noah Wylie from ER.  I must watch this!  Or am I supposed to just lie back and take one for the team because Steven Spielberg is the executive producer?  I like science fiction if it’s done well.  Not if its so full of cliches I feel like the show would have worked better as some sort of SciFi parody.  Well, at least one good thing came out of this… I get a free hour every week for TV I can enjoy.

You can also go to YouTube and watch my vlog review.

The trailer is a bit more exciting:

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