Tagged: The Hunger Games

Emily S. Whitten: News and Fun from NYCC!

Whitten Art 131015I love visiting New York City, and New York Comic Con is one of my favorite shows. I always have a great time, and this year was no exception. One other thing that remains consistent every year I go is that it all goes by in a total whirlwind blur, and I can barely remember all the things I saw and did, or when they occurred.

But for you, my faithful readers who may not have been able to attend, I’ll try to remember some of the best parts of the weekend, and, as Inigo Montoya would say, “sum up.” So here we go! In no particular order, some of the coolest experiences I had in NYC:

I saw First Date, the Broadway musical starring Zachary Levi, and it was fantastic. I also interviewed Zac at The Nerd Machine booth during the con – so stay tuned for my review of the show and my interview, coming soon! While at the booth, I saw some cool celebrities come by to donate their time for charity pictures with fans, with all money going to benefit the excellent cause of Operation Smile. I think that whole concept is pretty awesome; and it was fun to see Seth Green (who liked my Harley Quinn dress (thanks, Seth!) and showed us his new S.H.I.E.L.D. badge), Greg Grunberg, and David Duchovny all stopping by at various times to donate their time for a good cause.

I went through Artists Alley, which remains one of my favorite parts of NYCC. There I visited with some of the fantastic creators on hand, like Greg Pak, who has a new project called Code Monkey Save World which features characters from Jonathan Coulton songs; Jeremy Dale, whose creator-owned all-ages series Skyward has really hit the stratosphere; and Reilly Brown, who’s working on a new Marvel Infinite (digital only) Deadpool series with series regular writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, to launch in January 2014. I also chatted with Mark Brooks and learned he’s the new Deadpool cover artist starting this month; and with Georges Jeanty, who will be doing the art for the upcoming Serenity: Leaves on the Wind miniseries that Zack Whedon is writing for Dark Horse (yay!).

Because I hadn’t walked enough already (eep!) I then walked the con floor, which literally took an entire day, and was, as usual, chock-full of cool merchandise I coveted. I tried to exercise restraint, but did come away with a couple of must-have Marvel exclusives (like the Skottie Young Deadpool glass and the Asgardian Periodic Table shirt) and other little collectibles (like the Littlest Lego Star Wars Rebel Pilot Ever, at 2 cm tall!). I also got some fun freebies from the Marvel booth (like Thor #1, Ultimate Spider-Man #1, an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. poster, and Guardians of the Galaxy trading cards); snagged a couple of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire posters of Katniss and Peeta; picked up the preview issue of Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid’s new project, The Fox; swung by the Dark Horse booth and finally met long-time Twitter-friend @VictorGischler and picked up the first issue of his new series, Kiss Me, Satan, which I’ve been wanting to read; met Richard Clark and picked up the first issue of his new miniseries with Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, House of Gold and Bones; stopped by the Unshaven Comics booth and picked up their Samurnauts Genesis issue; and caught up with awesome Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard.

Along with all of the cool comics stuff and people to see, some of the most stellar voice actors working today were at various booths doing signings for fans; so of course I said hello to some of the great voice actors I’ve interviewed for ComicMix, like John DiMaggio (who signed a cool Fry and Bender pic a fellow fan gave me); Billy West; and Rob Paulsen, who was at the ShiftyLook booth talking about Bravoman. Stopping by ShiftyLook was cool, because I also got to meet Shiftylook creator Dax Gordine and editor Ash Paulsen (yes, he’s Rob’s son) and chat with them about the upcoming Bravoman shows, which will also feature Jennifer Hale as new character Bravowoman, who has cool superpowers and is not being brought into the show as a love interest for Bravoman (thank goodness, because that trope is so tired).

Speaking of voice actors, pretty much all the panels I made it to this year were voice actor-related, since they’re always so much fun. I started with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel (and FYI, also interviewed TMNT executive producer Ciro Nieli and Michelangelo voice actor Greg Cipes, so stay tuned for that). The panel featured Nieli, Cipes, story editor Brandon Auman, Rob Paulsen (Donatello), and Hoon Lee (Master Splinter), and I was super excited when they decided to screen the entire first episode of Season 2, since of course I wasn’t near a TV to watch it on Saturday. The first episode was great, and shows a shift towards a slightly darker tone, as the Turtles accidentally loose a bunch of mutagen canisters on the city, mutate a friend, and realize their responsibility for the mess they’ve created and for fixing it. I can’t wait to see how all of that plays out. At the panel they also showed some great unfinished clips that highlighted both a few upcoming story details (like Michelangelo’s, erm, interesting cooking skills, and Master Splinter answering a cheese-wheel phone!) and the cool process involved in taking a show like TMNT from concept to full animation. And of course all of the voice actors graced us with bits of dialogue in their character voices – including Hoon Lee, who at the request of one of the other panelists, read a menu description as it has never been read before; and Greg Cipes, who sang a hilarious little song that accompanies Michelangelo’s cooking, and then a little booyakasha ditty with Rob Paulsen.

The next voice actor panel I went to was the I Know That Voice panel, about the voice acting documentary that John DiMaggio is executive producing, which comes out this December and premieres in Hollywood on November 6. I went even though I’ve already seen and reviewed the documentary, because I knew it would be a good time. The panel was fantastic, and packed to the gills. We only barely got in and had to stand in the back for the first half. NYCC definitely should have put it in a bigger room (especially considering the SDCC panel, which was packed with about 2500+ fans!). The panel featured John, Rob Paulsen, Billy West, and casting and voice director Andrea Romano, and John actually screened the first fifteen minutes of the documentary; after which he opened the floor to questions, and the usual voice actor hilarity ensued (one of my favorite moments was when John called on a Batman cosplayer standing with a Harley Quinn and commented on the pairing. The Batman quipped, “Don’t tell the Joker!” To which John responded, smooth as anything, “You just did!” Classic). John shared the moment when he first realized he wanted to be an actor, which was cool; and John and Rob shared jobs they’d like to get that they haven’t been called for yet (Rico in the upcoming Penguins of Madagascar movie; and Donnie in the new TMNT movie. Call them, movie folks!! I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t!). In the same breath John and Billy also hinted at Matt Groening’s future plans for either the continuance of Futurama, or perhaps a new Groening show on which Billy and John might work. (OMG!)

The last voice actor panel I went to was the Adventure Time panel, which was also a blast (and I have never seen so many Finns and Jakes in one place, I tell you what. The little kid Finns were the cutest). They showed some great show clips, featuring Lumpy Space Princess giving romance advice, Jake getting stuck in quicksand, and a truly harrowing fight with The Lich; and of course answered questions. John DiMaggio shared a cool story about creator Pendleton Ward’s childhood aspirations, and Ward shared some great insights about his creative process. Ward also talked about how much he identifies with Lumpy Space Princess. And then, because the panel wasn’t already awesome enough, DiMaggio sang the bacon pancakes song and had the audience sing it too; and Jeremy Shada sang the Baby Finn song. And then we all left a voicemail for Brian Posehn, because that’s how John DiMaggio rolls at panels.

Whew! So I think that about sums up my experiences at NYCC this year; and what great experiences they were. I hope you all enjoyed the recap, and if you feel like you still need more, then just check out all the cool pictures I took.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

 

Presenting: Tweeks!

Tweeks Twins PostBeginning tomorrow afternoon and every Thursday thereafter, ComicMix will run a video podcast featuring twin 11 year-olds Maddy and Anya Ernst. The San Diego sisters will discuss their most favorite (and sometimes their least favorite) aspects of pop culture.

The girls come by their expertise naturally. Anya was named Anyanka in utero by her mother, Jen, after the character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Madeline, Maddy for short, was named after the French children’s book character. They love The Hunger Games (and their Katniss Barbie doll), Doctor Who, and My Little Pony. Less nerdy, they also adore musical theater, drag queens and Disneyland.

“Maddy and Anya represent the very next generation of fandom, and they do it with wit, style and tremendous enthusiasm,” ComicMix editor-in-chief Mike Gold babbled. I couldn’t be more excited about having them join our ComicMix team.”

The Tweeks will debut with their review and analysis of the new Doctor on Doctor Who, as well as a discussion about the upcoming 50th anniversary episode. Future video webcasts will discuss Phineas and Ferb, My Little Pony and the latest Lenore graphic novel. The webcasts will be co-produced and abetted by ComicMix editor Adriane Nash.

“Maddy and Anya are twins, they’re tweens and they’re geeks,” Nash noted. “That’s how they came up with the name “Tweeks!”

Live-Action Cinderella Begins Shooting

CINDERELLABurbank, Calif. (September 23, 2013)—Walt Disney Pictures announced today that principal photography has begun at Pinewood Studios in London, on Cinderella, Disney’s first-ever live action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale.

Directed by Academy Award®-nominee Kenneth Branagh (Jack Ryan, Thor), the film stars Lily James (Downton Abbey, Wrath of the Titans) in the title role, Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Birdsong) as the Prince, Oscar®-winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) as the infamous stepmother Lady Tremaine, and Academy Award-nominee Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland) as the Fairy Godmother. Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations, Anna Karenina) and Sophie McShera (Downton Abbey, Waterloo Road) play Ella’s stepsisters Anastasia and Drisella, respectively. Stellan Skarsgård (The Avengers, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones, The Grey) play the Arch Grand Duke and the Prince’s loyal friend, the Captain. Tony® Award-winner Derek Jacobi portrays the King.

Cinderella is produced by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: First Class, Elysium), Allison Shearmur (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), David Barron (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Jack Ryan), from a screenplay by Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass).

The filmmaking team includes three-time Academy Award-winning production designer Dante Ferretti (The Aviator, Hugo, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell (The Aviator, The Young Victoria, Shakespeare in Love), director of photography Haris Zambarloukos (Sleuth, Thor) and Academy Award-winning editor Martin Walsh (Chicago, Clash of the Titans).

The timeless story of Cinderella dates back to 1697 when first created by Charles Perrault, although it truly came to life for millions all over the world in 1950 with Walt Disney’s celebrated animated feature.

Director Kenneth Branagh says: “It is impossible to think of Cinderella without thinking of Disney and the timeless images we’ve all grown up watching. And those classic moments are irresistible to a filmmaker. With Lily James we have found our perfect Cinderella. She combines knockout beauty with intelligence, wit, fun and physical grace. Her Prince is being played by Richard Madden, a young actor with incredible power and charisma. He is funny, smart and sexy and a great match for Cinderella.

The story of Cinderella follows the fortunes of young Ella whose merchant father remarries following the tragic death of her mother. Keen to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother Lady Tremaine and her daughters Anastasia and Drisella into the family home. But, when Ella’s father suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who abuse her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an employee at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears as if her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming “Kit.” Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand as a kindly beggar woman steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice, changes Cinderella’s life forever.

Production on Cinderella will take place at Pinewood Studios and locations throughout England.

Cinderella will be released through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on March 13, 2015.

John Ostrander: Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

OStrander Art 130728There are certain films I’ve discovered just by channel surfing; likewise, there are films that I know and when I come across them (again, channel surfing), I may stay to watch a given scene and then find myself watching the film through to the end. Most of the OT Star Wars movies are like that; so is Casablanca. This morning my Mary and I came across another, Miss Pettgrew Lives For A Day.  I found it first on TV, bought a copy, and today watched the movie through to the end anyway.

The 2008 film stars Amy Adams, Frances McDormand, Ciaran Hinds, Lee Pace, Mark Strong and Shirley Henderson, among others, and it was directed by Bharat Nalluri with a screenplay by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy adapting the 1937 novel by Winifred Watson.

I suspect you’ll already know Amy Adams’ and Frances McDormand’s work. Bharat Nalluri may be more known to ComicMix readers as the man who directed episodes of MI-5 and Torchwood: Miracle Day. Writer David Magee wrote Finding Neverland (another film I love) and Life of Pi. Simon Beaufoy won an Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire and has also scripted the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as well as The Full Monty.

Ciaran Hinds has a mixture of films to his credit. He played Dumbledore’s brother in the final Harry Potter film, was also in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as well as John Carter and Game of Thrones. I thought he was very hammy in Political Animals, the Sigourney Weaver TV miniseries but he’s wonderful and understated in Miss Pettigrew.

Mark Strong was in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and John Carter as well and also played Sinestro in the Green Lantern film as well as Lord Blackwood in the Sherlock Holmes film with Robert Downey Jr. Lee Pace is in all three Hobbit movies and will be playing Ronan the Accuser in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film.

Why do I tell you all this? To drive home that Miss Pettigrew has a really good pedigree and it lives up to it.

The story is gossamer light for all that it’s set in London in 1938 on the eve of World War II. That gives the film an underlying shadow; we know what’s waiting in the wings. So do some of the characters and it adds a poignancy to the story.

The story? Imdb does a nice job of summarizing the story so I’ll quote it: “War threatens London as Miss Pettigrew, a destitute governess, filches a client’s card from her agency and presents herself at the door. A singer named Delysia Lafosse wants a social secretary as she seeks a West End role by sleeping with a feckless producer in the bed of Nick, a smarmy nightclub owner with whom she also dallies. She ignores Michael, her piano player, who loves her and has tickets for New York on the Queen Mary. Miss Pettigrew’s job is to make sure Delysia gets the part. Over 24 hours, Miss Pettigrew is also called upon to help an ambitious and unfaithful fashion editor patch things up with her older fiancé, a lingerie designer. Has Miss Pettigrew found her calling?”

Amy Adams is Delysia and she’s perfection. She has superb comedic timing and shows real heart in a character that could otherwise be described as flighty and manipulative. The character is a fake but there are reasons why and a past that comes up at key moments. There’s an innocence to her. And it’s a brave performance. At the emotional climax, when she sings “If I Didn’t Care”, there are notes where Amy Adams shows us that Delysia is a good singer but not a great one. She’s not as good a singer as Amy Adams proved in Enchanted. You can hear that song on YouTube.

Listen to how the real character breaks through as she sings the song and discovers where her heart truly lies.

Frances McDomand’s performance as Miss Pettigrew is a lesson in underacting. The character starts very cold and distant, with a very set idea of what is right, and it all gets turned upside down as she encounters Delysia. Her heart, her warmth, opens up as she deals and helps the chaos that is the younger woman.

All the actors are wonderful and the movie itself could have been made in the 30s – all the period details seem so right. It’s a beautiful film to look at and the costumes and the cars and the sets all establish a reality – one that you know is soon to vanish. I never escape the underlying threat of war that runs through the film.

Just wanted to share a film that has become one of my favorites. Will you like it? Beats me. But if you’re a tad tired of superheroes right now and explosions and all that, you might want to give it a try.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING (and so on): Emily S. Whitten

 

Emily S. Whitten: Conventions Ahoy! NADWCon and SDCC

Emily S. Whitten: Conventions Ahoy! NADWCon and SDCC

Guess what, ComicMix readers? Convention season is upon us! Hurrah!

“Aw, shucks,” you say. “I can’t make it to any conventions.”

Fear not, faithful friends! I am here to save the day by attending and reporting back for you. And I am psyched about it. Yes, I’ll probably need to hibernate my con exhaustion away afterwards, but man, I love the energy and excitement of a good con. And good thing, too, because this year, I’m planning to attend The North American Discworld Convention; San Diego Comic Con; Dragon*Con; Baltimore Comic Con; the Small Press Expo; New York Comic Con; and Capclave. Whew!

NADWCon and SDCC are right around the corner, so I’m extra excited about those! Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

The North American Discworld Convention

The NADWCon is taking place in Baltimore, MD from July 5th to 8th, and memberships are still available! I highly recommend this con for any Terry Pratchett enthusiast. Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows I’m a huge Discworld fan. You may or may not also know that I actually co-founded the NADWCon, and served as Vice Chair, Webmaster, Programming Coordinator, and Guest Liaison for the 2009 NADWCon, and as Chair and co-Guest Liaison Coordinator for the 2011 NADWCon. Good times!

This year, though, I’m super excited to be going to NADWCon as just a fan. I’ll get to go to all of the panels I never saw while I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off organizing things! I’ll get to sit down for more than five minutes with my Discworld friends! I’ll possibly make it to breakfast at least once! Woo!

I’ll also, all things permitting, be continuing what is by now the tradition of interviewing some Discworld luminaries at the con. I first interviewed author Terry Pratchett himself at the UK Discworld Con for two whole hours in 2008, and what a treat that was! I interviewed Terry again, along with agent Colin Smythe, artist Bernard Pearson, and audiobook reader Stephen Briggs in 2010 (Scroll down if you’d like to hear those interviews here). The nice thing about interviews with Terry or about Terry, though, is that he’s so prolific and interesting that there’s always new ground to cover; so I’m really looking forward to catching up with the Discworld crowd!

In other exciting things, the Program Guide for the con is now up, and it looks fantastic. On Friday I might chat with Ian Mitchell and Reb Voyce, make my own Octavo or coat of arms, or watch the new Sir Terry documentary about orangutans! On Saturday I’ll actually be speaking at a panel about costuming, but I might also try my hand at scriptwriting, learn how to commit the perfect murder (oh, Pat, what would we do without you?), or revisit my fencing days with a lesson in swordplay. Sunday I am most certainly attending the Gala Banquet, but might also learn the trade tricks of the Guild of Thieves! And on Monday, if I am not exhausted yet, I may watch what I am betting will be the craziest puppet show ever (and will, among other things, feature the Neil Gaiman puppet that took the stage at Neil’s DC signing on June 21). Seriously, this con is going to be so much fun! And less than two weeks after it, I will be going to…

San Diego Comic Con

This will be my first time at SDCC, and I am preemptively preparing to be totally overwhelmed. However, I’m also overjoyed, because so many of my awesome friends will be there, and there will be mega-tons of amazing events happening all the time. Here are some things I’m especially looking forward to:

1) The preview and Q&A panel for I Know That Voice, a documentary all about voice actors that’s coming out this fall. As readers may have noticed, I find voice acting pretty darned fascinating, so I can’t wait to see this film, which features over a hundred of the best voice actors in the business discussing their craft. In fact, I’ve already signed up for the VIP email list on the IKTV website; and you can too, if you want to get VIP-only updates about the film, reserve a spot to pre-order the DVD for purchase before the general public, and be entered in a poster contest where every 100th entry wins a poster signed by voice actor John DiMaggio. Pretty cool!

FYI, the IKTV team is also running a Cartoon Voice Imitation Contest via their Facebook page, encouraging anyone who does impressions of favorite television cartoon voices to post a short video of their impression(s) (1 minute or less) to the page by July 31, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. PST. John DiMaggio and the IKTV team will review each post and on August 5 will pick the top three, who will win an autographed poster signed by some of the star cast members and an I Know That Voice DVD autographed by John DiMaggio. What a great way to be heard by the folks in Hollywood! I’d enter myself, if I did any impressions!

I’ll definitely be checking out the IKTV SDCC panel. Here’s the panel information:

“John DiMaggio (Executive Producer of IKTV, also voices Bender from Futurama, Jake The Dog from Adventure Time, IFC’s Out There and many more!) brings the cast and crew of IKTV together for an exclusive sneak peak at the most anticipated film about voice over (in animation and video games) ever made! Included in the panel will be John DiMaggio, Billy West (Futurama, Ren and Stimpy), Rob Paulsen (TMNT, Pinky and the Brain), Dee Bradley Baker (Clone Wars, Ben 10, American Dad), Fred Tatasciore (Hulk, Ben 10, Mad), Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants, Brickleberry), Andrea Romano (25-time Emmy nominated, 8-time Emmy winner for Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and more!), Tommy Reid (producer, IKTV), and Lawrence Shapiro (director, IKTV). You won’t want to miss this panel, especially with this bunch! You never know what’s going to come out of their mouths! July 18, 4:45-5:45 p.m. (Room 6BCF)”

I’ll also be interviewing John DiMaggio and Tommy Reid while I’m there, and maybe a few other amazing voice actors (like Rob Paulsen!) so stay tuned for that! And while we’re here, don’t forget Rob Paulsen is coming to The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on August 1. Get your tickets now!

2) Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal. Yes, folks, the cast and crew of the show about Hannibal the cannibal are going to be at SDCC, and I am hungry to hear from them (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The panel, entitled “Hannibal: Feed Your Fear,” will feature Emmy-Award-winning executive producer Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies), director David Slade (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Martha De Laurentiis (Red Dragon), and star Hugh Dancy (playing Agent Will Graham). It’s listed for Thursday, July 18th from 6:45pm – 7:45 p.m. in Room 6A.

As with many things, I (affectionately) blame my friend Cleolinda for getting me into Hannibal with her excellent recaps and discussions. But the show has done a great job of keeping me fascinated all on its own. I can’t wait for the panel, and am hoping to get a few minutes with the panelists, as well!

3) Psych! Oh, man, I just love this show. Somehow it’s cleverly managed to walk the line between heartfelt and meaningful and hilarious and totally goofy for seven seasons, and there’s another one to come! The Psych panel is set for July 18 and will be moderated by Cary Elwes, and include James Roday, Dulé Hill, Corbin Bernsen, Maggie Lawson and Timothy Omundson, along with Kirsten Nelson. Also joining the panel are creator and executive producer Steve Franks, and executive producers Chris Henze and Kelly Kulchak. I’m so there! I’ve also already got my ticket to the advance screening of Psych: The Musical (airing this winter), and you can get one too, at the link. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be time to check in with the cast of the show as well!

4) So many other cool panels! Who knows what I’ll be able to fit in, but I’ve got my sights set on covering at least some of the events for author Neil Gaiman’s new Sandman work; ongoing TV shows Arrow, Bones, Futurama, Supernatural, Agents of SHIELD, Once Upon A Time, Dexter, The Legend of Korra, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; new shows Almost Human, Sleepy Hollow, and The Tomorrow People; and upcoming movies Ender’s Game, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The World’s End, and (maybe) some Marvel movies. I’m also planning to cover The Black Panel and the Body Image & Women in Entertainment panel if I can (I’m ambitious!). And maybe more, since new events are being announced all the time. This site seems to be keeping up with them pretty well, and of course there’s the Unofficial SDCC Blog, which has tons of information.

5) A Gathering of Nerds! Although it’s not part of SDCC proper, I’m hoping to stop by at least one Nerd HQ event and see what they’re all about. Chuck actor Zachary Levi’s pet project raised $140,000 for Operation Smile last year with its Conversations for a Cause, and featured a slew of cool events and guests while doing it. I haven’t even attended yet and I’m already a fan – I like the mix of philanthropy with fun!

6) Exclusives! Oh so many exclusives! I’m going to try not to go tooooo crazy, but I must admit I’ve already pre-ordered the Marvel Minimates Deadpools Assemble set; of course I want the Deadpool Kills variant cover and the glow-in-the-dark Deadpool bobble-head; and I will elbow people out of the way with all of my elbowin’ strength for the Deadpool Corps set. I also think the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 variant cover by Steve Conley is adorable, not to mention it comes from my friends at Awesome Conventions! And speaking of cute, I so want Batgirl from DC’s Super Best Friends Forever. I also have to admit the Game of Thrones throw pillow and poster set are pretty nifty.

7) And let us never forget the parties! I’m hearing about new ones every day, and who knows where I’ll end up, but at the very least I plan to be visiting with our very own ComicMix crowd at the Michael Davis World After-the-Eisner’s-Party – and what could be better than that?

So stay tuned in the next few weeks, when I’ll be sharing all of my convention adventures. And speaking of conventions, if you’re a D.C. local (or even if you’re not) please consider supporting the Awesome Con DC 2014 Kickstarter, which has just 4 days left to meet its goal (and through which you can get that cute TMNT variant cover I mentioned as a reward!). The Kickstarter needs less than $8,000 more in donations to succeed, and to allow the con organizers to make next year’s Awesome Con DC bigger and better than ever. This year’s con was awesome (heh), and I’d love to see them get funded.

Thanks; and until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis, Hell, and High Water

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold

 

Kate Winslet Joins Divergent Cast

Orange British Academy Film Awards 2010 - Inside Red Carpet ArrivalsSummit Entertainment, a Lionsgate company, confirmed today that Kate Winslet will star as Jeanine Matthews in the studio’s futuristic action adventure Divergent. Starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James, the other confirmed cast members including Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort and Maggie Q.

The futuristic action adventure, based on author Veronica Roth’s New York Times best seller, will be directed by Neil Burger from a script by Vanessa Taylor and commences principal photography this April in Chicago.  The original draft of the script was written by Evan Daugherty.  Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher are producing the project via their Red Wagon Entertainment banner along with Pouya Shahbazian. Red Wagon’s Rachel Shane is executive producing.  Summit will release the film theatrically in North America in The Hunger Games slot on Friday, March 21, 2014.

Divergent is described as a thrilling adventure set in a future world where people are divided into distinct factions based on their personalities, Tris Prior (Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy to destroy all Divergents, she must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it’s too late.

The extremely popular young adult novel Divergent was written by Roth, a first time author, and has topped the New York Times Best Sellers list ever since being published in May of 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers. The book was written by Roth while she was earning her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University.  She followed her first novel with the book Insurgent, which has also made its way to the #1 position on specific New York Times Best Sellers lists.  To date, book sales are now over 2.6 million copies for both novels combined, and both titles are HarperCollins most successful e-books ever in regards to sales.  The studio acquired the film rights to the novel in early 2011 several months before the book Divergent was published.

Mindy Newell: Slayers, Swans, And Hunters

Newell 130311I was thinking about heroines the other day, which led to thinking about fictional role models for girls and young women growing up over the last twenty years or so. Role models which, I think, have reflected the way American society thought about women during that same time period.

Heroines and role models with the names Buffy Summers, Bella Swan, and Katniss Everdeen.

On March 10, 1997, a series called Buffy The Vampire Slayer debuted on the fledging WB Network.  I thought it was based on the schlock movie of the same name that had come and gone in the theatres and occasionally popped up on the TV screen at 3 A.M. So I ignored it, even though, as a credentialed geek, I loved anything to do with gothic horror and vampires. But word of mouth and e-buzz finally got me to tune in sometime in the summer of 1997, when I caught a rerun. I think it was the one in which Xander is seduced by a giant female praying mantis, and the effects were, let’s face it, kinda cheesy, but…

Boy, was I wrong.

The central concept behind Buffy, as Joss Whedon has stated (and I’m paraphrasing) was to turn the horror movie concept of the dumb blonde chick who only cares about clothes, boys, and her hair and ends up getting sliced and diced for her sins upside down. Yes, Buffy Ann Summers started out as a “valley girl,” but Buffy was also something else…

“Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer.”

…and Buffy was that Slayer.

Buffy was a hero for the post-feminist age. She was the daughter of Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, and Betty Friedan. Though at times she grew tired, though at times all she wanted was to be was that Valley Girl with nothing on her mind but clothes, boys, and her hair (“God, Mom, even just upstairs doing my homework!” – Season 2, Becoming, Part Two), she realized that it was up to her; and she not only accepted her responsibility, she embraced it.

And then came Isabella “Bella” Swan.

Twilight, the first in the book in The Twilight Saga, hit the bookstands in 2005, three years after Buffy left the airwaves. Many of the women I knew at work were reading it and adored it. So one day at Borders I picked it up and browsed through it. My first impression: How the hell did this writer get published? She can’t write for shit! My second impression: What a piece of crap! My third impression: Bella is the anti-Buffy.

Bella was the perfect character for the reactionary cultural shock caused by the shock of 9/11; she was Phyllis Schafly as a teenager in the early 21st century. She didn’t argue, she was polite, and she was all about taking care of her father, an “abandoned” husband. But why did Bella’s mother and father break up? And isn’t Bella the least bit angry about the destruction of her family? Why does Bella come to live with her father? Does she feel deserted by her mother, who has remarried? Was her father a rotten husband?

Like America in those early days after the 9/11, we weren’t interested in answers. We wanted to create our own scenarios, and in Bella we found a character to fit our need to that, because Bella was a cipher. Bella was empty, because we were empty.

So Bella drifted. So Bella didn’t have any ambitions. Until she saw Edward Cullen, the sulky, withdrawn “James Dean” of Bella’s high school. And then she became all about him.

Swans mate for life.

I have a problem with the Twilight saga because Bella is always defined by men, not to mention the many subliminal messages within the story. To her father she will always be the good girl who takes care of him and the housekeeping, even though she lies to him constantly throughout the series, and most dramatically, in Breaking Dawn, when she does not tell him the truth about her new vampiric status and about Renessme, the daughter she and Edward conceived. Yes, in the first two seasons Buffy lied to her mother and kept things from her, but after the truth was revealed, the relationship between the two changed and evolved; there were repercussions, both good and bad. To Edward she is the girlfriend as the sacrosanct virgin; then she is the wife, whom Edward claims sexually; and finally, she is the mother of his child. To Jacob she is the girl who got away, until he “imprints” upon the infant Renessme, and isn’t that a creepy stance on pedophilia?

And then came Katniss Everdeen.

The Hunger Games was published in 2008, as America was regaining its footing and starting to ask hard questions again about our society, hard questions with no easy answers.  And Katniss, the story’s heroine, asked those hard questions for us; she was our rebuttal to Bella Swan.

The book is set in a future North America in which there is only one nation, Panem, which is divided into districts; no individual countries exist. Long ago there was a rebellion; the center of Panem, known only as the Capitol, successfully put it down, but the 13th district was obliterated, its people killed by the rebels before that happened. As a result, and as a continuing punishment to sap the will of the remaining population, the Capitol that one girl and one boy from the remaining 12 districts, each chosen by lottery, must participate in the annual Hunger Games, a brutal gladiatorial event in which the participants – called tributes – fight to the death until the last girl or boy is standing

16 year-old Katness Everdeen lived in District 12, the poorest of the districts with her mother and younger sister. Better at killing squirrels and birds than she is at expressing her emotions, Katniss does what she needs to do to keep her family alive and together. Intrepid, tough, and a skilled hunter, she supplements her family’s table with birds, squirrels, and anything else she can take down with her arrows or bargain for on the black market, despite the automatic death sentence for anyone caught foraging outside the district’s boundaries.  When her young sister’s name is pulled in the Hunger Games lottery, Katniss volunteers in her place.

In an article in The Nation, author Katha Pollit described Katniss as “a version of the goddess Artemis, protectoress of the young and huntress with a silver bow and arrows like the ones Katniss carries in the Games. Like the famously virginal goddess, Katniss is an independent spirit: she is not about her looks, her clothes, her weight, her popularity, gossip, drama or boys.”

Thematically, The Hunger Games is about fairness, morality, and the struggle to survive in a world in which the abuse of power is the norm. Katniss was the slate on which Suzanna Collins writes her thesis that the strong must always protect the weak and sick, the young and old; all those who cannot protect themselves. It was this moral coral that drove Katniss. She killed only in self-defense, to stay alive and to win the games for her mother and her sister, for the winners of the Hunger Games became celebrities, rewarded with a life of luxury and ease for themselves and their families.

Buffy and Katniss.

True heroines.

Bella?

Not so much.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

REVIEW: House at the End of the Street

House at the end of the StreetThere are flashes of characterization, wit, and warmth in House at the End of the Street, making you hope it is a cut above your modern day horror film. The movie largely focuses on the mother and daughter tandem of Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence), as they struggle to start fresh in a town after divorce. They can only afford to rent such a nice house because it is situated near the home where a young girl murdered her parents so is tainted. Of course, right there, you know the daughter is still around. Then we learn the son, who had been living with relatives when the heinous act occurred, had moved back in. And we’re off.

The movie, said to be inspired by a short story written by Jonathan Mostow, probably worked better as prose, where more could be done to set mood and character without falling into the tropes that reduce this to a cookie cutter thriller that fails to really thrill. The best thing it has going for it as some twists and turns towards the end that are interesting but are not explored (nor will I discuss so as not to spoil it for fans).

What makes the movie interesting to watch is the cast, headed by Shue, who hasn’t done much interesting work since Leaving Las Vegas, but makes the most of the underwritten role of the mother tightening her grip on the teenage daughter she loves, realizing she’s losing her at the same time. Lawrence, a major star thanks to Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games, also doesn’t really get enough to work with but plays the new girl at high school rather well. Her scenes with Max Theriot, the boy next door, are some of the best in the film.

Had screenwriter David Loucka and director Mark Tonderai –two men with negligible credits — played more with the mother/daughter, new girl in town threads, this could have been a far richer, more believable tale. Instead, they fell into the trap of using that as window dressing, focusing instead on the mystery of who is trapped under the floor of the cursed house. The soundtrack by Theo Green adds a level of suspense that the perfunctory photography fails to deliver.

The disc coms with the 101-minutetheatricalversion and the unrated 107-minute version, which is just more of the same, making it all the more disappointing. The promised shocking added twist is interesting and could have made the film more interesting, and certainly more of a Hitchcockian thrill ride as promised in the short extra “Journey Into Terror” where the cast and crew heroically make it sound like the film was worth the effort. For Lawrence, this is one of those she will keep on her resume and probably never talk about again.

This release, out now from 20th Century Home Entertainment comes with both versions on a Blu-ray disc and the standard DVD and digital copy are on the second disc.

Martha Thomases: Where Are Our New Nerds?

In last Monday’s New York Times Media Watch columns, they ran a list of the ten films released this year that had the highest box office ion their opening weekends. What’s amazing to me is that the top five (Marvel’s The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Hunger Games, Amazing Spider-Man and Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 2) can all be classified in the fantasy genre, or, as I like to call it, nerd stuff.

Of the next five (Skyfall, Brave, Ted, Madagascar 3 and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax), three are aimed primarily at children, and one is a James Bond film, which has its own separate but overlapping geek audience. Only Ted could be considered a movie aimed at what was once the wide, mainstream audience, and even then, because it is an R-rated comedy, that limits the wideness.

When did our beloved nerd culture become so dominant? I was certainly the only girl in my high school (which was all girls) who read superhero comics, and if anyone else read science fiction or fantasy, they were in the closet about it.

Even in the 1980s, when Frank Miller and Alan Moore and Art Spiegelman were publishing work that attracted mainstream media attention, there wasn’t much spillover to the medium of graphic storytelling.

When I first went to work for DC, the most common reaction I encountered when people learned what I did was, “Do they still publish those?”

For that matter, even today, the success of the movies listed above doesn’t do much for comics. There’s a history of tie-in films boosting the sale of books (for example, Gone With the Wind), but that doesn’t always overlap to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, or comic book store.

Still, I don’t think fans like us can claim to be outsiders anymore. We might not be the cool kids, but we aren’t unwanted loners, either. What are today’s nerds about?

Is it Steampunk? Is it libertarian politics? Are there still obscure rock bands to follow, or has everything been American Idol’d to a bland pap. What distinguishes the kids getting beat up and/or ostracized today?

Besides being queer, I mean.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman and This Week’s New DC

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Be A Team Player…Or Not

The notion is simple and appealing. The more the merrier. When DC launched “The Justice Society of America” back in 1940, the ideology was clear. Put more heroes into the book, and children would be more likely to buy it. And the children flocked to it for 57 issues. The rest, they say, is history. Lately, team books have been on my mind. What better way for a company to showcase many of their stars in a single place? And better than that? Where better to shove barely loved tertiary characters for the sake of filling a roster!

But with this notion comes obvious shortcomings, the biggest of which is what I plan on pissing and moaning about for a few paragraphs. Simply put? There’s too many teams, and too many shifts in the rosters for team books to be more than big distractions… and it’s starting to get under my skin.

So let’s start at the top. Too. Many. Teams. In a few months time, we’ll be privy to three Justice Leagues (and one alternate Earth Society), four (or more, it’s hard to say) Avengers teams, five X-Teams, Team Seven, Teen Titans, The Ravagers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and a new batch of Thunderbolts. How does a fan even begin? The problem is clear to me. While the appeal of jamming every available hero into a team is palpable for the sheer marketing of it all… all it’s doing is lowering the property values neighborhood wide.

One thing about team books is that they are truly hard to pull off well. Solo adventure books have a freedom to explore and expound. The plots can expand lengths of time, and space, or be confined to a single room and altercation. In team books, the ease with which one can be lazy is palpable. It’s simply par for the course to check in on all the pieces of your puzzle… advance the villains scheme a half step… rinse and repeat until the climax. Bring together the whole team. The McGuffin is found / the super-move is unleashed / the villain makes a crucial mistake. The day is won. Then end with some witty banter, make a few people kiss, and call it a day. I know I’m making sweeping and irrational generalizations here… but as I looked over the last batch of team-based books I’d read? This is exactly what they boiled down to. It’s also why the mainstay of my pull list are solo-outings, and indie books.

Let’s be clear, there have been (and will certainly continue to be) great assembling of teams. Joss Whedon, long before his box-office behemoth days, penned the single greatest X-Book I’ve ever been privy to. His Astonishing X-Men was layered, nuanced, and so beautifully written that it made me believe I could like the X-Men.

And I tried. One arc post-Whedon and I was back out. Why? Because of this modern mentality of the ever-changing team. It’s not enough that both the Big Boys churn out dozens of teams, but now each of those teams changes membership like I change ironic tee-shirts. I recall, in the late eighties, Marvel used to put the heads of the team members in the upper right corner… so you could tell the teams apart. Nowadays, they might as well link to the Wikipedia page of the comic on the inside front cover. Maybe they could text you mid-issue as the team roster changes.

What happens when you continually shift a team based on the needs of your arc, as a writer, I believe it shows your hand. Like the always-entertaining Justice League Unlimited cartoon where the League expanded to such depth that each episode could only follow a handful of heroes (something Jonathan Hickman is obviously turned on by), the team was obviously selected for very specific moments. It lessoned the impact when it came down to brass-tacks. And when a new writer picks up a team book and gets free reign to recruit, it’s becomes painfully obvious where the book will head. Whedon stuck to a core group of five muties, and only added one additional when it made complete sense to the narrative he was exploring. By limiting his team across four volumes of stories, he was able to truly explore the dynamics across the board, and present a total package. It was a time where in fact, the book was better because of the sum of its parts. This is in direct opposition today, where the Justice League, X-Men, and Avengers titles play Russian roulette with their ranks every six issues.

In essence, when you change the guard, you give away the ending. After the first arc of Astonishing, all the cards had been played, so-to-speak. By sticking to that roster? Whedon showed (like in the best ensemble sit-coms) the pudding is in the cracks. It’s not enough to use, abuse, and move on. When you’re stuck with one cast, you’re forced to explore relationships. When you can change stars on the fly? You’re telegraphing everything you plan on doing. And if you dare not use one of those shiny new toys from off the shelf? You’ve angered the fans who signed up in the first place. I can’t wait for my best friend to curse the heavens when Darkhawk is wasted in the upcoming Avengers: The Hunger Games in a few months. But I digress…

Is it too bold to ask for a great disbanding? Would sales truly plummet if Vibe doesn’t get to be in a book? And would Marvel simply cease to profit if Wolverine had only a solo title and a single X-Book? I tend to believe that in the world of team fiction… less is always more. Grant Morrison’s Justice League followed the Magnificent Seven ideology and lasted damn near four years. Try keeping the same smattering of supes for that long today and people might just get antsy. But then again, neither Marvel or DC will be happy to maintain a status quo for four months, let alone four years. Call me cranky, but the seams are starting to unravel a bit. It took five feeder movies to assemble a team worth two billion dollars.

Perhaps the powers-that-be should get the hint. A championship team takes time to build. Keeping them together is what makes a dynasty.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander