by Dan Casey on December 12, 2013
Either Tumblr has sprung a leak or this is how the BBC will finally and completely take over our lives. Regardless of its secret Illuminati origins, this fan-made Sherlock/Doctor Who mash-up from YouTube’s John Smith finds the Doctor meeting Sherlock for the first time in the closest you’ll ever come to seeing your Wholock softcore slash fiction play out in real life. Save for a few wonky facial matches, the editing on this piece is nothing short of breathtaking. Did you see that TARDIS dissolve? That’s better than the real thing! Don’t take my word for it — watch for yourself, then weep for a mini-series where Moriarty controls a Dalek army that will never happen.
Thanks to our own Internet Explorer, Jesse McKeil, for finding this clip. Now, let the inevitable GIF-making frenzy begin. Seriously, guys, why doesn’t the BBC make this happen already? Do they hate money?
What do you think of the trailer? Let us know in the comments below or tell me on Twitter.
by Dan Casey on December 12, 2013
The short review: In spite of a few missteps, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a marked improvement over its predecessor in nearly every way, and a great reason to return to Middle Earth.
The long review: I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 3D in 24 FPS. Also, I was wearing a light jacket. Now that we have those pesky questions out of the way, let’s get into it, shall we?
Continuing where The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey left off, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug finds Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), and a brigade of thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), their rightful king, continuing their epic quest to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Only one problem – it’s guarded by a ferocious dragon with a Scrooge McDuckian cache of coinage, the titular Smaug (voiced to a tee by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Wheras An Unexpected Journey got too bogged down in Middle Earth minutiae, there isn’t much narrative hand-holding in The Desolation of Smaug; save for one flashback of Gandalf and Thorin’s first encounter, the casual viewer is pretty much on his or her own during the quest for the Arkenstone (you know, the Durin family heirloom?), which might be a subtle way of putting the viewer in Bilbo’s headspace, but I doubt it. Nonetheless, the grand chase continues, and takes us from the house of were-bear Beorn to the halls of the Woodland Elves to Laketown and beyond, playing out in a series of increasingly over-the-top action set pieces.
Jackson has an “everything and the kitchen sink” mentality when it comes to storytelling, it seems. One of the oddest choices Jackson makes is relegating Bilbo largely to the background of the story, which wouldn’t really be such a big deal if he weren’t the titular character. Thorin Oakenshield, by and large, is our protagonist for the middle chapter of Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy, but when you spend more time discussing the finer points of local Laketown politics and the socioeconomic climate rather than developing your title character, eyebrows will be raised.
As a lifelong fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I was profoundly disappointed with Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It felt like a pale imitation of what made The Lord of the Rings trilogy so special. Gone was the sense of action and adventure, gone were the fevered, pitched battles between sprawling armies, gone was the unique, charismatic cast of characters. Instead, we got a 12 minute song about dinner, a series of increasingly annoying supporting characters, a visual palette so muddy it didn’t much matter what they were doing, and a debate over frame rates that will make your eyes glaze over faster than the safety presentation at the beginning of a 12 hour flight.
Perhaps it’s an overabundance of CGI or maybe we’re just numb to imagination these days, but Middle Earth seems to have lost an awful lot of its magic. Sure, there’s still spells aplenty, necromancers on the loose, and more fantastical creatures than in several Monster Manuals, but by and large, the tactile sensation of being transported to Middle Earth is gone. With Lord of the Rings, I felt as though I could actually go to Middle Earth and explore it; with The Hobbit films – especially The Desolation of Smaug – I feel like I’m watching an E3 trailer for a video game I’d really like to play. Maybe something by Quantic Dream or Telltale where it’s really cinematic and I get to watch cool cutscenes, but I can still tell I’m within the confines of a videogame.
Case in point, Jackson’s set pieces: While some of them had me pumping my fist in the air in delight, others were a bit overwrought and muddled, giving off more of the sense that I needed to press X to jump rather than feel emotionally invested in the scene. The barrel-riding sequence and the escape from Smaug’s lair both had some pretty thrilling moments, but they also felt interminable. The “finale” set piece in Smaug’s lair is particularly heinous, not because it doesn’t look cool, but because it’s a weird, overlong, forced bit of action that is meant to serve as a smokescreen to fool audiences into thinking that it’s a legitimate ending, which it isn’t. And if you don’t groan out loud at Bilbo’s final line, then I’ll eat my hat (which is made of chocolate).
Still, the barrel sequence, in which our dwarves make their escape from the halls of the Woodland Elves in wine barrels, has Jackson written all over it. But just having thirteen dwarves and one hobbit navigating treacherous rapids in oak-and-cabernet-aged barrels wasn’t enough for Peter Jackson. Like everything else in his version of Middle Earth, this chase sequence comes with 35% additional orcs (and no trans fats) and elves hunting them down, doing battle, and leaping across the heads of our heroes like fleshy stepping stones.
Instead of what should have been a quick cameo role, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) returns for a large, featured part, and boasts a whole new array of parkour ninja murdering skills that he must have forgotten in the decades between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Seeing him leap across the heads of our protagonist, then flip over the head of Dwarf #8 in order to shoot an arrow through the face of two orcs at once is objectively cool, but makes for a visually crowded experience. With Legolas (Orlando Bloom) parkour jump-shooting orcs in increasingly physics-and-good-sense-defying ways for the entirety of his screen time, it smacks of fan service in the worst way.
All of this, of course, renders Evangeline Lilly’s casting somewhat moot; her character Tauriel was created from whole cloth for this trilogy, and her love story with Kili feels just as manufactured. It isn’t to say that Lilly is unenjoyable; she isn’t. Rather, when you have her paired with the extremely overpowered Mary Sue that is Legolas, and force her into a slightly unbelievable love story for the sake of having a slightly unbelievable love story, you’re going to get diminishing returns. Hopefully, she’ll come into her own a bit more in the next film.
Some will write off The Hobbit Trilogy as the Millenial equivalent of the disappointing Star Wars prequels, to which my colleague Gerry Duggan replied, “How dare you.” I’m inclined to agree with Gerry on that regard; shitting on the Star Wars prequels is essentially the Godwin’s Law equivalent in the fanboy community, and while Jackson’s Hobbit films aren’t nearly as enjoyable as his Lord of the Rings cycle, it’s unnecessarily reductive and bombastic to draw such a comparison.
Does The Desolation of Smaug suffer from narrative overstuffing? Yes. Are some of the action sequences overlong and overdone? Yes. Does the film stand on its own as a complete work? Yes, in a weird fractured sort of way, but it works better as part of a whole. And, most importantly, is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug a qualitatively fun film? Overwhelmingly yes. While it isn’t likely to win over new converts, it’s hard not to find yourself smiling during The Desolation of Smaug. Even when its at its absolute hammiest (e.g. Bilbo’s last line, Thorin surfing down a Capri Sun river of molten gold), it’s still a blast to watch and one that you won’t want to miss this holiday season.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in theaters on Friday (December 13th).
What did you think of the film? Let us know in the comments below or tell me on Twitter.
by Dan Casey on December 11, 2013
Anyone who has ever experienced the thrill of deflecting an oncoming banana peel with a green shell or the heartbreak of seeing a blue shell come up behind you as you overtake the pole position in Mario Kart will tell you that they’ve thought about how cool it would be to reenact in real life. Two enterprising filmmakers, Olivier Bolduc and Simon Lachapelle, agreed with the popular consensus, but with a twist: they recreated a race between Mario and Luigi using stop-motion animation. Short, sweet, and without any of the controller-breaking frustration of Rainbow Road, this little film just finished in first place in our hearts:
What do you think? What other video games would you like to see recreated in stop-motion?
[HT: Laughing Squid]
by Dan Casey on December 11, 2013
Who needs a brand new Godzilla trailer or the sci-fi insanity of Jupiter Ascending when you have another week’s worth of brand new comic books to read? It’s Comic Book Day once more, and this week’s pull list offers up a bounty of riches to readers of every stripe, but it certainly helps if you have a propensity for hard-hitting crime stories. The world is your oyster, dear readers, so get shuckin’ and find out what pearls are hidden in this week’s pull list!
Dead Body Road #1 | Justin Jordan, Matteo Scalera, Moreno Dinisio, and Patt Brosseau
Maybe it’s all the ads for Mob City, maybe it’s the fact that the lead character kind of looks like a blend of Punisher and Hitman, but something about Dead Body Road #1 immediately leaped out at me and kept my attention laser-focused, as its barnburner of a debut twists, turns, crashes, tortures, murders, and explodes through 26 increasingly thrilling pages. The concept isn’t anything new: A man’s family is brutally murdered, he swears revenge, and embarks on a bloody quest for redemption. The execution, however, is top notch, and Jordan wisely avoids drawing too many comparisons between series protagonist Gage and Frank Castle, instead opting to make Dead Body Road its own uniquely chaotic and immensely enjoyable beast.
When we meet our hero, he is a broken man. His wife was slain by a crew running a bank heist, and he doesn’t really have much of a plan other than to hunt down whoever did this horrific deed and make them pay with their lives. His only lead comes from a pal of his on the police force; it isn’t much, but it’s enough to send the events of Dead Body Road in motion. Suddenly, we find ourselves at a gas station where Jimmy Stowe is nervously pumping his car full of unleaded. If he looks familiar, that’s good — you don’t have short term memory loss. He’s a member of the heist crew that knocked over the bank and left Gage’s wife a crumpled, bloodied rag doll. Except he didn’t have anything to do with the murder-y part, and now his former employer sees him as a loose end that needs to be tied up. What follows is an intensely cinematic, deftly choreographed action sequence that pops off the page, thanks to stunning artwork from Matteo Scalera. Seriously, you’ll feel the wind whipping past during one high speed chase. Inventive paneling, fantastic artwork, and confident, charismatic storytelling make Dead Body Road #1 not just a pleasure to read, but a necessity for your pull list.
Justice League #25 | Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Keith Champagne, Gabe Eltaeb, Tony Avina, Rod Reis, and Nick Napolitano
I was all set to put the fabulously Superman/Wonder Woman #3 on this list and wax rhapsodic about how impressive Charles Soule has been this year, and how 2013 has really seen him come into his own creatively, and how excited I am that he’s getting so many chances to knock it out of the park, but then I read the opening pages of Justice League #25 and my jaw has been on the floor ever since. It’s no secret that I’ve been absolutely loving this “Forever Evil” arc, especially when things take a turn into the occult and the paranormal like in the pages of Justice League Dark, but issue #25 feels like a real step forward. We’ve slowly but surely been getting to know the insane, profoundly malicious members of the Crime Syndicate, and issue #25 takes us into the harrowing backstory of Owlman, better known as Thomas Wayne Jr. He’s a vicious little bastard, and even when his motives seem pure, they’re still dripping with ill intent.
It definitely seems like Johns is steering the unwieldy ship that is the “Forever Evil” crossover event towards its endgame, one which will pit the increasingly erratic Ultraman and the conniving Owlman against one another, but with so many other wildcards and unchecked pawns on the board, it’s difficult to tell just where it’s going. Instead, issue #25 wisely narrows its field of view and follows Owlman for the majority of the issue, fleshing out his backstory and giving us a sense of his motivations in all of this. It’s a weird sensation to empathize with someone while simultaneously reviling them, but it’s a credit to Johns’ writing that he can elicit such a response. Per usual, Doug Mahnke’s pencil work is delightful; there’s just something about his style that screams “superheroes” in all the right ways, and what better canvas for that talent than the hero-heavy cast of Justice League. If nothing else, Justice League #25 is a compelling Elseworlds story that just so happens to be taking place in the main DCU. That being said, it’s an absolute blast to read and I’d put good money on the fact that you’ll put the book down, shake your head slowly, and say, “Oh, Jesus…”, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Day Men #2 | Matt Gagnon, Michael Alan Nelson, Brian Stelfreeze, Darrin Moore, Ed Dukeshire
It’s rare that a comic comes along with its world so fully fleshed out from the get-go, but Day Men manages to drop a metric ton of exposition, rich family history, and backstory on us in its two issues without sacrificing its narrative momentum. A war is brewing between two of the most powerful vampire families, the Virgos and the Ramses, but even they can’t do everything themselves, what with not being able to go out during the daytime and all that. Enter the titular Day Men, human enforcers who are employed to assassinate rival vampires and their family holdings when it’s too dangerous for vampires to go outside and do it themselves.
Issue 2 finds us on the cusp of a family rivalry exploding into a full-blown Godfather-style war, and David Reid is unfortunately caught in the crossfire. Granted, it’s his job as a Day Man for the Virgo family, but as he defends their interests from interlopers, he is starting to realize there’s something sinister happening behind the scenes. And when he finds out that the Ramses’ legendary hitman, Jacob the Burner, is hot on his tail, it’s out of the frying pan and into the blazing inferno. Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson’s story is what draws you in, but it’s Brian Stelfreeze’s artwork that breathes new life into the undead awesomeness. Don’t get caught sleeping in your coffin on this one; go grab Day Men #2.
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What’s on your pull list this week? Let us know in the comments below.
by Dan Casey on December 10, 2013
Who would have guessed that combining a gorilla, a whale, and postwar fears about the repercussions of atomic warfare would result in one of the most iconic on-screen characters of all time? Yet, here we are on the cusp of Godzilla’s sixtieth anniversary with a brand new Gareth Edwards-helmed Godzilla feature on the way from Legendary Pictures. Today, we get our first taste of the film, which stars Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Ken Watanabe. Will it be analyzed as relentlessly as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer? Will it tease Godzilla 2: The Rise of Mothra? Will we get to glimpse the King of All Monsters? Watch for yourself and find out.
Pretty sweet, right? I saw it a few weeks ago in a giant theater on the Warner Bros. lot, and I’ve had to bite my tongue pretty hard until then, so I’m glad the rest of the world can experience Godzilla‘s mighty majesty now too. The trailer will also be running in front of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but even if you’re not a Hobbit fan, it might be worth it to go hear that amazing roar on Dolby Atmos speakers. Seriously — I got chills. Gareth Edwards hopes you enjoyed it too, and to prove it he recorded a special trailer launch day message.
And be sure to stay after the credits for the big screen Godzooky cameo you’ve been waiting for since the late seventies. Just kidding – or am I? Anything could happen with these new viral images circulating as well.
For more on what to expect from Godzilla, check out my interviews with the cast from Comic-Con (skip to 3:28):
What do you think of the Godzilla trailer? Let us know in the comments below.
by Dan Casey on December 9, 2013
Year’s end is a time for reflection, and Scott Snyder’s latest Batman arc gives us a moment to stop and reflect on how Bruce Wayne went from playboy billionaire to bonafide crimefighter. “Zero Year” is proving to be awfully important for the DC Universe. The Riddler is running amok and Gotham’s in chaos, with Batman and Jim Gordon left to pick up the pieces. Can they learn to put their differences aside to save the day? Will Lucius Fox get eaten alive? Why is young Bruce getting arrested in a movie theater? All of these questions and more are answered below in our exclusive preview of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Danny Miki’s Batman #26, courtesy of our friends at DC Comics:
Batman #26 is available from DC Comics this Wednesday, December 11. Are you picking it up? What do you think of Zero Year? Let us know in the comments below.
by Dan Casey on December 9, 2013
With the impending release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, many people find themselves wondering, “Wait, how many Hobbit movies are there again?,” “The book was only 300-something pages?,” and “Why don’t I know anything about J.R.R. Tolkien?” While we can’t help you with those first two questions, we can shed some light on the third one, thanks to a brand new Info Minute from our favorite knowledge hunter, Mike Henry. Learn all about Tolkien’s lonely upbringing, his inspirations for creating The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, his filmic legacy, and much more in less time than it takes to simply walk into Mordor.
What do you think? Which fact did you find most surprising? Let us know in the comments below.
by Dan Casey on December 7, 2013
Clearly tired of everything tasting like chicken, one enterprising Japanese cafe has taken it upon themselves to bring the rest of the avian kingdom to our tastebuds with some out of the box ornithological flavors that we guarantee you won’t find at Baskin-Robbins.
Torimi Cafe, a Kobe hotspot that lets customers enjoy a katsu curry and a cup of coffee surrounded by 36 pet birds, decided to bring their love of our flying friends to the masses, so they designed a line of ice creams designed to taste like 3 different breeds of pet birds for the Hanshin Department Store Small Bird Expo in Osaka this past May. The flavors in question? Parakeet, cockatiel, and sparrow – a veritable Neapolitan of feathered, warm-blooded, egg-laying vertebrates.
Using all natural ingredients, which is obviously a more expensive means of making ice cream, the cafe used the expo as a test run to see if their unique flavors would take flight with consumers and sell well enough for them to recoup their costs. Torimi Cafe first announced that, “Once in your mouth, the aroma of a parakeet would spread intensely,” which is probably the last thing I’ll hear before I die. Here’s a description of the three flavors:
Java Sparrow - A small, portly bird that feeds primarily on grains and seeds, the java sparrow inspired a flavor comprised of a vanilla ice cream base with grains mixed in. As the delicious dessert melts in your mouth, you might feel the sensation of a java sparrow rolling around on your tongue. Well, it’s not a bird; that’d be weird. It’s just marshmallows hidden inside! No one puts it better than Torimi Cafe, though: “It’s the feeling of pressing the breast of a java sparrow into your mouth.”
Parakeet - Known far and wide as the “chocolate fudge ripple” of birds, the parakeet flavor lives up to its real life counterpart’s livelier demeanor with a vanilla ice cream base that has honey and apple blended in. There’s still some grains in there, but fewer than in the java sparrow flavor. Once again, Torimi Cafe puts it best: “It’s like eating some vanilla ice cream in one hand, and then taking a whiff of a parakeet in your other hand.”
Cockatiel - One of the most popular breeds of caged pet bird, the cockatiel should also make a terrific ice cream flavor, right? (Roll with us on this one). Building off of the parakeet’s honey-apple vanilla base, cockatiel flavor eschews grains in favor of larger pumpkin and sunflower seeds to create an alternately smooth and crunchy flavor that Torimi Cafe compares to “when you’re sleeping with your mouth open and your cockatiel runs over your face and gets its leg in your mouth.” Ugh, right? That wildly common occurrence.
Don’t you just want to sink your beak into these fine feathered flavors? I know I do. Don’t get your feathers ruffled if you didn’t get to try them at Osaka’s Small Bird Expo earlier this year. Apparently, the initial run was so successful that Torimi Cafe is looking to produce more later this year.
What do you think? Would you try bird ice cream? What other birds deserve their own flavors and what would they be? Let us know in the comments below or tell me on Twitter.
by Dan Casey on December 6, 2013
With the launch of Telltale’s wonderful Fables-inspired game The Wolf Among Us on iOS this week, it was only a matter of time until they gave those of us who had already played through it (multiple times) a preview of episode 2, “Smoke & Mirrors.” Today, Telltale gave us a taste of that sweet, sweet Fables nectar in the form of a pair of screenshots from the next chapter of the episodic adventure game, set to release in 2014. First up, a familiar face that Fables fans will definitely recognize – Jack! You know, the dude who climbed the beanstalk? Killed a giant? That Jack. Well, he’s back and chances are he’s going to be just as sleazy as you remember from the comics.
The second screenshot makes the most of The Wolf Among Us‘ decidedly neon color palette with a peek inside the seedy underground nightclub, the Pudding & Pie, which kind of sounds like a rejected pub from Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. Or maybe Shaun of the Dead, given that nasty looking cricket bat that Bigby’s wielding. It’s never good news when someone comes up behind you at a gentlemen’s club with a cricket bat…unless it’s that kind of gentlemen’s club, but I digress.
So, there you have it, Fables fans! Looking pretty snazzy, if I do say so myself. Telltale will have an update on the ETA for The Wolf Among Us Episode 2′s release after the holidays, but chances are you’ll be busy playing The Walking Dead: Season Two, which comes back later this month.
What do you think of these screenshots? Are you looking forward to Episode 2? Let us know in the comments below!