Half-Assed in a Half-Shell — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)


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While 1993’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III didn’t do well enough to warrant a fourth film, the heroes in a half-shell continued unabated in various forms throughout the rest of the 1990s and the 2000s, both in comic book and screen form. The most successful was the animated series, which ran from 1987-1996. That was followed by a live-action series called Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation in 1997, which only lasted a season; a 2007 animated sequel to the three live-action films called TMNT; and a new animated series from 2003-2009. Plus the Turtles continued to be published in comics from Mirage, as well as Image and more recently IDW.

And then in 2014, a new film was made.

In 2009, Nickelodeon purchased all the rights to the Ninja Turtles, lock, stock, and bo staff. This included an announcement of a new movie in development that Nickelodeon’s parent company ...

The Monster at the End of This Episode — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Saints of Imperfection”


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One of the themes of the second season of Discovery is fixing what was broken—or at least off-kilter—in the first season. Some of these are carried a bit too far. Honestly, I don’t need Pike not liking holographic communicators to “justify” why they didn’t have them in “The Cage” in 1964. (I also don’t need them to explain why the Enterprise used printouts in that failed pilot episode.)

But with this episode, they address one of the biggest fuckups of season one, the death of Hugh Culber in “Despite Yourself.”

First of all, full disclosure, this episode was written by Kirsten Beyer, who is an old friend of your humble reviewer.

Second of all, let’s address the elephant that has been taking up a lot of space in the room since “Despite Yourself” aired thirteen months ago. The solution to how Culber has been brought ...

“I ruined the moment, didn’t I?” — Ant-Man


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When Avengers was released in 2012, it contained most of the original founding Avengers from 1963: Thor, the Hulk, and Iron Man. Missing, however, were Ant-Man and the Wasp, who were part of that original team, but had been conspicuously absent from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This gap was finally addressed in a movie that didn’t come out until after the second Avengers movie.

Henry Pym first appeared in a standalone science fiction story in Tales to Astonish #27 in 1962, “The Man in the Ant Hill” by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby. The story was about a scientist (Pym) who created a formula that shrunk him down to insect size, at which point he was menaced by ants. The issue was very popular, and sold very well, so he was brought back in issue #35, this time as the superhero Ant-Man. It was later established that he ...

Space Oddity — Star Trek: Discovery’s “An Obol for Charon”


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Three takeaways from the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery:

1. The hell with the Picard series and the Section 31 series, I want the adventures of Number One starring Rebecca Romijn. She’s due for her own command anyhow. Get on that, CBS!
2. There are few things more conducive to making a subplot sing than to put Tig Notaro, Mary Wiseman, and Anthony Rapp in a locked room.
3. Doug Jones remains the rock star of Discovery.

Thanks to some unauthorized digging around by Number One (who apparently likes cheeseburgers with habanero sauce), they’ve managed to track down Spock’s shuttlecraft. Unfortunately, they’re snagged en route by a sphere that seems to attack the ship. Part of the damage to the ship includes engineering being locked off by systems failures, and the mycelial-network life form that attached itself to Tilly takes advantage of the chaos to take possession of ...

Meanwhile, Back in the Klingon Empire… — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Point of Light”


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One of the difficulties with creating serialized dramatic fiction in a large universe is that you’ve got a lot of different hands in the pot over the years. Star Trek has been produced for more than five decades, with writing staffs far and varied and wide. Hell, all four show-runners of the original series (Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon, John Meredyth Lucas, and Fred Freiberger) are now deceased, as is the one person who served as show-runner for each of the first three live-action spinoffs (Michael Piller). We’re talking about seven television series and thirteen movies produced by six different studios (Desilu, Hal Sutherland, Paramount’s movie division, Paramount’s TV division, Bad Robot, and Secret Hideout).

Given that, Star Trek has remained remarkably consistent. And their track record for addressing the inconsistencies has actually been pretty good.

I bring all this up because sometimes it just takes one slight makeup change ...

A Huge Mess—Marvel’s The Punisher Season Two


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If Netflix releases a Marvel series and it has no buzz whatsoever, did they actually release it?

After taking the world by storm with a superb first season of Daredevil, followed by Jessica Jones and Luke Cage doing likewise, Marvel’s street-level Netflix series seemed poised to do for TV what the Marvel Cinematic Universe had done for movies.

But Netflix seems to want out of the Marvel business. They cancelled Iron Fist, which surprised no one given the lukewarm reception to same, but then they cancelled two of their bona fide hits, Luke Cage (whose first season was so popular it briefly broke Netflix) and Daredevil (the thing that started it all). Worse, none of the shows’ second seasons created the same buzz and anticipation of their first, and the crossover series was flawed.

The unplanned part of the whole thing, The Punisher, taking advantage of Jon ...

A Few Too Many Strings — Avengers: Age of Ultron


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Throughout their comics history, the Avengers have had several recurring villains. While Loki brought them together in 1963, he was more Thor’s specific problem. Over the years, they kept coming back to fighting against the various incarnations of the Masters of Evil, the time-traveling tyrant Kang the Conqueror, alien invasions from Kree and Skrull both, and the sentient indestructible robot Ultron.

Therefore, having the second Avengers movie have the team face off against Ultron probably seemed completely natural.

Ultron was originally created by founding Avenger Henry Pym (a.k.a. Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, etc.). It was a classic Frankenstein situation, where the created tries to destroy the creator. Made of indestructible adamantium and programmed with an artificial intelligence based on Pym himself, Ultron has proven an implacable foe to the Avengers over the decades.

One of the best Ultron stories, and one of the primary inspirations for this ...

Simple Pleasures Are the Best — Star Trek: Discovery’s “New Eden”


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Back in the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander William Riker, expressed an interest in directing an episode of the show. The producers decided to go ahead and give him a go. Star Trek had very little track record in that regard, and only on the movie side: Leonard Nimoy directed the third and fourth Trek films, with William Shatner directing the fifth. (“Captain Kirk is climbing the mountain, why is he climbing the mountain?“) But they gave Frakes “The Offspring” to direct, a script in which Riker’s role was fairly small.

He was not only the first Trek actor to direct a TV episode, he became one of the best, and now is one of the most in-demand TV directors around. More followed in his footsteps, and some became just as in-demand (Roxann Dawson, Robert Duncan McNeill, ...

“This isn’t freedom, this is fear” — Captain America: The Winter Soldier


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For a very long time, there was a feeling among a certain segment of hardcore comics fans. When Jean Grey was resurrected in the lead-up to the launch of the X-Factor comic book, it started a flood of character resurrections in Marvel (and DC for that matter). Heck, even Aunt May was revived! (Thus ruining a most powerful character death in Amazing Spider-Man #400.)

To many comics fans, though, there were two people who were likely to stay all dead, rather than be mostly dead: Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben and Captain America’s sidekick Bucky Barnes. Those two deaths were too important, too formative to ever be reversed.

And then in 2005, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting did the “Winter Soldier” storyline in Captain America Volume 5 and blew that idea all to hell.

Brubaker and Epting managed to find a way to bring Bucky back that actually worked, ...

“Where’s my damn red thing?” — Star Trek: Discovery’s “Brother”


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The very first Star Trek character that Gene Roddenberry ever wrote was Captain Christopher Pike. As played by Jeffrey Hunter, Pike was a solid, stolid leader in the Hornblower mode, one who was world-weary and thinking about retiring in the flashbacks of “The Menagerie,” using footage from the unaired pilot “The Cage.” As played by Bruce Greenwood in the alternate timeline of the Bad Robot movies, Pike was a wise mentor, an understanding authority figure.

Anson Mount debuted his interpretation of Pike on the second season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, and it’s a fascinating mix of Hunter and Greenwood, and a role that’s written with the knowledge that it takes place several years after “The Cage.” It’s also a delight, a welcome shot in the arm to the show which delivers its best episode yet.

Back when “Context is for Kings” ...

“I’d rather be a good man than a great king” — Thor: The Dark World


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Throughout the run of Avengers in comic-book form, there’s been a perception that the “big three” members of the team are founding members Iron Man and Thor and almost-founding member Captain America. In addition to being cornerstones of the team, the three of them have also consistently had long-running titles of their own. (The Hulk has, also, but he was gone after issue #2, and neither the Wasp nor any of Henry Pym’s various identities ever sustained a title long-term.)

So it’s not a surprise that the first three movies after Avengers starred those three. Last week we covered Iron Man 3, and next up were the two characters who were not only titans in the Avengers comics, but who also firmly established the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a thing in 2011 with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, two movies that also established the general ...

Here’s Mudd in Your Eye — Star Trek’s “The Escape Artist”


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Having spent the previous Short Treks spotlighting newer characters—the established Killy in “Runaway” and Saru in “The Brightest Star,” the brand-new Craft in “Calypso“—the fourth and final one has as its spotlight a character who’s been around almost as long as Star Trek itself. Harcourt Fenton Mudd first appeared in 1966 played by the late Roger C. Carmel, and the role has been taken over in two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery by Rainn Wilson, who also directed this short.

Mudd debuted in “Mudd’s Women,” one of the first episodes Gene Roddenberry conceived during the show’s development, and also a terrible episode about “wiving” miners that has aged spectacularly badly. NBC refused to air it first, as they didn’t want to lead with an episode about a space pimp. NBC is, sometimes, smart.

He reappeared in the second season’s “I, Mudd...

“I’m just a man in a can” — Iron Man 3


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The big challenge for Marvel Studios in 2013 was to do the next thing. They’d done a series of films that all culminated in Avengers, which was a hugely successful movie, having made flipping great wodges of cash and being well-liked and adored by most who saw it. Everything came together in that 2012 film, fulfilling the promise of the five films that came before it, and the question on everyone’s lips after that was, “Will they be able to keep it up?”

They started the second phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the same way they started the first one: with Robert Downey Jr. headlining his third and what has so far been his final solo Iron Man film.

While he remained an executive producer and co-star as Happy Hogan, Jon Favreau declined to sit in the director’s chair for a third time, and Downey Jr. recruited ...

“I make this look good” — The Men in Black Trilogy


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As we close out 2018, “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of superhero movies. However, your humble rewatcher did miss a few 20th-century flicks that fit the bill, so in this final week of the year, we’ll take a look at those forgotten films. We started with 1985’s Red Sonja and 1990’s Dick Tracy, and we conclude with the three films starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as the Men in Black.

The Men in Black was a three-issue comic book miniseries written by Lowell Cunningham and published by Aircel in 1990. In 1991, Cunningham did a second miniseries about this government conspiracy to cover up the existence of aliens, monsters, etc., but by then Aircel had been bought up by Malibu Comics, and they published the comic.

The comic was also optioned for a feature film by Amblin Entertainment, and by the ...

“The enemy of my enemy is my enemy” — Dick Tracy (1990)


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As we close out 2018, “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of superhero movies. However, your humble rewatcher did miss a few 20th-century flicks that fit the bill, so in this final week of the year, we’ll take a look at those forgotten films. We started yesterday with 1985’s Red Sonja, and today we move on to the Warren Beatty-led Dick Tracy from 1990.

Chester Gould created the Dick Tracy comic strip in 1931, and continued to write and draw the strip until the 1970s when he retired. A hard-boiled police detective who used cutting-edge (fictional) technology to stop criminals, Tracy proved to be hugely popular throughout the 20th-century, his two-way wrist radio becoming an iconic feature (and a major inspiration for the later invention of smartphones and smart-watches).

Tracy inspired a whole series of films in the 1940s, which this rewatch will get to ...

She-Devil with an Accent — Red Sonja


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As we close out 2018, “4-Color to 35-Millimeter” is firmly ensconced in the 21st-century renaissance of superhero movies. However, your humble rewatcher did miss a few 20th-century flicks that fit the bill, so in this final week of the year, we’ll take a look at those forgotten films, starting today with 1985’s Red Sonja starring Brigitte Nielsen.

Red Sonja, who has appeared as a supporting character in Conan the Barbarian comic books and on her own, both is and isn’t a creation of Conan creator Robert E. Howard. Howard had a character named Sonya of Rogatino who was not part of the Conan stories, but instead a historical fiction character, from a tale taking place in the 16th century.

Marvel had the rights to do comic-book versions of Conan from 1970 to 1993. In issue #23 of Conan the Barbarian, published in 1973, Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith introduced ...

Apocalypse, Not Now — X-Men: Apocalypse


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In the 1980s, the X-Men’s popularity led to a bunch of spinoff titles. The first batch included The New Mutants, which had a team of young trainees; Excalibur, a UK-based team; and X-Factor, a team that brought the original X-Men together (which required resurrecting Jean Grey). The latter had a mysterious foe dogging them, who was eventually revealed to be an ancient mutant known as Apocalypse. Created by Louise Simonson, Apocalypse was the bad guy in a bunch of the seemingly infinite number of crossover comics series that they did in the mutant titles, including the alternate-history crossover “Age of Apocalypse.”

He was a natural choice for a villain in an X-Men movie, and sure enough, they did one in 2016.

With the success of the “prequel” X-films, they decided to keep the theme going and jump another ten years, with a film that would truly ...

Sometimes You Have to Stop and Eat the Flowers — A Spoiler-Filled Review of Aquaman


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For people whose only exposure to Aquaman was the various SuperFriends cartoons of the 1970s and 1980s, seeing the character played by the guy who previously played Khal Drogo, Ronon Dex, and Conan the Barbarian probably seemed a trifle odd. Readers of the comics, however, have seen lots of different iterations of the King of the Seven Seas, including the long-haired, bearded, brooding, snarky version initially written by Peter David in the 1990s.

The new Jason Momoa Aquaman film owes quite a bit to that portrayal, as well as the Atlantis backstory that David established in the Atlantis Chronicles and Aquaman: Time and Tide miniseries and the followup ongoing series that was written by David, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Erik Larsen, and Dan Jurgens.

It’s a big dumb goof of a movie, and while no one’s likely to put it in their top ten of superhero ...

Past is Prologue — X-Men: Days of Future Past


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One of the best, and most influential, stories in the entire history of X-Men comics was the two-part “Days of Future Past” storyline in Uncanny X-Men #141-142 in 1981 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. It was the pair’s swan song as collaborators, as Byrne left the title one issue later, ending one of the most impressive runs on any superhero comic.

The story—which had the X-Men from a dystopian future sending one of their own into the past to try to change history—would prove hugely influential. The characters of Cable, Bishop, Rachel Summers, Nimrod, Fitzroy, and Stryfe, among others, came from that alternate future, and the comics did many sequels.

It was also the subject of the movie that served as a sequel to both First Class and The Last Stand.

With now, in essence, two sets of X-Men, it made sense to adapt one of the best-known X-stories ...

“Everything’s always complicated with Peter” — The Amazing Spider-Man 2


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Despite the reboot of the franchise, Spider-Man continued to be a hugely popular character, and The Amazing Spider-Man did very well in 2012, continuing the web-slinger’s streak of being a hit almost no matter what. Long the face of Marvel, Spidey’s popularity continued unabated, and Marc Webb was brought back to direct a sequel, with genre veterans Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci brought in as co-writers and co-executive producers to help build a new Spider-verse intended to stretch out over many movies—and which instead we wouldn’t really see after this. Kurtzman & Orci had already been involved in the financially successful reboots of Transformers, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible, so one can understand the desire to add their Midas touch to Spidey.

Having established Norman Osborn’s existence as the unseen, dying head of OsCorp, this movie brings in both Norman (played by Chris Cooper), who dies during the ...