Nintendo's Wii Successor: What You Need to Know

Lets face it, folks--the Wii has been an obsolete piece of technology for quite some time now. Sure, when it was first released, the Wii was a revolution. Its motion controlled gameplay was fresh and novel, and brought in a whole new audience of casual gamers. But after the dust settled, I think we were all left a bit underwhelmed. Outside of a few stellar first-party titles, there just isnt much to play on Nintedo's little white box. And given the Wiis stunted technological capabilities (standard def graphics, no DVD/Bluray support, limited online functionality), it simply cant reach a hardcore audience and compete on the same level as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

But it seems Nintendo has taken note, and over the past week or so, rumors about their next home console have emerged. While very little has actually been confirmed, what we think we know is this: Nintendos new console is codenamed "Project Cafe," and it is rumored that the system will actually be called the Nintendo Stream. The system can allegedly output in 1080p HD, with triple-core procesaing capability well beyond that of the 360 and PS3. Nintendo will also be reverting to a more traditional control scheme, with a dual-stick controller very reminiscent of the 360's current controller, but with one major difference: the inclusion of a six inch touchscreen on the face of the controller. Imagine taking your iphone a crazy gluing it to the center of your Xbox controller and you get the idea. It is also rumored that the Stream will be backward compatible with old Wii titles, meaning your bevy of Wiimotes wont just gather dust. It has also been rumored that the Stream will retail for ~$350-$400, and is slated for an early 2012 release date--well ahead of the competitions' next generation of consoles.

But what does this all really mean? Well, from a gameplay perspective, a whole darn lot. Anyone who owns a Nintendo DS can attest to the value of a second touchscreen. Take, for example, a game like The Legend of Zelda. The main character has a large inventory of weapons and items to alternate between, and also must constantly check his map to make sure he is headed in the right direction. Normally, this would force the player to constantly flip back and forth between the game screen and the pause screen, greatly slowing down the game's pace. With the addition of a second screen, however, all of this switching can be done on the fly, as the second screen can persistently display the player's inventory and map. This also cleans up a lot of screen real estate, as cluttered user-interfaces could be replaced completely through the use of a second display. Further, this touchscreen could be used for context-sensitive buttons, or could replace otherwise complicated button presses (such as special moves in a fighting game like Street Fighter). Furthermore, it has been rumored that players will be able to stream games directly to the controller's screen, turning it into a consolidated hand-held gaming device (hence the console's name). This means your roommate can watch TV while you play on your Stream without one interfering with the other.

Let's keep in mind, however, that this is mostly rumors, as very little about the system has actually been confirmed by Nintendo. However, we do know for sure that it will be playable this year at E3, so most--if not all--of our questions should be answered at Nintendo's press conference. Either way, this is very exciting stuff for us Nintendo faithfuls who have stuck with the Big N through the past two generations, as it may lead to a recapture of a more hardcore, mature gamer audience. For more information about the Stream, check out IGN's list of rumors.


Going Medieval on Everyone's Respective Asses

For whatever reason, TV and Theaters are absolutely FLOODED with medieval-based series and films. Here's a handy list of the ones to keep on your radar, especially if you--like me--are a fan of knights, castles, and the like. Check it out:

Pillars of the Earth
  • What you need to know: Based on the critically acclaimed novel by Kevin Follett, "Pillars" takes place in 12th-century England during a period known as The Anarchy. The story follows Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell), his adopted son Jack Jackson (Eddie Redmayne), and their ambitious plans to build a cathedral in the small town of Kingsbridge, overseen by the pious and determined Prior Philip (Matthew Macfadyen). However, a civil war challenges this project, as do the plans of the villainous Hamleigh family--thirsty to win power for their son William (David Oakes)--who team up with Waleran Bigod (Ian McShane), a morally bankrupt cleric, to stall the prosperity of Kingsbridge. 
  • Why you should watch: This brief summary does not even begin to do justice to the intricate narrative woven by the original novel and this TV adaptation. It is truly amazing how much plot and character development gets crammed into this eight-episode miniseries. It tends to be a bit cerebral, but is a harrowing tale of determination nonetheless.
  • Where to find it: The miniseries originally aired on Starz last summer. However, it is currently available in DVD and Blu-ray formats, as well as via digital rental or purchase through Amazon.

  • What you need to know: "Camelot" is an original take on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The series follows a young Arthur (Jamie Cambell Bower) as he first learns that he is the rightful heir to the recently deceased King Uther. With the aid of Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) and his adoptive-brother Kay (Peter Mooney), Arthur seeks to reunite The Realm and avoid the grim visions of death and destruction that Merlin has foreseen. However, Arthur's cold half-sister Morgan (Eva Green) seeks the crown as well, and summons dark powers to aid in her quest to thwart Arthur's righteous plans.
  • Why you should watch: This take on the classic legend seeks to unite the classic themes and characters with a more realistic take on it all, and for the most part it works. Sure, we still have familiar set-pieces like the sword in the stone and some forms of magic and sorcery, but everything has been refocused to satisfy both fans of fantasy and historical fiction. Check EW's article on the topic for some nice comparisons, as well as the image above of this show's bad-ass version of Merlin.
  • Where to find it: "Camelot" airs of Starz on Friday nights at 10pm. The first two episodes aired this past Friday, and can be seen via Starz On Demand.

Game of Thrones
  • What you need to know: Much like "Pillars," "Game of Thrones" is based on a popular novel of the same name; the first book in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. Unlike "Pillars," however, "Thrones" is complete fantasy fiction. "Thrones" follows the Stark, Lannister, and Baratheon families as they battle for control of the mythical land of Westeros. Plots and schemes turn to all-out-war, and amidst all of this turmoil, The Night's Watch fights to protect Wetseros and mankind from an ancient evil that suddenly awakens.
  • Why you should watch: Well, really, it's hard to say right now, as this show has yet to air. But if the glowing early reviews are to be trusted, "Thrones" is set to please fans and newcomers alike. The Hollywood Reporter compares the show to "The Sopranos," while Wired calls it "the show of 2011." High praise for what aims to be an adult, gory medieval fantasy epic. I am not familiar with the source material, but am extremely excited.
  • Where to find it: "Thrones" premieres April 17th on HBO, however a fifteen-minute preview of the show can be found via HBO On Demand.

Your Highness
  • What you need to know: In a stoner-comedy take on some common medieval/fantasy tropes, "Your Highness" follows the valiant and perfect Fabious (James Franco) and his daft, slacker younger brother Thadeous (Danny McBride) as they embark on an epic journey to rescue Fabious' bride-to-be (Zooey Deschanel) from an evil sorcerer. With the help of a mysterious and dangerous female warrior (Natalie Portman), they fend off dragons, knights, and other medieval threats, and Thadeous is faced with an important decision: become a hero and save the day, or remain a slacker.
  • Why you should watch: Well, not too many reviews for this film are out there yet, so it's hard to speak to its actual quality, and some of the promos make it look like it may pull some punches. But, in essence, it's "Pineapple Express" meets "The Princess Bride," with an ass-kicking, bikini-clad Natalie Portman to boot. How bad could that be, really?
  • Where to find it: "Your Highness" hits theaters this Friday.

The Borgias (Honorable Mention): Because of it's Renaissance Italy setting, Showtime's new historical drama "The Borgias" doesn't quite qualify for this "medieval" list. But it is worth considering nonetheless. The show follows the story of Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons), aka Pope Alexander VI, one of the most controversial popes in history, considered by many to be the earliest example of a mafia family, and the original inspiration for the Corleone family from "The Godfather." The show should be of particular interest to anyone who's played the video game Assassin's Creed 2 or Brotherhood, as the setting and characters are largely the same. Two episodes have aired already and, to be honest, I found them to be a bit of a snooze-fest, though I am not ready to enter my final judgment on the matter just yet. Judge for yourselves on Sunday nights on Showtime. 


First Video of Wonder Woman in Action!

Last week, I posted a picture here of Adrianne Palicki in her first shot donning Wonder Woman's costume for David E. Kelly's upcoming TV adaptation of the DC Comic. This picture, though most assuredly intriguing, was much maligned by comic books fans for its cheap look and odd flashiness. Now, thanks to @WonderboyLB, we have our first look at Adrianne in action. I have to admit, the costume definitely looks better in this video than in the picture I posted earlier. Check below for a video taken during an LA-based shoot for the TV show to see Wonder Woman chase a supposed bad guy through some buys city streets. And click here for some of WonderboyLB's photos from the shoot. Enjoy!


New Harry Potter Poster!

Calling all muggles! Excited to see the epic Battle of Hogwarts recreated on the big screen this summer in the final Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallos - Part 2? Me too. And in reality, July 15th, the films release date isn't that far off. But if you are looking to wet your whistle a bit, fear not. A new poster as been released to promote the upcoming film, giving us a great shot of Harry, the Elder Wand, and Voldermort, looking extra creepy with a fully-flat profile. Check it out below, and be sure to keep your eyes to the interwebs, as I'm sure we will see a new theatrical trailer popping up one of these days.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 Artwork
See More Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 Artwork at IGN.com


Nerd Update: Captain America, Resident Evil, Futurama, and Wonder Woman

Lots of tasty tidbits for all my fellow nerd-faces out there, so let's dive right in.

New (extended) Captain America Trailer

A little while ago, I treated you all to a nice primer to prepare you for the upcoming Marvel film Captain America: The First Avenger. The trailer that accompanied that information (and debuted during the Super Bowl) was very exciting, though decidedly short. Today, a much meatier trailer has surfaced. This collection of scenes delves even further into Steve Rogers' recruitment into Operation: Rebirth. Cooler still, we get our first look at Cap hurling his iconic shield. If you look closely, you can see two different shots in quick succession. The second shows the shield being hurled down a tight corridor, ricocheting off some walls and into the screen. Really cool, and demonstrates that Cap will have the control over his shield-throw that we see in the comics. Confirming this point further is the first of these two shots, where we see the shield flying back into Cap's hand. In the comics, Cap has always been able to use the shield as a boomerang of sorts, taking out multiple enemies with one throw and flying back into his hands (defying just about every law of physics in the process). It has always been a question how this could be shown in the films, as we know Marvel is taking a very realistic approach here. But it looks like, at least to some extent, the boomerang shield throw will be included. Check out the full trailer here:

Resident Evil Overhaul

Fans of the popular Resident Evil series of video games have a lot to be excited about this week, as a wealth of new titles have been announced. Today, Capcom revealed its plans to bring two of the best titles in the series--Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica X--into the current generation with downloaded versions available this Fall on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. Better still, Capcom will be upgrading both titles' visuals to make full use of the PS3 and 360's HD capabilities. Check out IGN's gallery to see some comparison shots demonstrating how the upgrade will serve Resident Evil 4. I'm already drooling at the prospect of replaying those titles in luscious HD, especially Code: Veronica, which I haven't touched in years.

We also have more news about a previously rumored game, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. The title has been confirmed, and is due out this Winter for the 306 and PS3. It is being developed by the folks behind the more recent SOCOM titles (Slant Six Games), and is billed as a team-based, four-player cooperative shooter that takes place during the original viral outbreak in Raccoon City. Player's can join up online and fight together for survival, accumulating XP to upgrade their characters with as they tear through zombies and other biohazards. No screenshots have been released yet, but my guess is this will play from an over-the-shoulder 3rd-person perspective, much like the more recent RE games and the developer's own SOCOM titles. I'm definitely intrigued, though after the forgettable online co-op Resident Evil: Outbreak games, I'm also a bit wary.

Either way, add to this the fact that the 3DS launching this week in the US. Portable gamers should already know to look forward to two new RE games on the handheld: Resident Evil Revelations and Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, with the former being a completely original title, and the latter a port of the "Mercenaries" mini-game found in Resident Evil 5. Taken together with the news above, their is a whole bunch of sweet survival horror coming our way this year.

"Futurama" Renewed

Good news, everyone! After brining the show back from the death last year, Comedy Central has renewed "Futurama," one of my personal favorites, for another season. Set at 26 episodes to air over the next two years, us Earthicans have a lot of ridiculous futuristic exploit to look forward to. Hooray!

"Wonder Woman" castings and costume shots

More superhero news here. A while back, it was announced that Adrianne Palicki of "Friday Night Lights" fame will take on the roll of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in David E. Kelley's upcoming television adaptation. We now also know that the sultry Elizabet Hurley has been cast as a currently unnamed villain. My money is on Circe, an evil sorceress and one of Wonder Woman's oldest villains. She definitely fits the character's look. Carey Elwes (Saw, The Princess Bride, Robin Hood: Men in Tights) has also been cast as a recurring character, though no word on who he'll play either.

The big news? We have our first shots of Palicki in Wonder Woman's iconic garb. Looks like the producers have taken some liberties with the costume, though. Not sure how I feel about it overall, looks kind of cheap and flashy, and I don't like that they went with full pants, though Palicki definitely bears a nice resemblance to Diana. Check out this shot, and let me know what you think in the comments.


Falling into Fall Out Boy

You know, Fall Out Boy gets a bad rap these days. Bad for this, bad for that, we'll I don't buy it...

Add 100 points to your score if you get that The State reference. But no, seriously. People hear the words "Fall Out Boy" and immediately think of emo-punks, eyeliner, and whiny high school girls. And while those associations may be valid to some extent, I fear that this characterization precludes from Fall Out Boy a wider, more appreciative audience. You see, Fall Out Boy is more than "Sugar, We're Going Down," "Dance Dance," and "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs." Underneath the man-makeup, jet black hair, and ridiculously long and convoluted song titles (see below), therein lies some highly impressive vocals, heart-pumping instrumentations, and some of the most interesting and creative lyrics of recent memory. Sure, perhaps the songs speak to themes that many of us have now left behind. But that does not take away from the entrancing and head-nod inducing quality of many of the band's lesser known tracks.

So, I have done what I always do. Below you will find my picks of the best five tracks from each of Fall Out Boy's most recent three albums: From Under the Cork Tree, Infinity on High, and Folie a Deux. I have left off the obvious picks, such as the radio hits I mentioned above. Together, these fifteen songs act as not only a fantastic Fall Out Boy mix, but also function as a nice introduction for people who are turned off by some of the band's less desirable associations. Download, shuffle vigorously, plug in, and slip into pop-punk heaven.

From Under the Cork Tree (2005)

  • "Sophomore Slump Or Comeback Of the Year"
  • "Champagne For My Real Friends, Real Pain For My Sham Friends"
  • "Of All The Gin Joints In All The World"
  • "7 Minutes in Heaven (Atavan Halen)"
  • "A Little Less Sixteen Candles a Little More Touch Me"
Infinity on High (2007)
  • "I'm Like a Lawyer With the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)"
  • "Hum Hallelujah"
  • "The Take Over, the Breaks Over"
  • "Don't You Know Who I Think I Am"
  • "Bang the Doldrums"
Foile a Deux (2008)
  • "A Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes"
  • "She's My Winonan"
  • "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On a Bad Bet"
  • "27"
  • "Tiffany Blews"


The 83rd Annual Academy Awards -- Highlights

Red Carpet

7:03 -- Mila Kunis talking to Tim Gunn on the red carpet. As usual, she looks stunning, and while all of America is staring longingly at her chest, Gunn is of course focused solely on her dress. Unfair.

7:14 -- Wow, Jennifer Lawrence, wow. Not only is she a knock-out, but a Jeff Bridges fan too! Any girl that can readily quote The Dude gets bonus points in my book, that's for sure.

7:28 -- Wait...Cate Blanchett is Australian? Coulda swore she was a brit. That's like the same thing, right?

7:30 -- Sunrise? Sunrise!? Mark Ruffalo's wife's name is SUNRISE!?!?

7:40 -- Manny of Modern Family tours the Governor's Ball, eats with Wolfgang Puck, and hits on Nicole Kidman. Lucky kid, and pretty damn funny in real life, it seems. Good for you.

7:47 -- Hollering at Wikipedia over the commercial break to find out why it's called an "Oscar." Nothing terribly helpful in that area, but I did find this tidbit very interesting: "Since 1950, the statuettes have been legally encumbered by the requirement that neither winners nor their heirs may sell the statuettes without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for US$1. If a winner refuses to agree to this stipulation, then the Academy keeps the statuette. Academy Awards not protected by this agreement have been sold in public auctions and private deals for six-figure sums.[18]" #oscartrivia

7:54 -- Digging the white tie, RDJ. Very classy, my friend. Sometimes I forget he's not actually Tony Stark.

8:01 -- Ok, I think that's my pick for best dressed (so far): Jennifer Hudson.

8:23 -- Bored already. This does not bode well...

The Show

8:32 -- And away we go...

8:37 -- "I have good news from the future: microphones get smaller." Loving this whole sketch. "You just go inceptioned!"

8:42 -- Is it just me, or does James Franco seem a bit rattled? Anne just seems much more calm natural, and James is looking a bit stiff by comparison. Not saying he's not in a nerve-racking position, but I'm just a little suprised; I kind of expected him to steal the show.

8:47 -- And the Oscar for Best Art Direction goes to Alice in Wonderland. Wacky world of Tim Burton, indeed.

8:49 -- And the Oscar for Best Cinematography goes to Wally Pfister - Inception. You think this guy knows he has glasses on his forehead? Probably not.

8:55 -- Oh wow. Gotta have a lot of respect for Kirk Douglas, but that delivery was a little scary. Good for him to be up their making jokes, but those nominees must be LOSING IT. But anyway, the award for Best Supporting Actress goes, much deservedly, to Melissa Leo. She was unreal in The Fighter; no surprises here. And great speech too! Way to drop the F-bomb, Melissa. Can't wait for the next season of "Treme."

9:01 -- The girlfriend (about JT and Mila Kunis presenting together): "Oh my god. If they made babies together I would eat them." Not really sure what that means, but I think I agree. And the Oscar for Best Animated Short goes to The Lost Thing. And wow, talk about Mr. Short and Mr. Tall!

9:05 -- And the oscar for Best Animated Feature goes to Toy Story 3. Oh, spanish Buzz, how you've forever changed the face of film.

9:14 -- Nice tuxes, boys. And the oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay goes to The Social Network. The first of many if you ask me. Is it just me, or does Aaron Sorkin kind of look like the gay guy from "How I Met Your Mother" that buys Lilly's painting just for the frame?

9:18 -- And the oscar for Best Original Screenplay goes to The King's Speech. Interesting that two two favorites for best picture are the winner's in these two categories. We'll see how this plays out as the show continues, but the former has my vote.

9:20 -- Oh no, poor Melissa Leo. I sure hope her f-bomb doesn't completely overshadow her win, because she was absolutely show-stopping in The Fighter.

9:24 -- Wow! Belt it, Anne! Funny song, but even better vocals. Prediction: she will make her way onto Glee some time very soon.

9:25 -- And the Charlie Sheen joke completely redeems Franco! Fantastic.

9:28 -- And the oscar for Best Foreign Film goes to In a Better World. In a better world, I'd know this movie exists. In a better world, I would care what this women has to say. In a better world, I'd be less of a prick, and would be married to Reese Witherspoon. But alas, reality bites.

9:31 -- And the oscar for Best Supporting Actor goes to Christian Bale. Another big duh. He and Melissa completely stole the show in that film. And wow, "my beautiful wife" is an understatement. Thought he forgot her name for a second (he was just welling up), but that woman could be named Dingleberry F. Poopenmyer and she'd still be a knock-out. Nice work, Batman.

9:41 -- Just now realizing how amazing this stage is...and the oscar for Best Original Score goes to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network.

9:46 -- And the oscar for Best Sound Mixing goes to More People I Don't Car About - Inception. But seriously, yawn city. Losing my focus. Play these fools off, and let's get a move on. Oh wait, more BS: the oscar for Best Sound Editing goes to Inception, again.

9:52 -- Grrrrr...can't really make fun of Celine Dion when she's in a cancer commercial...I'm in a glass case of emotion!

9:55 -- Hey look, it's 15 nerds and Marisa Tomei! Cool!

9:56 -- And the oscar for Best Makeup goes to The Wolfman. Gross indeed, Cate. Gross indeed. And the oscar for Best Costume Design goes to Alice and Wonderland.

10:01 -- Damn, I really need to watch Hustle & Flow again. What a fantastic movie.

10:03 -- "Red headed lady reaching for an apple. She's gonna take a bite, nope, she's gonna breath on in first, wipes it on her blouse."

10:06 -- Hey, Chuck can sing! Who knew?

10:11 -- Yeah, I'm sorry James, but you're just not doing it for me. Seem very distracted and uninterested. Maybe it's nerves, but come on, loosen up a bit. Anyway, the oscar for Best Short Documentary goes to Strangers No More. And the osacr for Best Short Film goes to God of Love. Nice fro, dude, and very sweet shout-out to the wifey.

10:17 -- Autotune win!! "Fishing for Facebook" was my favorite. Gotta love autotune.

10:20 -- And the oscar for Best Documentary goes to Oprah!! Oh wait, she seemed to have a lot to say, so I figured she had won this category somehow. Oh well, the actual winner is The Inside Job.

10:27 -- Oh Billy, you are definitely looking old these days, but you still got that charm. I'd be happy to have him come back and host again; definitely fills that stage better than Franco.

10:32 -- And the oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Editing go to Inception and The Social Network, respectively. Good thing they had RDJ and Jude Law calling these two; more snoozers IMHO. But those two are definitely a funny pair. Looking forward to the Sherlock sequel. The first was a bit too "Lock, Stock" for my taste, but I still enjoyed the ride and their comical banter. And come on, Jude. Wonder Woman > Batgirl, always.

10:43 -- Taking this musical performances as a chance to change venue, may miss a few pieces of this puzzle but I'll be back soon.

10:56 -- Ok I'm back. Phew. What did I miss...oh yeah, Best Original Song goes to Randy Newman's "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3. "She takes a bite. Chews it once, twice, three times, four times. Takes a long hard look at Randy."

11:01 -- The Office debate continues: Hilary Swank-- hot or not hot? And wtf?! Why did we have to have Hilary Swank come out to introduce someone else who is presenting the awards. Keep wasting my time, Academy, please. Anyway, for the first of our BIG FOUR awards, the oscar for Best Director goes to Tom Hooper - The King's Speech. Ruh-roh; don't know how this bodes for The Social Network's shot at Best Film, but we shall see.

11:07 -- Yada yada yada, Governor's Awards, yada yada yada. Yes, these guys deserve to be honored. No, they shouldn't do it at the end of the show when we are waiting patiently for the big finale. I thought I was trucking along fine so far, but now I am REALLY losing it. Where are my tweezers? It's time to start pulling my hair out one strand at a time.

11:12 -- Here he is, The Dude, in the flesh, looking as chill and smooth as ever. Wish he wasn't addressing each nominee individually...wasting more of my time...but for you, Jeff Bridges, I'll let it slide. I finally got my hands on a copy of Crazy Heart; really pumped to dive into that one. But back to business, our second BIG FOUR award, the winner of Best Actress is...Natalie Portman! My heart be still. If only every Long Island jew could find such success, I would...well, I definitely wouldn't be sitting here clawing at my eyes as I document this nonsense. Congrats, girl!

11:19 -- ...ok, wrap it up, Nat.

11:21 -- Welcome back, Sandra. Liking the playful digs at the nominees, making this all much more bearable. Just thinking, it'd be really cool and weird if Jesse Eisenberg took this home. Wonder if he'd be the youngest actor to win...I'll look that up later. No matter, anyway, because the oscar for Best Actor goes to Colin Firth. Ok, I really need to see this film. Was pulling for the Dude to pull the back-to-back, but I'm sure this is deserved. Nice work, man.

11:29 -- the FINAL commercial break. Couldn't be happier. And yes, Eisenberg would have been the youngest winner, but he was NOT the youngest nominee. In fact, at 27, he's the 10th youngest nominee in history. The youngest winner ever? Adrian Brody (29) for his role in The Pianist. #oscartrivia

11:32 -- Aaaaaaand here we are.  The big finale, the last of our BIG FOUR, and a nicely-goateed Steven Spielberg to present the award. Based on how the show's gone so far, I think it's gotta go to The King's Speech, though I think The Social Network winning would be a bit more meaningful for whatever generational reason. But yea, the oscar goes to...

11:36 -- The King's Speech. Ok, now I really really need to see this. Seriously cleaned up this year. Congrats to all involved; I can't really muster up the strength for any legitimate commentary at this point, so, yeah, that's all I got.

11:40 -- Closing ceremonies. Don't want to take away from these kids, but HELLO, this is obviously pre-recorded. I mean, cool for you guys I guess, I never sang at the oscars. Guess I'm just bitter. Need sleep. Thanks for reading. 


S.O.S. -- Save Our Shows!

Even with the advent of DVRs, people still don't have enough time to watch all the good shows on TV. It doesn't matter that you can record shows to watch later; inevitably, some shows slip through the cracks and fall off people's radars. And as a result, some of the better shows out there don't get renewed for future season because they just aren't being seen. It doesn't matter how good a show's reviews are; if people aren't watching, advertisers aren't paying, and they end up on the cutting-room floor. As always, there are many shows on the chopping block this season: some are great, some not so much; some are returning shows that have always been on the bubble, others are new shows that didn't get the proper reception. But three in particular have me truly troubled. These three shows are some of my favorite serialized stories out there, and while they have received critical acclaim, they are under-watched and under-appreciated. So if you have a heart, and some extra space on your DVR, try and catch these gems before it's too late. Maybe your viewings will push them over the edge and get them renewed for another season.

  • Plot: Charles "Chuck" Bartowski (Zachary Levi) is just a normal mid-20s nerdy screw-up. Expelled from Stanford, Chuck's life is stuck in neutral as he wastes away at the Burbank Buy More--a fictional take on Best Buy--where he works as a member of the Nerd Herd (Geek Squad). But one day, Chuck receives an email from his old college roommate with a very important attachment: a CIA/NSA supercomputer-worth of information contained in a series of images, also known as "the Intersect." The Intersect burns itself onto Chuck's brain, and then is erased completely, making Chuck's cerebral copy the only one in existence. Realizing Chuck's brain's incredible value, both the NSA and CIA assign their top agents to protect him--one, the rough-and-tumble Major John Casey (Adam Baldwin), and the other, the sexy and tempting Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski). Soon enough, however, Chuck proves a huge asset to the government, as he is able to recall information from the Intersect when presented with the right stimuli. Soon enough, Chuck is thrust into the heart of international espionage, and later downloads the Intersect 2.0, which allows him to not only recall information, but also access special-agent techniques, like lock-picking, computer hacking, and, best of all, combat training like martial arts and sharpshooting.
  • Why you should be watching: Watching Chuck grow from an everyday dork into a super-spy is really quite entertaining, especially as the series progresses and we realize he is more than just a home for the Intersect. Everyone loves a good underdog story, and if you can accept some of the shows more ridiculous aspects, this is one that really delivers. And it's more layered than you'd think for an action-comedy, as the interactions between Chuck and his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster), the revelations about their parents, and Chuck and Sarah's romance add a nice emotional depth to the show. Don't get me wrong, it's chock-full of laughs, but the characters are also very real and likable.
  • Why you aren't: While the characters may be realistic, the way the show handles the premise most certainly is not. Chuck tries to entrench itself within the real world with references to the CIA, NSA, government affairs, and international relations, but falls very flat in this aspect. Whether it is how the agents constantly refer to themselves as "spies," how the government allows civilians like Chuck's friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez) to go on missions, or how enemies seem extremely reluctant to pull their triggers, it is all a bit tough to swallow as "real". And this has been a problem that has turned off viewers from the start, with the show's future being in constant jeopardy even though it has lasted four seasons thanks to a faithful and vocal cult following.
  • Plot: After a series of supernatural events begin taking lives all over the north-east United States, the FBI assembles a task force to investigate these strange occurrences, labeled the Fringe Division. The FBI assigns special agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) to the team, and she assembles the other key members: bizarre mad scientist and mental institution patient Walter Bishop (John Noble), and Walter's multi-talented son Peter (Joshua Jackson). Together, the team begins tracing the strange happenings (known as "the Pattern") back to one looming source: Massive Dynamic, a huge advanced science and technology conglomerate headed up by Walter's old partner, the mysterious William Bell (Leonard Nimoy). Olivia soon learns that she was not chosen for this job just because she is a good agent, but instead due to her latent psyonic abilities, which she developed as a result of tests run on her by Walter and Bell when she was a child. Using these abilities, Olivia discovers the true source of "the Pattern": the convergence of our universe with a parallel one. And at the center of this convergence is one decision Walter made many years ago, when he crossed between universes to accomplish a selfish goal. As both universes are slowly torn apart, the Fringe teams on both sides fight to save their own--even if, for some, that means destroying the other completely.
  • Why you should be watching: This show takes a little while to really get rolling, but when it does, ooooooh boy. No one should be surprised that this J. J. Abrams project has an extremely deep and layered mythology. And as we continue to peel away the many layers of this onion, things just get better and better. The supernatural "Pattern" events, the differences between the two universes, the way the show turns common sci-fi cliches on their heads; everything is done with a level of brains and sophistication that is entirely unique and thoroughly fantastic. And perhaps even better is the father-son combo of Peter and Walter. Walter is hilariously insane and Peter is boorish and sarcastic, yet together, they are heartwarming and enjoyable to watch as their relationship waxes and wanes.
  • Why you aren't: Like Abrams' supernova show Lost, Fringe is VERY tough to just jump into. There is waaaaay too much history, back-story, and established mythos at this point, that trying to pick up the show in the middle would be nearly impossible, especially for more casual viewers not up for a challenge. And this speaks volumes about the show's performance, as only dedicated fans who have followed from the beginning continue to watch. Somehow the show has made it to a third season, but is in an unfavorable Friday night time slot. Abram's himself has said he needs four season to properly tie up the show's story and do the fans justice, so here's hoping we at least see Fringe renewed for one more go-round.

No Ordinary Family

  • Plot: The Powell family was once just an ::ahem:: ordinary family: husband, wife, and teenage daughter and son, doing their best to gel but finding it difficult to make time for one another. So they decide to take a family trip to South America. However, things go awry when their puddle-jumper crashes into a remote body of water. The family survives, but a few days after returning home, they realize they will never be the same. Jim Powell (Michael Chiklis), the family patriarch and police sketch artist, develops super strength and skin tough enough to withstand gunfire. Dr. Stephanie Powell (Julie Benz), a gifted scientist and the family matriarch, develops super speed and an increased metabolism. And children Daphne and J.J. develop the ability to read minds and a super-powered intellect, respectively. While the kids try to survive high school while making the most of their unique talents, Jim, along with long-time friend and assistant DA George St. Cloud (Romany Malco), chooses to utilize his new powers to fight crime, and Stephanie and her lab assistant Katie (Autumn Reeser) work on discovering the source of these abilities. But things get complicated when other super-powered humans start creating havoc all over the area, and it all starts tracing back to Stephanie's villainous boss, Dr. Dayton King (Stephen Collins).
  • Why you should be watching: As a comic book fan, I was always extremely disappointed in how Heroes dealt with super-powered folk. That show tried to build this huge mythology instead of letting the heroes do what real people with powers would do: either cause crime, or fight against it. But No Ordinary Family is really satisfying in this aspect, as Jim immediately jumps at the chance to help others, and his bouts with some of the super-powered villains in the show are very well done. The show has managed to make use of comic book cliches and cheesiness without going overboard like this season's other superhero show The Cape. Further, the plot has really taken off recently, with a nicely-woven tapestry of twists and turns that keeps me tuning in every week.
  • Why you aren't: Like many new shows, No Ordinary Family had some MAJOR growing pains early on. The first few episodes were extremely cheesy, the characters were one-dimensional, and it took way too long to set the stage for the grater conflicts. I'm sure a lot of people lost interest after the first few sub-par episodes. A shame, really, as this is the first network show in recent memory to truly do justice to the superhero/super power genre. It's really rolling now, and it looks like it may have been too little too late.


10,000 Hits!!

Well, thanks to all of you loyal readers, PopREX has hit a HUGE milestone. I don't think I could've imagined when this blog launched that it would see 10,000 hits, but low and behold, you have all made that happen! Thanks so much for your continued support, and keep your eyes on all of those Facebooks, Twitters, and whathaveyous for notifications about new content. Or, click "follow" on the right to simultaneously show your support AND keep yourself apprised. Thanks again!

And as always, if you are looking to contribute, please do not hesitate to reach out.


"Dead Island" Trailer-- The most stunning game trailer I may have ever seen...

No commentary needed. Just watch, then pick your jaw off the floor:

And, for fun, IGN remixed the trailer in proper chronological order. Check it:

Um, yeah. Wow.


Spider-Man Reboot Gets Title and Full Costume Pic!

Ok, so I promise I'll take a break from Marvel movie news soon, but I couldn't hold back on this one. As I mentioned in the Captain America post, Marvel is rebooting the Spider-Man movie franchise, with a new flick coming out on July 3rd, 2012. Details about the film have been scarce so far. We know that Peter Parker will be played by The Social Network's Andrew Garfield, and his love interest this time around will be Gwen Stacey, played by Easy A's Emma Stone (with a particularly sexy blonde dye-job, last seen at the Golden Globes). Sally Field and Martin Sheen will play Peter's guardians Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and Rhys Ifans (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) will be the central villain, getting nice and scaly as Dr. Curt Conners/The Lizard. Beyond that, all we know is that this version of Spider-Man will be a younger take on the hero, focusing on his high school years as opposed to Sam Raimi's post-grad take. Further plot details, including whether we will see a complete retelling of the origin story, are still unclear.

But today, Marvel released two very interesting pieces of info. First and foremost, the movie finally has an official title: The Amazing Spider-Man. I like it--a nice homage to the comic book series. However, it is the second piece of info that has got me really geeking out. You see, Marvel also released the below picture, the first image of Garfield in full Spider-Man garb. Check it out:

Initial impressions: I really like the textural look, and how the red and blue areas look like they are made of different materials, kind of like how the Batsuit in The Dark Knight mixed mesh and armor plating. Looks much more real-to-life than all-over spandex would be. But the real zinger? Look at his wrists. I may be wrong (even though I'm almost always right), but to me, those definitely look like web-shooters! You see, in the comic universe, Spider-Man couldn't just produce webbing from his wrists like he can in the movies. Instead, Parker develops his own web fluid cartridges which he loads into mechanical web-shooters he designed using his scientific genius. He has to replace these cartridges when he runs out, and on many occasions has developed special types of webbing to use against different foes (like a hardening solution he used when fighting Hydroman and non-conductive webbing he utilized against Electro). I like this version better than what we saw in the comics, as it accentuates Parker's scientific genius, and sets up so more sticky situations when he runs out of webbing mid-swing or battle. Also, the web-shooters help better explain how Parker can construct some more advanced web structures, like differentiating between simple strands, giant globs, intricate webs, and others.

Spider-Man has always been my number-one favorite superhero. I absolutely loved the first two movies (with Spider-Man 2 being my all time favorite comic book film), but the third kind of pushed it way over the line from powerful-yet-campy to completely absurd and ridiculous. But now that I've seen this picture, I have more faith that the reboot will take the Spider-Man universe a bit more seriously, and reinvigorate this franchise with the bit of reality it was always missing. It's a long way away, but I am definitely looking forward to this one...


First "X-Men: First Class" Trailer Revealed!

Wow, super nerd alert! It is only appropriate that after my huge, geeky info-dump about Captain America yesterday that Marvel would toss us even more media to get excited about. Today, the first trailer for the upcoming X-Men: First Class film was released to the public. First Class is billed as a sort of reboot/prequel to the original X-Men trilogy, and follows the young Professor X (James McAvoy--Wanted) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender--Inglorious Bastards) back when they were best friends first discovering their powers. The two form the first grouping of X-Men, and fend off the advances of the villainous Hellfire Club, whose leader Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon--every movie ever) is bent on world domination. Other familiar mutant faces are along for the ride, including Emma Frost (January Jones--"Mad Men"), Beast (Nicholas Hoult--About a Boy), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence--Winter's Bone), and Havok (Lucas Till--Hannah Montana-The Movie). Not much else is known about the plot, though from the trailer, it looks like the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War will factor into it all somehow. Either way, it is great to see this film finally taking shape, as it is due out this summer. Check out the trailer below, and keep your eyes peeled for the ever-helpful IGN Rewind Theater, where nerd experts will break the clip down frame-by-frame to show you what you missed.

My initial take? Excitement, almost exclusively as a result of the blue-and-yellow uniforms that are much more in line with the comic book X-Men than the black leather outfits we saw donned in the original trilogy.

More X-Men: First Class Videos

UPDATE: Here is the IGN Rewind Theater of the trailer as promised:


Captain America Primer: Getting Ready for the First Avenger

As most everyone should know by now, after the immense success of the first Iron Man movie, Marvel has pushed forward with their own "Avengers Initiative": adapting their iconic "A-team" for the big screen. For the unfamiliar, The Avengers are a team of superheroes from the Marvel Universe of comics, comprised of some of Marvel's most iconic characters: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, as well as other big names from time to time. Iron Man and The Hulk have both seen modern theatrical adaptations. So to round out the roster, Marvel is releasing two high profile films this summer: Thor (5/6/11) and Captain America: The First Avenger (7/22/11). Then, in 2012, after the public becomes familiar with the origins and general whats-what of these two comic book stalwarts, all four (and more) will be brought together for the full Avengers movie (directed by the geek-approved Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire fame). 

Since their announcement, I have been extremely excited for Thor and kind of lukewarm on Captain. Casting and plotting details have been available for Thor for quite some time now, with big names like Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins complimenting the fairly unknown Chris Hemsworth, who will take up the hammer as the title character. Captain was always much more shrouded in secret, with the announcement of Chris Evans coming later and receiving a mixed reaction. After all, Evans' last visit to comic book land was in the detestable Fantastic Four films, where he played Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, an extremely different type of superhero than the much more serious and valiant Captain America. And given Thor's godly origins, powers, and settings, I have just always been a bigger fan of him than the Captain. That is, until Marvel released this ridiculously bad-ass one-sheet:
Awesome, right? Well it gets better. A few days later, during the Superbowl, the first Captain America: The First Avenger trailer was aired. And while I'm still not completely sold that this is going to be a sure fire hit, I'm about 100x more excited for this film then I had been previously. You can check out the HD trailer here, or for a more nerd-friendly option, head over to IGN's Rewind Theater where they break it down frame-by-frame to show you what your pitiful human eyes wouldn't otherwise catch. It's definitely a brief clip, but when scrutinized, you realize there is actually a wealth of tasty morsels hidden in there.

I know what you're think: "Okay, great. I see the picture, I watched the trailer, but I still don't get it. Who is Captain America, and why should I care?" Good question, and to answer it, I have put together this little primer--a brief summary of the Captain America back-story (which will be the focus of this movie) and why he is important to the Marvel Universe. Thanks to Wikipedia for ensuring I got my facts straight.

Basically, born in 1917, Steven Rogers (Chris Evans) was a scrawny student who became extremely disturbed by the rise of the Third Reich during WWII. Determined to do something about it, Rogers attempted to enlist, but due to his poor physical shape, he was rejected. However, Rogers' determination didn't go unnoticed, and he was soon approached by Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). Phillips was looking for test subjects for a new defense project labeled Operation: Rebirth, an experimental procedure designed by the scientist Abraham Erksine (Stanley Tucci). The procedure employed a mix of radiation and injections of the iconic Super-Solider Serum (which we see utilized in the most recent Hulk movie), and was meant to turn normal troops into superior soldiers operating at the peak of human physical potential. Rogers, anxious to help his country, volunteers, and soon becomes the first human test subject. The process is extremely painful, but on all other accounts, a complete success--the meek Rogers is transformed into the perfect human specimen, operating at the pinnacle of what the human body is capable.

Now, this next part I won't go into too much detail about, because some may consider it a "spoiler" of sorts for the movie. But let's just say that at this point, some seedy characters come into play, and as a result of this intervention, Operation: Rebirth is completely destroyed and can no longer be applied to anyone else. To cover up this failure, the government creates an alter-ego for Rogers called Captain America. They bill him as a superhero of sorts, whose powers were a gift of unknown origin, and give him a red white and blue suit and shield to round out the package. This way, Rogers can function as both himself and Captain America without anybody knowing about Operation: Rebirth or the Super-Soldier serum. And with his new identity and abilities in hand, Rogers goes on to lead the charge against the Nazis and, more specifically, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving)--Hitler's right hand man and head of advanced weaponry, and for all intents and purposes, Captain America's number one arch nemesis. Towards the end of the war, however, the Captain is hurled into freezing North Atlantic waters. His body is never recovered, and he is presumed dead. That is, not until years later, when the superhero team the Avengers finds him frozen in suspended animation, whereafter he is revived and joins their cause in the modern era.

At this point in time, the main conflict of the film is still unclear. We know it will focus on Captain America's origins and his exploits during WWII. We know The Cap will be facing off against the Red Skull and the terrorist organization known as HYDRA. We know Cap's iconic sidekick Bucky Barnes will be around for the ride (played by Sebastian Stan), as will his wartime girlfriend Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and a few other Marvel mainstays (Dum Dum Dugan, played by Neal McDonough; Arnim Zola, played by Toby Jones; Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark/Iron Man, played by Dominic Cooper). We also know that the Red Skull's plans will somehow center around obtaining the Cosmic Cube, which is a mystic artifact that grants its holder immense power, and reappears within the Marvel Universe on many occasions (though apparently in the film it is known as the "Tesseract"). Beyond that, well, we'll just have to wait and see.

So get excited, because it looks like Captain America: The First Avenger is prepared to wow moviegoers on July 22nd. And with Thor coming in May, and the Avengers film slated for launch in mid-2012, Marvel fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years (not to mention 2011's X-Men: First Class and the 2012 Spiderman reboot). So stay tuned to Poposaurus for more Marvel movie updates, true believers!


Competitive Karaoke: Singing for the Win

[Fans of music, performing, and making total asses of themselves in front of lots of people should pay particular attention to this article.]

Those of you that have that know me well (or have met me for more than five minutes) know I do one thing pretty frequently: sing. No, I'm not always belting out the high notes at the top of my lungs (though sometimes I am), but more often than not, I have a song in my head and softly trickling out of my mouth. And up until recently, I hadn't found the proper outlet for this melodic hobby. You see, between school, work, and my other obligations, I had, for a while, kind of fallen out of music. Whereas once upon a time I was always a member of a few choirs or a Capella groups here and there, for the past few years, I had been completely without such extracurriculars. That is until one of my friends stumbled upon a local little-known gem of singing fun: the New York City Karaoke League.

Sure, everyone has done karaoke. And sure, in NYC, you can find a fun karaoke joint in just about any neighborhood. But I bet few if ANY of you have ever done competitive karaoke. Now, I know what you're thinking: competitive karaoke? That's ridiculous! And you'd be right--it is ridiculous. Ridiculous amounts of fun! ::wink, nudge, wink:: This may be a confusing concept for some, so let's start at the beginning. Basically, the league proceeds as follows: you assemble a team of 5-6 singers (ideally with an even male/female ratio) and once a week your team goes head-to-head against another team. Each team puts forth a male solo, a female solo, and a group number, and those songs are judged against each other by two other teams in the league, with scoring based on the singers' sound (pitch, volume, accuracy, etc) and showmanship (how well you "perform" the song, which could involve props or costumes if you so choose). Teams accumulate wins and losses each week depending on how each of your team's songs do against the other team's, and are then ranked based on your overall record and total team score. At the end of the regular season, these ranking become seedings for the playoffs, with the league champion being crowned after two weeks of post-season play.

But there's more. You can't simply pick any song you want each week (though the first match-up and the finals are usually open choice). Each week, there is a different them that your songs have to fit within, adding an extra layer of strategy to the proceedings. Past seasons have seen themes like one-hit wonders, cover songs, magic night, role reversal (where guys sing girl songs and vice-versa), British invasion, and other creative choices. The post-season gets even more specific, pitting specific artists, bands or genres against one another, with the higher seeded team getting first pick of which side to sing for. And all of this goes down with drink specials, cheap food, and in a friendly-yet-competitive atmosphere.

The league has seen 5 successful seasons so far, with Season 6 set to kick-off on February 16th. If you think you've got the chops and can round up a team of friends who are looking for a fun Wednesday night diversion, head over to the registration page to get in while you still can. Registration closes on the 11th, so if you want in, you better move with the quickness. If you have doubts, feel free to come to the pre-season party to get a feel for the crowd and atmosphere next Wednesday, the 9th @ 7:30pm at PULSE Karaoke. And for more information about the league, scoring, and past seasons, check out the website (which I think is getting a full overhaul sometime soon). So warm up those vocals, start thinking of song choices, prepare to shake your respective money-makers, and I hope to see you all up on that stage!


The Killers: A Crash Course

Let me guess. When you hear someone mention The Killers, your mind goes straight to one place: "Mr. Brightside." Don't worry; it's a common ailment. I too was once a Killers neophyte, knowing very little about the Las Vegas band and their electronic dance-rock ways. But then I gave them a second glance, and I am a much better person for it. With their unique instrumentation, powerful vocals, and 80s influences, The Killers took no time becoming one of my favorite bands once I digested all of their music. And now that it has worked its way all the way through my tract, I am ready to ::ahem:: poop out a processed version for your listening pleasure. Gross. Awesome.

What I have done (and have done previously for other bands like Muse) is selected four tracks from each of the band's four major albums: the three studio albums Hot Fuss, Sam's Town, and Day & Age, and their collection of rerecorded B-sides and covers Sawdust. I have excluded from this list "Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody Told Me" because, well, let's be honest: if you haven't heard those songs, you probably wouldn't really be interested in a list like this anyway. Also, you probably don't have ears, which means you definitely wouldn't be interested in this list. Together, the 16 songs make up what is not only a great Killers mix, but also a fantastic snapshot of their greater library, nicely demonstrating the progress the band has made since their debut (though I am a firm believer that Hot Fuss, their first album, is by far their best). With this mix, you will know The Killers old and new, and can hang tough with even the most avid fans. Enjoy!

Hot Fuss (2004)
  • "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"
  • "All These Things That I've Done"
  • "On Top"
  • "Change Your Mind"
Sam's Town (2006)
  • "When You Were Young"
  • "This River is Wild"
  • "Sam's Town"
  • "Bones"
Sawdust (2007)
  • "All the Pretty Faces"
  • "Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf"
  • "Move Away"
  • "Under the Gun"
Day & Age (2008)
  • "Spaceman"
  • "Losing Touch"
  • "The World We Live In"
  • "I Can't Stay"

Well, there you have it. And if you get hooked, keep you eyes on the interwebs--it seems The Killers will be reconvening in May to finish work on their fourth studio album.


More Bat-news: Batman 4; Robin Williams as Hugo Strange (plus a Super bonus tidbit)

Holy Headlines, Batman! After the big reveals of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane in the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises, it seems some more info about the Christopher Nolan series of Bat-flicks has come to light. Thanks to Nolan's own disclosures, we've always been under the impression that he intended his new take on the Batman universe to be a trilogy, and as such, Rises would be the last of his run with the franchise. And while we still don't know one way or another for sure, it seems Christian Bale would be very open to getting back into Gotham for a fourth film. According to a Huffington Post article, Bale told Empire Magazine that it was certainly NOT definite that Rises is the last flick, and Bale made it quite clear that if Nolan cooked up a fourth script, he'd follow along. Bale said, "if Chris goes, 'Hey, I've got another story I think could be interesting,' then yeah, great, I'd go do that. I always assumed it would be three, but I could be wrong." Not a firm guarantee either way, but it personally makes me VERY happy that Rises might not be the last we see of Nolan's universe.

The same article brings up another old rumor that appears to be coming back to the surface. A while back, Robin Williams outwardly expressed his desire to play a villain in The Dark Knight, and more recently he was rumored to have found his way into The Dark Knight Rises. This notion was always quite intriguing to me. Williams was a big part of my childhood for his comedic roles, but he has always had a firm grasp on the dramatic (Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet's Society, and his monologue towards the end of Mrs. Doubtfire come to mind). Some of his more recent roles have been incredibly twisted and creepy (check out One Hour Photo and Nolan's own Insomnia to see what I mean), and given the unstable nature of most of Batman's villains, Williams seems to me like a perfect fit. And now, according to a tweet from reputable Bat-info source Batman-on-Film, Williams may make an appearance in Rises after all, as Bat-villain Dr. Hugo Strange. For the uninformed, Strange is one of Batman's earliest recurring enemies, predating Catwoman and even the Joker. A psychologist of genius-level intelligence, Strange is equal parts brilliant and insane, and often uses his intellect to transform normal people into disgusting monsters, both mentally and physically. As IGN points out, this actually could work quite well given that we know already Bane will be a part of Rises. You see, Bane is a hulking, super-strong beast-man, who draws his strength from the fictitious "venom" serum which he pumps directly into his blood stream. Given Strange's penchant for messing with human DNA, it wouldn't be a long shot to imagine a scenario where Strange is enlisted to help track down Batman, and designs a serum to increase the strength of the police force, first testing it out on Hardy's Bane. Again, none of this is set in stone (in fact, it is all very ethereal), but a geek can dream, can't he?

As a final added bonus for you DC Comics fans out there, it seems the new Superman has finally been cast. For those of you who are following along, you already know that Christopher Nolan was recruited once again by Warner Bros to help conceptualizing the upcoming reboot of the Superman movie franchise. Many potential castings were tossed around (including True Blood's Joe Manganiello/Alcide), but according to Deadline, British actor Henry Cavill will don the blue-and-red tights as the next Clark Kent. Some of you may recognize Cavill from his role in Showtime's The Tudors. He was also previously considered to play the role of Bond in the Casion Royale reboot, and apparently auditioned for Bale's role when Batman Begins was in the early stages of production. I personally have never seen Cavill's work, but I have to admit I am a bit disappointed. You see, I have always been a bigger fan of the big, bulky versions of Superman we see in the comics and cartoons, not the more svelte live-action versions played by Christopher Reeves and, more recently, Brandon Routh. And from the pictures I've seen, Cavill is another lean-bodied actor. Perhaps its more an issue of age (presumably this reboot is an origins story, so Clark will still be fairly young), but to me, his small frame does not cast the commanding shadow of the more powerful takes on Superman we see in other mediums. Oh well, guess we'll just have to wait and see how this all plays out.


Just For Fun: Guilty Pleasures for a Snowy Day

Well folks, Winter is here and has come bearing white, fluffy gifts. It's been a snowy season so far (at least for those of us in the requisite climates), and what better way to pass the time while hibernating than with a good book, movie, or video game? And while there is a lot to be said for catching up on the classics of cinema, literature, etc, sometimes we just want to turn off our brains and simply veg out. We can't always commit to the level of focus demanded by a season of Mad Men, a screening of The Godfather, a reading of The Great Gatsby, or another trek through Final Fantasy VII (yes, I believe ALL of those works are comparable in quality). And so, I have compiled this list. Below you will find my picks for some less cerebral but still immensely fun diversions to keep you busy on a snowed-in afternoon. You may not tout them atop your respective top-ten lists, but you will still most certainly enjoy the B+-quality rides they provide all the same.

Human Target: The Complete First Season (DVD -- $29.99)
Okay, so I know I've promoted the comic book-turned FOX action series Human Target before (see my 2/18/10 post "Better Off (Watching) Ted, and others"). But this show just fits too perfectly on this list to deny it a spot. And now that the complete first season is available on DVD for a very reasonable price, the original twelve action-packed exploits of bodyguard-for-hire Christopher Chance and his team make the perfect hibernation marathon. The premise is simple: Chance (Mark Valley--Boston Legal, Fringe), a highly trained security expert with a sordid past, takes on contracts from a wide variety of clients who need protection, and finds himself pushed to the limits to ensure the safety of those he's been hired to protect. But he isn't alone. Chance teams up with ex-cop Laverne Winston (Chi McBride--Boston Public, Pushing Daisies) and the seedy-yet-geeky Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley--Watchmen, A Nightmare on Elm Street), two loyal and indispensable friends and partners. The scenarios may be a bit unrealistic if not at times completely cliche, with Chance always managing to overcome the unspeakably high odds stacked against him by the skin of his teeth. But the action is well choreographed and an absolute blast to watch, and the light and comical rapport between Chance and his teammates is just icing on the cake. It all adds up for some great popcorn-popping television that any fan of James Bond or Jack Bauer will most assuredly enjoy.

Just Cause 2 (PS3/Xbox360 -- $40)
Yes, yes, I get it--not everyone is into video games. But I promise, this is one that even the most casual gamer can enjoy. Just Cause 2 is set on the fictional Southeast Asian island called Panau, where the old president was just assassinated and overtaken by the new president--his son, "Baby" Panay. You play as Rico Rodriguez, an "Agency" operative sent to help end Panay's dictatorship and reestablish the US-Panau trade relationship. But literally ZERO of that matters; the story is terrible, the voice acting sucks, and the plot development is nearly non-existent. Regardless, this game is immense amounts of fun. Essentially, Rico accomplishes his mission by causing "Chaos," a tracked statistic that increases with the more stuff you blow up. Chaos can be racked up by taking missions from one of the three criminal factions on the island or completely on your own whim as you see fit, and this results in lots of gunfire, hijackings, and stunning explosions. And, also, fun. You see, the more Chaos you cause, the more weapons, vehicles (of which there are over 100), missions and equipment you unlock. In other words, explosions beget more explosions. Don't you love it when things come full circle?

But what really sets Just Cause 2 apart from other open-world actioners are two key parts of Rico's arsenal that you will not find in any other video game. You see, attached to Rico's arm is a multi-functional grappling hook, and to his back, a parachute. And by combining these two devices, the fun gets ratcheted up about 500%. Want to grapple on to a passing helicopter, hijack it, fly it as high as you can, then jump out, releasing your parachute just early enough to avoid splattering on the mountainous terrain below? You can. Want to use your grappling hook to attach the pursuing police officer to the back of your car and drag him a few miles? You can. Want to grapple to a near by building, then release your parachute as you zoom towards it so you can float lazily around the towering metropolis? You can. You can combine the grappling hook and parachute in a near-endless number of ways, providing for some ridiculous stunts and creative combat sequences. This is sandbox gameplay at its most visceral. And thanks to Panau's varied and vast terrain (over 300 different locations to find and destroy), the fun and action is only limited by your own creativity.

(If you are intrigued but not sure you want to shell out the cash, I think you can still find the Just Cause 2 demo on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network--it gives you 30 minutes to mess around in a limited section of Panau, and is a great taste of what the game offers)

Speed/Point Break (DVD -- ~$30 for both)
Honestly, is there any actor out there that better embodies "mindless action" than Keanu Reeves? Sure, maybe The Matrix trilogy was pretty cerebral (if not unnecessarily convoluted), but most of his other vehicles (Constantine, Bill & Ted) require little-to-no heavy mental lifting. This fact is demonstrated in spades by this pair of flicks. On the one hand we have Point Break. Keanu plays an undercover FBI agent investigating bank robberies. His task is to get in good with a bunch of surfer dude-criminals (led by Patrick Swayze) and then jump out of airplanes with them. Well, maybe it's all not quite that simple, but between the bank robberies, massive waves, gun fights, chase sequences, and high altitudes, Point Break deserves a responding "Woah!" On the other hand, we have Speed. Keanu plays an LAPD SWAT explosive expert tasked with keeping the passengers of a bomb-rigged bus alive while traversing the busy streets of Los Angeles. He does this by driving really fast, be it on a bus, subway train, or elevator car. Oh, and of course, by answering a number of "pop quizzes" posed by the psychotic bomber, played effortlessly by Dennis Hopper. Double "Woah!" Both of these flicks are fantastic amounts of fun, even though the latter is much better than the former. When put together, they add up to a solid B/B+, and a back-to-back screening makes for some great action movie-escapism during a chilly winter's day. Plus, they are both set in warm climates!