Nine Reasons a Flash TV Show Could Be Better Than a Flash Movie

Friday, August 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Earlier this week, it was announced, much to the surprise of geeks everywhere, that the CW was planning to introduce The Flash to their line-up of DC heroes as a companion show to Arrow. In fact, Barry Allen will be introduced early in season two of Arrow in a few episodes, before being set up to be spun-off into his own series. The show would be helmed by the Arrow co-creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg and directed by David Nutter, and the search is already underway for the man to fill Barry Allen's running shoes. So by this time next year, we will probably be viewing the pilot at Comic Con in San Diego.

A lot of fans have been lamenting the fact that a Flash television show means that he won't be getting a big screen adaptation anytime soon. (reports are that work continues on a Flash movie, but with the show right now having the momentum, I wouldn't bet on it.) But there are lots of reasons why the Flash is perfect for television versus the big screen, and not just because he had a television series once before. Here are nine reasons why The Flash might just work better on the small screen than the big one.

1. Flash's Speed Powers Can Be Done on a TV Budget

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There aren't a lot of superheroes who can really be done properly on television without the very things that make them so super in the comics being somewhat neutered in the process. Characters like the Hulk and Wonder Woman were never even close to being as powerful as their comic book counterparts were back in the day, mostly due to the limits of what a television budget can give you. Even more recent superhero television fare like Smallville couldn't really give you the full Kryptonian power treatment all at once, because there simply wasn't the money for it to be done right.

But special effects, even those for television, have come a long way since even Smallville. And the kinds of effects that the Flash would need are the kinds of things that could feasibly be done on a television budget now. They might not look as good as they would for a big budget Flash movie, but they don't have to look terrible anymore either. Heck, they weren't even that bad on the old Flash show from the '90s; I imagine the right effects house could do wonders these days. A Flash show might not be able to give us all the things that his powers can do in the comics, but it could be a closer approximation than for most other superheroes that have made the jump from comics to television.

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Nine Celebrities Who You Probably Didn't Know Voiced Anime Before Princess Mononoke

Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 6:00 am

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We live in an age of cartoon voice "stunt casting," where it seems like every big movie needs to have at least one or two A-list Hollywood actors lending their pipes to the proceedings, irrespective of actual talent. Dreamworks does this, Disney does this, Fox does this, and when high-profile movies from Studio Ghibli come out on our shores, you bet that they get a cavalcade of Hollywood stars.

But let's face it, pals: anime is mass entertainment - broad stuff designed to be produced fast and beamed around the world. Outside of Japan, it's not usually the type of media to attract famous actors and artists. But sometimes by chance, and sometimes by design, some pretty famous names have gotten involved with anime over the years. Let's look at nine of the most famous ones.


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The Eight Funniest Recurring Themes in the Original Star Wars Trading Cards

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 6:00 am

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The people at Topps who put together the original runs of Star Wars trading cards had a difficult task. According to Star Wars Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle, the first set of 66 cards appeared in August of 1977, a mere three months after the film's premiere (and right around the time that the first bootleg Star Wars merch appeared in the back of Rolling Stone). There were five sets of cards for the first film, and 330 cards in total. That's a lot of captions and images to try to draw from a two-hour film, particularly one which was lauded for the simplicity of its storytelling and its directorial style.

There were plenty of production stills to work with as well, but there's still only so much blood in any given stone, and they certainly have my sympathies; it reminds me of a horrible copywriting gig where I had to come up with a couple different hundred ways to re-write the same basic marketing spiel for an alarm company. At least the Topps folks got to work with Star Wars.

I'm going to jump around in continuity, mostly because it makes for better jokes, but if you're curious, they were released in this order: Blue (001-066); Red (067-132); Yellow (133-198); Green (199-264); and Orange (265-330). This is all courtesy of the probably-not-strictly-licensed Star Wars Stores site.

1. Exclamation Points Make It Exciting!

It's just a basic rule of English, isn't it? Whether it's a Tusken Raider on a very slow-moving bantha...

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... or just a random shot of Mark Hamill looking concerned.

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Eight Reasons Mulder and Scully Are Actually Terrible FBI Agents

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Many heroes are really bad at their jobs, and for good reason: how many people want to watch a movie about Robocop dutifully standing outside in the parking lot with the rest of his support team while his superiors handle everything? Still, we often willfully forget about the gulf between what we see onscreen and what would probably happen in real life, and in the case (ha!) of everyone's favorite pair of paranormal-fighting G-person lovebirds, it may have been for the best. Because when you get down to it, there's a whole bunch of reasons why, despite their best qualities, The X-Files' Fox Mulder and Dana Scully weren't the sort of agents you'd really recommend for career advancement. I'm not saying they were bad people, bad characters, or even bad at dealing with aliens or demons or ghost rapists or stretchy people or what have you. It's just that, although I've only made it through the first eight seasons, something tells me these guys wouldn't have lasted very long if not for the dense layers of TV magic and fan love keeping them on a regular investigation schedule.

Detailing why this is so is going to be a little more difficult than, say, calling the CSI characters out for not following correct forensic procedure, because a) The X-Files employed a scientific consultant and endeavored to be accurate when possible and b) many times the writers had other characters fully acknowledge the absurd things Fanox Sculder were able to get away with, especially in the later seasons, when that seemed to become a lot more interesting to them than a typical monster story. Mulder and Scully do seem to spend some time on the more mundane aspects of federal investigations, at least more than most television crimefighters seem to. But that doesn't mean that they still weren't hopelessly reckless when it comes to actual FBI protocol (of which I admittedly know very little) and common sense (of which I definitely know little). Obviously, some some seriously expired spoilers follow.


8) They're horrendously high-profile

Quick: name five active real-life FBI agents whose names were the title of a '90s alt rock song. Can't? Secrecy would appear to be a fundamental part of the job for the X-filers' work, yet about ¾ through the series Mulder is described as being too well-known to show his face in Las Vegas, a city famous, of course, for being predominantly quiet and easy to spot people in. The seventh season took this idea to a whole new level, with two episodes in particular treating Mulder and Scully essentially as if they were celebrities first and law enforcement second: "X-Cops" had the agents appearing on national television, and "Hollywood A.D." even saw a movie made about them using their real names. Yeah, the movie was probably a flop, but it's a record of the agents and their work that anyone could theoretically see. By this point in the series, the two of them don't seem all that concerned with the security risks of their names and histories being public, and that's a bit of a problem if your entire job description involves matters of national security (Scully, to her credit, did hate being on TV). Oh, and for the record, part of me does want to see a movie featuring the Richard Gere version of Mulder, if solely on the chance that it might at least be better than I Want to Believe.


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Top Ten Reasons X-Men and Doctor Who Are Secretly the Same Franchise

Monday, July 29, 2013 at 12:05 am

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Michael Corely

2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of two of geekdom's most beloved franchises: X-Men and Doctor Who. (Avengers can go cry itself to sleep over this snub atop its pile of movie money and co-opted characters.) Despite their seemingly evergreen popularity, reaching this golden anniversary milestone was once thought unlikely as both properties endured protracted "wilderness years" where they were almost defunct. The disastrously schlocky TV movies both had on Fox in 1996 didn't help their odds either.

Now that both are thriving, it's the perfect time for these ultra-liberal sci-fi adventure tales to finally crossover. Or do X-Men and Doctor Who have so much in common that an official crossover would be redundant?

I've noticed a disturbingly high amount of parallels between the two properties. You may chalk them up to zeitgeisty coincidences, but my string & thumbtack collage chart (just like the ones made by every paranoid conspiracist in TV and film) says otherwise. For one thing, Chris Claremont and John Byrne, who were responsible for much of X-Men's classic tales, are self-professed Whovians. It's not a one-way homage though, as Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, relaunched Doctor Who's showrunners, appear to be secret X-Fans.

I'll be focusing on the core media for each (television and comic books) as there's too much auxillary media to cram into a single post, but here be fifty year's worth of spoilers. Another thing I've learned is that if you ever to synopsize either to the uninitiated they'll realize you're a crazy person. So hold on to your monocles as I explain why X-Men and Doctor Who are secretly the same franchise!


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From The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to Dallas: 10 Strange Licensed RPGs

Friday, July 26, 2013 at 6:00 am

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As Kevan Davis, Alex Fleetwood, Holly Gramazio, and James Wallis point out In their excellent book The Boardgame Remix Kit, "Almost all board-games based on TV programmes (sic) or films are a let-down. Not all of them, but enough that we can say with some certainty that you shouldn't waste your money." The same can be said of many licensed role-playing games. I have even heard some players say that licensed games are where creativity goes to die. In advancing their argument these players will point to a copy of Justice League Monopoly or one of the many awful Spider-Man video games that have been made over the years, with derision.

It would be easy to draft a list of 10 high quality licensed games (the West End Star Wars game leaps immediately to mind), or 10 licensed games that are just plain terrible (the Big Bang Comics Role Playing Game might make that list). That isn't what I want to do here. It is true that some of the games listed below will be less than stellar games, but others will be quite good. The key to this list is that they will be "strange" for one reason or another. Most of the time they will be on this list because they violate one of these two rules for making a licensed role playing game.

  1. a) Know who your audience is. If you are making a licensed game, it should bring new players into gaming and it should appeal to some segment of the existing gaming population. If it doesn't, you are doing it wrong.
  2. b) Make a quality game aimed at that audience. Not only must the game be good, but it must also have some appeal to the audience for which it is designed. Making a Transformers role playing game that is as complex as Advanced Squad Leader would be insane. Most of those who are fans of Transformers would find such rules daunting, and most ASL fans would scoff at playing giant robots.

Other times, they'll be on the list for the mere fact that they made me go hmmm...

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Eight Reasons Why a Superman/Batman Movie Might Not Be Such a Great Idea

Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 6:00 am

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After the mega-success of The Avengers movie (known as Avengers Assemble to those in the land of Steed & Peel), Warner Brothers has finally started working on a DC cinematic universe so it can eventually make a Justice League movie. Eagle-eyed viewers already saw Superman smash General Zod through a Wayne Enterprises satellite in Man of Steel. On Saturday at San Diego Comic Con, its director, Zack Snyder, revealed his next movie will be a Superman/Batman crossover inspired by The Dark Knight Returns!

This surprise announcement has thrust nerds everywhere into a literal tizzy of the worst sort. (There will be a Flash movie, too. You guys and gals also like Central City's Scarlet Speedster, right?) Most are exhilarated that WB is finally taking concrete steps toward making that long promised Justice League movie. Some are already convinced that this could surpass all of Marvel's Phase Two films.

While a Superman/Batman (there's no chance of them calling it World's Finest, right?) will probably be gangbusters for WB's coffers in the short term, I still think it'll prove to be a bad move in the long run. I'd have much more faith in the project if it was being overseen by veterans of WB's stellar DC animation department. I'm not saying that it won't be an entertaining film, but it does have a lot of hurdles to overcome if it wants to truly set WB's superhero output on par with Marvel Studios. So if any of you have contacts at WB, could you make sure the right people take a look at this list before production gets underway?


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Seven Cool SDCC 2013 Bits of Comic Book News (and 7 We Didn't Get but Should Have)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 6:00 am

San Diego Comic Con 2013 has come and gone, and although the lion's share of the news items to come out of the convention floor were about movies and television, several major comic book related announcements were made as well. Here are seven of the coolest ones, and seven that would have been a whole lot cooler had they happened as I'd hoped they would.

1. Marvel Announces Nightcrawler's Return in Amazing X-Men

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With the upcoming end of Marvel's Astonishing X-Men title, everyone knew there was an open slot to be filled in the mutant monthly comic slate, and at SDCC 2013 on Sunday, Marvel announced a new Amazing X-Men series, from writer Jason Aaron and artist Ed McGuinness. This book will see the long awaited return of Nightcrawler to the Marvel Universe, after having been killed off in the Second Coming crossover series back in 2010 saving the young mutant Hope. Just like fellow mutants Jean Grey, Colossus, etc, we all knew Nightcrawler would be back someday, and I'm glad Marvel didn't drag it out forever. Because who doesn't love Kurt Wagner? Also, from the previews it looks like they've decided to put Kurt back in his original (and best) costume, as designed by the late, great Dave Cockrum.

The new book will be written by Jason Aaron, whose work on the Wolverine and the X-Men title has led to some of the best and most enjoyable X-Men books since Joss Whedon was on the title. He's bringing along some of Marvel's most recognizable X-persons to the team, like Storm, Wolverine (duh), Beast, Iceman, Northstar and...Firestar? Yes, the mutant created for television back in the '80s to be one of Spider-Man's "Amazing Friends" has found some newer amazing friends to hang with. At least she'll be reunited with her old pal Iceman.

Announcement That Wasn't Made, But I Wish Had Been:

You've got Ed McGuiness as an artist on an X-Men book, and you don't include Colossus as one of the members? Ed McGuiness was pretty much born to draw Piotr Rasputin, in all his giant, musclebound glory, and including Colossus on the team would re-unite the main four "All-New, All Different X-Men" team members once again.

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Seven Great and Five Terrible Things at Comic Con This Year

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 7:01 am

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It can be the best of times, and the worst of times.

The best, because it's pretty much everything you love under one roof (unless you happen to be a sports fan too - there's not much of that besides MMA). From comics to movies, toys, video games, wacky T-shirts, weird Japanese stuff, cult celebrities and more, the entire geekosystem is on display, and the sheer amount of like-minded folks here can result in the ability to start a random conversation with just about anyone and know more or less what they're talking about.

On the other hand, if you want to actually see all that good stuff, you have to work your ass off to do so, fighting crowds and waiting in line forever for that one thing you like, and in the process missing five other things you like. If you're press, you get to do all this while lugging around a hefty computer and saying a silent prayer that the wi-fi will hold up just a few seconds more just so you can tweet that Rocket Raccoon looks like Rocket Raccoon ought to.

I come not to bury Comic Con, but to praise it. And to vent. Venting is necessary. But let's start with the good:

1. How Revealing!

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The big reveals are the main reasons we get all excited. After wondering what the hell Guardians of the Galaxy will be like, the discovery that it's every bit as smartass as anything else James Gunn has made. The revelation that the Man of Steel sequel will have Batman in it, or the Avengers' signature accessories morphing into the comic-accurate face of Ultron. A Warcraft movie proof-of-concept bit that will probably only ever be seen at Comic Con.

Here's a Nova Corps dude, by the way...

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Ten Movie and TV Characters Named Insultingly After Real-Life People

Monday, July 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm

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The vendetta is one of the privileges of creating fiction. When you're the Supreme Being in the world you've created, you're free to visit misery upon those you resent, and you can make the villainy you see in them unmistakably visible to others.

Of course, plenty of authors, screenwriters and directors have spent their whole careers expressing their misogyny, misanthropy, nationalism and other bigotries through their work, sometimes not quite consciously. But there's a coarser, more specific, more childishly fun exercise of this power: Naming a character that's either reprehensible or doomed (or both) after somebody you hate. Critics, as we shall see, are favorite targets of this.

Then there are times when such a naming doesn't seem to have been intended with conscious malice, but is potentially insulting anyway, as in our first example...

10. Michael Myers from Halloween (1978)

Along with the chalky deflated-Shatner mask and overalls, the slasher genre's generic boogeyman in John Carpenter's signature chiller bears a similarly prosaic name: Michael Myers. He got it from a British film mogul who had helped handle the European distribution of Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). It doesn't appear to have been intended as a reflection on the man's character, but the original Mr. Myers might still have been taken aback by the peculiar honor. Then again, Carpenter is also said to have named his terrified, traumatized heroine, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), after his first girlfriend.

And then there's the matter of "Ben Tramer," the much-discussed boy that Laurie's interested in. He was named in honor of Carpenter's old crony Bennett Tramer, later a producer and writer on Saved By the Bell. He remains offscreen in the first film, but in Halloween II (1981) he becomes perhaps the most indirect and incidental victim of Michael's killing spree. So being the namesake of a Carpenter character may feel like being on the receiving end of passive-aggression.

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