Tuesday, September 27, 2011

UNETIDA's Week In The News 27-09-11

UNETIDA has appeared not once, not twice but three times in the press in the past few days...

Source: Getty
The Commander, UNETIDA Naval Tactical Support Capt. "Harpoon" Dutton KBE, speaking in the absence of Contraalmirante "Tridente" Carlos UNETIDA Naval Operations Commander, said "UNETIDA is currently not in command of either the USS Jefferson City nor any other U.S. naval asset afloat or submerged in the Pacific Ocean at this time. The NASA UARS satellite that crashed to Earth did not contain any UNETIDA controlled "black box" or other equipment on board. We are not involved in any search or recovery operation with the U.S. Space Agencies." 

UNETIDA's Director of Research and Development Dr. "Quantum" Pataal praised the work of Scientists at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland who have reportedly debunked half of "known physics" and rendered Einstein "the intellectual equivalent of a public school science teacher." Pataal said that science fiction writers will have to put on their creative caps now and come up with even more fantastical ideas than those of Asimov, Speilberg, Bradbury, Roddenberry, Dick and even Lucas himself now that space and time travel will be "reality in a few years". 

Source: Anorak
Colonel "Whopper" Creedon, UNETIDA's Acting Director of Intelligence gave evidence at an inquest into the death of one Micheal Faherty, 76, of Ballybane, Galway on December 22nd 2010. Col. Creedon proved that UNETIDA's prototype "Microwave Gun" could not have been responsible for the man's death as it produced far too much collateral damage. West Galway coroner, C. McLoughlin and Assistant chief fire officer, G. O'Malley said there was no other adequate explanation for the death of Mr. Faherty, other than "Spontaneous Combustion" - now the first recorded case in the country.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger rules the summer

I like to convince myself that the Matt Salinger Captain America movie never even happened. So for me, this was my first time seeing the star spangled avenger come to life in a live action motion picture. Marvel Studios and Paramount have collaborated on several movies now and each entry in their catalogue has been continuously impressive. Captain America: The First Avenger is inexorably linked to the The Avengers movie next year. The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man [1&2] and Thor all worked pretty flawlessly as movies but should Captain America fail, it could endanger what is going to be one of the most incredible cinematic events in history as these heroes finally come together to battle evil in the one movie.

Captain America: The First Avenger serves a dual purpose both as an introduction to the character who will lead The Avengers super-hero team and also brings the final pieces of the grand mystery that has been glimpsed in post-credits stingers for more than 3 years now. Like the other movies in the franchised, Captain America stands firmly on it’s own two feet and never reduces itself to being simply the piece of a larger whole.

When I saw Chris Evans was picked to portray Steve Rogers I was unsure. His performance in the Fantastic Four series was hardly stellar, but to be honest, he didn’t have a lot to work with those movies. Come to think of them in fact I believe Evans now puts a nail in the coffin of that franchise which isn’t exactly bringing a tear to my eye. Then I saw him in the even-more-awful Scott Pilgrim vs. The World as Lucas Lee and changed my mind – he’d certainly work as Cap and I was right. His performance as a weedy but ambitiously patriotic young Rogers is flawless but he really comes into his own when dosed with the Super Soldier Serum so he can become a living weapon, the first in an army of super-soldiers with which the U.S. can better combat the Nazi menace sweeping across Europe.

That's right, while the tale is framed by present day scenes, the majority of the movie takes place during WWII just as a Captain America origin tale should [the character first appeared in 1941]. While a comic book delivers it's story through illustrations with speech bubbles, it's up to a solid array of actors to make those drawings flesh and voice, and The First Avenger's cast is stellar. Hugo The Matrix Weaving was a deliciously OTT Johann Schmidt AKA Red Skull and single-minded in his quest for the Cosmic Cube, witnessed in the stinger at the end of Thor. I’m wondering however which of Weaving or Mark Strong gets the call “I want you to be the villain in my next movie” first nowadays as they seem to have cornered that market in recent years. Kings actor Sebastian Stan gets to be Captain America’s buddy Bucky Barnes, Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as Col. Chester Phillips. Hayley The Pillars of the Earth Atwell is Strategic Scientific Reserve officer  Peggy Carter, Stanley The Core Tucci is Dr. Abraham Erskine, creator the Super Soldier Serum, British theatrical actor Dominic Cooper as Howard StarkTony’s father and not forgetting Neil Star Trek: First Contact McDonagh as "Dum-Dum" Dugan of The Howling Commandos.

Director Joe The Rocketeer Johnston is know for his effects-laden movies and he doesn't disappoint with the cinematic spectacle he delivers here. Among the 1600 effects shots were a multitude of scenes with Steve Rogers before he was "bulked up" by the Super Soldier Serum using complex green screen and body double technology. There was one or two hokey effects shots [one scene where Cap was running after a bomber inside a massive hangar was especially crud] but they weren’t enough to snap you away from your immersion in this incredible stylised wartime world that Johnston and his team created for us. Veteran composer Alan Back To The Future Silvestri composed an instantly classic score, evoking the great epic cinematic qualities of old WWII adventures.

I'm pleased to announce that there is nothing to worry about, the world has accepted The First Avenger as a hero to admire [he did surprising well overseas for someone with “America” in his name and literally dressed in an American flag suit and has made over $350m]. The hype for The Avengers is already assured some measure of success provided Joss Serenity Whedon doesn’t screw it up, but the Marvel Super-Hero train is going so fast now, I doubt even he could derail it.

Final Verdict: An old-fashined adventure tale, another outstanding work of Marvel cinematic gold and another kick in the teeth for DC/Warner's epic fails at everything except Batman.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****+

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011

On September 2nd 1864 the forces of Union General William T. Sherman marched  into Atlanta, Georgia, one day after the Confederates evacuate the city. Exactly 147 years later, the people of Atlanta stood aside as a 40,000+ force of fans of Science Fiction, Fantasy, TV shows, Games, Comic Books and Movies descended on downtown Atlanta and literally became an occupying force of five of the largest hotel complexes I've ever been in.
The crowds before rush hour. Photo by Mark Twomey, used with permission.

It was Bruce Russell who demanded that Mark and I fly to Atlanta to join him and his buddies, Jer and Sean, at the 25th annual Dragon*Con. We were joined by Constance who helped us navigate the colossal space invaded by thousands of people just like ourselves. The experience was an assault on the senses, hundreds of attendees, many dressed in sometimes elaborate costumes from all aspects of popular culture from fully armoured Imperial Stormtroopers to scantily clad Anime girls, moved as a crowd like a river of colour through the hotel lobbies, skywalks and convention centres on their way to get their own experiences.

In the Navy! Yes this bloke likes G.I.Joe even more than I. Photo by Mark Twomey

Many celebrities wandered amongst us, themselves seeking hero worship on their way to a panel or a fast buck from autographing pictures. We spotted the muscular Lou The Incredible Hulk Ferrigno riding an escalator, Laura Smallville Vandervoort, who really is as pretty as she is on screen, was walking about with V co-star Joel Taken Gretsch [who is also William Shatner's son-in-law]. A wide-eyed Robert Nightmare on Elm Street Englund and a haggard-looking Lance Aliens Henrickson took a wrong turning out a door into a sea of people and were promptly ushered through another door by quick thinking staff before the stars were too mobbed.

Some less-than-iconic stars like flame haired Felicia The Guild Day and a newly lean David Stargate: Universe Blue mingled after hours in the party-like atmosphere that formed each evening in all locations. There was as much to see at night as there was by day. Drink flowed from many locations catering for thousands, it was even served from an automated BAR-2-D-2 droid. Goth and Steampunk themed bands put on concerts for those who wished to dance the night away - lightsabers in the air. Some retired early however, regenerating themselves for the next hectic day of adventure.

Well holding up cigarette lighters would be a fire hazard.

Several dealers rooms were established where companies and individuals gathered and set up stalls to hawk their much-sought wares. Literally everything imaginable was available; from Superhero belt-buckles to Star Trek costumes, real metal fantasy and anime-themed swords and blades, valuable comic books and graphic novels, DVDs of almost forgotten yet beloved cartoons, trading cards, patches, badges, action-figures, posters, t-shirts and games. There was also an abundance of hand-made unique goods such as corsets, leather-ware, steampunk devices, jewelery and even kilts!

One room, "The Hall of Fame" was set up where you could go to meet the stars present and get a personalised autograph. I met Sean Patrick Young Indiana Jones Flanery, Eddie Warehouse 13 McClintock and the fascinating Richard Battlestar Galactica Hatch. I myself sought only two autographs - those of Michael Battlestar Galactia Hogan who scribbled "Frak Em All" on a Colonel Tigh picture for me and of course Erin Buck Rogers Grey who still looks stunning at 61 and whom I hope I didn't scare with my nervous dribbling. One true gentleman whom I must mention is Tahmoh Battlestar Galactica Penikett who waived his autograph fee on a picture for a friend of Constance who survived cancer.

Bill Shatner having fun. Photo via Dragon*Con

Finally it was the panels themselves that were of most interest. One may have to queue for an hour in the blistering 36°C heat to get a good seat, or what we did was to wait in relative comfort until the queue had dissipated and one could simply sit in the back and listen to the fascinating tales and memories recounted by the likes of William Star Trek Shatner and Carrie Star Wars Fisher. Shatner is doing well for a man of 80 and had some fascinating insight into his work. He also told us that he has discovered that most people in attendance had not come to the con to see him, but to see each other and that he was glad to be a part of that. Carrie Fisher was equally fascinating and a lot more R-rated in her speech than Shatner. She is conscious that her battles with her weight and drug abuse have taken their toll on her star, but she has made it her mission to educate people on such pitfalls.

G.I.Joe / Iron Man artist Tom Feister's panel got way out of hand.

All in all it was a fascinating worthwhile experience and an excellent primer before I dare brave the San Diego Comic Con at some point in the future. I will however look forward to returning to Dragon*Con and to Bruce and the boys in a few years for even more adventures.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Next Year... STALLONE.... will be.... VAN DAMAGED!!!!

That's just one of the cheesy promo lines that I wish Don LaFontaine was still with us to deliver during an Expendables 2 teaser trailer. And it's true, Sylvester Stallone himself has confirmed that he will be battling "The Muscles from Brussels" himself - Jean-Claude Van Damme on screen in the sequel to one of the greatest action movies in history, The Expendables.

JCVD turned down Sly's offer to appear in the original because Stallone could not tell Van Damme who his character was. Obviously this time there was more fleshed out before offers were made because we understand from Stallone that: "We'll have a big showdown between me and Jean-Claude Van Damme, which has been anticipated for a long time, so it should be a good one."

This is almost the greatest news ever until we realise that not only is JCVD on board but Stallone has also apparently secured the legendary CHUCK NORRIS to appear. The first thought you have may be forgiven because, as you know, if Norris is the bad guy, then he could never be beaten and the villains would win but if he's a good guy, then the bad guys will just give up as soon as they see him and that'd be a boring movie. However I think at 71, 'ol Chuck should be used for dispensing on screen sage advice and instruction like Yoda as opposed to actually fighting as it's possible he could, albeit accidentally, destroy the universe.

Sources have said that Stallone had been talking with Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Carl Weathers, Vin Diesel, The Rock, Charlie Sheen and Lorenzo Lamas about the sequel, which he intends to be "a love letter to martial arts" and that Nicholas Cage will soon be confirmed to star and perhaps even John Travolta. "I like using people that had a moment and then maybe have fallen on some hard times and give them another shot," Stallone told Entertainment Weekly.

Earlier this month Stallone confirmed that both his Planet Hollywood partners, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis would have more extended roles in the sequel than their brief-but-awesome cameo appearances in the original, joining the returning cast of Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke and others. The Expendables 2 will be directed by Simon Con Air West.

To be honest, I don't think G.I.Joe 2 out around the same time will get much of a look in with this up against it.

Source: Vaughan / Screenrant / Entertainment Weekly / AICN

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 +10

10 years ago today the skyline of New York City was forever altered, brave heroes acted in the skies above Pennsylvania and the nerve centre of those who establish peace and security across the globe was wounded.

Today we remember and honour those who lost their lives that day in the World Trade Centre, United Airlines Flight 93 and The Pentagon. Also the first responders and emergency services who risked and lost their lives in an a brave attempt to rescue. Finally we regard the sacrifice of the servicemen who have perished in combat against those who support the efforts of they who carried out the cowardly attacks on September 11th 2001.