Scifi Review of 2012 – Comics, Movies, TV and Books

Amelia Cole and the Unknown World

Comics

Amelia Cole and the Unknown World
Amelia Cole and the Unknown World

Three titles really stood out for me this year. Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, one of the launch range from Monkeybrain Comics, is the story of a female mage trapped in an alternate dimension, the fight she faces there to protect magic and magic users and that universe’s very odd version of superheroes. Oh and her side kick is an industrial Golem called Lemmy. It’s brilliant, endlessly inventive and witty and one of the best fantasy titles in years. Also, it being a Monkeybrain book, it’s insanely good value. Seriously, their entire range is brilliant but this is a real standout. Go, spend not very much money, be amazed by how many great comics you get.

Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja also worked miracles this year. Bravely choosing to swim upstream from the mournful, serious archer we saw Jeremy Renner do so well as in Avengers Assemble, they recast Clint as a perpetually battered, down on his luck, man of the people. He’s scruffy and charming and completely without any luck at all, and also a profoundly decent human being. The first issue is tied for the best single comic I read this year, as we see Clint explain how he ended up owning his apartment building and gaining a dog in a sequence that honestly got me teary. Just fun, smart storytelling of the first order.

It’s competition for best single issue I read this year is Captain Marvel issue 1 written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and with art by Dexter Soy. Kelly Sue and Matt are married, and the sheer level of comic writing talent in that house may be enough to bend space and time. Or at the very least ensure they have the best collection of action figures on the block. Finally graduating Carol Danvers from the dismal ‘Ann Coulter in high end dominatrix gear costume’ character that she’s been for so long, Kelly Sue simultaneously grounds Carol Danvers with a series of smart, naturalistic friendships and lets her fly. She’s a pilot, a woman who has dreamed of flying her whole life and the first issue, and first storyline, both focus on Carol dealing with the death of her mentor, a female pilot with a charmingly dubious past. The entire story is great, taking in time travel, rogue alien technology and a group of female pilots in World War II but the first issue is the one that hit me right between the eyes. I lost a family member, who I only got close to this year, in 2012 and her relationship with my girlfriend was very similar to Carol’s friendship with Helen here. The funeral, and the moment where Carol not only decides what to do but takes her friend’s ashes on one last flight hit me where I live. It’s a great series, featuring a character finally living up to her potential and I’m delighted it’s proving a success.

Honorable mentions: The entire Monkeybrain comics line up. Seriously it’s that damn good. Also Mass Effect: Homeworlds for its highly impressive use of established continuity to tell new, personal stories about four of the series’ best characters. The Garrus issue alone is worth the price of admission. Finally, Doctor Who: The Child of Time, coelcting the first chunk of 11th Doctor stories from Doctor Who Magazine, can stand not only as one of the best Who comic stories, but as one of the best Who stories of recent years.

Movies

Marvel Avengers Assemble

Avengers Assemble literally did seven impossible things before breakfast, managing to give everyone a moment in the sun whilst telling a coherent, fun story and changing the grammar of the modern action movie forever. Don’t believe me? Name a single movie that dealt with that scale of action, and that amount of characters, in that disparate number of locations, a tenth as well prior to to its release. You can’t, because no one has done this before. Seriously, watch for action movies in 2013 to seriously step their game up because Whedon, a man who has one theatrical movie to his name, and a commercial flop at that (No one but you saw it, Browncoats. NO ONE. Doesn’t mean the movie isn’t great, because it is, just means it was a commercial flop) has run rings around every major action director, his second time out of the gate. Awesome work. Also, Coulson lives.

The Dark Knight Rises also proved massively impressive this year. . The conclusion to Nolan’s trilogy absolutely nailed it for me, making a cinematic Catwoman interesting again, redeeming Bane forever from the catastrophe he was in Batman and Robin and delivering a story that felt like all the consequences of the previous movies coming home to roost. There’s a palpable sense of danger to the movie and, as someone who watches movies professionally, it got me over and over, especially the glorious reveal in the closing minutes. Yes, at least one element of the ending is predictable but it doesn’t matter. In the end, this is a story about stories, about the space Batman creates and leaves behind him, I loved it.

And to complete the trifecta of predictability, The Cabin in the Woods. Horror cinema hasn’t had a Doctor Strangelove moment since Scream and it’s been more than overdue one. Whedon and Drew Goddard delivered in absolute spades, and the film manages to work in three separate genres at once; it’s a great ‘teens have sex in the woods and die’ horror movie, a better parody and commentary on ‘teens have sex in the woods and die’ horror movies. It’s third genre is dependent on the viewer but for me, this is one of the best Lovecraftian mythos movies ever made. Savagely funny, brutally clever and framed by staggeringly great performances by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, this is a horror movie that doesn’t change the game, it ends it. Like Avengers Assemble, I’ll be fascinated to see how people respond to it.

Honorable Mentions: Chronicle combined found footage with superheroic angst to fiercely great effect, whilst Skyfall managed to return Bond to his roots whilst still pointing him at the future. The sequence at the Commons Select Committee, with the kill team en route to M and back up far too far away, is stunning, as is the wonderfully nasty closing fight.

TV

Fringe

Fringe has been fun for years but it’s final season is extraordinary. With the Observers in full control of Earth and Walter’s decades-long plan as scattered as Walter’s memory, the show has gone all in for it’s final season. There’s a palpable sense of tragedy to much of it as characters we’ve known and loved are reintroduced and, frequently, killed, and the world itself feels run down, shabby and utterly real. The Observers may be in control, but it’s a soft apocalypse for most people and that makes it all the more horrifying, the collaborators proving to be a far more unsettling and disturbing idea than even the Observers themselves. Simultaneously old fashioned, recalling John Carpenter at his best, and entirely new, it’s a magnificent season that looks set to round out a magnificent run.

I am one of the six people on the planet who loved Last Resort and I don’t care. A pseudo-dystopian thriller about a US nuclear submarine ordered to fire on Pakistan and refusing to do so, it’s a fascinating look not only at the perception of the military mindset, but the sort of polite, passive aggressive coup that’s so common in UK spy-fi (I am going to hell for that word I just know it) and so derided in the US. Endlessly grim, inventive and smart and with the likes of Andre Braugher and Robert Patrick front and centre it’s a wild-eyed, very smart and utterly cynical TV show. The US hated it. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen in years.

Finally, on this side of the pond, The Secret of Crickley Hall proved two things; firstly that the BBC still have a dismal amount of genre fiction output, with literally nothing on the table once you step outside the Doctor Who and secondly that if you put a good writer and director and a good cast on a good source novel, strangely, you get good TV. It’s a tightly plotted, smart three hours that unfolds across two time periods at once and is crammed full of neat twists on old ghost story tropes. It’s also crammed full of brilliant performances, especially Suranne Jones and Tom Ellis as the bereaved central couple. It’s an intensely traditional story but it’s so well done, and so moving, especially in the last ten minutes, that it really doesn’t matter. Just a beautifully crafted story, told very well.

Honorable Mentions: Being Human and Misfits both fought through complete cast overhauls and emerged stronger for it, especially Being Human. Elementary also proved to be several dozen times more fun than it had any right to be whilst Arrow, so far, has been two shows; a fascinating Nolan-esque take on being a vigilante and a lumpen-paced, guest-star laden WASP soap. I hope the first wins, it’s much more interesting.

Books

Redshirts

John Scalzi’s Redshirts is brilliant, there’s no other word that covers it. Initially a very funny parody of old-school Star Trek, with a group of characters realizing that they’re the disposable crew members it soon becomes something far deeper. It’s a fantastic comedy, don’t get me wrong, but the closing third of the book is one of the sweetest things you’ll read all year. It’s a story about stories, and why when it comes down to it, they’re magical. I loved it.

The Strugatksy Brothers’ Roadside Picnic was reissued in a new translation this year and again I loved it. It’s the novel that inspired both the Tarkovsky movie and the Stalker series of computer games, and is unrelentingly bleak. Following Red, a Stalker or smuggler who breaks into areas where aliens visited Earth to extract alien tech for money, it’s difficult, bleak and absolutely essential reading.

Honorable Mentions: 2012 has been a great year for small press, with Anachron Press turning out fantastic novels, especially The Red Knight by KT Davies, and Fox Spirit launching with two fantastic anthologies, Tales from the Nun and Dragon and Weird Noir.

Websites:

Monkeybrain Comixology: http://www.comixology.com/Monkeybrain/comics-publisher/93-0

Amelia Cole Comixology: http://www.comixology.com/Amelia-Cole-and-the-Unknown-World/comics-series/8518

Kelly Sue Deconnick: http://kellysue.com/

Matt Fraction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Fraction

John Scalzi: http://whatever.scalzi.com/

Roadside Picnic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadside_Picnic

Anachron Press: http://www.anachronpress.com/

Fox Spirit: http://www.foxspirit.co.uk/

The Dark Knight Rises – Preorders Open!

The Dark Knight Rises

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

ARRIVES ON BLU-RAYTM DVD and DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FROM 3rd DECEMBER

Pre-order in the UK from 2nd October HERE

The Dark Knight Trilogy Limited Edition Giftset also available on 3rd December

The Dark Knight Rises arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download from 3rd December. In the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, Gotham City is threatened by the masked terrorist Bane, forcing Batman to return from an eight-year absence and fight for his city one more time.

“The Dark Knight Rises” will be available on 2 disc Blu-ray and on single disc DVD The Blu-ray features the film in hi-definition on Blu-ray and in standard definition on DVD. “The Dark Knight Rises” Blu-ray disc takes advantage of the marriage of IMAX and 35mm formats by using the hybrid master to replicate the unique theatrical experience of integrated film formats.  The Blu-ray is also available in limited edition Bat Cowl packaging. Both the Blu-ray and the single disc DVD include UltraViolet which allows consumers to download and instantly stream the standard definition version of the film to a wide range of devices including computers and compatible tablets, smartphones, game consoles, Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players.

Also available on 3rd December, just in time for holiday gift-giving, is “The Dark Knight Trilogy Limited Edition Giftset,” featuring “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” all in one collection. Available on Blu-ray or standard definition DVD, “The Dark Knight Trilogy Limited Edition Giftset” will also include a premium book exclusive to the collection, which takes fans deeper into the epic franchise, as well as existing special features.

Leading an all-star international cast, Oscar® winner Christian Bale (“The Fighter”) again plays the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. “The Dark Knight Rises” also stars Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle; Tom Hardy as Bane; Oscar® winner Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”) as Miranda Tate; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. Returning to the main cast, Oscar® winner Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”) plays Alfred; Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon; and Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) reprises the role of Lucius Fox.

The screenplay is written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer. The film is produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Charles Roven, who previously teamed on “Batman Begins” and the record-breaking blockbuster “The Dark Knight.” The executive producers are Benjamin Melniker; Michael E. Uslan; Kevin De La Noy; Thomas Tull; with Jordan Goldberg serving as co-producer. The film is based upon characters created by Bob Kane and published by DC Comics.

SYNOPSIS

It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.

But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS

BLU-RAY

  • “THE BATMOBILE” DOCUMENTARY: Witness all five Batmobiles together for the first time in history.  Dive deep into every aspect of the most awe-inspiring weapon in Batman’s arsenal as you journey through the birth and evolution of this technological marvel and cultural icon. (01:00)
  • ENDING THE KNIGHT: A comprehensive look into how Director Christopher Nolan and his production team made “The Dark Knight Rises” the epic conclusion to the Dark Knight legend.

Production

    • The Prologue: High-Altitude Hijacking
    • Return to the Batcave
    • Beneath Gotham
    • The Bat
    • Batman vs Bane
    • Armory Accepted
    • Gameday Destruction
    • Demolishing a City Street
    • The Pit
    • The Chant
    • The War on Wall Street
    • Race to the Reactor

Characters

    • The Journey of Bruce Wayne
    • Gotham’s Reckoning
    • A Girls Gotta Eat

Reflections

    • Shadows & Light in Large Format
    • The End of A Legend
  • Trailers
  • Art Galleries
  • UltraViolet: Instantly stream and download films to compatible devices

DVD

  • The Journey of Bruce Wayne
  • UltraViolet: Instantly stream and download films to compatible devices

The Dark Knight Rises Review

The Dark Knight Rises

There’s a moment in The Dark Knight which not only feels like a really good comic book scene, but actually transcends it, and becomes better than most of the Batman comics there have been. It’s when The Joker visits Harvey Dent at his hospital bed, and says just the right things to take advantage of Harvey’s broken mind. Everything about that scene is great for long-time fans, not least because of the way it uses well-known characters, but actually reinvents them and ties their fates together.

There are a few scenes like that in The Dark Knight Rises, and this sets it apart from most comic book movies. With most, there’s a sense that if they manage to come pretty close to the comic book at some point, that’s a good thing. One of the most impressive things about Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is that no matter how grittily he portrays the characters, tech and locations, it never loses sight of what’s been best about the comic books themselves. This movie draws mostly from the mid-late nineties run, with elements of the ‘Knightfall’ story as well as a lot of ‘No Man’s Land’.

But, more so than the comics themselves for 95% of the time, the film deals with consequences. Following the end of the previous movie, Bruce has effectively retired, his body shattered from the accumulated damage of crime-fighting and his reputation even more so. In some ways, he’s looking to return, but in other ways, he’s given up. One of the reasons he can’t ignore the events that take place in this film, though, is that in a direct way, he’s responsible for what’s happening. Again, the events of the first two films aren’t just distant memories – they directly inform what’s happening in this one.

This allows for a larger scope to be taken with Batman than has really been taken before – there’s not much need to introduce characters, as we already know the main ones. This frees Nolan up to push the character into somewhat unexplored territory (certainly filmically, and for most of the comics history as well).

This also means that Christian Bale is front-and-centre in this movie, with more interesting things to do than he’s had in a while. Anyone who has seen The Machinist knows that Bale can play withdrawn and haunted like few others, and he plays Bruce as such a recluse in the early parts of the film that it’s difficult to see how he can end up donning the costume again.

Tom Hardy plays Bane as Batman’s threatening shadow, with a huge arrogance to go along with his brutality. He’s bordering on camp at times, but is a hugely fun villain, if (and stop me if you’ve heard this one) somewhat incomprehensible at times.

Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway wins over a huge amount of her nay-sayers with a confident, winning performance, which combines sexiness with pragmatism. The slow build to her appearance in full costume means that the character never feels as ludicrous as she really should – a trick that Nolan also used with Batman in the first film.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues his slow climb towards the a-list, with a strong performance in a role that gets a lot to do, but never feels completely fleshed out. Marion Cotillard is charismatic, but probably would have benefitted from more screen-time to flesh out her character.

Meanwhile, if you liked Gary Oldman and Michael Caine in the first two films, you’re probably going to like them here. Caine gets to be emotional, and Oldman gets to be angry and frustrated, and otherwise, they’re continuing doing what they’ve been doing so far in the series.

The film looks amazing, as is to be expected from a movie from Christopher Nolan (especially with Wally Pfister behind the camera), and while Hans Zimmer’s score can be a little overbearing at times, it continues the huge quality of the series so far.

This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have its flaws. There are continuity issues and plot points that it seems jaw-dropping that they’ve been missed. There are actions that happen purely to advance the plot, and there are a couple of scenes that end up feeling like a cop-out.

However, your mileage will vary on this. You may find that the flaws in it irritate you too much, or you may find they’re something you barely notice. For this reviewer, there’s a scene involving a trial that perfectly displays the kind of comic book movie that nobody thought we’d ever get. And this means that the positives outweigh the negatives completely, and while the flaws irritate, they don’t destroy.

The Dark Knight Rises – Concludes Christopher Nolan?s Batman trilogy

The Dark Knight Rises - Click poster for more Batman Posters

Christian Bale (?The Fighter?) again plays the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The film also stars Anne Hathaway, as Selina Kyle; Tom Hardy, as Bane; Oscar? winner Marion Cotillard (?La Vie en Rose?), as Miranda Tate; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as John Blake.

Returning to the main cast, Oscar? winner Michael Caine (?The Cider House Rules?) plays Alfred; Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon; and Oscar? winner Morgan Freeman (?Million Dollar Baby?) reprises the role of Lucius Fox.
The screenplay is written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer. The film is produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Charles Roven, who previously teamed on ?Batman Begins? and the record-breaking blockbuster ?The Dark Knight.? The executive producers are Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Kevin De La Noy and Thomas Tull, with Jordan Goldberg serving as co-producer. The film is based upon characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. Batman was created by Bob Kane.

Behind the scenes, ?The Dark Knight Rises? reunites the director with several of his longtime collaborators, all of whom worked together on the ?The Dark Knight.? The creative team includes director of photography Wally Pfister, who recently won an Oscar? for his work on Nolan?s ?Inception?; production designer Nathan Crowley; editor Lee Smith; and Oscar?-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming (?Topsy-Turvy?). In addition, Paul Franklin and Chris Corbould, who both won Oscars? for the effects in ?Inception,? supervised the visual and special effects, respectively. The music is composed by Oscar? winner Hans Zimmer (?The Lion King?).

In helming the film, Christopher Nolan is utilizing IMAX? cameras even more extensively than he did on ?The Dark Knight,? which had marked the first time ever that a major feature film was partially shot with IMAX cameras.
The locations span three continents and include the American cities of Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles, as well as sites in India, England and Scotland.

?The Dark Knight Rises? is a presentation of Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Legendary Pictures. Slated for release beginning July 20, 2012, the film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

The Dark Knight Rises is released Summer 2012

? 2011 Warner Bros Ent. All Rights Reserved