Con Man: The Hilarity Continues on Vimeo

Alan Tudyk in Con Man

Alan Tudyk’s Con Man (short for Convention Man) continues to shine on Vimeo. Some fans have complained that the price of viewing all the hilarious antics of Tudyk’s character is too steep.  If one rents the entire “season” it does work out to be a little on the dear side.  While the overall tempo of the series is a little uneven, the bits with Leslie Jordon sagged and felt forced. This could, however, be down to the viewers personal taste and not from the material on hand.

Each episode of Con Man is presented in “blocks” of three or more.  the initial offerings were presented on October 1, and included three episodes and guest star Felicia Day. The next release date, October 7,  made four further episodes available and the last “installment,” October 14, went back to three.

The end result of this shotgun release of episodes is appreciated as having to wait for, say another week, for the next 10 to 17 minute installment would have been frustrating. With a number of segments that can be viewed in one sitting, the action, even the bits with Leslie Jordan, moves smoothly and the comedy has a sort of continuity.

The series, if one can call it that, is improving with each multiple release. The last trio of episodes were beyond hysterical.  With Wray Nerely (Tudyk) being fired from a video game voice over session (with veteran voice over artist Nolan North and Milo Ventimiglia staying on) and then getting a call from his old Spectrum buddy, and costar, Jack (Nathan Fillion) about doing a film together and Milo offering up a comic book gig that pays $5K.

At Jack’s house, Wray gets bad news from Faith (Alison Haislip) while playing Marco Polo. Later at the comic book store an inebriated Nerely manages to insult his marine assistant and barely escapes a mob out for his blood. Said mob includes Michael Dorn, Seth Green   and Kevin Grevioux

The last three episodes are beyond hysterical as Wray stumbles from one disaster to another.  One scene, with Ventimiglia, where Nerely keeps putting his elbow in what looks to be paint, is spot on.  With his booking agent texting him repeatedly throughout the interaction between Wray, the dumpster and Milo.

Each episode feels like a “spot the celeb” or even spot the science fiction icon, or Firefly costar, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau and Fillion all are in Con Man, although Fillion is billed as “starring” and the rest are in cameos.  Rather interestingly, Maher has an incredibly long cameo, lasting over three episodes.

The entire series, which is getting funnier with each episode, feels like a sort of science fiction convention potpourri. There are performers associated with Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica,  et al, along with Geek Goddess Felicia Day,  the iconic Wil Wheaton and Seth Green as well as a plethora of “names” like Nolan North (who is, perhaps,  the man who has voiced more video games than anyone…ever).

Con Man cast...partial...

Con Man has only three episodes left in its first season.  Wray Nerely has gotten the worst possible news and while Jack, his film star buddy from Spectrum is overjoyed at the prospect of doing a film with his old pal, Wray is beyond distraught.

This fan-funded project, via Indiegogo.com is  a real treasure. Sure, at $15 for the entire season it is a bit “costly.” But…For fans of science fiction, Joss Whedon (and yes Joss has a cameo), Firefly, The Guild, and all things geek and sundry (see what we did there) and who actually suffer “nerdgasms”  at the thought of attending the  next  Comic Con?

It is so worth it.

Con Man, playing on a Vimeo screen near you…or on your laptop, tablet, smartphone…well  you get the idea…

Avengers: Age of Ultron Somber Revisit to the Verse

Poster for Avengers 2

After having to wait for iTunes to stop offering Avengers: Age of  Ultron for purchase (sorry but if it’s to own, Blu-Ray with a load of extras is how this reviewer rolls) and giving punters the chance to just rent Joss Whedon and Marvel’s follow up to The Avengers (Assemble) the viewing experience turned out to be a somber revisit to the Marvel verse. The sobering sequel introduces two new characters, one lasting much longer than the other (Scarlet Witch aka Elizabeth Olsen) who becomes a member of the home team before the end credits roll.

This sequel is darker than the first. It also has less of the obvious Whedon touches. There are, most likely, a number of reason for this holding back of the Joss effect.

Firstly, it is not news to anyone who loves the Avengers films that Joss “Is Boss” Whedon  is bowing out of the business of forging the films.  As Whedon also has a small screen version of the Marvel world to produce weekly, it makes a huge amount of sense to leave the big screen shenanigans up to another director/writer to play with.

Secondly, things in the comic book world of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man (Tony Stark) Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, et al are due to become very dark indeed with the next installment dealing with the infinity war, civil war, the death of Cap and any number of dark and disturbing issues in Marvel land.

The Avengers did have  Joss Whedon all over it, a clear stamp of his wit, framing, dialogue and directorial genius. Avengers: Age of Ultron feels grim, in comparison, and dangerous. The overly clever wit has been toned down and is less Joss than usual. (Although the Iron Man scene where Stark says, after shooting all the bad guys in the room is, “Good talk,” and an obviously in-pain shot guard moans, “No it wasn’t.” Pure unadulterated Whedon.)

*Sidenote* Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury gets what may just be the best, i.e. funniest, line of the film. Speaking about Ultron’s building up of an army, he says that he is producing quicker than a “Catholic Rabbit.” While this may not necessarily go over very well with the Pope, is it very, very funny. Although Spader’s Ultron comes a very close second with his “I can’t physically throw up in my mouth, but …”

Why?

Well, as stated above, Whedon is due to hand over the reins of power to Joe and Anthony Russo for Avengers 3 Part one (due out in 2018).  Also, as mentioned above, fans of the comic books for each of the main characters know that dark days are coming and this has also, apparently necessitated a change in style. The franchise should not have a huge shift in directorial influence with some transition. Hence the darker feel.

The film is not, however, without its amusing moments but the banter is either missing or toned down to near nonexistence.  The entire storyline is sobering, so much so that even the re-emergence of Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury fails to elicit  a cheer.  James Spader, who plays Ultron, kills it, sounding uncannily like Tony Stark, with the way he delivers many of his  lines  and feeling like the ultimate rebellious teenager who wants desperately to overpower/outperform  his father (Stark).

The plot in the second Avengers film has Tony Stark doing what he does best,  acting independently, although he has Dr. Banner (the Hulk) helping him. He develops an AI peacekeeper to help defend earth. Ultron, his creation, is flawed and ultimately decides that mankind must evolve to survive. Unfortunately his idea of evolution is an enforced extinction of the species therefore allowing  one to take over.

All of the Avengers must reform and evolve  in order to face and defeat this threat, in the process, Tony and Banner create Vision (Jarvis with an infinity stone in his biotic forehead).  While the film feels a bit sobering, there are a still a few moments of levity and a couple of things that tell us these uneasy team members were meshing very well, until the rise of Ultron.

Hawkeye and The Black Widow are Clint and Nat. Bruce and Natasha have “a thing” and we learn a whole lot more about Barton. For instance, he has a house in the country with kids and his wife Laura is played by  Linda Cardellini.   Clint also has DIY fever and constantly remodels the house.  

This iteration of the Avengers has our heroes fighting an even bigger army with a huge threat going on all about them. A huge section of ground that, when released from its ever increasing height, will annihilate life on earth is the battleground setting where all the heroes fight Ultron’s mechanized troops.

Andy Serkis has a  brilliant cameo and he is not in a mo-cap suit for once. Elizabeth Olsen kills it as the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)  as does Aaron Taylor-Johnson who plays brother Pietro (Quicksilver). Paul Bettany finally gets to show off more than his dulcet tones and he proves to be just as impressive in the “flesh.”

The ubiquitous Stan Lee cameo comes at the start of the film and is said to be Stan’s favorite one to date. “Excelsior” aside, the film has a lot of memorable moments.  The scenes are on par with the first foray into the big screen world of Marvel heroes.  We have some backstory for Natasha, courtesy of the Scarlet Witch, and we learn what Tony Stark really fears.

By the time the film ends, we have a new group of Avengers, Stark has stepped away from the new “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Cap is still heading up the organization.  Vision looks to be the new “in the trenches” leader of the group and Earth is still under threat.

As a sort of PS type sidenote, the whole Captain America schtick of “Language” was amusing as was Stark in his Hulk suit beating the Hulk’s head into the pavement while  repeating desperately “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to…” Almost as good as Tony then knocking out one of the big guy’s teeth and saying in a very little voice, “I’m sorry.”

Even though the overall feel of this Avengers outing was  a little less Joss and more transitional, the film is, like the first, an exciting experience.  There were, however, no goosebumps inducing moments, as in the first film.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a 5 out of 5 stars for entertainment value and because (Duh!) it’s Joss Whedon, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chis Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Cobie…

SyFy’s Dark Matter Promising Space Opera [Update]

Anthony Lemke as Three

It has been pointed out that in the last part of this article two characters had been “mixed up” and that has been corrected. Number One is now referenced correctly in the plot breakdown. Apologies to the creators and the actors concerned.

SyFy’s newest offering, three episodes in, is a promising sort of space opera called Dark Matter that features the splendid Jodelle Ferland (and if you don’t know who she is, check out Case 39; it explains everything and if still in doubt check out her brilliant cameo on The Cabin in Woods) along with Zoie Palmer (Lost Girl, Patch Town) and is the from the creative minds of Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie both alumni of the Stargate verse.

Thus far the series feels like a mash up of several different shows and genres. A hint of Firefly, a touch of Alien Resurrection, a taste of The Magnificent Seven and a tiny bit of Identity…maybe and a large dollop of Farscape…definitely. In the first episode a disparate group of people wake up from stasis when the space ship they are on malfunctions. None of them know who they are or why they are there. Until their memories return, they refer to themselves as numbers, based on when they woke up.

In a short time all the players, one through six, seven including the android, reveal that their minds have been swept clean but not their personalities and soon the group begin to meld as a team, with the exception of two members. They all learn that before waking up with a “clean slate” each number in the group was a murderer, pirate and severe lawbreaker. The only exceptions are the android (Palmer) and Five (Ferland); who cannot be found in the fractured ship’s data base.

By the second episode, the show moves from mystery to action when the group decide to help a group of miners who they were originally meant to kill. Apparently the members were part of a mercenary team hired to take care of the planets independent miners and the memory wipe enables the killers to swap sides and fight for good. With the exception of Three (Anthony Lemke) all of the former criminals seem to be pretty decent.

As the group engage in a prolonged shootout with the big corporate baddies who want to kill off all the miners and take over their company, One, brings in another company to compete for against the evil corporation and the battle is over.

Jodelle Ferland as Five
Five in the ducts…

Episode three begins with a young teen boy’s body being found in the storage area by Five, who is visibly shaken by the incident and the group learning that the girl apparently has all their memories in her head. She accesses them via her dreams and one of her recollections includes a reference to the ship being sabotaged. While the group are taking in this information, the ship drops out of FTL and is placed in a high gamma radiation area which endangers them all.

The android risks her “life” to save the ship and crew and One and Six risk their lives to rescue the “robot” from outside the hull. By the end of the show, another element of surprise has been introduced, One, is apparently being chased by his former self. The question now seems to be whether or not all the numbers have a “doppelgänger” and if so, why?

Each of the characters have distinct personalities and while some are a bit of a stereotype, they are portrayed with enough depth to make them all interesting. Ferland, as Five, is the wild card, and Android is the Joker in this abbreviated deck. Five solves puzzles, compulsively and obsessively. The robot provides humor (in a Joss Whedon sort of way; think Cordelia or Anya or even Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as well as fitting the gravity boots of Winona Ryder’s Annabelle Call.

This is a promising new show and one that already keeps the interest level high and has the viewer trying to guess where the series will go from this excellent beginning. Dark Matter airs Fridays on SyFy.

The Cabin in the Woods-Gate? Joss Whedon Sued

Somewhat amazingly, one of the most original thinkers in Hollywood, aka Joss Whedon, is being sued, along with Lionsgate and Drew Goddard, by an author who claims that the 2012 film Cabin in the Woods has infringed upon his own 2006 work. Cabin in the Woods-Gate begins with Facebook being deluged with links back to journalistic coverage of this alleged “crime.”

As one Facebook comment noted, on the special features portion of the DVD for said film, both Joss and Drew talk about writing the screenplay back in 1998. For those with math issues, that is eight years before the published work by Peter Gallagher.

The book, titled “The Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines” has a plot where five young friends, two girls and three guys, go to a “remote” cabin and find that a killer, who murdered the buildings previous inhabitants, is stalking and killing this new group. Later in the book, it turns out that the whole thing is being filmed as “entertainment.”

No mention of old, terrible “Gods,” the end of the world…or weed. The self-published book was done in two 7,500 “runs” which the author flogged on the street in Venice, Santa Monica, etc. Gallagher states that he finds portions of the book “identical” with the film and he is asking for $10 million in damages.

Unfortunately for Gallagher, if Goddard and Whedon did actually write the initial screenplay in 1998 (and can prove it) then he has no legal leg to stand on. Despite his claim of registering the tale with the Writers Guild of America in 2007, the predated screenplay makes his charges of “copyright infringement” null and void.

Another comment on the social platform mentions, “why did Gallagher wait so long to file?” Good question.

Surely, these charges should have been made at the time of the film’s release. If, as the author stated, the similarities were so obvious, why take so long to lay the claim? Could this delay be down to no one else feeling there was a case?

In “The Wrap” the actual complaint states that the “plots, characters, sequence of events, stories, dialogue and incidents are virtually identical.” If the intent of these claims was to have fans rushing out to read the book to see for themselves Gallagher may have to point out a few of the more specific “similarities.”

In any other case of alleged “infringement” the author stands a good chance of being, at the very least, heard. In this case time and evidence may stop the lawsuit in its legal tracks. Certainly the idea of Goddard and Whedon working on the screenplay to Cabin in the Woods back in the days of ‘Buffy’ and Angel has a sort of logistical sense.

Both men have worked together for years on both shows and, if memory serves, on other Whedon projects as well, i.e. “Dollhouse” and “Firefly,” although I could be wrong. Joss had the services of many a talented writer on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel,” and all are a very talented lot.

This could be a case of wishful thinking, and I believe that is indeed the case, that will fade quietly into the background. Chronology will settle this claim and it is doubtful that anyone with real intelligence will think for one moment that Joss Whedon copied anyone else’s work when he and Drew Goddard penned “The Cabin in the Woods.” In fact, in my own review of the film, I stated that it felt like a big screen adaptation of Wolfram and Hart from Angel, which came out much earlier than 2006.

Just saying.

15 April 2015

‘Grimm’ Season Four: Alexis Denisof Back in TV World of the Supernatural

‘Grimm’ Season Four: Alexis Denisof Back in TV World of the Supernatural

TV audience members who have only just discovered the splendid supernatural world of Grimm, season four, will have noticed that a somewhat heavier, and older, Alexis Denisof is back in the land of fantasy and horror, this time on NBC. This modern day version of Grimm’s fairy tales has been around since 2011 and viewers who tuned in back then will notice that a lot has changed since a bald and dying Kate Burton (Daughter of the Welsh icon that was Richard Burton.) drove into Portland, Oregon and her nephew Nick Burkhardt’s life. Burton’s character departs the show by the end of the second episode of season one leaving her nephew the next in line of Grimm’s who can see creatures who inhabit human bodies and who must now “take care” of the ones who misbehave