Outcast: 'A Darkness Surrounds Him' Review

Robert Kirkman's latest show gets off to a flawed start.

Confirmed: John Boyega to Star in 'Pacific Rim 2'

Boyega joins the sequel hot off the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Box Office: Ninja Turtles 2 Suffers in Anti-Sequel Summer

TMNT 2 is the latest sequel to bring in some disappointing numbers.

Review: Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood's military drama is an impressive achievement.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Bojack Horseman: Episode One Review

Bojack Horseman starring Will Arnett and Aaron Paul is the latest Netflix original series, and it's the first foray into the genre of adult animation for the streaming service. Therefore it isn't wholly surprising that the show's first episode is far from flawless. But while it has a way to go before it can even think of becoming the next Archer or Family Guy, Bojack Horseman does have some potential which I hope can grow and flourish during the shows twelve episode run.

The premise of Bojack Horseman is quite ingenious. The titular character (Arnett) is a washed up sitcom star who - after the cancellation of his high rated, but critically panned TV show - finds himself sitting around his expensive home all day doing nothing except complain to his stoner house-guest, Todd (Paul). However, this wonderful premise isn't pulled off as well as one would hope. While there are some funny moments in the first episode, it doesn't deliver on laughs in the same way that other, more established series' do. That isn't for lack of trying however, there were many moments in the season premiere where I felt like I should be laughing, but the laughs just weren't coming. I put this down to the show not knowing what it wants to be.

Bojack Horseman has all the elements in place to adopt the kind of absurd comedy typically used in shows created by Seth MacFarlane, however it never makes the most of them. That would be fine if the show adopted the other route for an adult animated series - more mature humour as seen in the FX hit series Archer - but this isn't something Bojack does either. Instead, it decides to linger in between the two comedic styles, ultimately not pulling off either of them to any great effect. This means that the show just isn't as funny as it could or should be, and it's a great shame to see two very talented actors go to waste in this first episode.

Horns by Joe Hill | Book Review

This review is spoiler-free.

Horns was the second novel that Joe "the son of Stephen King" Hill wrote, and is the first of his books to get a big-screen adaptation. After a long wait since its festival premiere last Summer, Horns will finally be getting a cinema release in October. The film interested me with the casting of Daniel Radcliffe - an actor who has been picking his roles carefully since the end of his Harry Potter franchise - and so I picked up the book to get a glimpse of what was heading towards our screens. What I read surprised me. Horns is not a book for the faint hearted, with sexual content throughout, a few murders sprinkled in, and even some satanic preaching to an audience of snakes. Luckily, I have an open mind to weird stories such as this one and so I actually really enjoyed this journey.

Following Ig - the less successful younger brother to late-night TV star Terry Perrish - in the wake of his girlfriend Merrin's brutal murder, Horns is a dark journey into the mind of someone suffering with not just grief, but feelings of loneliness and injustice. Indeed to add more salt in the wound it is Ig who was accused of Merrin's murder, and even a year after he was found not guilty he is shunned in the small town he's lived in all his life. This is where the book begins, with the opening pages seeing Ig waking up to horns growing out of his head - horns that provoke people into telling their deepest, darkest secrets and desires.

The book sees Ig struggling to cope with this latest unfortunate development, as he pieces together last night's events and finds out at last who Merrin's true killer was. However while this is the main storyline of the book, Hill also spends time fleshing out events of years before. This involves flashing back to the first time Ig met Merrin, as well as other supporting characters Lee Tourneau, and Glenna Nicholson. At first this seems like an odd decision when the events of the main story are so thrilling - however, the further into the book you get, the more you discover how crucial these flashbacks are. Some make character motivations clearer, others clarify why some characters are the way they are, inducing a "so THAT'S why that happened" effect.
Another great technique Hill uses is repeating scenes more than once, but from the perspective of other characters. This is an inventive way of revealing some of the book's secrets and mysteries, which proves far more effective than if all the answers were laid out in just one version of a scene.

In Horns, Hill demonstrates that he is a master at developing characters, a skill that's carried through to his latest novel NOS4R2 and his comic book series Locke and Key. Hill really makes you feel for the characters in this story, sympathising for most, and loathing the rest. It's because of this great character development that it's somewhat disappointing the book ends a little ambiguously. This is a spoiler-free review so I won't go into any further details, but the ending did leave some questions unanswered. That's not to say it was an awful ending however, just flawed, and it shouldn't put you off giving this book a read.

Monday, 25 August 2014

US Box Office Top 10: 25th August 2014

It's a bad week to be Robert Rodriguez, as the writer-director continues his series of movies performing poorly at the box office. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is the latest in this run debuting at number eight this week, pulling in just $6.5 million despite showings in nearly 3,000 theatres. This will almost definitely kill any hope for a third Sin City movie, and may make studio executives reluctant to hire Rodriguez in the future after previous films Machete Kills and Spy Kids 4 also underperformed. What could have caused this failure? Unlike last week's bomb, The Expendables 3, Sin City can't use piracy as an excuse.

Perhaps it's something to do with the nine year break between movies - maybe people have moved on from Sin City. If not, maybe it's the poor word of mouth. While the first Sin City movie was treated to generally positive reviews, the second instalment has had a much more mixed reaction. Finally, it may be that the R-rating has struck another victim. With comic-book movies being so universally loved these days, it may be that there's no place for adult ones anymore - see Dredd for further proof of that.

On the whole it was a small week at the box office, with people choosing to watch Guardians of the Galaxy again rather than take a chance on a new movie. Because of this, Guardians was able to jump back to the top of the charts after two weeks of letting TMNT hog the limelight. In the process, it has become the most successful film of the year so far in the USA, beating former title-holder Transformers: Age of Extinction.

The highest new entry this week was Chloe Grace Moretz' If I Stay. The young actress needed this film to be a success after her previous movies Carrie, and Kick-Ass 2 failed to find an audience. Fortunately this debut is solid, if not outstanding. The movie entered the charts at number three, making $16 million over the weekend. With a small budget of just $11 million this should be enough for the movie to turn a profit by the end of its run. However, Warner Bros. may be disappointed that they don't have a hit the size of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars on their hands.

The final new entry this week was When the Game Stands Tall which - like Draft Day and Million Dollar Arm before it - proved that people just aren't interested in sports movies this Summer. It made only $9 million over the weekend, settling for the number five spot.

Of last week's new releases it was Let's Be Cops that showed the most staying power, with a small drop of just 38.2% on last week. The film is now up to $45 million in the USA alone, meaning its affordable $17 million budget should be more than made up by now.
The story is not so bright for last week's losers The Giver and The Expendables 3 which fall to number six and number seven respectively, and look unlikely to turn much of a profit for their studios.

Here's the top ten in full:

1. (2) Guardians of the Galaxy - $17.6 million
2. (1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - $16.8 million
3. (-) If I Stay - $16.3 million
4. (3) Let's Be Cops - $11 million
5. (-) When the Game Stands Tall - $9 million
6. (5) The Giver - $6.7 million
7. (4) The Expendables 3 - $6.6 million
8. (-) Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - $6.4 million
9. (7) The Hundred-Foot Journey - $5.5 million
10. (6) Into the Storm - $3.8 million

Friday, 22 August 2014

Agents of SHIELD Gets Absorbing Man, Mockingbird

Yesterday Marvel Studios announced that the classic comic-book villain, the Absorbing Man would be making his Marvel cinematic universe debut in the premiere of Agents of Shield Season Two. The character has the ability to adopt - or "absorb" - the properties of any material he touches. For example, if he touches a metal pole, his skin can turn into metal thus making him quite a difficult target to beat up. The character will be played by Brian Patrick Wade (Teen Wolf).
A version of the character has appeared in live-action once before in Ang Lee's ill-fated 2003 movie Hulk. Here's hoping that this version of the character is a better portrayal, although one has to wonder if the ABC show will have the effects budget to portray the Absorbing Man's powers convincingly.

The news comes after the reveal earlier this week that one-time Wonder Woman, Adrianne Palicki, would be appearing as the classic Marvel character Mockingbird in the show's second season. This announcement is more worrying to me. While I'm willing to see Palicki in the role and interested to see what she can do with the character, I fear that this may prevent Mockingbird from joining The Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comic books Mockingbird had a serious relationship with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and was a long-time member of The Avengers. However, her appearance in Agents of SHIELD may prevent this plot thread from being adapted onto the big screen.

This is because the TV show is still very much on dodgy ground. Cast your mind back to mid-way through the show's first season and you may remember some people raising questions about whether the show would be renewed for a second run at all. While it's true that in the wake of the game-changing Captain America: The Winter Soldier things did begin looking up for the show - in terms of ratings and reviews - it is still far from a sure bet that the second season will be a success. Therefore, if the show does fall short in the new TV season, it seems unlikely that Marvel Studios would let Palicki reprise her role in any future Marvel films.

So I suppose what I'm saying is if you're a Mockingbird fan, make sure you and all your friends and family are tuned in to the season premiere of Agents of SHIELD. If not, Mockingbird may well end up doomed to obscurity in the general public's eyes, with Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow pulling double-time to fill the Mockingbird-shaped hole in the Marvel Universe.

Mockingbird and the Absorbing Man join the Marvel characters introduced in Season One of the show: Deathlok and Graviton.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Wahlberg For BP Oil Spill Movie: A Bad Idea?

I don't know what's stranger, that Summit is making a movie out of the disastrous BP oil spill of 2010, or that they're eyeing Mark Wahlberg for the lead. The movie, currently titled Deepwater Horizon is in early stages of development with a script by Matthew Michael Carnahan (World War Z) and with J.C. Chandor attached to direct.

What immediately strikes me about this feature is what a strange creative mix is on display. While Chandor's latest release All is Lost starring veteran actor Robert Redford received much acclaim upon release, I worry that he might struggle with a script from the writer of World War Z - a movie that was better than many thought it would be, but that isn't saying very much when everyone's expectations were at rock bottom.

(Left) Wildlife caught in the BP Oil disaster of 2010, (Right) Actor Mark Wahlberg
When you add producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura into the mix, whose most recent movie is the explosive abomination Transformers: Age of Extinction, you can't help but wonder what tone this movie is going to have. While Chandor's sophisticated style could be brought over in a film that serves as a respectful memorial for the workers who died on the rig, while perhaps even commenting on the environmental cost of the leak, Bonaventura's Transformers history may turn it into something far less remarkable. There's a definite risk of this movie being just another generic feature wherein a muscly hero (Wahlberg in this case) does everything he can to stop an impending disaster.

And that brings me to the potential casting of Mark Wahlberg. While the former "musician" - if that's the right term to describe what Marky Mark was - has proven he can act in the outstanding David O. Russell movie, The Fighter, he has also proven himself less capable in such movies as M. Night Shyamalan's abysmal The Happening.

At this point, the movie could really go either way. It is, after all, still in the very early stages of development. But right now, my expectations for the movie are unfortunately low. Let us know how you feel about the movie in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man, New Warriors Cancelled

As another month brings with it a new batch of solicitations, it also brings with it some sad news. This November, two Marvel titles which have been struggling for some time will be laid to rest. Those titles are Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's Superior Foes of Spider-Man, and Chris Yost and Marcus To's New Warriors. While it isn't as if the news was unexpected - the two books have been lingering at the bottom of sales charts for a few months now - it is a great shame.

While I admit I hadn't been reading Yost's New Warriors, it is a title that I was interested in jumping onto at some point. Additionally, it was one of the books due to be featured in our upcoming, "Marvel NOW!: What Could Be Cancelled Next?" article, and so I can't help but feel partly responsible for not finishing the article sooner.

However, the loss that stings the most is without a doubt Spencer and Lieber's Superior Foes. This was a book that I'd been reading since issue one, and had been consistently impressed by - it told a story that was equal parts exciting and hilarious and will go down in Marvel history as one of the publisher's most under-rated books.

How do you feel about this news? Were you reading either of these titles? Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page or by tweeting us!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Taskmaster: Udon Series Review

This review is spoiler-free.

Taskmaster is, I believe, one of the most under-rated characters in the Marvel Universe. A mercenary, frequent enemy of Deadpool and The Avengers alike, the character has taken on a very interesting role in recent years. Taskmaster is no longer a villain, but whatever he needs to be. Most recently this has been seen in his role as a teacher in Avengers: The Initiative, a potential father-figure in Avengers Academy, and even an Avenger himself in Nick Spencer's recent Secret Avengers series.

My interest for the character spiked upon reading Fred Van Lente's excellent mini-series Taskmaster: Unthinkable in 2011, leading me to splash out on eBay and pick-up the four-issue series printed back in 2002 simply titled, Taskmaster. This series was the result of a collaboration between Marvel and Asian-influenced studio Udon, and tells a relatively simple story of Taskmaster being hired, Taskmaster being betrayed, and Taskmaster seeking revenge. It's safe to say that those of you looking for some real development of Taskmaster as a character would be better served in the 2011 series. But while Van Lente's mini-series is far superior to this one, both in terms of writing and information about the character, there is fun to be had in this series too - just so long as you can make it through the first issue.

Why do I say that? Well, the first issue of this series really doesn't deliver a fantastic first impression, mainly due to the abundance of exposition which is really quite tedious to read through. In fact, I would go as far to say that most of issue one is very flawed. Not only is the dialogue shamelessly expository, but the story is very by the numbers and the action feels lifeless. The big finale of the first issue is a fight between Taskmaster and Iron Man - a fight which has potential to be amazing, but in the end is just quite boring. The problem is mainly due to the fact that there's never any sense of struggle. Taskmaster puts Tony Stark in his place very easily, which may have been done as a way to show Taskmaster's skill as a fighter, but ultimately relieves the fight of any sense of tension. Meanwhile, Taskmaster's narration throughout the fight also removes it of any real fluidity.

However, what issue one does manage to do is set up the premise of the rest of the series and I'm happy to say that after issue one ends, things definitely start looking up for the book. Come issue two, the action is far superior to what is found in the first installment, the exposition is much less frequent and the whole book ends up with a more quality feel. While I don't want to delve into any further story details so not to ruin the book for anyone reading, I can say that there is a real rivalry built between Taskmaster and his antagonist, which certainly got me on Taskmaster's side rooting for the character to get his revenge.

Never has a series turned around so quickly for me in terms of quality. While the final three issues are still far from perfect they are a huge improvement on what came before, offering many fun and exciting moments with the series closing out with a real bang. Perhaps another contributing factor to this series improving as it progresses is the artwork which could take a while to grow on you. As I mentioned above, this series is a joint effort between Marvel and Udon, and as Udon are an Asian-influenced group the artwork on display here is very reminiscent of Manga. Reminiscent, but not totally the same. Indeed while the art here is very obviously influenced by Japanese artwork, it is more a fusion of Japanese and American styles than outright Manga art. Still, it is very different to what you see in most Marvel comics and did take a little while for me to get used to. If you're one of those people who loathes the Manga art style - and there are people like that out there - then perhaps you should be warned that elements of that style are on display here.

Taskmaster's classic costume
But however you feel about Manga, there's no denying that the costume design here is to be applauded. The suit incorporates Taskmaster's classic skull mask, sword and shield, but modernizes it into something futuristic and very stylish indeed. Although, personally I did feel that the Udon costume removes his humanity somewhat - as his actual face is never shown, instead the suit produces holograms of other people for him to pretend to be. While this high-tech suit is far better for Taskmaster in terms of stealthily breaking in to places that he shouldn't be, at times it seemed a little too futuristic when you think how Taskmaster's traditional costume is quite a charming medieval suit. Nonetheless, the Udon gear does look cool and has some great features - but I'm just glad Taskmaster was reverted to his old costume once the series finished.

So should you buy this series? The decision is one you should think on before going ahead, especially if you're on a budget as some eBay sellers put the complete series up for much more than you would pay for a standard Marvel trade paperback. Ultimately I think you would be wise to pick up Taskmaster: Unthinkable, the other Taskmaster series, before this one as it is the superior series of the two and also more affordable as it is still in print. After you've read that series, if you're craving some more Taskmaster action, then the 2002 Udon series is a solid second choice. While it does have a rocky start, the series goes on to blossom into something exciting, fun and wholly entertaining which is well worth a look if you can get your hands on an affordable copy.

US Box Office Top 10: 18th August 2014

As industry experts had predicted it would, The Expendables 3 suffered at the box office this week bringing in a little over half of what The Expendables 2 did on its opening weekend, leaving it in fourth place overall. This is at least partly due to a near-perfect pirated copy being released on the Internet to over two million downloads, an unfortunate event that distributor Lionsgate is combating with all its legal might. Currently experts estimate the movie will leave the charts with a domestic haul of around $48 million, and if this is the case it could spell doom for not only a potential Expendables 4, but also the upcoming female-led spin-off the Expendabelles.

It was a brighter story for Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who managed to keep the top spot this week in spite of almost universally negative reviews. The film brought in around $28 million this week, a drop of 56.7% on last week crossing it past the $100 million mark in the US. While fans of the Turtles and Transformers alike may loath Bay's interpretation of the much-loved franchises, there's no denying that he knows how to make a successful blockbuster.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy also had another strong week both domestically and overseas, as it looks likely to beat both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World's US haul. The film brought in just under $25 million this week, meaning Kevin Feige can breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that his big gamble of the year paid off - now he can only hope for a repeat performance come the release of Marvel's other weirder features Ant-Man and Doctor Strange.

Other releases last week included the Jake Johnson/Damon Wayans Jr. comedy Let's Be Cops which had a solid, if not incredible debut of $17 million over the weekend. That total increases to $26 million when weekday numbers are included. Therefore the movie, which had a relatively low budget of just $17 million, is well on the way to making a profit - good news for both Johnson and Wayans who could both use a few more box office hits to their name.
The final new entry this week was the adaptation of the young adult novel, The Giver, which continued the trend of adaptations like these falling short of the genre giants Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games. With a lackluster debut of just $12 million, you can expect The Giver to join bargain bins alongside Beautiful Creatures, The Host, and The Mortal Instruments when it hits DVD and Blu-Ray in a couple of months time.

Here's the top ten in full:

1. (1) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - $28.4 million
2. (2) Guardians of the Galaxy - $24.7 million
3. (-) Let's Be Cops - $17.7 million
4. (-) The Expendables 3 - $16.2 million
5. (-) The Giver - $12.7 million
6. (3) Into the Storm - $7.7 million
7. (4) The Hundred Foot Journey - $7.1 million
8. (5) Lucy - $5.3 million
9. (6) Step Up All In - $2.7 million
10. (13) Boyhood - $2.1 million

Thank you for reading this week's Box Office Report, be sure to come back next week for more movie news. Stay updated by liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter using the buttons in the column to the right of this page.