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The X-files trailer 2016

We were getting along fine, reading our issues of one of the best tie-in series around, The X-Files Season 10 and The X-Files Season 11 from IDW Publishing.  For the record, these series are considered canon, and the truth is they’ve earned it.  The writers and artists know the characters and the story.  Following right after the events in the second big screen follow-up to the TV series, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the comic books are as good as the original series and even better than the movies.  But wait, The X-Files is coming back to TV?  What’s next?  A Firefly series?

The first full trailer from Fox (the network, not Mulder) has all the best feel from the original.  It’s David Duchovny’s same craggy Fox Mulder, Gillian Anderson’s same inquisitive Dana Scully, and the cool, calm, and collected Mitch Pileggi as Skinner.  Finally, something to be excited about that is not Star Wars Episode VII!

X-Files series 2016

Plus, the series, which is slated for only six episodes, draws in genre favorites Robbie Amell (The Flash) and Lauren Ambrose (Coma) as new agents.  And even Joel McHale (The Soup, Community) has a main role in the series.

Enough waiting!  Check out the trailer:

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Jessica Jones Krysten Ritter

The first teaser has been released for the new Netflix series, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, based on one of the more obscure Marvel Comics characters.  That’s right, in the Renaissance of superhero shows, Jessica Jones beat Wonder Woman to get her own television series.  Veronica Mars’s Krysten Ritter has the title role.  Alone, that makes it worth giving the series a try, but several other genre actors in supporting cast roles will give us even more to look forward to.  This includes Doctor Who’s David Tennant (Kilgrave), The Matrix’s Carrie-Anne Moss (Harper), Men in Black 3’s Mike Colter (Luke Cage), Transformers’ Rachael Taylor (Trish Walker), and True Detective’s Erin Moriarty (Hope).

The Netflix original series is the second of four Marvel series, Marvel’s Daredevil launched earlier this year, plus Marvel’s Luke Cage and Marvel’s Iron Fist are on the way, leading up to Marvel’s The Defenders, all to be released only on Netflix.  Behind Marvel’s Jessica Jones are creators of the Twilight movies, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Elementary.

David Tennant in Jessica Jones

Here are two teaser trailers for Marvel’s Jessica Jones, one a mood piece and the other a brief hint at the nature of humor in the series:

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Chewbacca 1 cover Phil Noto

If the first images out of the gate are any indication, Star Wars fans are in for a real treat.  Black Widow artist Phil Noto will be illustrating interior and cover work on a new limited series featuring Chewbacca in Marvel Comic’s Star Wars: Chewbacca.  He’s really captured the look and feel of our favorite, furry rogue turned Rebel.

Deadpool and Uncanny Avengers writer Gerry Duggan will serve as writer of the new spin-off series.  In Issue #1, after the Battle of Yavin, Chewie crashes a ship on loan from the Rebellion, and meets up with a young woman who aims to take on the Empire.

Chewbacca interiors  Chewie and friend

The series is slated for five issues.  Check out these superb future covers:

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Audrey haven

We’ve been fans of Haven, Syfy’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid, from episode one and seeing Emily Rose (Audrey/Sarah/Mara/Lucy), Eric Balfour (Duke), and Lucas Bryant (Nathan) at San Diego Comic-Con back in 2012.  The three series stars are returning, joined by Dwight (Adam Copeland) and the brothers Teagues (Richard Donat and John Dunsworth), as they have one season to make a final stand against The Troubles.

Unlike so many series that have a good run and are cancelled dead in their tracks, leaving fans hanging forever, Haven will be able to complete its story, with 13 episodes that have already aired in Season 5 and 13 more in the can, including a series finale promising to tie up any loose ends.

haven finale

When we next catch up with the citizens of Haven, Dwight makes an important announcement: Haven PD is no more, The Guard has taken over and everyone is trapped inside town.

Here is a promo for the end of the series:

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Star Wars 107   Shattered Empire Phil Noto 1 cover

Back in the 1970s it was pretty exciting to anticipate what was going to happen after the original Star Wars aired and Marvel Comics was going to take us on a journey into the further adventures of Luke Skywalker.  With the end of the movie adaptation in Issue #6 of the comic book series, this meant Issue #7 was going who-knows-where in this rich new universe.  The surprise was that once we got the issue in our hands we learned it was to be a Han Solo and Chewbacca adventure, beginning with a Seven Samurai-inspired Western story.  This was before we knew what would happen in The Empire Strikes Back, so the writers and artists could use their imaginations to take the characters anywhere.  The writers proved prescient, creating the title The Empire Strikes for one early issue.

In January 2013 Dark Horse Comics went back to the same time period in the Star Wars saga and gave us a new look at our favorite characters, written by Brian Wood.  It was a good run and a fun story if you thought of it as a separate possible storyline.  The struggle with addressing this time period?  We know specific benchmarks in the future.  We just know without being told anywhere that Luke does not confront certain characters, like say Darth Vader or Boba Fett, between Episode IV and Episode V.  Yet with comic books you can intersperse different story elements, have different encounters, between the bookends of the stories we know.  It is up to the reader to decide which of these encounters work and which don’t.  We discussed the Dark Horse effort back here at back in 2013.

Star Wars 7 Marvel    Star Wars issue 7

This year with a brand new Star Wars monthly comic book series, Marvel writer Jason Aaron has taken on the same time period again–those days, months, and years between the destruction of the first Death Star and the Rebellion being discovered in the Hoth System.  Like Brian Wood, Aaron has written a fun story, full of those main characters fans know and love.  He introduced surprising encounters between main characters we never would have imagined, and even introduced a wife for Han Solo we never knew about.  But the struggle with the concept is the same.  Readers need to see their main characters intermingling–it’s almost a requirement that a Star Wars book include everyone or fans won’t buy it.  And this new series fulfills that need.  Yet maybe readers don’t need that so much, as the best issue and story in this year’s run can be found in a standalone story in Issue #7.  It addresses Obi-Wan Kenobi as he watched over Luke as a boy on Tatooine–something new and different and not dependent on surprising confrontations with old characters–and gives us a hint at the great potential the Marvel Star Wars universe can create for readers.

Enter a new series beginning this month, Star Wars: Shattered Empire, Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, written by Greg Rucka with interior art by Marco Checchetto and a fabulous cover by Phil Noto (who interestingly provides a cover for Issue #1 which is similar to the last of the original Marvel monthly issues–like a jumping off and on point).  Shattered Empire is set immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi.  Now we are back in a world like Issue #7 of the original Marvel Comics Star Wars spin-off.  It really is unchartered territory, and Rucka must have more freedom than writers have with the time between Episode IV and Episode V.

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Big Bird in The Muppet Movie

If you can’t get enough of Sesame Street and The Muppets like this big kid who grew up with these shows and characters, then a 2014 documentary now available on Amazon is just for you.  I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story is a feature-length documentary about the original, and only, Muppets puppeteer who has performed Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch in the 45-year history of Sesame Street.

I Am Big Bird is a love letter of sorts, set to a bittersweet soundtrack.  Filmmakers created an emotional look at a performing artist, his wife, and his relationship with Jim Henson and the cast and performers of Sesame Street from the beginning to the present incarnation of the show.  Spinney comes through as every bit the kindhearted soul of his feathery yellow alter ego.  Highlights of the film include the impact of Big Bird on the world, from teaching little kids from 1969 onward, to being credited in part with the demise of a candidate’s presidential bid.  And nothing is more nostalgic than catching up with original Muppeteer Frank Oz and the original human cast of Sesame Street as they recount working with Caroll, including Bob McGrath (Bob), Sonia Manzano (Maria), Emilio Delgado (Luis), and Roscoe Orman (Gordon).

I am Big Bird poster

Expect to hold back (or not) some tears during the documentary.  Plenty of down moments provide benchmarks in the life and times of Big Bird: the Sesame Street episode featuring Big Bird about the death of Mr. Hooper, an incredibly poised Caroll performing Big Bird singing “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green” at the funeral of Jim Henson, and the segment discussing Caroll’s space travel preparation with NASA when he was asked to be among the Challenger space shuttle crew, only to be rejected when they realized the Big Bird suit was too big (and then teacher Christa McAuliffe took his place), a group of ROTC students nearly destroy his Big Bird costume, and even the replacement by Elmo as most popular character on the show serves as a downbeat event.

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Heroes Reborn banner

The original Heroes provided a stellar cast and a great start to a fantasy world discovering it has superheroes emerging, scattered everywhere, with strange and interesting powers.  It lasted four seasons, the last two only a glimmer of the first two seasons.  Tonight many of our favorite Heroes return in the limited 13-part series Heroes Reborn.

A huge cast of newcomers awaits in the continuation of Tim Kring’s fun series But Heroes Reborn will also briefly bring back many fan favorites, notably Jack Coleman as Noah Bennet, Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman, Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder Suresh, and Jimmy Jean-Louis as The Haitian.

New Heroes Reborn

The not-so-surprising news is that all the actors who have since taken off in their celebrity status don’t look like they are coming back, at least as regulars, like Ali Larter (Niki Sanders), Zachary Quinto (Sylar), Hayden Panettiere (Claire Bennet), Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan Petrelli), or even Kristen Bell (Elle Bishop).

Will the new series hold viewers’ interest without much of the key members of the original cast–even with the addition of a new character played by Zachary Levi?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Is it because the Muppets don’t age?  Because the writers know their characters so well?  You wouldn’t think the Muppets have been off the air for 17 years after watching last night’s premiere of their new sitcom, The Muppets, on ABC.  Sure, the format is fresh and new, but the core of the show–the rich characterizations of not only the main cast of Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie, but subordinate cast members like Electric Mayhem band members, too–is every bit the same as it was when the acting troupe first appeared nearly 40 years ago in 1976 on The Muppet Show.

The Muppets are back, and as laugh-out-loud funny as ever.

Credit great, punchy dialogue and situational humor appropriate for kids of all ages to the writing staff, who don’t let down fans of the original show or any of its brilliant movie incarnations.  The only travesty of The Muppets?  That the show is in a 30-minute time slot and only airs once each week.  Sigh.

This time the Muppets are seen as they are, behind the scenes in the “real world” of actors and production studio antics in Hollywood.  Kermit is still in charge of the show, but this time the show-in-a-show is not a variety show but in the late night format, with Miss Piggy as host.  Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem band sit in where you’d see The Roots on The Tonight Show, with Fozzy in Steve Higgins’ role.  The first guest star is Elizabeth Banks, who gets taken for a ride by assistant showrunner Scooter, with a comical appearance by Dancing With the Stars’ host Tom Bergeron and musical guest Imagine Dragons (we featured their Muppet tie-in video years ago here at  The success of the humans in the show is judged as in the past–the ability to seamlessly interact with the Muppet cast, and both Banks and Bergeron have no problem blending right in.

Fozzy and Becky & family

The show is peppered with one-liners and innuendo, exactly in the style as the original 1970s series.  But in truth, the laughs are probably funnier–the kind of humor you might find in a Tina Fey show or The Office.  You know you have good comedy when guitarist Janice makes a comically timed Imagine Dragons joke and Zoot gets cut off in the middle of an A.A. meeting reference.  As humor goes, The Muppets is the real deal.

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Bastard Executioner setting

Review by C.J. Bunce

Despite its gratuitous gore and overall squalid setting and circumstances, the new television series Bastard Executioner pulled off a good opener last week.  Bastard Executioner, in its two-hour pilot, pulls together every historical action drama archetype and bits of myths and legends to create a compelling drama in the midst of a struggle between the English and Welsh in not-so jolly old medieval England.

Fans of History Channel’s Vikings and Showtime’s Outlander as well as costume dramas like Braveheart, Rob Roy, and First Knight will all find something here of interest.  Not yet as exciting as Vikings but likely to be better than Outlander, it may just be another twist on Robin Hood, but episode one gave us hope this new series will keep our interest for a while.

It would seem an entire season’s worth of activity transpired in the first two-hour episode with an entire story arc begun and ended already.  A village is decimated and the avengers have sought–and gained–revenge on those that caused it.  The man we first believe to be the “bastard executioner” of the title in fact isn’t, sending the viewer’s notions of what this series will be about into a tailspin.  Instead, a mysterious Man With No Name type hero is thrust into the service of those that destroyed his wife, unborn child, and their village.  The producers’ grasp of time and place, quick plotting, and surprising twists mean we will be back for more next week.

Katey Segal Bastard Executioner

The brutality is every bit real even if it is a bit in-your-face.  Yet as bloody and violent as you could imagine, graphic and at times gory, some sense of purpose comes through for the stories’ heroes.  Loyalty, bravery, injustice, the faithful and the faithless, noble heroes and loathsome villains all can be found here.  Look for Katey Sagal (Lost, Married With Children) as the elder, mystical, witch-healer Annora, in what could prove to be an Emmy-worthy role.

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Great British Baking Show judges

It is really hard to rival the greatest foodie show of all time–Iron Chef.  A palpable battle to the death of sorts, or at least that’s the way it made us all feel.  International theme and haute cuisine met flying five-finger, one-armed shaolin exploding death touch style, with expert chef Alton Brown at the helm of the American version of the show, teaching us how to make our own meals better with a shuffling cast of interesting judges including Jeffrey Steingarten, Ted Allen, Mo Rocca, and even Jeri Ryan.  And it gave Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Masaharu Morimotu the status of food royalty.

Other shows are watchable in their own right, inspired by Julia Child’s original idea they expand what we think about food, how we serve it and what ingredients we use.  These include Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, a show that allows us to go local or travel to test the best food around (I eat at one of the featured dives at least twice per week), No Reservations with Anthony Bordain takes us on a tour with a not particularly pleasant foodie to see what’s good around the planet, and no show since Julia Child educates us more than Alton Brown’s Good Eats.  The most fun seems to follow dessert shows, with Chef Duff’s merry band of friends who ran Ace of Cakes making for a great, almost utopian fantasy workplace show and then there was the great Mark Sommers’ run on Unwrapped, where he showed the business of scrumptious candymaking.  My strawberry rhubarb pie is all the better because of these shows.

British baking Show tent

When you bring the “reality show” or cooking competition show into the mix, you get some of the fun of Iron Chef, but at a different level of entertainment.  Top Chef and The Next Food Network Star featured rival food channels showing the ugly side of competition as most reality shows offer these days, with competitors becoming more of caricatures than anything tolerable in real life circumstances.  All but one, that is.  And that show is the gem of a cooking show in its second season in the States on public television, The Great British Baking Show.

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