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In three weeks we’ll see the return of Danny Rand to Netflix, continuing the ongoing Marvel television universe we last saw in this summer’s excellent sophomore season of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  Finn Jones’s martial arts master and corporate exec Danny Rand–the Immortal Iron Fist–returns in season two of Marvel’s Iron Fist and Netflix just released its first trailer for the season, providing a glimpse at what fans of the Marvel franchise can expect.  More action is takeaway No. 1.

The first season of Marvel’s Iron Fist was a bit rough after a dark season of Daredevil, a spectacular first season of Jessica Jones, and a knockout first season of Luke Cage.  Compared to the other series it approached its origin character with a slowly building story, with co-lead Colleen Wing, played by Jessica Henwick, carrying most of the emotional and dramatic excitement through the season.  A heavily corporate boardroom plot with siblings Joy and Ward Meachum (played by Jessica Stroup and Tom Pelphrey) didn’t help matters.  Not even the inclusion of genre-favorite David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) could lift the ho-hum plot.  And the parallels in Iron Fist and CW’s Arrow were plentiful starting with the similarity of the leads.  Marvel’s The Defenders then brought together Rand, Cage, Jones, and Daredevil’s Matt Murdock, but when the characters even acknowledged they didn’t want to be a team that projected to viewers a team-up that wasn’t quite ready.

So can Iron Fist re-engage this season?  Star Trek and Men in Black III’s Alice Eve appears briefly in the trailer as supervillain Typhoid Mary.  Mike Colter and Finn Jones’ brief team-up as the classic Power Man and Iron Fist hinted at something fans would love to see much more of.  Although we don’t see Colter in this first trailer we do see Simone Missick’s Misty Knight will at least return for an episode–something to look forward to.  Fans of G.I. Joe won’t be able to resist comparing the conflict between that series’ Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow to Danny Rand and this season’s rival Davos aka Steel Serpent, played by the returning Sacha Dhawan.

Take a look at this first look at Season 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist:

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As part of the continuing celebration of 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that kickstarted filmdom’s modern superhero blockbuster chapter, AMC Theaters are getting the entire team back together for an eight-day movie marathon nationwide beginning Thursday, August 30.  Get ready for the Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary Film Festival.  Marvel has converted three early films in the series to IMAX for the first time: Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Incredible Hulk.  So the entire 20 film series will be screened in IMAX, plus many of the films will also be screened in 3D.

The announcement arrives with the home video release of Avengers: Infinity War, now available on Blu-ray and Digital HD, 4K, and DVD.  If you missed Infinity War, check out our review here (and catch all our Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews below).  This is your chance to catch up any or all of the films you might have missed in the theater, including the three 2018 releases Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and The Wasp.  And it will give many younger viewers the opportunity to see some great superhero movies from the early days of the MCU on the big screen for the first time.

The big day of the festival appears to be September 3, with a great single-day line-up: Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and The Wasp.  The series will run over Labor Day weekend, with four films per day from August 30 through September 5.  On September 6, AMC will screen two fan-favorite films, to be selected by a fan vote.  See the Marvel Studios 10th Anniversary Film Festival website for more details.  It also seems likely based on past screenings that AMC may offer some kind of bundled purchase price for multiple shows.  Check back to the website as the end of August nears for any additional promotions.

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If you’re curious why a recent news story surfaced about Marvel Comics seeking to get John Byrne to return for some new projects, you need only turn to a new retrospective book arriving at comic book shops today to see why Marvel wants him back.  It’s yet another in IDW Publishing’s award-winning series of “Artifact Editions”–giant-sized 12″x17″ books printed at the same dimensions as original comic book art pages, with quality scanned reprints that appear nearly identical to the originals.  Today’s release features the art of John Byrne, focusing on his classic X-Men pages.

John Byrne’s X-Men Artifact Edition includes reprints of 169 pages of Byrne art in all–a rare opportunity to view images where the original set of these pages would fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.  Beginning with X-Men Issue #108 in December 1977, Byrne, along with long-time creative partner Chris Claremont, would gain popularity for their story arcs “Proteus,” “Dark Phoenix Saga,” and “Days of Future Past.”  According to Byrne, “Even after all these years, it’s the X-Men work I did with Chris and Terry (Austin) that still resonates the most with fans.  Hopefully when you all see the pages in this format you’ll still feel the same way!”  So what’s inside?  A few pages each from X-Men Issues #108-143 (except no pages were included for Issue #117).  No full issues, but you’ll find 11 Byrne covers (for Issues #114, 116, 127, 129, 133, 134, 136, 138, 139, 140, and an unpublished cover to #142), 148 interior pages, 23 splash pages (including Wolverine, Phoenix, Spider-Man, and full teams), 8 pages from the first appearance of Alpha Flight in Issues #120 and 121, 10 pages from Issue #137, “The Death of Jean Grey,” 15 pages from the Issue #141 and 142 story, “Days of Future Past.”  All-in that’s 35 original pages to marvel at from the “Dark Phoenix Saga” alone.  Plus 10 bonus art pages, including original Marvel corner box art.  The original covers to #114, 133, and 136 are pages you’re going look at again and again.

Byrne stopped creating for Marvel in 2000 after a falling-out with editor Joe Quesada.  Byrne has continued with other publishers and personal projects since his Marvel days, going on to being named to the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2015.  Byrne co-created some major characters for Marvel, including the Scott Lang Ant-Man, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde, Sabretooth, and Shadow King.

Take a look at this preview from today’s release, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Peck?  As in Gregory Peck?  Turns out Oscar-winning actor Gregory Peck has a grandson who took to the acting business–Ethan Peck–and he has been tapped to co-star in the next season of Star Trek Discovery.  This will be the 13th actor to portray the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock in the more than five decades of the franchise–a role performed by more actors in the franchise than any other character.  Peck appears in the photo below (center) with Leonard Nimoy’s family, released today (and if the woman at left looks familiar, that’s because it’s Terry Farrell, who played Dax on Deep Space Nine, Leonard’s daughter-in-law, married to Leonard’s son Adam earlier this year).

Although he wasn’t “that kid in Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Peck did play a boy in the Disney fantasy film (which also featured former Star Trek actor Alice Krige).  He has also appeared in The Drew Carey Show, That ’70s Show, and the TV series version of 10 Things I Hate About You, among other things.

Here is an excerpt from the announcement earlier today about Peck from Star Trek Discovery executive producer Alex Kurtzman:

“Through 52 years of television and film, a parallel universe and a mirror universe, Mr. Spock remains the only member of the original bridge crew to span every era of Star Trek.”

Oops.  Actually Spock did not appear in Star Trek Enterprise.  So Spock has been in almost all the eras of Star Trek to be put to TV or film.  Kurtzman continued:

“The great Leonard Nimoy, then the brilliant Zachary Quinto, brought incomparable humanity to a character forever torn between logic and emotion.  We searched for months for an actor who would, like them, bring his own interpretation to the role.”

Pretty much anyone–sci-fi fan or not–can tell you Leonard Nimoy portrayed Spock the longest, from the pilot to the original series through the second film in the J.J. Abrams movie series, Star Trek Into Darkness (and a photo of him appeared in the next film Star Trek Beyond).  The character is almost without question the most iconic sci-fi character of the post-television era.

Zachary Quinto has taken on Spock for the three Abrams movies–that is, the part of young Spock in the separate, Kelvin timeline.  So where did we come up with eleven other actors who performed the role of Spock well in advance of Peck being handed his first tricorder?

Audiences have seen Spock several times before.  Remember in Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock, moviegoers saw Spock grow up on the Genesis planet, where he was played at age nine by Carl Krakoff:

Then at age 13 he was portrayed by Vadia Potenza:

At age 17 he was played by Stephen Manley:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new PlayStation 4/Insomniac action-adventure game arrives September 7 and it’s anticipated to be one of the best superhero games yet (check out a preview for the game below).  Leading up to the launch of the game Marvel’s Spider-Man is a new prequel novel to be published in two weeks by Titan Books as part of its rollout of Marvel paperback novels (see our previous reviews in the series of Avengers: Civil War here and Deadpool: Paws here).  Author David Liss has put together a densely packed story finding Spider-Man confronting Wilson “Kingpin of Crime” Fisk seven years after he first tried to put the mobster in jail and eight years after Peter first donned his supersuit.  Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover pits Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man up against more than Fisk–with criminals old and new taking a crack at Spidey in the hefty paperback’s 398 pages.

Liss focuses on Peter Parker adjusting to life after high school and college, after his Daily Bugle photographer days and years of taking on supervillains, in the workforce as a scientist–yet the angsty Parker is still the same everyguy struggling to balance listening to the needs of girlfriend Mary Jane, keeping his difficult supervisor at work happy, remembering his breakfast meet-ups with Aunt May (did someone say wheatcakes?), and saving the people of New York.  Yep, he still mostly falls short.  Although Fisk is the Big Bad in this tale, others are lurking, like Mayor Norman Osborn, Scorpion, Shocker, Tombstone, Electro, the most vile J. Jonah Jameson yet, and Martin Li (aka Mr. Negative).  But Spidey’s strangest riddle involves new threats, including a masked deaf woman who calls herself Echo, with mad martial arts skills and a hidden past, and a Spider-Man doppelganger called Blood-Spider, an imbalanced foe who thinks he’s the real Spider-Man (unfortunately for Spidey, he has the moves and webs to prove it).

Peter grows farther apart from Mary Jane when she lands a job at the Bugle, and he meets a new co-worker intern named Anika (who may be a bit of a stalker).  And he’s losing his other best friend and confidante as Harry Osborn takes off for a trip overseas.  A contact with the D.A.’s office and a driven Misty Knight-inspired member of the police force (Captain Yuri Watanabe) could be his way to more information.  But something is just not right everywhere Peter turns, and no facet of his life is getting better.  Liss weaves all these characters together for Peter to sleuth his way to the surface.  He will lose plenty.  What more is he willing to lose to finally put Fisk behind bars?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Shane Black, director and screenplay writer of next month’s sci-fi action film The Predator, could have gone in any direction with his return of the Yautja alien hunters to Earth.  He, along with co-screenplay writer Fred Dekker, decided to continue onward to the present day following the events of Predator 2.  Since the third film, 2010’s Predators, was set away from Earth it doesn’t factor in to the new film and neither does 2004’s Aliens vs Predator and 2007’s Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, so The Predator is basically Predator 3.  If you missed the latest trailer, check it out here.  The first trailer (and the movie) begin with a child opening a package where he finds a strange futuristic device.  His play with the device ends up triggering the return of one or more Predators to the planet.  So what happened between Predator 2 and this kid handling the device?  You can find out in The Predator: Hunters and Hunted, the official movie prequel to Shane Black’s The Predator, from author James A. Moore.

The novel follows a single Predator on a hunting excursion to southern Georgia in alligator country where he starts plucking off townsfolk, biker gang members and local law enforcement.  Derived from the team headed up by Gary Busey’s Peter Keyes in Predator 2, a new government-funded initiative is focused on locating and capturing one of these aliens, and this Georgia sighting has been their first lead since an appearance in Los Angeles back in 1997.  We get a brief appearance from Keyes’ son Sean (to be played by Jake Busey in the new movie), but the focal point is an opportunist named Will Traeger–Sterling K. Brown’s character in the new film–who is carefully manipulating both a military special ops unit called the Reapers and Congressional leadership to gain full control of Keyes’ project, now called Project Stargazer.  Traeger’s impediment is the current project lead, General Woodhurst, a four-star general played by Edward James Olmos in early cuts of the film (later to be excised entirely from the final cut).  Woodhurst is very much like Olmos’ General Adama in Battlestar Galactica, a military strategist more than someone on the front lines with the troops.  Woodhurst and Traeger are the guys in Washington, DC, trying to gain funding while answering to the federal agencies dolling it out.

A Yautja alien in Shane Black’s September theatrical release, The Predator.

For most readers the more interesting part of the prequel novel will be the viewpoint of the Predator.  While not giving us the play-by-play of the bureaucrats, the story alternates between the Predator’s perspective and thoughts and the Reapers’ efforts to capture him (the Predator’s vantage was also a feature of the novelization of Predator 2).  The best scene in the book is entirely removed from everything else–an inspired, vivid one-on-one battle with an alligator.  Why waste time on these puny humans when you have a real threat like that?  The prequel novel is key to the coming movie because it establishes from the Predator’s perspective an important code that the hunters must follow.  Unless this gets recounted in the movie, it’s some key data to know before heading into the theater.

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For fans of the classic monsters or younger players getting their first look at gameplay, a new coloring book is coming from Wizards of the Coast.  Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Outlined is arriving in game stores exclusively this weekend, and it’s arriving everywhere else later this month.

Look for 44 images to color in this 88-page book with artwork by subway graffiti artist-turned commercial and gallery artist Todd James.  The style of the artwork is very whimsical and feels like an exhibition of D&D as seen in street graffiti art.  Each image is accompanied by explanatory text about the creature featured by Magic: The Gathering card writer-turned D&D writer Adam Lee.  The cover image is a good representation of the pages found inside.

So get ready to revisit–or meet for the first time–characters like the beholder Grizzlax, blink dogs, dracoliches, the frost giant Blort, Saucy Jack, Mad Maud, a gibbering mouther, King Gluurbleblurb, mind flayers, owlbears, Mahadi Salimpurr, and Kronor the Brave.  Plus three images stretch over two pages.  Don’t expect a lot of detail, but for fans of Todd James’ art style this will be a must for pulling out the crayon or marker box.

Wizards of the Coast has plenty more coming for D&D players this year.  Here are some highlights:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Many products oversell themselves with some flavor of marketing puffery, they claim to be better than they ultimately are, or give consumers only the best content in the previews.  That’s not the case with Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’s second chapter in their two-volume chronicle The Fifty-Year Mission, The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J.J. Abrams, The Complete Uncensored Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek (I’ll shorten that hefty title to The Next 25 Years for this review).  With the first volume–The First 25 Years–coming in at 577 pages, it probably evens out that this second volume is a lengthy 864 pages considering all it needed to cover (everything from Next Generation onward).  Key words to note in that long title are unauthorized, meaning CBS and Paramount didn’t publish this (like the These Are the Voyages trilogy of books from Marc Cushman), complete meaning once you’re finished there is no possible way there is anything left to say about the production of the Star Trek TV shows and films, uncensored meaning Hollywood creators you may have idolized when beginning the book show a side of their personalities that remove the magic, awe, and spark you felt about them.  And oral as in stories passed down via the oral tradition, because The Next 25 Years features stories being told by hundreds of players (and a few non-players) via a loose outline broken down within topics Star Trek: The Next Generation, followed by the TNG movies, followed by Deep Space Nine, then Voyager, then Enterprise, stop-start show ideas, and then a too-brief section on the J.J. Abrams’ produced movies.

As for the “oral,” The Next 25 Years feels only a bit like what a historian may document as an oral history in that it consists nearly entirely of quotes from those who made these productions with only the barest of context added to try to keep the reader (and contributors) on-topic.  The Next 25 Years was published in 2016, so it includes contributions from those alive at the time the book was written, but also shuffles in comments of those creators who died long before, as if they were speaking along with the living contributors.  Neither is this a work of journalism or scholarly creation, because absent citation references–as Cushman used quite well as an integral part of his trilogy–it’s difficult for anyone to use the book as a reliable reference.  “When did Gene Roddenberry say this?”  “When did David Gerrold say that?”  Even more confusing, it’s obvious that the compilers of these quoted statements showed certain statements to others and allowed them to comment and respond.  When was this allowed, and when wasn’t it allowed?  Readers just don’t know, because the compilers of these statements don’t provide context.  Was Rick Berman given an opportunity to rebut this disparaging comment?  Did Michael Piller, who passed away in 2005, get the opportunity to ever respond to such statements?  Did he even know these people thought these things about him?  Timing matters so much in communication and memory, yet it’s missing here.  Around 2006 I read Piller’s unpublished (later on-demand released) manuscript about the making of Star Trek: Insurrection–it doesn’t make those associated with the production look very good, which is likely why publication of that book was originally cancelled by the studio.  The Next 25 Years will provide a similar vibe for franchise fans reflecting the memories (good or bad) of Star Trek’s execs, writers, and actors.

Those who have read every magazine and book on Star Trek over the years already know most of the gossip found here from a 30,000 foot view.  The Next 25 Years is a “tell-all” book.  What may be different is you get the details from multiple sources and in more detail than a passing fan would probably care to read.  It’s one thing to read a tell-all article in a magazine, and quite another to read all the tell-all tales of a subject of this massive scope over 864 pages.  But don’t walk away–there are some good nuggets along the journey.  Like some detail on the several attempts to make spin-off series that failed after Enterprise, F. Murray Abraham’s view of making Star Trek: Insurrection, Kate Mulgrew’s approach to Captain Janeway, and how Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Brannon Braga, and others cyclically stepped into Gene Roddenberry’s shoes initially with new ideas, but ultimately came back to his approach.  So diehards will want to read it simply for their niche fandom area of the franchise.  Actor/director Jonathan Frakes, for example, never appears in the book as anything but professional, positive, and contemplative about the past.  Gene Roddenberry’s son Rod is similarly diplomatic despite all of the negative statements lobbed against his family members.  Others reveal their flawed humanity for all to see, the colloquial “airing the dirty laundry” comes to mind.  Just keep in mind that other saying: “Don’t believe everything you read.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The right mix of writing, acting, art direction, and music come together in Orbiter 9, a direct-to-Netflix Spanish film that really has it all.  Like the critically-acclaimed Midnight Special, saying too much about the plot will give away too much of what is compelling about this film.  But you can be sure to find a tense piece of science fiction derived from those classic tales of great writers of the past like Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Philip K. Dick.  It’s a tale of future Earth where Earthlings have ravaged the planet, so, like recent sci-fi entries Passengers and the Lost in Space reboot, the only chance for humans is to embark on long voyages to distant worlds.

Clara Lago (The Commuter, The Librarians, LEX) masterfully plays Helena, a young woman left on board a spaceship heading from Earth to a distant colony who encounters an engineer named Álex, coming to repair the ship’s oxygen system, played by actor Álex González (X-Men: First Class).  We learn from a video image Helena is re-watching that her parents left her alone three years ago when the oxygen system broke down–their math showed that with Helena flying alone the oxygen could still get her to Celeste safely.  Raised on the ship since birth, she has never met another human.  She is diligent in her daily rituals, including exercise, with a determination to complete her mission prompted by her parents’ sacrifice.  But after Álex’s arrival, everything changes.

More believable than prior visions of the future in this sub-genre (Passengers, Moon, the Cloverfield series), Orbiter 9 may pull its tale in part from classic Greek sacrifice mythology or closed-room mysteries like Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, and wrestles with the limits of sacrifice, for family or others–again, a concept addressed in many past sci-fi stories, Star Trek in particular (think Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “Suddenly Human” in Star Trek: The Next Generation and “Child’s Play” from Star Trek Voyager).  Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one?  Orbiter 9 attacks this question in many surprising ways.  And unlike many a recent sci-fi film, it’s story belongs in a full feature format like this–it’s not just another short story dragged out to fit a movie-length format.

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Thirty-eight years ago in 1980 I saw my first horror movie in the theater, John Carpenter’s The Fog.  Referred to as “the most beautifully shot of all John Carpenter films,” “a better Halloween movie than the slasher that bears the holiday’s name,” “an incredibly atmospheric horror flick,” and “a horror classic,” The Fog is returning to theaters in time for Halloween.  It’s distributor, Rialto Pictures, contacted borg.com with the below trailer for the film’s new 4K restoration edition from Studiocanal.  This is the first restoration for John Carpenter’s first follow-up to the mega-hit 1970s slasher flick, Halloween.

“Out of theatrical release for years due to faded, unplayable prints, The Fog can now be viewed again as it was intended, with the restoration of its breathtaking color cinematography by Dean Cundey (Escape From New York, the Back To The Future series, Apollo 13, Romancing The Stone), who deftly captured both the daylight beauty of the Point Reyes shore and the ghostly goings-on in the dark, eerie night,” according to the publicist for Rialto.

The movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau in her first feature film, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, and Janet Leigh(star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Curtis’s mother), plus John Houseman and familiar Carpenter stock actor John “Buck” Flower.  The beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay is visited by a large fog bank on the anniversary of the town’s founding.  Two women in the town, a radio DJ stationed at the lighthouse (Barbeau) and a drifter (Curtis), try to escape what lies within the fog as the town preacher learns the terrible secret behind the fog’s appearance.

The release coincides with the release of the new Halloween reboot movie’s release, also starring Jamie Lee Curtis (a great excuse for Alamo Drafthouse theaters to schedule a double feature?).  Check out this trailer for the 4K restoration of The Fog:

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