Star Wars Galactic Vacation

For the past few years, Disney has been designing and building out its new Star Wars-themed attractions. I don’t just mean roller-coasters and stage shows, either, but a multi-day, fully-immersive experience.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (formerly Star Wars Land) is a Star Wars theme park attraction “located” on a planet in the Outer Rim. (Well, actually it will be in Florida or California, depending on where you are vacationing, but those are like separate planets, right?) The attraction, a collaboration between the Lucasfilm Story Group and Walt Disney Imagineering, opened in 2019 first at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, then at Disney World near Orlando, Florida.

According to Bob Chapek (who was still Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts at the time),

“It’s unlike anything that exists today. From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”

There will be familiar characters — e.g., Chewbacca, BB-8, Hondo (from Clones and Rebels), Rex from the original Star Tours ride — and familiar locations — e.g., a cantina, the Millennium Falcon (which vistors can “pilot”), a Star Destroyer hangar bay.

But, wait, there’s more! 🙂

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, scheduled for a 2021 opening, will be a Star Wars-themed resort just a shuttle-pod’s ride from the park; it is centered around the hotel/ship Halcyon, part of the Chandrila Star Line. According to Disney Parks,

“This first-of-its-kind resort will combine luxury with complete immersion into an authentic Star Wars story. Guests’ journey through space will start when everyone departs together for a multiday Stars Wars adventure by boarding a starship alive with characters and stories that unfold all around them during a voyage through the galaxy. At the resort, guests immediately become active citizens of the galaxy and can dress up in the proper attire. [Fans have the choice of interacting with the characters or simply watching the story play out.] Every resort window will also have a view into space. The opportunity for immersion at this resort will also stand out among all Disney resorts around the globe, as it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, allowing guests a total Star Wars experience.”

As reported by MovieWeb,

“Visitors will also engage in flight training, lightsaber training and ship exploration along with personalized secret missions that will take place both on the Starship and throughout the Star Wars themed planet.”

It won’t be cheap. A regular cabin (see pic below) is relatively small but looks cool, sleeps five, and includes a screen that details your journey and doubles as a regular TV set. That will set you back about $3300 (2-days/2-nights/5-meals) just for single-person occupancy, more for a couple or family. The Captain’s Quarters version will be a bit larger and will, of course, cost a bit more.

It’s out of my price range, but the whole thing sounds awesome!

P.S. Check out these links for more details, concept art, and a couple brief videos…

https://movieweb.com/star-wars-luxury-themed-resort-disney/

https://movieweb.com/star-wars-land-galaxys-edge-video-details-disneyland/

https://movieweb.com/star-wars-resort-interactive-disney-world/

https://movieweb.com/star-wars-resort-hotel-disneyland-disney-world-art-video/

https://movieweb.com/star-wars-hotel-galactic-starcruiser-disney-world-art/

https://movieweb.com/star-wars-galactic-starcruiser-hotel-video-disney-world/

https://movieweb.com/star-wars-galactic-starcruiser-hotel-rooms-disney-world/

Will There Be More ‘Back to The Future’ In Our Future?

I loved the Back to the Future trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990), and, like a lot of other fans, I used to wonder if another sequel would ever get made. Of course, times have changed quite a bit now, the central actors have all aged 30+ years, Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s Disease, which makes a sequel all the more improbable. Plus, there’s always the risk of ending the series with a disappointing dud of a film. (Anyone remember Superman IV: The Quest for Peace?)

Still, while most of the cast doubts that a sequel will ever happen, Christopher Lloyd (now 82) said he’s up for it if the story is right; he’d like to see a major issue like climate change be the focus. (Note: In 2015, Lloyd starred in a 10-min. video short about saving the world from nuclear holocaust, titled “Back to the Future: Doc Brown Saves the World”.)

“I think somehow it needs to kind of convey a message about something that’s important to everyone, universally, like climate change. Some way of incorporating whatever fever is going on at the moment into the film and keep the feeling of one, two and three.” — Christopher Lloyd (aka ‘Doc Brown’)

Given Hollywood’s affinity for remakes and reboots these days, one of those seems to be a more likely way to go. There has even been talk of casting Tom Holland as Marty McFly’s son (or grandson) to take over the central protagonist position, and a deep-fake video — using a clip from the original BtTF — was made that replaced Fox and Lloyd’s faces with those of Holland and Robert Downey, Jr. But, Holland says he isn’t interested in making either a sequel or remake. (Btw, Matt Frewer is another possible replacement for Lloyd, if necessary, and closer to Lloyd’s height.)

Deep-fake w/ Holland & Downey

The real question, though, is what those in control of the franchise plan on doing, if anything. The most prominent of those people would be the co-creators/writers, producer Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis. As per MovieWeb,

“[They] had it written into their contracts by Universal when they made the movie that no sequel or remake can ever be made without their approval. Both have since remained adamant that they will never sign off on a Back to the Future reboot, with Gale recently comparing the selling of the rights to prostitution.”

Gale’s comment was about maintaining integrity — both his and that of the franchise — being more important than putting out a crappy film just to make a quick buck. I respect that. He also mentioned Fox’s Parkinson’s, which would likely mean trying to cast a replacement.

“Who are you going to get? All you’re gonna do is beg comparisons to the originals, and you’re not going to match up.”

True. The nostalgia element would make acceptance of anyone else a rare thing. But, if anyone could pull off the same whimsical charm as Marty or his descendant, I think it’s Holland.

But, it sounds like Gale and Zemeckis are not keen on either a sequel or reboot/remake. Here’s another quote:

“We have an understanding with Spielberg and Amblin [Entertainment] that there would never be another Back to the Future movie without our blessing or being involved. So it’s not going to happen.”

So, sequels, reboots, and remakes are off the table. But, Lea Thompson, who played ‘Lorraine Baines McFly’, thinks there may be a way around this, sort of….

Thompson, Deutch, stars from the musical

Apparently, the newly released Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy [Blu-ray] 4K includes special features dedicated to Back to The Future: The Musical. The stage production, adapted by Gale and Zemeckis, premiered in Manchester in Feb. 2020, went into a COVID-19-based hiatus a few weeks later, and is scheduled to resume (after relocating to London’s West End) in May 2021. When asked if she would be up for reprising her role as ‘Lorraine’ in the musical should the opportunity arise, Thompson said,

“They would not ask me because I’m way too old…. But I’m pretty sure they’re probably already working on making a movie of the musical. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking with it. I don’t know anything like that, but that’s my opinion.”

Interesting. While musicals ain’t usually my thing, I did enjoy the filmed musical version of Chicago.

Thompson still wants to be involved, though. She does a lot of directing these days (e.g., “Mom”, “Star Girl”, “The Goldbergs”, a couple Hallmark movies) and would love to be given the reigns for filming the musical BtTF — if Zemeckis didn’t want to, of course. She would also like to see her daughter, Zoey Deutch (Zombieland: Double Tap, “The Politician”), cast as ‘Lorraine’.

According to MovieWeb, when asked about this idea in a recent interview, Bob Gale was “cagey”. Not dismissive. Hmmm. Thompson may be onto something….

Fan-Cast: She-Hulk

“I’m six foot seven and bright green! People are gonna stare no matter how I dress!” — She-Hulk

As regular readers might remember, I posted last month about the casting of Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk for the upcoming live-action mini-series. I said that, while certainly talented, I felt she was too short and generally had the wrong look for the character. But, I also indicated that I would take a shot at fan-casting the role myself, so… here ya go. But, first, my usual bit of background on the character…

She-Hulk

Jennifer Walters was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, where her father was sheriff. One of her cousins was Bruce Banner, who would visit his cousin “Jen” during summer vacations. She attended UCLA and got a law degree, setting up shop as a private attorney in LA. One day when Banner was visiting, hitmen sent by a crime boss shot and seriously wounded Walters. Banner broke into a doctor’s office to treat her and ended up giving her a transfusion from his own gamma-irradiated blood. When a second attempt was made on her life later in the hospital, Walters transformed into a super strong, green giantess — a “she-hulk”, as one witness observed — and detained the hitmen for the cops.

Her She-Hulk persona was originally “savage” (as it would be at times in later years), but she soon developed a calmer, more reasonable demeanor and her intelligence was the same as the human Jennifer Walters. Also, the normally more modest and reserved Walters began to enjoy the increased confidence and assertiveness of her alter ego. Initially, it took intense fear or anger to cause her to change, but she would later gain more control over the transformations. In fact, she often preferred to remain as She-Hulk (whether by choice or not), even while doing her work as an attorney (usually on behalf of other costumed heroes/adventurers, which became a specialty).

Originally a solo adventurer, she soon joined the Avengers and later became a member or associate of the Fantastic Four, Fantastic Force, Heroes for Hire, S.H.I.E.L.D., Fearsome Four, Defenders, et al. She-Hulk has also had stints as a bounty hunter, actress, mine slave, and Magistra of the Living Tribunal. While generally well-liked among the superhero set, there have been occasions where she mixed it up with other heroes (e.g., the mutants of X-Factor Investigations) and intelligence operatives (e.g., S.H.I.E.L.D. LMDs). And, of course, her foes have ranged from crime families to aliens (e.g., Skrulls and Cotati), from a menagerie of supervillains to other “Hulks”.

Her powers and abilities are quite similar to those of her famous cousin — e.g., superhuman strength (originally Class 50, now Class 100+), superhuman stamina, superhuman durability, regenerative healing factor, etc. Her bone and muscle mass are more condensed, though, which is why she is noticeably smaller than the Hulk. She is naturally very intelligent, has an extensive knowledge of American law, and is a successful trial attorney. She also has martial arts training and is a skilled pilot.

Jen / She-Hulk (by OperaPhantom)

Physically, the She-Hulk (aka “Shulkie” to a few select friends) is emerald-skinned, unusually tall (at least 6’7″) and quite muscular. Just how muscular depends on the particular artist, storyline, and writer in charge of her at the time. I prefer a look somewhat like a fitness model but not as bulky as some steroid-pumped bodybuilder. But, that is really for the F/X department to figure out, as she will probably be a CGI-based creation, based on movements and expressions from the actor in a motion-capture suit. So, I am actually fan-casting for the “average human” version of Jennifer Walters.

Walters is an attractive, Caucasian woman with brown hair, whom Marvel’s wiki lists as 5’10”, 150 lbs. Anyone who has read my other fan-casting posts knows I prefer that the actor cast be as like the original character as is reasonable. So, whereas Maslany is a petite 5’4″, I would much prefer someone on the tall side — say, at least 5’9″. Finding tall women for these type roles is always challenging, but I found a few potential candidates.

As mentioned, Walters original persona was of a fairly “meek”, buttoned-down professional who was mostly level-headed. However, she has loosened up a little over the years, partly due to the bizarre world of superheroes/villains, aliens, and mutants she operates in. (And, I would guess, partially due to altered brain chemistry when she “goes green”.) The She-Hulk persona has always been more volatile, of course. Despite her occasional savageness, my favorite stories are when she is essentially Jennifer Walters’ mind in the big green gammazon body. As such, she generally enjoys both a good legal challenge and a thrilling adventure or bone-shattering throwdown.

Not surprisingly, one of the actors I considered for this role was Kristanna Loken (5’11”,b.1979) (“Mortal Combat: Conquest”, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, “Painkiller Jane”). But, since I think the character should be played by someone in her early- to mid-30s, I had to rule Loken out. Beyond that, I really only came up with three possibilities….

Adrianne Palicki

Adrianne Palicki (5’10.75″,b.1983) should be quite familiar to genre fans. One of her earliest roles was as the original ‘Kara’ on “Smallville”. She has appeared or starred in “Supernatural”, Legion, the unused “Wonder Woman” pilot, 2012’s Red Dawn remake, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, John Wick, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, and “The Orville”, while also providing many voices for “Robot Chicken”. She would need to be able to schedule around shooting “The Orville”, of course, and it would probably keep her from being able to make any appearance as Bobbi Morse (aka Mockingbird) on other Marvel-based series or films. She’s the oldest of our contestants, but I think she has the right look (beginning with height) and could be a terrific Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk.

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Elysia Rotaru

Elysia Rotaru (5’9″,b.1984) is certainly lesser-known but may ring a bell. She has appeared in such genre fare as “Smallville”, “Sanctuary”, “Fringe”, “Supernatural”, “iZombie”, “Arrow” (which I think is where I noticed her), Residue, Cold Pursuit, Killbird, Genesis Code, “The 100”. She has also done voice work for various video games, “Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales”, and — get this — as ‘She-Hulk’ on “Marvel Super Hero Adventures”. Granted, most of her work has been in small roles and B-movies. But, she has the right look (imo) for our lady lawyer/superhero, and she may be a great fit for the role.

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Karen Gillan

Finally, any fan of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers movies will know Karen Gillan (5’10or10.75″,b.1987) as ‘Nebula’, and Whovians will recognize her as Doctor Who companion ‘Amy Pond’. In addition to these memorable roles, Gillan can be seen in Oculus, In a Valley of Violence, The Circle, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level, The Call of the Wild, and the upcoming Gunpowder Milkshake and Dual. Since Nebula is blue-skinned and bald (and a much different character), I think Gillan (hopefully with brown hair) could potentially play Jen Walters / She-Hulk without it being weird. On the chance that both characters eventually end up in a film together, the writers could have a bit of fun with it.

As usual, if you have any fan-casting ideas for this role, especially within the parameters I set above, please post them below.

  • All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2020.

Small-town Dalek Controversy

“Exterminate! Exterminate!” — typical Dalek, as well as the Northumberland County Planning Committee

Some Doctor Who fans may have heard about this already, but the story crossed my screen the other day, and I thought I’d share….

Neil Cole inside his sci-fi museum

Neil Cole is an avid collector of sci-fi memorabilia who lives in the village of Allendale in Northumberland County, England. A few years back, he opened “Neil Cole’s Adventures in Science Fiction: Museum of Sci-fi” in his home, where he displays his classic movie and television props, costumes, and original artwork. One of the prize pieces in Cole’s collection is an actual Dalek from the “Doctor Who” franchise (see background of pic at left). The community seemed mostly supportive, as the venture brought a little added business to town.

Then Cole made the mistake of trying to further market the museum by building a life-size Dalek replica to display outside (see pic below). Fans loved being able to pose for pictures with the “AllenDalek”. But, a local resident didn’t approve of it — or, rather, the protective shed in which it was housed — and lodged a complaint with the Northumberland County Council. The Council sent officers from the Highways Department to inform the Coles, thereby beginning a whole mess of headaches for the museum owners.

“Cole and his wife, Lisa, had been accused of defiling their historically listed property by installing a modern timber shed outside it, along the street, without planning permission. They were given 14 days to remove it.”

The Planning Committee ran point, of course, led by the Interim Planning Director. The Committee was never as reasonable or cooperative as they claimed to be in public. In fact, they played hardball…

“The Council defamed the Coles as criminals, and cited them for neglecting to request planning permission not only for the shed but for the installation of informational plaques onto the beams of their house. ‘We were told we could be prosecuted … That meant we would have to take everything down and close the museum for the sake of 20 screws.'”

Museum exterior, with AllenDalek in its shed

On the positive side, fans raised more than double the money needed to pay the citation fees, with enough left over to hire a planning expert. Over 3000 signatures were gathered for a petition, and nearly 200 letters of support were written.

The Coles appealed, a hearing was scheduled, and Neil Cole took the allotted 5 minutes to present his case. He got a standing ovation, and it was all captured on film by the BBC.

The Council still ruled against, on the basis that the shed was not essential to the success of the museum, but public pressure resulted in a compromise: The shed could remain for one year, after which time it would have to be replaced with a more historically aesthetic structure. According to Cole,

“The Council was meant to work with me to come up with a solution and build something else. But when we contacted them, they just wouldn’t.”

The Coles removed the shed at the required time (Aug. 2020) and donated it to a village preschool. They are building a road-legal trailer for the AllenDalek, complete with a glass case. As if that weren’t enough, Cole decided to also build a weather-resistant steel “AllenDalek Mk Two”. So, the museum will end up with not one but two Dalek replicas to greet museum visitors when they arrive.

“It’ll look ridiculous, but [the Council] left us this crazy option, so we’ll take the crazy option.”

However, Cole acknowledges that the Council could still find something to object to. But, they are now “better prepared to fight back” — presumably from organizational and legal standpoints, and especially with the moral support of the fans and the rest of their beloved village community.

Spotlight on Boris Karloff

With Halloween coming up this weekend, I thought I would pick a notable figure from classic horror films and do a retrospective of sorts of his/her career. One of the persons that comes quickest to my mind is Boris Karloff, so…

Karloff in 1930s

The youngest of nine children, William Henry Pratt was born in Surrey, England, on Nov. 23, 1887, to parents of mixed English and East Indian ancestry. His parents passed away when he was young, and “Billy” was raised by a half-sister. After university, he moved to Canada, where he worked as a farmhand while slowly adding to his acting resume. Not easy, considering his extremely little experience and a slight lisp. (He also had a stutter as a boy, though he managed to get that under control.) When he started getting roles on stage, he adopted the stage name of ‘Boris Karloff’. However, he never legally changed his name, and he signed official documents “William H. Pratt, a.k.a. Boris Karloff.”

Karloff performed with several theatrical stock companies in Canada and the U.S. while building his career. He also had to work various manual labor jobs to pay the bills, and problems with his back prevented him from enlisting in WWI.

After arriving in Hollywood, Karloff began to get work in silent films and film serials. His on-screen debut was in the film serial The Lightning Raider (1919). Thanks to his swarthy complexion, he was often cast as an Arab, East Indian, or American Indian. For example, he played an Indian in The Last of the Mohicans (1920), a maharajah in The Man from Downing Street (1922), an Imam in Omar the Tentmaker (1922), and was even cast as an African in Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1927).

Karloff acted in many genres — western, action/adventure, drama, comedy, mystery, sci-fi — and many of his roles were as criminals and other antagonists (e.g., a mob boss in Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932)). There were periods during both the 1930s and 1940s when it was difficult to make profitable horror films, so actors like Karloff had to branch out. But, Karloff enjoyed some variety. Several additional examples of his non-horror work include John Ford’s The Lost Patrol (1934), Juggernaut (1936), Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936), Night Key (1937), The Invisible Menace (1938), the controversial “Mr. Wong” series (playing the protagonist, for a change), Devil’s Island (1939) (also playing the hero), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), Lured (1947), Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947), Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949).

Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster in *Bride of Frankenstein*

But, Karloff is mostly known (at least, to the general public) for his roles in horror films. He had already appeared in 80 movies before director James Whale cast him as the iconic monster in Frankenstein (1931), a role that required him to wear a bulky costume, four-inch platform boots, and extensive makeup and latex appliances. Not long afterward, Karloff began to get top billing (e.g., The Old Dark House (1932), The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), and, of course, The Mummy (1932)), as he was now an established horror-film star. He sometimes shared the marquis with Bela Lugosi (e.g., The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935)) and later other horror-genre notables. Karloff reprised his most famous role in Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935), then again in Son of Frankenstein (1939), co-starring Lugosi and Basil Rathbone.

After having spinal surgery in 1944 to relieve a chronic arthritic condition, Karloff began making movies again. One of the first was House of Frankenstein (1944), but this time Glenn Strange was the monster and Karloff played the villainous Dr. Niemann. The film also included Dracula, a hunchback, and a howling ‘man-beast’. Disappointed with the state of the franchise, Karloff left Universal for RKO Pictures. He did three horror films with them, including his last teaming with Lugosi, Isle of the Dead (1945).

He continued to concentrate of horror projects throughout the 1950s and 1960s. A few of these include The Strange Door (1951), Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1952), The Island Monster (1954), Voodoo Island (1957), Frankenstein 1970 (1958) (as Baron Victor von Frankenstein II), Corridors of Blood (1958), Black Sabbath (1963), The Comedy of Terrors (1964), The Sorcerers (1966), and The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1967). Before passing away from pneumonia in Feb. 1969, Karloff played occult expert Professor Marsh in The Crimson Cult (1968) and completed four low-budget Mexican horror films, all released posthumously.

Karloff was able to return to the stage from time to time, as well. In 1941, Karloff played a homicidal gangster in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace. (Raymond Massey starred in the 1944 film adaptation.) He appeared as Captain Hook in a 1950 stage musical adaptation of Peter Pan and was nominated for a Tony Award for his work in The Lark (1955).

Karloff (r) & the Grinch (l)

In addition to stage and film, Karloff was a frequent guest on radio programs, and he hosted and starred in radio and TV anthology series (e.g., Starring Boris Karloff (1949), The Veil (1958), Thriller (1960-1962)). He also made appearances on regular British and American television series (e.g., “Colonel March of Scotland Yard”, “Who Said That?”, “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.”, “I Spy”). His final appearance as Frankenstein’s monster was for a Halloween episode of “Route 66”.

Perhaps most notably, he gained a bit of a career-surge for his involvement with the made-for-television animated film of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966). Karloff provided both narration and the voice of the title character. Contrary to popular belief, though, he did not sing the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. (That honor went to American voice actor and bass singer Thurl Ravenscroft, who was well-known for voicing Tony the Tiger, the Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes spokesman (spokes-animal?).)

Over the years, Karloff performed a few spoken word recordings, from Shakespeare to children’s classics. (He was known for his involvement in children’s charities, too.) He is also credited with editing a few written horror anthologies in the 1940s & 1960s, though just how much he actually did versus his co-editors (e.g., Edmond Speare) is unclear.

Despite never winning awards for any of his 162 films, Karloff received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 — one for motion pictures and one for television. His likeness was used for two stamps in the USPS “Classic Monster Movie Stamps” series (1997) — as Frankenstein’s monster and as the Mummy –, and he was the honoree of an English Heritage blue plaque in 1998. And, in 2016, British film magazine Empire ranked his portrayal as Frankenstein’s monster as the sixth-greatest horror movie character of all time.

That’s one helluva career!

From Conan to Green Lantern to Everyone’s Favorite Serial Killer

I have a few, mostly-unrelated announcements to cover this week….

First, Conan the Barbarian is making his way to your television (or computer) screens via a new, live-action show. As per Movieweb:

“According to a new report, Fredrik Malmberg and Mark Wheeler’s Pathfinder Media has made a deal with Netflix to produce the Conan the Barbarian TV series. It is also said to be the first in a deal with Conan Properties International. Under the deal, Netflix has the exclusive rights to obtain the rights to the entire Conan library. This would mean that the company could develop further movies and TV shows, both of the animated and live-action variety, should they so choose.”

Malmberg and Wheeler will, of course, be executive producers. Since (as of this writing) this is very early in development, there has been no casting of roles, no hiring of writer or director, and no revelation of any plot details. However, I get the sense that there is no connection to the Conan reboot film (2011) that starred Jason Momoa or to any other production from recent years. It is possible, however, that Netflix might help Arnold Schwarzenegger finally get his The Legend of Conan film made (starring Arnold as an older “King Conan”), though whether they would tie it (and Arnold’s previous Conan movies) in with their TV hero or have it be a totally separate thing is obviously unknown. All speculation, at this point.

I’m not a huge Conan fan, but I might check this new series out.

Second, we have a new “Green Lantern”, live-action TV series on the horizon. This is not completely new news (is that redundant?), since the series was announced one year ago this month as being developed by Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television for the upcoming streaming service HBO Max.

Clockwise from upper-left: Sinestro, Cruz, Baz, Gardner, Scott (Photo: Warner Bros. / HBO Max)

What does appear to be new information is that the show will be “a one-hour drama series that will explore the darkest corners of the universe” and it will focus on… well, I’ll let Warner Bros. tell you:

“From HBO Max, DC, Berlanti Productions and Warner Bros. Television comes a bold adaptation of the iconic comic book franchise, a saga spanning decades and galaxies. Green Lantern will depict the adventures of a multitude of Lanterns, including Guy Gardner, Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, and Alan Scott — Earth’s first Green Lantern, who, true to the comics, is a gay man — and many more. The series will also include fan favorites such as Sinestro and Kilowog, and will also introduce new heroes to the ranks of the Green Lantern Corps.”

(“True to the comics…”. Well, after they retconned him back in 2012, that is. I just hope they don’t push the whole LGBTQ+ thing.)

Major Green Lanterns from Earth like Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner are noticeably missing. Are they being saved for the Green Lantern Corps film, I hope? (Is that still on track?)

The 10-episode first season will be co-written by showrunner Seth Grahame-Smith (IT, The LEGO Batman Movie, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter) and Arrowverse architect Marc Guggenheim.

I suppose I should also mention that, on a related note, WarnerMedia officially announced that “the DC Universe program is transitioning into DC Universe Infinite and most of its content will be moving over to HBO Max.” This transferred content will include the already existing, non-CW, live-action and animated DC series — “Young Justice”, “Doom Patrol”, “Stargirl”, “Titans”, “Harley Quinn”. So, the new “Green Lantern” series will have plenty of company.

I’m only a moderate GL fan, Kyle Rayner being my favorite, but I’ll probably give this series a shot.

Finally, fans of “Dexter” — and I count myself among them — got some great and surprising news. Many of us wondered “What the heck?!” at the end of the series finale, when we saw Dex (Michael C. Hall) move off to the middle of nowhere to become a lumberjack. It looks like we will get some answers — or, at the very least, a new story and finale to look forward to.

The 10-episode limited series will tentatively begin production in early 2021, eyeing a Fall 2021 premiere date. According to Gary Levine and Jana Winograde, Presidents of Entertainment, Showtime Networks Inc.:

“Dexter is such a special series, both for its millions of fans and for Showtime, as this breakthrough show helped put our network on the map many years ago. We would only revisit this unique character if we could find a creative take that was truly worthy of the brilliant, original series. Well, I am happy to report that [original showrunner] Clyde Phillips and Michael C. Hall have found it, and we can’t wait to shoot it and show it to the world!”

I hope they bring in at least a couple familiar supporting characters, namely Dexter’s sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) and father Harry (James Remar).

Bloody marvelous! I’m in!

On the Casting of She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel

Marvel recently announced a couple casting choices for upcoming series, and they definitely have fans talking. It should be no surprise that I have a couple opinions of my own to share on the topic….

Tatiana Maslany / She-Hulk

When I heard that Tatiana Maslany had been cast to portray Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk in the upcoming “She-Hulk” (mini-)series, I had quite mixed feelings. While I haven’t watched her in anything lately, I liked Maslany a lot in “Orphan Black”. She is enormously talented. On the other hand…

I think that, physically, she isn’t the best choice. Now, I’m not expecting them to paint her green and have her stomp around, etc. (She’s certainly no Lou Ferrigno.) I am pretty sure that, as with Mark Ruffalo and the other MCU versions of Bruce Banner / Hulk, they will create a CGI She-Hulk whose features will be based on the actor. Maslany will likely wear a motion-capture suit, which they will use to “capture” She-Hulk’s movements and expressions. So, in that respect, it doesn’t really matter that Maslany is very slender and nowhere near 6’7″ (or taller).

The first issue is that Maslany is only 5’4″, whereas Jennifer Walters is listed at 5’10”, 150 lbs. in Marvel’s wiki. I would much prefer that they cast someone closer in height — at least over 5’6″. This might not go over too well, but I would also rather that they found someone that is, say, more conventionally attractive. I mean, Maslany is cute in her own way, but she just doesn’t fit the character, imo. That aside, I have a feeling she’ll give audiences a great motion-capture performance as the Jade Giantess.

The second announcement was that Iman Vellani has been cast in the role of Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel. Who? Yeah, I asked the same question.

Iman Vellani / Ms. Marvel

On the plus side, Miss Vellani is a cute, 18-year-old (though she looks younger) Canadian of Pakistani extraction. Fans, especially Muslim fans, are thrilled that she will be portrayed by a Muslim who is also of the correct ethnicity. Can’t blame ’em, and I agree. To my eye, though, Vellani doesn’t look enough like the character.

More importantly, Vellani has relatively little acting experience. Yeah, you read that right. This will be her first job in Hollywood, and (as of this writing), other than listing the 6-episode “Ms. Marvel” series scheduled for 2021, her bio on her new IMDB page only tells us she is 5’6″. (Marvel wiki lists Khan as 5’4″.) The only other background I found on her is from a Newsweek article:

“In 2019, Vellani was part of the Next Wave Committee at the Toronto Fim Festival, which was tasked with adding a special tag to films which they believed would make an impact on their peers.

Her committee bio from the event lists her as interested in cinematography but now acting will certainly be added to the list.”

Let’s hope she has at least exhibited some acting talent in school productions and/or local theater. Otherwise, why in the world would they cast her, right?

I suppose I should take a stab at fan-casting She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel myself sometime in the next few weeks/months….

John Dies at the End… Sorta

“You have tormented me six times. Now prepare to meat your doom!” — demon-possessed, man-shaped collection of frozen meats

Mix Bill & Ted with Stephen King (or, as an alternative, Clive Barker), add a cup each of Ghostbusters and Douglas Adams, then perhaps a pinch of X-Files for good measure. Stir thoroughly and bake in Hell. You now have John Dies at the End (and its sequel, I assume) by David Wong.

You may remember that this book was part of the list I posted a few weeks ago. Well, I’m almost done reading it and am enjoying it despite myself. (Btw, I read and quite enjoyed Redshirts, as well.) So far, John has already died at least once, but he got better. (Insert Monty Python reference.) I thought maybe I’d give y’all a taste by citing a few sample passages. Here ya go…

Sample #1 (p.86-87):

“”Dave? Can you hear me?”

John’s voice, coming clear as day through the tube of seasoned meat. I glanced down at the cell phone and got the point. The display was black, the glass busted out of it. A green circuit board was poking out of the warped seam along one side.

“All right, all right. I’m hearing you through some kind of psychic vibration or whatever and not the phone. I get it. You could have just told me that.” I lowered the sausage and replaced it with the cell. “Okay, what’s next?”

Nothing.

I heard a faint sound coming from the bratwurst, put it back to my head….

“The only reason you can hear me is because you got some of the soy sauce into your system, from the syringe. But it’s not very much and it won’t last long.”

“What is it, John? The sauce… it was alive. I swear it–“

“Listen. You gotta get over to Robert’s place. There aren’t any cops there now, but there will be. We have sort of a narrow window here. Take a cab to Wally’s and get your car, then go to Shire Village on Lathrop Avenue. It’s a trailer park, south of town past that one candy place. You should be able to get there in twenty minutes with any luck.”

“I don’t have any cash. I had five bucks and I just spent three of it on the bratwurst.”

“That bratwurst was three bucks? Holy crap. Okay. Give me a second…. All right. Check between the sausage and the bun. You’ll find a hundred dollar bill folded up in there.”

Encouraged that maybe all this black magic could actually produce something positive, I fingered around under the sausage for a few seconds.

“Nothing here, John.”

“Okay. I guess I can’t do that. Do you have your ATM card?””

Sample #2 (p.278):

“I pulled open the door, scraping it along the frozen ground. The piano wire around my gut tightened again and I thought I would have been sick, had I eaten anything.

I have this tarp, a blue one, one I always used to keep my firewood dry before I ran out of firewood. Right now it was in a loose roll along the gravel floor of my toolshed, above another frosted stain of cranberry-colored slush. There was something wrapped in the canvas, something the size of a body, something I knew was a body, rolled up like —

A murder burrito!

— a gutted deer in the bed of a pickup. I could have confused this for a slain young deer, in fact, had there not been three pale fingers extending just over the edge of the canvas.

I turned away, stepped outside, put my hands on my knees….

There was no question in my mind I had done it. I didn’t want to do it, to be sure, but I had done it just the same. And the thought, the gargantuan thought that swallowed me the way the impossible idea of eternity will swallow me upon arrival in Hell, was that nothing would ever, ever, ever be right again.”

Sample #3 (p.378) (WARNING! GRAPHIC!):

“I heard John make a breathy sound behind me, shock or disgust or both. I followed his gaze and saw a wire cage twenty or so feet away, containing a thin, young boy. Maybe ten years old. He stood there, looking terrified, fingers hooked through the wire mesh, staring at me with wide blue eyes. There was a device next to the cage, round and maybe five feet tall. It had a red light glowing on the side. The light flipped to green, an electronic sound emitted. The boy screamed.

The boy’s skin bubbled and wrinkled. One of his eyes deflated and ran down his cheek as a white goo. Muscle liquefied and fell off his bones. He folded into the ground, left as a quivering lump. The lump bubbled and twitched and took on shape. Two stumpy feet emerged. A cloven hoof. Two more feet, a round body. I heard whimpering behind me, Molly watching along with me. In five seconds, I was looking through the cage at a pink, well-fed pig.

“%#@%$**(%(#%^!!”

That was John, behind me. The pig trotted calmly over to the wires of the cage, sniffing at me. It put its front hooves on the wire cage and I thought, but wasn’t sure, I saw the same imprinted pi tattoo Molly once had and Drake had and — what the f*** did it all mean? I yanked the pull string on the chainsaw so hard I thought I’d rip it out. The saw roared to life.

John looked down at Molly and said, “You better poop that bomb because we’re blowing this place to Hell.””

Now, should I tell you about the seven-feet-tall, frozen-turkey-headed meatstrocity that I quoted at the top of the post? Nah. (Btw, that account is in the Preface, in case you want to read it in the library.) Check it out for yourself!

Disney Developing Two New Series for Samuel L. Jackson

I hadn’t intended to do another Disney-oriented post so soon, but… it’s *#$%@^# Samuel L. Jackson!

I am hearing/reading that Disney is taking advantage of having fan-favorite Jackson under contract and his previous involvement with two huge franchises that it now controls — namely, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Star Wars.

Last time audiences saw the real (i.e., non-Skrull) Nick Fury in the MCU was in the post-credits scene for Spider-Man: Far From Home. He was on a S.W.O.R.D. space station (or ship?) with a bunch of Skrulls, possibly orbiting Earth or maybe further out. “S.W.O.R.D.” stands for Sentient World Observation and Response Department, a division or spinoff of S.H.I.E.L.D. that monitors potential space-based threats.

While it appears that the long-rumored “Agents of S.W.O.R.D.” series will indeed happen, Fury will be relegated to a recurring (as opposed to regular) character. But, that’s OK, because… Marvel Studios is creating a separate Disney+ series for him. Written and executive produced by Kyle Bradstreet (“Mr. Robot”, “Berlin Station”), the “Nick Fury” series will, of course, star Samuel L. Jackson — making it Jackson’s first regular television role.

Jackson as Fury

According to Variety‘s sources, “exact plot details of the show are being kept under wraps”, but it is currently set for an early 2023 release. I hope they keep the tone on the serious side, with only occasional bits of humor. I imagine there will be a connection to, or at least mentions of, the S.W.O.R.D. activities. But, since there will be a different show to focus on that, I’m guessing “Nick Fury” will focus more on, say, regular S.H.I.E.L.D. spy stuff, possibly from a few years in the past. (But, which timeline?) Bottom line, this sounds pretty cool, and I look forward to hearing and writing more about it in the future.

Meanwhile, trusted Star Wars insider Daniel Richtman reports that a live-action project focusing on Mace Windu has been green-lit. That’s right, folks. The beloved Jedi Master somehow survived his fall at the end of Episode III, and we’ll find out how!

It is possible it will end up being a standalone prequel film, but it sounds more like a Disney+ series to me. The basic premise has Jackson portraying the older Windu from a few (6?) years after the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (19 years before Battle of Yavin (Ep. IV)), while a yet-to-be-cast younger actor plays the younger Windu as a Jedi Padawan (or Knight?) (10?) years before Episode I: The Phantom Menace (32 BBY). That’s a roughly 30-year difference between the two versions. Whether the idea is to have two concurrent, possibly connected, storylines going at once or merely to have older Windu narrating a flashback story is unclear at this time.

Many fans will be disappointed that Jackson doesn’t play Windu all the time, but there are reasons for this. For one, Jackson is already over 70 years old and may not want or be able to do the more active stuff. (Of course, some of that will be done by stunt doubles, regardless.) From the studio’s p.o.v., though, it would be much more expensive to use the de-aging tech on Jackson for the flashback stuff. Plus, they’d have to pay him more for more onscreen time, and he can demand a lot more money than a relative newcomer. So, this actually sounds like a cool way to have Jackson involved but keep the budget manageable.

Jackson as Windu

A few leaked details about the plot are: 1) The show will somehow involve Jedi being hunted down throughout the Empire. 2) Darth Vader will make an appearance — I don’t know if it’s as cameo, recurring, or regular character — and a version of the Starkiller character from SW Legends will be revealed as Vader’s secret apprentice. (So, Starkiller will become canonized.) Whether or not fans accept changes to the character’s appearance could be an issue, though. 3) Older Windu will have an apprentice of his own. (Perhaps someone to tell his flashback story to?)

Pre-production is said to be set for Feb. 2021, followed by filming beginning in mid-2022, with a Disney+ premiere tentatively scheduled some time in 2024.

All else being equal, there are two things that will make or break this series. First, they have to make a wise choice in who they cast for the younger Windu. It won’t be easy to capture Jackson’s “swagger”, etc. As well-received as Ewan McGregor was as young Ben Kenobi, Alden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of young Han Solo was a lot less successful. (I thought he did fine, all things considered.) It remains to be seen how Sebastian Stan does, if reports are true of him taking on young(ish) Luke Skywalker. Finding someone to fill Jackson’s shoes as Windu will be at least as difficult.

Second, they must have a compelling story/stories that respects established canon and does the character justice, while truly conveying that classic Star Wars feel & tone. Given the Lucas/Favreau/Filoni team currently overseeing the rehabilitation of the franchise (with Disney CEO Bob Chapek), including developing new projects like this one and hiring writers and directors to run with them, I am reasonably comfortable that none of these will be much of an issue. However, even Lucas disappointed many fans with the prequel films. Plus, he will eventually step down once Chapek finds a permanent replacement for Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilm, so a lot also depends on that person’s decisions, too.

No other casting or plot details have been revealed, as far as I can tell. Whether they bring in additional familiar characters or introduce all new ones, or possibly a mix, it should be a lot of fun. Forgive me if I repeat myself, but… “Bottom line, this sounds pretty cool, and I look forward to hearing and writing more about it in the future.” 🙂

Changes at Lucasfilm and the Future of Star Wars at Disney

I finally got around to watching Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker the other day. (It was OK in parts, but overall a disappointing mish-mash.) This meant I was able to follow that up (without being afraid of spoilers) with some YouTube videos talking about the movie and recent happenings at Disney/Lucasfilm. There was a lot of duplicate information across (and even within) those videos. But, in case you are nearly as out-of-the-loop as I was, I’ll summarize for you what I have gleaned….

1) Everybody hates producer Kathleen Kennedy, current president of Lucasfilm. OK, that might not be all that big a revelation. But, now the actors are letting slip more complaints about episodes XIII and IX, and many focus on Kennedy’s decisions.

2) As many of you probably know, Kennedy is a big believer and participant in Hollywood’s “woke” activism. As such, many of her casting and story decisions for productions under her purview are meant to push that wokism. (This came up in a recent post on my other blog: “Disney Learns ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ Lesson…. Maybe”.) She has actively been trying to reshape the Star Wars franchise into something more to her liking, which (among other things) involves ignoring established canon, trashing George Lucas’ treatments, and focusing on getting new fans over pleasing hard-core, long-time fans. When fans complain, she accuses them alternately of not knowing what they want and of wanting too much. In other words, she blames the fans for her mistakes.

3) One of the things that really ticked off everyone working on IX was the extra-long production. This began with the firing of director Colin Trevorrow mid-production and hiring J.J. Abrams to pick up the pieces. Kennedy also had the habit of coming in and nixing dozens of already-filmed scenes, many of which would have helped the story along but she didn’t like for some reason. As a result, there were two different phases of massive rewrites and reshoots. (Incidentally, despite Kennedy’s public assurances, there really was no firm plot for IX — at least, not once she let Trevorrow go. The return of Palpatine and Rey’s connection were not even decided until late in the game, as was the title “The Rise of Skywalker”.)

4) Disney leadership has had enough of Kennedy’s incompetence and finally removed her from almost everything Star Wars-related. For some reason, she is still heading development of a live-action, female-centric show created by Leslye Headland and starring fellow-activist Brie Larson. If it even survives production, I’m pretty sure it will fail as a series. Meanwhile, Kennedy’s planned spin-off movies based on the Old Republic books and comics — but, minus all the fan-favorite characters — have been axed by Disney.

5) Disney CEO Bob Chapek (who will take over as Chairman once Bob Iger leaves in early-2021) is determined to make the Star Wars franchise more comparable to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with regular films, TV series, books and comics, etc. Much more attention will be given to honoring previous canon (if not sticking directly to it) and respecting the fans. George Lucas has agreed to temporarily take over Lucasfilm once again, and he is working with Chapek, Jon Favreau, and Dave Filoni (“The Mandalorian”, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, “Star Wars Rebels”) to create new SW projects for development over the next few years. The evolving Star Wars Universe will reportedly be a mix of concepts and characters established in Star Wars Legends (aka the old SW Expanded Universe) and, of course, some totally new material.

6) Projects still in development from before all this include a new, non-Skywalker trilogy; the Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series; the Cassian Andor TV series; I think more animated stuff, too. (Also, a young Luke Skywalker, portrayed by Sebastian Stan, is planned to appear in season 3 of “The Mandalorian”.) New projects already planned include a Lucas cut of episode XIII (3 hrs.) and a Lucas/Abrams cut of episode IX (4 hrs.), with new and restored scenes to improve or “fix” some controversial parts, premiering on Disney+ at end of 2023; a bit of retcon/”reset” to the prequel trilogy (i.e., new versions with new/modified scenes), mostly involving Anakin/Vader, Palpatine/Sidious, a disembodied Darth Plagueis, and introducing Tor Valum (created by Trevorrow for his original episode IX plot before Kennedy fired him) as the ancient Sith Lord behind Palpatine.

In an effort to continue the popular Skywalker saga, Lucas is said to be developing a young-Luke TV series, another series that introduces Shmi Skywalker’s parents (i.e., Anakin’s grandparents), and another that would introduce Rey’s twin children, Zane and Kira (inspired by Han and Leia’s twins, Jace and Jayna, from the Legends books and comics). Favreau is also rumored to be developing a TV series about Ben Solo’s life post-IX (apparently in an alternate timeline), and Adam Driver has supposedly already signed on to reprise the role. (Planned for a 2023 premiere.)

Finally, they are playing with ideas for bringing the Old Republic (with fan-favorite characters intact) to the small-screen and possibly later to the large-screen.

All of this sounds pretty encouraging, and for the most part I am excited about the possibilities. Barring major economic downturns or other significant problems, I think the Chapek/Lucas/Favreau/Filoni team’s efforts — plus the purported general purge of SJWs from Disney — could indeed turn the Star Wars franchise around and bring back some currently-gunshy fans, while also bringing a bunch of new fans into the fold.