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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Superman: A Retrospective

You will believe a man can fly- but will you really care? A personal review of my first viewing of an all-time classic.
Now this...this is how you get a Superman film right. As clichéd as it may initially sound, in the case of Superman: The Movie fans really can't do better than return to the original for evidence of comparison of future instalments. Indeed, while Man of Steel managed a 4* score earlier this month, its blazing CGI action setpieces and emotion-free subtler moments pale when placed in contrast with its 1978 inspiration.

What, then, makes Superman: The Movie such an almighty success thirty-five years on from its cinematic release? On one level, it's the lead star at the heart of proceedings. If it seems as if Henry Cavill has lent newfound depth to the Man of Steel in Zack Snyder's reboot, then we only need to refer to Christopher Reeve's iconic rendition of the character to determine where the foundations for such depth were laid. Reeve's Superman is a thoughful, seemingly selfless beacon of hope for the residents of planet Earth who each viewer should hope to aspire to both in virtue and in inherently human action.

Of course, no lead star in a fantasy drama such as this could carry the weight of an audience's expectations on his own, bringing us onto Richard Donner's incredible direction of proceedings. Backed by special effects and CGI that don't look too shabby even to this day, holding a certain quirkiness about themselves, Donner provides the viewer with a sense of futuristic genre-defining vision in terms of how motion pictures would begin to establish themselves during the '80s, '90s and of course the twenty first century we now inhabit. The line between reality and post-production effects is naturally more clearly defined in this case, yet it's to the film's testament that this obvious regression of technology does not prove in the slightest manner detrimental.

In stark contrast to this Summer's Man of Steel, though, it really is in those subtler, contemplative moments where Superman: The Movie shines brightest of all. One particularly iconic scene involves Clark Kent in the midst of his heroic alter-ego appearing to Lois Lane on her rooftop, prompting a digression from the film's action in favour of a spot of romance along with an initial showcase of the Kryptonian saviour's powers. Before we take flight with Clark and Lois, there's a simple yet effective wonder to proceedings for a 2013 viewer as they realise that these quiet moments in fact define much of what this budding motion picture genre has become today. The most successful entries like The Dark Knight and Thor are in no way devoid of emotional resonance, quite the opposite, and this resonance is struck beautifully right from the off here.

However, Superman: The Movie has a couple of notable shortcomings which ultimately ground it to the confines of Earth more than its titular protagonist. For instance, just as in Man of Steel, many members of the supporting cast felt like mere background elements in favour of Henry Cavill's Supes and Michael Shannon's Zod, so too in the 1978 flick does it seem that Christopher Reeve's Man of Steel and Marlon Brando's Jor-El outshine those actors who bring us renditions of Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and the like simply because of the former pair's superior screen time. On top of that, the core narrative involving Superman's final quest to prevent Lex from committing an absurd Earth-shattering atrocity is fairly weak, only properly instigated in the latter half of the movie and even then resolved in a hap-hazard manner that seems one stretch too far even for a mythology built on alien planets and god-like powers.

To conclude, there is no doubt whatsoever in this reviewer's mind that Superman: The Movie is the superior instalment in its franchise, eclipsing Man of Steel by a country mile. In spite of its flaws (many of which simply derive from the thought process of writers of 1970s motion pictures), this is a film which remains confident in its aspirations and comes out all the better for it. Perhaps the consistent trend of misused supporting thespians can provide something of a wake-up sonar call for Zack Snyder come his next attempt at matching Richard Donner's work, yet for now it seems that if a viewer truly wishes to experience the wonder of believing a man can fly, then they need look no further than Superman in its original glory.

The Cabin In The Woods Universal Attraction Announced

One of 2012's greatest films gets its own real-world rendition at Universal Orlando later this year.
Universal Studios Orlando have today announced the development of a new attraction based on the hit horror film The Cabin In The Woods later this year. Directed by Joss Whedon, this innovative modern flick combined elements of the director's trademark humour with impressive scare tactics more intelligent than most gritty horrors on the market these days.

The new attraction at Universal Studios Orlando will be a replica of the titular 'cabin' featuring all of its various sights and scares for eager and brave viewers to witness firsthand. Here's what the promotional team had to say on the matter: "We are building the Cabin completely. You're going to walk through a forest to get there. You're going into the cabin. You're going into the cube cells. We're literally taking everything we can from the film and giving you a kind of best-of montage of the film with this kind of linking story. You're going to be in the control room...when Merman attacks!"

Universal Studios Orlando's The Cabin In The Woods attraction will open as part of the US theme park's Halloween Horror Nights run on September 20th.

July 2013: Your Guide To The Big Dates

Discover when Wolverine claws his way back into cinemas along with all of the other key release dates of the month ahead!
While July isn't quite as packed as recent months for new entertainment releases, there's still no shortage of major blockbusters and other releases of interest in the five weeks ahead. Here, we've gathered together a definitive guide of all the biggest releases you can expect to see between now and July 31st, as ever highlighting in yellow those new titles which should pose the most interest to various fanbases.

Take a look, and as ever, be prepared to be amazed as we delve into all of July's biggest releases and tell you exactly when you can expect to see them:
MONDAY 1ST- DVD: Oz: The Great And Powerful
THURSDAY 4TH- AUDIO DRAMA: Doctor Who: Shockwave
FRIDAY 5TH- TV: Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia BBC One Repeat
MONDAY 8TH- DVD: The Village Series One
FRIDAY 12TH- MOVIES: Monsters' University; TV: Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville BBC One Repeat
MONDAY 15TH- DVD: Doctor Who: Spearhead In Space Blu-Ray
FRIDAY 19TH- MOVIES: The World's End; TV: Sherlock: The Reicenbach Fall BBC One Repeat
MONDAY 22ND- DVD: G.I. Joe: Retaliation; Jack The Giant Slayer; MUSIC: Now! That's What I Call Music 85
THURSDAY 25TH- MOVES: The Wolverine

Opinion: The Hobbit- An Unexpected Challenge

Our analysis of the status of the Hobbit trilogy, and the intense problems its upcoming finale could face...
Third time's a charm, right? When it comes to the film industry, this age-old cliché has never quite rung true, with countless third instalments in hit franchises failing to impress their respective fanbases- see Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand and Back to the Future III for evidence on that front. Indeed, the more I think about this matter, the more it seems that the Hobbit franchise in particular faces one of its biggest challenges yet in terms of living up to that much-vaunted assertion.

This trepidation does not derive from the recent initial theatrical trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (its second instalment), though- quite the opposite. That particular preview did a fantastic job of teasing iconic elements of the original Tolkien novel The Hobbit which would be adapted later this year, such as Spider-infested forests, Barrels out of Bond and most importantly Bilbo's encounter with the ferocious dragon Smaug. Indeed, it seems as if The Desolation of Smaug may turn out to be the greatest edition of Peter Jackson's journeys into the realms of Middle-Earth yet.

The problem, then? If The Desolation of Smaug does manage to top An Unexpected Journey in terms of its overall quality as an ambitious fantasy motion picture, then the gauntlet that There and Back Again must subsequently raise in Christmas 2014 will be all the more weighty and thus difficult to uphold. Something that doesn't help matters in this respect is that Desolation looks to cover up to Chapter Sixteen from the original text in its adaptation, leaving just three chapters more to render on-screen in their CGI-fuelled glory. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 managed to achieve a similar feat with its Battle of Hogwarts in 2011, and yet it seems fair to argue that fans of that series were far more invested and excited for the final war of that saga than many of us are for the Battle of Five Armies next year.

Perhaps part of the reasoning for the lack of major excitement for that Middle-Earth conflict coming to our cinemas is in fact the lack of knowledge of what exactly to expect. In the case of the novel The Hobbit, the titular protagonist finds himself knocked out by a boulder in the very early stages of the Battle of Five Armies, leaving Mr Baggins to miss the vast majority of the battle. Peter Jackson rightly wants to show us exactly what ocurred in the war, likely meaning that Bilbo will retain consciousness in this version, yet for now with none of the foreknowledge of what's to come that we held in Part 2, for now that remains less of an exciting prospect than the Warner Brothers production team might have hoped.

I'm not here to simply criticise and/or lament the decision by Jackson and Warner to broaden the narrative of The Hobbit and the various Lord of the Rings Appendices into three fully-fledged motion pictures, only to wonder if such a decision will have detrimental effects on the final instalment. For all we know, The Hobbit: There And Back Again may provide an incredibly satisfying finale to the series and indeed connect beautifully with Jackson's other acclaimed Middle-Earth trilogy. For now, though, it's not difficult to be left wondering whether third time's really a charm in this case, when the literal battle to overcome viewer scepticism come Christmas 2014 currently seems so daunting for the production team.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Opinion: 5 Reasons Why Man Of Steel Shouldn't Exist

The latest Superman film is currently racking up the millions in the box office- but does it deserve its success?
Earlier this month, DC's latest superhero film excursion Man of Steel earned a fairly strong 4* score here at On-Screen. However, the distinction between a 4* score and either 4.5* or 5* reviews can often make all the difference, and with regards to this ambitious reboot, this difference is absolutely crucial.

More than anything, with hindsight Man of Steel's narrative ramifications lead me to question the necessity of Christopher Nolan and his team initiating an all-out reboot of the DC movie universe. With this in mind, below you'll find a guide to the top five reasons that this budding superhero motion picture perhaps shouldn't even exist...

  • THE DC UNIVERSE WAS FINE WITHOUT IT- Although some fans took qualms with the way they concluded, few would attempt to argue that the Dark Knight films were not both a critical and financial phenomenon in themselves. Quite why, then, in releasing Man of Steel their creator Christopher Nolan chose to completely reboot this new envisioned DC universe, instead injecting more layers of fantasy and god-like superheroes into their world, is beyond this writer. Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises laid strong foundations of a more gritty, realistic DC universe just as films like Thor and Iron Man did for Marvel, which makes the decision to scrap their mythology all the more bewildering. Granted, Green Lantern didn't help matters in 2011, but that misfire could easily have been ignored had Nolan and his team elected to integrate Man of Steel into the impressive realistic storyline that The Dark Knight had skilfully created.
  • SMALLVILLE DOES EMOTIONAL MOMENTS BETTER- No matter how far we attempt to argue that the CW television drama Smallville was over-stretched in its decade-long broadcast, it is damn near impossible to contest that the show featured its fair share of dramatically effective emotional setpieces. Man of Steel, however, is virtually devoid of these tear-jerking segments beyond the raw emotion present in its visually stunning opening scenes on Krypton, with Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent failing to fill the shoes of his Smallville predecessor John Schneider by a fair margin. If Man of Steel's writers hoped to summarize what Smallville did in the opening half hour that its protagonist makes all the same leaps and bounds his ten-year counterpart once did, then they could have done so more effectively by injecting some of the empathy and heart that their CW colleagues did for Clark Kent over the course of a decade.
  • SUPERMAN CONTRADICTS HIS OWN COMIC BOOKS- This naturally may be something of a controversial matter among fans of the Man of Steel. For instance, the Dark Knight trilogy took several liberties with its source text in order to bring across its thematic messages. However, the steps Man of Steel takes to differentiate from its comic predecessors are arguably steps too far, as Superman (spoilers ahead!) elects to kill General Zod during a battle which decimates much of the city of Metropolis. Both the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel have a aversion to murder, an aversion which the former hero upholds in his own trilogy, so for the writers to have their Kryptonian protagonist break that rule so swiftly in the first instalment with little true justification seems a somewhat unruly decision on their parts.
  • THE VIEWER DOESN'T CARE ABOUT SUPPORTING CHARACTERS- Remember how we all felt a degree of empathy and attachment to the characters of the Batman world, such as Alfred, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent? Now, compare that with the instantly forgettable renditions of Lara-El, Lois Lane, Perry White and any military characters in Man of Steel. There's a hugely noticeable contrast of character appeal between the two franchises, a contrast that makes this writer far less excited to return to the world of Superman than he was to rediscover Nolan's Caped Crusader every four years. This issue needs to be sorted out if the Justice League motion picture ever has any hope of coming to light.
  • MAN OF STEEL POSES NO CONCRETE CONNECTIONS- Considering that Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan and Henry Cavill have made clear DC Studios' intentions to have Man of Steel kick-start a chain of events in a rebooted universe to ultimately lead to a Justice League film, it seems completely bizarre that this first intended instalment features virtually no proper connections to the wider DC universe. Sure, there are references to STAR Labs and Wayne Industries, but these have very little meaning in terms of major narrative events, especially when compared to the initial strong Avengers links posed in the original Iron Man. There's virtually no sign of seeds being planted here for Justice League, which is a true shame, as had there been some, perhaps Man of Steel would have resulted in a more effective overall film experience.
For all the latest 'Opinion' feature articles, plus news and announcements galore regarding the superhero film genre, keep it On-Screen in the weeks ahead!

Coming Up This Week: July 1st-7th

Now You See June...Now You Don't! As July brightens our calendar, take a look at what its first week of entertainment holds...
For some of you, dear readers, it may be difficult to believe that we've already reached the seventh month of 2013. If that shocking truth is rather startling to you, then fear not- the first week of July has a few great releases to compensate. It's not exactly jam-packed, simply because July as a whole is mainly film-focused with little else on offer, but there's definitely some interesting content on the way in the seven days ahead.

Here's our guide to the four hottest releases coming to our shores between Monday and July 7th, this week featuring a certain magical trick up their sleeves:
NOW YOU SEE ME- Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in one film? Say no more. At its heart, Now You See Me is a thriller tinged with magic, as a band of magicians infamous for pulling off trick-fuelled heists are chased by the FBI in a race against time to halt the ultimate grand finale. If Eisenberg and the production team get this right as the former did The Social Network, we could very well have the next Inception on our hands! (Wednesday 3rd)
DOCTOR WHO: SHOCKWAVE- What better way could there be for Britain to rival Independence Day over in the States with a new release from one of its most beloved franchises? Continuing the Destiny of the Doctor AudioGo range, this month's instalment focuses on the Seventh Doctor, as he and Ace are embroiled in a plot of galactic proportions, and where the Time Lord may more than ever possess his own hidden agenda. The plot of Destiny is thickening throughout the 50th Anniversary, so fans will not want to miss this Sophie Aldred-narrated audio drama. (Thursday 4th)
THE BLING RING- Emma Watson has had a surprisingly eventful career in the years following her work on the Harry Potter franchise, producing stellar new motion picture efforts like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and This Is The End with something of a trademark flair along the way. Her next endeavour is based on a true story about a group of rebellious teenage girls who aimed to rob some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood- and who achieved that goal. Let the mayhem commence...(Friday 5th)
SHERLOCK: BBC ONE SEASON TWO REPEATS- Nope, it's not that season of Sherlock, not quite yet. Instead, this run of repeats on BBC One brings Season Two back to the silver screen, allowing viewers another chance to see the Woman, the Hounds and the Fall once more while Season Three films its finale later this month. This week, A Scandal In Belgravia kicks off the run, as Sherlock comes face to face with the one woman who knows him better than anyone- for better or for worse! (Friday 5th)
AND THERE'S MORE- Well, not much more, but there's one other new release you can look forward to nevertheless. Oz: The Great And Powerful lands in DVD and Blu-Ray retailers on Monday, and as our 3.5* review confirmed in March, it's well worth the time of any fans of Disney or indeed fans of the classic Wizard of Oz wanting to discover more about the origins of Oz, the Yellow Brick Road and the rest!
AND NEXT WEEK...The Summer of Film continues with two more almighty blockbusters, as both Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim and Disney Pixar's Monsters' University burst into cinemas everywhere.

Opinion: Sherlock And The Case Of The Losing Battle

The BBC's detective drama may have reached an astronomical high with Season Two, but troubled waters could still lie ahead...
As any resident of 221B Baker Street will rightly inform you, fame is a troublesome matter. At first, it may seem that the lure of the public eye is positive, highlighting a product's strengths and commending them with viewers and financial breakthroughs. In the end, though, this increased attention arguably only leads to future difficulties, provoking an all manner of criticism the moment that a future incarnation of the product slips up.

In the case of Sherlock, we've seen this downfall occur at a result of its protagonist's own moment of hubris, as he believed himself invulnerable to the schemes of his nemesis after a string of successful cases. Sure enough, by the end of The Reicenbach Fall Holmes was forced to fake his own demise, severing ties with each and every one of his former allies as a result. Although the ramifications of fame have been displayed in a thematic context only on-screen so far, with Season Three there could potentially be room for such ramifications to reside in a literal context, too.

Chief to this oncoming problem that Sherlock's production team face is the loss of two of Season Two's greatest elements of acclaim. Both Lara Pulver and Andrew Scott excelled in their roles as Irene Adler and Jim Moriarty respectively, bestowing new emotive and human layers of depth to these classic literary characters in ways that their creator- Arthur Conan Doyle- could have never possibly envisioned. In their strive to maintain a faithful adaptation of the original works, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss echoed the one-off nature of these two characters and brought closure to their pair of narrative arcs during the second run.

It is with this creative decision, though, that the showrunners could just have easily doomed Sherlock to its literal demise. Season Three currently has no truly revolutionary aspect of adaptation for viewers to anticipate, beyond the revelation of how its hero survived his titular fall and how he will return to the public eye without risking his friends' lives in the process. We can likely expect the introduction of Sebastian Moran, an esteemed general in Moriarty's ranks in Conan Doyle's works, at some point in the three new episodes, yet this hardly seems like a proposition which will entice the viewer so enormously as the interaction between Benedict Cumberbatch, Pulver and Scott did last Spring.

Worse still, it's not simply the characters for which Sherlock could be left wanting in its upcoming third series. The three teaser words which Moffat and Gatiss offered us in Summer 2012 at the Media Guardian Edinburgh' International Writers' Festival were "rat, wedding, [and] bow". Dedicated readers of the Conan Doyle saga were quick to assert that the latter two hints could allude to adaptations of The Sign of Four and His Last Bow, with the former story being confirmed as one of the tales undergoing televisual transition with the title The Power of Four. That leaves The Empty Hearse, an adaptation of the tale where Holmes returns to the wider world after his supposed demise. None of these three stories have any of the iconic impact of adventures already covered such as A Study In Scarlet, The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Final Problem, which again worryingly sets up Season Three with a potential lack of innovative premises.

On the other side of the argument, however, perhaps as ever with British drama, it will be the central cast of Sherlock which provides its redemption. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are both returning to the show despite a number of Hollywood turns in motion pictures like Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hobbit, maintaining their loyalty to the franchise which kick-started their careers immeasurably. We'll also see the return of fan favourite characters including Molly, Lestrade and Mrs Hudson, all of whom I imagine will be suitably shaken up by Sherlock's return to the realms of the living. Indeed, the interaction between Cumberbatch's layered protagonist and his allies could bring us some of the most compelling content of the run.

Let's make something clear here as this article reaches its conclusion- I have little doubt that when Sherlock does return, it will do so in a spectacular manner that acquires the show all of the traditional high viewing ratings and critical acclaim that it deserves. Nevertheless, it would seem churlish to refuse to admit that this time around, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Stephen Thompson appear to be facing more of an uphill battle than they're perhaps used to in the case of this particular beloved detective drama. No matter what the outcome of the next three episodes, though, BBC One and their viewership can at least rest assured that when Sherlock does return, the incredibly talented production team will bring us a product that's more than worth the wait. Fame can be a dangerous matter, yet it seems there's still just enough hope that Sherlock will once again overcome the odds to cement its status as a beloved British television franchise once more.

Friday, 28 June 2013

July 2013: The 5 Releases You Can't Miss

As the Summer of Film nears its climax, July brings with it a host of much-anticipated motion pictures. Discover next month's treats right here!
Traditionally, July has been a rather quiet month for the realms of entertainment. In 2013, though, that's really not the case, as the month ahead will bring with it some massive film releases in particular that you cannot afford to miss during their time at the box office. Whether it's comedy, animation, action or thriller that floats your proverbial boat, pretty much every genre imaginable is catered for, making July a month for the ages.

Without further ado, then, let's look ahead to see exactly what's in store over the next five weeks. Prepare yourselves, because some of the best entertainment releases of 2013 may well be contained in this very list:
5. NOW YOU SEE ME- Chances are this ambitious magic-themed thriller film won't be known to every one of you dear readers. Nevertheless, Now You See Me looks more than worth your time, packing Jessie Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in its star-studded cast and an innovative action storyline to boot. Whether the premise of magicians-turned-robbers can last for the entire running time in terms of appeal remains to be seen, but we could be in for a very unique piece of cinema here. (Wednesday 3rd)
4. DESPICABLE ME 2- Those loyal readers who have already seen our Exclusive review of Despicable Me 2, an ambitious animated film sequel that has earned itself an impressive 3.5* score at the blog. Bringing the Minions back to the forefront of the follow-up's narrative is a truly inspired decision by the writers, and their backing by beloved US thespians like Steve Carrell and Ken Jeong only serves to heighten the sheer hilarity on offer in this charming new instalment. (Monday 1st)
3. GROWN UPS 2- Boy, oh boy, this could be the ultimate Marmite motion picture release of 2013. I had a more-than-pleasant time with Grown Ups (4*) in 2010, and yet for some viewers and critics, that Adam Sandler comedy movie marked one of the ultimate lowpoints of the comedian's career. You'll likely either approach its follow-up Grown Ups 2, then, with an air of trepidation or cautious excitement, and since I fall into the latter category, I'm thoroughly looking forward to seeing what comes of this second outing. (Tuesday 9th)
2. THE WOLVERINE- Seeing as it's been nearly a month now since a new superhero movie hit cinemas, it's only right that The Wolverine is just around the corner! Continuing the storyline left open in 2007's X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine is left alone with his allies deceased and his one true love murdered by his own hand. Out of nowhere, the immortal X-Man is called to Japan and offered the chance to reclaim his humanity- but at what cost? After the tragic downfall of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it's easy to be wary of being burned once more here, but The Wolverine has plenty of potential to take the world by surprise come the end of this coming month. (Thursday 25th)
1. THE WORLD'S END- Simon Pegg. Nick Frost. The finale to the Cornetto Trilogy. What more do you really need to know? Oh, alright then, if you must know more- Martin Freeman, Rafe Spall, Rosamund Pike, Reece Shearsmith and more British cult stars join the cast of this budding UK comedy where a group of friends travel across the 'Golden Mile' of twelve pubs in one night. Their aim? To reach the World's End pub at the end of the trail- yet soon enough, they find that title is all too real, as the apocalypse nears the Earth. As ever, this should be good-hearted fun with risque and violent humour galore, hopefully sending off the franchise that gave us spectacular hits like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in killer style. (Friday 19th)

Prince Of Persia Return Teased

Ubisoft's infamous Prince will return next week, if the publisher's Facebook hints are anything to go by!
Ubisoft Games have today announced that news on a new Prince of Persia video game project will arrive within the next week. Here's what the administrators of the publisher's Facebook page had to say earlier this morning: "Get ready for some news about Prince of Persia, starting next week..."

The most recent instalments of this classic video game franchise were the 2008 reboot Prince of Persia and then more recently a 2010 movie tie-in, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. Neither of these were exactly groundbreaking in context of the platforming genre, so Ubisoft Montreal have their work cut out ensuring that they match the high quality set by the best platformers of today in the run-up to release.

The new Prince of Persia reveal will occur next week- keep it On-Screen for all the latest news and updates on the matter!

The Hobbit: There And Back Again Filming Update Revealed

Embedded image permalinkGandalf finally allows his real-world counterpart to Pass, as Ian McKellen wraps on filming for the third and final Hobbit film.
Peter Jackson and Warner Brothers Pictures have today provided an update on the status of filming on their upcoming fantasy motion picture The Hobbit: There and Back Again. The final instalment of Peter Jackson's trilogy of Hobbit adaptations, There and Back Again depicts the Battle of Five Armies in full splendour as dwarves, elves and an all manner of other Middle-Earth races wage war on one another to reclaim the recently recovered treasure of Erebor.

Today, Ian McKellen shot his final scenes in the role of Gandalf the Grey. Ian has formed an integral part of Peter Jackson's work on both of the major Tolkien Rings texts, commencing shooting on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on April 1st, 1999 and wrapping up over fourteen years later as of June 28th, 2013. Gandalf will be seen in both this Christmas' instalment The Desolation of Smaug and the 2014 finale There and Back Again, attempting to solve the mystery of Dol Guldur while the dwarves make their journey, and in doing so unearthing a reawakened threat that could one day consume Middle-Earth!

The Hobbit: There and Back Again journeys into cinemas worldwide on December 17th, 2014. Before that, though, we've still got The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug awaiting us this December 13th...

Opinion: 5 Game Franchises That Deserve A Cryosleep

"Wake me when you need me." Which video game sagas could benefit from a break in the years ahead?
Complacency is an immeasurably dangerous product of the successes of a franchise which can often cripple the appeal of a series to its very limit. Indeed, what with the increasing trend of hit annual video gaming franchises releasing every Autumn, it seems to be inevitable that developers and writers can become more complacent about the supposedly guaranteed financial safety of their respective franchises.

Nevertheless, as we reach the climax of the current-generation and the dawn of a whole new generation of console hardware, it is intriguing to wonder which franchises will carry through to 'next-gen' with the most success when the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launch this November. Will some series whose success seemed virtually assured fall by the wayside this Winter? It's difficult to know for sure right now, given that not every video game franchise is making an automatic generational conversion. All the same, in a speculative manner, I've compiled together a list of five acclaimed video game sagas which could do with a rest before their next outing. Certainly, we want to see these franchises return, but perhaps not in such an almighty hurry:

HALO- It came as little surprise that once Halo 3 took its franchise's sales to new levels of acclaim and financial success, Microsoft Game Studios opted to annualise the saga. Thanks to that decision, since 2008 we've had Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4 with just twelve month intervals between each release. Sure enough, though, the franchise formula began to wane thin somewhat after five consecutive yearly releases. With any luck, by taking a year off in 2013, 343 Industries will have allowed themselves the chance to enhance their Halo experience to a level of quality that truly befits a series that once represented the unquestionable pinnacle of the FPS genre...
ASSASSIN'S CREED- When we took our first steps with Altair ibn-La'Ahad in 2007, naturally it was impossible to guess that the storyline of Assassin's Creed would expand far beyond a single instalment. Six years later, and we've played through a variety of historical experiences during Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin's Creed: Revelations and Assassin's Creed III. With Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag on the way this November, the series certainly shows no signs of slowing down, yet it is important to note that ACIII suffered in its critical reception due to game-breaking bugs and a sense of general deja vu, and thus Ubisoft Montreal needs to beware of boring its fanbase with future potentially predictable outings beyond and including Black Flag.
SUPER MARIO- As if Nintendo didn't already have enough problems at their colossal flop of an E3 'conference' this year, it seemed as if even their most reliable franchises were lacking in innovation these days. Case in point, the Super Mario series, which made its return at the Nintendo Direct conference in the form of the new WiiU exclusive outing Super Mario 3D World. That the developers at Nintendo can only think to provide a lacklustre remake of a 3DS gem just as they did with New Super Mario Bros U seems to suggest we're miles away from any Galaxy moment on either console, perhaps meaning that it's best for Mario to stay hidden in one of those iconic green pipes once he has warped down them!
BATMAN- Firstly, a disclaimer of sorts- we here at On-Screen cannot wait to play Batman: Arkham Origins later this year. However, for many there is a sense that Origins represents a stop-gap instalment from Warner Brothers Montreal while Rocksteady presumably hone an Arkham 3 for next-generation consoles, and that the new instalment utilises a lot of the same location and combat-based assets of Arkham City doesn't help in this regard. Without a doubt, Arkham Origins could be one of the video gaming highlights of 2013, yet Warner Brothers should still be on guard for the chance that they could potentially send the franchise into a stale state if they keep up a rapid release schedule.
CALL OF DUTY- If ever there was a franchise that summarised beautifully the issues of predictability and repetition that can arise with annual series, Activision's Call of Duty does the trick. Not since 2008 have we gone a single year without a new COD video game arriving on our shores, and while the series' financial successes are continuing, there's an ongoing sense among critics and many fans that a period of recuperation and evolution behind-the-scenes of development could do the franchise a world of good. Perhaps it's naive, but this writer truly believes that were Call of Duty: Ghosts to be the last we saw of the saga for at least two years, fans would then see the overall franchise return in ruder health than ever before...

Terminator 5 Announced

They'll be back- the Terminator franchise returns to the big screen for new thrilling adventures starting in 2015!
Paramount Pictures have today announced the production of a new Terminator motion picture for release in the near future. Set to reboot the mythology of the hit film franchise, Terminator 5 will take place in a narrative universe separate from its acclaimed predecessors and so allow its writers the chance to significantly adapt and evolve the storyline in an innovative manner.

Better yet for Terminator fans, it seems that Paramount intend this new instalment to be just the beginning of a fully-fledged revived franchise. The reboot entry will mark the first instalment of a "standalone trilogy" that as a whole can work on a separate tangent to the classic Terminator films and thus not do disservice to their legacy. There's no word yet on whether series veteran Arnold Schwarzenegger will resume his role as the Terminator in the latest instalment, but you can be sure that if he does return, then his character will have far greater dramatic impact than the lousy CGI cameo we witnessed in 2009's Terminator: Salvation!

Terminator 5 declares "I'll be back" and storms into cinemas worldwide on June 26th, 2015.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Deadpool Review

Can Marvel match the successes of Warner Brothers Games and DC Interactive's Batman Arkham franchise?
The quest to create a great superhero video game is no longer the challenge that it once was. Indeed, fans of the genre need only look as far as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham City and LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes to find confirmation of this transition. Of course, in that list alone, a central issue can be asserted- each of those acclaimed instalments derive from the DC Comics universe.

Certainly, the head honchos over at DC and Warner Brothers won't be complaining about their acclaimed video game status right now, yet for Marvel Studios the matter is sure to be more than a little disconcerting. Whereas Joss Whedon, Sam Raimi and other incredible directors have ensured that motion pictures like Avengers Assemble and Spider-Man respectively dominate the superhero film market on the whole, the situation couldn't be more contrary to such dominance on consoles. Deadpool, then, marks an inspired attempt by Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron's High Moon Studios to restore some much-needed balance to the matter at hand.

However, while the studio's dedication to the comic-book franchise they are adapting is admirable to say the least, the core gameplay of the product itself is nowhere near as impressive. No matter the number of fourth-wall breaking gags the writers throw into their protagonist's narration of the narrative, they can't redeem the fact that the narrative is underwhelming in its best moments and downright dismal at its worst. Worse still, once the player is left to tackle the game's combat and platforming mechanics, they'll find that not only do High Moon attempt to riff on the Arkham franchise's engine successes, but they do so in an all-too-relaxed manner that produces a dishearteningly lacklustre experience for series veterans and newcomers alike.

This sense of general laziness in Deadpool's mechanics and storyline carries through to a number of other aspects of the final product, too. For instance, the visuals on offer here may well be eclectic and diverse in terms of the variety of environments Deadpool traverses, yet they're certainly nothing special considering that we've reached the end of this console generation, and indeed High Moon's stellar 2012 effort Transformers: Fall of Cyberton (9/10) trumps their work here graphically by a country mile. When upcoming titles such as Grand Theft Auto V and Batman: Arkham Origins seem destined to tail off the graphical fidelity of this generation with an almighty bang, it's simply not good enough for Marvel to assume that sub-par visuals can be compensated for by (fundamentally flawed) gameplay and narrative perks.

Mercifully, Deadpool is not wholly without merit. Despite the brevity and structural shortcomings of its narrative, the game does at least boast a brilliant characterisation of its lead character from Nolan North. Whether its in Deadpool's characteristic internal dialogues with himself and his various personas, his breaking the fourth wall to voice his opinions to the audience on regular occasions, or the hilarity of his chance meetings with fan favourite characters like Wolverine and Cable, there's little end to the basic-yet-effective humour on display throughout the course of the game's storyline and script. On the whole, though, this redeeming strength only serves to deepen the disappointment that most fans will inevitably feel at the realisation that virtually every other element of the product seems rushed or mishandled by High Moon.

Believe this reviewer, to utter such derogatory adjectives regarding the overall quality of Deadpool is by no means a pleasurable outcome. In a world where the Dark Knight and his Justice League cohorts appear to rule their respective video gaming genre, I would have been more than happy to report that High Moon's new product ushered in a bold new era of stability for Marvel's licensed efforts, shaking up the genre like never before. That's nowhere near the case, though, seeing as Deadpool remains a mere stop-gap entry for hardcore players in a Summer that's almost devoid of any big releases within our industry. For those fans who have picked up every edition of the Wolverine & Deadpool comics, this product is perhaps worth your cash for the hilariously apt characterisation alone- for the rest of the superhero fanbase, my best advice would be to stand well clear, safe in the knowledge that Arkham Origins should and will redeem the genre later this year. The quest to create a great superhero video game seems far less challenging than it once was, yet in the case of Deadpool High Moon Studios have managed to transform a molehill into a mountain of Genosha-sized proportions.

Elementary Mycroft Holmes Casting Announced

Rhys Ifans acquires the role of Sherlock's older brother in the hit CBS television drama.
CBS Studios have today announced a new casting of a regular guest star for Elementary's second season. The latest run of the US adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes franchise is currently filming ahead of an Autumn debut, and we now know that Rhys Ifans will form a part of the guest cast for Season Two in a semi-regular role.

Ifans will inhabit the guise of Mycroft Holmes, the older brother of Sherlock who holds connections to the British government. With the Great Detective still tackling cases in the United States, Mycroft will be revealed as owning 221B Baker Street in the United Kingdom, forcing Holmes (Jonny-Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) to travel abroad in order to solve a dastardly mystery plaguing their one-time ally. Whether Mycroft will make regular further appearances has yet to be confirmed, but it seems safe to assume that Ifans will return for more adventures closer to the final episodes of Season Two.

Elementary Season Two commences broadcasting on Sky Atlantic this October.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Video Corner: Minions, Maise & More

Catch up with Despicable Me 2's best assets, see what Maise Williams had to say on the Red Wedding and plenty more in the latest edition of our weekly feature!
This week on Video Corner, we've put a central focus on finding some of the most hilarious licensed YouTube videos of the last seven days, each based on a popular entertainment franchise that fans know and love. Keep us posted on the usual social network links as always if you discover new great videos, as these could be included on the next edition of Video Corner!

For now, though, look out for particular highlights from Despicable Me, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who and more, as we delve into the greatest moments of licensed hilarity to be found on the interwebs...
MINIONS GO BANANAS- If you didn't catch Despicable Me 2 at its advanced screenings over the past weekend, then for now while you await its June 28th release date, you can at least check out this hilarious video focused on its lovable Minions. Featuring Minions chasing a precious banana, this great short preview of a longer mini-movie is not to be missed!
MAISE WILLIAMS ON THE RED WEDDING- This video has become something of a viral hit on Vine. Essentially, it shows Game of Thrones' Arya, Maise Williams, giving a brief post-episode reaction to the events of the Red Wedding, a plot development which the actress knew very little about. Prepare to laugh, big time...
MAN OF STEEL: LOIS & CLARK EDITION- With DC and Warner Brothers' hit superhero film Man of Steel now breaking out into cinemas everywhere, it is inevitable that we've now had a few mock trailers for the film on our shores. Here, it's the turn of the classic TV show The Adventures of Lois and Clark to shape a Man of Steel trailer, offering cunningly placed shots from the programme in a rather epic context.
DOCTOR WHO: MATT'S U.S. GOODBYE- On a slightly less positive note, we return to the news that Matt Smith's incarnation of Doctor Who will bow out at the end of 2013. To soften the blow, Matt has provided a subtly comedic 'goodbye' message in New York that has all of the British charm for which the actor and our nation are renowned.
LITERAL DEAD ISLAND TRAILER- Tobuscus' series of Literal Trailers have proved to be a smash hit with fanbases across the world. Well, get ready for another winner, as the team take a look back at the controversial original preview for Dead Island- undoubtedly, this hilarious rendition of the trailer is one of the biggest highlights the video team have provided us with...
THE EMPEROR GETS A NEW JOB- Finally, we have a painstakingly humorous situation to pose to you, dear readers. If ever you've wanted to see what happened to the Emperor after the events of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, then now's your chance, as we pick up proceedings with Darth Sidious attempting to find new employment. Look no further if you're a big Star Wars fan with an appetite for great comedy!

Opinion: No Man- Jim Carrey VS Kick-Ass 2

Why Jim Carrey's words on Twitter promoting non-violence set in motion a chain of events that are ominous for the entertainment industry.
Deja vu is becoming more and more common these days in the entertainment industry. Case in point? With his recent decision to criticise his own production team on the upcoming superhero film Kick-Ass 2 for the level of violence in the movie, Jim Carrey has echoed recent instances on the hit Comedy Central TV show Two & A Half Men where specific actors have felt it acceptable to speak out against their co-workers with supposedly noble intentions.

This is not of course an attempt to deride Carrey's motives for his condemning Kick-Ass 2, as at least on the surface, these motives are undoubtedly reasonable. In the wake of the infamous Sandy Hook shootings in Newton, the American star has claimed that films such as Kick-Ass 2 greatly trivalize and falsify the severe impacts of real-world violence upon society, and in doing so thus warp their audience's perceptions of violence and its consequences. No blogger such as myself will likely want to contest this matter- however, this seemingly righteous approach from the Hollywood star is something that we can and should draw into question.

Freedom of speech naturally remains one of the defining elements of human society in 2013, a freedom which of course should be maintained in the days ahead. Nevertheless, when it comes to a contract that actors and actresses sign with their production teams, discretion is often rightly advised in terms of how that celebrity star's personal opinions on a production are displayed during promotional periods. With this in mind, that Carrey has elected to openly speak out against the tone of Kick-Ass 2 a mere two months before its release seems self-obsessive and on some level arrogant. On a surface level, it may seem to this acclaimed US thespian that this approach was the 'right' one to take, supporting a sense of honesty in our industry, yet to a large extent this statement of pacifism and opposition could well destabilise a budding motion picture.

Were Kick-Ass 2 to be classed as an 'indie' film in which Carrey's role was minimal, the ramifications of his moral decision would not be of such importance. As that is not the case by any means, though, the situation becomes altogether more serious, and I would hate for the situation where Charlie Sheen and Angus T. Jones have essentially sent Two & A Half Men to its death by publicly opposing the show and its team to repeat itself in the case of 20th Century Fox's much-anticipated sequel. With any luck, fans will still come out in full force to witness what should be one of the filmic highlights of 2013, yet in a Summer where the follow-up is competing against box office behemoths like Man of Steel, The Wolverine and more, it seems absolutely injust that its chances should be derailed by so trivial a matter as one of individual beliefs.

Here's the ultimate problem I would like to pose to you, then: can and should an actor ever have to place a contract of production and promotion above their personal beliefs? To a large extent, no, and to answer definitively in the affirmative would only serve to derail that necessary freedom of speech we allow in the society of today. However, I believe that it is at least in a thespian's interests as a member of such a competitive industry to at least provide a front of loyalty to their respective film or television show, even if they later elect to criticise that production after their contract with it has concluded. Carrey only needed to have waited until Kick-Ass 2 hit cinemas and started bringing in cash to oppose its levels of violence, rather than causing a great deal of unnecessary marketing issues for Mark Millar, 20th Century Fox and the entire production team in terms of how they promote a production accused of corrupting an event in US history that will go down in infamy.

That age-old saying that we should 'think before we speak' perhaps is the most relevant factor in such a situation as this. Before the likes of Jim Carrey, Charlie Sheen and future aspiring stars attempt to oppose a production they are an integral part of, they should at least possess the common decency and intellect to consider the negative effects their opposition could cause for their production team and the countless staff within it who have families to feed and lives to lead. No-one is claiming that we should rob actors and actresses of their freedom of speech when it comes to marketing films, television shows and the like, but I believe that they should still attempt to keep their personal ego in check long enough to await the release or broadcast of the product, allowing their colleagues to reap the much-deserved benefits of their hard work rather than depriving them of this simply because they couldn't wait to spill their own beliefs on personal matters.

First The Hobbit Extended Edition Details Revealed

Peter Jackson teases what new scenes we'll find in An Unexpected Journey when it returns this Winter.
When Warner Brothers' promotional focus right now is so dedicated to creating hype and anticipation for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, it becomes easy to forget that an Extended Edition of the first instalment, An Unexpected Journey, is coming to stores too at the same time of the year. Nevertheless, Peter Jackson has begun revealing details on the new content that will appear in the film.

Here, we've compiled a list of the new scenes that the acclaimed director has teased to appear in the new version. An Unexpected Journey was already 169 minutes long, so the new content will likely bring it in line with the 175-180 minutes running time. Without further ado, then, let's delve into the new adventures of The Hobbit:

  • ELF ENCOUNTERS- "You are going to get some serious disrespect towards the Dwarves from the Elves at Rivendell."
  • HOBBITON RISING- "You are going to get more of Hobbiton. We always wanted to wend our way through Hobbiton, but in the end Bilbo has to run out of the door."
  • GOBLIN GREATEST HITS- "You are going to get more of Goblin Town, and the Great Goblin singing his song. It is a great song, but it was just another delay in terms of moving the story along. A number one hit from the Goblin King!"
  • DESOLATION IS COMING- "We are putting things in this extended cut that are going to play straight into the second film. Like this character Girion, who is defending the city of Dale using black arrows against Smaug. And the black arrows play a part in the ongoing story, for they are the one thing that can pierce the dragon's hide. There are also issues with Thruandil. We get some of the reason why he and the dwarves had this falling out- and it involves those white gems..."
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- Extended Edition is set for release on DVD and Blu-Ray this November.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Opinion: 5 Ways To Improve Doctor Who Series Eight

While we await the next instalment of the 50th Anniversary run, it's time to recap Season Seven and look ahead to see what improvements can be made...
"Fourteen blockbusters- a blockbuster adventure every week!" In essence, that was Steven Moffat's publicized pitch for his third full season as showrunner on Doctor Who, Season Seven. This would be the fourteen-episode run that would take us into the 50th Anniversary year of 2013, opening with five episodes to bring the tale of the Ponds to a climax in Autumn 2012, returning at Christmas to further the mystery of the Impossible Girl, then making a firm return for eight more adventures in Spring 2013 with Clara onboard.

Make no mistake, this was a hugely ambitious set-up both in terms of a lighter narrative arc by Moffat and indeed in terms of the different scheduling from usual on the part of the BBC. Though the scheduling arrangement proved to be controversial, there's no doubting it was an innovative way to keep things fresh, even if it did mean that three season premiere episodes were essentially required, seemingly a tough ask for the Moff by the time we reached The Bells of Saint John. So, now we've finished the run and await the 50th Anniversary Special and 2013 Christmas Special amongst the other celebratory TV shows and releases, what could we look to improve in 2014? Here are our top five key suggestions to watch out for:
Ever since Doctor Who returned in 2005, an ongoing theme of each season has been some kind of running story arc that builds up to a grand finale come the season's climax. In Season One it was Bad Wolf, in Season Two it was Torchwood, in Season Three it was the Master, in Season Four it was the coming darkness, in Season Five it was the cracks in time and in Season Six there were the combined mysteries of River Song and the death of the Doctor.

In Season Seven, though, we had two self-contained arcs of the fall of the Ponds and the mystery of Clara, both of which had the tendency to feel a little shoehorned in on some instances- for example, the Doctor essentially claimed that he was going to find out the truth on the Impossible Girl at the end of each successive episode of Part Two before the finale. This was unusual, as the arc references have generally been quite subtle and effective. Next time around, while the 'big surprise' we may discover in Episode One (a la the Doctor's death in The Impossible Astronaut and Oswin's appearance in Asylum of the Daleks) can shape the arc of the season, it would perhaps be most beneficial for this arc to develop gradually when relevant over all of the run's episodes, rather than having multiple arcs ongoing at different times with arguable loose threads as a result.
No fan can deny Steven Moffat's ambition in choosing to bring us fourteen standalone blockbusters within Season Seven. Indeed, with Daleks, dinosaurs, the Wild West, sci-fi invasions, noir New York, killer snowmen, a Wi-Fi thriller, intergalactic alien worlds, Cold War battles against the Ice Warriors, journeys to the centre of the TARDIS, haunted houses, Victorian period dramas, Cyber-horrors and the fabled Fields of Trenzalore all appearing in these new instalments, it's difficult to argue with the level of ambition and scale that was on offer here.

Nevertheless, a caveat to this approach was the lack of two-part adventures. Although episodes such as Asylum, Mercy, Angels, Snowmen, Rings, Cold War, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS and The Name of the Doctor managed to avoid rushed endings, the remaining episodes I haven't mentioned did not fare so well, with The Power of Three a particularly memorable example of a script where time seemed to get the better of Chris Chibnall. Seeing as two-part adventures like Human Nature/The Family of Blood, The Time of Angels/Flesh & Stone and The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon remain amongst my favourite episodes of Doctor Who, I'd love to see 2-3 two-part tales introduced in Season Eight, with a two-parter opening the run likely to be another major success from Steven Moffat.
When it came to defending the BBC's decision to schedule the new run of Doctor Who over Autumn 2012 and Spring 2013 recently, the Moff cited his other celebrated TV creation Sherlock, noting how Who deserves to have the same kind of 'event' status every time it returns, no matter how large its run. I see the argument here, certainly, but if the BBC want this to be the case, then we need to see trailers broadcast weekly for each episode so as to keep the public in the know on airtimes, as a lack of promotional material affected the middle section of Series Seven Part Two this year.

On top of that, though, it would likely be a strong idea to revive some consistency to Doctor Who's broadcast formatting after the 50th Anniversary. I'm not asking for a straight revival of the thirteen-episode seasons in the Spring and a Christmas Special in December, though. Indeed, the idea that's been posed by rumour sites that Season Eight will consist of twelve episodes and the 2014 Christmas Special (due to the 50th Special/Christmas Special technically making Season Eight a fifteen-part run), commencing broadcast from August 2014, doesn't seem too bad. If this format of airing from August to October/November before a Christmas Special continues, then it would work well in establishing Doctor Who at a different time of year. Whatever the scheduling, the more consistent it becomes, the easier it is for the public (i.e. those who don't monitor every scheduling update) to follow when one of their favourite TV dramas is returning.
Now, this is a serious matter. What with the 50th Anniversary Special likely to some extent to induce some kind of wave of nostalgia for fans old and new of Doctor Who, it is vital that once the celebratory festivities are done, Steven Moffat's production team do not let nods to the past get the better of them. Considering that in the years leading up to the show's demise during the 1980s, there were a number of seasons dedicated to reintroducing an old friend or foe in every story, it is of paramount importance that no such repetition occurs here in order to keep Who alive and well in the years ahead.

This is not to lay down criticism on the approach with Season Seven- quite the opposite. By including nostalgic elements such as the Daleks, the Silurians, UNIT, the Weeping Angels, the Great Intelligence, the Ice Warriors, the Eye of Harmony and the Cybermen in proceedings without comprimising story quality, Steven and his team provided an incredible anniversary season that balanced well nostalgia with innovation. All the same, although one or two old foes never go amiss, Season Eight could do with finding the next Silence, the next Weeping Angels, a new 'arch-nemesis' for the Doctor to tackle with that iconic nature of evil we can rally against as viewers. Perhaps this can be achieved in the arc of the next run, but however it's done, this strict balance needs to be kept fiercely in mind to preserve Doctor Who's future sanctity.
Where do you next take a Time Lord who, in recent seasons, has had time-shifting religions attempt to wipe him from existence in order to hide a universe-threatening secret he conceals? The answer should be simple-you dial the Doctor down. As we move into the era of the Twelfth Doctor, whoever he or she may be, it will be important that the successes and mistakes that the Eleventh Doctor made in his life are mostly forgotten in favour of a new start and a new take on the character. A Good Man Goes To War was a brilliant defining moment of pride and loss for the current incarnation, but to have such a demoralising event occur in the Doctor's life every season/every few episodes would simply do an injustice to the history of the character.

Once the mystery of John Hurt's Doctor has been dealt with in the 50th Anniversary Special, it seems that it may almost truly be possible for the new Doctor to "step back into the shadows" as Matt's declared he would back in 2011's The Wedding of River Song. That arc of wiping the Doctor from the memory banks played heavily into Series Seven Part One, only for Part Two then to essentially conclude that until he had dealt with his unfinished secrets, the Doctor could never truly hide himself. With the Twelfth Doctor, then, I'd love to see his plan work, as the character becomes a source of humorous mystery to those he meets on his travels, rather than the infamous 'hero' of the Time War who seems known to every alien race in the galaxy these days.

Best Of Who Awards: Top 5 Worst Celebrity Guest Stars

We've seen the best actors and actresses to join Doctor Who- but which names will live on in infamy? Our guide to the show's most notorious flop portrayals...
For every accomplished star, there must be an overconfident star who joins Doctor Who simply to add to his or her acting credits. So seems to be the rule with regards to Who guest stars, and today we're looking at the other more negative end of the spectrum. Here, we've recapped some of the most infamous Hollywood and British actors to ever join the science-fiction drama in its fifty-year history.

A confession first, though- what with this article being written in 2013, where the concept of actors and actresses who are 'celebrity guest stars' is very different from what it was in 1963-1989, our focus is for the majority on actors and actresses who have participated in the show since its return in 2005. Without further ado, then, let's look at the names that Doctor Who should not be proud to have acquired...
5. CLAIRE SKINNER (2011)- There are plenty of elements in the whimsical and all-too-subtle Christmas Special The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe (by Steven Moffat) which have been called into question by the show's fanbase. At the heart of this reviewer's criticism, however, was Outnumbered star Claire Skinner- mostly due to dubiously cheesy dialogue provided in the script, Skinner's Madge came off as a poor Great War rip-off of her Outnumbered persona, meaning that the actress boasted even less charisma than usual as a result. It's arguable that scripts define poor character portrayals, and in Claire's case this seems to ring sadly true.
4. RICHARD E GRANT (2012-2013)- The Great Intelligence is BACK! What could possibly go wrong? Such a thought would likely have crossed the minds of fans were they to know the plot of The Snowmen early (as many did due to leaked press teasers), and yet acclaimed Brit actor Richard E. Grant's portrayal of the classic series returning antagonist was far too reminiscent of a pantomime even in a Christmas setting. In fact, Richard's Doctor Simeon and Great Intelligence seemed to boast about as much depth as the wooden tree foes we met in Clare Skinner's Christmas Special, and the situation barely improved as we moved into the otherwise fantastic The Name of the Doctor this Spring. This one was a genuine shame, as it felt more as if Richard's portrayal of the foe held it back than Steven Moffat's well-handled dialogue.
3. SIMON PEGG (2005)- You have to admire beloved British comedian Simon Pegg for having the faith to join Doctor Who during the first season of its revived state. However, Russell T. Davies' The Long Game was laden with flaws, and the characterisation of Pegg's character the Editor was one such notable shortcoming. Gone was the subtle charm and wit of Pegg's personas in Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the like, replaced by an apathetic, tonally inconsistent villain whose only true role was to introduce the supposedly 'mighty' Jagrafess. Most fans of Simon's work are undoubtedly looking forward to seeing his upcoming film The World's End next month, yet when they look back on the Brit actor's greatest successes, Doctor Who is pretty unlikely to be marked as one of them...
2. MARTIN CLUNES (1983)- Our solitary classic era choice on this list comes from a British celebrity who still remains something of a renowned presence today on iTV. Martin Clunes had a single role to play in Doctor Who during a 20th Anniversary story, Snakedance, yet this character was pitched as a horribly exaggerated conflicted anti-hero who didn't seem to know quite what he wanted out of the Time Lord. Martin did the best he could with the role of Lon in 1983, but it wasn't quite enough in all honesty!
1. PETER KAY (2006)- But as if it weren't obvious enough, at the top of the list could only really end up one 'shining' member of the Doctor Who cast list who stands out in infamy more than any of his predecessors or successors. The man in question? It's Peter Kay. Peter has rightly noted recently that many fans have called his episode Love & Monsters "the worst Doctor Who episode ever", and although I don't quite hold that negative an opinion of the episode, I still believe that such a perception has been contributed to in no small part by Kay's laughable 'antagonist' the Absorbaloff. Crafted by a kid for Blue Peter, this Shrek-esque monster has been the subject of considerable farce ever since the episode's broadcast, and neither Russell T Davies' somewhat atrocious script or indeed Kay's portrayal of the character helped the matter. Indeed, I shudder to think how portrayals could ever get much worse than this one, and to prove it, we've got an infamously memorable clip of Love And Monsters below!

The Future Of The Superhero Film Genre

With great power comes a LOT of great superhero movies- how this budding genre will take over film fans' lives in the years ahead.
This week, there have been plenty of new announcements regarding the status of superhero films within the future of the box office. Sufficed to say, this ambitious genre of cinema is not leaving us anytime soon, with plenty of blockbuster sequels, prequels, reboots and premieres coming to auditoriums near you in the next few years.

Nevertheless, with all these announcements inevitably comes quite the challenge in trying to keep up with what's coming out, when it releases, which stars appear in it and whether it looks to be worth your time. Our solution? An all-encompassing guide to everything we know about the future of the superhero film genre, featuring every announced movie coming soon along with a few rumoured ones. Let's delve into the not-too-distant future, then:

2013- STILL TO COME...
THE WOLVERINE- First up, next month sees the return of the X-Men movie franchise after two years off of the big screen. This isn't a follow-up to 2011's First Class quite yet, though- instead, The Wolverine is a standalone instalment featuring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine after the events of 2007's X-Men: The Last Stand. Over in Japan, Wolverine discovers a chance to free himself of his immortality, only to realise that those desperate to have his gift might threaten the sanctity of the entire world! At the very least, don't expect an Origins flop, but we'll have to wait and see whether James Mangold pulls out the goods here. (July 26th)
KICK ASS 2- Fans of cult cinema will undoubtedly remember Kick-Ass, a rather groundbreaking take on the genre back in 2010 that was met with critical acclaim. No pressure on Mark Millar and his team to top it, then, especially now the whole world knows and loves the original instalment. Kick-Ass 2 focuses on Kick-Ass and Hit Girl as they build a team, Justice Forever, to fight the growing legions of real-world super villains- prepare for a battle of epic proportions and nothing short of a filmic masterpiece! (August 14th)
THOR: THE DARK WORLD- Our final superhero outing of 2013 will continue Phase Two of the Marvel Avengers franchise, this time focusing on everyone's favourite Asgardian Avenger. Thor will travel back to Earth to pick up Jane, only to find Asgard left in ruins by the effects of the Battle of New York, forcing Thor and his allies to make the ultimate sacrifice as Christopher Eccleston's Dark Elf Malkeith leads his army to an all-out siege. The original Thor was a surprise hit, so as long as The Dark World can retain some of its predecessor's subtler charms, we may well be in for another shock smasher this Autumn. (October 30th)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER- From one Phase Two outing to another, we're back to modern America for this much-anticipated sequel to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger. Here, Cap teams up with SHIELD including Nick Fury and Black Widow to hunt down an old ally-turned-foe, in the midst of a terrorist plot that could destroy everything they love. Expect more Avengers 2 links to arise here, and hopefully a more consistent tone for the sequel to boot. (April 4th, 2014)
THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2- The first in a trio of new Spider-Man sequels, this second instalment in the rebooted franchise takes it to daring new territory. Gwen Stacey is placed in the ultimate realm of danger as new villains such as Paul Giamatti's Rhino, Jamie Foxx's Electro and Chris Cooper's Norman Osborn emerge onto the streets of New York. Prepare for Andrew Garfield's Webbed Wonder to reach new limits in what could well be a groundbreaking second outing. (April 18th, 2014)
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST- As if it weren't enough to have a new X-Men outing next month, we're getting another entry in the franchise next Summer! Days of Future Past will combine together the two stands of the saga's mythology, starring actors and actresses from X-Men, X-Men: United, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class in a time-travelling adventure that may by some chance allow 20th Century Fox the first sense of a proper superhero cinematic universe of their own! (May 23rd, 2014)
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY- And another Phase Two adventure is just around the corner! Guardians of the Galaxy is the most potentially risky outing in the Avengers franchise yet, focusing on a team of alien warriors joined by a human commander in their battle to stop the evil Thanos. Does that name ring a bell? If so, that's because Thanos was revealed as the secret antagonist to the Earth's Mightiest Heroes in Avengers Assemble's credits, meaning the links to Avengers 2 here may be profound and exciting. (August 1st, 2014)
BIG HERO 6- As if Disney couldn't find enough ways to take advantage of their Marvel ownership, now we've even got a daring anime film entry in the works. Big Hero 6 takes a Japanese comic-book franchise and turns it into a fully-fledged animated motion picture. There's potential for this project to go either way, but for most diehard fans Big Hero 6 should definitely be worth your time...(November 7th, 2014)

THE FANTASTIC FOUR- Make no mistake, this is going to be a tricky one. 20th Century Fox have already tried to bring Fantastic Four to box office success on multiple occasions, and while 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer managed to rank in the Top 15 Top Grossing Films of All Time, the critical reception to these two underwhelming instalments was colossally negative. The Fantastic Four is a reboot that may fit in with Fox's intended expanded universe along with X-Men, but we're still waiting on casting news, so we can't assert whether to be even cautiously optimistic right now. (March 26th, 2015)
THE AVENGERS 2- Here's the big one, then. This follow-up to Avengers Assemble will likely feature all of the stars of the previous Avengers movie against a new intergalactic threat in the form of Thanos. On top of that, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are entering the fray, hopefully shaking up the team's status quo in a major manner. We do know that Loki won't be appearing this time around (Joss Whedon doesn't want "Puny God" deja vu to fuel the whole film). Robert Downey Jr will be back though, both here and in Avengers 2. With plot details scarce, it's difficult to know whether Whedon can top his past success, but it should be an amazing ride nevertheless! (May 1st, 2015)
ANT-MAN- It seems that when it comes to Marvel's Avengers franchise, they really do not want to wait for new entries. Take Ant-Man, the first instalment in Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Three that will release mere months after The Avengers 2 wraps up Phase Two! This origins story looks at how Henry Pym becomes the titular miniscule hero, and is directed by none other than Edgar Wright, making it an essential new viewing experience come the end of 2015. (November 6th, 2015)

DOCTOR STRANGE- Although this isn't 100% confirmed, given that Kevin Feige has been emphasising his interest in making Doctor Strange for months now, it seems inevitable that the new origins adventure will form the second instalment of Avengers Phase Three. Expect many more details to arrive at ComicCon as to how this will feed into future Avengers films, and then be prepared for a truly cosmic outing that continues the intergalactic tone of Guardians in the days ahead. (May 6th, 2016)
THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 3- With any luck you won't be getting sick of the new Spider-Man's big screen adventures by this point, as the Webbed Wonder is back for yet another web-swinging adventure. Naturally, with just under three years between now and its release, details on the storyline are scarce, but it's confirmed to introduce Mary-Jane Watson after the demise of Gwen Stacey likely takes place in the 2014 second instalment. Don't be surprised, either, if Chris Cooper now inherits the role of Green Goblin fully and indeed Dane DeHaan's Harry Osborn begins to have conflicts in his relationship with Peter and his father. There could be some great moral conflicts here, then, so get excited! (June 10th, 2016)
UNTITLED MARVEL FILM- We've got even more Phase Three action coming in 2016, although ComicCon will have to be where we discover the truth on the matter. Potential films that could fill this slot are Black Panther, Thor 3 or Captain America 2- Iron Man 4 isn't a big runner as Robert Downey Jr's new deal only covers two new fully-fledged Avengers ensemble movies. (July 8th, 2016)

THE AVENGERS 3- Again, it's not 100% confirmed that The Avengers 3 will fill up this slot in 2017, but we do know that this third instalment in the hit team-up franchise is on its way. If Thanos doesn't have a starring role in The Avengers 2, then perhaps he'll turn up here, only that seems like a rather over-long way to stretch out a potential trilogy. Maybe a whole new villain lies in wait...? (May 5th, 2017)
THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 4- Sony Pictures are begging you not to be bored of Spidey by this point. If your interest is sustained as far as this prolonged fourth instalment, then expect a new villain to be introduced as well as an all-new story arc that moves on past the 'Untold Story' missing parents narrative of the original reboot trilogy. (May 4th, 2017)
JUSTICE LEAGUE/MAN OF STEEL 2- What with Man of Steel having made something of a big impact for DC Studios and Warner Bros this past fortnight, you can be sure that the companies are hard at work planning their next motion pictures. Justice League and Man of Steel 2 are both the most likely prospects, but given that the former project has been struggling to get off the ground for years, doing so even now could be easier said than enacted. (TBC)

Doctor Who Book Reviews Round-Up

Continuing their 50th Anniversary celebrations, BBC Worldwide bring us a host of new novels and reference books surrounding Doctor Who- yet are they worth your time?
There's no doubt that BBC Worldwide are bringing us an absolute plethora of new merchandise releases to celebrate Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary alongside the new season, the 50th Anniversary Special, the 2013 Christmas Special and the various other programmes being used to celebrate the big event. Part of this wave of new offerings is an enhanced book range from the company, many of which released during our Spring hiatus.

Of course, these days our money is rarely free enough to spend on every single Who book, so with that in mind we've compiled together our reviews of all the latest releases to sort out the cream of the crop. Without further ado, then, let's dive into the latest Doctor Who eBooks, novels and reference books...
DOCTOR WHO: THE ROOTS OF EVIL (2.5/5)- This Fourth Doctor eBook from Phillip Reeve has a dull premise from the outset, simply involving the Time Lord and Leela visiting a mysterious alien forest and battling a dark menace once there. This is purely standard Douglas Adams-esque Doctor Who, and Reeve's uninspiring narration of events doesn't help matters. Only one for the hardcore Baker fan, then, and even then it's worth harshly considering that status before making the purchase.
DOCTOR WHO: THE OFFICIAL MISCELLANY (5/5)- On a far brighter note, this new reference book compiling together an infinite number of random facts and figures about Doctor Who has turned out to be a true surprise hit. From fact files regarding every companion of the last 50 years to a list of all the aliases the Doctor has taken to hide his true secret (John Smith is just the beginning!), there'll be something new to learn for every fan, making this an absolutely essential 50th Anniversary purchase.
DOCTOR WHO: THE DALEK GENERATION (3/5)- One of three new Eleventh Doctor Adventures novels released to coincide with the Spring anniversary season, The Dalek Generation takes place in between the events of The Angels Take Manhattan and The Snowmen, featuring the Time Lord left companionless and without an Impossible Girl to hunt down. The plot is essentially a rehash of the human-fooling Dalek conspiracies of days gone by, a real shame considering that the innovative writer Nicholas Briggs is on board. Nevertheless, it's a decent read, while by no means unmissable.
DOCTOR WHO: TIP OF THE TONGUE (3/5)- Another arguably missed opportunity, this Fifth Doctor eBook comes from the mind of none other than Patrick Ness. Whereas with his own novels such as The Knife of Never Letting Go and A Monster Calls the author was free to create brave new worlds, though, here it feels as if Ness has been constrained somewhat by a licensed world to adhere to, no matter how interesting the Davison era was. Ness' trademark intelligent writing resides beautifully in Tip of the Tongue, it is just a letdown for fans of his work that this never ventures above the 'average' bracket in its narrative.
DOCTOR WHO: PLAGUE OF THE CYBERMEN (2.5/5)- Perhaps it's coming off the back of Neil Gaiman's fresh reinvention of the Cybermen in Nightmare In Silver, but seeing them in their pseudo-Cybus guise again here via Justin Richards is rather underwhelming. Plague again seems far too focused on nostalgia rather than creating bold new images, instead electing to echo classic tales such as Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion to little great effect. Again, this is one for the hardcore fan, but they're better served with the Spring's other two Eleventh Doctor Adventures novels.

DWNP- Doctor Who: Trouble In Paradise Review

Moving into the second half of the 50th Anniversary range, can AudioGo keep up the momentum? Find out in my review of this Sixth Doctor adventure...
Over the last six months, AudioGo have been slowly but steadily building up to the 50th Anniversary with 'Doctorly' monthly releases in the Destiny of the Doctor audio drama range. In June, it's Colin Baker's turn to get the spotlight, with the new tale Trouble In Paradise by Nev Fountain.

At Doctor Who News Page right now, you can find my definitive review on this latest instalment. It features the Sixth Doctor, Peri and Christopher Columbus, as well as a few surprise guests who should bring welcome shocks to long-term fans and newcomers alike. Our monthly reviews will continue at Doctor Who News Page as we build up to November's finale release The Time Machine which will cement the 50th Anniversary at AudioGo! Here's the link to our 3.5* review: http://reviews.doctorwhonews.net/2013/06/troubleinparadise-250613081508.html