This week, J.D. shares some handy tips on how to keep track of your family’s whereabouts using tools you may already have on your computers and mobile devices. El Kaiser rants on the state of Hollywood and why he thinks movie makers need to worry. In the news, the Dynamic Duo snark it up over the latest Microsoft missteps with their Windows 10 push; Google’s plans to legally display lyrics in their search results; Facebook’s decision to go all in on slideshows and a cubic, um, BOATload of tech news. C’mon, press play already. You know you want to…
It’s not global warming, but the traditional action-movie season felt like it began to heat up way early this year with those DC Comics stalwarts in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice blasting into theaters on March 25. Of course, the arguments about that film’s merits (or lack thereof) were still going on when the next big comic-book flick opened earlier this month: Captain America: Civil War.
Marvel’s Avengers reunited on May 6th and while Civil War got better reviews (and more love from the fandom), it had less than a month to bask at the top of the box office before The Angry Birds Movie took the top spot this past weekend.
So, here we are on the edge of Memorial Day Weekend 2016, the traditional start of the summer science-fiction, superhero, bang-bang-blow-’em-up season of cinema. If you want to create your nerd-flick reminders now, here are some of the films headed to theaters over the next few months.
This weekend: Marvel strikes again.
• X-Men: Apocalypse. This ninth chapter in the overall X-Men film series is already open overseas, and has already gotten mixed reviews. The plot concerns with the ancient mutant Apocalypse waking up and deciding to take over the world. Familiar mutants played by Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and the usual crew join the fray.
• Alice Through the Looking Glass. This surreal adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic also opens May 27th and stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway, Sascha Baron Cohen and the voice of the late Alan Rickman.
Moving into June:
• Warcraft. Angry Birds can’t have the video-game-as-a-movie market to itself this summer. The film version of the World of Warcraft MMORPG arrives June 10th.
• Independence Day: Resurgence. Will Smith gave this one a miss perhaps to go do Suicide Squad, but Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Judd Hirsch are back in a sequel to the original 1996 Independence Day film about aliens invading the Earth. In this sequel, the aliens try again. The film has a separate promotional site at Warof1996.com to get you up to speed if you forgot what happened 20 years ago — or, you know, you weren’t born yet.
After the July 4th weekend, we have:
• Ghostbusters. The 1984 hit gets a 21st century reboot courtesy ofKristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones all donning the familiar brown jumpsuits. Dan Ackroyd, one of the original crew, was an executive producer this time around. The film opens on July 15th.
• Star Trek Beyond. This third film in the modern-era film series stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and the gang — and also brings along British actor Idris Elba as the villain. Simon Pegg pulls double-duty playing the part of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott and co-writing the script. The movie arrives July 22nd and adds to the ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary if the original series debuting on television in September 1966.
• Suicide Squad. Batman v. Superman was not the only movie in the DC Comics inventory this year and Guardians of the Galaxy proved you could have a lot of fun with minor characters on your comics universe, especially in a late-summer release when expectations are kind of low anyway. The film follows a team of imprisoned supervillains — Harley Quinn, Deadshot, the Joker, Katana, and others — on mission for a clandestine government agency. Jared Leto plays the Joker, Will Smith is Deadshot and Margot Robbie takes on the part of cosplay idol Harley Quinn. That movie rolls in August 5th.
Plenty of other flicks are landing this summer as well, so if you want to get your calendar locked and loaded, check out the iTunes Movie Trailers site or similar one-stop shop for upcoming film previews. And, as we noted last year, it all helps pass the time until this year’s installment in the Star Wars franchise arrives in December.
Digital comics have thankfully been around for several years now, and in that time, they’ve gone from random back issues to full same-day download distribution for some titles. Digital-first or digital-only issues are also available. Some comics now have other bells and whistles that take advantage of tablet and smartphone technology to help tell the story.
So, what else is new lately?
For one, ComiXolgy, the sort of Amazon of digital comics that was one of the first big download shops, was actually bought by Amazon last year. The site’s mobile Comics app — for Android, iOS and Amazon Kindle — is popular. The app’s Guided View feature and wide selection (at least 75,000 titles) are still part of the ComiXology experience. But with Amazon’s acquisition, in-app purchases on the iOS version are no longer possible because Amazon doesn’t want to give Apple a 30% bite of the pie. So iOS users have to select and pay for purchases through the ComiXology website and then download them while logged into an account. This switch upset many iPad readers who dislike the inconvenience and extra steps, so you may see some pretty negative reviews of the app online. You can still get your comics, but it’s not as easy as it used to be with the ComiXology Comics app. Android and Amazon Kindle versions? No problem.
You can also get Android and iOS apps for your favorite publishers: DC Comics and its Vertigo line, Marvel Comics (which also has its Marvel AR app for augmented reality offerings in certain titles), Dark Horse Comics and IDW Publishing, which does comics for a lot of TV shows. And we can’t forget Archie Comics. Third-party comics reader apps are also around.
If you want comics with a little something more — like motion, soundtracks and light animation, check out the Motion Books in the Madefire storefront app. Motion Books aren’t videos of comics, but technology enhanced digital books that use music, sound effects, parallax views and animated objects within the frame to build the story. Madefire has apps for many screens, and you can also look at comics on your television with its apps for set-top boxes like Android TV and now the new fourth-generation Apple TV. Madefire also makes its Motion Book software available to indie comics creators through the deviantArt website.
Don’t like the Bam! Pow! Pop! stuff? Check out the Sequential app for iOS, which specializes in indie and alternative books. As it says on the Sequential website, “We don’t do superheroes. You can get them in a lot of other places.”
Why, yes. Yes, you can.
El Kaiser has The Great Set Top Box Stream-Off of 2014 and J.D. takes a look at the geek-friendly shows the fall TV season has lined up for us.
In the news, a huge hacking scandal involving Apple’s iCloud and stolen intimate photos of various female celebrities; Apple includes restrictions in developer’s agreement for new iOS 8 HealthKit tool; Windows 8 and 8.1 slowly finds its way onto more computers; Google announces in-house drone program; the potential for drone traffic problems up in the sky; NASA gets ready to to perform some maintenance on its Mars rover; and the Internet Archive scans millions of book pages.
Streaming services and video-on-demand may have changed the way we consume television in recent years, but the broadcast networks still cling to the traditional fall debut for most of their new shows. This 2014-2015 season looks to have plenty of viewing options, especially for comic-book fans, so here are a few new shows (and some returning favorites) to consider for the recording queue:
- Gotham is basically an origins tale centered around a young policeman named James Gordon, who’s on the force in a major city that’s very well-known in the DC Comics universe. Other residents of this urban sprawl include a young Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle and Oswald Cobblepot — why yes, this is a Batman prequel now that you mention it. Gotham’s first season is scheduled for 16 episodes on Fox TV and the network has already released a 21-minute preview video to get fans in the mood. The show makes its debut on September 22nd.
- The Flash is another popular DC Comics character who’s getting another run on TV. The Scarlet Speedster, lands on the CW on October 7th. (That’s same network that shows the Arrow series, so rest assured, everyone in the cast will look fabulous.) Let’s see if this version does better than the 1990-91 edition with John Wesley Shipp running around in that Flash suit that looked like it was made out of Play-Doh; Shipp even has an acting gig in the this new 2014 series.
- iZombie, right out of the DC/Vertigo canon, will also be on the CW network. The show follows an overachieving Type A medical resident who gets turned into a zombie at a party. After she takes a job in the coroner’s office to earn a living and have access to a supply of delicious fresh brains, she also becomes a crimefighter when she realizes she absorbs the memories of the murder victims when she snacks on their gray matter. iZombie will be appearing mid-season, so look for it in early 2015.
- Constantine follows the adventures of John Constantine, a occult detective/supernatural con man from Alan Moore’s DC Comics/Vertigo series Hellblazer. The show stars Welsh actor Matt Ryan and premieres on NBC on October 24th. (Certain changes to the character’s background made by this production do have some fans griping already, but will the show’s trailer be enough to lure them over?)
DC Comics may be dominating broadcast television, but let’s not forget that Netflix is also developing several series based on Marvel Comics properties, including a streaming reboot of Daredevil due out next year. Other members of Daredevil’s Defenders team— namely Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist — are expected to get their own Netflix series as well, with an all-star team-up Defenders series on the way, too.
As for returning shows, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD survived its first year on ABC and is back with new episodes on September 23rd and Lucy Lawless (shown here) in the Season Two cast. Also on ABC, the fairy-tale action show Once Upon a Time is back September 28th for its fourth season and this year, it’s starting off with a live-action storyline from another Disney property, the animated blockbuster, Frozen.
The Big Bang Theory returns to CBS with its Season 8 opener not on its usual Thursday night, but on Monday, September 22, while the network’s Sherlock-in-New-York crime drama Elementary has a a third-season premiere on Thursday, October 30th. (You can thank Thursday Night Football on CBS for the odd dates and late-year starts.) Big Bang’s September 22 premiere also puts it smack up against Gotham, and the return of Sleepy Hollow is also the same night on the Fox network, so set your DVRs accordingly.
And one last program — not so much with superheroes or the supernatural, but possibly of interest to Doctor Who fans: Selfie, an ABC sitcom about a woman who has thousands of online followers but no actual friends. She hires a consultant to help her to ease off the social media and navigate real relationships with people. It stars former Doctor Who companion (and current Nebula) Karen Gillan and Reboot Sulu John Cho. The show premieres on September 30th, and after the recent cloud-based photo theft scandal, its title should definitely stick in people’s minds, even if the show doesn’t.
Another Comic-Con International is in the books but despite it being held in the City of Motion it was Tinseltown that grabbed the headlines at the convention. In the news, Netflix added 630,000 subscribers but Wall Street is still disappointed; the United Kingdom moves to block online pornography; a German security expert is warning of a flaw in SIM card technology; the Leap Motion controller finally begins shipping; Apple confirm that people are indeed still listening to podcasts; researchers get one step closer to building Replicants and a Holodeck; and you can donate the spare processing power from your Android device for a worthy cause.
The Comic-Con International: San Diego event wrapped up this past weekend after about five days of nonstop hype and news blasts. The event — which throws Hollywood marketing people in with comics fans, animation lovers, cosplay kids, science-fiction and fantasy enthusiasts and all genre aficionados in between — saw a number of announcements.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- The name of the Avengers sequel will be called Avengers: Age of Ultron and it’s due out in 2015.
- George R.R. Martin said he would be open to writing a prequel to the action in the Game of Thrones series, although some fans have pointed out that he hasn’t finished the two remaining books in the current Game of Thrones saga.
- Game of Thrones favorite Peter Dinklage will be playing Bolivar Trask in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past movie.
- Fans for to see the entire pilot episode of this fall’s Agents of SHIELD television show and WIRED was among the sites that loved it.
- Also in preview mode, Walking Dead, which showed about four minutes of Season 4, the first half of which starts October 13th.
- Doctor Who fans got a lot of love as Comic Con as well, with a panel discussion with the show’s creators and stars — and a very special sneak peek at the trailer for this fall’s 50th anniversary special. Fan favorite Karen Gillan, (“Come along, Pond”), also showed off her shiny new shaved-head look for her role as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy.
- Gillian Anderson turned up for an X-Files panel and joked that there’s a lost Mulder-Scully sex scene out there from the old show, which sent some fans into a frenzy — although she actually said later she’d been kidding. But she wouldn’t mind doing another X-Files movie some day.
- And Batman and Superman are going to team up for movie in 2015. Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill are set to return as director and hero, Batman needs to be cast since Christian Bale hung up the cowl. The film is expected to pave the way for a Justice League movie that teams up even more DC superheroes for 2017. No sign of casting calls for Zatanna, Elongated Man, Martian Manhunter or the Hawkcouple, but please, someone needs to get crackin’ on a Wonder Woman flick. Like, now.
Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The mighty Star Trek franchise is not far behind, as almost 47 years have passed since it first beamed up on the television airwaves back in 1966. That’s a lot of history and backstory for these two shows, and some of it even pops into current episodes – just think of the recent Season 7 finale for the Doctor and characters from the new Star Trek Into Darkness movie. But let’s face it: long-running television shows have built up complex mythologies and continuities that can be hard to remember over the decades. And what if you came to the show late? How do you figure stuff out and find your way? (Like, who is this character and when did he first appear?)
So, with that in mind, here are a few sites to help fill in the backstory on some very popular parts of the entertainment universe.
While the BBC One (and BBC America) official Web sites can be generally helpful for show news, recent events and even a beginner’s guide, visit the TARDIS Data Core Wiki if you really want to dig deep into collective Whovian history. The site compiles character backgrounds, plot points, actor bios and more, even incorporating material from minisode clips and other random bits. Looking for something specific? The search box invites you to “probe the data core!”
The official Star Trek site owned by CBS Studios has full episodes of the original TV series and all the spin-offs (including the animated adventures that first aired in 1973), as well as pages devoted to franchise news, events and trinkets to purchase. Roddenberry Entertainment runs the Trek Initiative wiki, which has its own video clips from the family archives and other exclusive material. Want to delve even deeper? Visit the Star Trek Memory Alpha wiki for more than 35,000 pages devoted to the total Trek universe.
The official Star Wars site has its own encyclopedia, online gaming portal and exclusive video clips, along with links to fan sites, the official Star Wars blog, a social-media roundup page, and of course, a shop where you can buy lots and lots of Star Wars stuff. Serious Star Wars scholars will want to check out (or even contribute to) the The Wookiepedia, a dedicated wiki with more than 103,000 pages.
Thanks to Wikia, fan-created wikis have popped up all over the Web for several other popular shows and entertainment properties, including:
- The Battlestar Wiki
- The Buffy and Angel Wiki
- DC Comics Database Wiki
- Game of Thrones (TV show only)
- Marvel Comics Database Wiki
- Supernatural Wiki
- The X-Files Wiki
Odds are, if a show has more than three dedicated fans, there’s probably a wiki on it out there somewhere. Can’t find a wiki out there for your favorite cult obsession, TV or otherwise? Start one yourself!
For East Coasters, New York Comic Con rolls into the Javits Center from October 11-14, bringing fans and creators together on the West Side of Manhattan. But even if you’re not making the schlep to NYCC, if you’re a current or lapsed reader and haven’t checked out the digital side of comics, you have plenty of options for keeping up (and catching up) with your favorite titles on an Android or iOS device.
Many serious aficionados of the digital comic book favor the app simply called Comics by ComiXology, which has versions for Android, iOS and the Kindle Fire. The Comics app is best known for its huge selection of titles from mainstream and indie publishers and its Guided View mode, which shows you one page panel at a time in sequence. This can be great for reading big pages on the small phone. ComiXology also has a junior version of its comics-store-and-reader for iOS called Comics4Kids, which keeps the adult material out of sight.
If you are seriously partisan — either DC Comics or Marvel Comics — you can get specific apps for each, but both are powered under the cape by ComiXolgy’s technology. Marvel’s site has links to the Marvel Augmented Reality App, which lets you unlock exclusive bonus content when you scan Marvel products with your Android or iOS device; the site also has a Marvel Events app for conventions. DC Comics has other apps as well, like the family-friendly DC Nation. And DC has two apps tied to The Dark Knight Rises, but they only work on Nokia Windows Phones.
Some comic-book publishers have their own standalone apps, like Dark Horse and Star Trek comics. Other notable comics apps for iOS and Android include Comics+ and Komik Reader for Android and Panefly for iOS. You can also find some trade graphic novels in Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon’s Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store.
Even if you read your comics on your phone or tablet, you may find yourself missing the hustle and bustle of your favorite comics shop on a Wednesday afternoon. If you want to mix and match your media, check the app store. Your store may have an app of its own — like good ol’ Midtown Comics here in Manhattan, which has an app for pre-orders, pickups and product searches. It’s the best of both worlds, and we’re not talking about Earth 1 and Earth 2.