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    Ryan Maloney charts Warner Bros.' efforts to bring The Flash to the screen.... 

    In the pantheon of B-list superheroes, The Flash is perhaps the best and most revered. Sadly, that level of brand recognition doesn’t quite translate to the character’s number of fans; approach any random stranger on the street and he or she will say, “Yeah, I know the Flash! Runs really fast!” but ask them their feelings on Geoff Johns, or Barry vs. Wally, or the mysticism of the Speed Force, and you’re likely to get some pretty confused looks. And not just because you’re a creeper who approaches random strangers to talk about DC Comics characters.

    Still, there exists a cornucopia of potential for The Flash to thrive in a live-action environment, making the recent addition of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) to the cast of CW’s Arrow, a darker re-imagining of the Green Arrow mythology, as well as plans to spin the character off into his own series especially exciting. Coupled with Warner Bros. finally landing a solid non-Batman DC adaptation in Man of Steel, a darker re-imagining of the Superman mythology, and the future of the live-action DC universe has, ironically enough, never looked brighter.

    Still, even more ironic is that it’s taken this long for Flash to get his due; the character’s lone solo adaptation remains CBS’ short-lived 1990 series starring John Wesley Shipp. The show, coattailing off the success of Tim Burton’s Batman (even boasting its own opening theme by Danny Elfman), was solid enough, but with an ever-changing timeslot, it struggled to keep its viewership. Bleaker still was the character’s presence in Warner’s film division, in which a revolving door of writers and filmmakers kept the film adaptation from ever making it past the scripting stage. Three of these drafts have found their way to my neck of the woods, and all three give us a prime indication of the immense potential The Flash carries with him on a much larger canvas.

    The first draft, dated October 3rd, 2006, was penned by Dark Knight Trilogy scribe David S. Goyer himself, whom fans may remember to have been pegged to write and direct a Flash adaptation starring his Blade: Trinity star Ryan Reynolds, before departing the project over creative differences. “I wanted to showcase the legacy aspect of the hero -- as that was something that hadn't been explored yet in film,” Goyer later explained on his blog, later adding, “The God's honest truth is that WB and myself simply couldn't agree on what would make for a cool Flash film. I'm quite proud of the screenplay I turned [in]. I threw my heart into it and I genuinely think it would've been the basis of a ground-breaking film. But as of now, the studio is heading off in a completely different direction.” After his success adapting further DC properties, and perusing his take on Flash, WB may want to reconsider.


    The script begins with Barry Allen as the Flash, an urban legend of Keystone City. Protecting the city from crime, Flash has never been caught on camera and never interacted with the public. In his alter ego, Barry builds a close bond with nephew Wally West, who’s been living with his Uncle and Aunt Iris at their home for the summer. One night, Barry and his cop friend Hunter Zolomon are investigating a disturbance, when Barry/Flash is trapped by Victor Vesp, aka the Turtle. Vesp attempts to steal away Barry’s speed by using his infinity transducer, but Barry escapes by “going nova” before it can happen, and disappears. Wally sees the whole thing and is devastated at his Uncle’s apparent death, growing up in constant fear of never being able to live up to Barry’s heroic legacy. Wally even avoids committing to colleges and jobs, feeling as though he will never carve his own niche within Barry’s shadow.

    Wally later visits the city’s commemorative statue of Barry and is caught in a blast of lightning. Wally wakes up to find he’s been granted the same speedy powers Barry had, and grapples with his newer, quicker metabolism and rapid facial hair growth. Doctors are baffled by his condition, but the good scientists at S.T.A.R. labs, among them Dr. Tina McGee and her ex-husband Jerry, agree to help Wally hone his new skills. Even Zolomon, now wheelchair-bound after the night of Barry’s death, surmises that Barry has passed on his powers to Wally, and agrees to mentor him. But Wally isn’t ready for the responsibility, only assuming the mantle in money-making publicity stunts, in one case playing hockey against the entire Keystone team, all while flirting with Tina. In perhaps a tribute to the character’s sillier Silver-Age roots, Wally travels so fast he appears at one point as six different players.

    Aunt Iris chides Wally for abusing his powers in such a way, telling him that he must be more responsible, lest he let the speed go to his head. Meanwhile, a prison-bound Vesp learns of Wally’s new powers and again plots to steal Flash’s speed. This time, Vesp indirectly plants a time-bomb on a packed 747, which also happens to be carrying Zolomon, forcing Wally to evacuate every passenger onboard one at a time, before the plane crashes in the nearby river. Later, Tina and Wally share an intimate moment when Wally takes her running, and shows her the slow-time effect he experiences when vibrating fast enough.

    Vesp is soon broken out of prison by another speedster called Zoom, who speaks in a creepy “vibratory” voice. Zoom is addicted to the speed Vesp grants him, even kissing his foot at one point begging for more. Meanwhile, Jerry blames Wally for the breakout before Zoom calls out Wally directly, and they duke it out in an epic fistfight at Mach 5. Zoom kills Jerry after Jerry discovered who Zoom really was, then kidnaps Tina. After another fight, Wally catches Zoom and rips off his mask to discover Zoom is Zolomon, artificially infused with speed that allows him to walk (and run) again. Zolomon was also the one to plant the bomb on the 747 and has done everything thus far out of jealously that Wally was granted Barry’s powers while he suffers as a cripple. Both Wally and Zoom wind up in Vesp’s underground lair, where Vesp explains he knew Zolomon’s speed addiction would cloud his judgment and lead him to bring Wally to the lair, allowing Vesp to again try to steal his speed away. Like Barry, Wally goes nova, but instead of dying he is rocketed to the past, meeting Barry in the Speed Force. In a heartfelt scene, Barry tells Wally he knows he will be vigilant with his speed and only use it for good, and to “tell Iris I love her.” The two combine their speed and Wally is able to return home.

    Back at the lair, Zoom is briefly overcome with guilt and transfers so much speed to Vesp that his frail body can’t handle the vibrations, killing him. Zoom grapples with his fate, but can’t break free of his addiction, and challenges Wally yet again by throwing the hostage Tina off a building. Wally manages to catch her, and again fights Zoom, this time across several world locales. On the advice of Tina, Wally infuses all his speed into Zoom, who can’t handle the vibration while also travelling at near lightspeed, and begins to rapidly age before shriveling up and melting into dust. With his enemies defeated, Wally returns to Keystone and rubs the death date off Barry’s Flash statue, promising Aunt Iris he’ll find a way to bring Barry back. Wally tells Tina she grounds him and makes him want to slow down. But there’s another crisis to be solved, and Wally disappears with, “back in a flash.”

    Like almost all of Wally West’s appearances in the comics, Goyer’s script opens and closes with voiceover from the protagonist, talking about how lightning strikes twice and signing off with, “I’m the fastest man alive.” Goyer is well-versed in the lore, taking several cues from Mark Waid and Geoff Johns’ runs, yet capturing the essence of the character throughout history. We have the occasional nod to writers and artists of Flash’s past - “Gardner Fox Arena”, “Waid Law Offices”, etc. Even the old TV series gets a nod in the script’s portrayal of S.T.A.R. labs and Tina McGee. Worth mentioning also is the fact that Goyer’s Flash could’ve been the first superhero film to really, truly tackle the idea of a public identity, and what consequences that has for friends and loved ones.

    Goyer’s is a very cinematic, grounded take, abiding by the traditional hero’s journey and making the unreal feel tangible. The writer truly understands and appreciates what makes the mythology so cool, allowing the uniqueness of the speed concept to tell the story without sacrificing character and emotion to do so. It’s also cool how Goyer treats Wally’s speed as an addiction, and sets Wally in several slow-motion sequences to illustrate how fast he’s moving, showing the objects around him frozen in time. While the rules of the Speed Force aren’t quite as defined as they could be, the writer packs enough visual intrigue to merit commendation.

    Goyer’s lone slip-up, as was the case with Man of Steel, is that he grounds his Flash in relative humorlessness. The super-serious take on the character is especially baffling, given West’s fast-talking nature in the comics, as well as the hero’s light, campy Silver-Age origins that always portrayed Flash as a colorful, vibrant character. In addition, Goyer’s writing also struggles during the more clichéd romantic segments with Tina, who’s written more like Rachel Dawes circa Batman Begins than Lois Lane circa Man of Steel; female leads have never been Goyer’s strong suit and it shows. Overall however, Goyer’s is the most solid foundation of all three drafts and, with a little tweaking, could still prove a massively entertaining installment in DC’s live-action canon.

    ***

    With Goyer off the project, Warner maintained that certain elements of his draft would be used in later drafts. A year later, TV writer Chris Brancato submitted a new draft dated September 4th 2007, which the studio gained enough confidence in to hire Shawn Levy (Real Steel), and later David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) to direct.


    Brancato begins with a gushing description of Flash’s presence in Keystone City before showing both Barry and Iris Allen preparing for a visit from Wally. Wally, 14, is an abuse victim, a world-weary punk who thinks The Flash is lame, and wonders aloud why the hero would devote his life to fighting crime. Wally even steals a car to get his speed kicks and gets himself arrested. Barry picks up Wally at the police station where he works, but not before Wally meets Barry’s intern Linda Park, 18, and quickly falls for her. He’s crushed when he sees that she’s really after Hunter Zolomon, 24, another policeman. Barry, picking up on Wally’s desire for all things fast, tries to bond with Wally by riding dirtbikes together. “It’s not about the speed, it’s about what you do with it,” Barry says.

    One day when Barry brings Wally along to the station, a fire breaks out and Wally is soaked in chemicals trying to save an unconscious Barry, whom we learn was killed that night. Ten years later, Wally becomes a motocross racer wearing the Flash emblem on his suit. He’s more jaded than ever, even telling a young fan with visible bruises on his body as a result of abuse to, “toughen up.” Wally’s best friend is John Harris, an original African-American character in a wheelchair. Linda is now dating Zolomon, and Aunt Iris is now a state senator who promotes sustainable energy and being green. The mayor of Keystone is Vandal Savage, who’s also owner of the Savage Energy Company, where his assistant Mark Mardon works. Fans will instantly recognize what those names mean for the plot ahead.

    Later, Iris and Wally are caught in a lightning storm, which takes the life of Iris. Wally holds her dying body while she confides that there’s a secret to the ring Barry always wore. The lightning seems to activate Wally’s powers, causing him to suddenly “appear” places quickly and not know how it happened. After Iris’ funeral, Wally and John find Barry’s Flash suit in his ring and decide to test the limits of Wally’s speed; he is shown running up buildings and even briefly reversing time’s flow. There are several “gags” of police officers with speed guns catching Wally travelling several hundred miles per hour, and assuming their equipment must be broken.

    Wally begins to suspect Iris was murdered, and we soon learn that Savage and his mistress Samantha are to blame. Wally investigates Savage’s home and stumbles on a collection of ancient weapons from across the world in his basement. Savage finds Wally and incapacitates him, then calls upon Hunter Zolomon to kill him. Zolomon is revealed to have been in on Barry’s death as well, and is shocked when Savage confides in him he is actually immortal and has lived for centuries.

    In a hitch, Wally uses his vibrating ability to travel back in time and contact Barry, who vaguely references the Speed Force’s ability to allow them to communicate. Barry races Wally and teaches him the ropes, like how to run over water and vibrate through brick walls. Returning to his own time, Wally confides in Linda his suspicions of Savage on a dinner date, but has to keep running out to defeat the many villains, all minor Flash rogues including Pied Piper and Rainbow Rider, who have been sprung from prison. Seeing his exhaustion after ever disappearance, Linda asks Wally, “Do you have a coke problem?” to which Wally replies, “No…speed.” Ha.

    Savage soon enacts his plot to destroy Keystone City and then the world, in order to start back with one Adam and one Eve in the beginning of a new age. Using Mardon’s weather technology, Savage creates several cyclones to destroy the city, but Wally dissipates them by creating his own counter-cyclones. Flash also fights raging flood waters, before finally defeating Savage and preventing a hoard of bombs from falling on the city to finish the job. Wally and Linda confess their feelings for each other, and Linda later asks Wally if he does everything fast. “Not everything,” he says, and kisses her, before hearing a cry for help and speeding off into the night.

    Where Goyer’s draft had an edge in its storytelling, Brancato’s feels tighter in its special effects and speed sequences. Despite a few cheap-sounding sequences when, for example, Wally evades being hit by a bus by merely “appearing” to the side of the road as it passes, Wally’s powers are written far more uniquely than Goyer’s slow-motion sequences. I particularly liked the sequence when Wally searches every face in Keystone City like a lineup until he finds the man he’s looking for.

    Still, this is a far less weighty, far more studio-friendly draft, bearing significantly weaker dialogue, pacing, and character motivation, on top of a predictable antagonist despite the story’s “whodunit” mystery aims. Brancato doesn’t seem nearly as enamored with the Flash mythology, cramming the entirety of his rogues into the script and robbing them all of any sort of depth. Why not save these villains for sequels? Could a Flash franchise not provide as awesome a cinematic rogue’s gallery as Batman’s? And like Goyer’s draft, the script isn’t nearly as light and funny as it should be, with few gags that aren’t tired clichés. Still, I appreciated Brancato’s attention to the Barry/Wally bonding sequences, which are appropriately emotional.

    It’s unknown what caused Brancato’s draft to be shelved, but sources indicate the writer is still being credited for the film on even later revised drafts by Geoff Johns. Whether elements of his work survive in future rewrites remains to be seen, but the adaptation’s subsequent draft seems to quell that notion.

    Three years later, when it seemed all but certain Warner’s Green Lantern from writers Greg Berlanti, Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim would be a success, the studio immediately put them to work on scripts for both a Lantern sequel and a Flash movie designed to co-exist within the same universe. As with Lantern, Berlanti himself would be a possible candidate to direct. Owing to Geoff Johns’ recent changes in Flash comics continuity, the focus of the film would be shifted squarely on Barry Allen, with producers choosing instead to save Wally for later installments. In discussing his approach to the character with SciFiNow, Guggenheim said, “The Flash – to me – is about pure expression. Flash is untethered to the limitations of time and space – he can be everywhere at once and with that, I think, comes a certain freedom. Who hasn’t wanted to be faster? To get someplace quicker?” The writer later revealed, “With Green Lantern, what we were doing was combining a space opera with a superhero movie. Here, we’re combining a crime thriller with a superhero movie. There's also an element of a sports movie, because the character is so physical and I feel like there is an athleticism to his power that other superheroes don’t have. I think that's pretty cool.” Co-writer Berlanti further explained, “Though Barry Allen was a little lighter in the comic, I think because of the nature that he was a CSI and moved in this world of crime before this stuff happened. I think it's tonally somewhere in between 'GL' and 'Dark Knight.' It's actually a little bit darker than when we were working on (GL), because you're dealing with somebody who is already a crimefighter in a world of those kinds of criminals and that kind of murder and homicide.”

    With a draft dated February 16th, 2011, the adaptation would’ve likely received its evasive greenlight sometime around the summer of 2011…that is, if Green Lantern hadn’t been the leading cause of cyanide ingestion in adolescent viewers that year. The writers have since gone on to develop CW’s Arrow on a medium far better suited to their strengths. It’s soon to be joined by their announced Flash pilot this Fall, and we can already see several elements from their draft retained in their portrayal of Barry Allen for the small screen.


    We open with voice over from Barry Allen, narrating and introducing his speedy abilities over a sequence of him zooming around town stopping generic problems like a girder falling and a mugging. Flash back to two weeks earlier, the ever-late Barry is a CSI police detective in Central City, which neighbors Keystone. Barry is infamous for taking on open cases, aiming to help victims find justice, very similar to the characterization seen in Arrow. Barry is called to a crime scene on the river, where a Jane Doe has washed ashore with no signs as to how she died. Later, Barry meets up with Iris West, his childhood friend and unrequited crush, who has lost her job as a newspaper reporter. She invites Barry to dinner, but he declines. That evening while examining the dead body, Barry flashes back to his childhood, when his mother pushes a Jay Garrick comic over the textbook he’s reading, telling him, “sometimes you have to step away from a problem to see it more clearly.” She takes him for ice cream, where they see in the distance the legendary scientist Dr. Eobard Thawne’s tower and talk about his building a particle accelerator. Back in present day, Barry theorizes the victim could’ve been exposed to extremely cold temperatures, but when he approaches Police Chief Chyre requesting a mass spectrometer to confirm it, Chyre tells him to “get some sleep” and “get laid.”

    But Barry is driven to avenge his victim, and ends up sneaking into S.T.A.R. Labs with a school tour to find the spectrometer. He’s caught by an employee Valerie, who kicks him out, but feels bad doing so. Barry returns home to find he’s forgotten Iris was having a party, and runs over to her apartment to find its an engagement party – she’s marrying a man named Nathan Newbury. A ten-year-old Wally West cameos briefly before being sent to bed. Barry starts to leave before Iris catches up to him. Barry congratulates her but leaves full of regret; Iris heads back inside with a brief look of disappointment. Returning to his place, Barry finds Valerie has sent him the data he needed on the victim, but when a rainstorm blows the window open, a bolt of lightning cracks through it and sends Barry flying across the room. Mid-blast, Barry again flashes back to his childhood, he and Iris playfully flirting as children, his father losing his job, and opening his front door to find his mother murdered and his father blamed for it, before being sent to live with Iris’ family. In the present, Barry is rushed to a hospital, where he wakes up to find he’s seeing things in alternating slow and sped-up time. Eobard Thawne, in his 40s, pays a visit to the hospital to take Barry into the care of his scientists at S.T.A.R. Labs.

    Valerie and a group of other scientists begin to test Barry’s abilities, collecting data on the speed Barry travels and the calories he expends. Barry outruns a dragster, clears a canyon, heals two compound fractures in hours, and even stops a nearby tornado by running against its spin. He even finds time to send Chyre the info on the victim, forcing Chyre to publically announce there is a serial killer on the loose who is freezing his victims to death. We later learn this killer is Leonard Snart, or “Cold” as he’s dubbed by the press. Cold kidnaps Chyre and kills him on live TV before threatening to destroy a major Central City landmark in five days. Barry resolves to help out with the crisis, but not before Thawne promises to use his developing particle accelerator to help Barry reach an alternate universe where the people he’s loved and lost may still be alive.

    Iris, now an independent blogger, discusses the pattern to the Cold killings with Barry. We learn that it is the train station Cold is targeting, and when Barry shows up to stop him, Cold sabotages a train full of people to ensure his escape. Barry is forced to pull each individual passenger off the train one by one. But in examining the security cam footage in the tunnel, Iris thinks she sees a man’s foot within the tornado pulling people off the train. At dinner with Nathan and guest, Barry mocks her theory, further tensing their relationship. Iris takes to her blog to talk about the “guardian angel” that saved the people at the station, whilst Valerie and the gang at S.T.A.R. fashion Barry with a familiar red costume, unbeknownst to Thawne. The team hits the bar afterwards, and when Iris and Nathan see Barry out with Valerie, she becomes jealous. That night, Barry and Valerie have sex. The following morning, Barry and Iris again discuss Cold, determining that he isn’t a serial killer, but a hitman working for someone. Barry gets a call and learns Cold’s next target is Nathan, who is soon frozen and near death. When Flash shows up to rescue Nathan, Cold attacks Iris, but Flash bests him, confirming to Iris he’s real. Snart is taken into custody, and Flash leaves Nathan with paramedics and provides a handwritten set of instructions on how to treat him.

    Iris goes to Barry’s house and says she recognized his handwriting on the note, revealing him to be the guardian angel she’s been writing about. They share an intimate moment, but Barry steps back and tells her she should be with Nathan. Barry goes to interrogate Cold, who cryptically announces, “he’s come for me,” before Barry is punched at super-speed by an unknown black-suited speedster. The two fight, and Barry learns this speedster is the one responsible for killing his mother and framing his father. But the villain beats him, leaving Barry alive with the mandate for him to, “stop running.” Later, Nathan admits to Iris he laundered money for what were later Cold’s victims, and all the money traces back to S.T.A.R. Labs. Iris is disgusted. Valerie learns the particle accelerator has a secret function – to steal away Barry’s speed. Hearing this from her, Thawne is revealed to be the dark speedster, and stands up out of his wheelchair and kills her. Learning this, and fearing Thawne will kill Iris if he runs again, Barry wants to stop being Flash. But once all the criminals he put away in Iron Heights prison (including Cold) are released, and bombs have been planted all over the city, Barry becomes Flash once more, defusing the bombs and stopping the criminals. Cold kidnaps Iris, while Thawne explains to Barry that they were mortal enemies in another reality, so he used his accelerator to travel to a new one and slowly destroy Barry’s life, then steal his speed. Cold attempts to shoot Iris with a cold needle, but Flash backhands it into Cold’s chest, and Cold dies feeling, “warm.” Meanwhile, the particle accelerator begins creating a black hole and sucking everything into it, fulfilling Thawne’s plan to destroy this universe and travel to a new one. Flash stops it in the same way he stopped the tornado – running counter to the flow, all while pushing Thawne back into the Speed Force. Barry is briefly united with his aged mother and father in the Speed Force before Iris revives him. With the crisis averted, Iris waxes poetic about Flash’s heroism while Barry monologues in voice over while running through the city. Finally, in a post-credits sequence, Flash skids to a halt after seeing something in his path. It’s Green Lantern, who tells him, “Lightspeed. Not bad.”


    While the Green/Berlanti/Guggenheim draft isn’t a bad start, it’s also the least impressive of the three drafts, a bland, predictable, largely plot-driven take whose overall tone and approach leaves much to be desired. Which, in retrospect, is exactly what plagued Green Lantern: too ordinary a template left room for a mess of other cooks to enter the kitchen and make things worse. The story beats are there, the characters are there, and some inspired moments of dialogue and emotion are there. Even references to past Flash authors, in the form of “Infantino’s Diner,” “Wolfman Foundry,” etc., are there. What isn’t there is a compelling reason for translating the character and his iconic mythology to a cinema audience.

    At least Flash’s powers are well-written, described as “Flashtime,” or slo-mo sequences showing Barry mentally calculating the number of people nearby and determining what course of action he must take, including how much force he has to exert to do it. It’s actually a pretty solid arc for Barry, the quintessential everyman who’s meticulously scientific and an all-around nerdy nice-guy as he should be. His motivations for becoming a hero are clearly illustrated, and his character flaw of constantly being late is carried through to the script’s climax. This is also the best draft in terms of its romantic lead; Iris is a well-written character and a more dynamic foil for Barry to pine after.

    But like Barry himself, the script is too slow to start, and far too concerned with its grisly, unengaging CSI mystery subplot and silly attempts to filter the ordinarily bright, colorful, lore through a darker lens, to really get moving until the third act. It misses out on the super-heroics, the mysticism of the Speed Force that’s present in most modern Flash comics. In retelling Flash’s origins, those comics often feature the recurring image of Flash running so fast he ends up burning right through his shoes. This script includes the scene, but reads, “Barry looks down at his FEET, raw and bloody from the abuses of speed.” Seriously? It’s The Flash for God’s sake, would it kill these writers to embrace the cartoonyness of the character a bit? We don’t even get to see the red suit until page 72, meaning the entire first act and much of the second act features the awkward juxtaposition of a CSI detective being able to run really fast, without actually becoming a superhero until the very end.

    Guggenheim and Co. get bogged down in the post-Dark Knight mentality of “darker” without really understanding what it is that made that film in particular work so well. Their Flash is incredibly derivative, even pathetically so at times, borrowing the latter film’s lines without half the profundity. The term “silent guardian” is used more often than once, and Barry even has voice over which reads, “I’m an eyeblink. A sunburst. A FLASH.” Ugh.

    Then there’s Captain Cold, a far more interesting character in the comics, here reduced to the role of a stock serial killer in a bad horror movie and a generic Heath Ledger Joker clone. The script even deviates from the comics to give Cold a clichéd origin involving his family dying in a house fire. And to top it all off, when Cold is booked and arrested, he’s reported to have, “no fingerprints. No ID.” Might as well toss in “nothing in his pockets but knives and lint,” while we’re at it.

    The CSI angle and crack team of S.T.A.R. Labs employees are, in truth, far better suited for the writers’ more fitting TV roots than the big screen, which is why I’m happy to see them develop the property for the CW instead, though hopefully with a bit more refinement.

    ***

    While none of these drafts are perfect, all three prove to be exciting prospects and solid starting points for a Flash feature film. So why hasn’t Warner pulled the trigger yet?

    Well...because it’s hard.

    It’s hard doing justice to a character with such a complicated mythology, one which demands a whole new kind of special effect to portray believably. Speed effects, alternate universes…these elements require an entirely new visual dynamic. Much in the same way Richard Donner developed and revolutionized flying effects for 1978’s Superman: the Movie, a Flash film would need a director similarly dedicated to bring the world of the character to life in a big, bold way. I don’t think Warner has found that director yet.

    But the potential exists, nonetheless, for not just a really cool DC adaptation, but a really cool feature film altogether. In terms of influence, perhaps looking to the humor and color of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, the character definition of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, and most importantly, the grounded, yet good-natured verisimilitude of Donner’s Superman, The Flash could readily be the very definition of fun summer escapism.

    In short, The Flash was practically born for the silver screen, and with DC finally gearing up for more DC films, it’s time to give Flash his time in the spotlight. Hopefully in the near future, be it on the small or silver screen, we will believe a man can…er…run really fast.

    Ryan Maloney is a freelance writer/blogger maintaining Heraldic Criticism, where you can read more of his critiques of comics, movies, and comic book movies.



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    With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. struggling to reverse its ratings slide, Marvel has decided to bring in another big name guest star from the Cinematic Universe - and the first who isn't associated with S.H.I.E.L.D. - with Thor and Thor: The Dark World star Jaimie Alexander set reprise the role of Lady Sif for another visit to Midgard in the fifteenth episode.

    As posted on the official Marvel site, "Sif has come to Earth with a very specific mission. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you just what brings her to our neck of the woods just yet." Of course, we've already seen one Asgardian in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Peter MacNicol's Professor Elliot Randolph, so perhaps it could tie in with that?

    Are you glad that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is bringing in another familiar face for a guest role, and if you've already switched off, will you be tuning back in for Sif's appearance? Let us know in the comments below....



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    Next Friday two titans of the boxing movie will step into the ring together as Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro square off in director Peter Segal's (Get Smart) sports comedy Grudge Match, and thanks to James Kleinmann we've got an exclusive video interview with the two screen legends, which you can check out below...

    In Grudge Match, De Niro and Stallone play Billy “The Kid” McDonnen and Henry “Razor” Sharp, two local Pittsburgh fighters whose fierce rivalry put them in the national spotlight.  Each had scored a victory against the other during their heyday, but in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, refusing to explain why but effectively delivering a knock-out punch to both their careers.  Thirty years later, boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart; Think Like a Man), seeing big dollar signs, makes them an offer they can’t refuse: to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all. But they may not have to wait that long: on their first encounter in decades, their long-festering feud erupts into an unintentionally hilarious melee that instantly goes viral.  The sudden social media frenzy transforms their local grudge match into a must-see HBO event.  Now, if they can just survive the training, they may actually live to fight again.


    Grudge Match opens int he UK on January 24th and also stars Alan Arkin (Argo), Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) and Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead).


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    Wonder Woman in Justice League: WarThis week, Warner Bros. announced a "stealth release" for the kiddie-friendly JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time, but there's another animated b movie on the horizon, with February bringing us the first DC Universe Animated Original Movie of the year in Justice League: War. Ahead of its release, the studio has debuted a new clip featuring the Amazon Princess taking on a bunch of parademons; check it out after the official synopsis...

    When the powerful Darkseid and his massive, relentless forces invade Earth, a group of previously unaligned super heroes – misunderstood and, in some cases, hunted by the authorities – discover the only way to fend off the attack will be to work together as a cohesive unit. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Shazam and, in his origin story, Cyborg combine their respective talents in an all-out battle to save the planet. 


    Justice League: War is directed by Jay Oliva (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) and is set to feature a voice cast that includes Jason O'Mara (Life on Mars) as Batman, Alan Tudyk (Firefly) as Superman, Michelle Monaghan (Source Code) as Wonder Woman, Justin Kirk (Weeds) as Green Lantern, Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs) as The Flash, Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) as Cyborg, Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings) as Shazam, Steve Blum (Young Justice) as Darkseid, Bruce Thomas (Birds of Prey) as Desaad, and Rocky Carroll (NCIS) as Silas Stone. It will hit shelves on February 4th.



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    As we all know, Marvel Studios is set to take its Cinematic Universe into the far reaches of space this year with Guardians of the Galaxy, and some new promotional artwork has surfaced online via Guard the Galaxy, while director James Gunn (Super) has also taken a break from post-production to offer a few words about the cosmic superhero ensemble and its label as a "risky" property...

    Guardians of the Galaxy promo artwork

    Guardians of the Galaxy promo artwork

    Guardians of the Galaxy promo artwork

    "I don't think it's the riskiest Marvel property," Gunn tells Total Film (via CBM). "I think Iron Man was by far the riskiest. It was a film company that didn't have much, raising money to make a film based on a property that wasn't that much more well known than Guardians of the Galaxy. So I think it's not even close to the riskiest Marvel property... For me this movie is about family. It's about a bunch of people that don't have a family and they learn to love each other. And I think it's about giving a shit. I think we live in a world where we're taught that not giving a shit is the coolest thing, and this is a movie that says it's really OK to give a shit...We're Marvel Cosmic, we're in the outer space of Marvel. I've said this before, but I think of The Avengers as The Beatles and the Guardians are The Rolling Stones. That's how I feel about the group."

    Guardians of the Galaxy is set for release on August 1st, with a cast that includes Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) as Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Into Darkness) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (Riddick) as Drax the Destroyer, Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) as Rocket Raccoon, Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious 6) as Groot, Benicio Del Toro (Sin City) as The Collector, Lee Pace (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) as Ronan the Accuser, Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) as Nebula, Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) as Korath, John C. Reilly (Step Brothers) as Rhomman Dey and Glenn Close (Damages) as Nova Prime Rael. 


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    Some hugely disappointing news this morning for DC fans - just weeks before it was due to begin filming, Warner Bros. Pictures has announced that Zack Snyder's eagerly-anticipated Man of Steel sequel Batman vs. Superman has been pushed by to May 2016, "allowing the filmmakers to realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story."Batman vs. Superman's original release date of July 17th 2015 will now be occupied by Pan, director Joe Wright's adaptation of the classic J.M. Barrie tale Peter Pan.

    "“We are happy to take advantage of these coveted summer dates, which are perfect for two of our biggest tentpole releases. We share the fans’ excitement to see DC Comics’ most popular figures, Superman and Batman, together on the big screen for the first time, which will now be arriving in theatres in May 2016. Peter Pan has delighted people of every generation for more than a century, so we are thrilled to bring him back to the screen next summer for today’s moviegoers," said Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution at Warner Bros.

    How do you feel about the news that Batman vs. Superman has been pushed back ten months? Are you pleased that Warner Bros. is taking the time to get the film right, or are you disappointed that we'll have to suffer through more rumours and speculation before cameras finally start rolling? Let us know in the comments below...

    The Man of Steel sequel will now hit on May 6th, 2016 - which happens to be the same date as one of Marvel's as-yet-unrevealed Phase Three movies - with a cast that includes Henry Cavill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Martha Kent and Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White.



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    Michael Fassbender (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Shame) is getting a lot of attention with his Oscar-nominated role in 12 Years a Slave at the moment, but how do you carry on that kind of publicity momentum? Under a giant papier-mâché head, of course.

    It's for his upcoming movie, Frank, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last night, where Fassbender plays the titular role. The character is loosely based on comedian Chris Sievey's alter-ego, Frank Sidebottom, who appeared in the recent Filth as inspiration for Bruce's (James McAvoy) dirty phonecalls.

    The movie follows Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), a young musician who joins Frank's band, is co-written by Jon Ronson (writer of The Men Who Stare at Goats and part of Frank's real-life band - read a wonderful article by him on that here) and is directed by Lenny Abrahamson (of last year's superb What Richard Did fame).

    Going by the clip below, with the appearance of iPads and whatnots, the movie seems to be set in the present day, suggesting this is not as based on real events as you'd first think (Sievey passed away in 2010). Watch it after the film's synopsis....

    Acclaimed Irish director Lenny Abrahamson follows up his award-winning films Adam & Paul, Garage and What Richard Did with an offbeat comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who finds himself out of his depth when he joins an avant-garde pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Michael Fassbender), a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head, and his terrifying bandmate Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

    Written by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare At Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Men Who Stare At Goats), FRANK is based on the memoir by Jon Ronson. It is a fictional story loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of cult musician and comedy legend Chris Sievey, as well as other outsider musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart.



    Frank premiered last night at the Sundance Film Festival and will be released in the UK and Ireland on May 2nd.

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    Paul Risker chats with Keith Mason about making the jump from sport to the screen and his friendship with Mickey Rourke...

    With Mickey Rourke’s latest foray into the action genre Skin Traffik now in the midst of post-production, Flickering Myth went a few rounds one Friday morning with his bodyguard/henchman Mr. Steiner - former Rugby League and Challenge Cup finalist Keith Mason.

    How did it end? All I can say is a hospital bed is a wonderful place to escape the mad rush that is life and knuckle down to a bit of writing. As long as the morphine drip is working of course!

    A fan of The Goonies and Ghostbusters (instantly earning him an induction into the Flickering Myth family), Keith took us beyond the Rugby star and henchman to discover the aspiring actor. He shared with us his thoughts on how his affection for certain types of films is set to shape his choices, the similarity of the world of sport to the world of acting, and took time to sing his praises of The Wrestler and Tom Hardy.

    Paul Risker: Looking back, what are your impressions of discovering cinema?

    Keith Mason: I liked a lot of the classic films when I was younger, films like The Goonies, and Ghostbusters. Then as I got a little bit older, I always enjoyed crime drama films, but in particular films that had a lot of depth and story to them. Whilst I like all genres, one film that stood out was The Wrestler. It was a film with a lot of depth, and it had a good story.

    PR: Now starting out in film, and being aware of your own appreciation of film, is that something you are using as a guide?

    KM: Yeah, exactly. I would always fit the action man type of role because that’s my make-up, but my acting coach in Los Angeles believes there is a lot more depth to me. A lot of action men have now pretty much been typecast as action men. Sometimes you only see that side despite there being other sides, despite there being a lot more depth to people than just showing someone like myself as an action man, and that’s it. But sometimes there’s got to be a bit more depth to the character, and that’s what I like to work on. The more depth and the more mystery is a good thing, because acting is about maintaining the audience’s intrigue.

    PR: One of the ironies in film is that in spite of the multiple identities an actor assumes the business is trying to pigeonhole actors. Is the challenge for the actor countering that process?

    KM: Yeah exactly mate and I think there are those people who aren’t scared of what the crowd thinks about them, because it is about being versatile. One actor who I can mention and who is a perfect example is Tom Hardy. He’s not bothered what people think of him and for a role he’ll go any way and any place. He’s very versatile, and a lot of actors are scared of being like that.

    PR: As an actor or as a creative person do you think you have to be fearless, to be willing to trust your instincts and just go with what you think is best?

    KM: I think so. You put all the hard work in, and when you audition it is entirely up to them whether they are going to pick you or not. But you just have to go in there with an hundred per cent confidence in yourself and do your best.

    It would be nice to be an all-rounder, but there are not many actors like that nowadays. In fact there are only a handful of such actors, and people like Vinnie Jones still make money, but they are not the best actors in the world. They are typecast as the tough guy and I don’t think someone like Vinnie Jones could play a leading man because he comes across as too rough. I don’t think the crowd could take to him as a leading man like they have with Daniel Craig.

    There are some actors are lucky and others who aren’t, but it is just about hard work and perseverance. There’s the saying that you are not an overnight success, and an actor’s overnight success is maybe fifteen years. It is the same challenge as being an athlete. You put your hard work in and then you let it all out. You better train and diet and look after yourself, and then you have to show your skills on the field. It is the same on the screen. I spoke with Mickey Rourke the other day, and he told me everything I need to expect, what I need to do, and what I need to stay away from.

    PR: You’ve had a successful career in sport, and now it seems you are going for that second challenge. Do you look to challenge yourself, to give yourself something to work towards? As you say it takes perseverance to achieve success.

    KM:
    Exactly mate, but I’m just going to enjoy the process; enjoy the journey, because I am very lucky that I’m in a movie with no acting lessons whatsoever, and to have lines in the film and to star alongside Mickey Rourke, who gave me the call and said “You’ve got the part son.” Thousands and thousands of aspiring actors who act for years didn’t even get a talking part. That in itself is unique and humbling, and I’ve told Mickey “Look, my career as a rugby league player will not last that long, but a career as an actor can last a long, long time if I don’t cut corners, and if I’m true to myself.”

    My acting coach who has been coaching for over twenty years has said that I have talent, but I need to get out there. He’s told me I will get work, but I’ve got to make a few sacrifices along the way. Not everything’s given to me; I’ve got to work my ass off. But with that being instilled in me from the time I was a young man when I was in a lot of trouble, had everything against me and then coming out of it and getting my head down and knuckling down, I think that’s true to who I am right now. Sometimes you meet people and its fate, and I never asked Mickey Rourke to put me in the film. I only asked him for one piece of advice – what would your advice be to me if I ever starred in a film? He said, “Just be yourself”, and I kind of know where he’s coming from now. But when you put that many hours of work in, you can be yourself, you find all these little things inside you that are already there. It is just all about fine-tuning that instrument.

    PR: Everything an actor puts up onscreen is channelled through them individually and their personal experiences which are unique to them. So what Mickey was saying and you are saying is true, even though the idea of an actor playing themselves seems to be in conflict with the filmmaking process. Of course you are channelling the characters on the page through yourself.

    KM: If you have to go through a painful experience or you have to be a certain type of character they are already there; it is already inside of you, and you have already lived the life. You have already been through that experience in one way or another, and then you have to project that personality onto the screen. You probably go through a little bit of pain for an hour and a half, but that’s what it is about: no pain no gain. You have got to search deep inside of you for what this character is. I’ve tortured my body for fifteen years just to be a professional athlete, and that’s a part of acting right there - being mentally tough. To be an actor you’ve got to be mentally tough. You’ve got to have belief in yourself and I’m scratching the surface now but I’ve been lucky to be in a film. Hopefully I’m going to go onto bigger projects and have a career. Where I’ve come from and the mental attitude; my attitude towards sport is very similar to being an actor, and so the worlds my oyster to be honest with you.

    PR: Before you stepped on set you would have more than likely pre-visualised the experience. How did the actual experience compare?

    KM: I hadn’t been sleeping well because I had just gone through a massive court case a few weeks before, which I won. As soon as I saw Mickey I just felt relaxed and everything just seemed natural to me. Then when he said “Let’s go rehearse” I thought we were going away for rehearsals, but we were actually filming. So we went on set and we started working out the lines. I only got my lines the night before, and so you can imagine how nervous I was. But I was myself, I didn’t put an accent on, I spoke clearly, got my lines off and I really enjoyed it. Mickey told me, “Look it’s not all it seems to be is this acting business.” But you know Mickey was saying that because he’s been in the business a long, long time, but this is the start of a new era for me. If I’ve only made a film which is true for me to say just now, “Okay I’ve made a film, let’s just see what else I can do with my life?” Why not? Give it a go and if it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out. It just felt natural, and being friends with Mickey it worked well with me being his henchman/bodyguard in the film.

    PR: A question I should probably ask is how did you meet Mickey?

    KM: I played in the Rugby League challenge Cup Final at Wembley in 2009 for the Huddersfield Giants against the Warrington Wolves. After the game we got an invite to Stringfellows and that’s where I met him. I walked up to him and I applauded him on his film The Wrestler which he had done earlier that year. He just took a liking to me straight away. We swapped numbers and he said to me “What are you man? Are you an athlete are you..?” We were wearing these grey suits with black shirts and ties and I said “No, no I play Rugby League.” When I mentioned that I’d played at Wembley that day he said “Oh I love Rugby, in fact I watched the game.” From there we became friends and I have been over to his place in the U.S. maybe eight times now to stay with him. Two weeks after meeting him in Stringfellows he invited me to the GQ awards, and I went out with him and Jason Statham. So I’ve been meeting these people and because I had four or five years left on my contract, it was nice to be with a different type of company, but they are just human beings at the end of the day.

    PR: You’ve spoken about liking all kinds of genres, and your ambition to create a diverse range of roles. Are there any stories you’d like to be a part of, or are there any genres that are close to your heart which you’d like to explore?

    KM: It would be picky for me to be saying what kind of genres I would like to be in because I am just stepping onto that ladder. So maybe in a year’s time I could say what I would like to be in, but any genre right now would be nice, and just the chance to be in another film. Mickey and I have been working on the film The Welsh Man, the Rugby Union film about Gareth Thomas, who came out as a gay sportsman while he was still actively playing the game. The idea was for me to make a Rugby film but Mickey needed a good idea, a good story and one day he phoned me and he said, “Listen son we’ve got a film.” I have a part in the film, and I’ve put a lot towards the script. But Mickey’s worked his ass off to get the budget for the film, and touch wood it comes off. So look out for that film as well.

    Any types of film: crime, action and even rom-com one day. But I really enjoy watching Tom Hardy. The top actors have a mystery about them, and he’s got that about him, which is why he is so appealing, and why people want to watch him. You just don’t know what’s going to happen next. The best actors are those who can do that, where you ask what’s going on; what’s he thinking? I just don’t want to typecast myself as an action man, but at the end of the day if you are getting work, then you are working. You’re on that ladder and you are making a living. I can’t be picky. I can’t pick what I want to do right now. I just want to put the work in, make a few sacrifices and when I receive scripts I can see what takes my fancy, and what be good to take me forward.

    PR: With The Welsh Man you have been afforded an opportunity to explore another side of the filmmaking process. How valuable has this been at this early stage in your career?

    KM: Someone such as Sylvester Stallone, he was a writer before he became an actor, and look where he is now. He wrote a story about Rocky Balboa, and they wanted to cast someone else in the story but he took a chance and said “No, I want to play the part.” He had the chance to star in the film and he’s gone on to do big things. I do think a lot of it’s to do with hunger as well; you’ve got to be hungry, and you’ve got to have a certain look about you. You can’t look like Sloth from The Goonies [laughs], so you have got to have a certain look about you. But the people I have met out there in America have always been very complimentary, and so the best place for me to learn is LA. I can get the best training there, and I just need to get in plenty of hours of acting lessons and see where I go from there.

    Many thanks to Keith Mason for taking the time for this interview.

    Paul Risker is a critic and writer for a number of on-line and print publications, including Little White Lies, Film International, Starburst Magazine, and VideoScope. He is currently based in the United Kingdom.

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    Delivery Man, 2013

    Directed by Ken Scott.
    Starring Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, and Cobie Smulders.


    SYNOPSIS:

    An affable underachiever finds out he's fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether or not to come forward when 142 of them file a lawsuit to reveal his identity.


    Marketing can be a funny thing. If you've seen the posters, trailers and the rest of the marketing material for Delivery Man, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was 2014's 'Vince Vaughn wacky knock-about comedy'. His mere presence would suggest that the movie carries a light and comedic tone, but Ken Scott's Delivery Man is not that film at all. For starters, it's not even a comedy.

    Delivery Man is an English language remake of Scott's own French-Canadian movie Starbuck in which meat truck driver David Wozniak (Vaughn) discovers, through a mix-up at a fertility clinic he donated to in his younger days, he is the biological father of 533 children. Just as he discovers that his girlfriend Emma (an under-utilised Cobie Smulders) is pregnant herself, 140-odd of his illegitimate children step forward to demand that the animosity clause in the clinic's contracts be removed so they can find out who their father is.

    A quirky story yes, but at it's basic level, Delivery Man fails on two points - which sort of tie into each other; the marketing of the movie the casting of Vince Vaughn.

    That's not to say that Vaughn does a bad job, far from it. This is probably the best he's looked since Swingers as he frees himself from the shackles of being the "loveable and cuddly" man child that stars alongside Owen Wilson, but he is simply wrong for the role. Perhaps its the reputation he has built and therefore carries into a movie, but Delivery Man needed an actor who an audience can take seriously in a 'serious' role and not expect comedy from at any given moment. At times Vaughn does slip into his comedy routines which can be a little jarring against the rest of the story. What's funny is that the almost perfect actor for this part would have been his co-star Chris Pratt, who plays his best friend and lawyer Brett. With starring roles in The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy this year, Pratt should really turn some heads before he takes on the lead role in next year's Jurassic World and he is the kind of actor the David Wozniak role needed - someone who can carry a comedic edge, but still pull out a straight performance when needed. Vaughn's casting further comes into question when placed against Cobie Smulders and while the two are quite good together, their relationship feels false as it's hard to buy that someone like Smulders could fall for Vince Vaughn.

    Before jumping into the second issue with the movie, it should also be noted that Delivery Man is a very "boys own" movie in that its solely fixated on male characters. David's mother is dead, he doesn't have any sisters and when he starts to meet his children, 80% of the focus is put on his sons with only two daughters worthy of note (one of which doesn't appear to have any lines and is treated more as the 'token black girl' as opposed to a character). His girlfriend spends the majority of the movie off-screen mentioned only by name and when she is on-screen she simply serves as a reminder that she's pregnant and to question Vaughn's abilities as a father. But while the gender balance could (and should) have been handled much better, the main theme of the movie is a very "boys own" theme - who holds the right to determine fatherhood.

    And this is where the marketing of the film fails. Delivery Man is not a Vince Vaughn comedy and is instead a drama that is trying to convey a message. The two scenes of "jokes" used in the trailers are perhaps the only scenes of the movie where a joke is even attempted and while there are moments in the film which raise a chuckle and/or a smile, they're surrounded by a very serious tone. The movie delves into tough and dark issues such as parenting a handicap child, drug addiction and the scares that come with premature birth and while it doesn't always handle them with perfect grace (some feel downright tacked on) it just about holds its head above water. Had Delivery Man been given a different leading man and made outside of the Hollywood system, this could have played well to a Sundance audience. In fact, the original movie Starbuck was shown at various festivals upon its release and was runner-up in the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. And, from all accounts, the two films are identical. It may be marketed as one, but Delivery Man is not a comedy. Perhaps it was easier for the marketing team to slap Vince Vaughn pulling an "oh oh" face on a poster to get butts in seats as opposed to promoting a drama about the trials of fatherhood and the lengths one goes to help, support and show his love for his family?

    Delivery Man was never going to be a five star classic, but with a better leading man it certainly could have been four. It tells its story very well, the script is tight (although a little gender-biased) and the acting is solid throughout - even the miscast Vaughn. Like Silver Linings Playbook, this story could have played to an audience who would have appreciated it, but instead it was pointed towards the "teen comedy fan" demographic as they're a) easier to fool and b) larger in number. It's a real shame. Delivery Man is by no means a great movie, but it has a lot of heart and deserved better treatment from its marketing and casting.

    Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

    Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth's co-editors and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.

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    As Chris Evans prepares to kick off the 2014 superhero season, Marvel Studios has released three new international banners of the actor as the Sentinel of Liberty in the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which we have for you right here...

    New international banners for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    New international banners for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    New international banners for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

    "After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy — the Winter Soldier."


    Captain America: The Winter Soldier is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Community) and sees Evans joined by returning Marvel veterans Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola) and Maximiliano Hernandez (Agent Jasper Sitwell) alongside franchise newcomers Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) as Sam Wilson / Falcon, Emily VanCamp (Revenge) as Sharon Carter / Agent 13, Frank Grillo (Zero Dark Thirty) as Brock Rumlow / Crossbones, George St-Pierre (Death Warrior) as Georges Batroc / Batroc the Leaper and Robert Redford (All Is Lost) as S.H.I.E.L.D. chief Alexander Pierce. The film is set to open in the UK on March 26th and in North America on April 4th.



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    Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus, 2013.

    Written and Directed by Sebastián Silva.
    Starring Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffman,  Juan Andrés Silva, Agustín Silva, José Miguel Silva and Sebastián Silva.

    Movie Review - Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus (2013)

    SYNOPSIS:

    As Jamie travels in Chile, he invites an eccentric woman to join his group's quest to score a fabled hallucinogen, a move that finds him at odds with his new companion, until they drink the magic brew on a beach at the edge of the desert.

    Movie Review - Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus (2013)

    Michael Cera's career is developing in a fascinating manner. Having made his name in Judd Apatow comedies, he seems to have chosen a different career path, a path filled with chauvinism, drugs and a strange sense of realism and impressively he has pulled it off. Once you move past the terrible name, Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus is a film that relies wholly on how far the viewer chooses to go with it. The plot stays static but the actors move as the world changes around them, defined by the hallucinogenic powers of the "magic cactus."

    What is most impressive is the believability of the situation. Chilean director Sebastian Silva chooses subtlety over the ludicrous in a manner almost parallel yet poles apart from Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. Fuelled by drugs, he balances moments of absolute high with moments of almost pure clarity. The characters are all believable and most impressively, Cera takes the role on the chin. In a year in which he was portrayed as deceitful and grotesque; This Is the End, Crystal Fairy seems to signal a sudden change in career oath for the one time awkward comedy star.

    Any memories of those surrounding the two leads are all but gone, simply passengers resting on the backs of Hoffman and Cera. To describe the characters as likeable would be false. They feel less like real people, more like figments of a messy high. Maybe this is what the film set out to achieve, a series of characters constantly "off" yet it is almost impossible to discuss the development of the characters. Only Gaby Hoffman develops, and this is only as a result of her taking off her clothes and manipulating those around her.

    The mumblecore movement heavily influence Crystal Fairy, dialogue purely natural and each scene with almost no external influence. In a year in which Drinking Buddies and Short Term 12 stood tall among the hustle and bustle of the Hollywood mainstream, Crystal Fairy looks set to carry on this movement to a whole new audience. Without Cera, the film would feel forced but his presence and his immense likability, even through his gross chauvinism, lifts the film expenentially.

    Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus isn't an easy watch. It's a film that depends less on its plot but more on its single star and how the audience would react to the final product. Whether it will succeed on its limited release is yet to be discovered but it is most certainly a cult film in the making.

    Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

    Thomas Harris




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    Zachary Leeman chats with Jack Reher about the upcoming film Endangered, his adaptation of PIN, and the art of screenwriting...

    Zachary Leeman: Before we get to your upcoming movie Endangered, let's talk about screenwriting in general. Walk me through the moment you went from aspiring writer to a paid screenwriter with people like Billy Bob Thornton reading your work...

    Jack Reher: Man, that's a hole and the white rabbit got pretty damned bloody while stumbling down it. I was doing my undergrad at the University of Minnesota. Business. I had that career plan. You know? Always stayed grounded. On a whim, I signed up for a screenwriting class taught by Thomas Pope who did fairly well early on in his career - fresh out of USC, he was hired to draft DUNE with Ridley Scott directing. Scott left, as did Pope, then Lynch came on. He also did work on BAD BOYS when it was originally set to star Dana Carvey & Jon Lovitz for Bruckheimer.

    I digress... Sorry. I showed up for this screenwriting class, it was standing room only. At capacity, he walked in and said there were 20 seats available but 45 were there to enroll and on standby. He laid out the rules. The following week, 5 people would pitch their ideas for fifteen minutes and those willing to volunteer could have an expanded seat to 25. I was on standby, so I volunteered to go first. Had never pitched. Didn't have any idea what to do. All he said was to 'Tell a really good fucking story that a producer would want to make.'

    The following week I pitched a really bad horror film with sex and gore and lame scares. I got a seat in the class. At the end of the term, he pulled me aside, invited me to dinner with his wife and college aged kids and we had a chat. He knew I was a business major, but at dinner, he convinced me that I should switch up gears and pursue screenwriting. Because I was autodidactic in my approach and he rarely came upon that i.e. I could tell a story, pre-visualize and write, which is difficult with a lot of aspiring writers who seem to slave over drafts for months and months which shouldn't take that long.

    Within 18 months, summer terms, an overloaded schedule, I was able to re-formulate my degree into a BFA in Screenwriting, graduate, and apply to the AFI Conservatory. Now, I looked into USC, NYU and UCLA. All were great programs and more than willing to take my money when I inquired. But AFI was a bit different. It took work to get in there. 1200 applicants worldwide for the screenwriting program, they narrowed it down to 200 based on material and recommendations. That got me an interview there. I was nervous as shit. Sitting in the waiting area. I looked around at the others dressed in nice pressed shirts, slacks, shoes and then there was me: khakis, sandals and a button down that had some wrinkles I guess the dryer missed. Thought I was fucked. Tom Pope advised me to not be nervous. The first words out of my mouth were "I'm so fucking nervous, you have no idea..." Guess that was a bit endearing to them. I even got a compliment on my attire because as they said, writers don't dress in suits to write. I went to school with some geniuses in my class. Some of my fellows at the time were Brad Buecker (American Horror Story), Jawal Nga (The Clearing, Forty Shades of Blue), Gideon Raff (Homeland), and Vince D'Amato (producer).

    Time flew by and after school, it was just hitting the pavement and writing. Struggling. It sucked. I busted my ass. Passed the CBEST so I could teach in LA and continue writing. Couldn't figure out how to crack that door... I ended up geeking out at some horror conventions, meeting people like Jeff Reddick (Final Destination, Tamara) and slowly my friend/industry network grew. Reddick read something of mine, then I ended up writing a project for him. Then later I met Jonathan Hensleigh (Armageddon, The Rock) and he really dug something I wrote so we worked a bit together on something. It was an outstanding opportunity. He gave me some of the best words of wisdom in hindsight, at the time, I was perplexed, but when we were discussing reps, he said--

    "When you're ready, an agent will find you. There's no set path for a writer in this industry and if the journey wasn't difficult, it ain't worth it."

    Man, I was pissed with the idea of that. How hard was it to get a rep? Thought that was the end to a writer's worries. Hardly. I'll get to that...

    A little bit later, I ended up writing a family comedy for David Arquette. He was a fan of my writing and asked me to do it and of course, I hopped at the chance.  Keep in mind, this is after YEARS of writing specs since grad school... 2003-2009.

    It was in early November of 2009 that I was sitting in my car at Pan Pacific Park, thinking, wtf am I doing with my life? My cell phone rang. Didn't recognize the number. I answered it and it was APA calling looking for me. Apparently, someone had gotten ahold of something of mine and the head of motion picture lit there really dug it. I thought it was one of my friends pulling a prank, I kept saying, 'Shut the fuck up, who is this...?' Well, that afternoon, after meeting at the agency, I was signed with them.

    Jonathan Hensleigh's words rang true. An agent found me.

    ZL: What appeals to you about being a screenwriter specifically?

    JR: The blank page. That's what makes it worth it. You're only as good as your next script. The ABC's of screenwriting - always be creating. It's not like directing where you're looking for your next gig. With a writer, your next gig is sitting in front of you. All you have to do is commit to it and write the shit out of it. All these books and jabs online that aspiring people are taking about the craft and yelling "writers can't do this in a script, they can't format like that..." it's all goddamn bullshit. Just write. Read a script by Michael Mann. Read another by John Carpenter. Read another by Dalton Trumbo. Read another by Charlie Kaufman. Find your own style and adopt that. Don't let other people sway you on your technique. Tell a good fucking story, spell check, and always, always, always put the audience first. Not you. Think about whose job will be on the line for bringing your vision to life. Hundreds. You want to create something that will stand the test of time, not get lost among the plethora of misfit scripts that no one will ever see. It's about entertaining the masses. It's about moving people to fear, joy, happiness, thrills or something thought provoking. Not just throwing words on a page and hoping the gore factor or sex jokes sell.

    ZL: Let's talk about Endangered because this movie looks so great. What was the original inspiration for this story? What was the nugget of an idea that started all this?

    JR: I had a ruptured tibial posterior and was in a leg cast. JAWS was on TNT and I was sitting there with my leg propped up. I kept thinking that they don't make films like that anymore. That was a Friday night. I started writing something new that night. I had always thought the idea of Timothy Treadwell aka The Grizzly Man was a sad, tragic story, so I came up with the idea of two brothers reuniting in Alaska after the death of their folks.

    I entitled it RED MACHINE after the name of one of the grizzly bears that Treadwell showed Letterman on his show. When David questioned Treadwell about the name, he responded with, 'That bear freaks me out. I can't connect with it and all the bear knows is its own survival...'

    Supposedly, the Red Machine is the very bear that ate Treadwell and his fiance.

    Three days later, I had a first draft. It was more like a fifth because I rewrite as I write and tweak as I go. At that point, this was before I had an agent, I had begun a pretty good dialogue with the old manager of Adrien Brody. They had read something of mine, the script that Jonathan Hensleigh loved, and told me, whatever I write next to show it to them. So I sent it over to Jere Douglass and a couple days later, she called me and told me that she loved it, that Adrien Brody loved it and he wanted to do the film.

    We pushed hard to get the film going. Adrien met with Gerard Butler up in Toronto and discussed with him the idea of them playing brothers in the film. Gerry and I met back in LA and he was in the middle of reading it. He eventually passed. His character originally died in the script, so that would've been like 3 in a row for him - 300, PS I Love You and Law Abiding Citizen.

    Soon after is when I became repped. They took the script out, within a couple days it was optioned and 14 months later it was shooting. No more Adrien Brody. James Marsden filled that role. Thomas Jane playing the older brother, Beckett, Scott Glenn as Sully, Piper Perabo as Michelle and Michaela McManus as Kaley.  I wrote the role of Michelle as a deaf character because I thought it would be extremely terrifying for the audience to be in the shoes of a very capable deaf woman in the dark woods, unable to hear a grizzly bear tearing down on her during a storm.

    ZL: The production of film leads to rewrites, notes being added to scripts, etc. Does that bother you as a writer or is it just part of the process? Also, how close is Endangered to what you originally wrote?

    JR: The original producer, Hadeel Reda, and the cast loved my script. That's what got everyone attached in the beginning. And then other producers came aboard. That's when everything started changing. I'm really not sure why the studio changed the title. I had a reference in my spec script to Treadwell on Letterman and it worked well. Oh well, not in my control.

    That's what the writer has to be able to do. Separation. And it's a surreal process. You spend countless hours creating something, to see it ripped up & rebuilt then you hear that 'it's not working, or re-shoots or the producers are now changing this or that..." and you wonder why? That's why it's always important to get a strong director behind your material. That's the biggest difference between writing a novel and writing a screenplay. A novel encompasses a universe in an unlimited number of pages. The novelist is master of their domain. With a script, you've got to create a world inside of 90-120. And at the end of the day, the producer/studio is the Master Chief of that.

    I haven't seen the final film yet. It opens in March in Europe. Sort of like how Fox opened TAKEN almost a year before it opened here in the States. The trailer for it's awesome. Audiences are in for some good thrills.

    ZL: How exciting is it to have a movie coming out that stars a cast like the one of Endangered?

    JR: I'm extremely excited about the cast. They seemed to have had a good time with my original script and have expressed interest in other things. Tom Jane and I keep in touch. We're discussing a couple things and same with Piper.

    ZL: Tell me about the Pin remake. It sounds like it has a lot of potential, but it seems like it's been a slow road...are you still involved and where are you guys at in production? What can fans expect from this remake?

    JR: The remake of PIN has been a passion piece of mine for a long, long time. I loved the film as a kid. It wasn't scary, but creepy. I did some digging years back and found out that the rights had reverted back to the original author who also wrote THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE. So that's how the whole process started.

    There were some other tangled rights issues and it took a long while for them to be sorted out.

    I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of remakes. Like JAWS. Why? No need. Or CARRIE... we know her name and we know the story. But a film like PIN deserves a remake. It deserves it because it can be told better. I went back to the original novel, pulled themes from it which were left out of the original film and expanded on things from the original that made it very cool and felt cheated on. Most importantly were the character dynamics and overall psychological terror within it that the film glossed over.

    The story of Leon, suffering from Schizophrenia and his father, a clinically precise man in nature as a husband and doctor, unable to cope with the stress of his life, using a medical doll created from his likeness to COMMUNICATE life's lessons to his kids.

    That's profound. I mean, we've got a young version of Norman Bates, talking to a doll and becoming obsessed with it. He thinks it's really alive.

    What I've done with the material is elevate it to something else entirely. It's a modern day PSYCHO crossed with the terrifying feel of BLACK SWAN.

    I've twisted the hell out of the material and audiences will be scared as fuck by it. I gave PIN room to swing a cat and he's not afraid of PETA.

    We just got a great director onboard. A genre favorite. He's hungry and can deliver the scares. People definitely know his work. This film will redefine him in the industry.  

    ZL: What else are you currently working on? Anything that's got you really excited?

    JR: I just wrapped up adapting CORROSION based on the highly acclaimed novel by Jon Bassoff. It's a cross between Se7en and No Country For Old Men. Mike Macari (The Ring, The Ring Two) is producing. It's currently out to directors. The book made Bloody-Disgusting's Top 10 of 2013 and it's up for a Stoker Award.

    I'm in the beginning stages of adapting FACTORY TOWN which Dark Fuse publishes this coming October. It's Jon Bassoff's follow-up to Corrosion and I just signed on to adapt IDW's WIRE HANGERS comic by Alan Robert for producer Chris White (ABC's of Death, My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen).

    ZL: Sum up the life of a screenwriter in a few short sentences.

    JR: Ahhh, the life of a writer. Hmmm. Coffee. Writing. Trying to hit LA Fitness as much as possible in between scenes. Continuing the good fight for good words on the page. Trying to not let the darkness creep in and affect your next thought and productivity level. Any writer that tells you they're not like that is full of shit. It's a journey.

    ZL: What advice do you have for any aspiring screenwriters out there?

    JR: Remember the ABC's of screenwriting. Always Be Creating. No one can ever take that ability away from you. Embrace the blank page.

    Many thanks to Jack Reher for taking the time for this interview.

    Zachary Leeman - Follow him on Twitter.



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    Our weekly round up of all the latest stories from the world of screen superheroes, including Batman vs. Superman, Justice League, Gotham, Constantine, Amazon, The Flash, Hourman, Arrow, JLA Adventures, Justice League: War Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man 3, All Hail the King, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Venom, The Sinister Six, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fantastic Four, Wolverine versus Sabretooth, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and more...

    Well, it's been another huge week for superhero news, but as always its difficult to decipher between fact and fiction, with several big rumours seemingly shot down just as they were gaining traction. However, we'll get things underway with some official - and disappointing - news from Warner Bros. that Batman vs. Superman has been pushed back ten months and will now hit on May 6th 2016 - the same day as one of Marvel's as-yet-unrevealed Phase Three offerings. The announcement followed rumours that Ben Affleck had injured his leg (or maybe his ribs), pushing back the start of principal photography on the Man of Steel sequel to later this year, although the official reason for the delay is to allow "the filmmakers to realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story." So, that's two years fans will have to go without a DC movie from Warner Bros., and sadly it also means we've have to suffer through a few more months of random rumours and wild speculation about who's been cast as Lex Luthor, or who may or may not be joining the baldy bad guy as a second villain (according to Jason Momoa, he won't be... but we'll see). And of course, the delay adds fuel to the rumours that WB plans to shoot the Man of Steel sequel back-to-back with Justice League, or the team-up is actually just cover for DC's own superhero ensemble. At this point, it's all conjecture, but I guess we can rule out that Flash movie in 2016...

    ...On the subject of the Scarlett Speedster, Ryan Maloney has put together an in depth article on Warner Bros.' efforts to bring the Flash to the screen, exploring the scripts by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Man of Steel), Chris Brancato (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Shawn Levy (Real Steel), David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) and the Green Lantern trio of Greg Berlanti, Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim. Be sure to read it here...

    ...While the news that Batman won't be back on the big screen until 2016 is bound to come as a blow to fans, it looks like we're going to be seeing the return of Bruce Wayne before then. Earlier in the week, Fox revealed that its upcoming Gotham pilot will actually revolve Smallville-style around the Boy Billionaire, as opposed to the previously-rumoured Detective Jim Gordon, and will feature the origins of villains such as The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman. ""Batman is in it, as young Bruce Wayne," said Fox chairman Kevin Reilly. "This is an origin story. This is what I love about it. This is not like some of the things where you’ve bought a franchise, but then you have a bunch of characters no one’s ever heard of, or an offshoot that we make up. This is all of the classic Batman characters, with a young Bruce Wayne, with Detective Gordon before he’s Commissioner Gordon, with the Penguin, with the Riddler, and with the Joker. All of those characters are going to arc and become who they are. I’ve read the script. It’s really good. It’s going to be this operatic soap that has a slightly larger-than-life quality. And we will arc a young Bruce Wayne from a child into the final episode of the series, when he will put on the cape. We’re playing with [the casting of Bruce Wayne] now. He’s a young boy, but my guess would be that he’d be somewhere around 12." And of course, the rumour mill has been churning, with Latino-Review claiming that Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy) was up for the role of "Commissioner" Gordon, before opting for Harvey Bullock after Logue responded that he was too old to play Detective Gordon in the series...

    ...And some more positive news for Batman fans - the classic 1960s TV series starring Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as the Boy Wonder is FINALLY coming to DVD (although not Blu-ray, by all accounts), with a box-set of the complete Batman series due to arrive on shelves this year...

    ...Gotham wasn't the only DC show moving forward this week, with NBC giving the green light to go into production on the script for its planned Constantine pilot, which has been been developed by The Mentalist executive producer Daniel Cerone and Warner's DC go-to-guy David S. Goyer...

    ...And over at The CW, president Mark Pedowitz admitted that the network has decided against moving forward with the Wonder Woman pilot Amazon - although The CW still has The Flash and Hourman as potential additions to its schedule (which already includes Arrow), with Pedowitz providing an update on both projects during the TCA press tour: "I'm very bullish on the [Flash] show. I think what Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns and Marc Guggenheim did introducing the character on Arrow was great. And because of that, we felt that rather than try to squeeze in a spinoff, let’s make it into a bigger pilot. So if we do launch the series, we’ll launch it with a bang like we launched Arrow... "We’re still waiting for a script [for Hourman]. A lot of [pilot] scripts have not come in yet. We’re waiting for the writers to deliver the scripts. As soon as I can get enough scripts with our development team, we’ll start making the recommendations for pilots." And as for Arrow, you can check out a promo for this week's episode 'Blind Spot'here (which includes this rather nice shot of Deathstroke in his new attire), as well as a batch of images from the following week's 'Tremors'here, which see Ollie (Stephen Amell) training the now-superpowered Roy Harper (Colton Haynes)...

    ...On the DC animated front and Warner Home Entertainment has announced a "stealth release" for the all-ages animated movie JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time, which sees the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Robin, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, Flash, Karate Kid, and Dawnstar) battling the Legion of Doom (Lex Luthor, Cheetah, Solomon Grundy, Bizarro, Gorilla Grodd, Black Manta, Toy Man, Captain Cold and Time Trapper). Here's the cover art and official synopsis: "Get ready for a battle of the ages when the Justice League faces off against its archenemies, the Legion of Doom, in an all-new movie from DC Comics. A mysterious being known as the Time Trapper arises, and a sinister plan led by Lex Luthor sends the Legion of Doom back in time to eliminate Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman before they become super heroes. For Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg, along with teen super heroes Karate Kid and Dawnstar, the stakes have never been higher, the rescue mission never deadlier. So join the fight for the future as the Justice League confronts its ultimate challenge… the threat of having never existed!"JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time is set for release this coming Tuesday, January 21st with a voice cast that includes Dante Basco as Karate Kid, Grey DeLisle as Wonder Woman, Jason Spisak as The Flash, Laura Bailey as Dawnstar, Diedrich Bader as Batman, Jack DeSena as Robin and Liam O’Brien as Aquaman. Meanwhile, JLA Adventures isn't the only animated DC movie on the horizon, with Justice League: War set to arrive on February 4th, and a new clip has been released which sees Wonder Woman taking on a bunch of parademons; check it out here...

    ...Moving on to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this week has brought official confirmation that we'll be getting both Hank Pym and Scott Lang as Ant-Man in Edgar Wright's long-awaited adaptation. No surprise there, especially as Wright teased as much just last week, but one thing that came totally out of the blue was the announcement that Michael Douglas has been cast as Hank Pym, with the previously announced Paul Rudd (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) taking on the role of his successor Scott Lang. Douglas wasted little time in explaining the attraction of joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe: "I've been dying to do a Marvel picture for so long. The script is really fun, the director is really good. Dylan (the actor's 13-year-old son) will love it. He'll have a picture he can see." And, asked whether he's signed a multi-picture deal, Douglas responded: "(Marvel) reciprocated well, there are sequels. Who knows..?"

    ...No sooner has Douglas' casting been revealed than the rumours started flying, with the generally reliable Variety claiming that Michael Pena (American Hustle) was in early talks for the role of a "tough Latino who has to be ready for a lot of physical play", with Marvel said to have previously considered several actors ranging from Javier Bardem (Skyfall) to Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim). Things then started to get a bit murky, with Latino-Review stating that Collins is "the only other main actor signed, aside from Rudd & Douglas" (in which case it makes little sense that Marvel hadn't announced it), and former AICN writer The Infamous Billy the Kidd claiming the "tough Latino" role in question is a villain named Castillo, who'll be around in the 60s and is the Cinematic Universe of Fidel Castro. Any truth to either of these? Who the hell knows, but those aren't the only rumours those two sources have been spinning this week...

    ...Sticking with Phase Three (presumably), and Latino-Review's big "scoop" of the week was that Johnny Depp is Marvel's pick for the role of Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange - a story that was quickly shot down by Deadline, before The Infamous Billy the Kidd decided to jump in with his own take, alleging that Jon Hamm (Mad Men) has actually already signed on for the role of the Sorcerer Supreme... in a film that doesn't have a director, or a release date, or an official announcement. Considering we've only just found out who's playing Ant-Man - in a film that's shooting in April for release in July 2015 - it's pretty hard to take this rumour seriously, but time will obviously tell...

    ...Michael Douglas isn't the only new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Joss Whedon adding a second bad guy to The Avengers: Age of Ultron in Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted, Dracula), who'll join James Spader's Ultron as the villainous Baron Strucker (a character previously identified by Latino-Review as part of the sequel, in fairness to them). Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson spoke about the hotly-anticipated climax to Phase Two, heaping praise on Whedon's screenplay for Age of Ultron: "I think the script is dark and it’s dry, it’s got this amazing one-liner, glass-cutting sense of humor. Obviously the script is very cerebral. It doesn’t lose that exciting comic book aspect that people enjoyed in the first film, but it’s smart and it feels like the next installment. It doesn’t feel like a rehashing, it feels like these characters are moving forward, plotlines are moving forward. It’s deep and I think that’s why people really respond to the Marvel universe, because the films are fun and exciting and have all that flashy stuff, but there’s a gravity to them. People can expect that gravity this time around..."

    ...Before she returns as Black Widow in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Johannson will reunite with Chris Evans for this year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier - which happens to have had its UK release date brought forward a couple of days to March 26th, as well as getting three new international banners - and the actress has spoken about her role in the upcoming Cap sequel and how it differs from her debut in Iron Man 2: "My first Marvel film was Iron Man 2 and then we did The Avengers and then Chris Evans and I did Cap 2, but I think that film, there's a couple of new characters. The Falcon [played by Anthony Mackie] is a new character in that, and of course Sebastian Stan is kind of continuing his character, obviously he's playing the Winter Soldier. But these characters really kind of take on something bigger than they've ever seen, so I think it's something that they can't do without each other. In that sense, we were in it, kind of neck-and-neck, and it's a bigger responsibility. But then again, even in Avengers, we all play in it, it's not like, 'Great, I'll be booking, like, two days a week and then be eating sandwiches the rest of the week.' No, it's on. We all are fighting in it together, we're all fighting our own battles and our own demons and it's a lot of dramatic work, and the physical part of it, so the films all have their own challenges, but it's fun..."

    Guardians of the Galaxy promo artwork
    ...Vin Diesel took to Facebook earlier this week to post a behind-the-scenes image of himself in the voice booth for Guardians of the Galaxy, while some new promo artwork also surfaced online and director James Gunn offered a few words on the cosmic superhero ensemble, including its tag as a "risky" property for Marvel Studios: "I don't think it's the riskiest Marvel property," Gunn tells Total Film (via CBM). "I think Iron Man was by far the riskiest. It was a film company that didn't have much, raising money to make a film based on a property that wasn't that much more well known than Guardians of the Galaxy. So I think it's not even close to the riskiest Marvel property... For me this movie is about family. It's about a bunch of people that don't have a family and they learn to love each other. And I think it's about giving a shit. I think we live in a world where we're taught that not giving a shit is the coolest thing, and this is a movie that says it's really OK to give a shit...We're Marvel Cosmic, we're in the outer space of Marvel. I've said this before, but I think of The Avengers as The Beatles and the Guardians are The Rolling Stones. That's how I feel about the group..."

    ...The nominees for the 86th Academy Awards were revealed this week, with Marvel's Iron Man 3 the sole superhero movie to feature in this year's nominations with a nod for Best Visual Effects. Iron Man 3 will contest the award against Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Lone Ranger and Star Trek Into Darkness, with the winner set to be announced on March 2nd...

    ...With Thor: The Dark World set to hit Blu-ray next month, Marvel released the first clip from the upcoming One-Shot All Hail the King, which you can watch here. The clip reveals a second Easter egg for Marvel's upcoming Netflix miniseries; as well as being set in Seagate Prison (tying in with Luke Cage), Scoot McNairy's (Argo) investigative reporter is called Jackson Norriss, who in the comics happens to be a former S.H.I.E.L.D. associate and - for a brief time - a member of The Defenders. Could Marvel be using the short to sew the seeds for its TV expansion? We'll find out on February 25th when the Thor sequel hits DVD and Blu-ray...

    Bill Paxton joins Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D....After just two episodes since its midseason break, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking another break, returning on February 4th with an episode entitled 'T.R.A.C.K.S.', guest starring the legendary Stan Lee [watch a promo for the episode here]. Meanwhile, the first of the show's new additions has been revealed, with Bill Paxton (Aliens, Hatfields & McCoys) set to start a (minimum of a) four episode run from episode 14 as Agent John Garrett, who is described as "a rough-and-tumble former cohort of Agent Coulson [Clark Gregg], with a little bit of attitude and cigar-smoking swagger... When Garrett got his promotion to Level 7, he refused to sit behind a desk and doesn't like the formalities of S.H.I.E.L.D. He's going to help Coulson solve some mysteries and is not afraid to rig an explosive or two." And that's not all, for the following episode will give us our first super-powered guest appearance from the MCU, with Jaimie Alexander set to reprise the role of Lady Sif from Thor and Thor: The Dark World...

    ...And it looks like ABC will be adding a second Marvel show to its schedule (assuming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. sticks around for another season), with Reaper creators Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas signing on to act as showrunners on the heavily-rumoured Agent Carter. "We’d be coming on as showrunners and being a part of the series," states Butters."We’re very excited to be included in the Marvel family and to be a part of ABC Studios... [The period setting] is one of the things that drew Michele and I to the project, because she’s such a strong, wonderful character if you’ve seen the [Marvel] one-shot and we’re just very happy to be involved." As for the possibility of Agent Carter making it to series, ABC president Paul Lee seems optimistic: ""In terms of Agent Carter, the script's come in. It's a really good script, written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, so that one certainly has a chance to be on the Network..."

    ...Sony has stepped up promotion for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 by releasing a trio of new posters for the upcoming sequel featuring Andrew Garfield's wall-crawler and Jamie Foxx's villain Electro [see here], as well as a batch of images that gives us new shots of Spidey, Electro, Rhino (Paul Giamatti), Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) [see here]. Meanwhile producer Avi Arad has seemingly dismissed the possibility of a Sony / Marvel Studios team-up for a Spider-Man crossover with The Avengers, stating that: "I for one don't see the value for us in it. I think we're doing such a good job with the Spider-Man universe. Spider-Man is arguably the number one character in the world. He shouldn't make a cameo..."

    ...And as for the Spider-Man universe, we know that Sony intends to expand beyond The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 4 with spin-offs for Venom and The Sinister Six, and screenwriter Roberto Orci has offered an update on the two movies, revealing that they're still considering how to tackle the films, seeing as they'll both be focussing on villains as the protagonists: "That’s the discussion we’re having right now; how exactly do you do that, and how do you do it without betraying the audience and making them all mean? Drew Goddard [The Cabin in the Woods] is going to be writing [The Sinister Six], so it’s kind of his problem. [Laughs.] I’m kidding. We’re all working on each other’s stuff. So we want to be true to it, but there are some anti-heroes in this day and age. There’s been examples of that even on TV – Vic Mackey on The Shield, one of the great anti-heroes of all time. There are ways to milk that story. Audiences have seen everything. They’ve seen all the good guys who never do anything wrong. Is there a story in seeing the other side? That’s the challenge, and that’s the fun. I’m not sure how we’re going to do that yet..."

    ...It's been a pretty quiet week for 20th Century Fox's Marvel projects, although an alleged script leak on X-Men: Days of Future Past has revealed what may be the opening scene from the Bryan Singer-directed sequel, with RadarOnline suggesting that the opening features Booboo Stewart's Warpath and Binbing Fan's Blink, who are holed up in an underground mutant refugee camp. Meanwhile, it's been reported that Josh Trank's reboot of The Fantastic Four will go into production on March 31st, while a first trailer has arrived online for the upcoming documentary Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman's The Fantastic Four, which delves into the making of the low-budget, unreleased 1994 movie adaptation...

    ...And finally, wrapping things up this week on the Marvel animated front and a trailer has been released for the latest Marvel Knight Animation motion comic Wolverine versus Sabretooth [see here], while CBR has a clip from this weekend's episode of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., which sees Galactus heading to Earth in search of a new Herald in She-Hulk.


    Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen - Available now via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

    Gary Collinson






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    After the success of the Halloween-themed Toy Story of Terror!, ABC and Pixar are set to team up again this year for a Christmas Special entitled Toy Story That Time Forgot, which according to Variety will revolve around a "post-Christmas play date for the Toy Story gang where a group of action figures turn out the be dangerously delusional."

    As with the previous Holiday Special, Toy Story That Time Forgot will reunite much of the original voice cast, including Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz, Kristen Schaal as Trixie, Kevin McKidd as Reptillus Maximus, Wallace Shawn as Rex, Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head and Joan Cusack as Jessie.

    Toy Story That Time Forgot will air this year... presumably at Christmas.



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    Ahead of its return next month, AMC has released a midseason trailer for The Walking Dead, giving us a glimpse at what we can expect from the second half of the fourth season. Check it out below....


    Following the devastating events of the mid-season finale, Rick and the group are still reeling from the loss of their home, family, and friends. With the destruction of the prison, we see the group of survivors broken apart and sent on divergent paths, unsure of everyone else's fate. What was a challenging life behind fences and walls grows that much more perilous and precious as they are exposed to new dangers, new enemies, and heartbreaking choices. They will have their faith thoroughly tested -- a faith that breaks some of them and redeems others.


    The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 9th.


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    The Flickering Myth writing team discuss the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards...

    On Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards, which you can check out in full here if you haven't already seen them, or you just want to remind yourself who'll be contesting the awards when the Oscar winners are revealed on March 2nd. Naturally this got the Flickering Myth writing team talking, and here's some thoughts on this year's nominees...

    Thomas Harris: Further proof that "old white people" should probably watch films other than simply assuming that something is good. Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Joaquin Phoenix, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Stories We Tell, Inside Llewyn Davis. A farce really.

    Robert D. Spake:12 Years a Slave was pretty boring so I don't think it should win Best Picture, although Chiwetel Ejiofor was good in it so I could see him winning. Nice to see Philomena get some love but I'm surprised Saving Mr. Banks didn't get any recognition.

    Anthony Stokes:Fruitvale Station was completely robbed, and Christian Bale's nomination was undeserved.

    Thomas Harris: Quick addition: David O. Russell must have something on the Academy members for American Hustle to garner 10 nominations. Only Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner are vaguely interesting.

    Anthony Stokes:I respectfully disagree. I adore American Hustle and would've been upset had the leads not been nominated save Bale.

    Villordsutch:Yet to see either Gravity or American Hustle, though I feel sorry for Gravity as the world knows that sci-fi and fantasty are only given a nomination out of confusion. The Lord of the Rings films only received their Oscars as somebody pointed out the money they were pulling in for the studio.

    Chris Cooper: 12 Years deserves it. Gravity deserved some noms. Hustle had great performances but as a film was highly overrated. Also having just watched Frozen again I support Let It Go being nominated for song.

    Matt Spencer-Skeen: Agree with Chris on Hustle, great performances, story dragged. One word for the nominations is predictable. There is a reason 'Oscar Bait' has become a term and this year really shows it. [Read Matt's opinion piece 'Was Anyone Snubbed?'here].

    Anghus Houvouras: I liked everyone nominated EXCEPT Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. Judi Dench also feels obligatory. Everyone else: awesome. [Read Anghus' opinion piece I'm Getting Sick of Meryl Streep here].

    Robert W. Monk: Glad The Hunt and The Great Beauty got noms for Best Foreign Picture. Both excellent examples of European cinema.

    What did you make of this year's Oscar nominations, and who do you think will be taking home the Oscars come March 2nd? Let us know in the comments below...



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    Roulette, 2012.

    Written and Directed by Erik Kristopher Myers.
    Starring Mike Baldwin, Ali Lukowsky and Will Haza.


    SYNOPSIS:

    The story of Roulette centers around three characters; Dean Jensen (Mike Baldwin), Richard Kessler (Will Haza), and Sunshine ‘Sunny’ Howard (Ali Lukowski). The three characters all suffer from suicidal thoughts brought on by depression and past events, later discovered to be connected through a network of gradually revealed ties. Meeting in a group therapy session, the three decide to ditch the group and retreat to Dean’s house where they subsequently engage in a dangerous and dramatic game of Russian Roulette. As the film progresses, the viewer is introduced to each character’s backstory, bringing to light the reasons for their depression, the actions that brought them together, and the unforeseen connections between them.


    I have to be honest - twenty minutes into this film I had an urge to turn it off. brutal I know and I apologise, but I didn’t flick that switch and I kept my eyes stuck to this only for the number of awards it’s managed to snag (it’s a fairly impressive number for a low-budget, independent film I have to give it that) and give it a full and honest watch to boot.  I realised what was bothering me I was watching it as a film and should have seen it more as a stage play; with that thought in my head this film became a lot better.  On the right side of the stage are our three suicidal heroes playing Russian Roulette (at one point with four bullets the poor bastards) and on the left their own personal hell-like flashbacks. Keeping that set-up in your head will no doubt help you to watch this film too.

    While Roulette is by no means brilliant, it’s interesting and well worth a watch but it falls down in two places and to me they were like a granite shard stuck in my ribs as I watched these two irritations play-out.  The first issue is the spoon feeding which the story felt it had to give the viewer to make sure we are keeping up with what’s going on. I consider myself of an average intelligence and I believe the director/writer Erik Myers is too and I would have liked for him to treat us the watchers as such.  My second issue is Will Haza (Richie Kessler) - this man’s acting occasionally made me laugh out loud (or lol as the kidz call it). This may sound really vicious, but I did physically laugh; for instance I bring in Exhibit A (around 1hr 13minutes into the film) where a gun is pulled on Richie and Sunny, Richie’s fear face buckled me and I nearly spat my Orange and Cinnamon Tea across the room.  The odd thing about it is that Will Haza is one of the award winners who  kept me initially watching this film.  To quickly defend Will, he wasn’t the worst of the actors in this movie as there are a good handful of them (but they didn’t win any awards).

    Not go out on a sour note, I would like to say that the film did snag me and I watched it to the rather brutal end and I was glad I did. Both Mike Baldwin and Ali Lukowski were strong players in this and portrayed their characters and the pain they suffered very well.  I liked the film, I just didn’t love it.  I’m going to look out for future Erik Myers films as I believe this writer-director could give us some powerful films in the years to come.

    Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★

    Villordsutch likes his sci-fi and looks like a tubby Viking according to his children. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.


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    The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013.

    Directed by Martin Scorsese.
    Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal. Jon Favreau, and Jean Dujardin.


    SYNOPSIS:

    Based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, depicting his rise to wealthy, debauched stockbroker and his fall to drug addict and federal prisoner.


    Throughout The Wolf of Wall Street our narrator, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), will break the Fourth Wall and begin explaining some of the complexities of the law breaking he and his cohorts are engaging in to make their millions, only to tell us that we don’t care about things like this and all we need to know is it made him a lot of money. And he’s right. We don’t care about the nuances of the transactions; we’re there for the hookers, drugs, beautiful women and midget tossing just like everyone else.

    The Wolf of Wall Street is a frenetically paced film, never stopping whilst moving from ridiculous scene to the next. I think Scorsese’s true achievement with this film is giving us a film that is about boring, white collar crime and keeping us totally captivated by not making the crime itself the focus, but the life that Belfort and his gang of ex-weed dealers and children’s furniture salesman - Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) - the main focus of the film. This prevents us from truly disliking these clearly horrendous characters who have little care for the people whose money they take, with Belfort remarking “I know how to spend it better than them”.

    The film is funny and exciting, with ridiculous act after ridiculous act being carried out, far beyond the imagination or scope of the majority of its audience. From the hot wax dominatrix, to an excellent couple of scenes involving Belfort and Azoff’s use of some extremely potent ‘Ludes’, it continues to amaze with the lengths and imaginations of those who have more money than they know what to do with.

    It’s also interesting seeing how Belfort turns all the most tangible things in his life into a commodity. He names his yacht after his wife and shows more love and admiration for it than its namesake. One of his employees declares that she loves him, not for his skills or his personality- but for the $25,000 dollar check he gave her when she started.

    The true strength of The Wolf of Wall Street lies in its performances. DiCaprio looks incredibly comfortable and as if he’s enjoying himself more than ever; coming across as so charismatic and charming that, despite his many and admitted flaws, we never hate Jordan Belfort. This is a true achievement considering the political climate and vilification in the press of the bankers who contributed to the most recent global economic crash. The film never shows him feeling any remorse for his actions whatsoever, nor do we see him facing any true consequences for them other than 3 years doing a seemingly comfortable prison stint. He is even looked upon with adulation after he’s out and doing sales seminars.

    Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey both put in good performances as well, with Hill’s transition from fat, nerdy loser to Belfort’s fat, nerdy right hand man being particularly interesting as his arrogance and ego both sky rocket with his success, possibly even more than that of Belfort, who appears that way almost from the off.

    Scorsese does an excellent job with his direction and keeps the pacing so that despite the 3 hour running time; the film never truly drags or feels like it could hit a lull. The fact that this still doesn’t make it close to the top of the list on ‘Best ever Scorsese films’ says a lot more about the man than the movie. The Wolf of Wall Street shows us that greed may not be good, but it can make an entertaining and hilarious movie.

    Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

    Matt Spencer-Skeen


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    The stars of Hollywood gathered in Los Angeles last night for the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards, with the cast of David O. Russell's American Hustle taking home the top award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

    However, the individual honours went to Dallas Buyers Club - with Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto named Leading Male Actor and Supporting Male Actor respectively - while Cate Blanchett received the award for Leading Female Actor for Blue Jasmine and 12 Years a Slave's Lupita Nyong'o claimed Supporting Female Actor.

    On the TV front, there were also successes for Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Helen Mirren (Phil Spector), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) and Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra). Check out the full list of winners here (highlighted in bold and red)...

    FILM

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE
    "12 Years A Slave"
    "American Hustle"
    "August: Osage County"
    "Dallas Buyers Club"
    "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
    Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
    Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years A Slave"
    Tom Hanks, "Captain Phillips"
    Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
    Forest Whitaker, "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
    Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
    Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"
    Judi Dench, "Philomena"
    Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County"
    Emma Thompson, "Saving Mr. Banks"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
    Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"
    Daniel Bruhl, "Rush"
    Michael Fassbender, "12 Years A Slave"
    James Gandolfini, "Enough Said"
    Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
    Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle"
    Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years A Slave"
    Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"
    June Squibb, "Nebraska"
    Oprah Winfrey, "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

    OUTSTANDING ACTION PERFORMANCE BY STUNT ENSEMBLE MOTION PICTURE
    "All is Lost"
    "Fast and Furious 6"
    "Lone Survivor"
    "Rush"
    "The Wolverine" 

    TELEVISION 

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A DRAMA SERIES
    "Boardwalk Empire"
    "Breaking Bad"
    "Downton Abbey"
    "Game of Thrones"
    "Homeland"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ENSEMBLE IN A COMEDY SERIES
    "30 Rock"
    "Arrested Development"
    "The Big Bang Theory"
    "Modern Family"
    "Veep"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
    Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"
    Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
    Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"
    Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
    Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
    Claire Danes, "Homeland"
    Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad"
    Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story"
    Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"
    Kerry Washington, "Scandal"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
    Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
    Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development"
    Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
    Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"
    Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
    Mayim Bialik, "The Big Bang Theory"
    Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"
    Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
    Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
    Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
    Matt Damon, "Behind the Candelabra"
    Michael Douglas, "Behind the Candelabra"
    Jeremy Irons, "The Hollow Crown"
    Rob Lowe, "Killing Kennedy"
    Al Pacino, "Phil Spector"

    OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
    Angela Bassett, "Betty and Corretta"
    Helena Bonham Carter, "Burton and Taylor"
    Holly Hunter, "Top of the Lake"
    Helen Mirren, "Phil Spector"
    Elisabeth Moss, "Top of the Lake"

    OUTSTANDING ACTION PERFORMANCE BY STUNT ENSEMBLE IN A TELEVISION SERIES
    "Boardwalk Empire"
    "Breaking Bad"
    "Game of Thrones"
    "Homeland"
    "The Walking Dead"


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    NBC's serial killer drama Hannibalis set to return to the small screen next month for its second course, and the network has released a first look promo for season two, as well as a new promotional image featuring Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal Lector alongside Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) and Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas); check them out here....

    Hannibal Season 2


    Hannibal returns to NBC in the States on February 28th.


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