CAPRICA Season 1.5 – Trailer

Also from The Chicago Tribune’s Watcher Blog,  GALACTICA spin-off prequel CAPRICA promises to be more action and drama oriented in its second half, now that the basic premise has been established.
In Season ‘1.5″ viewers will see the return of James Marsters (ANGEL) as terrorist Barnabus Greeley, Scott Porter as polygamist Nestor Willow, and John Pyper-Ferguson will return as Tomas Vergis, the bitter business rival of Clyon creator Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz).
At CAPRICA’s Comic Con panel, Marsters said his character is “looking out on a society that’s eating itself alive, as far as he’s concerned…  He’s disgusted.”
The show will also return to virtual world ‘New Cap City’, where the physically deceased character Tamara Adama (Genevieve Buechner) lives on.  
Asked if CAPRICA will get a second season on SyFy, executive producer/co-creator   Ronald D. Moore, said that he firmly believed that it will— although that decision will not be made for some time.
The second half of the first season of CAPRICA is expected to begin airing in January of 2011.

'Galactica' Cylon War Web Series

According to The Chicago Tribune , Syfy’s developing an online BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series, to be called BLOOD AND CHROME, to feature a young William Adama, set during the first Cylon War.
SyFy’s executive vice president of original programming (and the co-head of original content for Universal Cable Productions), Mark Stern told them that GALACTIC and CAPRICA’s Michael Taylor is set write the the script for the new web feature.
BLOOD & CHROME would be made up  of nine or ten ‘webisodes’, each running nine to ten minutes.  The series, if all goes as planned, would be shot mainly using actors against green screen, to be be composited into CGI sets (as was initially done on SANCTUARY).
The article explains that highlly detailed scans were made of the BSG physical sets before that series ended, with the idea already in mind that future projects might make use of them as virtual sets.  
Writer/producer Michael Taylor told the Tribune that  the web series isn’t going to shy away from R-rated “blood and guts and sex”.

“Because this is initially meant to air online, we pretty much have no restrictions in that department.”

Nico_Cortez_RAZORIt’s not yet known if BLOOD & CROME will star  Nico Cortez (pictured), who played young Bill Adama in RAZOR, the Direct-to-DVD Galactica movie. The web series will likely feature  new actors & characters, though one other character from RAZOR may appear.
If BLOOD & CHROME is greenlit and successful, it could be the springboard for more projects of a similar nature—or even a new cable series for SyFy.

Laserblast: X-Men Trilogy on Blu-ray, plus Caprica, Sin City & Hellraiser


EDITOR’S NOTE: The thing about home video is it’s like some kind of all-powerful voodoo spell that continually resurrects old titles, bringing them back from the grave with all the inevitability of Amando de Ossorio’s Knights Templar saddling up for another night-time ride in pursuit of sacrificial victims. In this case the fateful event prompting the return is the upcoming release of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE on May 1, which has prompted 20th Century Fox to re-issue the existing X-MEN trilogy on Blu-ray. Eagerly awaiting the arrival of his own Blu-ray box set, the Blood-Spattered Scribe himself – Andrew Fitzpatrick – takes a look back on the X-MEN series so far….
Although many credit Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man or Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins as the beginning of the modern era of comic-based films, it was, for the record, Bryan Singer who first picked up the mantle last carried by Richard Donner more than 2 decades earlier and brought comic book films into the real world. By working with screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz to help craft a storyline that dared to take itself seriously, Donner’s Superman famously brought verisimilitude to a genre that had been abandoned in camp territory along with the feature version of the Batman television show in the ’60s. In spite of some outdated special effects, Superman still stands today as the high watermark for comic book adaptations, easily shaming Tim Burton’s stiff, overly gothic Batman films of the ’80s. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1998’s Blade that someone figured out how to translate the style and energy of modern comic books into film; unfortunately, it was at the service of a character that wasn’t particularly deep (or well known). It would be 2 years later when director Bryan Singer (a hot property after The Usual Suspects) would tackle one of the most beloved comic properties of all time – a daunting task considering that The X-Men universe is one of the largest in the format’s history, with dozens of characters, hundreds of plot threads (some going back decades) and even alternate universes to contend with.

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X-Men (2000)
After going through a full decade of drafts and directors, Bryan Singer was finally given the nod to direct the film in spite of the fact that he had never actually read the comics. While Singer went to work immersing himself in X-Men lore, 20th Century Fox began doing all they could to subvert the project; the original budget was slashed, resulting in the removal of several characters (all of whom would appear in the subsequent films) and pushing the opening date up from Christmas to June. Compounding this was the last-minute loss of Wolverine actor Dougray Scott due to the scheduling change. Casting a then unknown Hugh Jackson was just one of several dozen things that Singer and company did right from that point on, producing an amazing piece of work on what had to be considered a threadbare budget for a proposed summer blockbuster with complex effects. Not burdened with the decades of intertwining storylines, Singer was free to root the film in the loneliness and self-imposed isolation of the mutants, whose abilities make them outcast and unwelcome – a minority group with potentially deadly superpowers. His other masterstroke was in setting up the leaders of the two mutant camps to reflect the beliefs of two real world counterparts in the struggle for the rights of minorities: the patient, conciliatory Dr. Xavier (Patrick Stewart being handed the second sci-fi franchise that he never expected) is the Martin Luther King counterpart; Xavier’s former ally Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Ian McKellen who had just worked with Singer in the sadly overlooked Apt Pupil), who sees violence as the only path to mutant acceptance, is – you guessed it – patterned on Malcolm X. These are weighty concepts to burden a comic book adaptation with, but thanks to Singer and the superb performances, the show stands up under even heavy metaphorical assault. One of the film’s weaker links is Halle Berry’s performance as Storm, displaying little of the character’s strength and independence, but it also falters in its depiction of the evil mutants; we love the self-satisfied smirk worn by Rebecca Romijn’s Mystique, and her unwavering loyalty to Magneto is clearly more than simple obedience, but with so many fantastic characters to choose from, why lead the pack with farm-league baddie Toad and a dull-witted Sabertooth (who does have an interesting history with arch-nemesis Wolverine that is simply ignored here)? Read a full review of the film here.
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X2: X-Men United (2003)
Rocketing to the top of one of the world’s shortest lists – sequels that are better than the original – X-Men 2 is one of the 2 or 3 great comic book films ever made. A realistic budget and shooting schedule allowed Singer to flesh out the characters carried over from the first film; Stewart gets to play some new sides of Xavier (loved his flash of impatience at Pyro) and McKellen has a grand time twirling Magneto’s figurative mustache. Both also get to share screen time with fellow British theater vet Brian Cox as the mutant-hating Col. Stryker – moments which elevate the material tremendously. Shawn Ashmore’s Iceman gets more to do this time around, thanks to a romance with Anna Paquin’s Rogue and the introduction of future nemesis Pyro (a suitably jerky Aaron Stanford). Several new mutants are introduced as well, with fan favorite Nightcrawler (a terrific performance from Alan Cumming) making a strong impression. Singer has always known to get out of his actors’ way and give them the room to play with their roles, and with many players back for a second time, the vast majority seem to own their roles securely, allowing them to continue to turn in terrific performances even without Singer in the director’s chair (which would never, ever happen.) Individual set pieces are also emphasized here to much greater effect; Nightcrawler’s opening scene assault on the White House set to Dies Irae from Mozart’s Requiem is a stunning sequence (and an utterly believable application of mutant powers in a real-world setting), Mystique’s (and the screenwriters) legitimately ingenious plan to break Magneto out of his plastic prison, and the geeky thrill of finally seeing Wolverine fighting in berserker-mode (“Oh, look – I guess they didn’t know he was home” we excitedly whispered while seeing it in the theater). Read a full review of the film here.
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X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Not quite the catastrophe that its harshest critics made it out to be, but in announcing the hiring of Brett Ratner (after Singer departed for Superman Returns) was, as it always has been, tantamount to saying “just shoot it as quickly and cheaply as possible and leave your auteur bag in the car.” The third installment is saved from being a total mess by the groundwork laid in the first two films by Singer, allowing Ratner to once again stand on the shoulders of giants (his Red Dragon is notable as being based both on a book and a film). The plot, about the mutant’s reaction to a serum that can reverse and “cure” their condition, was inspired by Joss Whedon’s “Gifted” storyline in the Astonishing X-Men comic book series and offers much in the way of ponderable material. Some mutants – like Rogue, whose abilities prevent her from coming into physical contact with others, feels that the “cure” offers a chance at a normal life. But most feel that the serum, created by pharmaceutical giant Warren Worthington II and the distraught father of a son born with feathered wings and the ability to fly (Angel, played by Ben Foster). While Magneto, believing that the government will make the drug compulsory rather than voluntary, marshals his evil Brotherhood to assault the manufacturing facility – reluctantly protected by Xavier’s team. Some of you might notice that we’re skipping over a large chunk of plot there, a chunk that would be impossible to discuss without giving away some twists, and as the film isn’t the embarrassment of riches that constituted the earlier films, it needs all the tricks that it can muster. Ratner simply doesn’t bring anything new or personal to the material; the themes of alienation were obviously important to Singer, and while Ratner certainly should know what it feels like to be an outcast and alone, he doesn’t have the wit to translate it to the screen. There are some good moments, like Angel’s last minute refusal to take his father’s cure (in an interesting side note, Worthington the elder is played my Michael Murphy, who also costarred in 1970’s Brewster McCloud, Robert Altman’s bizarre tale of a young man who fashions a pair of gigantic wings in the hopes of flying) but they’re far outnumbered by the cringer ones (“I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”) Read a full review of the film here.
All three X-MEN films are being released on Blu-Ray in a box set and individually (a thoughtful move since Fox had already released the last film as part of their initial wave of Blu-Ray titles). Each film comes as a whopping 3-disc package – one for the feature, one for supplements, and a third SD-DVD containing a digital copy of the film. All extras from the previous versions appear to be included (though we’re not sure about seamless branching to include scenes deleted from the feature).
Cashing in just a little bit more, Fox also offers a “Blu-ray Comic Book Hero Bundle,” which includes X-MEN, the director’s cut of DAREDEVIL, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN.
Also out this week:

  • Caprica – the prequel to Sci-Fi Channel’s Battlestar Gallactica arrives on DVD. Reviewed here.
  • Sin City – the ground-breaking collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller gets the Blu-ray treatment. Reviewed here.
  • Clive Barker’s Hellraiser gets a Blu-ray release. Also, there is a $50 3-disc Hellraiser boxed set that includes all three films plus three hours of bonus material. The packaging is worth the price alone: it is in the shape of the Lamont Configuration, which slides open like a puzzle box to reveal the discs within.
  • The Arrival – writer-director David Twohy’s minor but mildly interesting alien invasion conspiracy movie that got blown out of the water in 1996 by ID4 – arrives on Blu-ray. Read CFQ’s review of the film here.

Caprica DVD Review

Brilliant and frustrating by turn, executive producer Ronald D Moore’s retooling of the beloved but clunky Battlestar Galactica had been (according to its creators) hard wired with a 4-year life span. This “ticking clock” element infused it with a sense of narrative urgency that helped reel in the show runners when the plot seemed to wander (as it did many times during its final 2 seasons) but also gave the Sci-Fi Channel a giant hole in their schedule that loomed closer and closer. Not that they worried about filler; checking out the programming at almost any given moment showed a network consisting almost entirely of filler, ranging from unwatchable original series (The Dresden Files, anyone?) to ultra cheap DTV movies that would have to aspire to be considered dreck. Battlestar Galactica gave the network real cultural cache for the first time ever – a genuine case of appointment television that the network couldn’t have been looking forward to seeing end. Moore had been planning a series that would take place in the 12 Colonies of the Galactica universe, but Universal (Sci-Fi’s parent company) had dragged it’s feat, fearing the story-arc heavy concept would be off-putting without the strong space-action elements of Galactica to lure unsure viewers. The Caprica pilot film was finally greenlit, and production commenced just as the final season of Galactica was being completed, with the Sci-Fi Channel liking what they saw enough to order a full season of the show that will begin airing early next year.
Caprica follows the fortunes of two families some 50 years prior to the destruction of the 12 Colonies at the hands of the Cylons. Technology magnate Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) and criminal attorney Joseph Adams (Esai Morales) both lose their teenage daughters in a suicide bombing aboard a commuter train in Caprica City. The bomb was set off by Ben Stark, a classmate of Daniel’s daughter, Zoe (Alessandra Toressani) and a member of a mono-theistic religious sect that opposes the traditional Gods of the 12 Colonies, resulting in the group being driven underground. Zoe and best friend Lacy Rand (Magda Apanowicz) are brought into the group by Ben, and hold their meetings inside a virtual world called ‘V Club’, a non-stop rave where all the hedonistic desires of Caprican teens are lived out. Ben convinces the girls to travel with him off the less tolerant Caprica to one of the outer Colonies, though at the last minute Lacy decides to remain just as Ben and Zoe board the doomed train. Zoe has no idea what Ben has planned until he lifts his shirt to reveal a bomb strapped to his chest, which kills everyone on the car instantly, including Shannon Adams (Anna Galvin) and daughter Tamara (Genevieve Buechner). Joseph and Daniel first meet outside of a press conference announcing the identity of the group responsible for the blast; united by loss, Daniel befriends Joseph, inviting him and his 11 year old son, William, to his seaside home. While William plays, Daniel confides in Joseph that he has found the avatar used by his daughter to enter the V Club, an avatar that Zoe had programmed herself using every scrap of the electronic trail that she had left in cyberspace throughout her life. Daniel promises Joseph that he could do the same for his wife and daughter, and convinces him to steal the required technology from one of Graystone’s competitors for a government contract for an AI combat prototype. A native of Tauron (occasionally derided by Capricans as “earth eaters”), Adams seeks the aid of the Taurnese organized crime family to steal the technology, putting him in their debt; however, a virtual reality encounter with the avatar of his daughter – now a conscious entity yet not actually alive, and terrified that she can’t feel her heart beating – convinces him that the approach is unnatural and an affront to the natural order. Leaving Graystone’s home, he feels pride in his Tauron heritage reawakened and tells his son that their family name, Adama, was changed upon his arrival on Caprica and that William should always remember it with pride. Undeterred, Graystone attempts to download Zoe’s avatar into his newly created combat robot; after taking a few short steps (and uttering Zoe’s voice) the robot falls lifelessly to the floor, Zoe’s data gone. We leave Graystone presiding over a successful demonstration for the Caprican military, the stolen technology having been adapted perfectly to the robot’s combat AI. The contract secure, the defense secretary asks him what the robot’s name is – “It’s a cybernetic life-form node” replies a still-despondent Graystone, “But we call it a Cylon”.
Almost impossible to classify, the feature-length pilot for Caprica debuts on DVD in a form that works surprisingly well as both a stand-alone movie and as the launching pad for a series. The edit included on the DVD is considerably more lusty that will likely air on the Sci-Fi Network when the series begins early next year, with a large amount of nudity (contained almost entirely in the virtual “Club V” sequences) that would reek of desperation in a less successful show. As a Sci-Fi show (the genre, not the network) Caprica is unusually daring – a multi-character family drama dressed elegantly in a futuristic trappings, a setting that will not be new to Battlestar Galactica devotees.
We’ve seen glimpses of Caprican life on Battlestar – both in the series opener and through flashbacks during the course of its 4 year run – but we were impressed by how show runner Moore has fleshed-out the society, from the ultra wealthy Graystone family to the working-class Adamas.
Easi Morales is a good choice to play Joseph Adama; a strong actor who we lost track of after a superb performance in Gregory Nava’s Mi Famila, a film in which he co-starred withEdward James Olmos, the actor who has (or will) play his son William in the future (or past). There’s a dark side only hinted at when we see Adama’s ties to the Taurian underworld, and we look forward to seeing what Morales does with the character next year.
Morales’ co-star Stoltz, however, has some trickier character aspects to play: Graystone is a brilliant software developer driven to an unethical extreme in a quest to bring his daughter back to life (we also hope to see Paula Malcomson’s role as Graystone’s wife enlarged once the show goes to series, so memorable was she as Trixie from the beloved and lamentably cancelled Deadwood.) We thought that Stoltz was a bit dry in the early scenes, but the turn that his character takes into Dr. Frankenstein territory seemed to energize the performance – in spite of having to deal with the already hoary concept of virtual reality.
Exploited well in Strange Days after nearly being taken to the grave yard in Virtuosity, the concept of virtual reality has had a rough ride in the mass media, turning quickly from a supposed cutting edge technology into a B movie plot contrivance; fortunately, Jane Espenson and Ryan Mottesheard’s sharp screenplay convincingly ties the technology into Caprica’s recognizable world and in the process nearly erases two decades of narrative snake oil. Morales’ scene with the virtual avatar of his daughter carries an undeniable emotional charge and becomes genuinely chilling.
Caprica City
The show has a cleaner look than the deliberately grainy Galactica Obviously, digital trickery is responsible for much of Caprica City’s ever present skyline, but smaller details represent an interesting mix of practical future-tech and retro ’50s era fashions. We weren’t thrilled to see a return of the religious overtones that became the guiding light of all Cylon storylines during Galactica’s final two seasons, but producers Moore and David Eick have done a truly amazing job turning an iffy concept into a riveting launching point, so we figure they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt.

DVD DETAILS

Universal’s unrated DVD hits shelves on the 21st with a sparkling anamorphic 1.78×1 transfer that highlights the Caprica‘s bright, clean aesthetic – only with a fiber optic cable connection will the show look better when broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel, a notorious repository for highly compressed programming on our dreaded Cablevision system.
Extras include a commentary with director Jeffrey Reiner and producers Moore and Eick, along with several deleted scenes and video blogs, similar to what we saw supplied for Galactica season sets. We found ourselves disappointed to learn that the series proper wasn’t going to begin until 2010, but it’s probably a good idea to let Battlestar Galactica pass further into memory in order to give its prequel the breathing room that it deserves. Recommended.