Korsgaard's Commentary

Hot on the heels of the premiere of the new season of Doctor Who, BBC America was quick to use the occasion to promote some of their other new shows, Intruders being the chief one, debuting right after the Doctor Who opener. While I’ve talked plenty about Doctor Who before – and would like to add know that I am very excited about the direction Peter Capaldi is taking the character, especially since the Twelfth Doctor seems to be taking some cues from the Third – I’d like to draw some attention to another show, that tonight, just had its season finale, and has surprisingly become one of my favorite new shows. The show, if you haven’t guessed already, is The Musketeers.
the-musketeers-bbc-one-season-1-2014-posterBased off the famous adventure stories by Alexander Dumas – and thankfully far more faithful then the last adaptation of the Three Musketeers I discussed on the site – the show follows the titular triage of rogues, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, along with aspiring apprentice D’Artagnan, as they solve courtly capers, face down threats to France, and navigate the shark infested waters of palace politics between the young King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. Though the tale has been told at least two dozen times before in the movies, The Musketeers marks the first true attempt to flesh it out over the course of a TV series, which once you’ve seen the show in action, you’ll only wonder why nobody tried it sooner.

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It should be abundantly clear by now that I am an enormous fan of The Expendables franchise. Not only was the first film my very first formal movie review, and the sequel the debut of my video reviews, but having been raised on old-school action movies, and looking up at the action heroes who played them since childhood, these retro-revival action movies have always been right up my alley. Of course, the fact that both Expendables movies have been utterly enjoyable, action-packed, adrenaline-fueled thrill rides certainly doesn’t hurt, nor does the fact they’ve sparked a renaissance of similar movies.
The_Expendables_3So naturally, I’ve been looking forward to The Expendables 3 pretty much since they announced the film. That said, even Sylvester Stallone admits nervousness about the third film, and that they wanted to try something different to avoid franchise fatigue. Some of the things done have been intriguing – the chosen director Patrick Hughes is a relatively new director, and the choice to bring in a lot of younger actors into the film, along with more genre stalwarts like Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, and even Mel Gibson to play the villain.

Of course, there have been some concerning details too, the biggest being that my fantasies about Sly Stallone disemboweling Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic ass went up in smoke when they decided to pursue a PG-13 rating for the movie, which did a lot to distance fans of the Expendables franchise for its unabashedly hard R-rated action. The movie will be facing much heavier competition at the box office this year too – after a shockingly slow July, the August box office has already seen two movies break the $100 million mark, both 80s throwbacks like The Expendables, both great and terrible. Beating Michael Cera’s career to death is one thing, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Michael Bay at the box office may prove a challenge even for The Expendables 3.

Of course, that doesn’t even touch on the biggest controversy surrounding the movie, and the biggest threat to The Expendables 3 at the box office, that nearly a month ago, a DVD-quality release of the film was leaked online, quickly going viral, having been downloaded on various torrent sites over 2 million times within the first week. Such an event it almost without precedence, but it doesn’t take an expert box office analyst to realize that with a free copy of the movie still circulating online, the movie is going to take a huge hit at the box office.

It’s a daunting road ahead, and the odds are against them, but that’s just the way any action hero likes it. So can the Expendables overcome stiff competition, a PG-13 rating and online piracy to once again take the box office by storm? Join me my dear readers, as I review The Expendables 3.

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My dear readers, as you read this, I’m in the theater watching The Expendables 3, hopefully being overwhelmed by utter amount of adrenaline coursing through my veins, watching the once and future kings of the action genre do what they do best. While you will be getting a review from me tomorrow – with a few other surprises soon to follow – for now, I would like to share with you the handiwork of Garrison Dean, a director and video editor whose fan trailers for the Expendables movies manage to be just as awesome as the movies themselves.

This is Garrison Dean’s recently released trailer for The Expendables 3

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Today the new Ninja Turtles movie comes out, and though it should surprise absolutely nobody, it’s utter and complete garbage. Why would it be anything less? It’s produced by Michael Bay, directed by the hack who made Wrath of the Titans, and written by a triage of hacks whose best work was the awful Kristen Stewart Snow White movie. The plot and action scenes rip off the very worst of the corporate conspiracy/chosen one tropes seen in The Amazing Spider-Man movies, yet somehow made even dumber. It throws the TMNT mythos and tropes under the bus, even after fan outrage forced them to change plans to make them trans-dimensional aliens or have a white guy play Shredder. The biggest name attached to the movie is a toe-thumbed anti-Semite who proceeds to turn April O’Neil into an empty sex pun. The special effects are so cheap looking the trailers for the film had people compare the turtles to Shrek, and the trailers show the GOOD shots from the movie, with most of the rest looking cheap even by special effects standards a decade ago. To quote Bob Chipman over at The Escapist, it’s the worst thing to happen to turtles in a movie since Cannibal Holocaust.

Again, this shouldn’t surprise anyone – if it does, or you ignore all the warning signs in some forlorn sense that ‘maybe it won’t be so bad’ that’s fine, but you’re also why a Transformers movie with a running gag around statutory rape just became the first movie of 2014 to make $1 billion at the box office. Please, unless you want a future that includes Ninja Turtles 5: Revenge of the Dark Side of Extinction, with Shia LeBouf playing Casey Jones, don’t give this movie your ticket money. Go see The Expendables 3 next week. Go see Guardians of the Galaxy again. Heck, rent any of the original movies, even the third one is better than this travesty.
Casey-Jones-The-Movie-posterThat said, I may have something for those of you wanting a fresher dose of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action without the bad taste the new film will leave in your mouth. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Casey Jones.

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Today my dear readers, I am literally taking a stroll down memory lane. For the first time since 2010, I am standing in Fort Gordon, Georgia, a military base where I spent a year of my time in the US Army. I’ll be the first to admit, my time here had its ups and downs, but save perhaps the intense and unforgettable ten weeks I spent in basic training, had more of an influence on who I am today than perhaps any time of my life. So needless to say, it got me reflecting on the old days, and upon lingering thoughts of the greatest paradox about military service.
The_Soldiers_CreedThat for better or worse, you will miss it.

While nostalgia for the past is certainly not uncommon, regarding military service, I know better than to look back with rose-colored glasses. I will be the first to admit that time in military service, mine included, has more than its fair share of heartache and hardships. I’m not just talking about the rigors of basic training either – the fact you signed up to have your body and spirit broken and rebuilt in BCT is a part of the job everyone who enlists knows even before walking into the recruiting office. I’m talking about the scores of other small sufferings.

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My dear readers, you might not know this, but I am a Godfather, and proudly so. Today perhaps more than most, because my godson turns one today, and by the time you’re reading this, I’ll have traveled over six hundred miles to watch see him for his first birthday. Of course, I wouldn’t have missed it if it meant traveling all the way from Mars, but I digress.

So given the occasion, I wanted to share something I wrote for him, a letter for my godson on the inside of a collection of fairy tales I’m giving him. I hope these words manage to touch you as I hope they will touch him one day:

To my dear Godson,

By the time you are old enough to read these stories on your own, I hope you’ll have already begun to take some of the lessons in them to heart:

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At this point, even the biggest skeptics will be forced to admit that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has proven to be both a massive box office and critical success, and to be a true power to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry. With DC continuing to flail in its attempts to generate anything more than jokes about Batman v. Superman: The Robin Custody Hearing, and Sony’s Spiderman plans sinking like a stone, and even Fox attracting some concern over their plans for a Fantastic Four movie, all while the last string of films from Marvel made a mint and made waves, proving there is plenty of juice left in the MCU juggernaut.

In fact, there lies only one real genuine charge against the MCU that can still be made: that they have yet to adapt anything beyond the core Avengers properties, and need to step out of their comfort zone – and boy, have they ever.
Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-PosterEnter Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest, and boldest installment in the now ten-film-long Marvel Cinematic Universe, and not just in the conventional ‘not another Iron Man/Captain America/Thor movie’ either. Guardians of the Galaxy is something of a strange choice for the first expansion of the MCU, both because of the relative obscurity of the comic, even to comic readers, and the risks that come with adapting a title without the name recognition of Iron Man or Captain America. No small thing considering Warner Brothers is afraid to commit a movie about Wonder Woman, while Marvel seems ready to build a franchise around Rocket Raccoon.

Even ignoring that, science fiction as a genre, especially space operas and the like, are a famously risky venture – for every Star Wars or Avatar, you get more movies like Prometheus or Edge of Tomorrow that just tread water, or worse, bombs like John Carter or After Earth. Given the fate of Green Lantern, DC’s own disastrous attempt at adapting a weirder space-based title, you’d think Marvel would be nervous about Guardians of the Galaxy, especially given how so many of its stars seem aligned with the failed films of the past, ranging from a cast largely free of any big names to choosing James Gunn to direct, a Troma Entertainment alumni whose most recent project for either writing Lollipop Chainsaw or directing a portion of Movie 43.

If they are, they’re certainly not showing it. Marketing for the film has been at fever pitch for months, most famously with the initial trailers which introduced the characters of the movie and made sure we didn’t forget by getting “Hooked on a Feeling” stuck in the heads of everyone who watched it. The movie’s been hyped up on seemingly every talk show and convention panel it can be, most recently at Comicon, where a sequel was announced a week before the debut of the current film. While initial reviews have been positively glowing, and the movie is predicted to set August box office records, I’ve been counting off the days until the première for almost a month. Whether Marvel hits the jackpot or finally rolls snake eyes, I want to be there to see it.

So does Guardians of the Galaxy take the MCU to new cosmic heights? Do we have the first real Marvel misfire that leaves us all feeling like a bunch of a-holes? Will I ever get “Hooked on a Feeling” out of my head? Grab your Walkman and your laser guns my dear readers, and join me as I review Guardians of the Galaxy.

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On this day a century ago, World War I began, the thunder of guns sounding the death knell of the preceding era, and baptizing the modern era in a river of blood. Millions of men on both sides would march for king and country, and contrary to bold claims that they’d be “back by Christmas”, instead, the nations of Europe would be locked in a gruesome struggle for supremacy that would not end for four long years. When at last the guns fell silent, millions of soldiers would lie dead, those who survived returned home scarred and disillusioned by the experience, and history and society was forever changed in the aftermath.
World-War-1-CentennialIt began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo a month prior, and would be answered a month later, on this day and very hour, with Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, resulting in the complex struggle for supremacy between the Entente and the Central Powers. The death of that Austrian Archduke would result in the death of 10-37 million others by the time World War I ended. Many of the empires who’d fought the war would meet their own end, including Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and the Ottomans, and the British and French empires would not long survive it, and all were left with their militaries gutted, their economies ruined, and massive discontent at home.
WWI+anniversaryTales and images of the war are well-known the world over, and are almost too many to list. The back-and-forth meat grinder of the Western Front, where the relentless trench warfare saw waves of soldiers mowed down by ever advancing weapons of war, from chemical gas attacks to the first appearances of tanks. The airplane was barely a decade old, yet the skies were filled with daring dogfights between opposing flying aces like the Red Baron or Eddie Rickenbacker. The struggles of ANZAC troopers at the cliffs of Gallipoli, the adventures of TE Lawrence during the Arab Revolt, the Christmas Truce – World War I had no shortage of tales of triumph and tragedy alike.

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In the collective pantheon of Gods and heroes, and the legends that surround them, few are as ubiquitous as the tale of the Greek demigod Hercules. Though varying in details, most versions of the legend are similar enough that I don’t need to explain it, only that tales of Hercules’ godlike strength and grand adventures have made him Greco-Roman pantheon’s most famous son, and excluding rare exceptions like King Arthur, Beowulf or Sun Wukong, perhaps human cultures’ most iconic hero.

So given that, it’s somewhat curious that there is a definitive lack of film adaptations of Hercules’ legends, certainly a lack of any good ones. There’s been no shortage of bad ones mind you, including a score of lousy Italian films best known for their MST3K riffings, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s often forgotten first film role, and even an animated Disney movie best remembered for its gospel music, James Woods and marking the end of the Disney Renaissance. Even today, in the age of cheap CGI and scores of film adaptations based on superheroes filling theaters, Hercules can’t catch a break, with the most recent attempt, The Legend of Hercules, staring Twilight-alumni Kellan Lutz, was torn apart by critics and sank at the box office without a trace. When the best Hercules movie yet made is likely the one starring the Three Stooges, that says a lot.
Dwayne-Johnson-in-Hercules-2014-Movie-PosterWhich brings us to the most recent attempt, released today, Hercules. Starring Dwayne Johnson in the titular role, and based off the comic book by Steve Moore, Hercules: The Thracian Wars, at least looking at the trailers, it seems to have many of the elements missing from the scores of others, showcasing scenes where Hercules struggles against the Hydra, or in the midst of battle with legions of foes. On the flip side, it’s also directed by Brett Ratner and has a script whose most notable contributor has only previously written direct-to-DVD Disney sequels, and the production has (rightfully) earned bad press for screwing over Steve Moore out of a paycheck, and then using his recent death to promote the film. Still, by popular demand, and some morbid curiosity on my part, I went to see if Hercules can at last conquer the silver screen.

So can the movie live up to the legend, or is watching it one of the Twelve Labors in and of itself? Join me as I find out my dear readers, as I review Hercules.

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I may have mentioned before that I am a devoted reader of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and in my time reading the magazine, one of the many great short stories that stuck with me was one published in 2012, The Journeyman: On the Shortgrass Prairie by Michael Flynn. The reason I bring this up is that there has been a pair of follow-ups to this story recently in two recent issues of Analog, and if you haven’t been following these stories with me, you’re missing out on an emerging gem.
analog-the-journeyman-against-the-green-michael-flynnTeodorq sunna Nagarajan is a tribesman of the Great Grass on the run from a rival clan, seeking to kill Teodorq for his murder of one of their kinsmen. Thanks to some clever evasion tricks and his unmatched skill with a knife, he’s finally managed to lose his tail, just as he enters unfamiliar territory, and with it, an unfamiliar hillman named Sammi, sent by his own people on a walkabout. In a strange new land, the two decade to travel together, and begin a journey that will take them to the very edges of their world… and even beyond.

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