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Culture Cafe

Movie, music, and television reviews from a select group of bloggers.

'Doctor Who' actor Matt Smith is currently starring on the show as the time-traveling character. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Neil Gaiman writes a 'Doctor Who' episode that will bring back a creepy villain

By Kyle HembreeScreen Rant / 11.07.12

Behind the Daleks, the Cybermen are easily Doctor Who‘s most iconic villains. For over fifty years – ever since their first appearance in the classic Who serial “The Tenth Planet” – the Cybermen have threatened death and assimilation to the Doctor and his many companions. Recently, the metal monsters have gotten short end of the stick, appearing rarely and often only to serve as punching bags for whatever larger threat the episode writer wants to puff up in the process.

Next year, we may see a reversal of this pattern. It looks, as previously reported, that noted genre author Neil Gaiman has scribed an upcoming episode of Doctor Who that will (hopefully) restore the Cybermen to their classic, creepy glory.

In a post featured on their Doctor Who blog, BBC announced that Neil Gaiman has penned an episode that will feature a new appearance by the Cybermen. This is the second script by Gaiman, who wrote the season 6 installment “The Doctor’s Wife” – an episode that netted Gaiman the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. The episode will be directed by Stephen Woolfenden, who makes his Doctor Who debut after a career as second-unit director on many feature films, including the last four installments of the Harry Potter series. The episode will also sport guest appearances by Warwick Davis (Harry Potter, Willow), Tamzin Outhwaite (EastEnders), and Jason Watkins (Being Human).

Since Russell T. Davies revived Doctor Who from its decade-long dormancy in 2005, Cyberman-centric episodes have been something of a mixed bag. They’ve ranged from the flawed-but-decent “The Age of Steel” to the eye-rolling filler of “Closing Time” (their most recent appearance). As noted earlier in this article, the writers of the past six seasons have had the habit of treating the cybernetic creatures as second-tier villains. In several episodes, the Cybermen have either been defeated by ridiculous plot developments or placed in the path of stronger enemies to be steamrolled in a naked attempt to oversell the new danger.

As such, one has to ask whether this new appearance by the robotic hordes will be able to sell them as a credible threat. Fortunately, I have faith that Neil Gaiman can pull this off. The author has created some rather iconic villains of his own during his long career. For example, during his run on the comic book The Sandman (one of the all-time great graphic novel experiences), he introduced readers to nightmare creatures such as The Corinthian – a serial killer with gnashing mouths for eyes. Despite being a novel for young readers, Coraline presented a rather grotesque antagonist in the False Mother/Beldam. And more germane to the subject at hand, Gaiman’s previous Who outing “The Doctor’s Wife” brought us House, an unsettling extra-universal horror whose sadism matched its immense power.

All this is to say that if anyone can take the time and care to craft an effective new interpretation of the Cybermen, there are few writers as qualified to do so as Neil Gaiman. It will be very interesting indeed to see how he goes about it.

Doctor Who will travel back to television on December 25, 2012 for its annual Christmas episode and appear again in Spring of 2013 for the remaining eight episodes of season 7.

Kyle Hembree blogs at Screen Rant.

Harrison Ford (far right) is 'open' to the idea of doing a new 'Star Wars' film, says an anonymous source. Ford has already reprised one of his famous roles with the 'Indiana Jones' film that was released in 2008, 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.' (Lucasfilm Ltd./Business Wire)

'Star Wars: Episode 7': Harrison Ford open to returning for a new film, sources say

By Rob FrappierScreen Rant / 11.06.12

Last week, there was a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of nerds cried out and were suddenly silenced. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but it was a pretty big deal when Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced plans for a new series of Star Wars sequels.

Since then, we’ve debated the pros and cons of the news, and have also reported on all of the speculation about Star Wars: Episode 7, including today’s rumor that X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn is in the running to direct the film. 

Now, we’ve got another interesting piece of news to share. According to an exclusive report from Geoff Boucher (who has happily landed on his feet at Entertainment Weekly after leaving his gig at the L.A. Times), none other than Han Solo himself has allegedly expressed interest in returning to a galaxy far, far away.

The report quotes sources close to Harrison Ford who say that the iconic actor is “open to the idea of doing the movie” and, moreover, is “upbeat about it.” Obviously, being “open” to doing the movie is a long stretch from actually doing it, and it’s not like the 70-year-old actor is getting any younger. However, if he’s genuinely interested in returning to one of his most famous roles, it can only be a good thing for Star Wars fans.

After all, this is the same actor who told ABC News back in 2010 that he didn’t actually like playing the character of Han Solo that much and was actually hoping that Lucas would kill him off in Return of the Jedi, quipping that he didn’t because “George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”

Presumably, if Ford returned to the big screen for a Star Wars sequel, it would be alongside his two costars, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia). In a recent interview, Hamill discussed plans for the sequels to focus on entirely new stories to satisfy fans’ desires for “more and more and more material.

Nevertheless, it’s entirely possible that Lucas and company could throw in the original trio in expanded cameo roles, much in the same way that Leonard Nimoy played an important role in the new Star Trek film.

Whatever path they decide to take, it’s certainly an exciting development to learn that Ford is interested in returning to one of the film’s that catapulted him to worldwide fame. I was one of the few people that actually enjoyed Ford in Indiana Jones 4, so I would be more than happy to see him strap on the blaster one more time as Han Solo.

What do you think? Is Harrison Ford a must-have for Star Wars: Episode 7 and beyond, or should they start completely fresh with no original characters?

Rob Frappier blogs at Screen Rant.

'Wreck-It Ralph' stars John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. (Disney/AP)

'Wreck-It Ralph': Is the video game send-up worth seeing?

By Ben KendrickScreen Rant / 11.05.12

In Wreck-It-Ralph, director Rich Moore depicts a world where video game villains aren’t inherently bad (in spite of their in-game evil hijinks), they’re just doing their job. Even though Pixar Studios enjoys a nearly unblemished spotlight at Disney, in-house Walt Disney Animation Studios, which has been churning out animated feature films since 1937 (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) continues to produce big screen hits for the Mouse House – including recent offerings BoltTangled, and hand-drawn titles like The Princess and the Frog.

However, in an increasingly congested CGI-animation market, it’s more important than ever that animated films provide an enjoyable experience for both children and adults. Fortunately, Wreck-It-Ralph succeeds in its efforts with a solid mix of humorous adventuring, retro game nostalgia, and heartwarming story beats – one that gamers and non-gamers will easily relish.

Despite what the trailers might have indicated, knowledge of video games is not a prerequisite for appreciating Wreck-It-Ralph. Gamers will find plenty of tantalizing in-jokes (some subtle, some not-so-subtle) but, even though there are numerous easter eggs to relish, the core storyline centers around a straightforward character journey. For years, Wreck-It-Ralph (John C. Reilly) has diligently served as the antagonist to video game do-gooder, Fix-It-Felix, Jr. (Jack McBrayer). Although Ralph shares a healthy working relationship with Felix, he has grown tired of being treated like a villain after work hours and in an effort to win favor from the other characters in his game, Wreck-It-Ralph jumps into another title, Hero’s Duty, where he intends to win a medal that will prove bad guys can also be good guys.

In his attempt at heroism, Ralph inadvertently lands in Sugar Rush, a kid-friendly kart racing title, and falls victim to the wiles of Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a 9-year-old racer outcast, and is forced to help the girl win an upcoming competition – in exchange for his precious medal. Although, as the pair prepare for the race, they stumble upon a mysterious plot that threatens the entire arcade, forcing Ralph to confront what it really means to be a good guy.

As mentioned, the core storyline is straightforward and, without the video game setup, Wreck-It-Ralph would tell a pretty traditional Disney tale about rejecting established identities and discovering true heroism through adversity. The central character journey follows a number of recognizable beats, and some viewers will find certain developments predictable, but familiarity doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment that the movie supplies moment to moment. Rich setpieces and a mix of intriguing game environments allow for a range of interesting visuals and, subsequently, varied action and comedy beats. Unfortunately, even though there are countless arcade cabinets shown in the film, Wreck-It-Ralph only explores a tiny fraction of the available game worlds – leaving plenty of room for further franchise misadventures. The plot permits a few entertaining insights into the interconnected arcade world (such as Ralph’s Bad-Anon support group) but gaming fans looking to be inundated with cameos and other iconic gaming culture hat tips may find that the larger Wreck-It-Ralph story doesn’t include quite as much fan service as they might expect. However, even though some viewers might have hoped for a game-hopping adventure, the limited scope ultimately keeps everything tight – in service of a sharp character-focused story.

Ralph and Vanellope, like any good animated buddy film stars, create a smart mix of tenderness and humor – with a fun chemistry that both adults and children will be able to appreciate (even if the characters are surrounded by tongue-in-cheek setups like Nestle Quik-sand and Laffy Taffy tree vines). Regardless of the self-centered motivations in their initial encounter, and plenty of campy lessons about friendship, the two main players contain a surprising amount of depth – imparting a worthwhile and fitting commentary about acceptance and personal identity. Even if the overarching narrative is cut from a familiar Disney fairytale cloth, the video game backdrop breathes a lot of life into what would otherwise be tired character tropes – presenting a surprisingly unique, and amusing to watch, pair of underdogs.

The rich cast of supporting players, riffing on a diverse set of notable game inspirations, provide clever interpersonal drama and fun juxtapositions that compliment the main storyline – best exemplified by the oddball pairing of 8-Bit Felix, Jr. and Hero’s Duty heroine, Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Not only do the characters allow for a humorous glimpse into the evolution of game design, their varied personalities supply an compelling range of conflicts and humorous interactions. As mentioned, even though there are plenty of smaller cameos, none of the iconic franchise faces distract from the primary story beats – serving to add additional humor and immersion without taking anything away from the main plot.

A lot of moviegoers still believe that low quality CGI toon projects should get a pass because they’re just “kid movies” but films like Wreck-It-Ralph remind us that superior animated pictures are more than just cheep gags and one-note cliches – considering the film puts a new spin on tried-and-true stories about friendship and heroism. Not every element of Wreck-It-Ralph is entirely fresh, and some audience members may see a few of the twists and turns coming, but the movie excels with charming characters and a unique setting – delivering thoughtful insights for both young and old viewers.

The movie only skims the surface of its rich video game universe, and future installments could provide a more expansive look at the interconnected arcade world (plus make room for new cameos) but Moore shows smart restraint. Wreck-It-Ralph enjoys a healthy ratio of accessible character drama and goofy gaming gags – resulting in an exceptionally entertaining, and heartfelt, animated adventure.

Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.

Actors (from left) David Morrissey, Sarah Wayne Callies, Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, and Lauren Cohan star on 'The Walking Dead.' (John Shearer/AMC/AP)

'The Walking Dead': Did that main character really die?

By Kevin YeomanScreen Rant / 11.05.12

As the producers of The Walking Dead established before season 3 hit the air, the living would begin to pose a more immediate threat to Rick and those following him than the walkers, and they’ve certainly proved that with ‘Killer Within.’ And that’s a good thing. As much as everyone seems to love the fictional landscape that zombies create, as far as actual characters go, they’re rather one-note. Human interaction beyond the bickering group dynamic – even if it’s as brief as the reappearance of the presumed-dead Andrew (Markice Moore) finding some way to use the undead as a weapon – is something of a welcome sight.

Given what happens as a result, it’s no wonder then that the distrust Rick feels toward those who walk with a spring in their step has been fairly well documented this season. Rick’s as quick to send a man down the road, as he is to bury a machete in his head. Each act having the same result: One less potential killer to worry about, and one more reason for Rick to convince himself the group is closer to securing a place where they can successfully start over. But as much as Rick is comfortable assuming the worst in others, he really mustn’t assume anything when it comes to the living. They’re just as ruthless as he is.

So, while the group takes a few minutes to celebrate Hershel (Scott Wilson) making his way around the yard, Rick has to make another decision regarding the fate of Axel (Lew Temple) and Oscar (Vincent Ward). Turns out neither man is too keen on staying in their cell block with a bunch of dead bodies, and they’d like to join up with the fine folks who’ve taken over C Block. T-Dog (IronE Singleton) believes the men could be of some use and (finally) speaks his mind, which is too bad considering the fate that awaits him. But in what turns out to add insult to eventual life-ending injury, after all this time barely having any lines at all, T-Dog at long last shares something with the rest of the group and Rick blows him off. Perhaps that’s the new harbinger of doom for the series.

If that’s the case, then considering how taciturn and generally uncommunicative Michonne (Danai Gurira) is, it may be in her best interest never to cross paths with Rick and suddenly have an opinion on how things should go. At any rate, she’s still dealing with getting the newly smitten Andrea (Laurie Holden) away from Woodbury, but the Governor/Phillip (David Morrissey) is just so darned convincing and congenial (he has booze!) that Andrea just can’t seem to tear herself away from his quaint little township – even if Merle (Michael Rooker) is counted amongst its citizens. Besides, with a winning vote of confidence from Merle, the Governor is now A-OK in Andrea’s book. And before we question what madness this is that Andrea is seeking opinions on matters of another man’s character from a guy like Merle, let’s keep in mind her post-walker-slaying tryst with Shane last season. In any case, Andrea’s apparently harboring just the teensiest bit ill-will toward her former group for losing track of her during the fracas at Hershel’s farm, and likely figuring them for dead, offers up its location to the consistently ill-tempered redneck – because she know just how much Daryl (Norman Reedus) means to the guy.

Meanwhile, prior to finding out that Andrea would like to hang around Woodbury for a couple more days before heading off to the coast in search of a lifetime of uncertainty, Michonne pokes around the vehicles the Governor brought back from his little excursion during ‘Walk With Me,’ and comes to the conclusion that the time to get out of town has long since passed. But for whatever reason, Michonne’s not going anywhere without Andrea. For as little as we know about her at the moment, the one thing we can tell is that Michonne has a soft spot for people who monotonously dwell on the mysterious pasts of those who save them. Whatever her reason for sticking around is, it certainly isn’t going to end well.

And speaking of not ending well, what started off as a promising day quickly turns chaotic as Rick, Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Daryl prepare to shuttle Axel and Oscar out of the prison only to discover a substantial herd of the undead prowling around the formerly walker-free confines of the yard. While everyone scatters, the prison’s alarm system engages, telling them this isn’t some random occurrence, but the act of a duplicitous person with more on their mind than tasty, tasty flesh. As is nearly always the case when something dubbed a “walker,” or to use the parlance of those in Woodbury, a “biter,” manages to sink its teeth into a victim, said individual is typically preoccupied. In this case, T-Dog is working on getting a gate closed when a good chunk of his shoulder is taken off in one hungry chomp. Still, to his credit, T-Dog does what he can to save Carol (Melissa McBride) by running through the seemingly endless maze of non-descript hallways and just-in-the-nick-of-time rusty doors, to deliver the woman to safety before a pair of walkers snack on his delicious neck meat.

But the body count doesn’t end there – because why should T-Dog’s death be significant when it can be overshadowed by the apparent death of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies)? (Apparent, because it happened off screen, but it was certainly convincing, otherwise.) Lori hadn’t had the best go of it since the end of the world, and childbirth certainly wasn’t going to make things any easier, so naturally, running from a group of walkers would have to induce labor. Despite a lack of training and supplies, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) manages to save the baby, but simply can’t keep Lori from slipping away. As if all the death weren’t depressing enough, it’s Carl (Chandler Riggs) who takes the unpleasant duty of ensuring Lori doesn’t come back.

If the Governor  (deceptively) stands as proof civilization can be rebuilt, then Rick collapsing upon receiving the news of his wife’s passing, serves as the not-so-quiet reminder that death is quite literally at everyone’s door.

Kevin Yeoman blogs at Screen Rant.

Rainn Wilson's 'Office' character, Dwight Schrute, owns a beet farm which was scheduled to be the center of a new NBC show after 'The Office' went off the air. (PBS Communications/Business Wire)

'The Office' spin-off 'The Farm': What's its status?

By Ethan AndertonScreen Rant / 11.01.12

Fans of The Office will either be devastated or stricken with great joy when you read this report. We’ve known that Rainn Wilson was starring in a potential new series tentatively titled The Farm featuring his peculiar Dwight Schrute character from The Office. The spin-off would follow his struggles running a bed and breakfast with his cooky family on his famous beet farm.

The cast also included Majandra Delfino, Tom Bower, Thomas Middleditch, Matt Jones, Blake Garrett, and Michael Schur (Dwight’s cousin Mose from The Office), but apparently this line-up of talent – which also included The Office showrunner Paul Lieberstein (Toby) as executive producer – wasn’t good enough for NBC

Rainn Wilson updated fans on Twitter saying: “NBC has passed on moving forward with ‘The Farm’ TV show. Had a blast making the pilot – onwards [and] upwards!” That’s about as official of an announcement as we’ll get.

On the one hand, fans who have grown tired of The Office over the past couple seasons are probably glad that this ninth and final season is the last nail in a coffin that initially began construction when Steve Carell left the series. On the other hand, some fans were interesting in seeing how Dwight fared on his own, especially with his strange family under his command.

It remains to be seen if the presence of Dwight’s family – all of whom were going to be introduced throughout this ninth season of The Office – will be reduced, or if they will still show up. Thus far, there have been a few references to a couple family members (including Dwight’s Nazi uncle), but otherwise, it’s been fairly low-key. Perhaps this will allow for a much neater and more respectful wrap-up for all the characters and Dunder-Mifflin.

At least Rainn Wilson will be free to bolster his career on the big screen now.

Ethan Anderton blogs at Screen Rant.

'Star Wars: Episode 7' and Disney buying the 'Star Wars' franchise could be only the beginning of a universe expansion for the series. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

'Star Wars: Episode 7' - Were we wrong about George Lucas all along? (+video)

By Staff writer / 10.31.12

Is it possible that we are only now understanding what "Star Wars" really is?

For the Gen Xer, this is an existential question. Wookies and tauntauns and Luke's lightsabers are strands in our social DNA. Boring parties spontaneously become enjoyable when we can find someone to join us in mocking Episode I (or II or III, for that matter).

We know "Star Wars" begins with the scroll and pumping brass of "A New Hope" and ends with those annoying Ewoks cheering the blasted filaments of the Death Star in the skies above Endor. Full stop. Other "Episodes," novels, comics, TV series, video games, etc. – at times enjoyable, at times tragic – are really only cultural womp rats – targets for the implacable purity of our derision. We, the real curators of the "Star Wars" legacy, know they are all just fuel for George Lucas's ever-expanding wallet.

But now, with Lucas selling his entire franchise to Disney with the open endorsement that the Big Mouse could make "Star Wars" movies for "another 100 years," that entire worldview is up for revision.

Yes, Lucas might be doing this solely for money. If so, he has become the Jabba the Hutt of his own universe.

Yet we must also consider another possibility. That maybe, Episodes IV, V, and VI were never meant to be a part of a sacred orthodoxy. That maybe Lucas is more J.R.R. Tolkien than Stanley Kubrick – that his vision for "Star Wars" is now and has always been an expansive one. Perhaps it is truly an entire universe in which Luke and Han and Leia occupy only a small but important part.

Are Frodo and Samwise and Aragorn diminished by "The Silmarillion," the Tolkien epic set thousands of years before the events of "The Lord of the Rings"? Or does that book merely give us the full scope of Tolkien's remarkable vision?

The difference, of course, is that Tolkien jealously guarded his own universe. He was the sole creator, and he did not trust it in the hands of others. Lucas, meanwhile, has farmed out the expansion of his universe to others, providing the core inspiration and structure, but allowing other writers to pen his "appendices."

This process can, of course, lead to a dilution of the purity and focus of the original vision. Then again, Episodes I, II, and III suggest that, perhaps, the sanctity of the "Star Wars" legacy might be safest in others' hands.

Indeed, imagine what a true "Star Wars" fan, weaned on the original films and now a filmmaker in his or her own right, might do with Episode VII, which is reportedly slated for release in 2015? A generation of Joss Whedons are salivating.

The inspiration for "Star Wars" came from serials like "Flash Gordon." Lucas, it seems, saw his own creation unfolding in a similar way – organically and without a defined endpoint or circumference.

In the right hands, that could be an exciting prospect.

'Star Wars: Episode 7' would have George Lucas (pictured with Storm Troopers) on board as a creative consultant. (Reuters)

'Star Wars: Episode 7': How Disney could avoid ruining 'Star Wars'

By Staff writer / 10.31.12

Unless you’ve been living under a stack of rocks, you’ve spotted the news that Disney bought Lucasfilm Ltd., “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’s production company and is planning on releasing a new trilogy of “Star Wars” movies, if not more.

I am less than happy about this, and my devotion to the “Star Wars” film franchise may best be measured by the fact that I considered buying a “Greedo shot first” shirt to wear to bed. I may still ask for it for Christmas. (The line refers to a fan argument about a plot point in the updated version of the first "Star Wars" film.)

I don’t know when I first saw the original “Star Wars” trilogy, but I assume it was when I was very little. Whatever age we were when we first saw the movies, my sister and I were young enough that I distinctly remember my mother consoling my sister, who was aghast that one of the teddy bear-like Ewoks seemed to have bit the dust, and telling her that the Ewok was “only sleeping.” It wasn’t.

In any case, I went to go see “Phantom Menace” in theaters when it came out and wish I remembered the cultural phenomenon that must have surrounded it. It was a new “Star Wars” movie when fans still kind of trusted George Lucas. It was the origin story of Darth Vader, a premise that does sound fairly promising on paper. Obi-Wan was back – Liam Neeson, a respected actor, was on board as a new Jedi – and everything sounded great.

Well, one Jar Jar Binks later (an annoying aquatic creature with strange speech patterns, for the uninitiated) and the future-Darth Vader shouting “Yippee!” a few too many times, fans were distinctly unimpressed. But hey, a new actor was coming on board as Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. future-Vader, for the next movie, so maybe this thing could be saved.

Long story short: it couldn’t. Anakin was whiny in “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” the final two films in the prequel trilogy. While the trilogy had a couple of good points – Ewan McGregor, playing the younger version of Alec GuinnessObi-Wan Kenobi, was uncannily good at imitating the older actor’s speech patterns and did as much as he could to save the movies – the three movies were, overall, a snooze.

Part of the problem with them, at least in my mind, was too many callbacks to the older films. Yes, we all love C-3PO and R2D2, protagonist Luke Skywalker’s robot sidekicks in the first three films. Did they need to be shoehorned into every important event in the prequel trilogy, though? No. Some are okay – seeing a younger version of the villain Jabba the Hutt before the “Phantom Menace” podrace isn’t terribly distracting. But throwing in old characters and references to the future films all over the place gets old and doesn’t let the new story you’re trying to build grow on its own.

(Also, George Lucas needs to reread his own scripts, because in “Return of the Jedi,” Leia says she remembers her mother, something that one would assume to be impossible if her mother died minutes after giving birth to her. But I digress.)

The extent to which the prequel trilogy relied on the beloved older films is precisely what gave me a spark of hope (a New Hope, if you will. Sorry.) when I heard the news about the upcoming movies.

While some fan sites speculated that the new movies would be based on stories already tackled in the novels written about the “Star Wars” universe after “Return of the Jedi,” E! News said a Lucasfilm source told them that the plotline of the new movies would be “original.” E! writer Leslie Gornstein writes that according to her source, the new films “will literally be nothing you've ever seen or read before from the Star Wars universe.”

So, one would assume, that means no Luke. No Han Solo. No Princess Leia. No Mara Jade (the assassin Luke falls in love with and marries in the novels, in case you were wondering). It sounds like it would be all-new characters, an all-new plotline.

Get a good director like Joss Whedon or J.J. Abrams behind the camera, take the time to work out a good, imaginative plot that isn’t retreading what you’ve done for the last six films, and this could be… not terrible.

My preference, of course, would be for everyone to drop the “Star Wars” property and back away slowly and leave fans, including me, with the memories of the fantastic first three films (and let them try to forget the last three). But if you have to make another three movies… there are worse ways to do it.

'Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,' the first film released in the series, came out in 1977. (20th Century-Fox Film Corporation/AP)

'Star Wars: Episode 7' to hit theaters in 2015 (+video)

By Staff writer / 10.31.12

A new "Star Wars" film, so far titled only "Star Wars: Episode 7," is coming to theaters in 2015 now that Disney has bought Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company of "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, for $4.05 billion, according to reports.

And that's not all – at least two films will follow episode 7, according to chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company Robert E. Iger.

"Our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years," Iger said in a statement.

"For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," George Lucas said in a statement. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.

"I'm confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come," Lucas continued. "Disney's reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment and consumer products."

There's no word yet on the plot of the films.

The last new "Star Wars" film was "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith" in 2005, which concluded the prequel trilogy that began in 1999 with "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace." It was a 16-year wait for "Star Wars" fans in between the original trilogy's conclusion, 1983's "Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi."

"Star Wars" will be seen outside theaters in the future as well, according to CFO and senior executive vice president of The Walt Disney Company Jay Rasulo.

"We also expect to utilize Star Wars in other businesses including Parks & Resorts, in games and in our television business," Rasulo said.

The Walt Disney theme parks already boast one Star Wars ride, "Star Tours," which was recently revamped to include more of the franchise's beloved characters like Darth Vader and more elements from the prequel films.

There had also been rumors of a "Star Wars" TV show, which, if it existed, would presumably now air on Disney-owned network ABC. In the past, Lucasfilm had stated that writers had begun work on scripts, and Lucas said that the show would be "soap opera" with a "film noir" atmosphere.

Reaction to the news by fans has been mixed.

"I'm quietly confident that the Disney buy out will be the best thing to happen to Star Wars in decades," Telegraph film critic Robbie Collins tweeted.

"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, who parodied the first three "Star Wars" films in three separate specials on "Family," brought up the animated film and box office disappointment released by Disney last year.

"Looking forward to seeing what exciting new Star Wars adventures will be cooked up by the dream factory that brought us Mars Needs Moms!" he said on Twitter.

A user named Olan Rogers focused on the monetary aspect.

"I'm sad to see George Lucas, who had such great ideals about filmmaking when he started Star Wars, abandon them for money many years later," he tweeted.

'Anderson Live,' the talk show hosted by Anderson Cooper, will end after this summer. (Todd Williamson/Invision/AP)

'Anderson Live' ending: Anderson Cooper's talk show will wrap after this summer

By The TV Addict / 10.30.12

Good News: NBC has announced plans to tweak their struggling sophomore laugher UP ALL NIGHT by transforming it into a traditional multi-cam sitcom for the final five episodes of its season. Bad News: NBC has yet to announce how it plans to transition their struggling sophomore laugher into one that is actually funny and watchable. [Source]

Good News: Despite a shaky start, Jeff Probst’s freshman talk show was not, as expected, the first daytime chat-fest to see its torch snuffed. Bad News: For Anderson Cooper, whose self-titled talker ANDERSON was voted off the island after Warner Brothers Studio announced that his show won’t be returning for a third season after it wraps up its second one this summer. [Source]

Good News: ABC has given full season pickups to freshman laugher THE NEIGHBORS and sophomore sudser SCANDAL. Bad News: For fans of newcomers LAST RESORT and 666 PARK AVENUE, who will more than likely have to wait until the end of the week or the beginning of next to discover the fate of their favorite respective show. [Source]

Good News: Fans of THE OFFICE will be getting a taste of Dwight Schrute’s FARM quite a bit sooner than originally expected. Bad News: For Rainn Wilson, whose proposed OFFICE spin-off will not be moving forward except to air as a stand alone episode during the hit NBC series final season. [Source]

Good News: Tonight’s television viewers have just been spared another silly guest appearance by Gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte. Bad News: As a result of the impending arrival of Hurricane Sandy, Viacom siblings CBS and The CW have opted to air repeats and Sandy specials in lieu of their regularly scheduled primetime lineup that not only included Lochte’s guest appearance on 90210, but new episodes of GOSSIP GIRL, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, PARTNERS, 2 BROKE GIRLS, MIKE & MOLLY and HAWAII FIVE-0 as well.

The TV Addict staff blogs at The TV Addict.

'Once Upon a Time': Has it lost its magic?

By Tiffany VogtThe TV Addict / 10.29.12

From the moment that Emma broke the Storybrooke spell, we knew that nothing would ever be the same in ONCE UPON A TIME again. The whole premise viewers tuned in for was to see how a young woman was persuaded to come to a town where all the inhabitants were fairytale characters – with one significant twist: none of them knew it. It was simultaneously hilarious and intriguing to see Emma encounter each character and guess who they really were from all the classic fairytales. It was also fun watching the dubious Emma slowly discover that things were indeed not as they seemed on the surface in Storybrooke. So the lure of the show was in the discovery. We were intoxicated and addicted to solving the mysteries along with Emma.

Yet, that part of the journey came to a screeching halt as Emma kissed Henry’s forehead and the curse was broken. Initially, it was just Emma’s presence in Storybrooke that cracked the curse’s hold and time began to move forward again. Yet that powerful “true love’s kiss” broke Regina’s (aka: The Evil Queen) dastard plan to have everyone live out their lives in perpetual frozen time, unaware of who they really were. That was her dream fantasy, to reign supreme over citizens with no awareness of the lives they had lost. But Emma’s arrival definitely put a stop to that; and even before she stumbled across the way to break the curse, Emma had begun to bring people’s memories back from their deep slumber.

Season 1 of ONCE UPON A TIME was thus a fascinating adventure as we watched the chinks in the curse appear. Then when Regina’s curse finally broke, we were intrigued by the idea of what this entire town of people would do upon finding out what had been done to them and that they were trapped in Storybrooke.

However, another wrinkle was immediately thrown into the mix as Mr. Gold took out the potion he had saved made from the hairs of Snow White and Prince Charming, effectively another “true love” potion and tossed it down the Wishing Well, freeing magic in Storybrooke.

As viewers, we barely had time to process that one curse was broken and another had been enacted right before our eyes. This compounded everything at once: not only did Storybrooke residents remember exactly who they were and were anxious to find a way to get back home to their world, there was the added factor that magic was now available for those who had wielded it before. Regina and Mr. Gold were about to square off for a epic battle that could destroy everything.

But this is when things got kind of interesting: the one wrinkle was that no one could leave Storybrooke or they would lose all their memories of their former lives and who they were. It was then worth considering: was Regina’s curse truly broken? In fact, the first episode of the 2nd season was entitled “Broken.” However, what if that was not meant to imply that the curse was broken, but rather that it was not broken. For who was that man living in the city who received the message card that held only the word “broken” on it? He could not have been August (aka: Pinocchio) for August was still stuck in Storybrooke. Who else was out in the world that could understand the significance of that one word message?

Then, as if they were all not dealing with enough, the very first thing that Mr. Gold did after getting his magic back was to unleash a wraith on Regina. Why exactly did he do that? To punish Regina for keeping his beloved Belle locked away for 28 years and telling him that Belle had died? Okay, we’ll forgive him for that one, but it naturally created a situation that did not do any good; for in trying to banish the wraith, Emma and Mary-Margaret (aka: Snow) were transported through a portal and back to the fairytale land.

Nice twist. But as cool as that sounds, it separated our heroes. In season one, everyone was together in Storybrooke, and we observed their lives in flashbacks. Yet in season two, there are two actual worlds keeping everyone apart. It is confusing and difficult to track that there is the current fairytale world with Emma and Snow as they try to find a way back to Storybrooke. Then there is the Storybrooke world where David, Henry, Mr. Gold, Belle and Regina are stuck – and they all want to join Emma and Snow in the fairytale world. (Well, with the small caveat that Mr. Gold would like to find his son first. Is that the mysterious man we saw in “Broken”?) And we’re still seeing glimpses through the flashbacks to the former lives in the fairytale world. It’s three separate timelines and worlds to track.

Things in Storybrooke and the fairytale world are indeed “broken.” There is yet again a different meaning to that simple word. Maybe it was not referring to curse, but rather to the predicament that our heroes found themselves in. They are living broken lives. Cursed with memories of two lives: their original lives in the fairytale world overlaying their memories of their lives in Storybrooke for the past 28 years, each person is “broken” in a way and needs to find a way to be made whole. They are also stuck in Storybrooke. They cannot simply leave and discover the whole world outside of Storybrooke and make new lives for themselves, and they cannot return to where they lived in the fairytale world either. They are stuck, just like before – but this time they know that they are stuck. Everyone’s lives were “broken” and needs to be made whole as well.

Then there was the actual separation of the two worlds: Storybrooke and the fairytale world. Emma and Snow stuck in one and everyone else stuck in the other; also cursed to live broken, fragmented lives.

In theory, this is all very fascinating. But watching it play out, it just reminds the viewers that the show may be “broken.” It needs to find a way to bring its heroes back together again and soon. One of the most riveting aspects of the first season was the searing tension between Regina and Emma. Regina practically bristled whenever Emma was near. Then the interplay between Mr. Gold, Emma and Regina was awesome to behold. Each was a power-player and could use their influence in unexpected ways, either as a team or simply to back each other into a corner. Separating Emma from Mr. Gold and Regina creates a vacuum. For one-third of their balance of power has vanished. Throwing Emma into the fairytale world makes her feel weak and out of her depth, plus she has no nemesis to fight. She is merely a lost soul, forced to learn to survive with her mother. The mother-daughter bonding is not nearly as friction-filled and deliciously tantalizing as when it was Emma versus Regina.

It is also hard to see that after all they worked through to get to be together without their memories that Mary-Margaret and David have been separated again. This is where one starts to wonder if truly Regina’s curse was broken. For Regina wanted Henry to herself – and that came true, with Emma now separated from Henry, stuck in another world, effectively trapped in time and space — and Regina wanted her magic back, which she now has. It is as if Regina’s curse has morphed into something else, but is still alive and well.

Alas, it has set up the show in such a way that it has taken some of the allure and “magic” out of ONCE UPON A TIME. It is time to reunite everyone again and let us see if that Regina’s curse is truly broken once and for all – and hopefully repair the broken state of a cool television show that is in desperate need of some healing glue. The show’s magic is when its characters are together. We want to see Regina and Emma square off with Mr. Gold dancing in the background aligning with each as the whim suits him. We want to see if there is truly anything between Emma and Jefferson the Matt Hatter and whether there might be a bit of magic between them. We also want to see Mary-Margaret and David to have more than just a handful of minutes together after fighting for their love so tenaciously.

So let’s hope that ONCE UPON A TIME rediscovers its magic soon, and finally shows us whether the curse is truly broken. I suspect that a curse that powerful has some lingering effects that could still rise up and bite them when they least expect it. ‘Til then, we’re praying for a little more magic.

Tiffany Vogt blogs at The TV Addict.

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