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2011 Features

The Best TV Series of 2011 - The best TV series of the 2010/11 season is the NBC series Community. It's heart-wrenching to watch a series as funny, compelling and dare I say brilliant as that of Community and to know that very few other people are watching. Very, very few. So few that NBC has decided that after the first of the year it will temporarily pull Community from the schedule in the new year so they can air other shows in their timeslot.

The Best Movie and TV Posters of 2011 - The best poster of the year is actually a series of posters for the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. On the surface, the posters for this film are deceptively simple.

Mini-series to Movie Magic - There's been a bit of a trend over the last decade of short-run British TV mini-series being turned into feature films. One of the early of these British mini-series to be turned to feature film was the six episode series Traffik (1989) that was adapted as the film Traffic (2000).

The Return of "What's Your Setup?" - A few years back I wrote a column on how some friends of mine and I consume movies and TV series and I thought it would be interesting to revisit that idea for me and see how things have changed since then.

The Walking Dead: Do Zombies Go Forever? - I honestly can't remember a time when there's been as many interesting new sci-fi/horror TV series airing as there are now. Last summer, the first season of the great alien invasion drama Falling Skies debuted on TNT. A few weeks back the time travel epic about man vs. dinosaurs Terra Nova premiered on FOX. And as of late even MTV has gotten in on the fun with a comedy/drama about vampires, werewolves and zombies vs. cops in the new series Death Valley.

Somebody in this camp ain't what he appears to be - I've been a big fan of the two sci-fi/horror films The Thing From Another World (1951) and the remake The Thing (1982) for many years now. Though both movies deal with the same subject matter, namely an alien invasion fought by the small crew of a far off base, each approaches the material very differently.

Does Terra Nova = Earth 2? - The new Fox TV series Terra Nova is by far the most interesting sounding network show to be announced in quite some time. In Terra Nova, it's the year 2149 and an overcrowded and ecologically destroyed Earth is on the brink of collapse. When a way to travel back into the past is discovered, more specifically back 85 million years to a time when dinosaurs ruled the world, the only way to save the human race is by sending select groups back into the past to rebuild civilization from there.

Fall TV Preview - For the slate of new network TV series set to start premiering this month, the future is nothing but bright. Any of these new shows could breakout and become a hit with the public, which would mean untold sums of cash for the networks that air the shows to the producers who created them to the actors that star within.

Of course, the brutal business of TV means that while each season many new TV series premier at the start of the year only a few will be left and the end and even fewer will make it to a second season.

New Movies: To Wait or Not to Wait? - The window between the time a movie is released in theaters to the time it's available on Blu-ray/DVD/digital download (home video) is quickly shrinking. Back in the days when VHS was king, movies were almost always available on home video six months after the initial theatrical release and then premiered on one of the pay cable channels six months after that.

Now that isn't the case.

Remember when toys were just for kids? - These days, collecting toys is a very much different activity than it was even 15 years ago. Up until then, toys were something that were meant to be played with by children. And, if those toys sometimes appealed to adults who might also happen to collect them all the better. But something changed in the mid-1990s. Then, some toys started to be more "objects of cool" than items to be played with by kids and were instead meant for the teen and adult collectors.

When Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield… - Captain America has to be one of the most recognizable super-heroes of all time, yet I doubt very many people really know the true origin of Cap', or that there's really been two separate origins of the character since he was first created nearly 70 years ago

Slip the surly bounds of the Earth with The Rocketeer - The 1990s were not an especially happy time for movies based on comic books. After the smashing success Warner Brothers had with the first Batman movie in 1989, there was a rush from other studios to duplicate that success with their own comic book films. And while the Batman sequels that followed all found certain levels of success, only non-traditional (non-superhero) comic book movies from other studios like The Crow (1994), Blade (1998) and Men in Black (1997) found a significant audience at the box office.

Post-Apocalyptic TV - While films have never shied away from dealing with the apocalypse and what comes after, that hasn't always been the case for TV series. Call it an aversion to negativity or not knowing how to keep a story about the end of the world rolling for 24 episodes a year over six or seven years, very few TV series have dealt with the apocalypse in any meaningful way. Lately though, this has started to change.

How I'll Spend My Summer - Some of my fondest memories as a teen are of watching movies at the drive-in theater that used to be in Decatur, Indiana. I didn't go there that often, but somehow that experience of sitting out beneath the stars and taking in a movie, or alternatively huddled in a car trying to make out what was happening on-screen as a thunderstorm passed overhead, stays with me to this very day.

The State of TV - As the 2010-11 TV season wraps up this month, it's the perfect time to look back at the season, analyze what worked and, more importantly, what didn't work.

The God of Thunder, Mighty Thor - I think it's safe to say that I've written about comic books enough times over the years to cement my geek cred in the genera. I've been a collector most of my life and have a closet full of comics as well as a few shelves of collected editions in my office to act as additional proof of my sickness/devotion.

So, I thought when I sat down to write this column about the comic book character of Thor and the upcoming Thor movie it would be an easy one to write, but it turned out to be just the opposite. Though I might have a wide range of knowledge in comics and most comic characters I found my overall grasp on Thor is quite limited.

A Eulogy for Sym-Bionic Titan - I have an eclectic taste in TV series. Not only do I watch shows that do well in the ratings like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, I also watch shows that are outside the norm. One of these kinds of shows I've fallen for the last few months is the series Sym-Bionic Titan.

Airing on Cartoon Network, Titan is about two alien teens who look human and their robot friend who are hiding out on the Earth after their planet was conquered by the evil General Modula.

The Jennifer Lawrence Games - For the last few months, movie websites have been abuzz as to which actress would be cast as the lead in the adaptation of the book The Hunger Games. In the trilogy of books, the lead character of Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old girl and there was a lot of speculation that the role would go to either Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) or Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass) as each actress is roughly that age at 14 and roughly fits the overall character descriptions in the book.

Except that a few weeks back actress Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) who's a bit older than the character at 20 landed the role of Katniss.

Forgotten Films: Year 2002, Part 1 - I hate to admit it, but I didn't see the movie Solaris in the theater and I think I know why. I had been looking forward to that movie for quite some time as the idea for a Solaris film had been floating around Hollywood for a number of years.

Alien Invasion Du Jour - It might be a familiar idea now, but it wasn't until near the start of the 20th century that the concept of aliens invading the Earth was first created. To be sure, scientist Galileo Galilei had realized in the early 17th century that some of the stars in the sky were different than the others, the planets, and that these planets might in some way be like the Earth but the idea that there might be creatures living on these planets and that these things might one day come here to attack us was an unknown concept. That was until the publication of the book The War of the Worlds in 1898 by H.G. Wells.

Summer Movie Preview - Since 2007 the summer movie season has kicked off with films based on characters from Marvel comics and this summer is no exception. Thor, out May 6, follows the mythical title hero who's cast down from Asgard above to live amongst the peoples of planet Earth and ends up having to defend our planet from all things evil.

Thor is just one of FIVE films this summer that's based on comic books.

Forgotten Films of the Last Decade: Year 2000 - I've always been amazed at the way pop culture consumes itself. That what's captured the interest of the public on minute can be all but forgotten the next. But what amazes me even more are the things, specifically films, that I thought would have captured that interest but, for whatever reason, didn't. What I've done is to list a selection of films throughout the 2000s that I thought should have made more of a cultural impact than they did. This first column focuses on films from the year 2000.

At best, the films on this list are "cult" movies to some and at worst they're openly derided by others. While few of the movies on this list are perfect, I liked each and every one of them.

My Re-Collection - I can remember the day as a twelve year old that I stopped collecting toys. At that age, I was well past the point of playing with toys but found myself still buying them because of some strange appeal. But that warm summer day when I realized that I had essentially spent most of a week's allowance on a seemingly useless hunk of plastic I decided that I was done with toys and would never buy one for myself again.

That notion lasted just about six years.

Cartoon Renaissance? - The action/adventure TV cartoon once typified by the likes of G.I. Joe and Transformers in the 1980s became something fresh and new with the premiere of Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. That series was followed by one based in the character Superman in 1996, a future version of Batman with Batman Beyond in 1999 and a series based on the Justice League characters in 2001.