A new year is upon us, full of hope and optimism and the promise of countless resolutions that have yet to be broken… and lots of stuff to read, watch and play over the next 12 months, of course.
As is the current tradition with the first column of each month, this week’s Geek Beat is full of book, movie and game recommendations tied to the latest news and upcoming releases. And if the first week of 2014 is any indication, this year is going to be a busy one for tie-ins and other expanded-universe content, so you have my apologies in advance for the strain this is going to put on your wallet.
To paraphrase that creepy knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “Choose wisely.”
January is quickly shaping up to be a big month for comics with connections to Hollywood, and Marvel Comics has quite a few noteworthy titles arriving at your local book store or comics shop in the next few months. Among the Marvel books to look for is Black Widow #1, which kicks off a new, ongoing series that follows the S.H.I.E.L.D. superspy as she attempts to atone for some of the terrible things she did before joining up with Nick Fury and the Avengers.
Fans of Marvel’s friendly neighborhood web slinger who are looking for some prep material before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 arrives in theaters will want to look for The Amazing Spider-Man: The Movie Adaptation #1 hitting shelves this month. And all of you zombie fanatics will certainly want to keep an eye out for George Romero’s Empire of the Dead: Act One #1, the first issue of a five-part miniseries authored by Romero that takes a look inside Manhattan years after the undead apocalypse.
Outside of the Marvel-verse, fans of Joss Whedon’s Firefly series (and the movie Serenity, which provided the over-too-soon series with a big-screen finale), will want to run – not walk – when Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 is released at the end of the month. The six-issue series penned by Zack Whedon continues the story of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his ragtag crew, and is certain to fly off the shelves.
It’s not exactly new material, but if you’re enjoying Dark Horse Comics’ adaptation of George Lucas’ original screenplay for Star Wars (titled The Star Wars and currently in the middle of its eight-issue run), keep an eye out for The Star Wars #0 this month, which provides some behind-the-scenes content from the series – including the publisher’s initial pitch for the project.
Meanwhile, on the celebrity-creator front, if you’re wondering what former Charmed (and Commando) actress Alyssa Milano has been up to, feel free to pick up a copy of Hacktivist #1, her first foray into comics. The four-issue series follows a group of friends who secretly manage a global network of hackers who are trying to save the world from itself. (The series features a tech-savvy, young female protagonist, so there’s a good bet this series is being set up as a potential movie or television project for Milano.)
The first month of 2014 is a little slow for geek-friendly fare on the big screen, but January does feature the arrival of I, Frankenstein on January 24. Directed by Stuart Beattie (Tomorrow, When the War Began), the film casts Aaron Eckhart as Frankenstein’s monster, who gets caught up in a war between supernatural creatures. The film is based on a graphic novel written by Kevin Grevioux, the actor/writer who also penned (and played a role in) much of the Underworld franchise. (You can read some of the original comic at the Darkstorm Studios website.)
Even though the big screen doesn’t have a lot to offer this month, the small screen has a few projects arriving on DVD and Blu-ray that are definitely worth checking out.
Vin Diesel returned to the role of stone-cold killer Richard B. Riddick in September’s Riddick, and the film arrives in the home-entertainment market January 14. Universal has made the first 10 minutes of the film available to watch online, so you can check it out below:
I’m a big fan of Diesel’s Chronicles of Riddick franchise, and the expanded universe he and filmmaker David Twohy created outside the live-action films is impressive, to say the least. If you haven’t watched the animated film The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury or played the games The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay or The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, you’re missing out on a fantastic sci-fi saga that offers a great example of how a compelling story can be told across different forms of media. While you’re out picking up Riddick, give Dark Fury and the Chronicles of Riddick games a try if your interest is piqued.
Also hitting DVD and Blu-ray this month is Big Ass Spider, which is – appropriately enough – a crazy, campy horror movie about a giant spider. Our own Perri Nemiroff named it one of 2013′s “Best ‘Worst’ Movies,” and you should trust her judgment. (I do.) Also, the film stars Heroes actor Greg Grunberg, so there’s that, too.
Oh, and just in case you needed even more zombie-related fare in your life (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead fans), Birth of the Living Dead arrives on shelves this month. The documentary chronicles the making of Night of the Living Dead and how a small group of Pittsburgh natives created the film that would kick-start an entire genre of horror films.
Here’s the trailer for the documentary:
That’s it for this month’s version of a multimedia pull list, but I’ll have more recommendations for you the first week of February – so save some cash. It’s going to be a long year!
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He’s been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and is still not quite sure how he ended up writing (and talking) about comics, video games, and movies for a living. His personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org, and you can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.
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