excalibur

Profiles in Nerdage: Helen Mirren

In a fifty year career that spans stage, film and television, Dame Helen Mirren (DBE) has played many famous people from the likes of Ayn Rand to Queen Elizabeth II.  She has won what is referred to as the triple crown of acting (an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen, a Tony for The Audience where she also played Elizabeth and 4 Emmys).

As modern Hollywood began to deal with the inherent sexism and misogynistic culture, an interview from 1975 with Michael Parkinson resurfaced where he labelled her “the sex queen of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)” while she showed her intelligence and class.  She stood her ground well even though it was her first TV interview ever.

In her long and varied career it would be unusual if she hadn’t played in a part related to nerd culture.  Luckily for us, she has been part of many sci-fi, fantasy, and comic related properties.  Here is a rundown of the best movies and shows that gave her nerd street cred.

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‘Merlin’ Recap – The End of the End

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After five long years, we come to the end of our journey with Merlin. Picking up where we left off last week on the fields of Camlann, the hour was a roller coaster ride, not because of the action, but because of the emotion. Secrets are revealed, destinies are realized, and not everyone makes it out of the hour alive.

Merlin makes it to the battlefield, and manages to end the fight decisively with some impressive feats of magic. The Saxons start to retreat, but not before Arthur comes face-to-face again with Mordred. After a brief fight it seems that Mordred fulfills the prophecy and deals Arthur a fatal blow, but Arthur returns the favour and runs Mordred through with the king’s own enchanted sword. By the time Merlin arrives on the scene, Mordred is dead, but Arthur has been seriously wounded, and because it’s a mystical wound as well, Merlin will need some extra help in order to save his king.

Taking his cues from Gaius, Merlin departs with Arthur for the Isle of Avalon, home of the ancient magic that will heal the king. But wait! We get ahead of ourselves. Merlin reveals to Arthur that he’s got magic, and it does not go over well. Although Arthur’s been a bit more level-headed on the subject of magic than his father, he still feels hurt and revolted at the revelation that his friend, servant and confidant is, and has been, a dirty sorcerer. Arthur refuses Merlin’s help, but Merlin gives it anyway. It doesn’t help when Gaius arrives and let’s Arthur know that, “hey, I knew Merlin was a wizard the whole time and it’s totally N.B.D.” But soon it’s time for Merlin and Arthur to make their run to Avalon, and in Weepy Tissue Moment #1, Gaius says goodbye to his ward saying that he’ll have his favourite meal waiting for him when he gets back, while knowing full well that this was probably the last time he’d ever see Merlin.

Meanwhile, Morgana’s getting her revenge on. Mordred’s dead, but Arthur’s still out there wounded. She sends her Saxons out to find him, remaining as ruthless and defiant as ever.

As Merlin and Arthur make their way through the still dangerous backwoods, Arthur sees more of Merlin’s magical works. An understanding begins to occur in the king, not just all that Merlin’s hid from him, but everything that Merlin has done for him, in secret, without ever even trying to claim credit. Arthur and Merlin recall the first time they met and the fight with the mace, and Arthur asks why Merlin never told him he was a sorcerer. Merlin says that he never wanted to put Arthur in an awkward position given the laws of Camelot, but Arthur admits that he has no idea what he would have done. But despite the refreshing honesty, and honest bromance, Arthur is getting worse.

Back at Camelot, Gaius returns with news: Arthur is injured, but Merlin is taking him to help. He also gives Guinevere the ring of the dragon, a bequeathment from Arthur and with it the power to rule Camelot. And oh, by the way, Gwaine’s girlfriend Eira is Morgana’s spy. A scheme is set up where Eira sends Morgana the wrong information about Arthur’s whereabouts, and when she gets to that wrong location, Gwaine and Percival will be there to finish her off for good. As for Eira, off with her head!

As for the grand plan, it was somewhat not very successful. While Gwaine and Percival get the drop on Morgana, she still has magic, and thus the upper hand. Morgana tortures Gwaine with one of those truth snakes (Why does it have to be truth snakes?), and gets Arthur’s real location. Percival comes to and after freeing himself he finds Gwaine near death. With his last breath, Gwaine says he fails, and dies. (That was Weepy Tissue Moment #2.) Morgana does indeed catch-up with her half-brother and her mortal enemy Emrys, catching them off guard. Morgana revels in Arthur’s predicament, and taunts Merlin that as a high priestess, she can’t be killed, but oh yes she can. Merlin runs her through with Excalibur saying that he’s to blame for what she became, but it was time for the circle of violence to end. Morgana falls to ground dead.

Having lost their horses, Merlin tries to take Arthur the rest of the way to Avalon on foot, but Arthur is not doing well at all. The king is near death, Merlin is behind himself and here comes Weepy Tissue Moment #3. Arthur tells Merlin that he has something he wants to tell him, but Merlin doesn’t want to say goodbye. “No, Merlin, says Arthur, “everything you’ve done. I know now. For me, for Camelot. For the kingdom you helped me build… […] I want to say… something I’ve never said to you before… thank you.”

In agony, Merlin calls out to the Great Dragon for help, and although he takes Merlin and Arthur the rest of the way par avion, it really is too late. Merlin thinks he’s failed, but the Great Dragon disagrees and gives Merlin some last bit of wisdom. “Though no man, no matter how great, can know his destiny, some lives have been foretold, Merlin… Arthur is not just a king, he is the Once and Future King. Take heart, for when Albion’s need is greatest, Arthur will rise again. It has been a privilege to have known you, young warlock. The story we have been a part of will live long in the minds of men.”

Merlin puts Arthur on a boat and points it towards the island of Avalon. Merlin breaks down in tears as the boat leaves the shore, but he stands and watches his friend sail away into the mist. Meanwhile, back in Camelot, it is announced that the king is dead, and the court rousingly declares, “Long live the Queen!”

Flash-forward to the present day, and a legitimately old Merlin strolls by the water’s edge where he sent Arthur on his way hundreds of years before, still waiting for the time of Arthur’s return.

The End.

EPISODE NOTES

-Mordred went down like punk bitch, didn’t he?

-That was pretty sweet when the Saxon bursts into the medical tent and Gwen takes him out. It was a nice reminder that Queen Gwen is the fighting daughter of a blacksmith.

-I realize there’s a TV budget constraint, and there was a lot to get to in the hour, but it did seem like the Battle of Camlann was over really fast for such an important benchmark.

-I liked that Merlin took the mulligan for making Morgana what she became. It was kind of alluded to in the past that if Merlin had taken Morgana under his wing when they realized she had magic, they might have mitigated some of those evil doings.

-RIP: Arthur, Morgana, Mordred, Gwaine, and the Great Dragon

-I remember when they announced Merlin’s cancellation there was a possibility mentioned of a spin-off, but now having seen the finale, I’m curious to see what a spin-off would look like. Would it be the adventures of Queen Gwen in a post-Arthur Camelot, or would it be Arthur and Merlin in the modern world solving crimes and other stuff? I really hope that it was the later rather than the former.

Thanks to the cast and crew of Merlin for five great years of TV. It was a helluva ride.

‘Merlin’ Recap – The Beginning of the End

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It seems like forever since we recapped Merlin, which makes it all the more sadder since we’ve nearly reached the end of our adventures with him and the rest of the Camelot gang. Friday night kicked off the first of the two-part series finale, “Diamond of the Day, Part 1” and set up Arthur’s final (?) battle against Morgana and Mordred for the future of Albion. But who will win? Whose secrets will be revealed? And how did Merlin get so good at medieval craps? The answers are below.

We begin where we left off: Mordred has spilled the beans to Morgana that Emrys is, in fact, Merlin. Morgana has a plan to rob Merlin of his power, and since this is Morgana we’re talking about, it involves a horrible slug-like thing that hugs your face and seemingly sucks out your magic through your mouth. Gross. But that was the last thing on Merlin’s mind when he got sprung by the creature, which was sneakily left under his bed while he was reliving his fraternity days with Arthur and the knights at the Rising Sun pub.

Step one of Morgana’s plan is to rid Merlin of his powers. Step two is to draw out her brother and his army and engage them in battle with the her Saxon forces. As fate would have it, the scene for their inevitable face-off is Camlann. Merlin is stuck, he knows what’s coming, but he’s powerless to do anything about it. What can a powerless wizard do to change the inevitable?

For Merlin, the answer is in the Crystal Caves, the mythological birthplace of magic. Journeying there with the help of Gwaine, Merlin misses Arthur’s departure to Camlann. Arthur too is disappointed that Merlin won’t be there, in fact it seems to hit him harder than Mordred’s betrayal. But Merlin’s gotta do what he’s gotta do, and so does Eira, a nice young lady who Gwaine’s been seeing. Too bad she’s actually one of Morgana’s spies who spills the beans, not only of Arthur’s plans, but of Gwaine’s side trip to the Crystal Caves with Merlin. Morgana knows that there are some doings transpiring.

At the Crystal Caves, Merlin and Gwaine part ways, but someone else is there to meet up with Merlin: Morgana. Morgana taunts Merlin, and Merlin does a pretty good job standing up for himself without magic, but Morgana ends up getting the upper hand and traps Merlin in a cave-in. Without magic, and trapped, Merlin loses hope, but the spirit of his father Balinor appears to him. Offering him words of encouragement, Balinor helps Merlin get his magic back, and just in time too.

On the fields of Camlann, Morgana and Mordred aim to out-flank Camelot’s forces through a difficult to find passage, but Merlin can see it. From the Crystal Caves, Merlin telepathically alerts Arthur, who sounds the alarm: Morgana and the Saxons are attacking tonight! Merlin follows the crystals deeper into the cave and finds the source of magic, and the source of an even greater power. More powerful than ever, he emerges from the caves ready to rejoin the fight for the future of the united kingdoms.

To be continued…

EPISODE NOTES

*Didn’t it seem wicked easy to both lose your magic and get it back?

*Mordred gets a sword forged in fire’s breath? Well, that takes some of the specialness out of Excalibur. I mean if anybody can have sword forged in fire’s breath, right?

*So it’s Old Merlin who comes out of the cave? Is that a disguise, or a magic trick, or did Merlin just age like 60 years in two minutes?

*Oh yeah, Arrested Development’s back this weekend, so maybe there’s hope that Merlin will be back in the future.

NEXT WEEK: “I’m a sorcerer. I have magic…”

‘Merlin’ Recap – Say It Like An Elvis Song

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This week’s Merlin brings to a head the last month’s storyline involving a puppet Gwen and her attempts to bring down Camelot and Arthur according to the will of everyone’s favorite bastard princess and witch, Morgana. The episode’s title, “With All My Heart,” refers to what Gwen said to Arthur when she accepted his wedding proposal, but it’s also a reference to an Elvis Presley song, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” recorded by The King as a single in 1956. It was his second number one hit on the Billboard pop charts. I’m not sure if the writers had that in mind with the line, but it’s where my mind went anyway.

But let’s get down to this very important episode, which opens once again with Guinevere meeting Morgana in the woods outside the castle to discuss their latest takedown options. This time though, Merlin and Arthur are hiding nearby listening to every word. Arthur wants to strike now, but Merlin advises patience. They need to find a way to free Gwen from Morgana’s control.

Gauis says there is a magic that can help Gwen, and although Arthur is hesitant, the combined convincing power of Gaius and Merlin brings the king around to the idea. But first, a field trip for Merlin. Gwen is suffering the Tiene Daga, a magical method of brainwashing that binds the brainwashee to the High Priestess by instilling horrific fear (see: The Dark Tower). Merlin must see the Dochraid in order to find a possible cure for Gwen, and she’s not going to be very accommodating.

Merlin goes in disguise as Dragoon the Great, but that doesn’t fool the Dochraid, she knows who she’s dealing with: Emrys, and he ain’t no friend to the Old Religion or Morgana. Screw it! Merlin goes gangsta on the Dochraid, and busts a cap… Or rather wounds her on the arm with Excalibur. The Dochraid gives up the info: Merlin and Co. will have to travel to the Cauldron of Arianrhod where Merlin will have to summon the Triple Goddess herself as only her healing touch can hope to save Gwen. But the rub is that Gwen will have to enter the waters of the Cauldron willingly, she cannot be tricked or enchanted, or else risk losing her soul forever. As Merlin turns to leave, the Dochraid tries to kill him with an enchanted knife, but Merlin deflects it easily and instead uses it to strike down the Dochraid.

With info in hand, Arthur, Merlin and Gaius plot to get Gwen to the Cauldron (and to disguise Merlin in order to perform the ritual, since Arthur is already aware of the Dragoon ruse). Using a belladonna-spiked drink to put Gwen’s lights out, Arthur and Merlin head out, surreptitiously followed by Mordred, who, at just the right moment, reveals himself in time to save both our heroes from falling off a perilous cliff. But that’s not the only danger. The Dochraid survived and has tipped off Morgana that her old friend Emrys is looking to de-puppetize the queen.

Morgana ambushes the gang as they’re nearing the Cauldron, and she has dragon back-up. Merlin tells Arthur to take Gwen ahead and he uses his Dragon Lord powers to call off Aithusa’s attack, but then Morgana strikes, knocking out Mordred and leaving Merlin with just enough juice to get away. That was fine by Morgana, who, with some lingering degree of affection for Mordred, tries to get out of the knight the identity of Emrys. But nope, Mordred will not tell her anything, or betray Arthur, so he knocks Morgana out with magic instead.

Finally at the Cauldron, Arthur and Gwen are confronted by the sorcerer who will help them: Dolma. If she looks familiar, it’s because she’s Merlin in drag (with some temporary magical sex reassignment, not that we got into the technicalities of the spell). Arthur tries to get Gwen into the lake, but she’s not having any of it. Merlin/Dolma reminds Arthur that he has to convince her to enter the lake of her own free will, so Arthur offers some romantic words to his queen: “Do you remember when I asked you to marry me? Do you remember what you said? You said with all my heart. That’s what you said Guinevere. No subterfuge, no trickery.” Gwen is moved, and enters the lake with Arthur. Merlin lays on the spells, and all is right with the world again.

Arthur prepares to depart and thanks the Dolma for her efforts. The Dolma asks Artur to remember that it was magic that healed his wife, and that the practice itself isn’t bad, it’s how people decide to use it. And by the way, do you want your serving boy back? I’ve got “him” all “tied up” back at my “lair.” Our heroes make their way back to Camelotand everything’s grand, at least until till next week’s crisis, and Mordred tells Merlin that he wasn’t fooled by the whole Dolma ruse. Not one bit. Arthur however, totally bought it.

EPISODE NOTES

-Who else is loving bad ass Merlin? Taking on the Dochraid was just the latest in a long line of ballsy moves the wizard’s done since offing Uncle Agravaine in “The Sword and the Stone, Part II.” Of course, somewhat muting Merlin’s development as a magical Punisher was this week’s experimentation with cross-dressing, but you kind of have to respect a man who will literally do whatever it takes to save the day.

-But seriously, is there no such thing as Polyjuice potion or fake mustaches in the Merlin universe? The two options were going old, or going fem?

-Mordred once again got involved in the action this week, which was nice considering he’s done a lot of standing on the sidelines lately (and to prove it, Alexander Vlahos has been made to do that standing on the sidelines to show that Mordred’s still around). However, I found Mordred’s still rather staunch defense of Arthur and Camelot interesting given our proximity to the series finale. Maybe Mordred should be questioning his commitment given that Arthur was using magic to solve his own personal problems while Merlin was perfectly happy to leave him to Morgana and whatever fate she concocted?

-It’s somewhat disappointing that the episode didn’t lead to someone who’s not Mordred discovering Merlin’s secret identity, and I don’t mean Dolma. From the looks of next week’s episode though it looks like somebody might be getting close, perhaps too close. Still, I will call the evil Gwen storyline a mostly success. It added some nice shades of grey to Gwen’s story arc and the resolution was actually very emotionally moving. Bravo!

NEXT WEEK: Morgana goes from 0 to 1,000 in her quest to get rid of Emrys once and for all.

Bryan Singer opted out of directing a reboot to 1981’s Excalibur, and is instead going to be working a Battlestar Galactica film. Now Deadline has reported that Universal Pictures has hired screen writer John Orloff to write the Singer directed picture, a reported sequel to the 1978 television series (NOT the updated one). Once Bryan to finishes 2012’s Jack The Giant Killer they can get started on filming intergalactic space battles between murderous robots and the last of the human race.

Orloff received an Emmy nomination for the HBO war series Band of Brothers and his latest picture, the Shakespearean mystery Anonymous, about the mystery of who actually wrote the plays under the name of William Shakespeare looks to be quite the nail bitter.

While Orloff seems an adequate enough writer, I am NOT sold on the idea of a BSG film, especially from Singer. BSG (2003) was one of the very, very few remakes that improved on the original and this douche canoe, whom has destroyed the Superman franchise, is going in for Sci-Fi sloppy seconds (technically sloppy thirds)?! Why would anyone hire this man to do another franchise reboot?

Via: Coming Soon

John Boorman‘s 1981 Excalibur has always been a classic to me. Hell, just watching Patrick Stewart pre-Star Trek is well worth sitting through the movie. So, when news of director Bryan Singer developing a remake broke, you can bet that there were a few people (including myself) prepping their swords in revolt. Thankfully, the project is now dead. Singer however, will now being diving headlong into directing a Battlestar Galactica remake.

With filming finished with Bryan’s current project, Jack The Giant Killer, the director’s project will focus on the 12 colonies and the battle for survival against the Cylons. Here’s what Bryan had to say on Excalibur and the development of BSG:

“Yeah, unfortunately it is no longer going to happen. I was really enthused to do it. I’m a fan of John Boorman’s movie and it was my intention to get it going after Jack The Giant Killer was completed. The project was with Warner Bros and what happened is that another King Arthur project was brought to them during that time. Basically, it was just more ready to go into production than ours was. That is why our version of Excalibur ended up being negated. But, when that happened, it allowed me to go straight into developing Battlestar Galactica – which I think will be really exciting.”

As for whether the movie will be based on the original 1978 series or Bryan’s planned “sequel” from 2001 remains to be seen, but whatever happens they need to bring back Edward James Olmos as William Adama (SO SAY WE ALL!). If you can’t wait for Singer to get started, then just watch the show on DVD, you should have everything finished by the time he starts production.

Via: Geek Tyrant

Top Ten BAD Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies

Sci-Fi and Fantasy films…Ahh..A movie that can get away with anything the fuck it pleases if its an original script. Or if not handled as delicately as china…Or a newborn being held onto by the ankle…Someone’s cult comic, film remake, graphic novel, or game of any sort can be destroyed and bring down the integrity of it all as a whole. My list consists of the silly…The bad..And the worst. Most of these picks are originals of sorts, and just because they’re BAD…Doesn’t neseccarily mean I don’t relish them, in that way they take you back to a time when your life was simpler and the special F/X were astounding! (more…)

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