"The Walking Dead" has fans talking 'Dead

Written by Maria Sciullo on .


So, two for the price of one.
Spoiler alert for fans who have yet to see last night's Season 7 premiere of AMC's "The Walking Dead": it was Glenn, after all.
But first, it was Abraham, as charming monster Negan swung for the fences, thus ending a months-long cliffhanger.
It wasn't pretty. Incidentally, fans can pay their respects in person to the actor playing Abraham, Michael Cudlitz, when he visits Pittsburgh's Steel City Con in December.
Internet reaction to the killings Sunday night/Monday morning was heavy on the "I'm-never-watching-again" for a number of reasons. First, the incredible amount of gore on a 9 p.m. basic cable program.
Two weeks ago, FX's "American Horror Story" (a program that delights in over-the-top ickiness) showed Denis O'Hare's character having his head smashed to a pulp. 
Gross, yes. But the theme of AHS this season has been showing scary stuff in the context of a cheesy reality program. His was the rather dispassionate killing of someone viewers didn't really know or care about.
The character of Negan, however, that's a horse of a different blood-red color. And the potential victims were (mostly) people fans have grown to know and love over the years.
We all know that in Robert Kirkman's graphic novels, fan favorite Glenn (Steven Yeun) is chosen by Negan to be clubbed to death with a barbed-wire-covered baseball bat. 
But the showrunners -- including Pittsburgh native Greg Nicotero, who directed the episode -- already have veered from the printed page in various ways.
When Abraham turned out to be Negan's initial victim, Twitter reaction at #TheWalkingDead was mainly "R.I.P., soldier, at least it wasn't Glenn."
Not so fast...
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) had to go through a somewhat pointless RV ritual with Negan. This generated fake-out speculation that even MORE of our hardy band of survivors were clubbed. But there was little doubt that what happened to Glenn, our beloved pizza delivery boy, was no imagined flashback.
His final words to Maggie ("I will find you") were the true emotional core of the episode. That Hallmark Channel dinner at the end of the episode? The one that was supposed to lighten the traumatic load just dumped on fans? Uh, no. Please don't do that again.
It's Negan's world now, and everyone else just lives in it. If he's in a good mood.
TWDdinner 380x252


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'Doctor Strange' shares new IMAX 3D footage in Pittsburgh and theaters across North America

Written by Sharon Eberson on .



"Doctor Strange" hit theaters at 7 tonight -- for about 15 minutes.

Marvel Studios' sneak peak "Expand Your Mind: An IMAX 3D Exclusive First Look" showcased 15 minutes of exclusive "Doctor Strange" footage in more than 115 North American theaters, including the AMC Loews Waterfront (as seen in the screen above).

The Game Guy, Max Parker, and I joined a few dozen others excited to see the magic happen -- or to see Benedict Cumberbatch. At least one person there was wearing an "I AM SHER-LOCKED" T-shirt. I'm with her, but I like my Marvel comic-book movies, too.

In a statement, director Scott Derrickson says, "As a movie fan, I am thrilled to take audiences along on the visual journey of 'Doctor Strange' and give them an early peek at what we've been working on. The completed film will feature more than an hour of specially formatted IMAX sequences that will provide audiences with a totally immersive — and mind-blowing — filmgoing experience, and I'm excited to share a taste of that with our fans on 10/10."

After collecting our poster and 3D glasses, we sat down to see Cumberbatch -- as himself -- appear onscreen to introduce the footage. In his minute of air time, he perform a little magic trick: As he moved his hands apart, the screen expanded upward. "Cool," as he put it.

I admit trepidation -- I was wondering how I would buy the oh-so-British Cumberbatch as a wisecracking American named Steve (Dr. Stephen Strange). It was a little disconcerting to hear him rattling off pop culture names to ... Benedict Wong, who plays Wong. Honest. He's nothing like the Wong of the comic books, who is Strange's manservant. Here, he's seen as a tough librarian who will teach this Strange upstart a few lessons.

Oscar winner Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was a slave to Cumberbatch's plantation owner in "12 Years a Slave," here plays Baron Mondo, a villainous rival to Doctor Strange in the comic books but here, seen as a sidekick in a multiverse war against Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius.

In the 15 minutes, we see most of Doctor Strange's origin story. Arrogant surgeon with love interest Rachel McAdams who gets into a car accident that ruins his life -- until he goes to the mysterious enclave known as Kamar-Taj, where he becomes a student of the Tibetan sorcerer known as the Ancient One, played by a bald Tilda Swinton.

A major portion of the footage was reserved for special effects. Think of the mind-bending cityscapes of "Inception" and the psychedelic dreamscapes of the "The Fountain," all in kinetic flux, and you get the picture. It was eye-popping and certainly "cool," as Cumberbatch said, and certainly a lure for the full-length movie due to be released Nov. 4.

Before the screening, there was an announcement to check out the website, where a video of Cumberbatch, standing in the same brick-lined room where he shot the aforementioned intro, announces a global initiative to boost childhood education through the charity Save the Children.

Marvel Studios Hero Acts asks you to upload a photo of yourself in your favorite Marvel superhero pose on the website and share it on social media with the hashtags #marvelstudios #heroacts, and Marvel will donate $5 for each post, up to $1 million through the end of the year.



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Steel City Con brings Christopher Lloyd, Tom Felton, Michael Rooker and more to Monroeville

Written by Sharon Eberson on .


Scenes from the Steel City Con 8/13/16 

1:15 p.m. — Arrive for 2 p.m. panel with Christopher Lloyd. There are still lines to get in, but the Monroeville Convention Center is nearing capacity at 6,000. Dominic Alessandria of Orangestone Promotions, who oversees the big toys/collectibles/celebrities convention is going up and down the line and getting parents with children into the shade or inside. He’s wearing a long-sleeved button-down light-blue shirt — the same type of shirt Tom Felton will later take off and get down to a white T-shirt. The artist’s area and main floor were cool, but in the Q&A room, the air-conditioning was not doing its job most of the day. They got that fixed as I was leaving, of course.

Inside, it’s a Harley Quinn attack. Every female geek of all shapes and sizes wants to be Margot Robbie in “Suicide Squad.” I spot eight in full-color outfits, hair, makeup and all, and three with accompanying Jokers. There are a lot of people in full costume, including a couple of Deadpools, and I worry about them in this heat. They don’t seem to mind.


1:55 p.m. — Christopher Lloyd arrives early, after a short film that reminds me he was the villain in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” How could I forget? He’s in a dark T-shirt and jeans, his long gray-white hair combed back and tame, as he struts up and down the stage with a wireless mic. He goes off on tangents and mumbles a bit on almost every question, in a kind of charming, kind of hard to hear Reverend Jim/Doc Brown way. 

  • He talks about being a New York stage actor and swearing he’d never do a sitcom when he got out to Hollywood — before “Taxi” came along. 
  • A fan asks him about being the only Klingon to destroy the Enterprise (a friend of mine argues that Kirk actually did the destroying, but we won’t go there) and he says he came home to his then girlfriend and jumped up and down on the bed and shouted it: “I destroyed the Enterprise!” He liked the makeup, too. He also says he had heard that “Kirk” (William Shatner) was difficult and was wary when he came to the set, but that they had a choreographed fight to do and had a grand time together. 
  • On “Back to the Future” (the cast will reunite in Chicago next weekend, he says as an aside), the surprise is that his favorite movie is No. 3: because it was a Western and that was lots of fun, and Doc got to have a romance. He was in a bad place when he got the initial script and threw it away, but eventually got a meeting with Robert Zemekis, “And that was it.” 
  • He says his first-ever movie role, as Taber in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” is something he’s never been able to find again, for the pure, stripped-down nature of it — and the danger.

2016ConDobby3 p.m. — Tom Felton (top) is supposed to come into the Q&A room at 3, and I want to save my seat, although I haven’t walked among the goodies yet. They announce that the line for his autograph and picture is very long and he’s taking time with every fan, so it’s looking like it won’t be until 3:15 (later they say 3:30). They also announce that the air-conditioning has been cranked up, but it will take time to cool off the desert in there. I’m melting and the nice person next to me says she will watch my seat while I run for water.

In line to buy a bottled water and there is what sounds like a huge explosion — a thunderclap — and you hear lots of people mumble “Thor” (only at comic con). Then the cash register goes out and they stop taking orders, but I ask if it’s OK if we have exact change, and those of us who do (most of us) get what we came for.

3:30ish p.m. — Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy and the future Julian Dorn on The CW’s “The Flash,” arrives to a very enthusiastic crowd, and he charms them from his first “Hello, darling” to a questioner. I am angry with myself for not getting in line to ask a question, but I want the paying customers to get all of theirs in — no one asks about “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” even when asking what kind of father Draco would be. He says better than his father, having been through such a rough childhood with Lucius Malfoy. “I think you see some of that in the train station scene [in ‘Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows 2’] when he’s with [his son] Scorpius, he says. 

  • He says he had never read the books when, at age 11, he auditioned for first Harry, then Ron and finally Draco, and director Christopher Columbus must have known it from the answers he gave to certain questions. Asked if he ever got advice from J.K. Rowling, he says he she wasn’t around the set much, although her remembers teaching a game to her daughter Mackenzie, and “Jo and I didn’t really become friends until after it was over.”
  • His favorite character — other than Draco — is Gilderoy Lockhart, the foppish fraud played by Kenneth Branagh in the film series. "I’d watch a spinoff of that," he says, with Branagh playing the character.
  • He leads the room in "Happy Birthday" for a fan and points out an adorable toddler dressed up with Dobby ears. When someone asks how she might work for him, he politely says thanks, but he’s doing fine. 
  • He has been killed off in a few roles since the “HP” series, including a death by ape in “Planet of the Apes.” He says motion-cap actor extraordinaire Andy Serkis takes that sort of thing very seriously. "My mother hates it when I get killed," he says of his screen deaths. 
  • He says he has completed several episodes as Julian on "The Flash" and is very enthusiastic about audiences seeing his "spiffy" character. He likens Grant Gustin’s role on set of "The Flash" to Daniel Radcliffe’s on the "Harry Potter" films — they are leaders, and everyone takes their cues from them. He also says Radcliffe was the prankster behind the scenes of the HP movies.

Who knew Draco would grow up to be such a charmer?

4 p.m. — I am ready to melt, and run to air-conditioning before the Lou Ferrigno panel. Sorry big guy. 


4:30 p.m. — Hang around where Michael Rooker ("The Walking Dead”; “Guardians of the Galaxy"; above with Steely City Con wrestling celebs) is going to be signing autographs to say hi after he had been so much fun during a phone interview. Dominic comes by, and he says how supportive the municipality of Monroeville has been to Steel City, it’s biggest convention. Although they are at capacity, he likes it here because he can keep prices down, compared to Downtown, and parking is free. 

Across the row from Rooker's autograph booth are Angie Dickinson, Martin Landau and Anthony Michael Hall - a fascinating trio, right? 

Rooker arrives dressed in a leather jacket and not sweating. Grrr. He greets me like a long-lost friend and insists on giving me a token — in the form of an autographed picture of his gross monster from “Slither.” He’s a hoot, and the fans lined up are in for a treat.


5 p.m. — While Rooker has made his way before the throng in the Q&A room, I am walking the floor, but my heart isn’t into shopping at this point, despite all the steampunk jewelry and action figures. I just want to look for the interesting, the weird, the inspiring. Then I see fully outfitted Thor and Loki walking together like buddies, Thor’s red cape waving behind him. They head to the water fountain. Hopefully, they also are headed to the Steel City Con costume contest Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. 

Follow me on Twitter: @SEberson_pg.


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Pittsburgh-born widow of Marvel's Mark Gruenwald makes hometown appearances

Written by Sharon Eberson on .



Starting Friday, is auctioning a portrait titled "20 Years Tribute to Mark Gruenwald, Mr. Marvel" (above) by David Banegas."

The ToonSeum exhibition "Captain America: 75 Years of the Sentinel of Liberty" is coming to a close with a special event Saturday night at 7.


Catherine Schuller-Gruenwald, widow of "Captain America" writer and Marvel executive editor Mark Gruenwald, is returning to her hometown to greet fans at the ToonSeum and do Ash-o-graph stamping of a commemorative piece created for the New York City Marvel tribute in June. The stamp of Mr. Gruenwald's signature, invented by his widow, contains ink and her husband's cremains.

Mark Gruenwald got his start publishing his own fanzine and writing articles for DC Comics' official fanzine. In 1977, he was hired by Marvel Comics, where he worked until his death on Aug. 12, 1996. One of his wishes was to have his ashes mixed with printer's ink, according to the New York Post, and Ms. Schuller-Gruenwald has helped grant his wish by creating the Ash-o-graph stamp.

His ashes were added to the first print run of the "Squadron Supreme" trade paperback, one of Mr. Gruenwald's most successful projects for Marvel. 

Ms. Schuller-Gruenwald, who attended South Hills High School and Chatham University, on Wednesday scattered "two scoops of Gru" at the base of a 13-foot-tall statue of Captain America following an unveiling ceremony in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, according to the Post.




The ToonSeum event is free and beverages will be available; more on Facebook.



Ms. Schuller-Gruenwald also will make an appearance at New Dimension Comics, Pittsburgh Mills, from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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Nonstop treats for the senses take flight with Cirque du Soleil's 'Toruk'

Written by Sharon Eberson on .


There was so much eye candy at Cirque du Soleil's "Toruk: The First Flight," it was hard to know where to look first -- especially when I had a role to play.

The new show at Consol Energy Center is subtitled "Inspired by James Cameron's 'Avatar,' " including the land-sky-sea environments and blue humanoid Na'vi denizens of the planet Pandora -- the setting for "Toruk" and for the No. 1 global box-office film of all time ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is No. 1 in the USA).

The arena-sized show invites patrons to download the "Toruk: The First Flight" app and check in, which takes a few minutes. (Suggestion: grab the app before you arrive; doing it 5 minutes before the start of the show was an distraction.) The app will then send you messages to have your phone handy and then ask you to point your screen toward the stage

TreeI have to admit, it was weird having my cell phone taken over to display color or glaring eyes that then became part of the effects in a scene, adding to the depth of the production (at Consol, "Toruk" used the floor of the arena, one short side and everything in between (the top two tiers of seats were blacked out, adding to the perception of an enormity of scale). 

I found the anticipation and participation of using the app somewhat distracting, and I was annoyed when I got a reminder about visiting the merchandise kiosk during intermission. But it was a new experience on top of experiencing a new show. It would definitely have been more fun if I had downloaded the app and known more about how it worked in advance.

The show itself was less circus and more story than previous Cirque shows I've been to, which I rather liked. The performers combined dance moves, aerial artistry and amazing acrobatic skill as part of a trio's quest to save Pandora's Tree of Souls. 

With a narrator to guide us (everyone else spoke Na'vi), the story unfolded amid a kaleidoscope of color and ever-changing environments. Highlights included "War Horse"-style creature puppets and ginormous fanning flowers. The waterless waves and volcano climbers were among the more stunning effects that involved projections, and the Toruk title creature took the prize for coolest puppet among many. 

"Toruk: The First Flight" might seem like sensory overload, but is there such a thing as too much eye candy?

Remaining showtimes: 7:30 p.m. through Friday; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. next Sunday;, or 1-800-653-8000.


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