Capitalism Ascending

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Jupiter-Ascending-Mila-KunisJupiter Ascending has gotten a great deal of attention since its release. Generally not the kind of attention most movies want, especially when they come with a price tag that eclipses the annual budgets of some nations. It has been eviscerated by critics while quickly gaining cult status and a loyal fandom. In short, everyone has an opinion on this one. And far be it from me to stay out of an argument.

I’m not going to try and convince you of the quality of Jupiter Ascending. It is indisputably gorgeous. It is also indisputably plagued with plot holes that wouldn’t make it past a Creative Writing 101 professor. It’s a love note to The Fifth Element, Flash Gordon, and Barbarella while presenting women viewers (the film’s most ardent fans at this point) with something we don’t usually get: wish fulfillment aimed at us. But in the midst of this beautiful mess is a subversive meaning that goes deeper than most critics realize. Some commentary describes the movie as having an “anti-corporate” message, and while I think that’s accurate it’s also an understatement.

Jupiter Ascending doesn’t have an anti-corporate subtext. The entire piece is a manifesto against modern corporate capitalism. That message is such an integral part of the movie that it is often the very thing that undermines the story. Let’s face it: there are two critical storytelling rules that are commonly broken by very successful artists. The first is Never Outgrow Your Editor (George, JK, I’m looking at you.) The second is Never Let the Metaphor Run the Movie. All sci-fi, and really all fiction, has meaning beyond the bare story on the page. But when the message becomes the story, things go awry. In this case, that means plot holes have been left intact to preserve the metaphor to the detriment of the overall product.

(And here comes the obligatory warning: here there be spoilers.)

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Leah Schnelbach Ranks the Fantasy Films of the 1980s

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Krull poster-smallOver at, Leah Schnelbach is having entirely too much fun ranking the major fantasy films of the 1980s. Here she is on Krull, which she ranks an abysmal 17 (out of 18):

What this movie’s actually about is the Glaive, but it only gets like ten minutes of screentime. This film was developed as a starring vehicle for the Glaive, the five-bladed boomerang-like weapon wielded by the hero. Unfortunately, the Glaive’s career never really took off: After one too many brawls at the Viper Room, and one two many sunrises spent waking up on the lawns of strangers, the weapon checked itself into a much-needed stint at Hazelden. Deciding that the Hollywood lifestyle just wasn’t enough to fill the void in its soul, the Glaive finally retired to Oregon, where it raises alpacas, and is said to be very happy.

I’m pretty sure her article is a lot more fun than watching Krull all over again.

If there was a decade of fantasy film tailor-made for impassioned fan debate, it’s the 80s. It’s ten years of classics, and stinkers, and classic stinkers, like The Beastmaster, Dragonslayer, Highlander, and many more. Schnelbach is hilarious, and even Excalibur doesn’t escape her snarky commentary (“Have you heard of an actor from Ireland or England? Yeah, he’s in this movie.”)

The article isn’t perfect (um, where’s the timeless S&S classic The Sword & the Sorcerer?) But she does give real movie fans the true gift of being dead wrong on several occasions (Master of the Universe is better than HighlanderWillow and Clash of the Titans both rank above Excalibur??), and we all know movie fans cherish nothing as much as a good debate.

Read the complete article at, and leave your impassioned defense of Labyrinth or the original version of Conan the Barbarian in the comments.

Leonard Nimoy Saved My Life

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Spock-smallI was born in 1960, so the original Star Trek was a first-run series for me. The show and its characters were constant presences during my childhood and adolescent years, first during its original broadcast on NBC from 1966 to 1969, and then in endless syndicated reruns in the years after, all the way up to the advent of the home video age, when I of course bought the series as soon as it became available.

Star Trek, even at its best (the first two years, before the disastrous third and final season, when changes in production personnel made every week a turkey shoot) was a very uneven show. Just doing an evaluative run down of the season two episode list makes it clear how different the show was from standard network fare, and how difficult it was to write well for: excellent episode, decent, excellent, one of the best, stinker, excellent, terrible, so-so, so-so, excellent, stinker, stinker… and so on.

These evaluations are naturally highly personal and different fans will have their own judgments, but I think most people who love the series will have to admit that the truncated “five-year mission” had a lot of flat tires along the way. (Stranded one hundred light-years from the nearest filling station — that’s trouble. No, wait a minute — that’s Voyager.)

Arguably this doesn’t reflect the challenges of an offbeat show like Star Trek so much as it does the grind of network television in those days, the relentless production pressures that turned the medium into what Stephen King has called “the bottomless pit of shit.” (In looking back at the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling reckoned that a third of the episodes were pretty good, a third were only fair, and a third were just terrible… and he figured that all things considered, that was a decent ratio, or at least about the best you could hope for given the limitations of a commercial medium.)

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Leonard Nimoy, March 26, 1931 — February 27, 2015

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Leonard Nimoy Dead-smallLeonard Nimoy, the gifted actor who breathed life into the emotionless Vulcan Spock — and in the process created one of the most famous and enduring TV characters of all time — died today in Bel Air, California.

Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931. His first major role was at the age of 21, when he was cast in the title role of the film Kid Monk Baroni (1952), followed by more than 50 small parts in TV shows and B movies, including an Army sergeant in Them! (1954) and a professor in The Brain Eaters (1958). He was a familiar face in westerns throughout the early sixties, appearing in Bonanza (1960), The Rebel (1960), Two Faces West (1961), Rawhide (1961), Gunsmoke (1962), and on NBC’s Wagon Train four times. He starred alongside DeForest Kelley (the future Dr. McKoy) in The Virginian (1963), and with William Shatner in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (1964).

Nimoy was the only actor to appear in every episode of the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966-69. He received three Emmy Award nominations for playing Spock, and TV Guide named him one of the 50 greatest TV characters in 2009. The role both haunted him and enriched for the rest of his life — which he famously addressed in two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995). After Star Trek ended Nimoy found regular work on the small screen in Mission: Impossible for two seasons, the TV documentary In Search of… , and more recently in Fringe. He also appeared in eight feature-length Star Trek films, including the recent reboots directed by J.J. Abrams. He directed two, Star Trek III: Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Star Trek was one of the first science fiction shows to be taken seriously as adult entertainment, and Leonard Nimoy was a huge part of that success. In his near-perfect portrayal of a hero in flawless control of his emotions, Nimoy connected with his audience — and an entire generation of young SF fans — in a way that very few actors, living or dead, have succeeded in doing. Leonard Nimoy died today of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, at the age of 83.

Belated Movie Review #2: Apocalypto

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Apocalypto-smallI recall that 10,000 BC (Belated Movie Review #1) and Apocalypto came out at roughly the same time. My recall is wrong! Apocaltypto is from ’06 — a full two years earlier than 10KBC!

Still, it was a stone-age adventure movie and has been on my list to see for almost a decade, so I finally did. Like 10KBC, I’m going to RECOMMEND it. Conditionally, as you’ll see below.

A lot of work went into this — cast of thousands! Build an entire Mayan city/prop in the jungle! Translate “I wanna dip my balls in it!” into Mayan! What it is NOT, outside of the first 15 minutes, is particularly fun or pleasant or uplifting. Leaves you kind of feeling like you just watched Leaving Las Vegas, only with more ripping out of still-beating hearts.

The plot is very similar to 10KBC. A group of hunter gatherers in forest are going about their lives, hunting, gathering. A group of slavers from the nearby city-state sweep into the village in a pre-dawn raid. Grizzly fighting ensues, with the hunter gatherers on the losing side.

Things get much grimmer as the slaves are marched off to the city, through the city, and right up to the pyramid in the middle. Still-beating hearts and decapitations and Jaguar Paw (the main character, although it takes a while to figure this out) is next on the block (literally) when an eclipse starts up.

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Will Steven Spielberg Cast Chris Pratt in the Indiana Jones Reboot?

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Chris Pratt-smallThe internet is abuzz with rumors that director Steven Spielberg is considering Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt as his next Indiana Jones.

Deadline broke the news last month that Spielberg was interested in Pratt for the Indiana Jones reboot currently in development at Disney; yesterday Deadline expanded on the story, and it was quickly picked up by Forbes, People, io9, and other media sites.

Officially, there is no comment from the famed director, other than to confirm that there is still no script and the project is still in a very early stage. Based on Pratt’s recent popularity — and that fact that he was reportedly Spielberg’s first choice for the hunter role in Jurassic World, the newest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise from Universal coming in June — he seems a logical enough choice, however.

In addition to Jurassic World, Pratt is also scheduled to appear in the upcoming Image comic adaption Cowboy, Ninja, Viking from Universal. He’s also reportedly in talks to join Denzel Washington in a remake of The Magnificent Seven from MGM.

I wasn’t even aware there was a planned reboot of Indiana Jones (or a The Magnificent Seven remake, while we’re on the topic.) After having seen what Pratt accomplished in The Lego Movie and Guardians though, I’m on board. I think he’d make an excellent choice — particularly if Spielberg directs.

Writers as Barbarian Conquerors!

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

This is possibly the most brilliant way to think about writing ever. I can’t believe I’m just thinking about it now, and certainly won’t have to beat the metaphor into shape. Well, maybe a bit. But, who the heck cares. You can now view your writing as a freaking barbarian invasion! Like I said: brilliant.


Barbarians don’t post plans on the Internet, so I interviewed one and drew this. You’re welcome.


Like any good invading army, you must first plan which of your troops are going where. It’s known as “plotting” in the writing world. It doesn’t need to be super detailed, but you should know the attack plan of your knights (aka hero) and archers (aka secondary characters. Sorry, Hawkeye). Plus, you should know a bit about your enemy’s defenses (aka villain).

Build up enthusiasm in your barbarian army with awesome speeches (aka writing down cool scenes).


This is where you plunge in and WRITE! KILL! DESTROY! Your armies are in place. Your knights are totally rocking it! Your archers are shooting those little wooden arrows like they can’t run out AND THEY DON’T BECAUSE IT’S YOUR BOOK!

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Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar in Development as a TV series

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Dreadstar 3-smallJim Starlin, who has seen several of his most famous comic creations transition to the big screen, has reportedly signed a deal to bring his long-running space opera Dreadstar to television.

Jim Starlin is famous in comic circles as the creator of Thanos, the villain of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War films, as well as Drax the Destroyer and Gamora, two members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. His run on Captain Marvel, which introduced Thanos and his quest to end all life to prove his love for Death, was a high-water mark for superhero comics of the 1970s, and elements from his Infinity Gauntlet storyline have become the unifying storyline for Phase II of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In 1980 Stalin introduced a new character, Vanth Dreadstar, in Epic Illustrated #3. Dreadstar’s early adventures were eventually collected in Metamorphosis Odyssey, a grim far future tale of a desperate battle against the Zygoteans, who conquer and enslave virtually all life in the Milky Way. Metamorphosis Odyssey ended with Dreadstar and his companions destroying the entire galaxy, rather than have it fall into the hands of the Zygoteans (I told you it was grim).

No one really dies in comics though, and Dreadstar eventually returned in Dreadstar #1, one of the flagship titles of Marvel’s new Epic comic line, in 1982. Epic published 26 issues before Dreadstar switched publishers to First Comics. Starlin wrote and drew all the issues until he left with issue 41 (March 1989), and Peter David took over writing chores. Dreadstar lasted a total of 64 issues.

Dreadstar had a very different feel to Metamorphosis Odyssey. Whereas the latter is considered an allegory, Dreadstar is straight-up space opera. Set a million years after the destruction of the Milky Way, and halfway across the universe, it follows the adventures of Vanth Dreadstar and his crew of gifted oddballs, including the powerful sorcerer Syzygy Darklock and the wise-cracking Skeevo, as they get caught up in a galaxy-spanning conflict between the Monarchy and the tyrannical Church of the Instrumentality. Dreadstar was closer in spirit to Star Wars than anything else, with desperate battles, betrayals, robots, and ancient and mystical powers influencing events at critical moments.

Variety reports that Universal Cable Productions and Benderspink will develop the series, with Starlin serving as executive producer and writer. No word on a release date yet. See the complete article here.

Goth Chick News: The New Poltergeist Clown – Oh Hell No

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Poltergeist then and now

Poltergeist then and now

Poltergeist might have been the first time I was ever truly scared by a movie.

Of course I grew up on a solid diet of Universal Studios movie monsters along with an array of black and white horrors from Hammer shown on late-night TV. But in all of those, no matter how high the creep factor, it was fairly clear that these stories depicted reel reality, not real reality.

But then along came little Carol Anne Freeling and her off-air television.

Suddenly, all “real” scary stuff was up there on the screen; the craggy dead tree knocking against your bedroom window, lightning storms looming ever closer, the half-open closet door…

And the clown… under the bed.

I mean come on, Vincent Price as The Fly was enough to make you watch at least part of it through splayed fingers, but deep down you knew a fly with a human head was pretty darn unlikely.

But an evil clown under your bed? Entirely plausible.

To this day, even as low-tech as it now appears, Poltergeist still gives me a shudder. It knew what scared us alright.

So it is with some trepidation that I remind you that a reboot of Tobe Hopper’s original fright fest is due to hit theaters on July 24th, in 3D no less.

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Star Trek Kickstarter Warps Ahead

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

When I first reported on the trek continues crewStar Trek Continues Kickstarter a few weeks ago it was newly born. This morning it’s just reached its first stretch goal, which means that not only will there be two more episodes, but the people who devote their time and energy to creating this will be building us an engineering set as well!

If this is your first time hearing about the series, follow the link above to find a wonderful take on Star Trek that may be the closest we’ll ever get to seeing new original episodes of the quality of the best of the original series.

Here’s what I said about the second episode, “Lolani,” on this very web site, although it holds true for all three of the episodes made thus far: ”… it feels like a lost episode. It’s not just the sets and the effects, which are truly astonishing in their faithfulness, it’s the pacing, and the music cues, and the fadeouts, and the story beats, and the writing — and the actors. These people understand who the original characters were and inhabit them — and I swear that this script could stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest entries in the original run.”

trek scottyThe staff and crew aren’t getting paid for their work:iIt’s a labor of love done in their free time. Hours and hours and hours of their free time.

I hope you’ll join me in swinging by to donate money to their new Kickstarter, which you can find here. Now that they’ve hit their first stretch goal I’m hoping in the final four days of fund raising they can get enough capital to construct a planet set so they can beam down to visit strange new worlds!

If you’re skeptical about the sound of any of this, I invite you to visit the site and try out these three fine existing episodes for yourself. If you’re a fan of the original show, you’re likely to be astonished.

Live long, and prosper.

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