My Love/Hate Romance With Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

Monday, January 26th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

GandalfLet me state for the record that I am a fan of the film adaptation of The Lord Of the Rings. Jack Nicholson can complain all he likes about “too many endings,” but that celluloid trilogy managed the impossible: it successfully imbued a made-up world not only with turmoil and action but with genuine emotional gravitas. The Lord Of the Rings (2001 – 2003), against all odds, mattered.

Having just seen the third of The Hobbit installments (2012 – 2014), I fear I cannot say the same for these sequel-prequels. I want to. At certain moments, I’m convinced. At others?

Yes, the task of adapting a book to the screen is arduous, full of perils, and the fact that Jackson’s scriptwriting team of Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and (for these films) Guillermo del Toro have had any success at all is remarkable. Tolkien, let’s face it, was not an efficient story-teller. Given characters like Tom Bombadil, it would not be unfair to crown him as King Of All Digressions.

So let’s take it as a given that adaptation involves violence toward the source material. Additions will be made, and subtractions, too. So be it. The goal, typically, is to preserve the spirit of the original.

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Goth Chick News: M. Night Shyamalan’s Secret Project Revealed

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

SundowningIt’s been nearly a year since we wrote about M. Night Shyamalan leaking a few cryptic Tweets about his double-secret “micro-budget” film called Sundowning – or at least that was what it was titled on the clapboards.

To clarify, “micro-budget” is the latest, sexier term Hollywood has assigned to “indy” films, or rather films made outside of the studio system and without their financial backing. Then all you have to do it take a quick look back at M. Night’s last few outings to know that making a film inside the studio system is probably not a viable option for him at the moment (see After Earth and The Last Airbender: though personally I had a ton of fun with Devil).

Back in February, 2013 M. Night was sequestered somewhere in snowy Pennsylvania with a paltry crew of ten, cast included. Considering the setting, the title and the fact that some fairly significant horror movies have been filmed on shoestring budgets, we here at Goth Chick News along with our favorite fan boys had our money on a vampire movie.

I mean even a good set of fangs are fairly reasonable cost-wise, and everyone in New England is pasty this time of year anyway…

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Star Trek Continues With a Kirkstarter

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Itrek continues crew‘ve raved about Star Trek Continues to anyone I could find. It is, simply, a wonderful take on Star Trek and 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 involved want to launch new episodes and they need help. They’re not getting paid for their work, you see. It’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. One of their stretch goals is to raise funding for an engineering set, and another is to raise funding for a planet set!

Most importantly, of course, is the funding of two new episodes (and possibly more, depending upon hitting stretch goals). If you’ve seen the first three, you’ll understand how fabulous that is.

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

Live long, and prosper.

Smart Guy, Huh?

Friday, January 16th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

ScorpionIt used to be okay to be the smartest person in the room – at least on paper, real life isn’t my area of expertise. Sherlock Holmes was definitely a loner, and eccentric, no question. But when he left Baker Street, he was appropriately dressed, even, or perhaps especially, when in disguise. He knew, understood and used all the social conventions, and could converse easily with everyone and anyone, from any walk of life. He may not have been interested in women romantically, but he had no trouble interacting with them.

This facility used to be part of being the smartest person in the room. Now, we see more examples of this extremity of genius than ever before, including two versions of Holmes. It might have been CSI that started this off – what was Grissom but the smartest guy in the room? – and since then we’ve had House MD bringing in the medical side, and The Mentalist for the con artist in all of us, and this season alone we’ve got Forever, and Scorpion, plus, I believe, a couple more coming along soon.

And let’s not forget, that for as long as most of us have been alive, we’ve had Dr. Who.

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James Bond is in the Public Domain in Canada

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

James Bond 007-smallNews that the character of James Bond entered the public domain in several countries around the world, including Canada, on January 1st 2015, has stirred considerable excitement among small press publishers.

As io9 reported on Thursday, for many countries who signed the international Berne Convention governing copyright, an author’s works are protected until 50 years after her death. Ian Fleming died in 1964, which means his work entered the public domain this year. Fleming’s original novels can now be published by anyone in Canada, and new film adaptions of those works are fair game.

Canadian publishers such as Neil Baker’s April Moon Books, who recently produced the popular anthologies The Dark Rites of Cthulhu and Amok!, are exploring what this means to those interested in producing new Bond-related books and anthologies. Here’s Neil:

Here is what I know so far. The name James Bond is currently not trademarked, and it wouldn’t be an issue if it was. However, James Bond OO7 is trademarked, and would cause a kerfuffle. The movies are off-limits, so no fluffy white cats or Q. Movie versions of James are off-limits, as is SPECTRE and, to some extent, villains using nuclear threats. It’s all a bit murky, but I’m still digging.

I’m trying to clarify the position of writers outside of Canada, bear with me on this.

Keep up with developments on the April Moon Facebook page.

Goth Chick News: From Comics to Film, Bad Kids Go (Back) To Hell

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Bad_Kids_Go_To_Hell-smallBack in 2010 at the Chicago Comic Con, we had a chance meeting with the creators of what was then a new comic series entitled Bad Kids Go to Hell. This was mainly due to their booth being manned by several young ladies in skimpy Catholic school uniforms, which Black Gate photographer Chris Z seemed to find immensely camera-worthy.

However, after speaking with creators Matthew Spradlin and Barry (Bazz) Wernick, who came up with this idea during the 2007 Hollywood writer’s strike, I had to admit they were onto something. Four years on, I was clearly not the only one who thought the Bad Kids Go To Hell graphic novel was disturbing and hysterical in equal measure.

What was created during the pair’s relentless promotional tour of comic-fan conventions and in-store signings during the next year, was nothing short of a juggernaut cult following. The touring allowed Spradlin and Wernick to improve their pitch and ultimately gave them their shot at turning the comic into a movie.

Which is precisely what they did in 2012.

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Beyond Ever After: Into the Woods

Monday, January 5th, 2015 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Into the Woods poster-smallWhenever I walk into my local chain bookstore, I am immediately attracted to a display near the entrance which bears the enticing banner, “Former Bestsellers.”

Here reside the Grishams, the Clancys, and the Kings of last year and the year before, pushed off the pedestal of the New and the Now by the never-ceasing flood that issues from the mouth of modern publishing. It is a great place to grab a good read, cheap.

It is, alas, the fate of even the most successful book to eventually become a “former.” A quick consultation of the New York Times bestseller list reveals that the number one hardcover fiction book of this first week of 2015 is Gray Mountain by John Grisham. It is, I am sure, an efficient and effective novel, but if we could leap forward two or three hundred years and conduct a cyborg-on-the-street interview, what is the likelihood that any of our subjects would be able to name the characters or recount the plot of Gray Mountain?

Of course I’m being unfair to Grisham, a writer who is a straightforward, popular entertainer of the moment with no aspirations to membership in the Pantheon. Might we do better asking our 24th century citizen about A Farewell to Arms, or Lolita, or Portnoy’s Complaint? Yes? Umm… no, I think.

What could we ask about with any chance of success — never mind centuries from now, but even today? (Outside the halls of the English Department, I fear that the great works of Hemingway, Nabokov, and Roth wouldn’t fare any better than Forever Amber — and if you’ve never heard of that one, that’s my point, and if you have… oh, just sit down and be quiet!) Here’s a guess — Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumplestilskin, Hansel and Gretel, stories that were already old when Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm first collected them two hundred years ago.

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Adventure On Film: Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers

Monday, December 29th, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

three rideI can hear the protests already: “Don’t you mean Alexander Dumas’s The Three Musketeers?” Well, yes. In a way. But I refer here to the film, not the novel. This 1973 outing is one of perhaps eight full-length film adaptations of this grand French chestnut, and, as directed by Richard Lester, it’s essential viewing for all fans of action, swordplay, and pace.

Indeed, to cut and slash the weighty novel down to a manageable length, no small violence has been done to the text, and the film practically tumbles over itself trying to keep up with its own story-telling requirements. Lester fills each rowdy frame with visions of period France; in his crowd scenes, there’s so much going on that the film bears an immediate second viewing, just to keep up with the busy visuals.

Best of all, of course, are the fabulous, kinetic, and often hilarious sword fights. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis may be musketeers, but there’s hardly a discharge of powder and shot to be found; these heroes (dandies and drunks, really) live by the sword, full stop.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Arthur Wontner, the Third Great Holmes

Monday, December 29th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne


Joseph Simpson’s drawing from 1908


Wontner; circa 1935

With his turn-of-the century stage play, William Gillette was the first great Sherlock Holmes. Eille Norwood was the second, making a series of popular silent film adaptations of Doyle’s stories in the early twenties. The third great Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Wontner, is one of my personal favorites.

Britain’s Twickenham Film Studios snagged Wontner after his successful performance as Sexton Blake (a detective hero of British schoolboys) and signed him to play the world’s foremost private consulting detective. The Sleeping Cardinal was a hit in England, with Wontner’s performance praised widely. Picturegoer Weekly wrote: “Wontner’s rendering of Sherlock Holmes is wholly convincing, even to the smallest mannerisms.”

Retitled The Fatal Hour to better appeal to action-oriented American audiences, it played for over a month on Broadway, which was unheard of at the time for a British film. In those pre-Oscar days, it even won the New York Critics’ Cinema Prize as the best mystery drama.

The story included elements of “The Empty House” and “The Final Problem,” though Colonel Moran only plays a minor part and Moriarty himself shoots at the bust of Holmes! Norman McKinnel’s Moriarty is one of the more under-appreciated portrayals of the Professor.

Wontner, who bore a strong resemblance to Sidney Paget’s drawings, received rave reviews. A few years later, the famous American Sherlockian Vincent Starrett wrote, “No better Sherlock Holmes than Arthur Wontner is likely to be seen and heard in pictures in our time…his detective is the veritable fathomer of Baker Street in person.”

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Marvel Casts Luke Cage

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Luke Cage NetflixI’ve been following the news surrounding Marvel Entertainment’s upcoming Netflix shows with a great deal of interest. Originally announced last November, the plan is for Netflix to launch four live-action dramas focused on Marvel’s street-level heroes, leading to “a mini-series programming event” that will rival the blockbuster Avengers. Quoting from the press release:

Led by a series focused on Daredevil, followed by Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, the epic will unfold over multiple years of original programming, taking Netflix members deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Netflix has committed to a minimum of four, thirteen episodes series and a culminating Marvel’s The Defenders mini-series event that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.

Like many Marvel fans, I’ve been very intrigued by the possibilities of a gritty, realistic TV series focused on some of the most popular characters in the Marvel canon. A big reason for all the excitement is the collaboration of Marvel and Netflix; the latter has a stellar rep based on the ground-breaking House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey. Daredevil is already underway, with episodes set to premiere in May 2015. It will be followed by Jessica Jones, which stars Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars, Breaking Bad) as a retired superhero with post-traumatic stress disorder working as a private detective in New York. Jones was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos for the excellent (and underrated) comic Alias (2001-2004), the flagship title in Marvel’s adult MAX imprint.

A recurring character in Alias was Jones’s boyfriend — none other than Luke Cage, one of the most famous superheroes of the 70s and 80s. Cage first appeared in Marvel’s Hero For Hire #1 in June 1972, and it’s believed he’ll guest-star first in Jessica Jones before spinning off into his own series. Yesterday Marvel announced that Cage would be played by Mike Colter, who’s currently playing a drug kingpin on The Good Wife.

There’s been lots for superhero fans to talk about in the last few weeks. Our latest Marvel news was the announcement that Benedict Cumberbatch was confirmed to play Doctor Strange.

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