Knight at the Movies: The Battery (2012)

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by eeknight

GregBunburyTheBatteryMoviePosterAs Black Gate‘s resident oddball zombie movie reviewer (Honest! John O’Neill did it in style of Mad Men‘s Roger Sterling, he did a Jedi hand wave and anointed me thus) I have to say a little bit about the ultra-low budget 2012 movie The Battery.

The zombie movie has reached the arthouse at last. And the arthouse loved it, this micro-budget film won numerous awards.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a traditional zombie movie as much as the next fan. I have a soft spot in my heart for 2008′s Day of the Dead, despite such howlers as the assertion that zombie Bud is safe because he was a vegetarian in life, as though that moral choice trumps thousands of years of cultural conditioning toward a similar moral choice against cannibalism.

But back to The Battery. Filmed on a budget of $6000, writer/director Jeremy Gardner put together a horror film that delivers the most entertainment per budget dollar since Blair Witch Project – though I expect The Battery, while not as original as that legendary effort, will prove more enjoyable on the re-watch.

Its strengths are the same as Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead: a limited budget means you have to spend your time on character and tension. Without money for a lot of extras in zombie makeup to be featured more than briefly, you have to make do with the sounds of zombies outside the windows, which is creepier anyway.

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Goth Chick News: The Woman in Black Gets Back Up In Your Face

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image006When we first told you about it, the seriously creepy novel The Woman in Black by Susan Hill had already been a long-running play in London’s West End, a made-for-TV movie in the UK, and barely a rumor from Hammer Films about a theatrical remake starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter); which turned out to be true after all. The WiB with Radcliffe in the lead role hit theaters in February, 2012.

Almost immediately, Hammer Films made the announcement of its intent to pursue a sequel – which was kind of a no-brainer considering they grossed $112 million globally on a $17 million investment.

Love it or not, the old girl made bank.

The first film saw Radcliffe as lawyer Arthur Kipps, who travels to Eel Marsh House on an assignment, only to discover the house belonging to his client is haunted by the ghost of a woman who is determined to find someone and something she lost.

The film was Hammer all the way, intending to shock and in many scenes being quite successful. The atmosphere is moody and brings to mind the old Roger Corman movies based on Edgar Allan Poe stories. The movie version won’t go down as a personal favorite, mainly because the play was just so darn awesome.  Still, it’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

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Art of the Genre: Robotech Anime, RPG, Novels, Comics, Toys, Video Games, and Soundtrack, oh my!

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Anyone up for some light reading?

Anyone up for some light reading?

I don’t know if I’ve ever really admitted this before, and I actually had to go back to a Black Gate post from two years ago to check, but I’m pretty much a Robotech junkie. Of all the crazy geek culture stuff I’m involved in, there is no licensed universe I care more for than Robotech [sorry Star Wars, it's true].

It began, as most things did for me, in the 1980s, on VHS. I managed to get the entire series off a weekday comic block from a television station broadcasting out of Terre Haute, Indiana. At the time, it was like a drug, and I personally pored over those scratchy recorded episodes (that I’d captured at 7 AM for a year) so many times that the tapes finally corrupted. I even carried them around with me when I could, and I remember this time I took my collection, complete with commercial breaks, down to my grandparents’ house for Christmas and convinced my two cousins, Jeff a year younger and Greg, two years younger, to watch Macross with me.

Greg, always game for my little geeky desires because he looked up to me, stayed true to the course as the episodes ticked by into the wee hours of the morning, but Jeff, always the mathematical pragmatist (and now very wealthy and successful, go figure), decided he’d had enough by 1 AM. Bowing out, he went off to the rear of the house to sleep and Greg and I trudged on. Ten minutes later, Jeff reappeared, sat down glumly with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, and never said a word, but finished out the series with us.

THAT is the power of Robotech! Even for a young man, soon to be actuary, and later high stakes financial guru, he just couldn’t blow off the end of Macross without knowing what happened between Rick, Lisa, and Minmei.

I mean, even my wife, who hates anime, hates fantasy, hates science fiction, hates… well, let’s just say her middle name should be ‘hate’, actually watched every episode of Macross just last year with my son and I! Is that even possible? Sure, she might have rolled her eyes on occasion as she looked up from her Mac while shopping online, but damnit, I’m still counting it!

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Why Did I Say That? Or, The Perils of Writing a Series

Friday, October 10th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

Christie StylesA frequently heard complaint about a series, whether in book or TV form, is that the characters never change, and that they keep doing the same things over and over. Another frequently heard complaint is that the characters have changed out of all recognition from the ones we first knew and loved, and why do we never see them doing some of the things they used to do?

Why does this happen, you ask? Because writing a series is more complicated than it looks.

For one thing, you don’t actually know you’re writing a series until you’re on your third, or even your fourth, book. Sure, you may be planning to write a series long before that, but you’re not actually writing one until then. It probably isn’t until your third or fourth book that you have to consider one of the all important factors: will my characters age?

Agatha Christie famously regretted making Hercules Poirot a retiree when she wrote her first book about him, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but she didn’t realize then that she’d be writing those novels for another 50 years. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, along with their recurring secondary characters, simply don’t age. Even though the world goes on around them, with very few exceptions each of their stories is told as if it was a single, stand alone novel.

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Volkswagen Ad Reunites William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

You’ve probably heard the recent reports about William Shatner’s possible return in the upcoming Star Trek 3, where he and Leonard Nimoy would appear together as Kirk and Spock one more time.

Pretty exciting stuff for an old-time Star Trek fan like me. Although the big event has just been scooped by a German Volkswagen ad released this week, which features both Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner (not to mention the Star Trek theme music, which probably wasn’t cheap to license for a car ad) in a charming 45-second spot. Yes, the ad is in German, but you’ll have no trouble following the dialog (Hint: The German phrase for “Captain Kirk” is “Captain Kirk.”)

The complete spot is below. Enjoy.

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The First Great Holmes (Gillette)

Monday, October 6th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

I recently wrote about John Barrymore’s film, Sherlock Holmes, which was based on William Gillette’s massively popular play about the great detective.

In 1897 or 1898, Arthur Conan Doyle decided to “revive” Sherlock Holmes, who had gone over the ledge at the Reichenbach Falls in 1893. He wrote the first draft of a play starring the detective.

Gillette_Poster1Since he already had scored a hit with his non-Holmes play, A Tale of Waterloo, Doyle must have figured that the public would ring up the cash register in seeing their favorite detective again: this time on the stage.

Doyle lost interest in the project, but his agent sent the five-act play off to noted Broadway producer and agent Charles Frohman. Frohman, who died aboard the ill-fated Lusitania, felt that the play was not commercial enough as it was and told Doyle that popular American actor William Gillette should revise and then star in it.

The uninterested Doyle gave his permission and Gillette transformed Holmes into more of a melodrama star and less of a stodgy British detective.

Gillette read all of Doyle’s original stories, took four weeks off from his current tour for the popular Secret Service and rewrote the play. That November, a fire in San Francisco’s Baldwin Hotel destroyed all of the scenery and sets of Secret Service; and also the only script of Sherlock Holmes!

It’s Elementary – Gillette asked Doyle if he could marry Holmes for the play. Doyle’s reply via telegram has become famous: “You may marry him, murder him or do anything you like to him.”

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The End of an Era: The Death of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-manI’ve watched cartoons most of my life. It started with Spider-Man, Underdog and Star Trek: The Animated Series in the 1970s. In the 90s, it was Ren and Stimpy, Pinky and the Brain, and the brilliant The Tick. When my kids came along, we’d watch Gargoyles, Samurai Jack, Static Shock, and especially the great Batman Beyond together. For most of my first four decades, Saturday mornings meant curling up on the couch to share the adventures of my favorite funny animals and cartoon superheroes.

Over the last ten years, more stations have abandoned Saturday morning animated programming. Now The Washington Post is reporting that the CW, the last broadcast station with a full slate of animated shows on Saturday morning, has just done away with them.

This past Saturday, the CW became the last broadcast television network to cut Saturday morning cartoons. The CW is replacing its Saturday cartoon programming, called “The Vortexx,” with “One Magnificent Morning,” a five-hour bloc of non-animated TV geared towards teens and their families.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, Saturday morning time slots were synonymous with cartoons. Broadcast networks and advertisers battled for underage viewers. But that started to change in the 1990s. In 1992, NBC was the first broadcast network to swap Saturday morning cartoons for teen comedies such as “Saved by the Bell” and a weekend edition of the “Today” show. Soon, CBS and ABC followed suit. In 2008, Fox finally replaced Saturday morning cartoons with infomercials.

In the 1970s and 1980s, a Saturday morning cartoon viewership could grab more than 20 million viewers. In 2003, some top performers got a mere 2 million, according to Animation World Network.

Read the bad news here (and for Slash Film’s take, read Peter Sciretta’s article Saturday Morning Cartoons Are Officially Dead.)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: An Index (So Far)

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


An awesome print by Tom Richmond of Holmes on screen over the years. I own print #7 of 450

Surprisingly, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes has now made it to thirty posts. While I’m sure the dedicated reader types ‘Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ in the search field to call up all the posts in the series, I said to myself (I talk to myself a lot),  ”Bob, there’s got to be an easier way for someone to bask in the entirety of your writings so far.”

And there is! Below is an index with links to all the posts, followed by some topics likely to come.


Sherlock Holmes/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – Introduction to the column (rather unoriginal title, eh?)

Lord of Misrule – Christopher Lee as the great detective

The Case of the Short Lived Sherlock – One of my favorite Holmes’, Ian Richardson

Creation to Death and Back – A good intro to Holmes, focusing on Doyle’s love-hate (minus the love) relationship with his most famous creation

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Goth Chick News: Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (and Cersei and Tywin)

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies-smallJust in time for the start of the Halloween season, we hear that Pride And Prejudice And Zombies has truly risen from the grave.

Based on the 2009 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austin of course) P&P&Z tells the tale of “manners, morals and brain-eating mayhem” and has been sitting in movie development hell ever since before the book hit store shelves.

Back then, the British Sunday Times reported that Hollywood was all over Grahame-Smith, which he confirmed at a book-signing just after P&P&Z’s release, saying the novel had officially been purchased by an undisclosed major film company to be produced as a feature film.

Lionsgate turned out to be the film company and Natalie Portman was in to star as Elizabeth, but she later reconsidered and decided instead to serve as a producer.  Shortly thereafter, director O. Russell left production due to scheduling conflicts (or Portman’s involvement if you believe gossip, which of course we never do…) and Mike White stepped in to direct the adaptation.

But nearly a year later, in January 2011, White also left the project due to “scheduling conflicts” as did his successor Craig Gillespie who signed on in April, 2011 but bailed in October.

What the heck?

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Reggie Owens’ A Study in Scarlet

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Owen_PosterIn 1929, Clive Brook’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes ushered in the era of ‘talkies’ featuring the great detective. Although it was also released as a silent film, likely because many theaters had not yet converted to sound system projectors.

The movies went crazy over Holmes, with three big screen efforts in 1931:The Speckled Band (Raymond Massey), The Sleeping Cardinal (Arthur Wontner), and The Hound of the Baskervilles (Robert Rendel).

Cardinal was released in the US as Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour. Rendel’s film was thought lost for years, with a print but no soundtrack. However, one was found and the two were merged. I’ve yet to see (and hear) that one.

Three more movies followed in 1932: The Missing Rembrandt and The Sign of Four (both with Arthur Wontner) and Sherlock Holmes (Clive Brook again). In Brook’s second turn as Holmes, his Watson was Reginald Owen, who would achieve success as Ebenezer Scrooge.

1933 saw only one Holmes movie, and it was Owen moving up to the starring role in a version of A Study in Scarlet. Well, sort of.

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