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Goth Chick News: An Anniversary Edition of the Ultimate Novelization

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Alien Alan Dean Foster-smallI’ll never forget my first time.

I was a very young Goth Chick, spending a typical Saturday combing the used paperbacks for sale at my local library. It’s hard to feed a literary addiction on a six-grader’s salary, as I know every last one of you understand.

And there it was.

Dog-eared and minus its back cover, but with that impossible-to-miss front cover art. It was based on the movie I wasn’t allowed to watch, the one with the R-rating, which obviously meant it was the best movie ever committed to film. Or at least the scariest.

My parents clearly had not considered the library a place to land contraband of this magnitude.

I bolted for the front desk, threw my two quarters at the librarian, waved the yellowed, pulpy tome in her general direction, and exited the library to the adjacent park where I sat planted for the remainder of the afternoon – transfixed.

That was where I fell in twisted, grossed-out love with the movie Alien – and the man who told me the story (which is better than seeing it anyway), Mr. Alan Dean Foster.  It was the beginning of a long and intense relationship, at least by sixth-grade standards.

Back then, a used-book seller would have been the most likely place to have found a copy of Alien, a book which has been out of print since 1992. A pity, since it is widely considered the defining testament to how a novelization can complement an already-great film.

But this week, all that changed.

On Tuesday, April 15th, in honor of its 35th anniversary, Titan Books released a new printing of Alien: The Official Movie Novelization.

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Meet Some Very Big Dragons in the How to Train Your Dragon 2 Trailer

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

I don’t post a lot of movie trailers. We’re all about the books here at Black Gate. (And the games. And TV. Plus, snacks).

Okay. Truthfully, we cover a lot of ground here at Black Gate. But mostly, we’re all about promoting the best in neglected fantasy. And DreamWorks Animation’s 2010 feature How To Train Your Dragon was one of the best fantasy films of the last decade. Andrew Zimmerman Jones reviewed it for us here, calling it “Hands down, of the fantasy films I’ve seen this year, my favorite.”

I missed it in theaters and I wasn’t the only one. It wasn’t until my kids came screaming out of the basement and pulled me downstairs to watch it with them (for the fourth time) in the summer of 2011 that I realized just how fabulous it was. I won’t make that mistake with the sequel. In fact, I may camp out early to catch it on opening night (I know my kids will be up for it).

We showed you the teaser trailer last July; now Dreamworks has released the second full trailer. It’s packed with brand new characters, gorgeous visuals, surprises… and some very big dragons. Check it out below.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 was produced by DreamWorks Animation and directed by Dean DeBlois. The voice cast includes Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, and Craig Ferguson. It’s scheduled for release in June.

Goth Chick News: Comic Book Fan Boys on the Big Screen (Fan Girls Rejoice)

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Four Color Eulogy-smallThis is as excited as I get about anything.

Back in February, I told you about a new project by our favorite indy film geniuses at Pirate Pictures, in which comic collectors finally get to be the film heroes — far overdue if you ask me.

And yes, the Black Gate crowd went wild over the idea – or as wild as you all get about anything.

So a couple weeks ago, I undertook a road trip to visit the creative team and ask them some questions about the inspiration for Four Color Eulogy; like how it happens that a bunch of comic fans were able to turn their passion into an actual movie?

I figured we’d sit around in a slightly grungy coffee shop and I’d capture all their witty banter on my handy digital recorder, then hustle home to Chicago and type it up for you.

But no. We’re way beyond grungy coffee shops now…

Instead, they suggested we meet “at the studio.”

And oh, by the way, why don’t we just roll out the actual movie cameras and film the interview instead?

Lighting? Sure! Sound guys? We’ve got plenty of them.

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House of Cards Kicked the Cat

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Houseofcards_RichardsonI mentioned Netflix’s wildly successful House of Cards in a recent Public Life of Sherlock Holmes posting. I’ve written a couple of screenplays that will be made into movies shortly before the Earth plunges into the sun.

Or more likely, sometime after that event. Just as I enjoy reading books on writing, I’ve also found lots to learn from books on screenwriting (which is a very different proposition).

A brief aside: Amazon (which should give me stock with the number of purchases I’ve made from them) includes screenwriting as a subcategory of “Humor & Entertainment.”

Not every screenwriting book is funny. In fact, the most useful ones generally aren’t! That said, we resume our normal programming.

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Leiji Matsumoto, Bushido, Manhood, and Womanhood, Part 4

Friday, April 4th, 2014 | Posted by Elwin Cotman

Phantom F. Harlock

I wander the edge of the stars
People call me
Captain Harlock! Captain Harlock!
Hoist the skull and crossbones flag
In a sea without tomorrow

Leiji Matsumoto does not write war stories. The pain, chaos, senseless destruction, and especially the death are of no interest to him. He has stated that he is interested in life. As such, his characters live. The only one who dies is Tetsuro and even that becomes part of his mythology. The guy dies in every story! Then he is reincarnated, greater than before. The rest of the characters are untouchable, eternally young, more Greek gods than anime characters. You’re not even going to get a secondary character death like they do in the Star Wars novels every few years. You know going into a Matsumoto story that the heroes will survive everything, even in spite of themselves.

Captain Harlock’s crew are not soldiers. At least, not as we traditionally think of them. The first mate Yattaran will work on his model kits in the middle of a battle. The rest of the crew spends their time napping and playing games. There are cantankerous cooks. Cute kittens. Weepy vultures. Harlock’s unstoppable army of freedom fighters is populated by straight up cartoon characters. Yet they are, without a doubt, heroes. It is interesting that, toward the end of the Harlock series, several red shirts die in battle. Their deaths are skimmed over; this is a universe where they don’t dwell on grief.

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Firefly, A Retrospective Part 8 — A Look at Serenity

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

Serenity poster-smallAs some of you know, I just finished a seven-part blog on this site about the Firefly television series. We laughed, we cried, we stared at Jayne’s hat… and now it’s time to move on to the movie.

I consider Serenity to be part of the television show. Like the second season we never got, but compressed into a feature film.

It begins with a little voice-over narration telling us about this fictional world, centering on the war between the Alliance and the Independents. Then we see River as a child in school, but it’s a dream. She is back in the Alliance lab that messed with her brain. Simon is there, posing as a VIP on an inspection tour. He breaks her out of the facility.

I’m glad the movie starts with this scene, because although we’d heard about how Simon freed River in the TV series, we never got to see it. And this makes a terrific set-up for the rest of the movie.

And then the movie does something clever. The scene of Simon and River’s escape is paused in mid-action, and shown to be just a recording. It’s being viewed by the Operative (he’s so cool he doesn’t even need a real name) at the lab where the escape happened. The Operative wants River back because she may have learned the secrets of the Alliance leaders and that cannot be allowed. So the chase is on.

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Star Trek Continues with “Lolani” and Soars to Warp Eight

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

lolani 3Last year I gushed about a lovingly crafted fan-made original Star Trek episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity,” and concluded by writing that I hoped the same team would make more.

And lo, it has come to pass. As a matter of fact, I somehow missed news of a Kickstarter (or Kirkstarter) in October AND the release of a second episode, “Lolani,” in February. According to the Star Trek Continues web site, a third episode has been filmed and is already being edited. The Kickstarter raised enough money for three additional episodes (of which the “in edit” episode is the first) and — if I’m not mistaken — gained the funds to construct a replica of the Enterprise engine room to add to their existing sets.

If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek series, you MUST watch “Lolani.” Even moreso than “Pilgrim of Eternity,” 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.

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From the Celluloid Cellar: Star Wars

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Star Wars poster Long-time science fiction fans will likely be familiar with Star Wars, if only by its reputation. Initially a flop at the box office, it survives today mostly as a midnight movie curiosity. Indeed, it took studios over a decade to invest in another big-budget science fiction film after the massive failure of George Lucas’s love letter to the movie serials of the 1930s. But an objective review shows that it’s not nearly as bad as word-of-mouth makes and, once the plot finally gets moving, is actually a lot of fun, despite (maybe a little because of) its many flaws.

So, the plot? In a distant galaxy, an evil empire rules the many inhabited worlds with an iron fist. Cue the ragtag rebellion trying to free the galaxy from the Empire’s control. First problem with the plot? The Galaxy, Empire, and Rebellion are unnamed in this film, each going simply by a definitive article.

The leader of the Rebellion is Princess Leia (played by Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher), dressed all in white like a virgin sacrifice, but carrying a bad-ass ray gun. The main bad guy? There is an Emperor (mentioned, but never seen) and General Tarkin (played by Peter Cushing as a delightfully over-the-top space nazi); but the clear face of evil is Tarkin’s chief lieutenant, Darth Vader. A seven-foot tall wizard dressed in head-to-toe black armor, face covered by a black Shogun skull mask and voiced as pure hate incarnate by James Earl Jones, it’s hard to imagine this film was ever marketed to children with this walking nightmare engine chewing the scenery. The scenes between eighteen year-old wisp Fisher and this creepy heavy-breathing monster are especially disturbing.

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Doctor Who and the Daemons – the Novel!

Monday, March 31st, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

Daemons002 More than once on Black Gate, I’ve heard that the seventies were a dead zone for science fiction and fantasy. For teens in search of readily available genre “gateway drugs,” I suppose this might have been true for many, but my particular experience of growing up managed, against all odds, to be different. Ohio was my home base, a vanilla environment for “culture” of the fantastical sort, but luckily I had a smorgasbord of British relatives. One especially perceptive and sibylline aunt started sending me Doctor Who novelizations.

Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion, that was the first I tried. Next, one of the best offerings in the canon, Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion.  I was in third grade and after facing down those blank-eyed Autons and their Nestene masters, I was hooked.

Note that I wasn’t in any way watching the TV show. In Columbus, Ohio, it simply wasn’t available, not until the early eighties, and then, when PBS did pick up a few random episodes, it was Tom Baker’s roost to rule. The Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton, and William Hartnell adventures I first encountered were absent entire.

What Tom Baker’s run taught me is that talented actors can be mired forever in substandard scripts and even worse special effects. This was a total and unpleasant surprise, because the novelizations were fast-paced genre gems, especially those penned by Terrance Dicks.  (Malcolm Hulke was the other regular adapter for the Doctor Who franchise, with a rotating cast of fellow contributors including Gerry Davis, Ian Marter, and David Whitaker.) How could such pacey, adrenaline-filled books arise from such hokey, hamstrung screen material?

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The Top Five Differences Between Game of Thrones and A Game of Thrones

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Eckhart

Game of Thrones-smallIt’s rare a show comes along that leaves readers wondering whether the book or screen version is better.

Generally speaking, film and television adaptations rarely live up to the complexity and depth of novels. In an effort to condense plot and keep things moving relatively quickly, and understandably, shows and films often act as the tip of the iceberg.

The original works, however, are more likely to reveal the underlying complexities (the rest of the iceberg, you might say) and true personalities of most of the characters. And, as expected, whole scenes are generally chopped from the film version due to lack of time.

So, of course, when a show like Game of Thrones comes along (the fourth season of which will be starting next week), that has some fans claiming the show is as good, perhaps even better, than George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, then we have no choice but to examine the merits of each.

In my opinion, the show lacks in several major areas. First: relationships.

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