See Westeros the Way George R.R. Martin Intended in The World of Ice & Fire

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dragonstone

Dragonstone

If you’ve been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, then you’ve already been treated to some spectacular sights.

It seems George R.R. Martin is not content to let HBO be the final word on the visual splendor of Westeros, however. His new book The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, released this week, gives Game of Thrones fans the chance to see visions of Martin’s world that are much closer to what he intended.

In an interview at The Huffington Post, Martin explains why there are so many pictures of castles:

I wanted accurate versions of these castles. We’ve had a number of different artists draw them on covers and on the fantasy like cards and games, and some of them have been beautiful images but not necessarily accurate to what I described.

The World of Ice & Fire, co-authored with Elio M. García, Jr. and Linda Antonsson, who run the site Westeros.org, isn’t just an art book, however. It’s a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms — all the battles, betrayals, and back-room deals that lead to the events of Martin’s novels. It includes full family trees for Houses Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen; detailed histories of the cultures of Westeros; and more than 170 pieces of original art and maps, many in full-color.

See five high-resolution images from the book at The Huffington Post article here. The World of Ice & Fire was published on October 28 by Bantam Books. It is 336 pages, priced at $50 in hardcover and $19.99 for the digital edition.


Film Review: The Conjuring (Hallowe’en Post # 1)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

the conjuring doll“Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville.”

Whatever you think of the Warrens as real people, they do make mighty fine fictional characters.

Ed and Lorraine Warren — dark-forces-battling demonologists associated with such notoriously famous cases as the Amityville Horror — provide us with supernatural sleuths who fit comfortably in the tradition of such occult detectives as Doctor Abraham Van Helsing, Carnacki the Ghost Finder, and John Thunstone. That the Warrens are real people and the cases they have investigated are allegedly true does add another compelling dimension to the whole enterprise.

But I’m not here to debate whether the Warrens’ adventures were bona fide excursions into paranormal realms or just elaborately staged (and profitable) hoaxes. I’m here to review The Conjuring — the 2013 horror film purportedly based on the Warrens’ 1971 investigation into the Perron family’s troubled Rhode Island farmhouse. I am meeting it on its own terms, not as a docudrama, but as a fright flick.

Still, I’ll make a few observations about the “based on a true story” conceit, which is wrung for full effect in opening and closing montages. Judging from interviews, the scriptwriters — twin brothers Chad and Carey W. Hayes — certainly give the impression that they buy in to the Warrens’ whole shtick, or are at least pretty open-minded to it. However, that clearly did not constrain them only to crafting a straight-ahead historical re-enactment. To the contrary, their prime focus is to use the original case as a springboard for launching wall-to-wall scares at an audience hungry for terror of the supernatural kind. They start out eerie, sprinkling in events that may well be straight out of the case file, and then liberally follow those up with any tried-and-true horror effect that will “get” the audience. It is a film full of “gotchas.”

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Firefly Friday – Firefly: The Game

Friday, October 24th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Firefly-The-Game

Ever want to just buy a ship and take off into the night sky, making your own rules and living a life that was truly free? Firefly: The Game (Amazon) gives you the chance to do just that, if you think you’re up for it.

On the off chance that you’ve been in a coma for the last decade: Firefly was a tragically short-lived television series created by Joss Whedon. After his success on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel, he turned to science fiction, creating a series that can best (but simplistically) be described as “cowboys in space.” The series centered around a spaceship crew living on the fringe of society, taking jobs of questionable legality while trying to stay off the radar of the government. It was cancelled before all 13 of the episodes even aired, but fan enthusiasm resulted in a feature film, Serenity, that gave some measure of closure for fans.

But, as so often happens in our little world of fandom, even that was not the end of the story. In a few short episodes, Joss Whedon had created a rich and dynamic universe of rugged heroes who traveled the expanse between worlds just trying to find a job, work the job, get paid, and keep flying. It has continued in a number of forms, from comic books to board games. As I’ve mentioned before, my shelves contain a number of these related materials. (More than I typically care to admit.)

It’s hard to overstate how great this short television series was … And it’s equally hard to overstate how well Firefly: The Game captures the feel of trying to make your way out in the black, even if that means you have to misbehave a bit.

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See the Teaser Trailer for Avengers 2 (or, Why Can’t I have Hulkbuster Armor?)

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Avengers 67 Ultron-smallAll work at the rooftop headquarters of Black Gate came to a standstill this afternoon, due to the surprise release of the first teaser trailer for Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron.

Now, this doesn’t happen for just any trailer. (At least, not those that aren’t Star Trek-related). However, we are big fans of the Avengers, both their comic incarnation and the Joss Whedon movie.

Also, we’re fans of Ultron.

Ultron usually gets a bad rap. Did you know he was the first person (erm, machine), to speak on the cover of The Avengers? True story. Before that, everyone on the cover — superheroes and villains alike — stood brooding in heroic poses, afraid to say anything. Ultron finally opened his mouth on the cover of Avengers 67 (saying “Die, Avengers, Die!”, y’know, as he usually does), and after that, you couldn’t get people to shut up on the cover of The Avengers.

Did you know Ultron was built by Henry Pym, also known as Ant Man? Okay, everybody knows that. How are they going to ret-con that into the movie continuity, given that the Paul Rudd Ant Man movie doesn’t come out until July 2015, two months after The Avengers 2? No one knows. I’ve looked for any trace of Rudd or Henry Pym in the IMDB cast list, but no dice.

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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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