Fantasia 2016, Day 3: Alien Spirits (Parasyte: Part 1 and Part 2, La Rage du Démon, For the Love of Spock, and Terraformars)

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Parasyte: Part 1Saturday, July 16, began early for me. I headed downtown to the Hall Theatre for an 11:05 showing of Parasyte: Part 1 (Kiseiju), the first instalment of a Japanese science-fiction–horror duology. After that I planned to head to the festival screening room; I hoped to see La Rage du Démon (Fury of the Demon), a French horror mockumentary that mixes film pioneer Georges Méliès, occultism, and legends of mass hysteria into the story of a cursed silent movie. Then I’d head back to the Hall for a showing of For the Love of Spock, a documentary about Leonard Nimoy and his most famous role, hosted by the director, Nimoy’s son Adam. I’d wrap up the night with Terraformars, a science-fiction film directed by Takashi Miike about humans battling genetically-modified cockroaches on the surface of Mars. Miike would be present to host a question-and-answer session and receive Fantasia’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

It would be a full day of films, and it began, as I said, with Parasyte. I would see the second film — in English Parasyte: Part 2, in romanised Japanese Kiseiju Kanketsu-hen — on Sunday morning, so I’ll write here about the two films together. Both were directed by Takashi Yamazaki from scripts Yamazaki wrote with Ryota Kosawa based on the manga by Hitoshi Iwaaki (an English translation of the manga came out from Tokyopop and is now in print from Kodansha Comics USA; an anime version, Parasyte -the maxim-, ran in Japan in 2014 and 2015). The films do a reasonable job of standing alone, but the last shots of Part 1 explicitly set up Part 2, while there’s so much story in Part 1 that I’d have to think Part 2 would suffer from not having seen it. I suspect Part 2 would end up understandable, but the characters perhaps even more than the plot would feel flattened. The first film runs an hour and three-quarters and the second two hours, so they both individually have the length of full stories. But there’s no doubt to me that they benefit from being viewed fairly close together.

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek V – The Final Frontier (1989)

Sunday, July 31st, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Star Trek V pics 3-small

Early on I was inclined to be charitable about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and I wasn’t really sure what all the fuss was about. As you may be aware, the consensus seems to be that it was one of the worst of all of the Star Trek movies.

But up until about the halfway mark I didn’t quite get it. Not that the first half of this movie is a masterpiece, mind you. But as the second half began to unfold I started to catch on.

The plot can be dispensed with in a few words. Spock’s half-brother — one of those free-spirited emotional Vulcan types — commandeers the Enterprise and sets off to the center of the galaxy to find God. Which doesn’t seem to be all that far removed from the premise of the first Star Trek movie. Which also featured an abundance of scenes of people trying to look awed but mostly looking dopey. Since there’s little drama or interest to be found in this premise there’s also some standard stuff about Klingons with bad intentions lurking about.

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Get an Inside Look at the Hottest Boardgames with Meeple Monthly

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Meeple Monthly May 2016-smallIf you hang out in game stores (and who doesn’t?) you’ve doubtless seen copies of GTM, Game Trade Magazine, a monthly industry mag for the Adventure Hobby industry that also doubles as a handy catalog for Alliance Game Distributors. GTM is always a pleasant read, with fun articles and full color pics of upcoming RPGs and card games. While I was browsing the magazine rack at my local game store last month, I came across something called Meeple Monthly, and at first couldn’t believe my eyes. It looked like GTM, except for board games… a full color magazine devoted to the very latest releases, with full color throughout, chatty articles, a nice assortment of ads, and enthusiasm for the industry dripping off every page. And that’s exactly what it was.

Ah, what a marvelous world we live in. An inexpensive color magazine devoted to new board games? Yes please! I snatched up that issue and brought it home, and I’ve bought every one I could find since. The May issue, featuring a cover feature on Fireside Games and USAopoly’s Star Trek Panic, covers games shipping in July. It also contains:

  • An inside look at Happy Salmon from North Star Games
  • A sneak peak at 400 new monsters for Dungeons and Dragons Ancient Bestiaries in Tome of Beasts, from Kobold Press
  • Wade Rockett’s preview of the excellent artwork in Tome of Beasts
  • Robin Laws’ inside look at Gumshoe going One-2-One in Cthulhu Confidential, from Pelgrane Press
  • The Battle for Hill 218 comes to the Ogre Universe in Ogre: Objective 218, the newest from Steve Jackson Games

All that plus over a dozen pages cataloging every upcoming board game, from all the major publishers, all in full color. What’s not to love?

Meeple Monthly is edited by Jenna Piller and published by ACD Distribution. It is 48 pages, full color, priced at just $3.95. See more details — including news on the upcoming June issue — at their Facebook page.

The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in April

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Star Trek 4 exact change

Good to see Star Trek is still enormously popular with our readers. The most widely read post at Black Gate last month was William I. Lengeman III’s review of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the latest installment in his ongoing Star Trek Re-Watch (his review of ST III was #2 last month).

Or maybe we’re just old. The most popular category last month was Vintage Treasures (that’s my favorite too!) When I get old enough, my eyesight will fade enough that I can’t read books, and then what will it be? Maybe Old Time Radio? That’ll be fun.

Number 2 on the list was our announcement on Black Gate‘s Hugo nomination, followed by M Harold Page’s article on Worldbuilding in the Warhammer 40K Universe, and Sean McLachlan on Vintage Trash: Reel Wild Cinema (Vintage again! We are old). Rounding out the Top Five last month was M Harold Page’s review of All Things Medieval: An Encyclopedia of the Medieval World.

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Star Trek After All: The New Trailer for Star Trek Beyond

Saturday, May 21st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

I’ve enjoyed the first two films in the Star Trek reboot, despite the fact that they’ve veered pretty far from the kind of thoughtful storytelling that made the show great. But as flashy summer blockbusters without a lot of depth go, they’re better than most — and the writers certainly captured the humor of the show, at least.

But when I saw the first trailer for the third film, Star Trek Beyond, I thought new director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) had pretty much abandoned all pretense of making a Star Trek film in favor of a two-fisted action-comedy in space. Co-screenwriter Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), who also plays Scotty, has clearly put his comedy stamp on this one. Was there anything of Star Trek left?

The second trailer, released today, is a dramatic shift in tone from the first one, and seems to confirm that yes, this is a Star Trek film after all. Have a look and see what you think. Star Trek Beyond is being produced by Skydance and Bad Robot Productions, and will arrive in theaters on July 22, 2016.

Star Trek Continues Fundraiser

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

trek continues crewThe final days of the newest Star Trek Continues fundraiser are upon us. If you haven’t seen my rave reviews of some of the previous episodes, go take a look — and then drop by their site and watch some of the episodes!

If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek television show, you owe it to yourself to go watch these loving recreations  made by extremely talented volunteers. You’ll swear that these are the same sets, and you’ll swear that most of these scripts were found in the file cabinet of D.C. Fontana or Gene L. Coon.

Last year’s fund raiser (or KIRKstarter, heh) got the funds for a few more episodes AND an engineering room set, which is now complete (you can see a virtual tour on this page). The new fundraiser will help pay for more episodes, rent at the facility where they’re filming the episodes, and pay for some expensive post production on one of the episodes they’ve just finished filming.

If this sounds up your alley (or in your sector) don’t delay. There are only a few days left to help out.

Making Myth in a Digital Alexandria

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Xena-cerchioDid you hear about the Xena reboot? How about the new Voltron series? Twin Peaks is re-launching this summer, and you may already have your tickets to the next comic book movie.

What is up with that? Is Hollywood completely out of ideas? Have they gotten so risk-averse that all they can do is recycle old material? Or is it simply nostalgia run amok, a nation full of millennials who don’t want to grow up?

I think it’s something different, and something pretty exciting. I don’t think our love of reboots is a lack of creativity at all. In fact, I think this is an incredibly vibrant artistic period, and is about to become even more so.

Why? Because we’ve seen this before. Bear with me, guys.

The Hellenistic period of the Ancient World begins with the death of Alexander the Great and extends until the rise of the Roman Empire. There, we got our hard facts out of the way. You may even remember that from history class.

Historians like their categories, and periods of history broken down into neat charts with clear defining events.

But in this case, we can talk about the way Ancient Mediterranean Culture shifted dramatically in a very short period of time. We became more and more able to talk about a Mediterranean culture, for one. The disparate cultures of Greece, the Near East, Northern Africa, and the Italian peninsula came into much closer contact because of Alexander’s Imperial ambitions. Trade had existed before, but the construction of travel networks and large cities allowed for an even greater exchange of information.

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Star Trek 4 The Probe-small

I’m not always the most attentive or detail oriented movie watcher. So, as I came to the end of The Voyage Home, the fourth of the original cast Star Trek movies, I realized that I still didn’t know exactly what was going on with those whales.

After movie three — The Search For Spock — the crew of the late starship Enterprise (watch the aforementioned for more details on that) are laying over on Vulcan, getting their commandeered Klingon ship up to speed when Earth finds itself menaced by a Big Dumb Object of some sort. It demands that it be paid a tribute of whales – or something like that — or it will wipe out the Earth in dramatic fashion. Our heroes enact that time honored SF convention of slingshotting around the sun to go several centuries back in time (with keen precision, I must note) and pick up a few whales, which they spirit off in a hastily built whale tank in the Klingon ship.

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Saturday, March 12th, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Star Trek 3 cast-small

Where’s Spock? Why, he’s right there in the director’s chair, of course. For the third cinematic voyage of the Starship Enterprise, Leonard Nimoy took on a dual role as actor and director, though the former role was somewhat minimal. Which set a pattern for numerous other Star Trek cast members. According to Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki, 15 cast members eventually sat in the big chair, although only Nimoy, Shatner and Jonathan Frakes directed movies.

I don’t recall if I watched The Search for Spock prior to this rewatch project. But I actually watched it twice within a month or two to make up for it. Why? Well, because it didn’t really stick the first time around. Which is to say that about the best I can do to critique this movie is to damn it with faint praise. It’s like one of the many Star Trek TV episodes that’s not bad but that doesn’t have anything special to recommend it. I think the word serviceable sums it up best.

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek Into Darkness

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Star Trek Into Darkness crash-small

I don’t remember if I groaned aloud when I realized that the second Star Trek “reboot” was going to be a Khan movie. It’s entirely possible. One might reasonably wonder why the production team chose to do a reboot of a reboot, if you’ll pardon the expression, when they could have taken so many directions with the story. I suspect that sheer commerce ruled the day and the notion, common in moviemaking and publishing, that whatever worked before must surely work again.

So did Star Trek Into Darkness work? Not so much for me. I’ll admit that I wasn’t disposed to be too charitable to either of the reboots in the first place. But I made a valiant attempt to be open-minded.

But, anyway. In my review of The Wrath of Khan I noted that it was something of a war of the overactors, with William Shatner going toe to toe with Ricardo Montalban. While Shatner’s character won the day in the movie, I awarded Montalban an honorary retro-Oscar for Best Overacting Performance in a Star Trek Movie.

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