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The Top 10 Reasons Why the Star Wars Prequels Sucked

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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It’s with no small amount of irony that I, of all people, compose this list of hate against George Lucus’ Star Wars prequel trilogy. During their production, as each released, and in the years since, I have been quite the prequel apologist. There are several aspects of the films which deliver, and perhaps that will make for a follow-up to this list in the near feature. However, with the knowledge that six new Star Wars films are coming in as many years, and seeing how Disney has thus far chosen to treat the property, the flaws of the prequel trilogy seem more relevant than ever.

On the one hand, these criticisms serve as warnings for J.J. Abrams and the rest of the creative team working on Episode VII, the film which will set the tone for those to follow. On the other hand, it’s a testament to the enduring legacy of the Star Wars brand that the franchise may yet flourish despite these missteps.

Here are the top 10 reasons the Star Wars prequels sucked:

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The Practical Side of Star Wars

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

PRACTICAL

Most encouraging Star Wars news I’ve read since George Lucas sold his franchise:

As if videos from the set of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars movie featuring live-action alien costumes and full-scale X-Wing Fighters haven’t been enough of a clue, Rian Johnson, who will pick up the franchise after Abrams, says Star Wars: Episode VII will feature more practical, traditional effects.

“They’re doing so much practical building for this one. It’s awesome,” Johnson said on the latest Girls in Hoodies podcast. “I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick.”

This goes right back to a conversation we had in this space just last May:

Up until, and I guess including Jurassic Park, Hollywood could drop our jaws with only the special effects. Something really new might come along every once in a great while like the wire work from The Matrix, but once the computers took over we became jaded pretty quickly. We used to marvel at practical special effects, because some smart and talented people had to figure out a means to make something jaw-dropping happen, really happen, in front of a camera. Now the computer artists just draw it, if you’ll allow me to oversimplify the amazing work that they can do. But we’ll never again wonder, “How did they do that?”

Maybe Star Wars will bring back some of the wonder.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

thumbnail image via showatcher.com

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11 Lessons About Religion I’ve Learned from Pop Culture Polytheism

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.

Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.

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The 10 Best Fantasy Novels and Series of All Time

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

With the few remaining store shelves groaning under the weight of fantasy series whose authors must crank them out with the regularity and efficiency of a printing press (and with the same lack of originality), not much room is left for preserving the classics of the genre. Over the last several decades, fantasy has gone from a niche market to mass acceptance, and with the success of such series as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, it’s also gone mainstream. Unfortunately, interest in those series hasn’t translated to interest in other fantasy worlds. Potter and Thrones have their fans but those fans seem to be parochial in their tastes, refusing to explore beyond the walls of Hogwarts or come out from behind the Iron Throne.

But fantasy is about more than dragons, swords, spells, and now sex. It’s also about the craft of writing and somehow capturing a sense of wonder and of faraway lands and climes that readers may not even be aware that they’re yearning to experience. It’s that deep, unsuspected tugging against the bonds of the here and now that the best works of fantasy create. And (dare I say it?) once upon a time writers did succeed in doing that when fantasy written for the older person (as opposed to children) was somewhat rare in a late nineteenth and early twentieth century era of limited media coverage and that frowned upon the man or woman who refused to let go of what were considered childish things.

However, those childish things began as somewhat serious tales told around Grecian campfires before they metamorphosed into mythology. But what is understood as modern fantasy, that is, fantastic stories meant for entertainment and that no one is expected to actually believe, began in the nineteenth century when authors such as William Morris and George MacDonald formalized the genre. It was they who took elements of myth and folklore and transformed them into extended-length novels that could be enjoyed by both children and adults. And through their skill with the written word they molded individual statements on the fantastic, creating worlds that spoke to the human heart in voices with which readers could identify.

In those worlds, combat and strife were often relegated to the background or were non-existent, and though there could be magic, it was limited. Most important to these authors was the human element, often expressed in the form of a quest which was actually a search for love, wisdom, or understanding — elements that will largely be the criteria upon which the following top 10 fantasy novels and series have been judged.

(Note: many of the books listed here have been reprinted as paperbacks in the late 1960s/early 1970s Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series and are still available at decent prices.)

Deryni_rising_firstDeryni_checkmate_firsthigh deryni

10. The Chronicles of the Deryni

The only “modern” fantasy on this list, Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Chronicles antedates such newer fantasies as Game of Thrones with their palace intrigues and veiled diplomacies. Published in 1970, Deryni Rising was the first of a long series of books (usually written in threes) chronicling the history of the kingdom of Gwynedd, a medieval land roughly akin to Great Britain. There, two-faced diplomacy, palace intrigue, arranged marriages, warfare and the occasional regicide are further complicated by the existence of a race known as the Deryni. Possessed of various powers from mind reading to psychic healing, the Deryni were once powers in the land until the Church and its secular allies declared them tools of the devil. They are driven underground, and most of the series is about the Derynis’ struggle to survive and regain their legitimacy. It is told in a straightforward, extremely detailed, but engaging style. The Chronicles of the Deryni is likely the most fully realized, convincing fantasy world created in the modern era.

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The 10 Most Important Life Lessons I Learned from Mork from Ork

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

As a Gen-X/millennial crossover, I was fortunate enough to first meet Robin Williams as Mork from Ork on the sitcom Mork and Mindy. A comedic powerhouse, Mork’s colorful wardrobe and loud laugh were the first things I imitated as a child. As I grew up, I would look back and realize the many character lessons I learned at home were reinforced by a supremely acted alien outsider with a predilection for sitting on his head. In virtually every role he played, Robin Williams taught his audience a life lesson. As a young kid there was no one more fun to hang around with and learn from on TV than Mork from Ork.

10. Old people rule.

Mork marvels at the way the elderly are ignored and maligned on earth. On Ork, old folks are revered as the wise, experienced ones to learn from. “The Elder” is called on to remind Mork of his Orkishness. His was an early lesson in the importance of respect and reverence for the elders in your life and how very important all people are, no matter and, perhaps, especially because of their age.

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The 5 Greatest Things About Sharknado 2: The Second One

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

I watched the universal premiere of Sharkado 2: The Second One on SyFy Wednesday night.

Don’t judge, especially if you watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Or any of those bachelor, bachelorette or dating shows. Or any reality TV, really. You’re in no position to judge anything that anyone else watches.

S2TS1 might not be the greatest movie ever. It might even be two hours of my life that to my regret I’ll never get back. If SyFy follows its usual pattern, even if you missed the premiere you still have 17 trillion chances to see it. SyFy will air the thing on a loop until the end of all time and space, when the Big Bang falls into a Big Crunch and we start all over again.

When you watch Sharknado 2, and you inevitably will, here are the five greatest things to look out for in S2TS1.

1. S2TS1 wastes absolutely no time on story.

Literally seconds into the film, star Ian Ziering (whose character’s name is still “Fin”) sees a shark in a cloud backlit by lightning. What follows is a fun riff on the old Twilight Zone episode in which a young William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing of an airliner, but nobody believes him. Ziering has his own Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, then, because of all the sharks, has to reprise Robert Hayes’ role in Airplane! I’m not even kidding.

SPOILER ALERT: New York’s anti-gun policies end up helping the sharks. But as they say, only criminals have guns under strict gun control. That turns out to be a minor side plot in S2TS1. I’m not kidding.

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The 10 Most Hilarious Epic Rap Battles of History

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Note: Some of the videos on this list are not safe for work.

Fresh off the conclusion of its third “season,” the ongoing YouTube production of Epic Rap Battles of History has established itself as an online phenomenon. What began as a clever collaboration between two musically inclined friends has ballooned into a prime example of how to produce viral videos. YouTubers Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd have created an interactive platform which has attracted the participation of fellow YouTube celebrities and even some mainstream stars. It’s been so successful that they were tapped to market the latest Assassin’s Creed video game and promote hit AMC television shows. They even got to meet with the president.

If you haven’t come across Epic Rap Battles of History before, here’s your chance to check them out. Personalities from pop culture, politics, and history collide in rhythmic battles to boast and belittle. The results are often hilarious. Here’s the Top 10 Epic Rap Battles of History.

#10. Moses vs Santa Claus

This had to be a big moment for Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd. Having Snoop Dogg (or Lion, or whatever he’s calling himself these days) featured in an epic rap battle lends a legitimacy which could not be acquired in any other way. He steps naturally into familiar territory. It would have been easy to let his presence overwhelm the project, but this back and forth between Moses and Santa Claus delivers enough laughs from each to succeed on its own merit.

Verdict: Moses

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The Top 10 Gods of the Pop Culture Pantheon

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.

10. Harry Potter

When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),

Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.

Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.

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Who Are the Most Terrifying Figures in Fantasy Fiction and Films?

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

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In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email.

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle.

Apostic with a great answer to yesterday’s question, “Which Fantasy Stories Most Inspire You to Want to Fight For Freedom?”

The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad. Nah, just kidding.

Seriously, I’d say The Screwtape Letters, which defines the mechanics of evil, told as advice from a senior demon to a junior demon on how to corrupt people and, upon successful corruption, devour their souls. Thematically there’s not much dif between devouring a soul and “owning” someone; when someone is owned, the owner is, in a sense, devouring that person’s life. Seeing it spelled out like that lets you recognize that kind of life-devouring evil when you see it in the real world — and motivates you to fight against it. Result: Fighting for freedom.

Who are other figures in books and movies who personify evil for you?

****

images via shutterstock /  zebra0209

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Star Trek (of any Flavor), or Babylon Five? That *Is* the Question.’ Regards, Allston

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

Babylon Five?

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle.

The Next Generation?

Deep Space Nine?

Voyager?

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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10 Reasons to Give Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a Chance

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a lot of flak, even before it premiered. PJM’s own Scott Ott declared “no interest” in the series despite loving its source material. I confess to holding my own doubts regarding a superhero show without superheroes. However, unlike Ott, I was willing to give the series a chance. After watching the first season in its entirety, I’m glad I did. Here are 10 reasons to take a look at Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

10. Cinematic Action

Certain shows have come along in recent years to demonstrate that the small screen can nonetheless explode with cinematic action. Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica comes to mind, a genre show which looked better than many films from past years.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a similar case for the possibilities of televised entertainment. In essence, it’s an international spy thriller, much of which takes place in the enormous aircraft our heroes call home. The special effects, while lackluster here and there, largely do justice to their Marvel cinematic pedigree.

Now if we can just get a live-action Star Wars series, life will be good.

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Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 - by Francis W. Porretto

Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, a 17-part serial of which he was the star and one of the writers and directors, is one of the great cultural legacies of the late Sixties for several reasons:

  • Its portrayal of “The Village,” a synthesis of the ideal English seaside resort with the total-surveillance nightmare of Orwell’s 1984;
  • The varied and ingenious series of trials of his intellect, his ingenuity , and his integrity to which McGoohan’s unnamed protagonist was put;
  • The exceptional quality of the scripting and acting throughout;
  • The care put into retaining the key ambiguities, which was apparently one of McGoohan’s priorities.

Nothing quite brings home the uniqueness of the series as powerfully as that last point, which is heated to a rolling boil in Episodes 16 and 17, co-starring the immortal Leo McKern.

McGoohan once said that the key theme of The Prisoner is that “Freedom is a myth”:

Interviewer Warner Troyer: This is a kind of banal question I guess, but if you could leave one sentence or phrase or paragraph in the head of everyone who watched The Prisoner series – the whole series – one thing for them to carry around for a while when it was over, what would it be?

McGoohan: Be seeing you.

This was an invocation of The Village’s relentless surveillance of Number Six, for whom The Village was putatively created as a place of confinement and trial.

McGoohan’s perspective on freedom-as-myth partakes critically of the concept of purposeful self-command as the negation of freedom. This is underlined by contrast: through the condemnation, in the final episode, of Number 48 — “uncoordinated youth; rebelling against nothing it can define,” — and Number 2 (Leo McKern) — “an established member, turning upon and biting the hand that feeds him.”‘ For all revolts against control will be either thematic or unthematic. In the former case, the rebel defies an external locus of control; in the latter, there is none. The sole unaddressed alternative is internal control: self-command in obedience to values and priorities one enforces upon oneself.

In this regard, let us hearken back to episode 16, in which McKern’s Number Two strains to break Number Six’s will at long last, and pays dearly for it:

Number Two: Why did you resign?

Number Six: For peace.

Number Two: What peace?

Number Six: Peace of mind.

It seems that McGoohan, in couching the line that way, was emphasizing that the point of Number Six’s resistance was merely to reaffirm his will to resist: a rebellion against external control whose aim was solely to break that will. The theme is freedom and only freedom… but Number Six’s self-command, which he has asserted throughout and against which he will not rebel, remains in place.

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Did the Cold War’s End Transform Star Trek: The Next Generation?

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Comment of the Day

A very thoughtful, enlightening comment from Terrekain on The 10 Most Obnoxious, Overrated Alien Cultures in Star Trek:

None of these series were created in a vacuum.

The writers originally imagined an “introspective” series with episodic “lesson learning” (America-bashing), using alien races as props. Herb Wright, for example, was a socialist, college Vietnam protestor, and apologist for the Soviet Union, who created the Ferengi to represent an evil capitalistic race to be Star Trek’s new primary villain.

Needless to say, Wright frequently had confrontations with the lead writer who created the Borg, Maurice Hurley, proving the adage that “A man is defined by the character and nature of his enemies”.

This was why so many of the early alien races in TNG were written, as many have complained, like “cartoon caricatures”; transparently insulting to the intelligence of its American audience. The fatal flaw of TNG’s early writing (and therefore writers) is why the show was in real trouble in its first two seasons.

Basically, TNG was swimming against the tide back in the late 1980s, although it should be noted that many socialists in the United States and Hollywood still regarded World Socialism as the “winning side” even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

America’s “cultural zeitgeist” wasn’t buying TNG’s villains, in the same vein that many anti-war movies in the 2001-2008 era were losers, more badly-written propaganda than profit-driven endeavors to sell to an American audience.

Things came to a head, however, with a slate of anti-Left events in 1988-1989: The election of Bush, the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan, and uprisings against Communist Parties all over the from Asia to Europe. By the time the Berlin Wall was breached in late 1989, TNG’s executives realized they didn’t just risk being criticized for being naive or incompetent or even apologists;

They were at risk of being branded evil.

While that might seem strange to some Millennials today, for the sake of illustration: imagine branding Christians and Jews as religious terrorist bombers right after 9/11.

In hindsight, things like that are cheesy and laughable.

In the moment of the times and for the people living though them, it’s outrageous.

The result was a major shakeup that led to the release/re-assignment/firing of TNG’s writers and the hiring of writers who were less susceptible to showing contempt to their audience (especially in their major market, the United States).

One of those writers was the creator of the Borg’s understudy and friend, Michael Piller, who became the narrative driving force of the TNG series as well as its spinoffs like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Piller used open hiring to circumvent Hollywood’s closed-socialist hiring circles, discovering some of TNG’s best writers including Ron D. Moore and Rene Echeverria.

The Borg were not originally meant to be the primary villains of Star Trek TNG, but with Piller, they became the most recognizable and menacing villains of the 90s. The Ferengi, by contrast, were fleshed out in Deep Space Nine and received something of a more balanced narrative.

Stories inevitably tell you more about the authors than about the subjects. This was true for the producers and writing staff of TNG just before the Cold War ended, and the new staff inducted into TNG right after the people in Hollywood realized the jig was up.

Star Trek is not to be hailed as some sort of important creation on par with the combustion engine, the transistor, or even the Hoola Hoop.

But TNG does represent a case study, like a capsule in time, reflecting Hollywood’s response to prevailing attitudes in America during some interesting times.

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The 10 Most Underrated TV Comedies of All Time

Friday, June 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Sullivan and Son

This working class comedy executive-produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley is fraught with all the non-PC ethnic and sexual humor you’d hear in a working class, Irish-Korean, middle-American bar like the one in the show. Created by Korean American actor/comedian Steve Byrne and Cheers writer Rob Long, the TBS sitcom reminds you that some jokes are still OK to crack. The stellar cast features Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) and comic genius Brian Doyle-Murray, along with Christine Ebersole and Owen Benjamin, who portray the drop-dead hysterical mother-son dependent duo Carol and Owen Walsh. 

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10 Too Close for Comfort Similarities Between Harry Potter and the X-Men

Monday, June 16th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

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In numerous interviews, J.K. Rowling has admitted to being influenced by British folklore, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, the Bible, and even the Iliad, but never comics. The similarities between her Harry Potter novels and the X-Men as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby however, suggest otherwise with numerous points in common.

That said, nothing exists in a vacuum and there’s very little in pop culture that either hasn’t been thought of before or that hasn’t been built on an earlier concept. For instance, although the X-Men were created by writer Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby in 1963, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they drew inspiration from earlier sources. Both men have acknowledged interest in science fiction in general and the pulp magazines of their youth in particular. There, science fiction writers such as A.E. van Vogt and Henry Kuttner made their reputations exploring the idea of mutants living among us.

van Vogt’s classic novel Slan, published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1946, is generally credited with popularizing the concept of the mutant. In it, Slans are a mutant race hunted to near extinction by homo sapiens with a young Jommy Cross using his inborn telekinetic power to stay alive.

With the growing awareness of nuclear power in the post-war era, more stories began to be written featuring mutants including Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. Again featured in a series of stories for Astounding over the course of the late 1940s, they featured a mutant called the Mule who had the power to affect emotions.

Then there were the Baldy stories by Henry Kuttner.

Written in the mid-1940s, the Baldy stories take place in the future after a new mutant race of telepaths arise who must defend themselves against the threat of a possible pogrom by the more numerous humans. In the stories, mutants are referred to as “homo superior,” conduct an underground war between good and evil mutants, and of course, the outward symbol of their difference is being bald. All concepts that became part and parcel of Lee and Kirby’s X-Men.

Flash forward to the mid-1970s when the X-Men strip was retooled as “the all new, all different X-Men” and placed in the control of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne. The mutant heroes caught on big, became a sales juggernaut, and by the end of the century had become household names.

Thus it’s not out of the question that, like Lee and Kirby’s familiarity with Asimov and Kuttner, Rowling may have been familiar with the X-Men characters, if only through one of their watered down animated versions. How else are we to explain the following too close for comfort similarities between Prof. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and Prof. Dumbledore’s Hogwarts…?

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VIDEO: For the Hardcore Mega Man Fan With $79.99 to Waste…

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

via Kotaku, hat tip to Ash

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10 Stand-Alone Star Wars Films Which Can Take Our Money Now

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Here’s what we know about the future of Star Wars on the big screen. Director JJ Abrams and his cast and crew are currently weaving dreams at Pinewood Studios in London, headlong into production of Star Wars Episode VII. We’re going to get Episodes VIII and IX to complete a third trilogy. There will be a couple years between each new episode of the saga.

But Lucasfilm has also confirmed at least three “stand-alone” films which will release between the main episodes. The stated goal is to have a new Star Wars film every year starting in 2015. Gareth Edwards, the man behind the lens of the new Godzilla, has been tapped to direct the first of these stand-alone films. Josh Trank, director of the found footage superhero pic Chronicle and the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, will helm the second.

Rumors have been circulating regarding the subject matter of these stand-alone films. The conventional wisdom, or perhaps just the communal wish, is that we’ll get films focused on popular characters from the franchise.

Assuming the purpose of these stand-alone films will be to flesh out the broader mythology of the fictional universe while remaining anchored to the core saga, here are ten stand-alone Star Wars films fans would love to see.

#10. Jedi Master Dooku

As the Star Wars prequels progressed, the Sith menace took phantom forms. One such manifestation was Darth Tyranus. Known by that name to few, Tyranus was known to the galaxy as Count Dooku.

Dooku’s choice to abandon the Jedi Order, reclaim the wealth and title of his birth, and rally opposition to the Republic led directly to the Clone Wars and the rise of the Empire. A prototype of Vader, Dooku once commanded the highest respect and confidence from his Jedi peers, before turning against them and everything they represent.

In the prequels, we learn far more about Dooku from what others say about him than from what we witness firsthand. A stand-alone film exploring the arc of this Jedi swordmaster turned Sith lord would add layers of depth to one of the saga’s most under-utilized characters.

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The 10 Most Cringe-Worthy TV Flops

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

We’ve all heard of the horrors of Cop Rock and Manimal, but after receiving a reader tip on one of their worst TV shows of all time, I did some digging and uncovered these utterly classic samples of bad television that would make great material for Joel McHale or the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

10. Bucky and Pepito (1959)

Produced by Sam Singer, “The Ed Wood of Animation,” Bucky and Pepito was a typical story of an “ambitious” white cowboy and his “lazy” (literally, they sing about it in the theme song) Mexican buddy trolling the old west on a zero budget. According to Toonopedia, “Cartoon historian Harry McCracken once said the pair ‘set a standard for awfulness that no contemporary TV cartoon has managed to surpass. They were great at what they did, which was being bad.’” Thanks to Bucky and Pepito, cartoonists have debated creating a Sam Singer Award for truly bad animation.

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What Are the Top 10 Classic Nintendo Games?

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle.

Also check out from last week’s discussion about adaptations: Monday’s question “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,”  Wednesday’s question “What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations?“, Thursday’s question “Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?,” Friday “Which Video Games Should Be Adapted Into Films or TV Shows?“ 

See the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

If you were trapped on a desert island and could have only a handful of titles to keep you occupied, what would you choose?

Jeremac: Five Video Games You Loved as a Kid But Will Hate If You’re Dumb Enough to Play As an Adult

Dave Swindle: Why I Stopped Playing Video Games

Jon Bishop: Dr. Mario. Literally.

PJ Lifestyle Humor: Super Mario In Post-It Note Form Running Around the Room

This week’s pop culture debates look at the past, present and future of video games. What questions do you want to debate? Please send your suggestions.

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Teen Girl Goes Old School (1951) to Get Popular

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Bought the book in the morning. Finished it in the afternoon. Literally could not put it down.

That may sound odd when you learn that I’m a 52-year-old father of four and I’m talking about a nonfiction book written by a geeky teenaged girl about her efforts to become popular. But it’s weirder than that: I actually had to reach for the Kleenex more than a time or two.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekIn Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, Maya Van Wagenen, 15, lives and writes an engaging adventure — a social experiment, in which she tries to apply the lessons of “Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide,” which her Dad found in a thrift store. Maya manages to bring precocious insight into the human condition through a fun, often dramatic, personal story.

Did you ever wish you could go back to high school knowing what you do now about human nature? Maya actually does it, but as a middle-schooler willing to test out principles of grooming, attire and attitude tailored for 1951. And she doesn’t update them. She lives out the vintage popularity guide as written.

Maya: Before

Maya Van Wagenen before she wrote (and lived) “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek.”

How could paleolithic advice about makeup, girdles and etiquette survive the onslaught of feminism and political correctness? Quite well actually — surprisingly well. But ultimately, what Maya learns has little to do with superficial attractiveness. It really gets at the core of why some people seem to naturally attract friends, and have more fun, while others live lives of quiet desperation.

It’s easy to understand why this book, out since April 15, has already been optioned for a movie. I hope that the studio realizes that this is much more than a story of teenage angst — that it has broad appeal, and deep meaning.

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Is It Better To Adapt Books as Netflix Shows and TV Mini-Series Instead of Films?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

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In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question: “Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?,” Tuesday’s question: “Lord of the Rings Vs. Harry Potter: Which Film Series Better Captured their Books’ Spirit?,” and Wednesday’s question: What Are the 10 Most Disastrous Comic Book Adaptations? the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

This week we’ll begin a discussion about the best — and worst — ways to adapt stories from one medium to another. Your ideas and suggestions are always appreciated.

Allen Mitchum: How Netflix Made Watching TV Like Reading a Novel

Netflix’s House of Cards, Season 1: Becky Graebner’s Guide

Would Watchmen have been better as a miniseries?

This week we’ll  begin a discussion about the best — and worst — ways to adapt stories from one medium to another. Your ideas and suggestions are always appreciated.

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Which Science Fiction Novels Should Be Made into Films and TV Miniseries?

Monday, May 26th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

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In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts and email in your thoughts on any questions that strike your fancy: 5 Questions So We Can Figure Out the Cream of the Crop In Popular Music Genres5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.

A great email suggestion from Allston, one of PJ Lifestyle’s most thoughtful regular commenters, to start this week’s debates:

In regard to a new debate, here’s one – Science Fiction novels that should be made into movies/TV Miniseries, but never have been. In that regard, I’d throw out there Jerry Pournelle/Larry Niven’s Mote in God’s Eye. As a second choice, I’d mention Roger Zelazny’s 9 Princes in Amber.

Patrick Richardson: The New Human Wave in Science Fiction Literature

Book Plug Friday with Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin: Future Shock

Walter Hudson: Is Man of Steel the Year’s Best Sci-Fi Film?

Chris Queen: John Carter: Old-Fashioned Sci-Fi Leaps to Life

Sarah Hoyt: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Robert A. Heinlein

This week we’ll  begin a discussion about the best — and worst — ways to adapt stories from one medium to another. Your ideas and suggestions are always appreciated.

Updates from Tuesday, May 27:

From Sandy C via email:

Be made into a movie?

I think that Rebirth (or the original English title The Chrysalids) would be a good movie. Have thought so since I first read in the 1950′s. I enjoy it every time I read it. Thanks for letting me voice my input.

From Brian M via email:

Hello There,

I would love to see the Stainless Steel Rat brought to life, think it would be fun and proper adult sci fi shows are hard to come by.

Also would like to see the Papa Schimmelhorn series by Reginal Bretnor. He was Douglas Adams before Douglas Adams, but ruder and bawdier.

Slightly more serious one would be an adaptation of the Culture novels by the late and much missed I M Banks. Consider Pheblas is ready made for it!

Cheers

From George T via email:

The Gray Prince by Jack Vance. Great conservative novel that refutes some of today’s most bogus issues. Other Jack Vance novels would make great movies, too, but his series novels would be too tempting for Hollywood to screw up.  Of course, what isn’t?

Thank you

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Kevin Smith’s Read on the Future of Star Wars

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Tabling for the moment how lackluster the prequel films were, recall both the anticipation leading up to The Phantom Menace and the sense of finality which accompanied Revenge of the Sith. For me, those two moments — waiting for the Episode I reel to roll and, six years later, contemplating that I was about to see a new Star Wars film for the last time — define the bittersweet agony of Star Wars fandom in the Lucas age.

For decades, Star Wars was three movies released years apart with contradictory spin-off stories scattered throughout an “Expanded Universe” of books, comics, and video games. When the prequels were announced, it gave fans a reason to live. I remember actually thinking, “Please God, let me make it to 2005 to see this thing through. Then I can die.”

Perhaps that heightened sense of anticipation, fostered by a long drought of new adventures, magnified the disappointment of the prequels. Maybe fans would have endured Episodes I through III with more grace if they knew they might someday get more.

That’s the point writer, director, and big-time Star Wars fan Kevin Smith makes in the above interview with IGN alongside friend and frequent co-star Jason Mewes. He points out the stark contrast in development between when Lucas owned Lucasfilm and the property now under Disney.

They got the right idea now. Instead of treating it like champagne – like, “We’re gonna bring it out once every hundred years, a new cask of Star Wars” – these [guys] are like, “We’re gonna milk it to death.”

Let’s say they make twenty, and ten of them are great, and five of them are okay, and five of them are dog shit. F— it dude, that’s twenty more Star Wars movies than we were ever going to have in this lifetime.

Some of the best Star Wars storytelling and cinematics have come out of video games like The Old Republic or The Force Unleashed which were not personally directed by Lucas. It stands to reason that similar success will eventually grace the screen among Disney’s many planned films in the franchise. With something new consistently on the horizon, the stakes for each installment will be lowered. That may enable us to enjoy them more.

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