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VIDEO: On This International Day of Happiness, Just Shut Up & Dance

Friday, March 20th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The Ghostbusters Revival Just Got Weird

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

You’ve probably heard by now that director Paul Feig will helm a rebooted Ghostbusters film starring an all-female cast. From his previous work on the highly successful Bridesmaids, he’s bringing over Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. They will be joined by SNL performers Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

The official announcement came after many years of perennial rumors, mostly driven by original Ghostbusters star Dan Aykroyd. The actor desperately sought a revival of the franchise in the form of a third sequel to the original film. The elder cast would perhaps hand the reins over to a group of younger paranormal investigators. With last year’s untimely death of actor Harold Ramis, who also co-wrote the original, the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3 seemed to fade.

Sony Pictures’ choice to reboot the franchise entirely, to dispense with established continuity and begin fresh with an all-female cast, seemed odd enough. Now we get even weirder news.

Not long after Sony announced a deal with Marvel Studios enabling Spider-Man to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and endure yet another reboot), it was also announced that Captain America: The Winter Solider directors Joe and Anthony Russo had signed a deal with Sony to helm projects there. Given the Russo brothers’ history with Marvel Studios and the recent MCU deal, the conventional wisdom among observers was that the Russos were taking over the Spider-Man franchise.

As it turns out, the Russos’ first project with Sony won’t be Spider-Man or a related property. Entertainment Weekly reports:

[Sony], along with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd, is establishing Ghostcorps, a company that will develop movies, TV, and merchandising around the Ghostbusters…

After the female-led Paul Feig movie, the first task for the company will be a film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, who recently signed a deal with Sony. The Russos will produce along with Reitman, Reid Carolin, Peter Kiernan, and Channing Tatum, who is being eyed to star.

Deadline first reported on the company and the film. “We want to expand the Ghostbusters universe in ways that will include different films, TV shows, merchandise, all things that are part of modern filmed entertainment,” Reitman told Deadline. “This is a branded entertainment, a scary supernatural premise mixed with comedy.”

Absent further details, the whole thing sounds a bit odd. Are there going to be multiple Ghostbuster teams running around? Is the Tatum/Russo project going to follow the continuity of the original films? It seems strange that the same studio would be pursuing two different projects within the same franchise utilizing completely different creative teams.

Are you interested in either of these projects? Or should Ghostbusters rest in peace?

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Inside the Millennial Mind: How Wikipedia Users View the World

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Image illustration via Shutterstock /

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Spock’s Trek Through the Stars in 10 Clips

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

We’ve had some time to process the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death. The character which Nimoy helped create inspired generations to seek balance between discipline and feeling. Let’s take a look back through Spock’s trek through the stars in these 10 clips from the franchise.

What It Means To Be Vulcan

In one of the most definitive moments from the original series, Spock finds himself torn between his dual natures when a debilitating attack upon Captain Kirk leaves Spock in command of the Enterprise during a critical diplomatic mission.

The wrinkle is that Spock’s father lies sick among the delegation, succumbing to a malady that only a transfusion from Spock can resolve. But yielding to the procedure would compromise Spock’s capacity to command while the ship is under threat, and so logic dictates that he mind his Starfleet duty and allow his father to die.

Spock’s human mother pleads for him to reconsider in this heated confrontation.

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Lord Reptile’s Top 5 Apocalypse Movies

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 - by Jeremy Swindle

You’re reading the concluding post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terrorby James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.

5. Mortal Kombat

If the apocalypse means having my skull smashed open on the rocks by Goro while Napalm Death plays then count me in. After all, Reptile is just Shang Tsung’s humble bodyguard for swatting down mortal weaklings in this film. The Reptile can take a few body slams with no problem.

Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with the Mortal Kombat video games’ plot it shouldn’t matter. The movie involves a brutal tournament between the mortals of Earthrealm and Shang Tsung’s flunkies of Outworld. If Earth’s warriors lose the 10th tournament, the emperor Shao Khan becomes the ruler of Earthrealm.

I’m not going to spoil the ending but it should be fairly obvious that a certain Shaolin monk by the name of Louis Kang lays the smack down on the evil sorcerer and reappears for the sequel, Annihilation. This is the only proper MK film. Don’t bother with any others.

Mortal Kombat is a fine apocalyptic movie for parties or any situation.

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What Were the Most Significant Science Fiction Stories of the 1940s?

Saturday, February 14th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Pierre’s series exploring the development of science fiction by decade: The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910sThe 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1920s, and The Most Important, Visionary Science Fiction Stories of the 1930s

After the passage of 65 years and the beginning of a new century, the decade of the 1940s seems all the more remarkable for the number of brilliant writers who were working at the time, the sheer variety of venues they had to choose from, and the fact that every other story seemed to reveal new vistas of imagination.

And though the 1930s had its share of first time writers breaking into the professional ranks, the 1940s introduced even more as Leigh Brackett, James Blish, C. W. Kornbluth, Frederick Pohl, Frederic Brown, Damon Knight, Ray Bradbury, Hal Clement, George O. Smith, Jack Vance, Arthur C. Clark, Poul Anderson, H. Beam Piper, and Judith Merril, all made their first sales.

In addition, writers who had debuted in the previous decade now began to establish themselves as major authors in the field making important contributions that would become cornerstones not only of their own work but of science fiction in general. Writers like Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and A. E. Van Vogt would lead the way, publishing one classic after another.

Both newcomers and established authors would prove their durability as they continued to contribute stories into the 1960s when their work would appear side by side with a new wave of young writers more interested in psycho-social subjects than traditional hard science.

The 1940s was an era that, despite a World War and resulting paper shortages, science fiction magazines proliferated with such venerable titles as Amazing Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Tales, and Startling Stories still on hand and a plethora of new ones such as Stirring Science Fiction Stories, Other Worlds, and Captain Future cropping up like mushrooms after a spring rain.

It was a decade during which John W. Campbell reigned as editor of Astounding Science Fiction, developing a stable of reliable young writers with whom he’d begin to transform the field from its perception as somewhat of a juvenile backwater to something with serious literary pretentions.

Furthermore, the insular world of SF fandom continued to evolve and expand with more amateur SF magazines such as Damon Knight’s Snide and Ray Bradbury’s Futuria Fantasia popping up, clubs forming, more and bigger conventions being held, and launches of the first small press book publishers such as Gnome Press.

Finally, first-rate Hollywood film adaptations of some of the classics of SF such as Campbell’s own “Who Goes There” (as The Thing From Another World) and Harry Bates’ “Who Goes There?” (as The Day the Earth Stood Still) were right around the corner.

The 1940s was a decade of transition in another sense as SF novels from the world of academia finally petered out and books based on popular short stories and novelettes written by rising pulp authors began to appear in a new mass market pocket book or paperback format.

Among the last outliers of academic writers was Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, published in 1944. In this groundbreaking novel about a dog with human intelligence, Stapledon skirts the controversial and in places seems to refute the religious arguments raised by his contemporary C.S. Lewis as Sirius seeks God and in conversations with a local priest is disappointed in his search for meaning. He finds a measure of it in his love for Plaxy, the human daughter of the scientist who gave him his intelligence. Together, the two share a forbidden love that was doomed to fail.

The year before, in 1943, Lewis published the second volume in a series that began with Out of the Silent Planet. In Perelandra, Ransom, the protagonist of the first book, journeys to Venus and discovers an Edenic world complete with its own Eve named Tinidril who is seeking her Adam. They’ve been given free run of all the floating islands of the planet but have been forbidden from stepping upon fixed land. But an original sin-less paradise is threatened with the arrival of materialist scientist Weston and together, he and Ransom enter a series of philosophical debates intended to sway Tinidril either to obey or not to obey a divine commandment not to step onto fixed land.

Lewis would complete his trilogy with the publication of That Hideous Strength in 1945.

A third entry in the academic novel sweepstakes was 1984 by George Orwell. Published in 1949, it tells the story of one man’s struggle for personal freedom in a totalitarian society. Ostensibly a rebuke of communism, the novel’s message speaks louder than ever in today’s world of creeping political correctness.

Meanwhile, Stapledon and Lewis’ pulp counterparts were busily writing stories that would themselves eventually be turned into novels. All of the most seminal, appearing in Astounding Science Fiction including Slan, published in 1940. In it, A. E. Van Vogt‘s story features young Jommy Cross as the last hope of his race of super humans. Jommy must find a way to save the Slans even as humans hunt them down to near extinction.

Astounding struck again in 1941 with not one but two important SF stories including “Microscopic God” by Theodore Sturgeon. In it, a scientist creates an artificial world of microscopic beings who live at an accelerated rate. Because of that, they quickly evolve and advance beyond human science so that their creator, who’s set himself up as their god, can eventually profit by their inventions.

Likewise, Robert A.  Heinlein‘s “Methuselah’s Children” spotlights the Howard family who have achieved extraordinary long lifespans through selective breeding. But others don’t believe it and when they insist that the Howards reveal their secret to long life, patriarch Lazarus Long suggests that the family leave the Earth to seek a world of their own.

Again from the pages of Astounding came two more important stories from up-and-coming authors. Mentored by Campbell, Isaac Asimov had become a mainstay of the magazine by the time “Foundation” appeared in 1942. A story that would eventually grow to a three volume series of novels (with more additions in later decades), it posits the creation of a group intended to preserve knowledge against the fall of the galactic empire. Afterwards, the Foundation would be there to assist the rise of a new civilization and hopefully to reduce the length of an intervening dark age.

Asimov contemporary Lester Del Rey struck home the same year with “Nerves,” one of the earliest tales, if not the earliest, dealing with an accident at a nuclear power plant.

Perhaps riffing off of Stapledon’s Sirius, Clifford Simak‘s City (1944) was the first of several stories eventually collected in a book of the same name dealing with a future Earth abandoned by humans and left to intelligent dogs. It is the dogs left behind that tell the stories of man’s abandonment of cities for a rural lifestyle and his eventual flight into space.

SF veteran Jack Williamson successfully made the leap from space opera to the new wave of more serious science fiction when his story “With Folded Hands” appeared in Astounding for 1947. The story tells the tale of robots called Humanoids invented to serve mankind but who eventually exceed their programming to make sure no human comes to harm by becoming their pitiless masters.

The 1940s would mark a peak period for science fiction allowing it to coast through the 1950s into the 1960s when the genre would find its momentum finally begin to slow. By the time the new century rolled around, the field would become a pale shadow of its once vibrant past adding increased luster to what in hindsight can now be confirmed as SF’s golden age.

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King of Jordan: Trekkie

Friday, February 13th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

PRINCE

Back when he was a mere prince, his advisors managed to get King Abdullah II a cameo on Star Trek: Voyager, and now he’s kicking ISIS butt.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Most Important, Visionary Science Fiction Stories of the 1930s

Saturday, January 31st, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

The 1930s was a decade in which older, established, non-science fiction specific novelists ran neck in neck with rising young pulpsters who, for the first time, began to challenge their elders in originality and seriousness.

In past decades, writers like Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells dominated the public consciousness with their novels of science and the fantastic. They proved to others that the nascent genre of science fiction could be used to good effect both to warn against social ills and the pitfalls of a rising scientific culture.

At the same time, a completely different set of readers, mostly young and whose view of the future and science was less gloomy and more optimistic than their elders, began to coalesce around the science fiction genre.

Isolated by an ocean or by the vast landscapes of the United States, some of those young people hunkered down at typewriters working long, lonely hours writing, their imaginations fueled by the early pulp magazines of the 1920s which brought science fiction for the first time to a mass audience.

Murray Leinster, Doc Smith, Edmond Hamilton, Ray Cummings, Stanton A. Coblentz, Harl Vincent, and Jack Williamson all made their first appearances in such magazines as Amazing Stories, Argosy, Weird Tales, and Air Wonder Stories.

Clearly, like interstellar gasses concentrating into stars, the genre of science fiction was coming together with increasing rapidity with the 1930s being the decade when it all finally seemed to come together. In no other decade did so many classic tales of SF appear and so many authors make their initial debuts in print: “The Red Plague” by P. Schuyler Miller and “Marooned on Andromeda” by Clark Ashton Smith in 1930; “The First Martian” by Eando Binder in 1932; “A Matter of Size” by Harry Bates in 1934; “The Faithful” by Lester Del Rey in 1938; “Marooned off Vesta” by Isaac Asimov, “Ether Breather” by Theodore Sturgeon, and “Lifeline” by Robert Heinlein all in 1939.

In addition, readers of science fiction began to organize themselves. Letters pages in the magazines brought them together and made them realize that living in their small towns or feeling isolated in big cities, they were not alone. The first fanzines were launched right at the very start of the decade which became known as First Fandom (the first of many fan “eras”), amateur magazines publishing their own fan fiction proliferated, and fan clubs such as the Los Angeles Science Fiction League Chapter and the Futurians would become breeding grounds for some of the biggest SF authors of the 1940s.

The first SF convention between New York and New Jersey fans was held in 1936.

But most of this activity was happening “underground” so to speak. The larger world of letters still mostly ignored science fiction, only taking notice when an established author used the genre as a platform to address larger philosophical concerns. The 1930s would be the last major effort by these kinds of writers. For decades afterward, SF would retreat further underground or be considered primarily as juvenile literature until being rediscovered by the mass media following the huge success of the Star Wars films in the 1970s.

But as things stood in 1930, the field was still considered ripe for exploration by serious writers such as Olaf Stapledon, a professor of philosophy whose first book, A Modern Theory of Ethics, lacked a popular audience. Hoping to reach a wider public Stapledon decided to use science fiction as his vehicle and ended up writing Last and First Men (1930).

In it, the author tells the history of mankind extending two billion years into the future. Nothing like its terrible sweep of time and history was ever attempted before and it caused a sensation in literary circles and especially SF fans whose vistas had been broadened. Stapledon followed up that first success with a number of other groundbreaking novels including Odd John in 1936 about a super-human’s attempt to live in a world of ordinary men and Star Maker, published in 1937, that goes far beyond even the scope of Last and First Men to tell the history of the whole universe while exploring themes of life, death, eternity, and God.

By comparison, peers such as Aldous Huxley covered very limited subjects though no less important and prophetic in Brave New World, his controversial novel published in 1932. In it, the author describes a future society of 2540, one governed by a politically correct world state that strictly limits personal freedoms while keeping the masses content with recreational drug use and sex.

In response to the secular humanist values explored in the work of such contemporaries as Stapledon and H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis wrote Out of the Silent Planet. Published in 1938, it became the first in a celebrated trilogy that posited alien worlds where original sin never took place (Mars) or was still in an Edenic state (Venus).

Contemporaneous with the British writers, American Philip Wylie anticipated the concept of the super-hero with Gladiator, a novel published in 1930. In it, the author tells the tale of Hugo Danner who’s endowed with super-strength and invulnerability. Through a number of adventures, Danner seeks a purpose in life until, asking God for help, he’s struck down by lightning and killed!

Meanwhile, the rising stars on the American pulp scene concerned themselves mostly with less weighty subjects than the novelists, although John W. Campbell made the attempt with a dramatic shift in his writing style beginning with the 1934 short story “Twilight.” Writing under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart, the author assumes a somber yet elegiac style to tell the story of an Earth where mankind is dying out with machines preparing to take over and continue his legacy.

The same year that Campbell embarked on his new literary trajectory, Stanley G. Weinbaum was revolutionizing SF with “A Martian Odyssey.” It told the story of a man lost on Mars who befriends one of the natives, a birdlike creature named Tweel whom the author creates as a fully rounded personality with a completely alien perspective. It was the beginning of the end of the stereotypical Bug Eyed Monster of the kind popularized by Edmond Hamilton.

Still riding high in the 1930s was E.E. Doc Smith who proved to fans that he still had what it took with the Galactic Patrol, published in 1937. In it, the author introduces the concept of the Lensmen, law enforcers armed with a device that gives them special powers to combat criminals who threatened the spaceways. Perhaps representative of an aspect of SF that was waning even as the story was being serialized in Astounding, it was influential on later iterations of space opera and in present day comic books.

Based on the outrageous theories of Charles Fort, Eric Frank Russell crafted the novel Sinister Barrier which first appeared in Unknown Worlds magazine in 1939. In it, Russell popularizes the concept that the Earth is the “property” of a race of beings that remain forever hidden behind a invisible, uncrossable barrier.

Taken together, the science fiction of the 1930s presented a vastly diverse field for a growing number of enthusiastic readers to explore. A field that would only grow more fantastic in the next decade, the so-called “golden age of science fiction,” when the serious novelists mostly disappeared and writers who began as fans took over, regularized the genre and matured it into a fascinating exploration of future possibilities.

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See the previous installments in this series:

The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1910s

The 10 Most Influential Science Fiction Stories of the 1920s

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Who Are Your Dream Directors To Shoot Star Wars Spin-Offs?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

There’s so much to explore in the Star Wars universe, that something like this could easily become a standout entry in the Saga.

What would you want to see?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Indiana Jones in Reverse

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

indianajones1-02

Remember after 9/11, when all kinds of bloggers posted that clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark?

You know: The one in which, bored with an Arab swordsman’s show-offy moves, Jones pulls out his pistol and shoots him dead?

Seeing all those posts really cheered me up back then.

“Wow,” I thought. “America is gonna go kick some ass!”

And then those same bloggers and pundits — many of whom I respect mightily — kept repeating the words of some Iraqi guy during the invasion, who was gleefully shouting, “Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!”

Those bloggers and pundits were certain that this meant millions of Muslims had been dying (literally) for the good guys to rescue them.

They wanted the same things we wanted. George Bush said so in his Second Inaugural.

I wanted to believe. But I wasn’t so sure.

Any more than I was as certain as these bloggers that the future lay in the latest cool gadgets, and how cameras and computers were getting cheaper all the time, and Bush just got reelected and hey, Who’s going to the Rose Bowl this year?

Maybe because I’m Canadian.

Maybe because I’m a girl.

Maybe because I was raised Catholic.

Maybe because I’m naturally contrarian.

For whatever reason, all this boyish bluster, I thought, didn’t bode well.

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Thank God for Marvel’s Agent Carter Feminism

Saturday, January 10th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Don’t let the stereotypical G.I. lunks distract you with their butt-smacking, “don’t you need to file something” portrayal of 1940s masculinity. Marvel’s Agent Carter is far from your oh-so-played-out second wave feminist portrayal of manhood – and womanhood, for that matter. Which is why it’s the best show going on television for feminism today.

For every lunk there’s a hero, Carter’s colleague Agent Sousa being one of them. One brilliant expository exchange sets the tone, demonstrating exactly how appealing real men find Carter’s fearless independence:

Carter: “I’m grateful. I’m also more than capable of handling whatever these adolescents throw at me.”

Sousa: “Yes, ma’am. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Carter: “Well that’s another thing we have in common.”

Carter is a fully empowered female. Sousa knows it, respects it, and likes it. And Carter likes him for it. This kind of His Girl Friday exchange gets equity feminism the screen time our culture so desperately needs. Unlike her Avengers’ counterpart the Black Widow, Agent Carter isn’t squished into slicked up body suits and forced to perform gymnastic feats in order to intrigue her male audience. And unlike gender feminists, Carter draws authority from her sex and uses it to save the day.

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The 5 Anime Series Streaming on Netflix to Avoid at All Costs

Monday, December 8th, 2014 - by Isaac A. Hunt

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Netflix has been very good about making all kinds of anime content available to stream instantly, much to the delight of anime nerds everywhere. However, in order to get the most popular shows, Netflix often gets saddled with having to take… less desirable programs.  Watching anime on Netflix is like navigating a minefield: one wrong step and you are launched into a world of revolting terror. This list is a guide to help the less experienced anime viewer avoid the pitfalls that come with exploring new territory.

5. Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online is an infuriatingly dumb show. At first, the program suffers with just unfortunate incompetence, but then stumbles into a pit of unceasing perversion and stupidity. SAO follows the story of Kirito, a video game player who gets trapped in a virtual-reality MMO. Death in the game means death in real life, so Kirito and his friends have to walk a dangerous path in order to beat the game and escape.

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What’s With That New Lightsaber in The Force Awakens Trailer?

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

We’ve all seen it a few dozen times by now, the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. For the most part, it looks quite good. Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and hiring of Abrams signaled a clear advancement of the franchise from the malaise of the prequels to something better resembling the original trilogy. Indeed, this trailer’s aesthetic looks a lot more like classic Star Wars than anything we saw in Episodes I through III.

There’s only one major hiccup, and it’s quite concerning. While the TIE fighters look like TIE fighters, the X-Wings look like X-Wings, and the Millennium Falcon looks better than ever, what’s up with that new lightsaber?

lightsaber

With Abrams’ direction setting the tone for the plethora of Star Wars films due in the next six years, his creative choices prove definitive and therefore important. We can look to his previous efforts in the Star Trek franchise for clues into how he will approach it.

One thing that seemed very clear from Abrams’ approach to Star Trek was that he wasn’t shy about drastically altering the aesthetic of the universe. Everything from the way phasers work to the look of warp drive to the Apple store-themed bridge of the Enterprise was a sharp deviation from the franchise’s established look and feel.

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Lwaxana Troi: Star Trek’s Most Polarizing Woman?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

Lwaxana

Editor’s Note: See Ash Freeman’s wonderful article “Why Star Trek: The Next Generation Is Great in Spite of Being Mostly Terribleand the previous installments in this series: Part 1: Tasha YarPart 2: Deanna TroiPart 3: Beverly Crusher, and Part 4: Dr. Pulaski, Guinan, and Ensign Ro

Lwaxana Troi

Lwaxana’s place in Trek fandom is as polarizing as they come; her pushy, enthusiastic nature was incredibly off-putting to some, while others were endeared by it. Her flirtations with Picard, and other suitors of the week were hit or miss, but the real depth in Lwaxana’s character came when they started to peel back the layers behind her bombastic exterior.

Lwaxana’s life comes across as tragic once more of her back-story is revealed in the episode “Dark Page.” In it, we are shown the worst moment a parent could have in their lives: the loss of a child. Lwaxana suppressed all memory of her lost daughter Kestra, refusing to speak of or think of her ever again. This, combined with the loss of her husband Ian was too much for her to bear. Eventually the strain of this began to make her erratic, forcing Lwaxanna into a coma. She recovers by the end of the episode (because of course she does), but when viewed with this information in mind, many of her exploits before and after this episode become tinted in a more heartbreaking context.

Lwaxana fussing over daughter Deanna dragging her heels to get married is her compensating for the loss of her husband and her own way of wanting what’s best for her daughter, as is her stubbornness to lose potential suitor Timicin to his culture’s suicide ritual in the episode “Half a Life”. Lwaxana’s aggressive interactions with Picard are also potentially a result of this. “Cost of Living” has her doting over Worf’s son Alexander like a grandmother, as she likely wishes she had the opportunity to do with Kestra. Lwaxana became more three-dimensional, but only insofar as one was willing to empathize with her after considering this subtext.

These themes of marriage and parenthood would continue on in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but the question of how effective they were and how well her character was integrated with that cast and setting is for another day.

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The Top 10 Cinematic Portrayals of DC Comics Villains

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Warner Bros. recently announced an aggressive slate of films based upon DC Comics properties which will share a single cinematic universe, an answer to the successful franchise which Marvel Studios has built since 2008’s Iron Man. The DC slate opens with 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and will continue the same year with Suicide Squad, which director David Ayer recently described as “The Dirty Dozen with supervillains.”

In the comics, the Suicide Squad boasts DC’s B-list villains, characters like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang. However, if rumors now circulating prove true, the cinematic interpretation of Suicide Squad may boast A-list villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker. Reports claim that bombshell actress Margot Robbie has been cast as Harley Quinn, and that Oscar-winner Jared Leto is in talks to play Joker.

In any case, the roster of DC Comics villains portrayed in live-action film is about to explode. Before that happens, let’s consider where the existing rogues gallery ranks. Here are the top 10 cinematic portrayals of DC Comics villains.

#10. Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow

When it was announced that Christopher Nolan would be rebooting the Batman franchise years after Joel Schumacher piloted it into the ground, no one could have predicted how definitive the result would become. Among the bold moves made in re-imagining the property was featuring lesser known villains, including the Scarecrow.

Actor Cillian Murphy took what could have easily been a camp character and grounded him in a believable reality. Dr. Jonathan Crane served a vital narrative purpose befitting his nature as a criminal psychologist obsessed with fear. Fear stood as the dominant theme in Batman Begins, as Bruce Wayne turned his fear against the criminals holding an unholy grip upon Gotham City.

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5 Reasons Why People Adore Anime

Friday, November 14th, 2014 - by Isaac A. Hunt

In my previous article, “6 Reasons Why People Avoid Anime,” I explored various elements that drove people away from the medium of anime. Today, I would like to take the time to examine the opposite. Why do people love anime? What hooks people in and doesn’t let them go? Anime garners so much adulation and passion from its viewers, often to the point of madness. In this article, I will identify and dissect the five aspects of anime that I feel attract and sustain its fanbase.

Not only will I examine the artistic and creative merits of anime, I will delve into what makes it a powerful industry. Part of what makes anime great is that many of its inherit traits satisfy both the entertainment desires of the audience, and the business interests of the producers and media companies.

5. The Animation Catches Your Attention

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This one is fairly simple, and is the most noticeable. Japanese animators have used “limited animation” for years, and many of the practices have given anime its iconic look. Limited animation uses less motion and fewer individual frames, in order to save time and money. However, the lack of more fluid motion in limited animation allows for intriguing and engaging stylistic choices. Silhouettes, abstract animation, and atmospheric still shots can all be considered “limited animation,” but they each serve a purpose in setting tone and atmosphere.  

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Why We Worship Celebrities

Sunday, November 9th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

Olympus

The lights went out on Mount Olympus a long time ago, but they’re burning bright on the red carpet. There’s a connection there – it’s not a coincidence that a world without Greek gods is a world that wants to know what Brad Pitt eats for breakfast.  We can’t worship the ancient pantheon anymore – it would be ridiculous, and, God be praised, we know better. But like it or not, there’s a space in the human heart shaped like the pagan deities. That’s the space we’ve filled with T-Swift and J-Biebz, with Miley Cyrus and Will Smith. Absurd but true: with the old temples empty, we’ve built new altars to matinée idols.

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What Does That New Star Wars Title Mean?

Friday, November 7th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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The official word dropped from Walt Disney Pictures on Thursday that the title of the new Star Wars film will be The Force Awakens. It doesn’t take much chum to get Star Wars nerds chomping with speculation. So what do these three little words mean?

This marks the first time that the Force has been referenced in a film title. How significant is that? What is the Force awakening from? Has it been somehow subdued in the wake of Return of the Jedi? If so, by what, or whom?

As a fan of the original trilogy who tolerates the prequel films as canon, I have always found the prospect of Episode VII dubious. Do I want another Star Wars film, let alone the five to follow in as many years? Of course. Who doesn’t? However, as a fan, it’s difficult to see where the narrative of this saga goes after the events of Return of the Jedi.

The first six films relate the tale of Anakin Skywalker and his fulfillment of an ancient Jedi prophecy regarding the balance of the Force. Ostensibly, when Anakin emerges from the vestige of Darth Vader and destroys his Sith master at Jedi’s end, that prophecy stands fulfilled and balance has been restored.

Where do you go from there? That’s the question which haunts Disney’s effort. If, in the interest of expanding this mythology for new films, it is revealed that Anakin’s sacrifice was somehow inadequate, that will seriously undermine the gravity of his narrative and cheapen his redemption. That could be too high a price to pay for more Star Wars.

We’re probably six months out from the first trailer. Until then, these three little words will have to suffice as fodder for speculation.

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The 5 Hottest Greek Gods and Their Celebrity Lookalikes

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been running updates on the Hot Gossip from Heavenfeuds, fights, and sex scandals from Mount Olympus, ancient Greece’s mythological celebrity nightclub. This week, we’ll push the clock way forward to see how much our own celebrities have in common with the A-listers of Olympus. These are my top five: the sexiest stars and starlets from the ancient world, and the modern mega-celebs who could easily play them on TV. They’re ranked (of course) from hot to hottest – so read on for the good stuff.

1. Persephone: Miley Cyrus

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Persephone was the original good girl gone bad. It wasn’t her fault: in her younger days she was “the girl with a face like a blossom,” blushingly beautiful and demure. But that’s exactly why Hades, the slime-bag god of death, wanted to get his grubby hands on her. He kidnapped her, trapped her in the underworld, and force-fed her magic fruit so she’d have to stay down and become his captive wife. From then on she was a dark terror, the “dreaded” queen of death who fulfilled the curses of the gods. To say she went Goth is an understatement. (Homeric Hymn 2.8; Homer, Iliad 9.457)

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Star Trek’s Wasted Women, Part 4: Dr. Pulaski, Guinan, and Ensign Ro

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing dialogue about Star Trek, women, and feminism in pop culture. See Ash’s previous installments on Tasha Yar Deanna Troi, and Beverly Crusher; also check out April Bey’s “An Artist Trekkie’s Guide For Becoming a Better Person.”

Dr. Katherine Pulaski

Just give me a second to get my flame-retardant suit…

I like Dr. Pulaski. No, wait, come back! I know a lot of people hate her, and honestly, that usually comes down to one thing:

Data

This guy.

I’m not going to pretend like she wasn’t mean to Data (she totally was), and I don’t forgive it (I’m also a fan of Data), but the reason I like Pulaski’s character is that she was, well… kind of a bitch. This probably sounds really counter-intuitive, but think about the time in the show when she appeared: Gene Roddenberry was still calling the shots, and one of his stipulations for TNG was no interpersonal conflict between the crew. The reason for this is because allegedly everybody is “evolved” and past that kind of thing or whatever. While idealistic, this made for bad drama.

I feel that if Diana Muldaur had stayed on the show, and as much attention had been given to her character as Beverly got, she might have been able to have been developed into a more sympathetic person and kinder towards Data. There are shades of an attempt there, such as in the episode “Peak Performance” where she encouraged him to think outside the box in order to beat Kolrami at Strategema.

Ultimately the entire relationship was a bad rehash of the one between Spock and McCoy on the Original Series. What worked then failed because Spock and Data were inhuman in very different ways and this made Pulaski seem like a bully whereas McCoy came across as merely teasing. The tragedy is that this take on Pulaski isn’t the result of being a mere ripoff, but instead a wholesale re-purposing of McCoy’s character.

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The Wasted Women of Star Trek, Part 3: Beverly Crusher

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 - by Ash Freeman

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing dialogue about Star Trek, women, and feminism. See Ash’s previous installments The Wasted Women of Star Trek, Part 1: Tasha YarThe Wasted Women of Star Trek, Part 2: Deanna Troi, and April Bey’s “An Artist Trekkie’s Guide For Becoming a Better Person.” 

Of the three original female leads of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Beverly Crusher is the one that ended up the most well-rounded, but that’s not saying much. Her appearances were even, more often than not showing up as a plot device so as to create that week’s magic cure if the problem wasn’t technobabble-related. She had kind of a rocky start, but came away more developed than even Geordi La Forge or arguably William Riker.

The problem is that development never went very far. Is that a flaw in the character, or a flaw in the conventions of the show?

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10 Hits and Misses in Gotham’s First Five Episodes

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Fox’s Gotham has been running for a few weeks now, and it’s off to a bittersweet start. The Batman show without Batman serves as a prequel to the mythology we know.

There’s a lot to like in Gotham. It looks great, shot in New York and enhanced with seamless visual effects. The performances are solid, often transcending weak scripts.

But overall, Gotham suffers from an identity crisis. This show can’t decide what it’s trying to be. One scene evokes the grounded tone of The Dark Knight. The next evokes the camp of 1966. Here are 10 hits and misses in Gotham’s first five episodes.

5. Miss: Fish Mooney

The Portrayal: Jada Pinkett Smith lends the series its greatest star power. Her character, underworld player Fish Mooney, was conceived for the series as a new addition to the Batman mythology. Mooney serves as a lieutenant in the Falcone crime family. She despises her boss and aspires to replace him as the dominant figure in Gotham’s underworld.

Why It’s a Miss: It’s fitting that Fish Mooney was created uniquely for this show, because she personifies its tonal inconsistency. It’s unclear whether we’re meant to root for her or against her. In one scene, she’s ordering the brutal torture and execution of police officers, as if it’s no big deal. In the next, she’s helplessly browbeat by Falcone and proven largely impotent. Pinkett Smith chews the scenery, evoking the camp of the 1960s television show. Her portrayal has been described as an “Eartha Kitt impersonation.”

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DC Film Suicide Squad ‘a Dirty Dozen with Supervillains’

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

The Warner Bros. announced slate of films based on the DC Comics universe will differ significantly from the Marvel Cinematic Universe by quickly introducing a multitude of characters to be explored in latter films. For instance, the forthcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will see cameo appearances by Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg, each of whom have solo films slated for later in the decade.

The same holds true for the DC Comics supervillains. The next film scheduled for release after Batman v Superman is Suicide Squad, directed by Fury auteur David Ayer. Speaking to Empire, Ayer expressed enthusiasm regarding the prospect of “world creation” with ample time and money:

Money and time he’ll have plenty of – Suicide Squad is scheduled as the second DC behemoth to hit the big screen, following Batman V Superman in two years’ time – and, although he couldn’t say much, his vision for the movie should reassure fans. “I can say that it’s a Dirty Dozen with supervillains,” he said. “Then I can ask the question, ‘Does a movie really need good guys?’”

The studio is reportedly in talks with several “A list” actors to star in the film. Rumors include the likes of Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Ryan Gosling, and The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie. The latter performer seems a good candidate to play Harley Quinn, a popular consort of the Joker originally conceived for Batman: The Animated Series who has yet to be portrayed on film.

The choice to introduce several characters right away, rather than meter them out in a phase of origin stories, indicates that Warner Bros. wants to quickly live up to the scope achieved by Marvel Studios. Whether that proves wise in the long-run is yet to be seen.

Should a character like Harley Quinn be introduced to audiences without the Joker? Will we care about a bunch of lesser known villains in a Dirty Dozen type scenario? Is Warner Bros. right to skip the origin stories and get right to the action in their cinematic DC Universe? Let us know in the comments section below.

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10+ Superhero Films Announced in Cinematic DC Universe

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Last week delivered the motherlode of comic book movie news. First, on Tuesday, Variety reported that Marvel Studios is negotiating with Robert Downey Jr. to reprise the role of Iron Man in the third Captain America film. The new story will reportedly launch the “Civil War” arc from the comics, in which Cap and Iron Man find themselves leading opposing superhero factions after the government mandates all super-beings register their powers and enlist as agents.

Then, on Wednesday, Warner Bros. held a stockholders meeting during which they announced a 10 film slate in their planned cinematic DC Universe, to be produced through the balance of the decade. From Wired:

The already announced Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice serves as the starting point in 2016, with the nine subsequent movies setting up a cinematic DC Universe to rival Marvel’s onscreen efforts. Fans can expect to see Suicide Squad first, due the same year, then Wonder Woman in 2017, The Flash and Aquaman in 2018, Shazam in 2019, and Cyborg and Green Lantern in 2020. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the Justice League movie, which contrary to earlier reports of an Avengers-style team marquee film will instead be released in two parts, in 2017 and 2019.

By Thursday, a studio source clarified that additional solo Superman and Batman films will be peppered throughout that schedule. If the production slate holds true, we could have several years in which three DC films hit theaters. That’s in addition to the two which Marvel Studios has averaged, adding up to five potential superhero films a year until 2020.

“It’s an age of miracles,” film director Jon Schnepp swooned to his AMC Movie Talk cohort while contemplating this moment in cinematic history. Ten years ago, who would have thought that the superhero genre would be as prolific as it has become. From Marvel Studios adaptation of their rich comic book story arcs to Christopher Nolan’s transcendent Dark Knight trilogy, the genre has undergone a thorough makeover in recent years. Now, it’s set to dominate for a generation.

Will the market get saturated? Will interest wane? Can Marvel maintain the quality that they’ve put out so far? Will DC ever catch up? Post your thoughts below.

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