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May 2017

GodzillaGeek: The One That Started It All

This summer, CultureGeek will feature a series of guest blogs centered on the classic Godzilla films, written by author and Godzilla aficionado Jim D. Gillentine and collated from other Godzilla fans as well. Rawr! - CultureGeek

 

Gojira: The Beginning 

With a pitch-black screen  and a sudden thundering boom followed by his iconic roar, the 1954 classic Gojira begins. This is the one that started it all, and to many G-Fans, it is still the best movie of the whole series.

Directed by Ishirō Honda, this black-and-white film is a classic sci-fi movie with several horror elements mixed in. Ships start disappearing off the coast of Japan near Odo Island, and it is soon discovered that a 165-foot monster is sinking them. The creature is named Gojira, after the legends of Odo of a monster that sacrifices of young women were given to the creature when fishing would begin to go bad on the island.

Gojira’s existence is met with wonder by the scientist Kyohei Yamane-hakase, and fear by just about everyone else in the movie. It is discovered that the monster is highly radioactive and Kyohei theorizes that the monster is that way because of the underwater H-Bombs testing that has been done by the United States of America.

Kyohei thinks that Gojira should be studied because it had survived being bombarded with so much radiation and thinks the creature is a 'once in a lifetime' chance for science. However, when Gojira makes landfall in Japan, that hope changes to remorse when the unstoppable monster unleashes its fury on the city of Tokyo.

ImagesDirector Ishirō Honda, who fought in WWII, took his memories of seeing the devastated city of Nagasaki when he returned to Japan as inspiration for how Gojira’s attack would unfold on the city. The scenes of Gojira’s slow plodding steps as it sets the city on fire with its atomic breath are somber, frightening, and a feeling of total helplessness is what the viewer is experiencing while the wonderful musical score by Akira Ifukube plays. Sound is one of the key elements for this film, and Ifukube’s music is one of the key elements that make this movie the classic that it remains to this day.

The images of destroyed Tokyo are haunting, and when several scenes play out that show people dying from radiation poisoning from Gojira’s attack show just how high the cost in life will be. Japan’s only hope comes in the form of a new weapon by the scientist Dr. Serizawa, call the Oxygen Destroyer. He agrees to use this new weapon on Gojira while the creature is resting at the bottom of Tokyo Bay, and it is a success. The weapon kills the creature and Serizawa, who went on the diving mission to use the weapon, dies with Gojira to make sure his weapon would ever be used again.

Gojira was a huge hit in Japan, and was renamed and reedited into the movie Godzilla: King of the Monsters when it came to the United States. It was the beginning of a franchise that is still going on to this day, and has millions of fans the world over. But what is it about this movie that makes it so special?

 

In my opinion, you really can’t just point to one thing and say this is what makes this movie so great. It was several things, all coming together at one time to make it into such a sci-fi class that it is today. From the innovative special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya to the musical score all add up to one amazing movie. For this G-Fan, this movie is one that will always be the best of all of the Godzilla move.

Thoughts from fellow G-Fan John Poggi:

There is so much to say about Gojira -- it's a real horror movie for one. And the things I could say about the origin of Godzilla. We have to realize that Japan was traumatized by their defeat. And they NEVER used the word 'surrender'; in their minds, they were overcome by atomic power, not America. In 1954, we were still occupying Japan and would not let them make any movies about the war. So, to deal with the county's fear, they created Godzilla, the embodiment of the fear of an entire nation. Japan looks at atomic energy as a force of nature, not an American military weapon. Godzilla is a force of nature that cannot be stopped by traditional military weapons. He is just something you have to deal with - it's humbling (and is why the American "Zilla" was so insulting to TOHO). I guess this would be my main train of thought ... to the nation of Japan, Godzilla is actually a part of history.

 

G-FAN RATING

Special Effects: 5 SRRREEEROOOONNKS

Plot: FIVE FOOT STOMPS

Fun Factor: FIVE ATOMIC BREATH ATTACKS


Thursday Linkspam

Everyone has already posted their condolences on the death of Roger Moore, so I won’t try. Cancer sucks.

As usual, the debate of “who was the best Bond” arises as it does any time the Bond franchise is in the news, with the aura of a religious fervor and none shall be swayed. I won’t say Moore was my favorite Bond, but he was the first I saw, back when they re-ran Bond flicks in marathons every summer and I was watching them with my dad.

The Film Professor was partial to Sean Connery, of course, since he was the first and Film Professor saw them in the theater from the start. But Connery was a little too fond of smacking women around (and raping them). The linked analysis delves more extensively into it - and yes, 1960s movies based on post-WWII books, but let’s not pretend that we didn’t know what rape and lesbianism was in 1964. I barely understood either concept when I first watched Goldfinger, and yet I knew enough to know that scene was wrong in every way.

Still, Moore was my entry drug, and his suave enjoyment of his character gave me a fondness for the tropes of the series that lasts to this day. I count myself a solid Bond fan, with all the warts and glitches of the series acknowledged. I started catching them in the theater with Timothy Dalton (who doesn’t get enough credit for holding the franchise together through its hardest years) and every film since. Even Tomorrow Never Dies, which is the only one I refuse to ever watch again.

The surviving Bond actors (and Bond girls) gave their reactions in many ways, from Jane Seymour to Pierce Brosnan to Connery himself. But I thought it was Daniel Craig who gave the best eulogy. “Nobody does it better.”

Bonds
If you know the artist, please let me know so I can credit.

 

In other news…

• In case you’ve been asleep all day and didn’t see the interwebs until now, it’s the 40th anniversary of the premiere of Star Wars. I cannot share a story of seeing it in the theater, because I was two years old and my parents sensibly left me with a babysitter. But I’d be nuts not to acknowledge the impact it has had on science fiction, on filmmaking, on American popular culture, on the economy… You can Google the retrospectives as well as I can. But as much as George Lucas has taken it on the chin over the years, no one can deny he created something that spoke to nearly everyone, beyond the boundaries of genre, something ultimately bigger than himself. What more can we ask as artists?

Racist mouthbreathers are protesting the new Star Trek Discovery because *gasp* the captain is an Asian woman and the first officer is a black woman. Granted, any time someone tries to tie “fan reaction” to the comments on YouTube and Twitter, I am suspect. But worse is that the writers keep calling these idiots “Trekkies.” I challenge them to ask any of these genetically disadvantaged asshats calling Discovery “white genocide in space” (seriously??) whether they have ever actually seen an episode of Star Trek. The answer is no, because Trek pretty much pioneered diversity in mainstream science fiction before these morons were born. Therefore the word they are searching for is “troll,” not “Trekkie.”

RIP Lisa Spoonauer, best known as Caitlin in Kevin Smith’s raunchy low-budget surprise hit Clerks. In one respect Clerks is vile toilet humor, the sort of film you watch when the kids are in bed and you’re sure no one’s coming over. And yet it spoke to those of us slogging away behind mind-numbing cash registers in the 1990s, a slice of our own lives there in grainy black-and-white film. No one has yet said what caused Spoonauer’s death at the age of 44, but her Clerks castmates have given their condolences and remembered her as a skilled professional who helped shape the film that launched Smith’s career.

• Book nerds who are wondering what the latest Amazon-vs.-publisher kerfuffle is about: Jason Sizemore of Apex Book Co. writes a clear and concise analysis of what it means for publishers, for authors, and for readers.

• An interesting reflection on the Cannes Film Festival’s haute cinema decision and how the blame for the film industry’s problems lies in Hollywood’s obsession with franchises, not streaming services hitting the production arena.

• Here, launch a fight! IndieWire attempts to rank the 25 best science fiction movies of the 21st century (so far). Spoiler alert: Children of Men is first. Um, not even close, boys. Let the battle begin!

• Speaking of movies, this weekend is Memorial Day, which used to be the launching point for the summer blockbusters. It keep creeping earlier every year. The big release this weekend is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which I truly hoped would not suck. Alas, the critics disagree; it’s at 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s still getting higher marks than Baywatch, also coming out this weekend, but let’s not damn it with faint praise. I really did not care for the fourth Pirates film, but I loved the first three, so I was hoping for a return to swashbuckling fun this time…

• In the category of (possible) bombs, literally no one has said That Dirty Dancing remake was awesome!” It was three hours long, it was on broadcast TV, and everyone has said Baby should have stayed in the corner. Rolling Stone watched it so you don’t have to. Me? I had better things to do, like trim my toenails and wish Patrick Swayze was still around. (Note: There IS a Dirty Dancing Broadway musical, which I understand is pretty awesome and came nowhere near this mess.)

• And finally… Supergirl gives its nod to the upcoming Wonder Woman film. Tee hee hee. “Nice boots.” Go ahead and click, you could use the laugh.

It’s a big weekend here at stately CultureGeek Manor with a birthday, a graduation, a party and probably a great deal of rum coming, so I can’t swear there will be much in Monday’s Linkspam. Have a great holiday weekend, and stay nerdy!


Guest Review: Chicago Justice

Today's guest reviewer is Jason R. Tippitt of The Mental Nomad, discussing the cancellation of Law & Order: Chicago... I mean, Chicago Justice. Take it away, Jason:

 

 

I'm not surprised, given that Chicago Justice wasn't mentioned -- one way or another -- at the time NBC announced its fall schedule.

The one-and-done fate of this series follows the similar course "blazed" by Law & Order: Los Angeles. You would think that just remaking the original formula LAW & ORDER in different cities would work ... but it hasn't. (At least no characters played by Skeet Ulrich were harmed in the making of this show.)

When Elizabeth Donald asked a couple of weeks ago what people thought of the Chicago franchise headed by Dick Wolf, I was frank in putting Chicago Justice in the last place in terms of my enjoyment. It was more of a procedural show than the other series, and its character-building moments were all over the place.

Some bits were good -- an early episode where a judge is murdered outside a bar in the company of the (always young, always female) assistant prosecutor who had appeared in his court earlier that day to argue a case, and she refused to say whether they had a sexual relationship because it was no one's business. The episode with Richard Jones reprising his role as Robinette was another keeper, with nods to the original Law & Order aplenty, but not enough to scare off anyone who hadn't seen it, I would think. And the recurrent references to lead Philip Winchester's troubled relationship with his dad -- ADA Stone from the original Law & Order, played by Michael Moriarty -- had me hoping we'd see that character in the second season.

Some character bits were bad -- Jon Seda's character Dawson was mainly reduced to complaining about his ex-wife after having been a strong second character on Chicago PD (and after being the first character to launch not one but TWO spinoffs). Joelle Carter was cast in that same character beat -- investigator who got hooked on painkillers after being shot, now complaining about her child custody arrangement with her ex.

But mostly, the character bits were dull. I'm mainly using the actors' names here because I didn't come to care for the characters enough to remember their names. And in the case of Carl Weathers as the DA, his politics were all over the map in such a way that I never got a grasp of who he was supposed to be or what he stood for, and that may be the worst indictment of all -- and it points to a structural defect, perhaps, that helped doom the series in the development room.

Remember how on Law & Order, the people were represented by two separate yet equally important groups? The police and the prosecutors?

Well, here -- and on the equally ill-fated Law & Order: Trial by Jury -- the role of the "police" was played by investigators who worked for the prosecutors. And from what I remember LO:TBJ, that formula worked the way it might in real life: other police (off-camera) worked the case, and the episode began with an indictment already in place, or at least with enough evidence to hand off to the DA's office, and the investigators were looking for holes in the case or patching them.

On Chicago Justice, the investigators in the DA's office seemed to be no different than the police department detectives on Chicago PD. They seemed to be working the cases from as soon as the body showed up until the trial, which made me wonder what was the point of making them investigators for the DA's office and not, let's say, a priority homicide unit. It wasn't as big a break from reality as anything that happened on a CSI series ever, but it felt poorly thought through. Jon Seda and Joelle Carter either needed to be playing actual police -- with a lieutenant of their own, an actor or actress of similar longevity to Carl Weathers, serving as a balance to him -- or their work needed to be less "just another cop show" in nature.

And there you go. Probably more words written about Chicago Justice than at your major entertainment and TV sites combined.


MovieGeek: Alien Covenant

If you liked Prometheus, you will love Alien Covenant. I hated Prometheus, so I only halfway liked Covenant.

Ridley Scott seems determined to pretend most of the original quadrilogy didn't happen, and while we might agree with him on a few aspects, the Alien Queen rocked and I will brook no argument. Scott has apparently decided the Alien Queen doesn't exist, and that's a problem for me. Meanwhile, Covenant is trying to say something about religion and faith that ends up pretty muddled, while our trusty alien critters make mincemeat of a plethora of characters. 

From what I've read, Scott really wanted his new SF trilogy to be about the Engineers and mankind's search for its roots instead of the Xenomorph. The problem is, this isn't The Engineers series, this is the Alien series. He should have broken completely and launched a new franchise if he wanted to spend time searching for the Mysterious Aliens Who Created Us (and P.S. Star Trek already dealt with this concept, and did it without making me want to stick sporks in my ears).

Fortunately, someone (probably a few dozen movie execs) got through to Scott and he let the xenomorph take center stage again. There's still a few (hundred) continuity problems, but since Scott said he deliberately doesn't care about continuity with the original movies, I guess we aren't supposed to care either.

I will give high marks to the actors, who managed to make us care about the characters as they reenact And Then There Were None With Aliens yet again. Um, not the same way we cared about the Colonial Marines in Aliens, of course, or even the prisoners in Alien3. But let's not ask for miracles. 

Instead, we care about the characters because they care about each other: they're all couples, all on their way to colonize a planet. That's a good bounce to the theme, since most everyone was single in every previous iteration (because healthy relationships and horror/sf rarely mix, for some reason). When one of them bites the dust, the other truly seems to mourn, so we care. It's a nice trick. 

Extra credit goes to final girl Daniels as a worthy successor to Ripley, and Tennessee, played by Danny McBride in a nice switch from his usual dumb-as-rocks comedies.

Religion and faith... it would take a smarter person than I to figure out what the heck Scott is trying to say here. We have the Weyland-Yutani Standard-Issue Useless Leader, who only becomes the leader after a couple of deaths, and he spends most of his time complaining about how no one listens to him and griping that you can't get ahead in the Company if you're a person of faith. Oram's faith doesn't seem to have an real influence on him, mind you, it's just stated that it's part of him.

So for a minute we think we're going to see something about the separation of faith and science, perhaps the Xenomorph as punishment for their focus solely on the profit margins of the Company... only we don't go there. We see signs of other people of faith - one character is briefly seen wearing a Star of David - but it doesn't seem to have any impact on their actions or characterization save for the Useless Leader. The unseen Elizabeth Shaw of Prometheus was a woman of faith, but again, just saying you're a person of faith is lightweight characterization if it doesn't seem to affect anything in the story or the character's actions.

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And then there's this. Ooookay.

SPOILERS!!!!! from here on. And there's David, leftover from Prometheus, who is apparently responsible for most of this going back to the original movies (not that we mention them or acknowledge their existence). Supposedly Michael Fassbender (who is really the best part of the film) bypassed the earlier Alien movies for his performance(s) as David and the new synthetic, Walter. Instead he focused on Blade Runner for his portrayal, and it shows. Really, watching Fassbender as David teach Fassbender as Walter how to play music, how to be creative... it's the best part of the film. It's almost a disappointment when the aliens show back up.

Scott supposedly said during Prometheus' publicity run that he sees humanity as the children of the Engineers. But then the humans created David, who created the xenomorph (really?), who destroy the humans. Wait, what? If you can figure out what Scott is trying to do here, please let me know. Or, rather, don't. I'd rather have a simple Xenomorph-eats-Marines flick than this muddled mess.

I've also skipped the biggest sin of the film: predictability. Whatever philosophical or metaphysical melodrama Scott may be working through in Covenant, it commits the great sin of being predictable. I guessed how the switcheroo ending would happen from halfway through the film, and knew it for sure throughout the final sequence. I was rather hoping I would be wrong, because THAT would be different, that would subvert expectations. Alas, the big reveal in the last two minutes was completely predictable if you've watched movies before. 

I still don't know why the eggs are practically chest-high now, why the Xenomorph incubation period is suddenly about twenty minutes instead of twenty hours, why the acid blood can eat through three decks of a ship but just muss up a victim's cheek, how the hell this trilogy is going to end up with a ship full of eggs on LB427, why they would pay James Franco's not-inconsiderable salary for what is barely a cameo role and a total waste of a good actor, or how the hell the poor writers on Alien 5 can figure out another round with Ripley with Scott messing up the timeline every fifteen minutes.

But in all, I still enjoyed the film, and you probably will as well. Just leave your copy of Paradise Lost at the door and go with it. It's still better than Alien v. Predator.


Monday Linkspam

Biggest geek news of the week so far is definitely the tragedy afflicting the Zack Snyder family and Joss Whedon taking over as director of Justice League. The fact that I really hated Snyder's take on superheroes in general and Superman in particular has no bearing on the terrible sadness he is fighting, after the suicide of his daughter. He said he knew he had to come clean about the reasons for this move, because otherwise the internet would explode with speculations about why Whedon (who has a very different style) is replacing him at the helm of the film. He is probably quite right. 

• Speaking of DC, it looks like early critics are loving Wonder Woman. Best DC film yet, lifting the doldrums of the franchise, etc. May all of you join me in the mantra again: Please don't suck please don't suck please don't suck...

• Congratulations to the winners of the Nebula Award! Including one of my personal favorites, Seanan McGuire. Hugos are still pending...

• A transgender artist drawing a comic about transitioning? Of course she's being harassed, doxxed and threatened with various forms of violence! Internet, you suck. Sophie Labelle had to cancel her book launch as well, which has a serious financial impact. Is that the real purpose: kill through financial strangulation? That would be speculation.

• The fascinating story of the battle between children's author E.B. White and the early proponents of children's libraries, via the New Yorker. More interesting to me than the battle of Stuart Little was the picture of libraries at the turn of the century, places barred to children kept at arm's length from literature. 

• Go ahead, Browncoats. You can cry now.

• My friend Dennis Upkins has the only quasi-positive review of the new King Arthur film I've read. He makes some good points, as well as providing some shirtless Charlie Hunnam, which is always a positive point. (Readers mass-click on the link.)

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• As Supernatural is the current holder of the ER Memorial "That's Still On?" Award, it only seems appropriate that the Winchester Boys will be crossing over with Scooby-Doo, in full Hanna-Barbara cartoon-land. I stopped watching the show several seasons ago when it seemed that all the plots were "rinse, repeat." But I swear I might jump back in just for that.

• Did The Dark Crystal freak you out as a kid? Great! Now you can freak out your kids, too. Netflix has ordered 10 episodes for a weird-out miniseries. Minus Jim Henson, alas.

 


Thursday Linkspam

Rest in peace Chris Cornell, lead singer for Soundgarden, whose death appears to be hitting many hard according to social media. Variety says it is being investigated as a suicide based on what was observed in the hotel room, but naturally it’s far too soon to say. The reaction from the music world has been one of mourning.

• Fans of Neil Gaiman and the late Sir Terry Pratchett will be happy to hear that Good Omens is getting a miniseries. Naturally Gaiman is primary on this, since Pratchett has sadly passed away. It’s going to BBC via Amazon Studios, which goes to show the new streaming model means we may get weirder, more creative and funkier entertainment in the coming years than the focus-group networks have provided up till now.

• On the other hand, the Cannes film festival has banned movies only available on streaming services because they’re stuck in 1999. Netflix submitted Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories to Cannes and were admitted, but then there was screaming because apparently a movie can’t be shown on a streaming service for three years after it’s left theaters to qualify. Netflix offered a compromise, and they're allowed to stay this year. But instead of joining us in the 21st century, Cannes has decided to ban streaming-only films entirely beginning next year. Way to get with the times, folks.

Star Trek Discovery finally gives us a trailer with actual, you know, footage. Some people are weirded out about the uniforms, or the setting (ten years prior to the original five-year mission), or whether it’s Prime-verse or Abrams-verse (it’s Prime)… I’m weirded out because the lead character isn’t the captain. Though Captain Yeoh is pretty awesome. Please don’t suck please don’t suck please don’t suck…

Ridley Scott is now working for TNT, developing a series of original science fiction programming in various formats. TV-movies? Miniseries? Anthology series? No one really knows, but between this and the revamp at SyFy to actually put out sci-fi could hint that real science fiction is on the upswing after years of being reduced to Wargames! In! Space!

• Did you want more Sheldon? Because you’re gonna get more Sheldon. Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon gets the green light at CBS. I know as a certified geek I am supposed to love BBT, but I watched one episode and never laughed, while feeling mildly uncomfortable: are we laughing with the geeks or at them? But I know many of y’all love it, so here ya go: more Sheldon.

• I can't be the only one really nervous about turning The Haunting of Hill House into a 10-part miniseries. The opening paragraph of Shirley Jackson's novel is simply the best opening paragraph of any novel ever, in my oh-so-humble opinion. The story spawned an entire sub-subgenre of horror stories. So what could possibly go wrong? Meep. Please don't suck please don't suck please don't suck...

TV series Mom decides to spend its $250,000 Emmy campaign budget on a donation to Planned Parenthood instead. Mom stars Allison Janney of West Wing fame and they are using their Emmy campaign attention to advocate on behalf of the nonprofit. I hadn’t heard much about Mom beyond Janney finally winning Emmys (which she deserved way back at the West Wing); it’s about a mother and daughter recovering from alcohol and drug abuse.

• Everything old is new again: Roseanne and Will and Grace will return after umpty years off the air, Fargo is in its third season (roh?), Twin Peaks and X-Files are on their way back again for more weirdness... is Hollywood out of ideas? Are we so exhausted with the dreck they've given us that we're delighted to return to the era when TV was really, really good? Can you capture lightning in a bottle twice? We shall see...


Monday Linkspam

I’m going to assume that it was MY column last week that convinced NBC to un-cancel Timeless. (Hilariously, showrunner Eric Kripke and star Matt Lanter both announced the change as if they went back in time and changed NBC’s minds. Hee.) I clearly have a very powerful voice in Hollywood, see? Deadline says NBC has been playing hardball with all of its series that are produced outside the network, including Blindspot and Taken. Both were renewed, but Sony and NBC were wrangling on the split of profits for Timeless and couldn't come to an agreement. But the cancellation announcement led to loud screams from the internet, and Sony was trying to find a streaming home, and NBC flipped a coin and said, “Okay, you get ten more episodes.” Writers: Bring it.

• In the category of CultureGeek Does Not Understand Fashion, Balenciaga is making a purse that looks like the IKEA bags, which amused IKEA no end. Balenciaga, of course, is one of those fancy-schmancy fashion companies that makes things I could never afford and often wouldn’t want. I do want IKEA bags, because they’re awesome. I have several. Mine cost 99 cents. Balenciaga’s cost $2,145. Did you know there’s a whole DIY subculture of making things from IKEA bags? I love that IKEA is all, “Go to it! We think it’s creatively awesome!”

• Bill Mantlo created Rocket Raccoon, and for 25 years he has lived in a nursing home after he was brain-damaged in a hit-and-run accident. Before the first Guardians film, fans apparently were campaigning to raise money for his treatment, and Marvel has negotiated a new compensation package that will allow Mantlo to move out of the nursing home and into a house next door to his brother.

• Ouch. King Arthur is the first box-office bomb of the summer, making only $14.7 million on its $175 million budget. Variety says King Arthur “may just want to put that sword back where he found it and pretend this never happened.” You know, I like Guy Ritchie most of the time, but that trailer pretty much drubbed everything anyone likes about the Camelot story and made it into Fast and Furious: Medieval Style. Yawn. Charlie Hunnam is far too talented an actor to try to build his movie career on playing Jax Teller in various settings, and I wish he’d cut it out.

GeekDad takes aim at Barnes & Noble for its recent decision to mix new titles into their categories and turn all books spine-out. And I’m right there with him. Spine-out already is the worst sale position for a book; I once saw my books displayed at Dragoncon spine-out on the bottom shelf next to the register. Guess what? Didn’t sell a single book from that retailer. People have to really be looking to find your book if they can’t even see the cover. And as GeekDad points out, the big New Releases table is much too full of the latest political tripe or celebrity memoir or fad diet or yet another ghostwritten “James Patterson” thriller; you rarely see science fiction or horror on that table, and NEVER small press. Hell, we small press folk would be lucky to be spine-out on a bottom shelf to be ignored by the big boys. I like Buns & Noodles - hell, I like almost every bookstore. But the more they get taken over by toys we can get cheaper almost anywhere and endless piles of novelty gift thingies for when you really don’t know the person you’re buying for at all, and the more they do away with horror sections altogether and mix in our books with regular fiction (or fantasy - what?), the more we drift toward “a certain online retailer” because at least there you can find what you want. Do better! We want you to hang around.

• An excellent explanation for why the upcoming Wonder Woman movie is set in World War I instead of letting her punch Nazis. Of course, one could assume that Captain America’s running battle against Nazis past and present in the Marvel Universe might mean something as well, but then we’d have to talk about the current Cap storyline in the comics which doesn’t exist as far as CultureGeek is concerned so cram it, Marvel. In the meantime, I am simply hoping Wonder Woman does spectacularly well at the box office. We have all been chanting please don’t suck please don’t suck, but frankly, I don’t even care as much if it DOES suck, as long as it makes a boatload of money. In Hollywood, action movies with male stars can tank left right and center, and they will blame everything except “it had a male star.” That would be silly, right? But if a movie with a female star tanks a la Catwoman or Elektra, it tanked because it was a female headliner, and that’s the end of the story. If Wonder Woman tanks, it’ll be another 20 years before we get a superhero film with a female lead. So do us all a favor and go see it even if it sucks, okay?

• Also in comics, the new Doomsday Clock miniseries will allow Superman and Doctor Manhattan to meet. That sound you hear is Alan Moore’s head spinning around and possibly exploding. Also, Doomsday Clock will have no tie-ins, no offshoots, totally standalone… holy Hera, I might actually buy this.

• Finally, Disney bids farewell to “Wishes,” its long-running nighttime show at the Magic Kingdom. After 14 years, it’s being replaced with a new show that better not suck, because people are nuts for Wishes. Here, see the final show one more time.


Thursday Linkspam

Dangit. It never fails. A quirky little show pops up, it has problems but also some serious potential, and I like it. Naturally, it doesn’t survive the first season. Timeless fell victim to the Conspiracy Arc Syndrome that seems to bedevil most speculative fiction shows: really, guys, we can bop around from time period to time period and enjoy the hell out of the quasi-history our erstwhile, occasionally brainless heroes visit, and it doesn’t have to be a grand conspiracy theory. It can just be fun. I liked that show, perhaps more for what it could have been than what it was.

You know what else is cancelled or ending this year? Bones, Sleepy Hollow, Time After Time, Bates Motel, Rizzoli and Isles… okay, Rizzoli was a while ago, but I just now caught up and dammit, I loved that show. Among shows I didn’t watch but others did: APB, Rosewood, Frequency, Emerald City, Pitch, Salem, Ghost Hunters, Doubt, Secrets and Lies… did anyone actually know that Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing went six seasons? I don’t think I ever heard anyone mention watching it.

Thank God for Supergirl...

• Hey, remember when SyFy was awesome? Me neither. Oh, I remember the SciFi Channel, and THAT was awesome. And I remember Battlestar Galactica, which was the best series I couldn’t bear to watch a second time. And I remember that it used to run Star Trek and Twilight Zone episodes all the time, and if their made-for-TV movies were kinda goofy, who cares? Then they became the SyFyLys Network, and seemed focused solely on wrestling, sharks and being really, really crappy. Now the leaders have come up with the world’s ugliest new logo as part of their rebranding and “returning to (their) roots,” which sadly does not involve actually re-adopting the name Sci-Fi. They do say they want to go back to “high-end, scripted TV,” focusing on space/scifi, fantasy, paranormal and superheroes. You mean the genres currently kicking everyone’s ass all over the silver screen and somehow still failing on TV? By all means, SyFyLys, give us your best shot. (But please kill that logo before it breeds.)

• It’s going to be trailer after trailer these days, isn’t it? Well, that’s okay, because the Blade Runner 2049 trailer is fairly interesting even if you have serious problems with the first Blade Runner. That would be a constituency of me, of course. Look, I like Ridley Scott and I love Harrison Ford. But the first film felt like serious style over substance, Ridley Scott trying to be Stanley Kubrick but not quite soulless enough, with an extra bonus of rapist protagonist! Wait, I’m not the only one… Eric Haywood of RogerEbert.com makes a good case that Decker is the real villain of Blade Runner. Still, I might watch the new one, if only to unpack some of this stuff and see if they address it.

• Tor.com dissects The Fifth Element and why we’re still bedeviled by it 20 years later. My opinion of it today remains much the same as when I saw it in the theater: Silly fun, giant plot holes, gender issues, and in all a strange flick that I’d watch if nothing else was on. But that reviewer who said, "This is better than Star Wars!" is still high.

• None of you are interested in 30 hours of Doctor Who radio dramas, are you? Nah, didn’t think so… (Kidding!) Speaking of which, we’re getting more Torchwood! Capt. Jack and Gwen are back, since everyone else is DEAD (Russell Davies you bastard) and there is a whole new passel o’ cannon fodder plus cameos from the previous seasons’ survivors. Um, except there’s a slight hitch: it’s an audio drama. Why do you hate us, RTD? (Nothing against audio dramas, I’m particularly fond of of the art form for stories that are suited for it, but Torchwood really needs visuals and this feels like the BBC wussing out on the actual production costs of their spectacularly popular franchise.)

Jennifer Morrison has quit Once Upon a Time. I never actually watched this show, but I have halfway-followed its shenanigans since so many of you love it. Despite the departure of its central character, it's been renewed, which may or may not mean circling shark-infested waters. I keep meaning to give this show a shot…

Handmaid’s Tale’s Margaret Atwood recommends 15 books, including dystopian fiction. Some are obvious choices - duh, 1984 - but others are new to me. And I did not know the B-movie classic Donovan’s Brain was a book first. (I have not seen the series yet; I was thinking of making my family watch it with me, but that would require us all to be in one room. Thus it waits...)

 


Monday Linkspam

The new Wonder Woman trailer has dropped. I liked the previous one better, but at least we’re seeing new motion on the movie with only a few weeks to go. This trailer was obviously geared at the super-action fans, heavy on the explosions and fisticuffs. As I’ve said before, I don’t even care if it sucks, as long as it makes money. Because if it doesn’t absolutely blow all the records out, if it’s even slightly less than perfect at the box office, we won’t get another female-centered superhero film for another 20 years.

Book Riot says what the rest of us are thinking about Marvel’s idiotic, disastrous “Cap is Hydra” timeline that everyone hates and P.S. no one is buying.

• In the You’ll Never See This Much Cool Again category, see Star Trek authors Kevin Dilmore, Dayton Ward, Glenn Hauman, Robert Greenberger, Michael Jan Freidman, William Leisner, David Mack, Scott Pearson, Dave Galanter, Aaron Rosenberg and Keith DeCandido all in one place: the bridge of the USS Enterprise. All they were missing was Peter David!

• Oh, hello new IT trailer. Good thing I wasn’t sleeping tonight.

• And speaking of trailers, the Defenders trailer means that I’m going to have to watch the ones that aren’t Jessica Jones now. Dangit.

• Black Nerd Problems analyzes race in the new American Gods series based on the novel by Neil Gaiman. “After all, the black man in America knows sacrifice, doesn’t he? Part of the brilliance of Gaiman’s novel is exactly what he chooses to mythologize in his story of America; yes, there are gods, but the real mythological landscape is America itself, and an outdated form of American nostalgia.”

• The really excellent and terribly misnamed Edge of Tomorrow will actually get a sequel in defiance of Hollywood physics. Unfortunately Tom Cruise will be back - don’t get me wrong, Cruise is fun and all, but Emily Blunt is the real heroine of that story and Cruise’s fame tends to blot out everything else.  At least Blunt will be back, so maybe they’ll let her be awesome without standing in the big star’s shadow this time.

• And finally, a Random Useless Fact: Jerry Orbach of Beauty and the Beast and Law & Order fame was an uncredited extra in 1955’s Guys and Dolls even though he had a whole singing line to himself. He’s the guy in the barbershop who first sings out, “Why, it’s good old reliable Nathan, Nathan Nathan Nathan Detroit!” Once you’re looking for him and listening for his baritone, it’s clear as a bell. Of course, he went on to be nominated for a Tony for Guys and Dolls in the 1965 revival and originated the best song in The Fantasticks, along with his roles in the aforementioned movies, tons of Broadway, and of course Dirty Dancing, among others.