Unleash The Fangirl http://www.unleashthefangirl.com Mon, 09 Mar 2015 00:03:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 SONY: HACKED AGAIN http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/sony-hacked/95322 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/sony-hacked/95322#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:41:03 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95322 Considering its Playstation network was hacked in April 2011, causing one of the largest data security breaches in history, affecting upwards of 77 million registered accounts, Sony really needs to re-assess its cyber security system. While the 2011 hack was a shock and violation of privacy, resulting in a 23-day network outage to undo some […]

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Considering its Playstation network was hacked in April 2011, causing one of the largest data security breaches in history, affecting upwards of 77 million registered accounts, Sony really needs to re-assess its cyber security system.

 SONY: HACKED AGAIN

While the 2011 hack was a shock and violation of privacy, resulting in a 23-day network outage to undo some of the damage done re stolen personal information, the current hack on Sony Pictures with revealing emails have wounded quite a few finely-stroked celebrity egos.

 SONY: HACKED AGAIN

Cold Stare

In this recent hack, emails between producer Scott Rudin and Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal have revealed their opinions on Angelina Jolie, Michael Fassbender, and even President Obama, a scathing commentary on Hollywood and beyond.

To repair some of the damage, Pascal said in a public statement regarding her email exchanges with Rudin, “The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am.”

Many public apologies have been made by both Rudin and Pascal, but what’s done is done.

And who the hackers are still remains a bit of a confusing mess.  The group called Guardians of Peace has been cited as the offenders, dishing out Sony employee personal information, celebrity alias names, salaries, and the scoop on not-yet released movies in addition to Rudin and Pascal’s email exchanges.  But the plot thickened when Mashable dug up an extortion email sent to top studio execs three days before the attack on November 24:

We’ve got great damage by Sony Pictures.
The compensation for it, monetary compensation we want.
Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole.
You know us very well.
We never wait long.
You’d better behave wisely.
From God’sApstls

It is not possible to confirm the letter from God’sApstls is directly related to the Guardians of Peace hack that followed, though the timing seems unusually in sync.

And speculation on North Korea being responsible for the hack in reaction to the movie The Interview still remains speculative: while cybersecurity researchers analyzing the software used in the hack say that technical indicators suggest North Korean involvement, the FBI has not attributed the incident to North Korea at this point, though Sony hasn’t ruled it out as a possible culprit.

p02dkw1x SONY: HACKED AGAIN

This latest hack scandal has certainly further marred the Sony brand, and the breach of trust will necessarily be reflected in consumer sales, be it in movie tickets or Playstation consoles.

The issue now is to find out why these hacks are happening, if they are related, and to possibly set up a negotiation process between Sony and the hackers to see why Sony has been a target.  Regardless, Sony must beef up its cyber security from future attacks.

According to an article in Bloomberg, “Sony Corp. (6758) was warned about a year ago that hackers had infiltrated its network and were stealing gigabytes of data several times a week, underscoring a pattern of lapses predating a recent attack that has spilled Sony Pictures’ secrets onto the Internet. . .The hackers … sifted in late 2013 through data from the company’s network, encrypted the information to cover their tracks and mined it on a regular schedule. . . The extent of the breach last year was discovered by an outside contractor after Tokyo-based Sony found suspicious traffic on its corporate computers and requested an analysis …”

Did Sony act upon this warning and if not, why?

In the same article Bloomberg also states that “Sony has been poorly prepared for the intrusions in part because its decentralized structure means security improvements in one division don’t necessarily translate to other units…”

Whether Sony is targeted because hackers know its cyber security is weak or for other reasons is difficult to ascertain currently; however, what Sony can do is to re-assess their decentralized structure and see what other security options are out there that are more robust.

For now, the company is compensating those employees whose personal information have been hacked into and hopefully also investigating the nature of the hacker threats against employees and their families.  Tailing the GamerGate scandal this past fall, the attack on Sony continues to bring the issue of hackers and cyber security to the forefront as something that needs to be addressed perhaps on a larger, more collective scale.

 SONY: HACKED AGAIN

Sony’s Culver City Studios

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KILL CORPORATION: FOR ALL YOUR KILLING NEEDS http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/kill-corporation-killing-needs/95304 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/kill-corporation-killing-needs/95304#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 14:00:36 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95304 A new web series has surfaced called The Kill Corporation (TKC), a dark comedy commentary on corporate America.  As implied by its name, TKC offers arbitration services between two conflicting parties in which the loser loses his/her life as well as the case. [WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD] First aired this past October on YouTube, the first […]

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A new web series has surfaced called The Kill Corporation (TKC), a dark comedy commentary on corporate America.  As implied by its name, TKC offers arbitration services between two conflicting parties in which the loser loses his/her life as well as the case.

1537984 1544586845772901 8641650958562132222 o KILL CORPORATION: FOR ALL YOUR KILLING NEEDS

[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]

First aired this past October on YouTube, the first season is broken up into eight 5-minute episodes, bite-size morsels that get one hungry enough to want more and keep going.  TKC centers on one Plato Punchkiss, played by Jason Paul Field.  Rated on merit, Punchkiss is on the lower end of the spectrum, rated arbiter #85, dispatching people with a poison dart, sometimes shooting them rather unceremoniously in his office.

A small cog in the greater scheme of the corporate machine, Punchkiss is nonetheless thrown into the spotlight when arbiter #1 Newton Springer seems to have gone AWOL, killing everyone within his radar.  But has Springer really cracked or is he onto something that could shake the very foundation of TKC’s world?

Like the anime series Psycho-Pass, the society within which TKC exists is controlled by an automated system, in this case called the Abicus, that determines which station of life a person will fall in upon birth, each newborn babe represented by a stone falling into its proper category.  Unlike the Sybil system in Psycho-Pass, which maintained order through quantifying emotion and then controlling the quantified data, it is still a mystery how the Abicus determines a person’s worth at birth, quantify it, then judge what the person is best suited for.  Regardless, it seems to act as an automated caste system arbitrator.

Screen+shot+2014 03 30+at+7.57.49+AM KILL CORPORATION: FOR ALL YOUR KILLING NEEDS

James Ryen as Newton Springer

And it is this system that is Newton Springer’s point of contention and source of rage, and while this is completely understandable, the trail of blood he leaves behind is not.  He kills his fellow arbiters without a blink of an eye, his bloodlust very high and seemingly uncontrollable.  TKC’s premises are covered in blood, and the last people standing happen to be Punchkiss and his one-eyed punk girl assassin cohort Dev.

ArbiterProfile+copy KILL CORPORATION: FOR ALL YOUR KILLING NEEDS

Jason Paul Field

The webisodes are short and to the purpose, with solid camerawork, soundtrack, and special effects to give them a polished, cool feel, and the fake website with video testimonials is a nice touch.  Written and directed by Daniel Capuzzi, the dialogue is crisp and punchy, the commentary on corporate America done with a light touch.  The fact that TKC’s existence is not only acceptable but also profitable can imply the buffer of money and power yielding to cold inhumanity.

In fact the only really human character in TKC so far is Plato Punchkiss, a regular guy with a great name just trying to make his way through life with some dignity; the other characters are as of yet too underdeveloped for viewers to know who they are.  Hopefully in the next season the backstories of Springer, Punchkiss, and Dev can give some insight to their motivations as well as to the Abicus.

For a look at the first episode, please click here.

TKC 04 KILL CORPORATION: FOR ALL YOUR KILLING NEEDS

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INTERSTELLAR: GIVING UP ON EARTH http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/interstellar-giving-earth/95279 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/interstellar-giving-earth/95279#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 00:00:15 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95279 Instead of getting into the 6 different ways Interstellar can be seen, whether to IMAX or not to IMAX, let’s explore the fundamental premise of Christopher Nolan’s latest film: that the Earth is beyond saving. Certainly all the signs are pointing towards a critical point, the far-reaching effects of climate change causing erratic weather patterns, […]

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Instead of getting into the 6 different ways Interstellar can be seen, whether to IMAX or not to IMAX, let’s explore the fundamental premise of Christopher Nolan’s latest film: that the Earth is beyond saving.

great dust storm China 2013 11 INTERSTELLAR: GIVING UP ON EARTH

A 2013 sandstorm hits northwest China’s Gansu province

Certainly all the signs are pointing towards a critical point, the far-reaching effects of climate change causing erratic weather patterns, melting polar ice caps, increased incidents of blight and disease, and reduction of crop diversity, just to name a few.  However, does this mean we should just be overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue and abandon Earth all together to start afresh on another planet?  According to Interstellar, the answer is yes.

The movie is vague about what the dust and blight exactly is plaguing farmers and what caused it to happen, only that everyone is urged to be a farmer to stave off the impending doom of global starvation.  What the story fails to illustrate is why humanity has not been able to find a solution to the dust before jumping directly into the idea of colonizing other planets.  What made people decide that Earth was no longer worth saving, leaving them only with the choice to abandon their magnificent planet and start afresh somewhere else?

wall eMovie3 INTERSTELLAR: GIVING UP ON EARTH

From Wall-E

A pretty bleak outlook no matter how one looks at it; even in Wall-E, when all efforts to clean up Earth failed, humanity still kept the hope that Earth would revive, from time to time sending probes like Eva to check for plant life, still poised to come home on their spacecraft even though 700 some-odd years had passed since the human race left Earth’s atmosphere.  With Interstellar, humans seem to jump the gun, ready to leave the mess they made without much apparent attempt to clean it up first.

 INTERSTELLAR: GIVING UP ON EARTH

Radiation jets emerging from a black hole at the center of Centaurus A in a composite image prepared by NASA

It is clear that with Interstellar Nolan continues his fascination with the space-time continuum, collaborating with the well-known physicist Kip Thorne in exploring the nature of gravity and its effects on time and time travel, a cerebral physics romp via cinema.  However, with the precedence of Inception and its manipulation of time and the fact that both Inception and Interstellar kind of end up where they started, the question of human destiny inevitably arises.

Is humankind a slave to its destiny as Nolan proposes, no matter how many worlds and galaxies it traverses?  If so, wouldn’t the fate of the human race be inexorably tied to the fate of the Earth, being that Earth is from whence we sprung?  If naval captains do not abandon their sinking ships, how can humans, stewards of Earth, abandon their suffering planet so easily?  It feels like a betrayal, as if a sacred vow has been broken.

If indeed it is our destiny to leave an unsalvageable Earth, then even we here hold the power and bear the responsibility of killing her.  And if the simultaneity of time portrayed in Interstellar is proven correct, then we continue to kill her at every moment; may humankind rise to meet its fate and the seeds of time bear different fruit…

Earth from Space INTERSTELLAR: GIVING UP ON EARTH

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WORD IS BOND http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/comics/word-bond/95284 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/comics/word-bond/95284#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95284 As this past Sunday was the official International Day of Words whose motto is “words are the bond of humankind,” let’s take a look back at Broken Saints, the Flash-animatic series that burst onto the web scene at the start of the millennium with the trope “word is bond” as well. One of the earliest […]

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As this past Sunday was the official International Day of Words whose motto is “words are the bond of humankind,” let’s take a look back at Broken Saints, the Flash-animatic series that burst onto the web scene at the start of the millennium with the trope “word is bond” as well.

 WORD IS BOND

One of the earliest examples of motion comics, Broken Saints is an interesting commentary on a dystopian future and the terrible looming truth that brings 4 people together from different parts of the globe.  One of the four, Kamimura, is a Japanese monk and mystic, who says that he had given his word to someone long ago and his word is bond.

What does the trope mean exactly?  According to the online slang dictionary, it is an assertion that one is telling the truth, but the trope lends more power and drama to the Word with a capital W, as if a lie would break the bond of truth.

Broken Saints 02 WORD IS BOND

Certainly Broken Saints creator Brooke Burgess believed that the bonds of love and truth could avert even apocalypse, as his four protagonists connect and learn to trust one another, even though their first impressions of each other may not have yielded much fruit.  Now with his own transmedia company in Canada, Burgess definitely set a solid bar for web media with this dark yet hopeful take on the coming millennium. See a trailer here.

It is the bond of words that the César Egido Serrano Foundation hopes to promote through establishing November 23 as the International Day of Words and the micro-fiction competition it has held since 2010.  With the grand prize topping at $20,000, the 2013 competition drew over 22,500 applicants from 119 countries around the world.

In the spirit of César Egido Serrano’s hope to unite people through words, the competition accepts 100-word short stories in the languages of the three main monotheistic religions: English, Hebrew, and Arabic, in addition to his native Spanish.

311675 10150960666980840 69345864 n WORD IS BOND

The foundation is based in Serrano’s hometown of Quero, located in Spain’s La Mancha region and part of the route Don Quixote took on his fabled adventure, with whom Mr. Serrano admits to sharing a similar idealism.  In his website’s brief bio, Serrano expresses his wish “to share the message of tolerance and solidarity with all those who in good faith contribute to the achievement of a beautiful utopia.  But beware because sometimes Utopias are met…”

Such a positive and hopeful outlook is rare to find these days, as most people get bogged down with all the wrongs of the world, and certainly there are many wrongs to worry about, which makes Mr. Serrano’s message all the more refreshing, convinced “…that the 21st century is an era of understanding.”

With Broken Saints, Brooke Burgess tried to relay the same message through digital art, likewise believing mutual understanding as the first step towards staving off apocalypse.  Perhaps Burgess and Serrano are onto something; perhaps art and literature will indeed give people the safe haven they need to come together and start the process of reconciliation and cooperation.

Broken Saints 01 WORD IS BOND

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SEEDS OF TIME: TICKING AWAY http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/seeds-time-ticking-away/95255 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/seeds-time-ticking-away/95255#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:22:11 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95255 “If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me”        – Abraham Lincoln From the water documentaries to Chasing Ice and now Seeds of Time, which was just featured at AMNH’s Margaret Mead Film Festival in NYC, the answer to […]

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“If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me”        – Abraham Lincoln

Seed of Time SEEDS OF TIME: TICKING AWAYFrom the water documentaries to Chasing Ice and now Seeds of Time, which was just featured at AMNH’s Margaret Mead Film Festival in NYC, the answer to the question whether Earth’s climate is changing seems to be a resounding yes.  And it’s getting warmer.

And by getting warmer, staple agricultural crops are having a harder and harder time adjusting to the rapid climatic changes happening, which should be an alarm bell going off considering the reduced diversity of most of these crops.  For example, wheat crops grown around the world are largely of one species; that means if the current wheat rust plaguing crops becomes more serious, the result will be worldwide food shortages, and the dark path that follows.

Producer and director Sandy McLeod first read about crop diversity expert and conservationist Cary Fowler in a New Yorker article in 2008, when he received a $50 million grant from the Gates Foundation to build a global seed vault in Svalbard, Norway.  Learning more about the issue of crop diversity, Sandy was compelled to make a film on Mr. Fowler and bring awareness to a vital issue policymakers rarely touch upon.  It is a grim statistic to note that between 1903 – 1983, when the last study on crop diversity was conducted in the U.S., 93% of the known fruit and vegetable varieties became extinct.  Who knows what the percentage would be if a study were conducted in 2014…

With climate change being the main factor, the other factors behind the rapidly decreasing crop diversity are most notably:

  1. Modern agricultural methods: growing monoculture crops in vast quantities
  2. Population Growth
  3. Water & Energy Limitations

What can be done?  Here’s where the seeds come in.

hungry still024 WM SEEDS OF TIME: TICKING AWAY

Svalbard Seed Vault

In order to keep what little diversity is left in crop varieties, around 1,400 seed banks have been established around the world where seeds are preserved at freezing temperatures and could last thousands of years; the Svalbard seed bank is the “back-up drive,” soliciting duplicates from the other seed banks until all the seeds of the world may be collected under its roof, essentially a Noah’s Ark for seeds.  Cary Fowler hand-picked Svalbard for its coldness as well as its remoteness from the impacts of  natural and/or man-made disasters; the steel seed vault is located in the coldest part of a Norwegian Arctic mountain and is built to last 1,000 years and withstand even nuclear war.  According to Fowler, the Svalbard seed vault is an “insurance policy for the crop diversity of the world.”

b24bf922f236c5c1ce1360ecd1daf9fbbf9439dd SEEDS OF TIME: TICKING AWAY

The film also depicts the other way seed diversity can be maintained, by planting diverse varieties in one’s garden or crop.  In Peru, indigenous farmers have created a “Potato Park,” the seeds of which, all 1,500+ native varieties, are preserved in the International Potato Center in Lima.  However, the effects of global warming have forced the potato farmers to plant their crops at higher and higher elevations, but what happens when they run out of mountain?

So why does diversity matter so much?  Because if a disease or pest goes through and ravages one variety, chances are at least some of the other varieties will survive.  A more diverse gene pool could also adapt better to climatic changes, as the hardier strains survive and could potentially cross-pollinate, making the next generation stronger and hardier than the previous.  Essentially diversity gives a crop a better chance to survive the “whips and scorns of time,” be they from natural or man-made causes, and by its survival, our survival too.

“Most of us take seeds for granted . . . The fate of humankind is resting on these genetic resources, so nothing could be more important.”  – Cary Fowler

To learn more, please visit www.seedsoftimemovie.com.

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GAMERGATE: PART DEUX http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/video-games/gamergate-part-deux/95243 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/video-games/gamergate-part-deux/95243#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95243 There are always at least 2 sides to a story, so let’s explore the events leading up to the cyber mudslinging fest that is GamerGate. Looking at the two sides, it would seem on the outset that “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…” since one side is about […]

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There are always at least 2 sides to a story, so let’s explore the events leading up to the cyber mudslinging fest that is GamerGate.

Looking at the two sides, it would seem on the outset that “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…” since one side is about journalistic integrity, the other about supporting women in games.  Both are legitimate issues that somehow have met and since produced quite a surprisingly ugly result.  Why?

 GAMERGATE: PART DEUX

Let’s start with The Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC), who in August 2014 wished to promote women in games through an Indiegogo campaign, offering women an open call for game ideas.  TFYC would pick out the 5 best ideas and have the general public vote on their favorite game.  The winning concept would be developed into a game and while most of the proceeds would go to charity, the game designer would still take home a small percentage.  Here is the arena where conflicts arose and the name Zoe Quinn first became a source of friction.

Vivian James GAMERGATE: PART DEUX

Vivian James

Disagreeing with the way TFYC’s campaign was set up, Miss Quinn apparently was quite vocal online re her opinions, causing others to question TFYC’s intentions.  The fact that 4chan was a major sponsor of the campaign also sent out a red flag to some, since many of the subsequent attacks on Quinn and other women gamers came from the site; however 4chan being a general forum for all walks of life, it would be hasty to group everyone on 4chan as pro-GamerGate.  If anything, the fact that 4chan supported TFYC’s initiative for promoting women game designers should counter this notion.

Things continued to escalate when Phil Fish, creator of the hit indie game Fez, got involved.  As a seeming consequence to his public support of Miss Quinn in the wake of  her ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni’s cyber attacks, Fish got doxxed, his personal and financial details all exposed online, which led to his decision to put his company Polytron up for sale and leave the games industry all together.  Though there is still argument whether the dox was real or not, Fish’s announcement certainly added to the drama of the whole thing.

2013043022454708575 GAMERGATE: PART DEUX

Although the series of events all happening in and around August 2014 may have snowballed into the ugliness that ensued, it seems both sides achieved their own victories, given their initial goals.  Whether or not the rants of Eron Gjoni were well-founded is beside the point since they did bring the issue of journalistic integrity into the spotlight, which has been notably compromised in the games industry.  Upon discovering some game journalists contributing to Patreon campaigns, both Kotaku and Polygon have since put restrictions on this practice, deeming it a conflict of interest.

TFYC AfterlifeEmpire GAMERGATE: PART DEUX

TFYC’s winners for Afterlife Empire

As for the women game developers out there, GamerGate has certainly brought attention to what changes need to happen in game design to accommodate a burgeoning demographic of female gamers.

In conclusion, sifting through all the dirt and mud flung around, GamerGate has ironically produced some positive results, a win-win in fact.  Go figure…

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GAMERGATE: WTF? http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/video-games/gamergate-wtf/95225 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/video-games/gamergate-wtf/95225#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 03:09:11 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95225 Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Jenn Frank . . . so a young woman created a video game that got positive reviews and a few other women gave their opinions on video games . . . how did this spawn such cyberspace hate as GamerGate? What is so threatening about these gaming women that warrants such […]

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Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Jenn Frank . . . so a young woman created a video game that got positive reviews and a few other women gave their opinions on video games . . . how did this spawn such cyberspace hate as GamerGate?

GamerGate 01 GAMERGATE: WTF?

What is so threatening about these gaming women that warrants such violent responses, resulting in Quinn and Sarkeesian being doxxed, forced to leave their homes after online aggressors threatened them and their families, Sarkeesian cancelling a speech at Utah State University in response to a threat of mass shooting, and Frank deciding to end her 9-year career as a freelance game journalist, tired of all the online harassment she was receiving after her piece on Quinn and Sarkeesian in The Guardian came out this past September?

They are not isolated cases either; under the guise of seeking journalistic integrity in the gaming community, GamerGate has extended its tentacles to include other female game developers and the like in its attacks, so let’s examine more closely just what exactly has been going on:

ZOE QUINN

Zoe Quinn Car 2014 GAMERGATE: WTF?

What kind of sparked the whole thing may have been Miss Quinn’s ex-boyfriend, whose mudslinging diatribes against her occurred after the release of her text-based game Depression Quest on Steam.  Featured in an article in The New Yorker, Depression Quest paints an intimate portrait of someone suffering under depression and the steps one can take towards a solution, if not a cure.  The ex-boyfriend subsequently cyber-slandered Quinn by accusing her of sleeping to the top, including with a journalist from the respected gamesite Kotaku, an accusation later revealed to be untrue.  Incidentally, in addition to Depression Quest, Miss Quinn has also been quite open about her views on sexism in games, which may have added fuel to the growing fire of male backlash against her.  Tastes a bit like sour grapes…

ANITA SARKEESIAN

 GAMERGATE: WTF?

After a wonderfully successful Kickstarter campaign, Miss Sarkeesian started posting on YouTube videos on the representation of women in video games, clearly and even-handedly stating her views on the still pervasive sexism in games and suggesting that this phenomenon should be re-assessed, given the growing numbers of female gamers each year.  Intelligent, well-spoken, and clearly a gamer herself, Miss Sarkeesian conveys with these videos a need to revisit game mechanics to allow for different types of scenarios to be offered for women other than helpless victim or a prize to be won, citing current game titles that provide alternative storylines such as a collaborative effort between two protagonists to reach a common goal.

In short, Sarkeesian wants to see more girl power and heroines saving the day in video games.  What’s so threatening about that?

JENN FRANK

 GAMERGATE: WTF?

An award-winning game journalist being forced to stop by constant death and dox threats, Jenn Frank finished her Guardian article in defense of Quinn and Sarkeesian with:

Sustained abuse knows no gender, race, religion or creed.  It hurts everybody.

This is true, for if anything GamerGate has highlighted some serious issues in the gaming community that even the FBI is now looking into.  However the upshot of all the craziness (and it is crazy) is that GamerGate has inadvertently spotlighted the brave young women who, like Quinn, Sarkeesian, and Frank, are carrying on, slander, dox, and threats notwithstanding, becoming examples for the very heroines they wish to see more of in the games they play.

And GamerGaters should reflect on why the views of a few game girls could unleash such an aggressive retaliatory response from them . . .

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STAR WARS REBELS: THE ERA OF EMPIRE http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/star-wars-rebels-era-empire/95213 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/star-wars-rebels-era-empire/95213#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:00:57 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95213 Priming up for Episode VII in 2015, Disney has introduced the new animated series Star Wars Rebels to add to the mythology.  Set 14 years after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and 5 years before A New Hope, this series portrays a time when the Empire is in control of the galaxy, the last […]

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Priming up for Episode VII in 2015, Disney has introduced the new animated series Star Wars Rebels to add to the mythology.  Set 14 years after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and 5 years before A New Hope, this series portrays a time when the Empire is in control of the galaxy, the last of the Jedi order in hiding.

800px Lothal propaganda STAR WARS REBELS: THE ERA OF EMPIRE

It is a selfish and fearful time, where bounty hunters and lawlessness abound despite the veneer of Imperial order, and it is into this chaotic environment that young Ezra Bridger was born.  A diamond in the rough like Aladdin, Ezra is an orphaned street urchin who appears to be in tune with the Force without being aware of it.  Stealing to survive, he manages to bump into a motley crew led by Kanan Jarrus, who sees the potential in Ezra and decides to take him along on his freighter ship the Ghost.  During their various transporting jobs, Ezra sees that Kanan and his crew are not just in the freight business but make a point to help others subjugated under the Empire, and eventually discovers that Kanan is a Jedi knight incognito.

Star Wars Rebels 01 STAR WARS REBELS: THE ERA OF EMPIREAnimated in 3D, the art style was inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the original Star Wars trilogy; the characters are stylized, but not to the extreme as in the 2D Clone Wars series.  So Aladdin meets Firefly with the Force behind it all…Tragic stories lay behind each of the characters in Rebels, with the Empire presumably responsible for all of them.  But Kanan holds onto the precepts of the Jedi order, holding onto a moral code of honor that almost seems outdated in this current era of Empire.  But when he finally lets the cat out of the bag and wields his light saber, both friend and foe alike stop for a moment in awe, as if seeing something previously relegated to myth and legend suddenly appear in real life, like Excalibur or the philosopher’s stone.

Whatever has been said about George Lucas, he alone has created the mythos behind the Jedi, the knights of the roundtable updated to wield swords of light and indeed the power of the universe itself.  The strict Jedi code of conduct and the Jedi knight’s unwavering sense to do right is something we all strive for, though most fall short; thus the immediate appeal of Ezra’s character, who has grown up alone in a rough and tumble world thinking only of himself up till now.  Yet, when confronted with Kanan’s true identity, Ezra is compelled to follow, called by something higher than himself for the first time in his life.  There is much to be ironed out and sanded down with Ezra before he can be all that he can be, but already he shows all the signs needed to become a Jedi.  It will be up to Kanan to shape and sculpt him, paring him down to his true self.

 STAR WARS REBELS: THE ERA OF EMPIRE

Needless to say, Rebels has been engrossing from the get-go, depicting a time of relative darkness, with sparks here and there of light still unextinguished.  Similar to Captain Reynolds in Firefly, Kanan remains unwavering in his vision of restoring the galaxy to its former balance, giving hope to those who would otherwise have none, and especially to Ezra, who has the chance now to transform from a petty thief into a Jedi knight.

Incidentally, it will also be fascinating to see how the events transpiring here will affect and set up the advent of Luke Skywalker five years later, as the stars must align for great things to happen…

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SHAKESPEARE IN FILM http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/shakespeare-film/95200 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/shakespeare-film/95200#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95200 The Elizabethan poet and playwright seems to be alive and well, with filmmakers still loving to adapt his plays into movies, including the current Hamlet adaptation Haider, set in India during the 1995 Kashmir conflicts. Shakespeare’s stories are about the timeless themes of love, betrayal, ambition, and magic, which translate in any age.  And the […]

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The Elizabethan poet and playwright seems to be alive and well, with filmmakers still loving to adapt his plays into movies, including the current Hamlet adaptation Haider, set in India during the 1995 Kashmir conflicts.

3 SHAKESPEARE IN FILM

Shakespeare’s stories are about the timeless themes of love, betrayal, ambition, and magic, which translate in any age.  And the words!  The turns of phrase, the perfect rhythm of iambic pentameter gives Shakespeare’s plays a quality of music that is just as beautiful read as it is heard.  “If music be the food of love, play on…

g6y36s0ZFFjnpEtLG9yHAHBhEbW SHAKESPEARE IN FILMThe tragedies are the most famous and have been the most adapted, as they illustrate the worst and the best in all of us.  From Macbeth and King Lear set in feudal Japan in Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Ran to Othello set in high school with Tim Blake Nelson’s O to the currently playing Haider rounding out Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean trilogy with Maqbool (Macbeth) and Omkara (Othello), Shakespeare tragedies continue to resonate, even in the LGBT universe, with Private Romeo, Alan Brown’s take on Romeo and Juliet, set in an all-male military academy.  “These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die, like fire and powder which, as they kiss, consume…”

West Side Story movie west side story 6700294 720 480 SHAKESPEARE IN FILM

Certainly Romeo and Juliet has yielded many a film adaptation, including the musical West Side Story and the recent dance-off film Make Your Move by Duane Adler.  The theme of star-crossed lovers is especially tragic given Romeo and Juliet’s youth.  Here is a young couple who find the ever-elusive true love, and yet their circumstances don’t allow them to be together.  How tragic is that!  Even without the double suicides at the end!  But such sorrows end in Much Ado About Nothing, where the young couple successfully fulfill their true love even though one pretended to die as well; always two sides to every story.  “For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion…

Forbidden Planet SHAKESPEARE IN FILMIndeed Shakespeare’s reach seems limitless, his comedies and lighter plays traveling into sci-fi with Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet (The Tempest), and even gay musical territory with Tom Gustafson’s Midsummer’s Night Dream-inspired film Were the World Mine.  “For you, in my respect, are all the world; Then how can it be said I am alone, When all the world is here to look on me?”

Most of all, Shakespeare’s plays allow a window into the human soul, commenting on our inner life in ways that will always remain relevant.  Even kings are shown to have their moments of doubt: in the historical Henry V (last adapted thoughtfully by a young Kenneth Branagh), young king Harry envies the burdenless sleep of a common man since “What infinite heart’s ease must kings neglect, that private men enjoy!

Of course, we must now come to Hamlet.  Whether set in Elsinore or in war-torn Kashmir, Hamlet’s contemplative journey towards an inevitable end brings up all the questions of life, death, and what meaning there is in between the two.  Unfortunately, Hamlet finds little meaning except for the truth that his father was murdered; not even love could save him, as he too quickly realizes Ophelia is also but a pawn in Claudius’ game.  His only mission is to avenge his father, but Hamlet does so without as much rage as a deep sorrow that this is what he is relegated to do, that this act is the only thing giving any meaning to his life.  This existential crisis can only be heightened by the real-life events surrounding the story of Haider, of torture and Draconian measures to suppress insurgents.

While the bard of Avon leaves the question of life’s meaning unanswered, his eclectic collection of comedic, tragic, magical, and historical plays gives the message of simply taking it all in, the slings and arrows along with the rosy hues of love, that perhaps the important thing is to not think on life but to live it.  The rest is silence…until the next film adaptation arrives anyway.

qd27idswqs33kqda.D.0.Shraddha Kapoor Shahid Kapoor Film Haider Still SHAKESPEARE IN FILM

 

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WILL THE REAL LUKE SKYWALKER PLS STAND UP? http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/star-wars-vii-will-real-luke-skywalker-please-stand/95189 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/star-wars-vii-will-real-luke-skywalker-please-stand/95189#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 11:15:54 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95189 [WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!] Much buzz has been flying around the rumors of a possibly game-changing plot twist in Episode VII, with deleted YouTube footage and images keeping all Star Wars fans itching to know: Does Luke Skywalker indeed turn to the Dark Side? Certainly the idea of an evil Luke has been batted around since […]

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[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!]

Much buzz has been flying around the rumors of a possibly game-changing plot twist in Episode VII, with deleted YouTube footage and images keeping all Star Wars fans itching to know: Does Luke Skywalker indeed turn to the Dark Side?

Star Wars VII 01 WILL THE REAL LUKE SKYWALKER PLS STAND UP?

Certainly the idea of an evil Luke has been batted around since 1981 between George Lucas and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, originally for Return of the Jedi. Taken from J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Return of the Jedi, Lucas is quoted saying to Kasdan during a story meeting:

“I think it’d be great for Luke to try and help Vader while the thing [Death Star] is blowing up. And then Vader gets his cape caught in the door and says, ‘Leave without me’ and Luke takes his mask off. The mask is the very last thing – and then Luke puts it on and says, ‘I am Vader.’ Surprise! The ultimate twist. ‘Now I will go and kill the fleet and I will rule the universe.’”

Kasdan responds, “That’s what I think should happen.”

But in the final analysis, Lucas opted to keep Luke a Jedi, taking into consideration the kid fan base that would go see ROTJ.

Sith Inquisitor WILL THE REAL LUKE SKYWALKER PLS STAND UP?

And while there is certainly a dark side to Luke, especially given his father, the reasons why he would become a Sith are questionable.  Seeing how the dark side tortured and disfigured Darth Vader both internally and externally, would Luke really repeat the actions of his father?  Of course, one could argue that he became drunk with power and succumbed to temptation, a fallen angel; this is plausible, as it happens all the time in real life, but in regards to the Star Wars universe, this premise would sort of defeat the whole purpose of Luke’s journey.

Star Wars III 01 WILL THE REAL LUKE SKYWALKER PLS STAND UP?

With Episodes I-III we already have the fallen angel story with Anakin Skywalker, who does succumb to darkness, fueled by his rage from his mother’s death.  In episodes IV-VI the son redeems the sins of the father, bringing balance to the entire galaxy.  For episode VII to reveal that Luke was just kidding and is actually evil, backstory is needed to cite the critical point during the interim years between VI and VII that propelled Luke over the edge to choose Sith over Jedi.

slide 23 WILL THE REAL LUKE SKYWALKER PLS STAND UP?

And wouldn’t Yoda have seen through Luke like he had with Anakin and refused to train him?  This is an all-together perplexing oversight considering Yoda’s omniscience.  Of course, The Empire Strikes Back would have been a completely different story if Yoda did suspect that the apple did not fall far from the tree, yet far more intriguing if the little green master still decided to train Luke.  Yoda may have hoped that Luke would choose the Force instead of the Dark Side, being perhaps more even-keeled than Anakin, and reinforced Luke’s light by deciding to train the young Padawan himself.  So the ultimate betrayal would be for Luke to still follow the way of his father.

But the above scenario is not what happened in Empire and Luke on all accounts throughout IV-VI always chose the way of the Force, even when tempted by the Emperor.  Without precedence suggesting even a curiosity in the dark side, a significant event would have to have occurred and need to be alluded to in VII to explain why Luke became a Sith.

What seems much more plausible is the Emperor surviving the fall in ROTJ and coming back with a vengeance in VII.  However, the wrench in this theory is Daisy Ridley’s character (Kira?) and her purported story arc of seeking Luke for help then realizing he’s the very baddie she needed help with, the shock of which makes her turn to the dark side too.

With heroes and heroines going Sith left and right, is it no longer cool to be a Jedi??

Star Wars Red Landscape Laser Sword 600x800 WILL THE REAL LUKE SKYWALKER PLS STAND UP?

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THE HERO’S JOURNEY REVISITED http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/heros-journey-revisited/95170 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/heros-journey-revisited/95170#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95170 With Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces being the underlying influence for so many stories and films, let’s explore what this archetypal story structure means in the 21st century. In a nutshell, the basic premise of Campbell’s book is that myths from different parts of the world at various time periods share similar characteristics, […]

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With Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces being the underlying influence for so many stories and films, let’s explore what this archetypal story structure means in the 21st century.

 THE HERO’S JOURNEY REVISITED

In a nutshell, the basic premise of Campbell’s book is that myths from different parts of the world at various time periods share similar characteristics, implying a fundamental form to storytelling that is common and relatable to people regardless of culture or creed.  Campbell divided up the journey into 12 stages:

43f8571854596d52ee1397732de1b8c5 THE HERO’S JOURNEY REVISITED

Indeed many well-known films follow this story arc, most notably the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings franchises; the question now is how relevant the hero’s journey is in the increasingly connected yet dichotomous world of today.  While in Star Wars Luke Skywalker forms part of a larger group with Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, and the cyborgs, he is clearly the hero who will bring balance to the universe, set apart from the rest of his cohorts by being the last Jedi.  In contrast, Tolkien’s hero Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is set apart from the others by his sheer lack of magical powers and physical prowess, yet his hobbit’s purity of heart makes him the keeper of the ring.  Like Sir Galahad, the only knight of the Round Table who was given the divine grace to see the Holy Grail, Frodo’s goodness and purity makes him an unlikely hero in a world of elves, dwarves, and men.  But heroes both Luke and Frodo are nonetheless as each has been singularly chosen to save their respective universes.

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In between the two World Wars, F. Scott Fitzgerald placed the tragic figure of Gatsby as a reflection of the roaring ‘20’s with his Great Gatsby, recently remade into a film by Baz Luhrmann.  Considered a story with neither a high concept nor a hero’s journey, The Great Gatsby has nonetheless resonated with audiences since its first publication in 1925, its author capturing the shiny falseness of his age with perfect pitch.  Gatsby, aka Jay Gatz, is so brash and blatant in his lies that he remains innocent throughout by the sheer purity of his dream of Daisy.  His young love undiminished by time, Gatsby pursues his dream with no holds barred, wheeling and dealing illegally all to give himself the appearance of being something that no money could ever make him be.  Gatsby’s call to action is in the past, before the story begins, and unlike the hero’s arc, where the hero emerges different in the end than the beginning, Gatsby’s innocence allows his inner life to remain constant throughout, his hope for Daisy unwavering to the bitter end.  Perhaps Gatsby’s story is an everyday tragedy that hits too close to home for its structure to matter; whatever the case may be, the theme of inner purity recurs yet again as a seeming prerequisite for becoming a hero, even a tragic one.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Poster Wallpaper HD 03 1024x576 THE HERO’S JOURNEY REVISITED

More recently, the figurative hero has since been largely replaced by the literal comic-book one, and the idea of a dream team of multiple superheroes has been coming into play more often, if for nothing else than bankability.  The Avengers movie was highly successful at the box office as was Guardians of the Galaxy, a shining moment in an overall drab bunch of summer blockbusters this year.  This trend of supersizing superheroes follows the belief that something good could be made better by simply having more of it.  However, its mercenary roots notwithstanding, this trend does show how the hero’s journey has been adapted and modified so that teamwork is not only emphasized but necessary; the idea of a lone hero who saves the day is giving way to a group of heroes needed to combat the forces of evil that are too great to vanquish alone.

howlsmovingcastle 09 THE HERO’S JOURNEY REVISITED

And there are limits to how far the hero’s journey archetype actually reaches.  Terrence Malick’s films tend to be more contemplative and tonal, such as The Tree of Life and To the Wonder and likewise the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki do not always follow the arc of the hero.  In Howl’s Moving Castle, based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones, both Sophie and Howl could be considered the heroes of the story, each being stronger together than separately.  While elements of the hero’s journey are still manifest, they take on a slightly different form in Howl; it is more a story of convergence, of an unlikely pair finding true love and sloughing away old fears and darkness by the strength of their combined light, something Gatsby was hoping to find with Daisy.

So while the hero’s journey may be a fundamental characteristic of many an ancient myth, the signs of the times show new myths emerging with a more collective sensibility; there is hope yet for the Jay Gatsbys of this world.

Joseph Campbell quote THE HERO’S JOURNEY REVISITED

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CHINESE FILMS BEYOND KUNG FU http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/asian-films-beyond-kung-fu/95165 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/asian-films-beyond-kung-fu/95165#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95165 As last week’s UCFTI Conference guest panelists attested to, US and China have been having a difficult time finding stories that would resonate with both American and Chinese audiences.  Many differences beyond cultural factor into the reasons why this is so, and so far the one common ground between the two nations has been in […]

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As last week’s UCFTI Conference guest panelists attested to, US and China have been having a difficult time finding stories that would resonate with both American and Chinese audiences.  Many differences beyond cultural factor into the reasons why this is so, and so far the one common ground between the two nations has been in the realm of martial arts.

Bruce lee maiores lutas CHINESE FILMS BEYOND KUNG FU

Ever since Bruce Lee graced the silver screen back in the 1960’s with his incredible kung fu prowess, Americans have been fascinated with the martial arts of the East, be it kung fu, karate, tae kwon do or permutations thereof.  Unsurprisingly, the one US-China collaborative success was the 2008 film The Forbidden Kingdom that starred both Jackie Chan and Jet Li together in a film for the first time.  And though Chinese and Hong Kong auteurs such as Zhang Yi Mou and Wong Kar-Wai have made their share of artistic dramas, it is their kung fu action films that are most well-received in the US; even 2-time Oscar winning director Ang Lee could not escape the genre with his well-known Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a film that arguably made Hollywood take notice of him as a director.  Kung fu has even diffused into animation, with the success of the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series and Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda franchise a testament to the American fascination with the martial arts.

 CHINESE FILMS BEYOND KUNG FU

However, to truly understand a culture, one must understand its stories, its myths, and China has plenty of those.  Like the Greek myths, the stories of China are timeless in their themes and could likewise become a rich resource for content.  As China is an ancient land with much to tell, the U.S. is a new nation who can help her do just that through the art of cinema.  Perhaps a new idiom needs to first be established before such a collaboration could truly succeed, a nexus where East and West may meet with trust and openness, but both sides would gain immeasurably with such a partnership, both materially as well as culturally.  As China is not just all Bruce Lee and Kung Fu Panda, the U.S. is not just what the current Chinese government allows its people to see through its censored media either.

But while American culture has been widely disseminated through TV and film since Hollywood’s beginning, China is relatively new to the global industry, so the hope from collaborating with the U.S. would be to allow it to disseminate its rich culture just as globally.  Whether or not its government is ready, the Chinese are certainly ready for the world to see them beyond the political and economic policies they are ruled by.

KungFuPanda FichaTV CHINESE FILMS BEYOND KUNG FU

And why film?  Beyond its potential for high profitability, film is a uniquely immersive experience into another culture that can positively affect changes in audience perception.  Hollywood movies tend to lean towards stereotype when it comes to foreign cultures; through collaborative efforts in filmmaking, these stereotypes will necessarily give way to richer 3-dimensional characters of all ethnicities.  And given the global interest in cinema, the industry could actually be an instrument for the greater good by bridging the cultural gap between countries through mutual understanding.  However, before any of this can be achieved, the collaborators must first let go of their own prejudices and conceits and find a way to work in harmony together, which would be a feat unto itself.

 

 

 

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HOLLYWOOD AND CHINA: COMPETITION VS. COLLABORATION http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/hollywood-china-competition-vs-collaboration/95154 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/hollywood-china-competition-vs-collaboration/95154#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95154 As the UCFTI (U.S. China Film & TV Industry) kicked off its inaugural expo and conference on Sunday, the event marks the continual effort of both the U.S. and China to collaborate in cinema and TV.  The panel speakers make up a good swatch of the film industry, including lawyers, financiers, and insurance people along […]

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 HOLLYWOOD AND CHINA: COMPETITION VS. COLLABORATIONAs the UCFTI (U.S. China Film & TV Industry) kicked off its inaugural expo and conference on Sunday, the event marks the continual effort of both the U.S. and China to collaborate in cinema and TV.  The panel speakers make up a good swatch of the film industry, including lawyers, financiers, and insurance people along with the Hollywood and Chinese entertainment big wigs, and all have been invited to participate in this expo for the purpose of bridging the cultural and political gap that has so far deterred the two superpowers from collaborating on more joint media ventures.

The few points reiterated by both sides are not unlike what is needed to have a successful marriage: the need to establish trust in the partnership, having patience and perseverance in the process, and basing the partnership on love rather than money; i.e. producing a story that both parties care about and wish to tell.  While achieving all these points would be ideal in the symbiotic nature of the partnership, both American and Chinese producers are still looking out for themselves first.

Let’s compare West vs. East:

U.S.A.

So far the global media presence of Hollywood as well as its long history as such gives it the leverage of experience and a certain established level of expertise that China is still in the process of cultivating.  Whatever can be said about tinsel town, it does have an infrastructure filmmakers can rely on when they go into production.  As box office sales in fact make up over 90% of total revenue from movies in China, Hollywood can also help establish the VOD and DVD markets on the mainland.

CHINA

China has the leverage of having the fastest growing movie industry, soon to surpass the U.S. in box office sales as well as the deep pockets to produce more content.  Shooting in China is more cost effective than in Western countries and labor is cheaper.

About3 HOLLYWOOD AND CHINA: COMPETITION VS. COLLABORATIONThe competitive spirit of both sides certainly was on display when addressing the issue of co-production.  Some of the Chinese speakers encouraged the idea of Chinese companies being the sole producers of projects who would nonetheless hire an international crew, and during a Q&A tried to persuade a hopeful film student to return to China after finishing her studies in the U.S. in order to bring her expertise back to the mainland.

As the Chinese government has mandated that all productions done on the mainland must be in co-production with a Chinese studio, filmmaking in China inevitably becomes politically charged, both creatively and logistically.  All scripts must be officially approved and investors shy away from public announcements lest they become targets of scrutiny by the Chinese government and come under investigation.  Thus American producers wishing to shoot a film in China must consider the Chinese government as a sort of executive producer who calls the shots from behind the scenes; they must also acquaint themselves with the different tastes and sensibilities of the Chinese audience before they may make a film that resonates on the mainland.

While on the outset the restrictions on content seem to discourage creativity, once all the bureaucratic hoops are jumped through, Chinese companies are in desperate need of content which can allow for much creative leeway.  Since China’s film industry is still in its relative infancy, without a set infrastructure or business protocol, it possesses all the excitement of a new adventure which no government can hold back.  And once American and Chinese producers learn to get along and play nice for the benefit of both, their artistic collaboration may yield more fruit than just cinema.

ucfti pressconference 2wu5824r19ojlr4osiu0hs HOLLYWOOD AND CHINA: COMPETITION VS. COLLABORATION

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SUSTAINABLE SPIRITS IN ANIMATION http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/sustainable-spirits-animation/95148 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/sustainable-spirits-animation/95148#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95148 As Season 3 of The Legend of Korra opened with Republic City having to contend with the newly opened spirit world, the idea of nature taking back the Earth from humans is a titillating one, especially since the word “sustainability” has been thrown around so often over the past decade that it has nearly lost […]

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As Season 3 of The Legend of Korra opened with Republic City having to contend with the newly opened spirit world, the idea of nature taking back the Earth from humans is a titillating one, especially since the word “sustainability” has been thrown around so often over the past decade that it has nearly lost its meaning.  What does it mean to be “sustainable” and where is the line humanity should retreat behind to allow for the natural world to heal and be in balance once again?

spirit vine 1024x576 SUSTAINABLE SPIRITS IN ANIMATION

Clearly opinions on sustainability and the environment varies from region to region, even city to city, and to go in depth would be beyond the scope of a single article or book; however it is interesting to see what views have been presented in animation, where the natural world seems closely tied to the spirit one.  In the Avatar animated series, Aang’s world is closely connected to nature during a simpler time of small human settlements within still a vast world.  In the following generation with Korra, cities have sprung up in an industrial age, where a disconnect between man and nature has begun, until that is, Korra opens the divide between the spirit and human worlds.

But this decision leaves many unanswered questions, both in art and in life.  How far is anyone going to go to change their way of life for the sake of restoring nature back to health, and would we even recognize what a “healthy” natural world would look like?  And how does humanity truly establish a symbiotic relationship with the Earth?

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Like the creators of Korra, Hayao Miyazaki defines the natural world as intrinsically infused with magic, where forest spirits and animal gods dwell.  Many of his films deal with encounters with the spirit world, and of these a few have an environmentally conscious message, such as his early Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke; even in Howl’s Moving Castle and The Wind Rises, where the environment is not directly addressed, the theme of war destroying dreams and what is beautiful in the world is a common thread that Miyazaki has woven into them all.

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Whereas Korra addresses the issue with more hope in finding a solution, Miyazaki concludes his career on a bittersweet note with The Wind Rises.  Seemingly to mirror the director’s own trajectory, the protagonist Jiro has a dream of building beautiful airplanes for people to enjoy together and is able to make his dream come true through his hard work and diligence; however, instead of enhancing life as he had envisioned, his beautiful planes are used for war, and Jiro is confronted with body counts and casualties instead of the smiles and laughter he had hoped to see.  Miyazaki seems to be wondering through this last film whether or not his art, as many accolades and awards as he has received, has had an impact on the greater good after all, the world still being what it is.

Be that as it may, what Miyazaki and Korra creators have nevertheless cultivated the notion that magic is an intrinsic quality to this planet of ours, whose mystery we have not begun to fathom.  The choice to humbly take our place in this mystery is still ours to make and, like Korra, breathe spirit back into human and nature alike.

%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%B2%D9%8A%D9%84 4 SUSTAINABLE SPIRITS IN ANIMATION

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THE SERENDIPITOUS NIHILISM OF RICHARD LINKLATER http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/serendipitous-nihilism-richard-linklater/95139 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/serendipitous-nihilism-richard-linklater/95139#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 19:46:14 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95139   With his latest summer hit Boyhood, seasoned director Richard Linklater has honed sharp his craft in positive nihilism.  Ever since his early films Slacker and Dazed and Confused, Linklater has addressed the alternating aspects of nihilism and the serendipitous humor of American life, combining the inevitable disillusionment of youth with the wonder of the […]

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Boyhood%20website THE SERENDIPITOUS NIHILISM OF RICHARD LINKLATER

With his latest summer hit Boyhood, seasoned director Richard Linklater has honed sharp his craft in positive nihilism.  Ever since his early films Slacker and Dazed and Confused, Linklater has addressed the alternating aspects of nihilism and the serendipitous humor of American life, combining the inevitable disillusionment of youth with the wonder of the fleetingness of youth’s moment; it is fitting that Boyhood is a culmination of this, chronicling 12 years of a single boy’s life in a span of 3 hours.  Ellar Coltrane, the boy initially cast at 6 years old as Mason, did not see any footage during the 12 years of shooting Boyhood and thus found the final product “confronting.”  “It is so beautiful and strange to now be showing it to people. It was part of my life for so long, it’s become a part of me, so to be sharing it with people is very surreal.”

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For such a labor of love, it is oftentimes difficult to have enough perspective to judge one’s work objectively, but Linklater was able to delicately navigate the waters here and extricate himself gracefully; however, given the time and effort put into this production, one cannot help but want more out of Boyhood than the usual Linklater theme of searching for meaning.  Finding what is real and meaningful in life is a constant thread in his films, from the 70’s kids in Dazed and Confused to the drug-hazed futuristic dystopia of A Scanner Darkly, where the boundaries between dream and reality become blurred, then fall away.  While Linklater always tests and pushes the limits of reality in hopes of finding something better, in his lighter films the potential of each living moment is explored in all its magic and wonder, hinting at a person’s power to create a new reality at any time, not just at prescribed cinematic moments.  Such is the serendipity of the Before Sunrise trilogy and the hope in the otherwise downer Fast Food Nation.  The ugly comes with the magical, Linklater seems to say, and even in the comedy School of Rock, the wave of Jack Black’s dream of a band hit some sharp rocks of dissent from all sides.  And either we can endure the big, bad, and the ugly to get to the wonderful and beautiful or we can succumb and be swallowed by the darkness.

Before Sunrise THE SERENDIPITOUS NIHILISM OF RICHARD LINKLATER

In Boyhood, Mason and his family are given that choice in nearly every scene, and together and alone they endure the bad in hopes for something good; even when what they think is good turns out to be otherwise, they carry on with the process, ever moving forward baby step by baby step, taking what little happinesses they can along the way.  But is that enough to give meaning to life?  Should we not strive further for that one happiness, that singular joy we all seek but is always just beyond our reach?  There may be meaning in a life strung together in a confetti of moments, a tapestry of little joys and woes, but for something truly real, we’re simply going need to go deeper in our search, Linklater included.  The Gen-X slacker model has reached its expiration date.

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THE MAGICAL LYRICISM OF LASSE HALLSTRÖM http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/magical-lyricism-lasse-hallstrom/95122 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/magical-lyricism-lasse-hallstrom/95122#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 21:07:58 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95122 With his latest film, The Hundred-Foot Journey, based on the novel by Richard C. Morais, Swedish director Lasse Hallström continues to show his prowess in lyrical films that straddle the realms of reality and fairytale.  Filmed mostly in luxurious 35mm, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a delectable delight on the senses, with equally lush shots of […]

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With his latest film, The Hundred-Foot Journey, based on the novel by Richard C. Morais, Swedish director Lasse Hallström continues to show his prowess in lyrical films that straddle the realms of reality and fairytale.  Filmed mostly in luxurious 35mm, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a delectable delight on the senses, with equally lush shots of food delicacies and the southern French countryside.

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The breaking of accepted social norms through magical culinary gifts is not unfamiliar territory with Hallström, given his 2000 Oscar-nominated film Chocolat, whose protagonist Vianne clearly possessed an other-worldly talent for making chocolate confections.  But while Chocolat was an outright fairytale, The Hundred-Foot Journey is slightly more grounded in reality, showing some of the prejudice and mistrust a clash between 2 very different cultures would inevitably bring forth.  The coincidences, though often occurring in daily life, nonetheless keep the film floating in fairy dust: the first French person to help Hassan and his family is a beautiful young woman who turns out to be a sous-chef at the very French restaurant that Hassan will be contending with soon enough.  Everyone in the sleepy little French town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val seems to speak English, and speak it well, even alternating between French and accented anglais when speaking to each other; and though Helen Mirren is wonderful as always, one still has to wonder why a French woman was not cast for the part of Madame Mallory, being such a quintessentially French character.

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But even with certain plot flaws, Hallström is still able to pull off a winning film by his knack of bringing some of the wonder of life back on the table (pun intended).  Many of his other films possess the same hope in the human spirit, and the magical lyricism he infuses each of his films, from My Life as a Dog to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to Cider House Rules and Chocolat to Hachi and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen to his latest Hundred-Foot Journey, keeps the tone from getting too heavy-handed.  Gorgeously shot, Hallström’s films are always a feast for the eyes, whether it’s the fall colors of the east coast or the idyllic countryside of southern France, a testament to how beautiful the world still is and still can be.

Lachsfischen im Jemen 1 THE MAGICAL LYRICISM OF LASSE HALLSTRÖM

And instead of choosing grand and epic stories to express his grand and epic belief in the indomitable human spirit, Hallström chooses the smaller, more personal stories to hit the matter closer to home, and thus perhaps, closer to the heart.  In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the ridiculous eponymous premise is made believable by the characters themselves, their impossible dream made possible through the strength of their vision.  In his own way, Hallström conveys through his films that we are the makers of our own future, that even salmon could be made to swim upstream in Yemen.

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In The Hundred-Foot Journey, when Madame Mallory comes out in the rain to wash away racist vandalism on Hassan’s wall, she comes out without her usual armor of Chanel suit and requisite makeup but just as she is, just a person helping another.  Through this act she communicates without words her wish to extend an olive branch to her culinary and cultural enemies, a moment made more powerful by its silence.  It is through these small gestures that the true character of a person can be seen, and it is also through such forgotten acts of kindness that “we have it in our power to begin the world again.”  But while Thomas Paine wrote that with an epic revolution in mind, Lasse Hallström believes it equally in the smaller everyday gems and beauties of life, conjuring his films to depict just that.

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TONGUE-IN-CHEEK HEROES: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/tongue-cheek-heroes-guardians-galaxy/95114 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/tongue-cheek-heroes-guardians-galaxy/95114#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 07:59:16 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95114 Not so long ago in a galaxy quite nearby…a young boy named Peter Quill was abducted by an UFO.  26 years later, in an alternate 2014 universe where spaceships, alien species, and intergalactic travel are seemingly commonplace yet iPods and MP3s are not, Peter has grown up into a rogue and if not quite a […]

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Guardians of the Galaxy Star Lord 850x560 TONGUE IN CHEEK HEROES: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Not so long ago in a galaxy quite nearby…a young boy named Peter Quill was abducted by an UFO.  26 years later, in an alternate 2014 universe where spaceships, alien species, and intergalactic travel are seemingly commonplace yet iPods and MP3s are not, Peter has grown up into a rogue and if not quite a peasant slave, a minion to the space pirate Yondu, still listening to an 80’s mix on his cassette Walkman. The choice of music is as significant as in Quicksilver’s scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past, bringing a nostalgic homegrown feel to an otherwise CG heavy sci-fi flick; but GOG has this feeling going throughout the entire film, bringing just enough camp to keep the tone light and fun.

While the premise is of the typical unoriginal superhero kind, the execution is what makes GOG such a winning film, i.e. the irreverent dialogue, the Kevin Bacon references, the jokes on metaphor, and the one-way dance-off.  And could anyone imagine Luke Skywalker calling Darth Vader a bitch?

6 TONGUE IN CHEEK HEROES: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

GOG does seem like Star Wars in a parallel reality brought down a few notches from epic-ness and infused with R&B and pelvic gyrations.  Continuing with the mystery father idea, Peter’s male parentage remains a question mark, and the master-apprentice relationship between Thanos and Ronan recalls Sidious and Vader; even Ronan’s cloak and head gear bears similarity to the Sith.  Hopefully Ronan can return in some form or another as characters do in the Marvel universe. . . And while Peter Quill aka the Starlord is not exactly Luke Skywalker, his heroic antics and genuine humanity show him to be a true leader.  But instead of a John Williams theme swelling up for the protagonists, even the truly heroic moments are brought down by the heroes themselves, as they stand together “like jackasses,” aptly stated by the perfectly-cast Bradley Cooper as Rocket.

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The one innocent in this ragtag team of assassins, thieves, and criminals, is the Flora Colossus Groot, a plant humanoid from the Planet X.  No slouch in any fight, Groot is nonetheless a gentle giant, calm and friendly and an absolute gentleman, showing the awesomely destructive, creative, and nurturing forces of Mother Nature in one fell swoop.  Groot gives hope to even Rocket, the most cynical of cynics, a genetically modified and anthropomorphized raccoon, and keeps the wonder alive in his jaded compatriots by his kindness and many magical gifts.

All the Guardians are sympathetic, even if they are jackasses.  Everyone has a sad story to tell that cuts through the camp and humor, real stories that audiences can emotionally connect and empathize with.  Peter’s regret regarding his mother’s death, his inability to unwrap her last present to him, is all very real and human, as everyone has to live with the decisions they make, and some decisions simply cannot be undone.  For Gamora and Rocket, the choices were made for them to become a certain way to perform a certain function, yet they too begin to choose differently when together with Peter, and even Drax’s justified need for vengeance changes quality as he begins to act for the greater good rather than just for his own.  But it is Groot’s selflessness that ultimately bonds this band of misfits to become the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Unlike other superhero movies, GOG really gives good focus on fleshing out 3-dimensional characters and their relationships with each other.  Included with the epic qualities like honor and evil are the smaller personality traits that make the Guardians annoying, petty, and awesome at the same time, because they need to get out of their own way first before they can become the heroes they should be, much like the story of our own lives.  The American philosopher William James once wrote, “A great nation is not saved by wars, it is saved by acts without external picturesqueness.”  And so it is with this film; while GOG’s action and fight sequences are exciting and on point, its real win is on the less picturesque scenes, when we’re right there with little Peter crying by his mother’s hospital bedside.

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STAR TREK 3: ROBERTO ORCI TAKING THE HELM http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/star-trek-3-roberto-orci-taking-helm/95001 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/star-trek-3-roberto-orci-taking-helm/95001#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 16:38:26 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95001 Having successfully lobbied to direct the Star Trek three-quel, Roberto Orci now claims to bring the new ST franchise back to speed with the original TV series.  “[I]n this movie they are closer than they are to the original series characters than you have ever seen. They have set off on their five-year mission. So […]

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ST3 01 STAR TREK 3: ROBERTO ORCI TAKING THE HELM

Having successfully lobbied to direct the Star Trek three-quel, Roberto Orci now claims to bring the new ST franchise back to speed with the original TV series.  “[I]n this movie they are closer than they are to the original series characters than you have ever seen. They have set off on their five-year mission. So their adventure is going to be in deep space,” Orci has officially stated.

ROrci 01 STAR TREK 3: ROBERTO ORCI TAKING THE HELM

A seasoned screenwriter, the 40-year-old Orci has up till recently been a part of a writing duo with Alex Kurtzman, writing screenplays for both Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (STID), as well as a slew of other blockbuster movies including Transformers, Cowboys and Aliens, Ender’s Game, and The Amazing Spiderman 2.  And while ST3 would be Orci’s directorial debut, the hope is that his extensive experience as writer and producer on many large-scale productions would easily translate to the director’s chair.  That being said, Orci is not in the spotlight without controversy.

Star Trek 03 STAR TREK 3: ROBERTO ORCI TAKING THE HELM

Having recently parted ways with Kurtzman to focus more on directing, Orci has a rather colorful and fiery cyber persona.  Before he shut down his Twitter account, Orci revealed himself to be a conspiracy theorist and 9/11 Truther, and his views may have spilled into his writing.  According to Sonny Bunch’s editorial in The Washington Free Beacon, “The Truther sensibility wormed its way into Star Trek: Into Darkness, which posited that the Federation is in the business of faking terrorist attacks in order to justify going to war with the Klingons.” Coincidence?  Think again…

Star Trek 04 STAR TREK 3: ROBERTO ORCI TAKING THE HELM

When the editorial Star Trek Is Broken came out in response to STID, its main critique was less about 9/11 Truthers than failing to fulfill the original ST mission statement:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

This is a fair point; though STID opened with Kirk and McCoy being compromised on a mission to a foreign planet, the main story was about establishing the villain Khan and saving the Earth from destruction yet again.  When the solution-oriented editorial hit other good and valid points on how to put Star Trek back together again, Orci high-handedly responded in the article’s comment box with these winners to close, “…And frankly, your tone and attidude [sic] make it hard for me to listen to what might otherwise be decent notions to pursue in the future…As I love to say, there is a reason why I get to write the movies, and you don’t.”

HarrisonFord Raiders STAR TREK 3: ROBERTO ORCI TAKING THE HELM

Orci further dug his hole of notoriety in his comments to another editorial What’s Wrong with Star Trek? which includes the following statement: “Hell the entire film is bookended identically to that of Raiders of the Lost Ark, opening with our protagonist running from natives and closing with the dangerous weapon locked away in some kind of restricted storage facility.”

Again, some valid points.  But while the tone of this article is certainly less diplomatic than Star Trek Is Broken, it certainly did not warrant Orci’s rant that ended with “F*** OFF!”  This of course was followed by a semi-apology: “…you are the most listened to fans ever. That doesn’t mean you will get [sic] is to do what you want. just means what I said: I listened…”

Again Orci came off as arrogant and patronizing, and the reference to Dubya later didn’t help matters either. The damage had been done.

However, some may argue that Orci’s colorful personality would not necessarily make him a bad director, especially since eccentric characters abound in the sci-fi world (e.g. Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game).  To like the work but not its creator is oftentimes part and parcel to art, like Wagner and his epic operas; whatever the case is regarding Roberto Orci, his cyber antics have at least generated quite the buzz about ST3 already.  And if he is indeed able to bring back the spirit and wonder of exploration that the original series had, then Orci would prove that he truly deserves to sit in the director’s chair.

ROrci 02 STAR TREK 3: ROBERTO ORCI TAKING THE HELM

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THE AGE OF ULTRON AND THE MARVELOUS MARVEL UNIVERSE http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/age-ultron-marvelous-marvel-universe/95091 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/age-ultron-marvelous-marvel-universe/95091#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 01:58:35 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95091 With Guardians of the Galaxy coming out this Friday and the new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer revealed at Comic-Con 2014 last week, the Marvel film universe is spinning an ever-larger web of interweaving characters. Since the last Avengers movie, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have added another chapter to their own franchises, enriching […]

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the avengers age of ultron sdcc ca giant poster final THE AGE OF ULTRON AND THE MARVELOUS MARVEL UNIVERSE

With Guardians of the Galaxy coming out this Friday and the new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer revealed at Comic-Con 2014 last week, the Marvel film universe is spinning an ever-larger web of interweaving characters.

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Since the last Avengers movie, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have added another chapter to their own franchises, enriching further the overall story of the Marvel universe.  The introduction of formidable villains such as Thanos, a villain comparable in power and evilness to Darth Sidious, and Ultron, whose origins are now changed to be in the hands of Tony Stark himself, will also make intricacies of the Marvel web all the more interesting.

Avengers of Shield THE AGE OF ULTRON AND THE MARVELOUS MARVEL UNIVERSE If the different movies are able to connect with each other even marginally, a clearer perspective of the bigger picture will start to come into view, as well as perhaps a greater overall message too.  For example, the connection between the Starks and Captain America Steve Rogers: Howard Stark helped the war effort with his weapons technology and also created Captain America’s suit and shield. The fact that Stark Industries and S.H.I.E.L.D. can span through generations is super useful in connecting the different histories, even different worlds together, like Asgard. Though a very tenuous connection, Thor becomes an other-worldly Avenger because S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent Coulson finds his hammer that King Odin threw down, deeming his son yet unworthy to wield the mighty weapon.  It is enough of a connection to be believed however, since many everyday connections are just as tenuous.  And with Thor comes the convenient threat of alien invasion, a premise that fueled the first Avengers movie with Loki being the baddie with the implication of Thanos directing from the shadows.

 THE AGE OF ULTRON AND THE MARVELOUS MARVEL UNIVERSE

Sadly however, neither Thanos nor Ultron-creator Hank Pym will be in Age of Ultron, as Joss Whedon decided to go in another direction with the Avengers sequel.  Instead of Pym, who eventually becomes Ant Man, Tony Stark is made the unwitting creator of the mega-robot Ultron, with rumors that a Jarvis gone rogue might be partly to blame.  Though introducing Pym in the sequel may have been a clever way to introduce Ant Man into the mix, Whedon has his hands full adding brother-sister team Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch as well as thinking of which Avenger to kill off. Now that the Avengers are 8 strong and counting, it is inevitable some will have to succumb to death, and there is speculation who will be the first casualty; Hawkeye, Captain America, and the Scarlet Witch have all been named as potential KIAs.  Why would the Scarlet Witch be bumped off as she is just being introduced? There are some good reasons: 1) She would be the only Avenger so far whose power stems from magic, possessing the gift of telekinesis and the ability to cast spells.  Magic would be tricky in an established world that is more sci-fi than fantasy, with magical elements so far only relegated to alien entities; 2) Scarlet Witch’s death helps drive the story for the Ultimates, a Marvel comic series that has significantly influenced and inspired the film universe.

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While who ends up dying in Age of Ultron remains up in the air, the choice of adding the twins into the Avengers would be a good eventual tie-in with the X-Men franchise, as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are the children of Magneto.  Ultron himself also has a connection with Wolverine by his use of the fictitious metal alloy adamantium.

It would be interesting to know whether or not the writers and directors of the various Marvel film franchises get together for a pow-wow to make sure everything adds up to each other, keeping the web unbroken by logic gaps and parallel story divergences.  In the meantime, enjoy the Age of Ultron teaser trailer.

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BEST ABS OF COMIC-CON 2014 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/best-abs-comic-con-2014/95086 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/best-abs-comic-con-2014/95086#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:53:52 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95086 This fall DC is filling TV screens with Stephen Amell returning as the billionaire playboy Oliver Queen for the 3rd season of Arrow as well as a new spin-off series The Flash starring Glee’s Grant Gustin.  The two shows will crossover with one another, with Green Arrow and the Flash appearing in each other’s shows. Between Green Arrow’s abs, Captain America’s […]

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Stephen Amell Abs 2 BEST ABS OF COMIC CON 2014

Arrow star Stephen Amell

This fall DC is filling TV screens with Stephen Amell returning as the billionaire playboy Oliver Queen for the 3rd season of Arrow as well as a new spin-off series The Flash starring Glee’s Grant Gustin.  The two shows will crossover with one another, with Green Arrow and the Flash appearing in each other’s shows.

Between Green Arrow’s abs, Captain America’s man-boobs, and Thor’s arms, it’s a DC/Marvel battle over how much hunkage each universe can possibly fit!

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PIXAR: GOING OVER TO THE DARK SIDE http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/pixar-going-dark-side/95073 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/pixar-going-dark-side/95073#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 06:49:35 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95073 7 companies, including Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Dreamworks, have been named in a class action lawsuit regarding the violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which prohibits certain business activities that federal government regulators see as hindering market competition.  By sharing salary numbers and entering into “no-poaching” agreements with one another to not recruit each other’s employees, […]

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Pixar 01 PIXAR: GOING OVER TO THE DARK SIDE

7 companies, including Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Dreamworks, have been named in a class action lawsuit regarding the violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which prohibits certain business activities that federal government regulators see as hindering market competition.  By sharing salary numbers and entering into “no-poaching” agreements with one another to not recruit each other’s employees, these companies have essentially kept employee salaries from being competitive while their skyrocketing profits continue to line the pockets of the higher-ups.

As of April 2014, a settlement of $324 million has been proposed, a figure the presiding U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has not yet approved, deeming it too low.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

Techtopus PIXAR: GOING OVER TO THE DARK SIDE

The Techtopus began to take shape no later than January 2005, when Pixar and Lucasfilm made a three-part deal that would restrict the recruiting of each other’s employees. First, Pixar and Lucasfilm agreed they would not cold call each other’s employees. Second, they agreed to notify each other when making an offer to an employee of the other firm. Third, they agreed that, when offering a position to the other company’s employee, neither would counteroffer above the initial offer.

Senior executives from both Pixar and Lucasfilm signed off on this agreement covering all animators and other employees through direct and explicit communications; furthermore, Pixar drafted and communicated the written terms of the agreement to Lucasfilm.

When Sony Animation started to woo Pixar employees by offering higher salaries, Ed Catmull himself flew down to LA to discuss the MO of the industry.  To Catmull’s consternation and perhaps surprise, Sony Animation co-heads Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandy Rabins refused to play ball.  Catmull was not happy at all about this, writing in an email to Disney Studios president Alan Bergman,  “…and given Sony’s extremely poor behavior in recruiting practices, I would feel very good about aggressively going after Sony people.”

And with that, Pixar officially went over to the dark side.

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Why focus on Pixar when there are 6 other companies involved in Techtopus, such as Google and Apple?  Because of stories like this, as relayed by Bob Sutton, who was invited to talk a number of times at Pixar:

Pixar veteran Craig Good (who has been there at least 25 years — I think he said 28 years), came up and told me an astounding story…The story occurred to Craig because he’d just heard me claim that the best bosses serve as human shields, protecting their people from intrusions, distractions, idiocy from on high, and anything else that undermines their performance or well-being.

For him, that brought to mind the year 1985, when the precursor to Pixar, known as the Computer Division of Lucasfilm, was under financial pressure…[George] Lucas had brought in a guy named Doug Norby as President … and as part of his efforts, Norby was pressing [Ed] Catmull and [Alvy Ray] Smith to do some fairly deep layoffs. The two couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Instead, Catmull tried to make a financial case for keeping his group intact…But Norby was unmoved. As Craig tells it: “He was pestering Ed and Alvy for a list of names from the Computer Division to lay off…Finally came the order: You will be in my office tomorrow morning at 9:00 with a list of names.”

So what did these two bosses do? “They showed up in his office at 9:00 and plunked down a list,” Craig told me. “It had two names on it: Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith.”

As Craig was telling me that story, you could hear the admiration in his voice and his pride in working for a company where managers would put their own jobs on the line for the good of their teams. “We all kept our jobs,” he marveled. “Even me, the low man on the totem pole…”

Clearly not so anymore.

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It is too bad that even the founders of Pixar have succumbed to avarice and selfishness, and their work has suffered for it, but perhaps the recent class action suit against them will be a wake-up call to the geeky idealistic dreamers they were 40 years ago, techies who remained steadfast to their dream until the progress of technology finally matched their lofty intentions for computer graphics and the age of 3D animation was born.  May they remember all the blood, sweat, and tears that their young artist and techie employees now equally shed and re-think overworking and underpaying them.

Pixar, instead of fixing the game, let the flow of fair competition re-enter the arena and see which studio is truly worthy of the best talent out there.  You have been the gold standard for many young artists and techies alike, having set the bar so high from the get-go, not only for computer animation but also for the work culture you had intentionally fostered to not be like the other studios.  Let the dream and art of the whole thing guide you back on the right track again.

A gauntlet has been thrown; will Pixar pick it up?

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THE MANY FACES OF ANDY SERKIS http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/many-faces-andy-serkis/95043 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/many-faces-andy-serkis/95043#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 18:49:33 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95043 With the recent release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis yet again proves that he is a master of motion capture or mo-cap performance and technology: his London-based company The Imaginarium is already slated to be a mo-cap consultant for Star Wars VII, with adaptations of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and […]

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ASerkis 01 THE MANY FACES OF ANDY SERKIS

With the recent release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis yet again proves that he is a master of motion capture or mo-cap performance and technology: his London-based company The Imaginarium is already slated to be a mo-cap consultant for Star Wars VII, with adaptations of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book in the works.  And as if he doesn’t have enough on his plate, Serkis is also part of the cast of the next Avengers and Star Wars movies; what roles he will play are still a secret.

 THE MANY FACES OF ANDY SERKIS

Serkis’ portrayal of Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy officially put mo-cap in the mainstream consciousness; now with the last installment of The Hobbit due out this December, the 14-year journey into Middle Earth has finally come to an end.  This, the 50-year-old Serkis ruminated, “. . . is quite a sad thing . . . and at the same time, it is opening up doors to huge, great things.”  Indeed.

Following the iconic Gollum, Serkis played King Kong in Peter Jackson’s remake, Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin, all motion capture performances.  “I’m very pleased that motion capture technology has become standard,” Serkis has recently said.  “Every single nuance is now very closer [sic] to what I’m doing on set, which is very gratifying.”  Mo-cap only enhances but cannot replace the actor’s job, as demonstrated by the extensive study and research Serkis still does before playing a character, whether it’s studying gorillas in Rwanda for King Kong or channeling a cat coughing up a furball for Gollum’s singular raspy voice.

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Working with WETA, Peter Jackson’s FX company, Serkis has helped set the visual stage for more Planet of the Apes movies to come.  What makes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes stand out is that the motion capture ape Caesar is the main character of the movie, and a highly complex and nuanced one at that.  As most of Dawn was shot outdoors, the technology had to adapt to this challenge, which meant building mo-cap cameras that could handle outdoor lighting conditions then placing many of them around the chosen location.  The actors had to adapt as well in their mo-cap suits to the varying temperatures of the locations: from freezing Vancouver to hot and humid New Orleans.

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Now that Serkis has shown mo-cap to be a flexible tool with a wide range of expressivity, it can only enhance traditional animation techniques and potentially make the process more efficient overall: “[With mo-cap] the role of the actor is much more like a live-action situation. . . [The animators’] expertise goes into honoring the performance that was created on set.”  For The Jungle Book, Serkis is currently doing tests of blending live-action with CG characters, mo-cap with key-frame animation, hoping perhaps to take the best from both worlds to create Mowgli’s jungle, a darker vision that is possibly closer to the original story than the 1968 Disney film.  How it will compare to Jon Favreau’s version should be very interesting . . .

Andy Serkis To Direct Motion Capture Animal Farm%20Adaptation THE MANY FACES OF ANDY SERKIS

Serkis is currently in the midst of directing Animal Farm, which will apparently combine mo-cap with facial performance capture and puppeteering.  In developing the script for Orwell’s classic fable, Serkis “. . . found a way to tell the story for a modern audience, and found a way of creating characters and the aesthetic and the whole thing . . .”  Given his track record, it is safe to expect more groundbreaking work from the multi-talented Andy Serkis.  Bravo!

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EVEREST: THE FILMING OF A TITAN http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/everest-filming-titan/95014 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/everest-filming-titan/95014#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 03:29:03 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=95014 With the tragic avalanche this past April that took the lives of 16 sherpas coinciding with the crew of Everest working on location, the tallest mountain in the world continues to rumble at human folly, its might and power unconquerable by money or vainglory.  And quite a few films are abounding about Mt. Everest, with […]

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 EVEREST: THE FILMING OF A TITAN

With the tragic avalanche this past April that took the lives of 16 sherpas coinciding with the crew of Everest working on location, the tallest mountain in the world continues to rumble at human folly, its might and power unconquerable by money or vainglory.  And quite a few films are abounding about Mt. Everest, with the recent release of Beyond the Edge in 3D and two more in the works by Cross Creek and Sony Pictures respectively.

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Andrew Irvine & George Mallory

While Beyond the Edge is a re-enactment of Edmund Hillary and Tenzin Norgay’s successful 1953 ascent, Everest depicts the disastrous blizzard in 1996 that resulted in the deaths of 8 climbers, including famed mountaineer Rob Hall, adapted from the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.  The third film by Sony is reported to be about the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition attempted by George Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, who disappeared 800 feet before the summit and whose bodies were discovered 75 years later in 1999.  Whether or not Mallory and Irvine reached the top of Everest still remains a mystery to this day; if they did, they would have preceded Hillary by nearly 30 years, and without the help of a sherpa.

All accounts of climbing Everest speak of near misses and fateful split-second decisions; at 29,000 feet, the line between success and failure is a very thin one, the smallest contingency quickly proving fatal.  The contrast of the three stories would show the changing times; what once was relegated to professional climbers and adventurers has now become a tourist attraction for those who can afford the 60K price tag, but for either case, the imminent dangers persist.

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In the 1998 IMAX documentary also named Everest, the crew on location crossed paths with Rob Hall’s ill-fated expedition and stopped filming to help the stricken climbers with extra oxygen tanks, etc; while some footage of the climbers made its way into the film, the 2015 Everest promises to tell the full story of the 1996 disaster.  The 8 deaths could be attributed to a combination of Mother Nature, human error, with a dash of hubris thrown in.

And Mother Nature seems displeased, to say the least; in the aftermath of the avalanche, the Nepalese sherpas are re-assessing their role as tour guides to one of the most dangerous attractions on Earth.  Humans have tried to bring Mount Everest down to a more palatable size by de-mystifying its unfathomable heights, marketing it as a mountain almost anyone could climb with the help of its local trusty sherpas; now with 16 sherpas dead and others quitting in fear of the same fate, Everest shows it cannot be scaled so easily.

Mount Everest has been gradually desecrated by man’s desire to conquer nature then to make it accessible to the mainstream when it is clearly an untameable mountain whose majesty and beauty lies in its sheer danger.  A fellow rock climber once wisely advised, “Trust the rope.”   For Everest, the only thing one can trust is its danger; one can yield to this truth or die fighting it.  May the upcoming films of this mighty mountain do it justice.

View of Mount Everest from Kala Pattar Nepal. Photo by Grant Eaton via Flickr EVEREST: THE FILMING OF A TITAN

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Disney’s New Take on True Love http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/disneys-new-take-true-love/94985 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/disneys-new-take-true-love/94985#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 17:52:54 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94985 With Frozen and now Maleficent, Disney is presenting a new take on true love, focusing on a more sisterly and motherly love; and while the eternal theme of romantic true love will remain eternal, it is interesting to explore other aspects of love that are equally beautiful and true. Both the idea and feeling of […]

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zfxwsax3gn7ujutdjs5r Disney’s New Take on True Love

With Frozen and now Maleficent, Disney is presenting a new take on true love, focusing on a more sisterly and motherly love; and while the eternal theme of romantic true love will remain eternal, it is interesting to explore other aspects of love that are equally beautiful and true.

Both the idea and feeling of love have fascinated humankind from the very beginning, and many have risen and fallen in search of this elusive quality, an emotion that ranges from carnal lust to a divine state of ecstatic being, as in agape.  And true love would presumably offer the entire spectrum of love, from the base to the divine, but how rarely is this emotional paradise found, if it even exists at all. . .

 Disney’s New Take on True Love

Thus being an inner holy grail, true love has been the subject of countless tales and songs, and Disney took these fairytales of old and Disney-fied them, leaving out the more gruesome details and making them funny and endearing for little girls to grow up wishing upon a star for their true love to arrive.  And so Disney made iconic heroines of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Rapunzel, each successively more capable and heroic than her predecessor.  From the old princess model where pure goodness meant being utterly meek and helpless, the Disney heroine grew stronger, faster and smarter, with Mulan levelling an entire Hun army by her agile ingenuity.

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Is our heroine so strong now that she can even forgo her love interest?  Disney has been best known for its female protagonists (in contrast with Pixar), but the prince character was always significant in fighting the evils and obstacles that kept them from fulfilling their true love; not so anymore.  The turning point was in Aladdin, where Princess Jasmine was equal to Aladdin in every way, which led to Pocahontas and Mulan, who really did help save China, and Rapunzel who brings her ruffian prince back to life, making the Prince Charming model officially obsolete.

3bd Disney’s New Take on True Love

Which now leads to Frozen.  Though there are some interesting and memorable male characters in the mix, the story is mainly about Elsa and Anna and the ripple effect of one mistake that shaped both their lives in irrevocable ways.  Elsa’s guilt and love for Anna makes her push away from the person she loves most, and Anna is perplexed by her sister’s abrupt about-face.  Nonetheless, in the final denouement Anna shows that in spite of everything she never gave up on Elsa and the love they had shared as children.  Anna’s is a selfless love, as she is not sure it ever will be returned, ignorant of the reasons why Elsa closed herself to her, yet still loving her sister regardless.  Love between siblings is a love between friends, a sublimated love at its best, and the “grandest relationship of human loves,” according to Master Paramhansa Yogananda.

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In Maleficent, Disney does a new live-action take on Sleeping Beauty, this time exploring the unconditional love between a mother and child, ever compassionate and warm.  Here Aurora’s character, beautifully portrayed by Elle Fanning, is as meek and mild as ever, but her pure goodness is what stirs the heart of Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, jaded and angry towards humans after her heart and wings are broken by King Stefan, Aurora’s father.  Seeing the complete guilelessness of Aurora, Maleficent learns to love again, and opens her heart once more to her own goodness, for in this rendition of the fairytale, Maleficent is a powerful fairy who guards the secrets her magical forest from greedy human marauders.  At the outset she is not too unlike Aurora herself, trusting and open to Stefan’s love, except that she is a powerful fairy and can kick some major ass when pressed.  But Stefan’s betrayal hardens her heart with bitter anger, and as years pass, she forgets what she once was, wallowing in darkness.  Only Aurora’s pure goodness is able to penetrate through all the doom and gloom and resonate with Maleficent’s heart, as “…all strings which are touched in Love must sound,” according to Mechthild of Magdeburg.

While all Disney loves are somewhat sublimated for young audiences, the exploration into other types of true love is worth noting and may even be the start of something beyond the reaches of film and entertainment.  Is the general public looking for more out of love than what they have been seeing and experiencing around them?  One can only wait and see . . .

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STAR WARS GoG STYLE http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/star-wars-gog-style/94991 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/star-wars-gog-style/94991#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 23:31:43 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94991 As a couple of Star Wars trailers in the style of Guardians of the Galaxy are out on YouTube, let’s compare and contrast the usual suspects in both: LUKE vs. PETER: There’s really no equivalent to Luke Skywalker in GoG, since Peter Quill aka Star Lord is more Han-Solo-cock-sure and sarcastic than the innocent hero Luke […]

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guardians of galaxy vs star wars STAR WARS GoG STYLE

As a couple of Star Wars trailers in the style of Guardians of the Galaxy are out on YouTube, let’s compare and contrast the usual suspects in both:

LUKE vs. PETER: There’s really no equivalent to Luke Skywalker in GoG, since Peter Quill aka Star Lord is more Han-Solo-cock-sure and sarcastic than the innocent hero Luke was.  However, he is the leader of the Guardians, so he’s a cross between Luke and Han.

LEIA vs. GAMORA: Princess Leia doesn’t really have anything in common with Gamora except that both are the main female in the group, but Leia did show her feisty-ness even with her hair donuts, so they’re both beautiful females (human and alien) who can more than hold their own in a fight.

CHEWBACCA vs. DRAX: While Chewbacca is a gentle giant who only used his great strength only when necessary, Drax is full of rage and out to kill Thanos, but the two would probably be an equal match in battle.

R2-D2/LANDO vs. ROCKET RACCOON: Since Rocket’s paired with Groot, the obvious parallel would be R2-D2 and C-3PO; however, Rocket’s character is edgier and a bit more like the self-serving Lando than the always helpful do-gooder R2-D2.  And he’s got a mouth on him, no cute electronic twitters with Rocket.

C-3PO vs. GROOT: Groot is the one innocent in the GoG much like the polite C-3PO, but unlike the polyglot robot, Groot is deadly in a fight, so take that!

DARTH VADER vs. RONAN THE ACCUSER: Both working for a master villain, both Vader and Ronan are the ones who do the legwork.  Both are monstrous in their dark power and twisted minds and equally terrifying.  Whether or not Ronan becomes as iconic as Vader remains to be seen.

DARTH SIDIOUS vs. THANOS: So who’s bigger and badder?  Thanos achieved godhood and can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Thor, but even so, would he win in a showdown against Sidious?  Dunno, but either way, the evil buck stops with these two.

guadians of the galaxy 700x1049 STAR WARS GoG STYLE

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CG OR NOT TO CG: A Question of Balance Part 2 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/cg-cg-question-balance-part-2/94979 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/cg-cg-question-balance-part-2/94979#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 00:27:27 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94979 Both coming from indie film roots, directors Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky utilize practical and CG effects equally, sometimes even exploring chemical effects in the case of Aronofsky’s 2006 film The Fountain. Nolan tries to use practical effects whenever possible (e.g. the famous rotating hallway scene in Inception), only resorting to CG when absolutely necessary.  […]

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Both coming from indie film roots, directors Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky utilize practical and CG effects equally, sometimes even exploring chemical effects in the case of Aronofsky’s 2006 film The Fountain.

Nolan tries to use practical effects whenever possible (e.g. the famous rotating hallway scene in Inception), only resorting to CG when absolutely necessary.  For the hallway scene, 3 different hallways were built, including one that rotated 360 degrees.  This scene took 3 weeks to complete, with 500 crew members involved and the stunt department training the actors how to properly negotiate the rotations.  Seeing the centrifugal set in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001, Nolan was inspired to go old school with this scene in homage; in fulfilling his childhood ambition, Nolan was able to create a kick-ass scene.

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Though director Darren Aronofsky more readily embraces CG, featuring 240 visual effects shots in his Oscar-winning Black Swan, he decided to go the route of hardly any CG for The Fountain, exploring instead the unfoldment of natural chemical processes through a microzoom optical bench, which can magnify a microliter of water up to 500,000X, and thus proving the veritas in the old adage “as above, so below”.  When the microzoom films curry powder sprinkled onto water, the resulting images look like the movements of celestial bodies, since “…the same forces at work in the water – gravitational effects, settlement, refractive indices – are happening in outer space,” says British macrophotographer/marine biologist Peter Parks.

 CG OR NOT TO CG: A Question of Balance Part 2

In contrast to Nolan and Aronofsky, some of the older generation directors are just getting their feet wet in CG.  Martin Scorsese is a newbie to both digital and stereoscopic 3D, trying them out in his 2011 Hugo.  Shooting in digital for the first time, Scorsese masterfully combines a CG gay old Paris with practical effects, such as building a miniature model train for Hugo’s dream of a train crashing through the Gare Montparnasse into the street and actually hand painting 35mm frames when George Méliès introduces color to his movies.

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On the other side of the spectrum, what looks like a single long Steadicam shot (cf. Goodfellas) of Hugo going through his world is really was shot on 5 separate sets over a number of days.  To help make the shot look seamless, green screen was used extensively, and an entire rotating greenscreen room was built for the spiral chute sequence.

Lola VFX supervisor Edison Williams used 3D stereoscopy to de-age Ben Kingsley’s character Papa George in flashback sequences.  To make the transition smooth and seamless, Lola created a 3D model of Kingsley, then rotoscoped in 3D, sticking the rotoshapes onto the 3D tracked model.  Adding film grain for old film sequences was also applied in 3 dimensions to create a realistic feel.

So while CG is the new toy in town, many of the older toys are still in use and should be considered as options to budding filmmakers.  Though Buzz Lightyear is shiny and new and can “fall with style”, Woody is still tried and true and should not be neglected for every bright young thing that passes by.  Best of all, Buzz and Woody could be played together.

buzz falling with style CG OR NOT TO CG: A Question of Balance Part 2

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CG OR NOT TO CG: A Question of Balance Part 1 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/cg-cg-question-balance-part-1/94966 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/cg-cg-question-balance-part-1/94966#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 08:29:03 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94966 As the special effects in the various Star Wars movies were groundbreaking first for their practical effects and then for their CGI, it is an astute move indeed for J.J. Abrams to decide to balance the two for VII.  And he is not alone in marrying practical effects with CGI, with Bryan Singer also using […]

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star wars jj abrams CG OR NOT TO CG: A Question of Balance Part 1

As the special effects in the various Star Wars movies were groundbreaking first for their practical effects and then for their CGI, it is an astute move indeed for J.J. Abrams to decide to balance the two for VII.  And he is not alone in marrying practical effects with CGI, with Bryan Singer also using both types of special effects in tandem for his X-Men movies.

The exploration of film manipulation through special effects in post-production was really capitalized first by the 25-year-old Orson Welles for his Citizen Kane.  Preceding Star Wars: A New Hope by 36 years, Citizen Kane has arguably more special effects, many of which were unseen by the viewer but nevertheless drove the narrative in a visually compelling way.  Welles’ use of deep focus, Dutch angles, as well as compositing different shots together before the days of green screen, was masterful and enhanced the story in ways only cinema could allow; in essence, with Citizen Kane Orson Welles created a truly filmic story, one not easily translatable to the theatre or another medium.

 CG OR NOT TO CG: A Question of Balance Part 1

Special effects play a great part in defining this distinction, and George Lucas’ genius was to marry technological ingenuity with an archetypal story: the hero’s journey of young Luke Skywalker.  It is a story passed down from ancient times to the present, a story that will continue to resonate so long as there is a need for heroes.  And with his prequel trilogy in the early 2000’s, Lucas was able to fully realize his vision of worlds far, far away, and what a grand vision it was; unfortunately, the story got lost along the way, the hero’s journey sidetracked by visual pyrotechnics, leaving some fans cold.

Now as J.J. Abrams takes the helm for the next batch of Star Wars films, it seems like he will re-focus on putting special effects in its proper place and bring the story back to top priority.  According to Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy, “…if we don’t have a great story and characters, the effects mean nothing.” And re CGI Ms. Kennedy states that “…[we’re] getting a feel for what even some of the early films did, combining real locations and special effects – that’s something we’re looking very seriously at.”

 CG OR NOT TO CG: A Question of Balance Part 1

A perfect example of combined practical and digital effects virtuosity is the Quicksilver bullet scene in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Practical stunts were filmed with a rotating wire rig to position actor Evan Peters on the wall, his wider bull body shots filmed on a treadmill.  Some of the frozen soups and things were found to be more practically built as fluid sculptures by the art department than by CGI, but much of everything else in this scene is CGI, down to the raindrops.  However owing to Evan Peters actually running along the wall, and Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” playing in the background, the whole scene is very 70’s, and somehow relatable, making Quicksilver steal the show away from the likes of Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Hugh Jackman no less.  And even if the scene does not exactly enhance the story, it certainly gives some comic relief to an otherwise serious situation, and sometimes it’s just nice to see a superhero enjoy his superpower once in a while.

And the exploration of CG or not continues, from the comic book heroes to the artsy long-haired crowd…

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Remember When Spider-Woman Became the 1st Marvel Lady To Have Her Own Show? #ThrowbackThursday http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/comics/remember-spider-woman-became-1st-marvel-lady-show-throwbackthursday/94938 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/comics/remember-spider-woman-became-1st-marvel-lady-show-throwbackthursday/94938#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 16:48:31 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94938 Oh you don’t? Well, back in 1979 (literally the same month that the live-action Wonder Woman series aired its last episode) episode #1 of Spider-Woman aired on ABC’s Saturday Morning Cartoon block. Complete with her own spinning costume transformation, an animated Jessica Drew (voiced by Joan Van Ark) took the helm as the leading superlady on TV. Her origin […]

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Oh you don’t? Well, back in 1979 (literally the same month that the live-action Wonder Woman series aired its last episode) episode #1 of Spider-Woman aired on ABC’s Saturday Morning Cartoon block.

spiderwoman Remember When Spider Woman Became the 1st Marvel Lady To Have Her Own Show? #ThrowbackThursday

Complete with her own spinning costume transformation, an animated Jessica Drew (voiced by Joan Van Ark) took the helm as the leading superlady on TV. Her origin story in the TV series differed from the comics in that she is bitten by a spider (Spider-Man style) instead of exposed to Uranium radiation, and the TV version was also endowed with a whole host of powers that the comics character did not have, including “spider telepathy“.

Check out the intro for the cartoon:

She’s got a little Spider-Man and Clark Kent/Nancy Drew action going, right?

Given Spider-Woman’s  rocky start in comics in the 70’s it seems surprising that producers DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and Marvel Comics Animation decided to give her the spotlight. Bbut in 1979 most of Marvel’s superwomen, including Wasp (The Avengers) and Invisible Woman (Fantastic Four), were squarely tied to superteams.  The Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel) made her comics debut in 1977 at the same time as Spider-Woman, but maybe the producers found Ms. Marvel too heavily tied to the feminist agenda…

 

There are whole episodes on Youtube!

 

 

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Heroes Go Haute Couture with Kevin Wada’s Super Fashion Art http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/comics/heroes-go-haute-couture-kevin-wadas-super-fashion-art/94933 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/comics/heroes-go-haute-couture-kevin-wadas-super-fashion-art/94933#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 13:20:05 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94933 Ever notice how superheroes all seem to also be expert costume designers? As if flying, punching, and zapping weren’t enough they’ve obviously got some skill with a needle and thread. Kevin Wada, cover artist for the fabulous new She Hulk series (if you haven’t picked it up yet DO)  imagines what some of these fashionable superheroes […]

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Ever notice how superheroes all seem to also be expert costume designers? As if flying, punching, and zapping weren’t enough they’ve obviously got some skill with a needle and thread. Kevin Wada, cover artist for the fabulous new She Hulk series (if you haven’t picked it up yet DO)  imagines what some of these fashionable superheroes might wear on the catwalk…

Check out DC ladies Vixen, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna, clearly dressed for a day out shopping with the girls on Sunset Boulevard.

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Vixen, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna – DC Fashion by Kevin Wada

Also pants. More pants!

Brian Wood’s X-Men go mod in this moxy print:

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 by Kevin Wada

This one completely convinces me that Psylocke needs to incorporate a hat into her costume. Also loving how Storm‘s mohawk is getting the Janelle Monae makeover here

Even the guys get in on it, with Gambit pulling off a fashionable punk/grunge look as smooth as his New Orleans accent:

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Gambit by Kevin Wada

And who says family portraits can’t be fashionable? Check out Magneto and fam staying stylish:

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House of M by Kevin Wada

Check out more of these heroic fashions on Kevin Wada’s Tumblr.

All art by Kevin Wada via. kevinwada.tumblr.com

 

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Playing with the River of Time http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/playing-river-time/94928 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/playing-river-time/94928#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 04:26:31 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94928 With Captain America and the latest X-Men and Star Trek revisits, the manipulation of time is a handy way to both drive as well as revive a known story. Cryogenics mixed with a little genetic alteration enables Captain Steve Rogers to remain a young superhero into his 90’s, keeping this first Avenger still kick-ass in […]

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5031808753 7236d22f93 Playing with the River of Time

With Captain America and the latest X-Men and Star Trek revisits, the manipulation of time is a handy way to both drive as well as revive a known story.

 Playing with the River of Time

Cryogenics mixed with a little genetic alteration enables Captain Steve Rogers to remain a young superhero into his 90’s, keeping this first Avenger still kick-ass in the 21st century while still retaining the righteous optimism of a previous era.  Rogers still believes in the America that fought in WWII, an America that had a clearer sense of what it stood for and why it stood for it, and the strength of his belief is almost enough for the audience to start believing too.  A big draw of Captain America is this nostalgia of innocence, when Americans still thought they were the good guys fighting against real evils.  Since then that rosy veil of a black and white world has been torn to shreds, as things are not what they seem, which brings us to the grittier world of X-Men.

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X-Men accounts for the countless genetic mutations that occur naturally every moment in life, mutations that may create some extraordinary results.  And with the twist of time travel in Days of Future Past, everyone who was lost is found again, to start a whole new series of movies, just as J.J. Abrams has done for the Star Trek franchise.  Time travel continues to fascinate audiences, as the possibility of correcting past events to create a better future cannot help but fire the imagination.  In trying to answer this question of what if, Professor X and Magneto finally let sleeping dogs lie and work together in their combined wisdom; the question is whether or not Wolverine can convince their younger selves to not hate each other long enough to save themselves as well as the rest of humanity from utter extinction.

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The new Star Trek franchise also begins with a time-altered reality and a tragic death.  As a Romulan ship appears out of a black hole, it opens fire on the USS Kelvin.  Out-gunned, first officer George Kirk decides to sacrifice himself to save the lives of his crew and family, including young James, who is born on the shuttlecraft escaping to safety.  Having Captain Kirk’s father killed before he is born changes the entire story all together; instead of following the honorable example of his father, Kirk grows up fatherless and is a loose cannon, stealing cars and picking fights at the local bar, having nowhere to focus his talents and enormous energy.

Young Spock, in parallel, is more human in the new story, unable to control his anger at times and even having Uhura as a girlfriend.  Needless to say, Spock and Kirk hate each other from the start, being polar opposites of each other, and it takes Kirk to meet Leonard Nimoy as the future Spock to be convinced to return to the Enterprise to reconcile and start afresh with his first officer.

The world of the new Star Trek is clean and bright, seeming to have achieved a peace lasting enough for humanity to reach the technology to explore outer space in earnest.  The new Star Trek returns to the optimism and honor of Captain America, while the new X-Men tries to use time to clean up some of the messes they have made along the way.

But how does all of this creative time manipulation hold up to river of time theory?  According to the river of time, if one goes back in time as Wolverine did, a parallel quantum reality would open, so while Wolverine might have affected the history to that reality, his own reality would remain unchanged, so the annihilation of mutants and humans would be inevitable.  In other words, no matter how many times past events may be changed, a person’s destiny remains the same.  The idea that time is non-linear but existing together at all times also throws a wrench in changing what already has been, but in the constant human striving towards a better future, the question of time will hopefully persist towards an inevitable answer, in film as well as in life.

 Playing with the River of Time

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How To Cope After Last Night’s *Crushing* Game of Thrones episode: http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/cope-last-nights-crushing-game-thrones-episode/94917 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/cope-last-nights-crushing-game-thrones-episode/94917#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 13:44:59 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94917 Step 1:  Avoid all crushable foods. It will only bring you sadness and indigestion.   Step 2:  Give anyone who wants to talk about it a big ol’ pile of nope. You’re in recovery, dammmit.   Step 3:  Feel free to reach out to fellow traumatized humans…   Step 4: And Reminisce about all the (morbidly) […]

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Step 1:  Avoid all crushable foods. It will only bring you sadness and indigestion.

giphy How To Cope After Last Night’s *Crushing* Game of Thrones episode:

 

Step 2:  Give anyone who wants to talk about it a big ol’ pile of nope.

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You’re in recovery, dammmit.

 

Step 3:  Feel free to reach out to fellow traumatized humans…

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Step 4: And Reminisce about all the (morbidly) happy moments and triumphs this cruelly delightful television show has given you:

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PORT How To Cope After Last Night’s *Crushing* Game of Thrones episode:

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 How To Cope After Last Night’s *Crushing* Game of Thrones episode:

 

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Step 5. If all that fails, go watch a cat video or snuggle with a puppy

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or stare at a gif of Pedro Pascal looking cuddly for an hour (he’s not really dead! It was all a cruel joke!) :

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Step 6: Finally, stop being such a baby. This is Game of Thrones, fool.

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Wear a helmet…

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(ba dum…)

 

You know how this ish goes. Now, get it together.

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And prep better for next Sunday….

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“Everybody Wants You” — Days of Future Past aka All The Men Who Want Mystique http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/everybody-wants-days-future-past-aka-men-want-mystique/94904 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/everybody-wants-days-future-past-aka-men-want-mystique/94904#comments Sat, 31 May 2014 21:30:36 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94904   First things first, Days of Future Past rocked. Aside from Quicksilver’s briefly stealing the show with his epic, quirky save-the-day with sass scene, it was all about Mystique. It’s the closest the X-men franchise has gotten to having a leading lady (who they don’t cast as a grade-A damsel (*cough* Rogue *cough*) or a possessed soulless […]

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First things first, Days of Future Past rocked. Aside from Quicksilver’s briefly stealing the show with his epic, quirky save-the-day with sass scene, it was all about Mystique. It’s the closest the X-men franchise has gotten to having a leading lady (who they don’t cast as a grade-A damsel (*cough* Rogue *cough*) or a possessed soulless psychopath (a la Phoenix-controlled Jean Grey)).

 

Of course, the movie still doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, and let’s just go ahead and point out that despite all the women kicking butt (and dying brutally) in the smaller dystopic frame story, the main story, that is the Mystique-focused storyline, was completely guided by men… all the men who want to get their hands on Mystique for one reason or another:

 

Evil baddy Trask literally just wants her for her body, so he can make super-scary adaptable mutant-killing machines. And who can blame him once you see the naked gymnastics she can pull off:

 

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He was like daaayyumm!

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Xavier wants to get the sweet little-sister-like version of her back:

giphy “Everybody Wants You”    Days of Future Past aka All The Men Who Want Mystique

 

Magneto, eternally conflicted, seems to want both to make-out with her, kill her, and turn her into his version of Mystique – a raging human-killing mutant avenger.

giphy “Everybody Wants You”    Days of Future Past aka All The Men Who Want Mystique

 

Beast pretty much just wants to make out with her:

giphy “Everybody Wants You”    Days of Future Past aka All The Men Who Want Mystique

 

And even though Wolverine gets this whole hunting party started, he kinda takes a backseat as a hired hand after he gets Xavier and Magneto on her trail.

There isn’t really any resolution to Mystique’s whole personal saga of becoming. She doesn’t become who any of them want her to be and just sort of limps off in her own direction, but since this movie is supposed to be a part of the continuity of the other films we can only suppose that Magneto’s dashing good looks end up winning her over…

giphy “Everybody Wants You”    Days of Future Past aka All The Men Who Want Mystique

Gotta say, awesome as it was to see Mystique leading the screentime in the film and kicking a helluva lot of ass, comics Mystique is definitely better off. I mean, first of all, she gets to wear clothes AND be blue all at the same time!

giphy “Everybody Wants You”    Days of Future Past aka All The Men Who Want Mystique

 

No, but seriously, where are her clothes?!

She has NEVER been stark naked in the comics, she’s a mutant not a nudist. I’m guessing the reason for the decision in the films begins with a “Rebecca” and ends with a “Romijn-Stamos.”

Nevertheless, despite Mystique’s being a warzone over which a bunch of dudes fight, the Mystique-focused story-line here coming not long after a Black-Widow-heavy Captain America film bodes well for the future of lady heroes in the booming superhero film genre.

 

This is how Days of Future past should’ve ended…

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Top 5 1980s Cartoons That Should Be Live Action Movies http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/top-5-1980s-cartoons-live-action-movies/94829 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/top-5-1980s-cartoons-live-action-movies/94829#comments Fri, 30 May 2014 17:00:45 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94829 Hollywood has gotten quite nostalgic lately. They haven’t quite run out of ideas, they’re just playing it safe by making needless movies that they hope everyone will rush to go see.  There’s a lot of remake this, reboot that, give this a sequel and give that a prequel. H’wood is hoping that we’ll rush to […]

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Hollywood has gotten quite nostalgic lately. They haven’t quite run out of ideas, they’re just playing it safe by making needless movies that they hope everyone will rush to go see.  There’s a lot of remake this, reboot that, give this a sequel and give that a prequel. H’wood is hoping that we’ll rush to see 2015’s Point Break (x) remake next year and maybe add in Jurassic World (x) the Jurassic Park reboot. I say it’s too soon for those two movies since they were released in the 1990s. If it’s getting made into a movie for nostalgic purposes, it should come from everyone’s favorite new wave-fishnet-wearing-neon-clothed decade – the 80s. I have taken it upon myself to sift through the myriad 1980s titles and make top 5 lists across the genres. This week I bring you my top 5 1980’s cartoons that deserve to be live-action movies. Because as we all know if it worked for Transformers and G.I. Joe then why not more deserving titles.  (The Smurfs are not on this list.) This category is sometimes confused with the “Cartoons Based on a Line of Toys” and “What We Think The Future Will Be Like As Based on 8-Bit Visual Graphics and Technology.”  So let’s get started…

Robotech Macross (1985)

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Robotech Macross  or just plain ol’ Robotech as some of us called it back in the day. I have to admit that this cartoon was my second and last foray into anime. There were aliens, fighter alien jets, romance, a united global coalition to fight the aliens and animated mouths that moved way too fast to not be alien. This cartoon was ahead of its time and so deserving of some live action love. The special effects that we can achieve now on the big screen would do Robotech justice. Rumor has it that Tobey Maguire and Warner Brothers are trying to make this happen and they really should get on it. (x)

Thundarr the Barbarian (1980)

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This little gem fits right in with everyone’s favorite science-fiction and fantasy subgenre – DYSTOPIAN. A horrible asteroid destroyed the moon and caused all kinds of upheaval on Earth.  Fast forward by 2,000 years and we’re hanging with Thundarr a barbarian. Since Thundarr used his words the only thing he had in common with Conan was a sword. Although he walked around damn near naked it was weird because he was a less tan He-Man. We follow him, magic artist Ariel and Chewbacca’s poorer cousin Ookla as they have adventures across a new Earth.  (x)

ThunderCats (1985)

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This cartoon had human-like cats living on Third Earth and fighting evil Mumm-Ra. Once again human-like cats. With names like Panthro, Cheetara and Lion-O. Lion-O was less He-Man and more cat with a sword.  While there was an animation revival back in 2011, the origin story deserves some live action on the big screen. (x)

Goldie Gold and Action Jack (1981)

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The name of this cartoon sounds more like a stripping duo, but I promise you it wasn’t. (Though if they were I might watch.) Goldie Gold was a spin-off of Richie Rich. She was his cousin and just as rich, if not richer than him. She traveled the world with her sidekick/reporter Action Jack Travis solving crimes, having adventures on Goldie’s black card before Lara Croft came into the picture. (x)

Galaxy High (1985)

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Doyle was a high school star, everybody thought he’d go real far and he just wasn’t interested in his books… and Aimee was the smartest girl in school, not very popular, not… forget it. Aimee and Doyle were the epitome of 1980s nerd and jock stereotypes from Anytown, USA.  As part of an exchange program they’re both chosen to represent Earth at Galaxy High located Somewhere In Space, This Universe. When they get to Galaxy High reverse their roles: Aimee is considered cool, Doyle according to pink teen alien Beef – stinks.  I’ve would paid to see teen kids going to school in space. (Hard to believe that this was the brainchild of Chris Columbus [Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone] and he went on to direct high grossing movies after this.)   (x)

Honorable mentions go to: Lazer Tag Academy (xVoltron: Defender of the Universe  (x) Not from the 80s but the 90s and still deserving to be live-action movies:  the Pirates of Darkwater (x) and of course Gargoyles (x) It goes without saying that my top 5 will most definitely not coincide with your top 5. What cartoons from the 80s would you like to see get live action screen love?

Next week I’ll bring you: When the Kids Were Smarter Than the Adults

 

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5 Dude Comics Creators Who Don’t Totally Suck At Writing Women http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/comics/5-dude-creators-dont-totally-suck-writing-women-in-comics/94647 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/comics/5-dude-creators-dont-totally-suck-writing-women-in-comics/94647#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 20:48:20 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94647 We’ve all heard it a million times: “write what you know”.  And, especially if you’re a sci-fi/comics fan, we’ve all heard the reasoned rebukes of such stricture. How can you write a story about a time-travelling dog scholar sent from the future to study the extinction of humankind if you only write what you know? […]

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We’ve all heard it a million times: “write what you know”.  And, especially if you’re a sci-fi/comics fan, we’ve all heard the reasoned rebukes of such stricture. How can you write a story about a time-travelling dog scholar sent from the future to study the extinction of humankind if you only write what you know? But at a time when cup-size is the most crucial element of female video game characters’ personalities, and when Mark Millar is struggling to create female comics victims– er um–  characters without having them raped, one might start to feel like, ya, maybe folk should just stick to what they know…

But then out of the barrage of ill-advised female armor and trope-strangled lady leads, there’s come a host of non-vagina-having creators who’ve actually written women as human beings with (*gasp*) brains and motives and everything! We’ve got some amazing women creators holding it down for the girl geeks, like Kelly Sue Deconnick and the ever-adored Gail Simone, but let’s take a second to recognize some of the dudes writing dope females in a field where the guys often get it so very wrong. If I didn’t completely suck at naming things (I’d totally call it the Woah-Man! award), I’d venture that we should make the recognition official so the other creatures of male persuasion might get an idea of how it’s done.

Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell (for: Glory)

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Gotta give a shout out to both writer and artist on this one, because Campbell’s beastly depiction of the formerly bikini-fied Gloriana was a serious stroke of muscled genius. Together Keatinge and Campbell took Glory from a swim suit model showing off the latest in golden underwear armor and sparkly swords to a beast of a half-demon, half-Amazon that literally punches heads off.  But not just that, they also made her a sexual creature in all her gigantor muscles glory.  Glory didn’t just slaughter whole armies in her sleep, she also loved and was loved, and hurt and was hurt, and occasionally she punched her arm off fighting her sister, and then shared a lovely medical-room trash talk with ‘lil sis.

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Thanks for giving us a woman who can literally, physically tear a person apart, outdo Schwarzenegger on the show floor, and also, you know, have emotions.

 

Brian K. Vaughan (for: Y: The Last Man, Saga)

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Agent 355. I feel like that should be enough said, but Vaughn’s latest venture with leading lady Alana in Saga is also pretty glorious, so let’s praise that too.  First of all, Saga rocks, literally flying off the shelf every Wednesday. Second of all, the very first page of the entire series is of our leading lady giving birth sweaty and pissed off and screaming at her swooning husband “Am I shitting?”  Has there been a truer depiction of birth in comics ever? I’m not even gonna go on. You win, Brian K. Vaughan, just with that one splash page. But he hasn’t stopped there, Vaughan & Staples’ Saga has given us a whole cadre of badass ladies to root for: a creepy-killer assassin lady in The StalkMarko‘s mean-muggin’ mama Klara, punk ghost babysitter Izabel, and even a relatively badass “crazy” ex-girlfriend in Gwendolyn. Stay dope, Brian.

 

 Gilbert Hernandez (for: Fatima: The Blood Spinners, Love & Rockets, Luba)

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A lot of the conversation around women in comics has quite a bit to do with the size of their ta-ta’s, and rightfully so. It’s no secret that busty heroes clad in spandex with boob-windows have been the female superhero norm with the understanding that female superheroes only existed to make male comics fans all drooly.  But that doesn’t mean that busty is bad; in fact, boobs are awesome. Most of us womenfolk quite like ours when they’re not being turned into shiny lures for dudes. Hernandez has seen to it to de-stigmatize the busty. Frankly, it’s unclear if he did that intentionally or anything, but his busty badass heroes have managed to stay lightyears away from the other tropes and traumas of the comic book babe, instead having fleshed out storylines and self-titled series.

Luba in Love in Rockets and her own title Luba is a nice reminder to fangirls and boys alike that some women actually do have double-D’s and they get to have whole lives and histories. Hernandez even depicts some of the downfalls of being busty in Luba. And Fatima in Fatima: The Blood Spinners puts a lady lead at the forefront of a particularly gross zombie apocalypse, where she does some serious ass-kicking while being sexy but not sex-ist (part of the premise is that all of the recruits in the super-secret spy org are sex-if-fied and scantily clad).  So Hernandez makes it on this list for reminding us that the sexy isn’t always sexist and busty isn’t always bad.

 

Matt Kindt (for: Mind MGMT and Harley Quinn)

 5 Dude Comics Creators Who Dont Totally Suck At Writing Women

Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT is a head-trippy tour de force, full of out-of-this-world concepts and characters weaved into a riveting, fast-paced narrative. Yes, all of those words. But despite the fact that you can hardly catch your breath much less catch every single piece of the puzzle (is it even a puzzle anymore?! I don’t know!!), he takes his time with his characters. Leading lady Meru is a depressive, repeat amnesiac, with guts of steel and a knack for surviving. She is the center of this whirlwind story, and in some ways the quiet eye of the storm. Kindt lets her develop slowly, lets whole parts of her story remain unknown, yet you get a solid picture of who she is and how she feels in the insane tornado that’s shaped around her. She, along with the many other women in the story, is a total badass, without being a stone-faced action hero.

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She’s vulnerable too, and frankly, the story has nothing to do with her being a woman, which is a sigh of relief. It manages to be a fantastically feminist comic without having to resort to hyper-masculinization just to contrast to the usual female heroic body trope (a la Glory), or to the beat-you-over-the-head feminist agenda (a la Y: The Last Man), or even the creative reclamation of the busty female body (a la Luba)… and it’s glorious. Meru is a hero. Period. Thanks, Matt. Plus, the many other women of Mind MGMT breakdown the stereotypes (or in one case, literally machine-gun them down) that limit female characters in many comics. As a bonus point, Matt Kindt delivered a deliciously human story for the new sexy-goth version of Harley Quinn in DC’s Villains promo.

Brian Michael Bendis (for: Jessica Jones, Jessica Drew, Deena Pilgrim, Jinx, Scarlet)

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Bendis has been at it for awhile, writing complex female characters with feeling, clothes, and humor since at least 1997 when he wrote the quirky ass-kicking bounty hunter Jinx. But his real break-out leading ladies had to be Jessica Jones in Alias and Deena Pilgrim in Powers. Fragile yet stony, Jones quickly became a fan favorite as she tried to piece her life together after some seriously psycho-trauma at the hands of the Purple Man. Her grungy-baggy style and her disgruntled sarcasm made her one of my favs, but it had to be Bendis’ great handling of Jones’ personal trauma and her recovery from it that makes him a real Woah-man. Then, of course, there’s Deena Pilgrim. But what can be said about her, except Awesome. On top of that epic story, Bendis gave Spider-woman and Ms. Marvel their due by giving them actual personalities during his stint on New Avengers, and now Kelly Sue Deconnick has been able to take those characters to new heights in Captain Marvel.

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Crystal (@geekoutsider) is a freelance writer and editor and a full-time geek. You can see more of her writing at geekoutsider.com

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Sympathetic Villains: Magneto vs. Makishima http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/sympathetic-villains-magneto-vs-makishima/94812 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/sympathetic-villains-magneto-vs-makishima/94812#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 23:08:49 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94812 As with young Magneto in the new X-Men franchise and Makishima in Psycho-Pass, sympathetic villains make the most intriguing of characters, since the method behind the madness is usually understandable and definitely relatable. In Makishima’s case, he wishes to prove the fallibility of the Sibyl System through the crimes he orchestrates, slapping people awake to […]

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Magneto 01 Sympathetic Villains: Magneto vs. Makishima XdgBa Sympathetic Villains: Magneto vs. Makishima

As with young Magneto in the new X-Men franchise and Makishima in Psycho-Pass, sympathetic villains make the most intriguing of characters, since the method behind the madness is usually understandable and definitely relatable. In Makishima’s case, he wishes to prove the fallibility of the Sibyl System through the crimes he orchestrates, slapping people awake to the reality of their fettered existence so they may collectively destroy Sibyl and free themselves.  As for Magneto, the horrors he experienced in WWII under the Nazis galvanized his mistrust and hatred of humanity which, though mitigated by his friendship to Charles Xavier, continue to feed his disdain and sense of superiority when his mutant powers are at their height.

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Like Magneto, Makishima is an anomaly whose psycho-pass reading contradicts the criminal acts he commits; when he slits the throat of Inspector Tsunemori’s best friend right in front of her, his psycho-pass number decreases to zero, rendering the Dominator useless on him.  Because of their inborn gifts, both Makishima and Magneto feel they are above the law and unbound by social norms; their God-complex makes them believe they have the right to pass judgment on the lesser human population and eliminate lives as needed to establish order once again. While Makishima’s stance against the Sibyl System is completely understandable, the choices he makes to bring it down are not.  Though his intention is to free humanity from the eye of Big Brother, the ease in which Makishima kills clearly indicates how little he values human life.  What he does is not for the greater good but rather to feed his already massive God-complex; destroying Sibyl may be his whim for today, but who is to say where his whimsy will take him tomorrow?

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As for Magneto, his anger fuels both his power and his wish to turn the tables on humans, to do unto them as they have done unto him.  With a luxurious life as Charles aka Professor X has had, his utopian vision of mutants working in harmony with humans is only understandable and understandably in sharp contrast with Magneto’s, yet the friendship the two forge is a deep one, one that haunts them both when their differing ideologies break it apart.  Unlike Makishima, who appears to be a friendless loner, Magneto finds a great friend in Charles and through this friendship remembers his own humanity: the Erik who loved his mother, who came before all the anger and hatred that made him into Magneto.

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Yet his anger is completely justified, his mother murdered in front of his very eyes; it is this justified anger that continues to sustain the on-going strife in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.  But here lies the opportunity to forge a new path, to not choose what others have justifiably chosen generation upon generation before, to instead look at the greater picture and choose not to fight, to choose Charles’ way of forgiving the past and begin to create a better tomorrow.  Magneto has the capacity to do so; as for Makishima, God only knows.

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PUTTING THE PSYCHO IN PSYCHO-PASS http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/putting-psycho-psycho-pass/94786 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/putting-psycho-psycho-pass/94786#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 02:18:42 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94786   So Big Brother’s back with a vengeance in Gen Urobuchi’s anime Psycho-Pass.  Directed by famed animator Naoyoshi Shiotani who was also director for Blood C: The Last Dark, Psycho-Pass is set in an urban dystopia in the year 2113, where every citizen possesses the eponymous pass as a psychological ID card that measures a […]

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So Big Brother’s back with a vengeance in Gen Urobuchi’s anime Psycho-Pass.  Directed by famed animator Naoyoshi Shiotani who was also director for Blood C: The Last Dark, Psycho-Pass is set in an urban dystopia in the year 2113, where every citizen possesses the eponymous pass as a psychological ID card that measures a person’s crime co-efficient: the potential and probability that person will commit a crime.  Big Brother comes in the guise of a computer network called the Sibyl System, ironically named since Sibyl in ancient Greek legend had the power of prophecy; Sybil was also the subject of a famed book and movie about a young woman who suffered under a dissociative identity (multiple personality) disorder. The reason why Sibyl was initially put in place seems pretty simple: since most everything is automated to point where the external stresses of daily life were reduced to a minimum, people then turned to computers to likewise reduce their internal psychological stresses.  More powerful than drugs, such an artificial means to direct one’s mental state can only cause trouble.  Dependent as they now are to Sibyl, people have become psychologically very fragile, unable to cope with even the slightest stress, going off the deep end at the turn of a dime; so the system whose original purpose may have been to foster public tranquility has in fact created more social deviants in an increasingly chaotic world.  The crimes increase in brutality with each episode, dealing from rape and strangulation to dismemberment and even suggested necrophilia.

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Even the police cannot escape their own psycho-pass hue, with a clear pass indicating a lucid psychological state, a cloudy one indicating trouble.  Such was the case with Shinya Kogami, a former police inspector who got demoted after his partner was brutally murdered 3 years ago, his current status of “latent criminal” relegating him to the role of Enforcer: Enforcers are used by police to track criminal activity since they supposedly understand the criminal mind better, but are accompanied at all times by an inspector, who can use the Sibyl-controlled Dominator weapon on them if they got out of hand.  Connected to Sibyl, the Dominator doles out punishment equal to the criminal co-efficient of the perpetrator. As in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, the psycho-pass is supposed to yield information for authorities to anticipate a crime before it happens, except that here computer algorithms have replaced psychic intuition as the method of criminal data gathering.  As with any system, there will always be those who find a way to circumvent it, and so it is here with Shogo Makishima, the mastermind behind a slew of gruesome murders.  He is a criminal consultant like Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty, providing the tools and opportunity for people with latent evil intent to realize their full criminal potential.

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In this not-too-distant-future dystopia, the world of Psycho-Pass is too eerily possible to be dismissed as just another cyberpunk anime series.  It addresses some of the serious side effects people too dependent on cyberspace can incur, and the deviance from moral and spiritual responsibility that could happen when people give away their free will to any one system, automated or not.  To build a person’s character and mental toughness, nothing is better than “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as Hamlet so aptly put it, so to build a machine to deal with them for you defeats the purpose of being human, buffering every experience with its numbers and hues and erasing the pulse of life into one dead straight line.  In this wild labyrinth of a game called life, let us find our own way towards utopia.

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The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 5 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/problem-super-hero-movies-part-5/94772 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/problem-super-hero-movies-part-5/94772#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 18:18:29 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94772   We finish this 5-part commentary with another alien-god superhero: Thor Out of the Norse legends comes Thor, prince of Asgard, another alien-god first seen banished to Earth by his father Odin, who deems him too arrogant and unworthy of both his hammer and the throne of Asgard. Like Superman, Thor falls in love with […]

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Screen Shot 2013 10 27 at 11.13.02 PM The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 5

We finish this 5-part commentary with another alien-god superhero:

Thor

Out of the Norse legends comes Thor, prince of Asgard, another alien-god first seen banished to Earth by his father Odin, who deems him too arrogant and unworthy of both his hammer and the throne of Asgard.

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Like Superman, Thor falls in love with a human and brings with him his alien antagonists, who like Zod, wreak havoc on Earth and threaten human existence, but unlike the man of steel, Thor learns compassion and humility during his banishment, finally earning back his hammer and royal worth.  So Thor has to save the human world as well as his own from attack, which is more than even the man of steel had to contend with.  So now saving one world’s not enough . . .

 The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 5But what is refreshing about Thor is that he never apologizes for his difference, for his foreignness, for his awesomeness, and he never goes under the guise of anyone else but himself.  Thor is proud to be the son of Odin, heir to the throne of Asgard, as he should be.  Then again, he has a planet and a throne to go back to, while Superman, or rather Cal-El, does not.

However, falling in love with Jane Foster throws Thor for a loop, torn between wanting to stay with her on Earth and gaining his rightful place in Asgard, taking long-distance relationships to a whole other level.  Good thing Earth is constantly under alien attack so Thor can come back and see Jane in between battles to defend Earth!

Who steals the show in both Thor movies is his half-brother Loki, played by the wonderful Tom Hiddleston, who waffles between good and evil to keep everyone on their toes.  Adopted as an infant from the enemy planet Jötunheim, Loki is jealous of Thor and vies for the throne of Asgard, resorting to devious means to get what he wants while not completely devoid of a conscience.  He is a complicated and sympathetic character, given the role of villain by fate, and vacillates between yielding to his desires and yielding to his higher self.  In The Dark World, after Loki nearly risks his own life to help save Jane from the Dark Elves, he then proceeds to claim the throne of Asgard, the whereabouts of Odin as of yet unknown.

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The themes of Thor come from the old honor codes and power struggles of royal succession . . .  and the saving of multiple worlds.  In conclusion, two things crop up time and again to give the how and why of superhero-dom: alien or genetic anomaly whether natural or manipulated and severe threats to human existence.  Solutions come out of the necessity for them and right now superheroes seem to be the safe bet for box office success.  As the opening weekend to both Captain America and Spiderman sequels attest to, investors are not wrong to put their money in these franchises; however, let it also be said that while superhero movies and comic books may be good entertainment, the fate of the earth still lies with us humans, an Earthly race whose collective power surpasses that of any superhero, so let’s re-open the cinematic playing field for other stories to grow and flourish.

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The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 4 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/problem-super-hero-movies-part-4/94758 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/problem-super-hero-movies-part-4/94758#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 17:39:44 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94758 With the sequel to Amazing Spiderman just out and X-Men coming soon, superhero mutants are abounding in the struggle for power over Earth: X-Men The premise of X-Men addresses the issue of GMOs (Wolverine) but mainly deals with naturally-occurring mutations and explores the possible results and ramifications of such human mutants.  Bryan Singer re-opened the […]

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With the sequel to Amazing Spiderman just out and X-Men coming soon, superhero mutants are abounding in the struggle for power over Earth:

X-Men

The premise of X-Men addresses the issue of GMOs (Wolverine) but mainly deals with naturally-occurring mutations and explores the possible results and ramifications of such human mutants.  Bryan Singer re-opened the franchise with X-Men: First Class, which gave the backstory of Xavier and Magneto and how the rift between the two friends came about.  It is important to note that Magneto is an atypical antagonist whose vengeful motives are quite valid considering his experiences with the Nazis, forced to unleash his gift through the uncontrollable rage of seeing his mother shot dead in front of him.  Charles Xavier, on the other hand, grew up in opulent style, a young prince with an equally fantastic gift.  It is only fitting that one wants to do unto humans as much as they have done unto him and the other wishes to work with humans in harmony.

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The issue of nature over nurture begs the question: if circumstances were reversed, would Magneto and Xavier still have made the same choices?  It is difficult to say, but the theme of difference versus aberration or abomination is important enough to be worth re-iterating.  As Dash in Pixar’s The Incredibles asked his super mom, “Why can’t I do the best that I can do?”  Elastigirl’s sad response to her son was, “Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we just gotta be like everybody else.”  Perhaps a better answer will come in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Being so far ahead of everybody else in some way or another is hard enough, but how about being superior in every way?

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Superman

Venturing from GMOs into alien territory, Superman still remains for many the archetypal superhero, a god-like figure who has not a dark bone in his body.  He is nearly indestructible, has no character flaws or weaknesses, and always seems to make the right choices, helping and saving people.  Yet he too chooses to downplay his awesomeness by taking on the alter-ego Clark Kent, a meek and clumsy journalist hopelessly in love with the spunky Lois Lane.

In the latest Man of Steel, the issue of difference is addressed early, when Clark is still a boy.  His need to help others butts up against his father’s caution of showing any public displays of his power.  Out of a wish to protect his son from probing scientists and other dangers, Jonathan Kent set out to give Clark an anonymously normal upbringing, an anonymity he knew would not last forever.

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While this is an understandable response, Dash’s question inevitably pops up again.  While anonymity and a loving stable home life provide a good foundation for anybody, where does fitting in end and doing the best one can do begin?  For a harmonious society, it is necessary to be a team player, but an individual’s talents should not have to be squelched either.  In the case of Superman, his need to fit in is dual-fold, as he is a Kryptonian in a human world, an alien with extra-human powers who wants to be accepted by his adopted planet, a planet he does not mind saving again and again.

But it is not until he falls in love with Lois Lane that Clark finally feels he belongs; it is also love that puts our next and final superhero into a slight quandary.  Until next time . . .

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The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 3 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/problem-super-hero-movies-part-3/94746 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/problem-super-hero-movies-part-3/94746#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 17:02:04 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94746 Continuing with the GMO premise, let’s head to NYC and Peter Parker: The Amazing Spiderman With Andrew Garfield starring in a re-vamped franchise of the urban web-slinger, Marc Webb’s take on  Spiderman returns to night, with much of the action happening after dark.  The backstory of how Peter gets the GMO spider bite is different […]

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 The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 3

Continuing with the GMO premise, let’s head to NYC and Peter Parker:

The Amazing Spiderman

With Andrew Garfield starring in a re-vamped franchise of the urban web-slinger, Marc Webb’s take on  Spiderman returns to night, with much of the action happening after dark.  The backstory of how Peter gets the GMO spider bite is different from Sam Raimi’s version, with Peter’s father being in part responsible, as he was a scientist who experimented with genetic engineering.  Richard Parker was a man with secrets, secrets that may have precipitated the untimely deaths of both him and his wife, leaving Peter in the care of his Aunt May and Uncle Ben.

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In search of answers, Peter stumbles upon a photo of his father and Dr. Curt Connors, his colleague at Oscorp, a pharmaceutical company, where Dr. Connors still works.  Pretending to be an intern, Peter makes his way into Oscorp to talk with Dr. Connors, but curiosity bites first, and Peter finds himself in a secure lab filled with genetically modified spiders that spin extremely strong webs.  Of course the ensuing spider bite happens and Peter begins his transformation into superhero-dom.

 The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 3

Upon finding out that Peter is Richard’s son, Connors explains that he has continued the work he and Richard began on cross-species genetics with limb regeneration as the objective, Connors motivated primarily by his lack of a right arm.  While Peter processes this information as well as his new-found Spidey powers, Connors feels the pressure of needing to create a regenerative serum fast enough to save Oscorp CEO Norman Osborn’s life, but as of yet has only tested his serum on animals.

Lizard Man1 The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 3

Here is where biological warfare goes haywire and the really ridiculous begins to happen.  After Uncle Ben is accidentally killed, Peter is out for vengeance and becomes a masked vigilante fighting crime in his hunt for the murderer.  The otherwise mild-mannered Dr. Connors is fired by his cautious unwillingness to test his serum on humans and in desperation injects himself and becomes Lizard Man.  It is unclear what makes Connors so desperate; did he simply break under the stress, because while being fired from a job is unpleasant and stressful, becoming half lizard is not exactly on people’s list of things to do to cope.   At any rate, Connors goes reptilian and takes out all his anger and frustration on the people of NYC, making it his mission to transform everyone into creatures like him by vaporizing his serum on the entire city.  So Spiderman confronts Lizard Man in the Manhattan sewers, a showdown between GMOs with a vaporous biological weapon thrown in.

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While this somewhat premature reboot of The Amazing Spiderman franchise was entertaining, with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone having great chemistry and the general feel of the world being believable, the gap between Dr. Connors’ human and lizard selves was a stretch both externally and internally.  There was nothing really sinister or dark about Connors pre-lizard that would have foreshadowed his sudden transformation into a crazed evil GMO, whereas with Willem Dafoe in the previous series, his malevolent ways clearly translated into the Green Goblin.  However, it could be argued that this addresses the very crux of the issue with GMOs: you don’t yet know exactly what you’re going to get.  The butterfly effects of changing even one gene in an organism may snowball into something unpredictable and monstrous.

This overload of genetic and biological weaponry is both tiresome and disturbing at the same time, but the premise continues its journey through superhero movies with X-Men nicely pairing the GMO idea with the prospect of naturally born mutants fighting for the fate of the Earth.

Until the next week . . .

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The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 2 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/problem-super-hero-movies-part-2/94736 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/problem-super-hero-movies-part-2/94736#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 18:13:59 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94736 Let’s continue our exploration of the unvariedness superhero premises: Iron Man The Iron Man trilogy started off strong, with Tony Stark’s rude awakening into reality transforming him as well as the world around him irrevocably.  Tony is the anti-Bruce Wayne, Iron Man the anti-Batman.  Both heroes are billionaires who lost their parents at a young […]

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Let’s continue our exploration of the unvariedness superhero premises:

Iron Man

The Iron Man trilogy started off strong, with Tony Stark’s rude awakening into reality transforming him as well as the world around him irrevocably.  Tony is the anti-Bruce Wayne, Iron Man the anti-Batman.  Both heroes are billionaires who lost their parents at a young age and whose powers come from their human intelligence and ingenuity rather than from supernatural sources.  But whereas Batman is a nocturnal vigilante who closely guards his anonymity, Tony Stark directly discloses at a press conference no less that he is Iron Man.  Iron Man is out there in broad daylight instead of slinking in the shadows, and Tony enjoys flaunting his genius while achieving world peace.

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When Tony discovers his weapons are being used for nefarious causes, he realizes how simplistic his view was of a very messy world and makes a 180 of his life goals, finding a higher purpose for his talents in helping the greater good.  In building Iron Man, Tony essentially becomes a weapon for peace, and continues the legacy his father began.

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As the trilogy continues, the story touches on cold-war tensions with a very scary Mickey Rourke as Tony’s Russian counterpart, Ivan Vanko, and the international race to create comparable iron men, but the real test of Tony’s mettle comes in The Avengers, when amongst all the great heroes he is the one to offer his life to save Earth from alien takeover.

From the trauma of this experience, Tony suffers from insomnia and PTSD, and here in the finale is again where the story loses focus.  The antagonist Aldrich Killian is certainly plausible as someone whom Tony had passed over in his pre-hero days and now wants to get back at him, and the conflict of saving Pepper from Killian’s clutches is personal enough; however the surrounding story of the terrorist attacks masterminded by the fake Mandarin, etc, was as scattered as Tony with his PTSD.  While the premise of the 3rd film was unfocused, it is still an interesting twist for Killian to choose real humans as his weapon of choice; as Tony built his Iron Man to become a weapon for peace, Killian uses biological manipulation to create his human bombs, which leads into another premise often seen in super hero movies: genetic transmutation.

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Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, The Amazing Spiderman, not to mention X-Men, takes this premise to put the super in these superheroes, but oftentimes it also applies to the villains as well.  Genetic mutation is an easy way to explain the extraordinary powers of heroes and villains alike, as well as a quick and effective method for villains to annihilate large numbers of the population.  In addition, water-borne and air-borne biological warfare could efficiently wipe out an entire region, which was how Ra’s Al Ghul planned to wipe out Gotham in Batman Begins and how Dr. Curt Connors in the latest Spiderman wanted to transmute all New Yorkers into lizard men like him.

GMOs and biological warfare by their sheer effectiveness leave an eerie aftertaste when utilized so often in film, desensitizing their true sinister nature by overuse.  As proven by the serious side effects of steroids in athletes, the magic bullet to increased physical strength and speed does not exist, but in superhero land, all it takes is a pill or a suspicious-looking green serum for an ordinary person to become extraordinary.  We must constantly remind ourselves that instant gratification is not the answer for everything, and certainly not for anything of true worth.

Something to chew on until the next installment…

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The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 1 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/problem-super-hero-movies-part-1/94726 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/problem-super-hero-movies-part-1/94726#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:57:10 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94726 While Captain America: The Winter Soldier ups the ante on super hero sequels, a problem has arisen that will persist until movie audiences tire of super heroes all together: the lack of variety in story premise. With the arc of the hero’s journey, what adversities befall the hero should be awful enough to challenge and […]

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top 5 superhero movies that never happened 06 The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 1

While Captain America: The Winter Soldier ups the ante on super hero sequels, a problem has arisen that will persist until movie audiences tire of super heroes all together: the lack of variety in story premise.

With the arc of the hero’s journey, what adversities befall the hero should be awful enough to challenge and allow for personal growth until he/she may overcome them.  In the case of super heroes, saving the world or universe from destruction seems to be one of the only conflicts commensurate to their greatness; so thus the problem.  With super heroes in total abundance in Hollywood these days, how can their stories remain fresh and original?

Let’s take a look at the successful and less successful stories of our favorite super-hero franchises:

The Dark Knight Rises Movie 2012 Wallpaper 1920x1080 The Problem with Super Hero Movies: Part 1

Batman

Christopher Nolan’s trilogy was a gritty take on the dark knight, giving plausibility to a masked vigilante flying over urban jungles as a protector of the common man.  Localizing the conflict to Gotham and its citizens, Nolan was able to personalize the reasons why Bruce Wayne becomes Batman by delving into his past and tracing everything back to the murder of his parents.  An idyllic childhood was abruptly cut short by this tragedy and young Bruce lost his entire world, unable to pick the pieces back together until he put on that mask and suit.

In The Dark Knight the conflict centers on the Joker and Rachel, Bruce’s childhood love.  The Joker’s danger comes from his unpredictability; his evil intent does not stem from any grand dark vision he wishes to fulfill, but simply from whimsy.  The choice Batman has to make between saving Harvey Dent for the greater good or Rachel for his own is one that audiences can empathize with on a deeply personal level.  It is one of those tough choices that no one wants to make but sometimes has to.

The final The Dark Knight Rises is less a coherent story and more a mish-mosh of visual pyrotechnics and Bane looking big and bad, but the arc created by the previous two movies takes an abrupt turn backwards to again destroying Gotham and wiping the slate clean, this time with a nuclear bomb.  Bane’s character is as opaque as his speech, and thus less of a person for the audience to hold onto than Batman’s previous two nemeses.  Ultimately the story is sacrificed for cool visuals and fight scenes, with Robin and Catwoman thrown in the mix for good measure.

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Captain America

Here is an interesting premise that certain circles may claim is really happening in the military: experiments to create the perfect super soldier.  In Captain America’s case, it was done to win against the Nazis, but the implications of the experiment’s success have reverberated into the present day, when Steve Rogers aka the Captain wakes up in NYC after a cryogenic sleep of 50 years.

Soon after his awaking, the Captain is thrown in with the rest of the Avengers to defend the Big Apple (and thus the entire world apparently) from aliens which is then followed by a panic attack from S.H.I.E.L.D. to boost defenses against another such invasion by building the equivalent of 3 Death Stars to winnow out the undesirables from the planet, all 20 million of them.  So saving the world from aliens isn’t enough, since humans are very good at mucking things up themselves, but the twist really comes when the winter soldier is revealed.  Here is the emotional investment in the character, when the conflict is personalized to one known person.  For 20 million people to die is a tragic shame, but they are unknown, nameless, faceless, part of one large number, whereas the death of one known and beloved person can be the most tragic of all.  And while the same case can be made for the first Captain movie about unknown casualties, since WWII was a real event whose horrors and atrocities have been personalized through countless books, films, and museum exhibits, the emotional investment is brought in by the mere mention of the word Nazi.

Even at this juncture saving the world has been the premise for at least 4 of the 6 movies cited; however how the villains and the victims are portrayed plays a big part in the success of an otherwise overdone premise.

Until the next installment…

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FILM REVIEW: LOCKE http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/film-review-locke/94711 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/film-review-locke/94711#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 08:31:28 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94711 The premise of Steven Knight’s film Locke initially sounds like something your friend’s annoying boyfriend would suggest: “Hey, how ‘bout an entire movie that happens in a car,” with the requisite emphasis on car.  Yet Mr. Knight has managed to turn this seemingly inane premise into a compelling drama, showing off his writing and directorial […]

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locke1 FILM REVIEW: LOCKE

The premise of Steven Knight’s film Locke initially sounds like something your friend’s annoying boyfriend would suggest: “Hey, how ‘bout an entire movie that happens in a car,” with the requisite emphasis on car.  Yet Mr. Knight has managed to turn this seemingly inane premise into a compelling drama, showing off his writing and directorial prowess as well as the considerable talent of his star, Tom Hardy, who plays the titular Ivan Locke.

While one-man shows are more common in theatre, rarely do they happen in film as is the case in Locke, where Tom Hardy plays off voices heard over the phone.  Steven Knight paints a tense picture from the get-go, with reflections from streetlights and other cars and sounds of highway traffic making every moment poised for disaster.  As the story unfolds through Locke’s various phone calls, the danger of losing focus on the drive is always clear and present, and what a doozy of a story it is.

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Ivan Locke is a successful construction manager in the U.K. dealing mainly in concrete, and is to lead a pour for the foundation of a high-profile building contracted by an American company in Chicago.  The job is worth millions and the pressure is on, but Locke decides to up and drive to London the night before, delegating tasks to his men via car phone.  Locke is missing his favorite football team play, missing the pour, and cannot really explain why either to his co-workers or his family until the reason is forced out, resulting in him losing everything in one fell swoop: his job, his family, his life’s direction.  What was supposed to be a righteous return trip becomes a one way trip to God knows where.

Nevertheless, Locke stubbornly holds onto his righteous principles, principles made sacrosanct through their absence in his deceased negligent father, whose presence he still feels with much anger.  Interspersed between the placid coolness he conveys over the phone are Locke’s fiery rants against his father which he spews forth towards the backseat; this dichotomy of cool logic and hot rage further adds to the stress and tension of an already precarious situation.  The atmosphere feels like one of shell-shock and claustrophobia, with the blinding lights and loud Doppler noises outside the car juxtaposed with the unfolding of a story that keeps on getting worse inside.

Locke FILM REVIEW: LOCKE

This is indeed an acting tour de force for Tom Hardy, whose Welsh accent and cadences uncannily make him sound like Anthony Hopkins.  His facial expressions alone convey a story unto themselves, recalling Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock’s Rope, another film set in a confined space.  The actors on the other end of the line are no slouches themselves, whose characters are clearly conveyed through their disembodied voices, with Andrew Scott of Sherlock fame bringing some needed humor into the mix as the voice of Locke’s subordinate Donal.

The drama coming mainly from the strength of the script and actors, writer/director Steven Knight shares the revelation that visual pyrotechnics aren’t always necessary for a film to be thoroughly engaging.  A guy in a car?  Anything’s possible if story remains king.

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THE AVATAR SERIES: Aang vs. Korra http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/avatar-series-aang-vs-korra/94702 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/avatar-series-aang-vs-korra/94702#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 06:30:36 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94702 As fans await Season 3 of The Legend of Korra to begin, let’s reflect on the succession of avatar from Aang to Korra and how the changes in their world have led to different challenges and evils. Aang was part of a simpler time, before planes, trains, and automobiles, when the nations were divided quite cleanly into […]

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Avatar Korra Avatar Aang   avatars THE AVATAR SERIES: Aang vs. Korra

As fans await Season 3 of The Legend of Korra to begin, let’s reflect on the succession of avatar from Aang to Korra and how the changes in their world have led to different challenges and evils.

Aang was part of a simpler time, before planes, trains, and automobiles, when the nations were divided quite cleanly into the three existing bending types of Earth, Fire, and Water.  And with Aang and his gang being so young, there was an innocence to them that mirrored the innocence of their world.  The arc of Aang’s relationship with Zuko is one of the most moving in the series, and it shows the depth of both Aang’s and Zuko’s compassion as well as their wisdom in understanding that to do what is right is rarely easy.  Though only 12 years of age, Aang clearly shows his greatness in his continuous efforts to find a peaceful alternative to violence, to resolve conflicts in a fashion so everyone may benefit; even at the very end when all the past avatars tell him the only solution regarding Lord Ozai is to kill him, Aang still manages to find a non-violent alternative.

3442454 aang y korra  by jazz by jazmin jazz d64e0o8 THE AVATAR SERIES: Aang vs. Korra

Aang’s personality is naturally sattvic and contemplative, always meditating and turning inward for guidance and advice.  He fights because he has to, not because he wants to.  In stark contrast, his successor Korra wants to kick ass most of the time, never seeming to want to meditate unless she’s under extreme duress and has absolutely nothing else to do.  Korra is all rajasic energy, all hot-tempered and impulsive, and revels in the fact that she is the avatar, whereas Aang ran away from it for 100 years.  At seventeen, Korra is rebellious of authority and prefers to make her own decisions, as rash as they tend to be, but perhaps she is just what her steampunk urban world needs.

In the time between the two series, the automobile, radio, and cinema were invented, and the large metropolis of Republic City was built with Aang’s vision of all 4 nations living in harmony; of course, the reality is always more complicated and less utopian, and Korra arrives into town just when the tension between benders and non-benders comes to a head.  Her action-oriented nature serves her well as she navigates the politics of Republic City and sees the power struggles amidst its administrators.  Korra is not afraid to play dirty and at times her tactics are more street gang than wise avatar, but her world is closer to our own than Aang’s, and thus she seems more knowable, more relatable.

 THE AVATAR SERIES: Aang vs. Korra

In the current world of ours, who has the time anymore to meditate or silently reflect on one’s day?  Time goes by too fast, and so it is for Korra, but she must make time to meditate and convene with her spirit self in order to truly become the avatar she is meant to be and accomplish what Aang began: the establishment of a lasting peace amongst all peoples of the world, the earthly plane in harmony with the spiritual.  With Korra’s decision to keep the portholes open between the spirit and human planes, she has already changed the role of the avatar, so season 3 will need to re-define the avatar’s purpose – no pressure of course!

spirits14 1160 THE AVATAR SERIES: Aang vs. Korra

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The Sound of Gravity: The Artistry of Steven Price http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/sound-gravity-artistry-steven-price/94688 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/sound-gravity-artistry-steven-price/94688#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 06:08:10 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94688 There is no place more silent than space.  From this silent void emerge sounds man-made: metallic clangs, distorted transmissions from Earth, then the crashing of worlds between man and metal.  Such is the aural landscape that British composer Steven Price created for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and for which he deservedly won the Oscar this year. Gravity’s premise is […]

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steve b price The Sound of Gravity: The Artistry of Steven Price

There is no place more silent than space.  From this silent void emerge sounds man-made: metallic clangs, distorted transmissions from Earth, then the crashing of worlds between man and metal.  Such is the aural landscape that British composer Steven Price created for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and for which he deservedly won the Oscar this year.

gravity1 The Sound of Gravity: The Artistry of Steven Price

Gravity’s premise is an interesting snapshot of the lives of astronauts and the many dangers big and small of outer space; like summiting Mount Everest, the smallest contingency in space can quickly prove fatal, let alone blown-up satellite debris going AWOL.  However a snapshot is all it is, a snapshot of strangers who still remain remote to the very end.  As Dr. Ryan Stone struggles on her harrowing journey back to Earth, one cannot fully emotionally invest in her without knowing more about her.  Who is Ryan Stone and why should we care about her besides that she’s played by a likable Sandra Bullock?

gravity debris The Sound of Gravity: The Artistry of Steven Price

Indeed it is Steven Price’s mixture of music with electronic sound debris that sets the haunting tone and atmosphere to this sci-fi film, giving the plot the contours and nuances it may have otherwise lacked. What Mr. Price expertly did was to compose a film score that yet stands alone as music that can be enjoyed without any context.  The sci-fi sound effects become part of the music, giving the tracks a cool, trance feel while keeping their filmic integrity intact. For example, at the film’s start, not much else is heard except the soundwaves bouncing back and forth between the astronauts and Earth in conversation, with gentle distortions here and there from the man-made instruments and machinery around them.  Then the soundscape thickens with low electronic bass and frenetic strings when debris from a Russian missile strike appear at high speed, crashing and ripping apart man and metal alike.

gravity 2k hd trailer stills movie bullock cuaron clooney 20 The Sound of Gravity: The Artistry of Steven Price

Since little backstory is given to the main characters played by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, space ends up being the most nuanced character, its vacuum silence punctuated by electro-musical shards.  Mr. Price’s outer space is mysterious, unfathomable, and unconquerable, and the humans swimming in its vast void must choose either to yield to its silence or fight the fiery fight back to Earth.

In short, Steven Price created an outer space one cares about, or rather, is wary and fearful of.  While the notable visuals bring one into Gravity’s universe, the soundscape makes the universe real.  Mr. Price was able to capture the severity as well as the stark beauty of the void that is space: a place in which humans absolutely cannot survive without help from artificial means and yet it is also the very womb from which all life springs.  The struggle for life to persist out of this silent firmament, for the light to persist in the cold darkness is exemplified in Price’s aural treatment of the final scene, reflecting  both the outer and the inner world of Dr. Ryan Stone as an expression of the profound statement that “as above, so below.”

So while Gravity as a whole did not offer any new revelation into the human condition that it potentially could have, Steven Price’s score infused the necessary depth that made it nonetheless Oscar-worthy.

img The Sound of Gravity: The Artistry of Steven Price

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4 Geek-Tested Female Action Stars & The Fan-Approved Sheroes They Should Play http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/dear-studioswritersproducers-list-geek-tested-female-action-stars-superheroines-get-started/94627 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/dear-studioswritersproducers-list-geek-tested-female-action-stars-superheroines-get-started/94627#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 01:23:50 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94627 When it comes to action films & TV series, it’s nothing new that women tend to be stuck kissing heroes and getting tied up by baddies while some big brawny guy punches and round-house kicks his way through the plot.  But every generation has managed to occasionally recall that tits don’t actually obstruct the delivery […]

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femaleactionstars 1 4 Geek Tested Female Action Stars & The Fan Approved Sheroes They Should PlayWhen it comes to action films & TV series, it’s nothing new that women tend to be stuck kissing heroes and getting tied up by baddies while some big brawny guy punches and round-house kicks his way through the plot.  But every generation has managed to occasionally recall that tits don’t actually obstruct the delivery of a good right hook and has left the ass-kicking and world-saving to at least a couple of heroes of the female persuasion.  But first things first, let’s clear this up… female action heroes actually exist. Sarah Conner of Terminator, Resident Evil’s Alice, Aliens Ripley, Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Buffy are a just few at the top of the list, and they even managed to nab the leads in major profitable action film franchises.

But these roles are too few and far between, and many of today’s female action stars are still playing right hand to male leads. The studios argue that female action films don’t sell. The fan-masses claim that it’s because the female action movies the studios make seriously suck. (And who can argue with that? We won’t go into that here, but Nostalgia Chick did a great breakdown of how female superhero movies have been so lame-sauce.) But the YA market is proving both of those theories wrong with films like Hunger Games and Divergent.

So let’s get a move on and spread the love. A great start would be making movies/shows about characters that fangirls and fanboys alike actually want to see…   Basically, if you cast some of the badass female action stars that geeks already know and love, and dress ‘em up as the heroes we’re are dying to see in live-action, it’s kind of a winning recipe. Just look at all the love the rumors about Katee Sackhoff playing Captain Marvel have been getting!  Here are a few more that could rock the big screen:

 Rutina Wesley as Agent 355 (Y: The Last Man)

rutina355 590x411 4 Geek Tested Female Action Stars & The Fan Approved Sheroes They Should Play

Okay so technically the lead character in Y: The Last Man is a dude, Yorrick Brown, but Agent 355 totally steals the show, and for many fans she was much more the lead than Yorrick. She *is* the action, and her story is much stronger (read: less lame) than Yorrick’s lovestruck hunt for his girlfriend.  I’m convinced that aside from the ridiculously awesome narrative penned by Brian K. Vaughan, Agent 355 is the character that would fill the theater seats. Even the short fan film produced by IGN and Drake 1129 Productions held 355 as the lead.

Driven by a strong sense of duty and loyalty, but maintaining a cold distance from her charges Yorrick & Dr. Mann, Agent 355 is remniscent of Rutina Wesley’s character Tara in True Blood with her fierce attachment and defense of Sookie.  Not to mention, have you seen Wesley’s arms?!? She looks like she could do the level of damage Agent 355 saves the world with.  Folk have been hoping for a Y: The Last Man film since it was first brought up in 2007 when the film rights were acquired by New Line Cinema. And now with David Goyer, as recent as June this year, talking about the film going into production in 2014, this one might actually happen!

 

Katee Sackhoff as Deena Pilgrim (Powers)

kateedeena 590x480 4 Geek Tested Female Action Stars & The Fan Approved Sheroes They Should Play

Yes, yes, I know, people have been talking about that Captain Marvel mojo for her, but seriously, how perfect would Katee Sackhoff be as Deena Pilgrim?! Her role as Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica was practically a warm up for Deena: Starbuck boxes her lover-boy into a bloody pulp just to show him how hot she was for him… Deena kicks her big beefy partner square in the chest to solidify the trust in their partnership. Perfect, right? Sackhoff’s aptitude for the gritty badassery that so characterizes Deena would steal the show from the puffy-chested, upstanding lead Christian Walker.

katee big bang 590x392 4 Geek Tested Female Action Stars & The Fan Approved Sheroes They Should Play

Not to mention Katee Sackhoff is basically the symbol of geek angst for fangirls and fanboys alike (remember  her geek fantasy appearances in Big Bang Theory?), and given all of the torture and angst Powers fans have suffered at the hands of the ever evasive “talks” and rumors of a Powers TV series, the matchup would probably cause an explosion of geek fever and flood the theaters. Add to that the geek godhood of Brian Michael Bendis and his 13 year run on Powers that has fans feening for a live-action version, it’d be a sure hit..

Eliza Dushku as Jessica Jones (Alias)

elizajessica 590x385 4 Geek Tested Female Action Stars & The Fan Approved Sheroes They Should Play

You love her or you hate her, but Joss Whedon favorite Eliza Dushku has steadily gained enough nerd cred over the years after playing Faith in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer for people to forget she was ever in Bring It On. She was pretty dead on with Faith’s case of the bad girl blues and managed to get people cheering her on despite her good-again, bad-again relationship with the main hero Buffy. Following up Buffy with another Whedon joint, Dushku played the artificially amnesia-ed Echo in in the (love it or hate it) show Dollhouse showing off the range of characters she can pull off.

Jessica Jones 1 h1 590x193 4 Geek Tested Female Action Stars & The Fan Approved Sheroes They Should Play

 With that kind of complicated good girl/bad girl sensitive/hardass vibe, Dushku would be the perfect Jessica Jones. Jones’ colorful past, going from sparkly fresh-faced superhero to gruff (and seriously troubled) noir-ish anti-hero to loving mother and wife, would be a challenge for any actress, but Dushku seems to have the chops to capture the complicated as she did with both Faith and Echo. Not to mention, Dushku can rock both the glitzy glammy superhero outfit and the leather jacket grunge look. A Jessica Jones TV series is another one of those broken promises fans have clung to for a while now, with ABC reporting a Melissa Rosenberg developed script since 2010, but this fangirl’s holding out hope.  We’ve been told she’ll be nabbing herself a slot in one of the Marvel/Netflix series, but it’d be nice to see her hit a slightly bigger screen. Jones’ dark history could bring some much needed grit to make for a more dynamic mainstream superhero universe. And a cherry on top… we could get a little Luke Cage and their interracial superbaby in with the deal…

Bonus geek cred: Dushku is holding it down for the ladies as the voice of She-Hulk, the only regular female role, in “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.

Danai Gurira as Chell (Portal)

danaichell 4 Geek Tested Female Action Stars & The Fan Approved Sheroes They Should Play

We don’t know much about Chell, where she comes from, who she really is, or even what she sounds like, because you know, she doesn’t talk. And if anyone is good at the silent brooding type it’s Danai Gurira, whose role as Michonne in The Walking Dead has won her all the geek cred she needs. There’s no doubt she can pull off a meaningful performance with minimal words and convey a complicated deep connection to a single weapon that we’ve gotta imagine would be part of any decent Portal movie– the whole tool of your liberation/captivity thing. Everyone wants to see this movie, and after Dan Trachtenberg’s short film featuring the beastly Danielle Rayne, we know it can be done well. With J.J. Abrams claiming the movie is in early development, it might actually happen (pretty please, J.J.? There’s cake in it for you). Danielle Rayne did a phenomenal job in the short film and is a hell of an athlete, so I for one would be totally ok with her taking the lead, but how dope would it be to see Danai tearing it up in the role?

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5 Female Superhero Movies I’d Rather See Than Wonder Woman http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/5-female-superhero-movies-id-rather-see-wonder-woman/94669 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/news/5-female-superhero-movies-id-rather-see-wonder-woman/94669#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 23:12:14 +0000 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/?p=94669 Wonder Woman may have the most recognition among the classic female superheroes. She is one of the oldest (not actually the oldest) female superheroes to grace the pages of her own self-titled comic, and she blazed a bath for superheroines to come… But she’s also insanely dull and dated. I mean, come on, lasso of […]

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captainspectrumoracle 5 Female Superhero Movies Id Rather See Than Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman may have the most recognition among the classic female superheroes. She is one of the oldest (not actually the oldest) female superheroes to grace the pages of her own self-titled comic, and she blazed a bath for superheroines to come… But she’s also insanely dull and dated.

I mean, come on, lasso of truth?  No thanks.  After decades of utter failure to write this character well, Brian Azzarello’s latest Wonder Woman finally found a way to make her less lame, and it involves a lot of face-punching, gruffness, and impossible stunt jump kick thingies. I completely understand that the movements to get a Wonder Woman movie are about the fact that she’s so damn classic and yet hasn’t managed to hit the big screen yet for some terrible excuse or another.  Her classic comic contemporaries like Superman and Batman have had several tries (and a couple of epic fails) at the box office, yet Wonder Woman is still sitting the bench.

Totally get it. I’d even go see a Wonder Woman movie just to support that point, but to be completely honest (with myself too), I am so terribly uninterested in a Wonder Woman movie.  Her glory days as an unfailing moral center, Amazonian princess, symbol of old school feminism are awesome and the story of Wonder Woman in the context of earlier feminist movements and is fascinating, but we have new symbols of feminism and they punch harder.

I’d argue that Superman, with his dimple-chinned charm and dut-da-da! heroism is a little dated too… It took some serious rewriting to make him not such a boring goody goody, and he’s still kinda *shrug*. I’m sure there’s a creative team out there that’s up to the challenge of making a great Wonder Woman movie, but I also think there are some super ladies whose stories would be much more adaptable to the big screen. I’m certain I’m in the minority on this one, but I feel like some of the other dope superheroines, fighting injustice in the shadow of Wonder Woman’s legacy, deserve a little of love in light of all the rage and campaigning for a Wonder Woman movie. So, here are 5 superheroine movies I think could make great films that I’d so much rather see than a Wonder Woman movie.

1. Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)

Ms. Captain Marvel 1 590x407 5 Female Superhero Movies Id Rather See Than Wonder Woman

Recent rumors may make this one a dream come true, and I’m not the only one who thinks this is heaven itself.  Ms. Marvel has only been around since the 70s, but as a feminist icon herself, she made herself a name as a superhero and has galavanted around with the heavy hitters for a while now. With a mix of alien and human genes, she’s incredibly powerful and has the ability to fly, absorb and project energy, and put down one serious beating. A former United States Air Force officer, Carol Danvers was a badass even before she got hit with awesome and became all superpowered. And she didn’t have to come from an idealized all-woman magical island where women aren’t oppressed in order to do it. In fact, I think that so many people are excited by the prospect of a Captain Marvel movie because, despite the alien genes and flight ability, Danvers is down to earth and relatable. And these days, with Kelly Sue Deconnick’s work on the Captain Marvel series, we’re getting an even better picture of Danvers’ life as an everyday woman and a hero.

 

2. Monica Rambeau (aka Spectrum)

Monica Rambeau 5 Female Superhero Movies Id Rather See Than Wonder Woman

Criminally underused, Monica Rambeau is a series superhero who’s been around since the early days, when she first appeared as Captain Marvel (long before Carol Danvers took on the name) and yet isn’t so well-known as she should be. She’s led the Avengers, she nabbbed her own title series back in the 80’s where she kicked some racist ass and rocked cornrows.

Captain Marvel special 1 5 Female Superhero Movies Id Rather See Than Wonder Woman

I’m just saying, everyone basically defaults to Storm or Misty Knight as their black female hero of choice. But Misty Knight gets stuck in her Blaxploitation-era “I’m gonna get you sucka” attitude, and Storm is actually African and has her whole delusions of godhood thing going. Monica Rambeau, however, is your everyday hero. Formerly a lieutenant in the New Orleans harbor patrol, she reluctantly became a superhero out of that Spider-man-esque sense of duty. She’s smart and superpowerful, and she’s got all the makings of a leader. Al Ewing has shown just what a powerhouse this woman is in the new Mighty Avengers. And seriously, it’s high time we get a lady superhero of color on the big screen.

 

3. Black Widow

 5 Female Superhero Movies Id Rather See Than Wonder Woman

Honestly, how has this not happened already?? There’s been some movement on this recently with Scarlett Johansson kicking up the dust at Marvel, but I’m frankly shocked that it’s taken so long. Black Widow is basically made for the big screen. A superspy, assassin with a dark past turned silently deadly superheroine keeping up with the actual supers with nothing but her acrobatics, smarts, and two wrists full of bullets? Yea, I’d say there’s a lot to work with there. And it wouldn’t just be another superhero movie full of evil baddies who get kicked through all of Manhattan (Metropolis, whatever), Romanov’s got some skeletons in her closet that could really make for a more complex superhero movie.

 

4. Batwoman (Kate Kane)

batwoman10 5 Female Superhero Movies Id Rather See Than Wonder Woman

The rebooted version of course! Another military officer on the list, Batwoman was kicked out of the Army because of her sexual orientation. But determined to make a difference and defend the weak, she took on the identity of Batwoman. She may wear a mask, but she refuses to hide who she is or who she loves.  She’s one of the few major LGBTQ heroes, but her sexual orientation doesn’t define her. She’s got that dark, no-nonsense type attitude that makes her hard to beat on the mean streets of Gotham, and gives her the type of complex mysteriousness that we so love in our heroes. But she’s not just a female copy of Batman, in fact she gives him attitude whenever he pops up to try to tell her what to do and she turns him down when he tries to recruit her to the Bat team. She’s a one-woman operation. The original Batwoman is a whole other mess, suffering from the usual tropes and degradations inflicted on superwomen, but the revamp is inspiring and is also a clear sign of how things have changed. She has been completely rewritten for today’s audience and she is a successful icon for today’s women, not to mention how many men are huge fans as well!

5. Oracle (Barbara Gordon)

Oracle Barbara Gordon 5 Female Superhero Movies Id Rather See Than Wonder Woman

Female computer genius runs the superhero world from her bedroom, and kicks ass in a wheelchair.  What is more inspiring than that? Daredevil had his supersense thingy going for him, but Oracle was working only with her brain and some really jacked arms. Not to mention her story brings into play some interesting topics in the superhero world. Rather than the usual outline of villain appears, superheros kick it’s butt, a story with Barbara Gordon could look at the phenomenon of superheroes and the good and the bad of their influence on the people that look up to them. Also, organization. These days Marvel and DC seems amok with heroes running about trying to save all of the days. Who organizes these folk. Let’s see some brains behind the brawn ya?

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DIVERGENT Review: Redundant but it works http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/divergent-redundant-works/94220 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/movies/divergent-redundant-works/94220#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 08:24:43 +0000 http://www.unleashthefanboy.com/?p=94220 A strict class system, uniforms, a sneaky villain in a leadership position, government corruption and a girl that just doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, “Divergent” consists of all of these familiar elements and then some. Based on the novel by Veronica Roth and directed by Neil Burger, “Divergent” may be a lot like “Hunger […]

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A strict class system, uniforms, a sneaky villain in a leadership position, government corruption and a girl that just doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, “Divergent” consists of all of these familiar elements and then some. Based on the novel by Veronica Roth and directed by Neil Burger, “Divergent” may be a lot like “Hunger Games” or something Alduos Huxley could have created, but it finds its strengths in strong, likeable characters and some badass visuals.

In a futuristic and otherwise obliterated world, “Divergent” focuses on one leftover city of the world where a wall has been built for some unexplained reason and the humans that survived are forced into factions for life- by who or why, we don’t know. Each faction is attached to a virtue like selflessness or bravery and the members act only upon their specific faction- those in the selfless faction must always put others before themselves, they don’t have to be brave, honest or logical, and lord, help them if they are; a government that believes free human independence and will are a thing of the destructive past and there is no room for variety. Mysterious, lying politician Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet, forces an idea of peace through conformity with poorly conceived logic that is also unexplained (maybe viewers are expected to have read the novels).

Ultimately, the story is about a young girl, Tris played by Shailene Woodley, being forced to choose a faction but is unsure because she soon finds out that she fits into all of them, someone known as a “Divergent,” who can embody more than one virtue… in other words, a regular human being as we know them, but these types aren’t welcome in this future world and Divergents are exterminated.

Although, it has a weak and redundant plot, “Divergent” does offer many strong characters, which is increasingly rare and always refreshing. As the rest of the cast is revealed it’s easy to feel for all of them, and in a world where life isn’t exactly valued, it’s interesting to watch a film and actually feel sad every single time someone dies.

divergent101 590x393 DIVERGENT Review:  Redundant but it works

Shailene Woodley does a fantastic job as Tris, a relatable and a powerful protagonist, featuring courage, kindness, intelligence, curiosity and so much more. Tris is an example of how dynamic people are, with multiple strengths and talents, and Woodley portrays Tris in a down-to-earth manner, creating a leader in someone that wouldn’t usually stand out in the real world. She finds confidence by embracing her humanity, an unlikely trait for a typical hero, but “Divergent” exemplifies heroism through human nature.

Starring as the domineering, political savage, Kate Winslet spreads her wings and ditches the typical sweetheart role for something less likeable, and she does it well. Although her character speaks pure nonsense, Winslet portrays Jeanine as charismatic and brilliantly deceitful, which makes her power obvious. Also getting to kick some ass, Ashley Judd who plays Tris’s mother, Natalie, and makes a strong and successful effort to be a heart-warming mother figure who ignores the “Faction before blood” rule.

While the characters increase investment in the almost 2.5 hour long movie, the cinematography placed in beautifully crafted settings, force viewers into the moment. Scenes that follow each character as they are presented with their worst fears are shot so well and realistically that it’s easy to find your own fears surfacing. It’s a great way to get in touch with your anxiety and feel powerful as a plain ol’ human being.

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Elisabeth Rohm: From Finding Happiness to American Hustle http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/finding-happiness-american-hustle-versatility-elisabeth-rohm/89277 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/finding-happiness-american-hustle-versatility-elisabeth-rohm/89277#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 22:54:02 +0000 http://www.unleashthefanboy.com/?p=89277 So what does American Hustle, the darling of this year’s awards season that tells a story of greed and corruption, and the independent film Finding Happiness, which speaks of hope in humanity to choose a spiritual life lived with integrity and dignity, have in common? These two diametrically opposite films find their nexus in the […]

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So what does American Hustle, the darling of this year’s awards season that tells a story of greed and corruption, and the independent film Finding Happiness, which speaks of hope in humanity to choose a spiritual life lived with integrity and dignity, have in common? These two diametrically opposite films find their nexus in the multi-talented actor Elisabeth Röhm, who plays the lead in Happiness as a cynical reporter transformed by her visit to the spiritual Ananda Village while sporting 70’s polyester and an authentic Jersey accent as Jeremy Renner’s mayoral wife, Dolly Polito, in Hustle.

E Rohm bk Elisabeth Rohm: From Finding Happiness to American Hustle

A mother, author, and activist in addition to being an actor, Ms. Röhm is spreading her wings and flying to new heights; and for the greater good too. Having studied writing and European History at Sarah Lawrence, Elisabeth is the author of two books, her latest Baby Steps being a frank account of her struggle with infertility before having her daughter Easton, now almost 6 years old. And what was supposed to be a limited-run blog on People.com has been going on for more than 2 years now, clearly showing Ms. Röhm’s gifts as a writer as well as a connector with people. Readers can relate to her honesty and sincerity, two qualities that not only drive her to support St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and volunteer for the American Red Cross but also inform her art. It is this honesty that is seen in Elisabeth’s portrayal of Juliet throughout Finding Happiness: Juliet’s inner transformation from a cynical, a-spiritual NYC journalist to a glowing young woman full of hope is quite moving. Even with Juliet’s lack of backstory, Elisabeth manages to create a character audiences can still empathize with; if only more was known of Juliet to complete the arc of her inner journey.

Blessing Elisabeth Rohm: From Finding Happiness to American Hustle

And while American Hustle takes on the less savory sides of life, Mayor Polito and his wife give a rare example of what a good and loving political couple would look like, taking in the con-artist Irving Rosenfeld as their own and eventually suffering for it, though not before making Irving feel guilty about betraying their trust and softening the inevitable blow in the only way he can: through another con. Elisabeth is nearly unrecognizable as the Mayor’s beautiful wife Dolly, sporting a black hairdo and Jersey-girl feel and befriending Rosenfeld’s young ditzy wife Rosalyn, played by a wonderful Jennifer Lawrence. Ms. Röhm plays Dolly Polito as a self-assured woman who is proud of the man she married and confident in their righteous place in the world. But when Irving reveals his betrayal, Dolly cannot even find the strength to hold herself upright, so shattered is she to witness a moment that should have been impossible in the world she helped her husband create. The pain behind Dolly’s scream as she buckles over is so real, so primal, that it seems to come from the very depths of her being.

12 29 elisabeth rohm jennifer lawrence ftr Elisabeth Rohm: From Finding Happiness to American Hustle

Having the versatility to play such diverse roles as well as to find time to be a mother, writer, and activist, Elisabeth Röhm is indeed a woman of true grit and substance. Hats off to you Elisabeth!

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ZOMBIES! http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/zombies/92458 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/zombies/92458#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 20:49:01 +0000 http://www.unleashthefanboy.com/?p=92458 “Turn and turnabout in these shadows from whence a new dawn will break, it is you who are the zombie.” —Jean Paul Sartre, introduction to Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on NYC, Washington DC, Boston, and Pennsylvania, zombies are running rampant in movies, TV, and games, feeding off […]

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 ZOMBIES!

“Turn and turnabout in these shadows from whence a new dawn will break, it is you who are the zombie.”

—Jean Paul Sartre, introduction to Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on NYC, Washington DC, Boston, and Pennsylvania, zombies are running rampant in movies, TV, and games, feeding off the constant fear of an unknown threat.  According to the History Channel program, “Zombies: A Living History,” more than half of all known zombie movies have been made after September 2001.  Why?

Kyle Bishop, an English professor at Southern Utah University, posited that this phenomenon is “because the aftereffects of war, terrorism, and natural disasters so closely resemble the scenarios of zombie cinema, such images of death and destruction have all the more power to shock and terrify a population…”

e6fef895e73194043b3306110d1f1255 png ZOMBIES!

Zombies reflect not only the fear of death but also the fear of “otherness”: they are foreign entities that kill without reason and whose very nature makes negotiation impossible.  While George Romero was the first to use the zombie genre as a commentary on the political climate of the day with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, since 9/11 many others have taken the genre as their own.  Danny Boyle started the post-9/11 zombie renaissance with his 2002 28 Days Later, setting a bone-chillingly desolate London as a mirror to the events that happened across the pond just one year ago.  The threat of wide-spread infection was also made manifest by the zombies being able to spread their “rage” through fluid contact, perhaps in reaction to the growing anxiety from the anthrax attacks that took place right after 9/11.

The Walking Dead 01 ZOMBIES!

Ever since then zombies have been everywhere, brilliantly spoofed in Shaun of the Dead, attacking TV with AMC’s hit The Walking Dead, and eating up gamers with numerous titles such as Plants vs. Zombies, Left4Dead, and Black Ops 2.  Zombies have even been directly linked to the 9/11 attacks in the 2011 film Towers of Terror by Matt Gibson, where the terrorists turn into zombies, touching upon perhaps the most frightening after-effect of the post-9/11 era: the change within the humans.  The darker side of human nature is oftentimes more menacing than the zombies themselves; Peter Dendle in his article The Zombie as Barometer of Cultural Anxiety concluded that “there has always been a strong existential component to the zombie figure, but it has become, in recent years, increasingly nihilistic. It is the sign of an over-leisurely society lacking in broader spiritual or communal purpose, left to the impulses of its unchecked power and its desires for consumption”.

While the zombie embodies the psychosocial stressors of terrorism, war, famine, poverty, and disease, the remaining human population in their paranoid distrust of everyone begins to lose the very humanity that they are trying to preserve, spiraling down into a Lord of the Flies existence. In a world where social constructs have broken down and people are fighting for sheer survival, they become no better than the monsters they are fighting.

WARM BODIES One Sheet ZOMBIES!

More than a decade after 9/11, zombie movies have begun to take a more empathetic view of the undead, even telling the story through their point of view, as in Jonathan Levine’s Warm Bodies, when the protagonist zombie R starts becoming human when he falls in love.  This change in perspective seems to send the message that only through the qualities of love, compassion, and kindness can people not only preserve their humanity, but even transform zombies back to who they once were.

Or else, as George Romero once said, “We’re the living dead.”

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HOLLYWOOD VILLAINY http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/hollywood-villainy/91990 http://www.unleashthefangirl.com/editorial/hollywood-villainy/91990#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 00:17:39 +0000 http://www.unleashthefanboy.com/?p=91990 Hollywood villainy tends to follow the global political snapshot of the moment, and for the United States that has meant Russia and the former Eastern bloc, Germany, and the Middle East.  With the exception of the blonde, blue-eyed Nazis, antagonists are usually dark, mysterious, and foreign; even sci-fi villains tend to sport one unctuous accent […]

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Hollywood villainy tends to follow the global political snapshot of the moment, and for the United States that has meant Russia and the former Eastern bloc, Germany, and the Middle East.  With the exception of the blonde, blue-eyed Nazis, antagonists are usually dark, mysterious, and foreign; even sci-fi villains tend to sport one unctuous accent or another, such as Thor’s brother Loki, or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan in the latest Star Trek movie.  Of course, there are egregious exceptions, like most of the Batman villains, though in Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman franchise, Liam Neeson played a nice foreign turncoat with an accent, and Bane came from somewhere Middle Eastern.  And of course Darth Vader, the baddest of them all, has the best of both worlds, transforming from golden-boy Anakin Skywalker to the heavy-breathing black-masked incarnation of evil with a voice and leitmotif commensurate with his dark powers.

Ultimately it is the multi-faceted villain that is the most frightening, the most real.  Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the clearest example of humanity’s dichotomous nature of beast and angel; it is why Darth Vader is such an iconic villain, because he is still Anakin Skywalker somewhere behind the mask as much as Anakin had Darth Vader dormant in him from the beginning.  While Hannibal Lecter is perhaps one of the most frightening villains ever created, his seemingly complete lack of conscience makes him not quite as empathetic as Vader.

efuu8fn0op4czyhj66j6fm8vp HOLLYWOOD VILLAINY

Now when an adorable young child chooses the way of darkness not from possession or supernatural activity but from simply his own free will to do so, such as in Joseph Ruben’s The Good Son, all things are thrown off kilter, and casting young Macaulay Culkin completed the world-stopping effect: how could the lovable kid from Home Alone be a cold calculating malefactor who harms others for kicks?   And more importantly, why?

Why indeed?  Is it the thrill of breaking rules, the sense of power coming from breaking the rules, and then the need for more power?  Returning to good ol’ Darth, as a padawan Anakin was already of his immense power, but did not yet have the discipline to harness and channel it to bring balance to the force.  The pain from losing his mother tipped him over the edge of reason and Anakin swiftly descended into darkness, all his choices stemming from the self-hatred that he could not save his mother.  Aww, poor Ani . . . NOT!

fallen HOLLYWOOD VILLAINY

Like Icarus, he flew too high and got burned, but instead of just crashing and burning himself Anakin decided to take as many innocents with him as he could to burn together in his personal hell.  The higher the rise, the harder the fall; under Obi Wan’s tutelage, Anakin would have learned detachment and perspective, allowing him to at least weigh his options before diving into a fatal mistake.  And even though everyone knew that he was going to become Darth Vader in Episode III, nonetheless there was still that moment with Mace Windu and the Emperor that Anakin could have chosen differently and changed the story all together; only when Mace Windu fell was it the point of no return.

While it may be pointed out that most people do not possess Jedi powers for their day-to-day choices to matter as much, it may also be pointed out that we make enough of a mess of things without them, and if the current Hollywood preoccupation with superheroes reflects our own need for them, then perhaps we should all look for the Obi Wan within us and bring balance to the force ourselves.

Obiwanvaderanhduel HOLLYWOOD VILLAINY

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