Thursday, December 11, 2014

Walter White Not-Wednesday

I know, this has become the spot for "Third Age Thursday," a weekly post devoted to Babylon 5 and particularly the ongoing construction of Dreams Given Form, which is the current project Ensley F. Guffey and I are working on for ECW. Publication is expected sometime in 2016 and Dreams Given Form will examine all aspects of the Babylon 5 universe, not limiting itself to the five seasons that were broadcast.

But it's my blog and this week, I'm bursting with news about our first project for ECW, Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad which was published this spring and would make a truly excellent gift for the Breaking Bad fan in your life.

Breaking Bad had appeal that transcended the borders of the United States - early on, ECW struck a publishing deal with Myrmidon Books in the United Kingdom (Wanna Cook? was Myrmidon's first non-fiction book, a fact of which we're both quite proud) and that was followed by an arrangement with German publisher Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf to have the book translated into a German edition (which, due to different copyright laws in Europe, is also titled Breaking Bad, which is very, very cool). By the way, the link I included here has been translated into English, but yes - it's a German translation of the original book.

Then Brazil got in on the Breaking Bad act. That edition, which will be published in Portuguese by LeYa, is not available yet, and Ensley and I plan to do some (English language) interviews and publicity to promote the book in that great country.

And we thought that was just fantastic - an embarrassment of editions, actually. (Really - we squee'd every time ECW gave us the news of another foreign edition. Seriously. We did.)

But then, almost as a holiday gift, we received the news that Epsilon, a Turkish press, wants to translate and publish Wanna Cook? into Turkish. Turkish!

That makes five publishers (including ECW, of course, about whom praises cannot be sung highly enough!) on four continents and three foreign language editions. We're a pair of turtledove authors, so hand us a partridge in a pear tree and we're nearly half a Christmas carol!

So really - don't you want to buy a couple of copies of this incredible book?  You know you do! Amazon has it in stock and you can even get free shipping if you have Prime!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Black & White & All Over the Screen

If you're looking for a movie that (a) you can take the young fry to and (b) doesn't involve large men in red suits, and you've already seen the superior Big Hero 6 (reviewed here), you could do worse than buying tickets to Penguins of Madagascar. While it'll help if you have a base understanding of the Madagascar characters, it's not a requirement. I did just fine. Penguins is a short film, coming in at just over 90 minutes, and it's fun. It's not a animated film for the ages, but it rises above simply being okay. The vocal talent provides solid entertainment and I doubt that John Malkovich (playing Dave, or Debbie, or Ramirez; Skipper has a hard time with the name) has had that much fun making a movie in years. For the grown-ups, there's a great running gag of movie star names being used for hench-octopi, such as "Nicolas! Cage the prisoners!" or "Kevin! Bake on - we'll still need that victory cake!"

The penguins get themselves into quite a mess with Dave, a brilliant, yet disturbed, octopus who blames the cute flightless birds for his drop in popularity. Fortunately, a highly-secret group, the North Wind (think arctic animals as super-spies) is on the case. Led by Agent Classified, this team clashes with the penguins who have their own plan to save their family - as well as a peculiar liking for a Cheetos-type snack. (Funny bit here - Agent Classified is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, who mispronounced "penguin" all the way through. I guess everyone thought it was just an "actor's choice," but no. The man genuinely didn't know how to say "pen-gwen.")

Penguins has some nice things to say about what makes a family (hint - it's not DNA) and that everybody wants to be loved and appreciated. While it probably won't be a movie that sticks with you for all that long, it's cleverly done and worth the ticket price, although holding off for this one to be a rental wouldn't be a bad idea. Dreamworks still isn't Pixar, but it's trying and in Penguins, you can see the effort.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Third Age Thursday 11

"It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night."   - Jeffrey Sinclair

I know that Third Age Thursday has taken a semi-hiatus as one co-author (me) has been dealing with some health issues and the other one (the handsome and talented Ensley F. Guffey, whose blog about this project can be found over here) has had his hands full dealing with co-author 1. Fortunately, the tests have borne fruit and we're closer to an answer and an answer brings us closer to a plan. The whole unexpected, occasionally painful, and certainly an annoyance of an issue has put us behind where we hoped to be by December, but we've got plenty of time to make our deadline. Remember, we're creating a guide (not merely an episode recap - Ensley's blog explains the scope of the project very well) to not just the five seasons of Babylon 5, but the auxiliary shows such as Crusade, canonical novels and comics, and so on. JMS created a complex universe for his stories and material about all of that hasn't been collected in a single place. It's a yeoman's job and yes, we're up to it. Our goal is to create a companion guide that will be useful for the die-hard fan who has seen every episode multiple times as well as the new fan who is just getting into Babylon 5 ahead of the rumored big-screen movie which is scheduled to begin production in 2016. That's a wide audience, but we think we can do it - and we've accepted that there will be a few fans who will be disappointed that their favorite episode/character/ship/quip didn't get more page-time. But unless we want to create an expensive treatise covering absolutely every instance of everything (which our publisher would balk at), cuts have to be made. We've done this before - really, you should buy copies of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad as holiday gifts to see our approach - and remember that show had about half the number of episodes as Babylon 5! - and it hurt to cut favorite quotes to make room for really important themes that came back later in the show, but it had to be done. Ensley and I are C&C on this mission and our goal is to get everyone to their destination in one piece.

In the meantime, entertain yourself with two very different fan mashups of the brilliant show Breaking Bad. The first is Narvinek's gorgeous recap of the show set to the spaghetti Western classic "Ecstasy of Gold" and blows me away each time I see it.

The second, by Rhett & Link, who have made a stunningly funny series of local commercials, is Breaking Bad re-imagined as a middle school musical. The thing that always leaves me gape-mouthed is that both of these, different as they are, WORK.

Back later with Babylon 5.  Promise.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Choose Your Side

Don't worry - Third Age Thursday will be returning! Between Thanksgiving Day and Dr. Franklin's absolute insistence that a few more samples be taken for some tests to be run (I keep telling him that there's simply no way I could have contracted hoof and mouth disease, but he won't listen and insists that some bacterium hitched a ride on a Drazi freighter and that he's seeing all sorts of weirdness as a result), no new post was created for this past Thursday, but I expect to be back this coming Thursday, even if I have to sneak a tablet into the medlab.

In the meantime, I've seen two new movies that I'd like to talk with you about. What we think of as a "kids' movie" has changed dramatically in the last twenty or so years. In many ways, that's a good thing - the quality has certainly improved. But one of the down sides is that the creators of many movies that are intended for children know that they also need to capture the attention of adults who are taking the kids to the movies in the first place, so themes sometimes get darker and more "adult" for no good reason.

Then you have the Hunger Games films. Mockingjay, Part 1, the third of the four planned movies, is out in theaters now and I have to say that I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. The whole film is a set-up for the climactic battles that will take place in the final movie and it would have been easy to just sort of phone this one in. But sometimes the set-up can be a strong film in and of itself (Empire Strikes Back, I'm looking at you!). While I generally disagree with the idea of stretching a franchise out to as many films as possible (oh, Hobbit, you and your infernal scenes of "walking in New Zealand" and creating entire subplots and characters that have zero to do with the source material! Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug notwithstanding - I'm still disappointed in you.) The original Hunger Games novel took a lot of criticism for being too closely aligned plot-wise with Koushun Takami's Battle Royale, but Suzanne Collins had a much larger picture in mind and we're really starting to see it here in Mockingjay 1. Yes, Katniss has survived the Quarter Quell and has discovered that there's a bigger battle brewing. So much of the film deals with her deciding who gets to use her - she's freed herself (or been freed from) the machinations of the Capitol, but is she willing to the be face of the coming Rebellion - an uprising which is going to get an awful lot of people killed for no certain outcome? The film has a strong, strong cast, with many reprising their roles from earlier films and some actors getting more screen time to develop their characters. For me, the most fascinating aspect of this film was the use of propaganda. Katniss is a symbol with tremendous value - and it's all in the editing. Remember that popular culture reflects the culture that created it and you'll watch Mockingjay 1 with a fresh appreciation for the wheels within wheels that are turning and you'll also wonder just whose hands are pushing those wheels.  Consider the District 3 salute being used in political uprisings in Thailand. Also, don't blame me if the eerie song "The Hanging Tree" gets caught in your head. Good movie - go see.

The other is Big Hero 6, based on a manga and "updated" to include a more diverse cast. The setting is moved to San Fransokyo and that's not the only nod to the film's Japanese roots.  Look for the "Lucky Cat Cafe," the lovely cherry blossoms, and a certain Kabuki mask. Big Hero 6 is a lovely movie about friendship, fitting in, revenge versus love, and the proper role of science. It's a great team ensemble piece and is letting some new vocal talent have their day in the sun, (Along with the every-reliable Alan Tudyk, who plays a villain in this one.) There's a particularly interesting twist as the very pale Caucasian girl ("Honey Lemon") is the only one to pronounce lead character "Hiro's" name with a Japanese flair, instead of the Americanized "Hero." Go see this with the kids - and watch for Stan Lee.  Also, you get a short - "Feast" - at the very beginning that made me long for the days of shorts and cartoon being an integral part of the feature film experience. Ah, Pixar. Maybe you and Disney can reform us after all.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Third Age Thursday 10

"It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night."   - Jeffrey Sinclair

Welcome back to Third Age Thursday ("TAT"), an ongoing feature here at Unfettered Brilliance! Along with Ensley, who's posting the wonderfully-named "Tuesdays with Mollari" over on his blog, these posts are written to keep you up to date on the writing and publication of Dreams Given Form: The Unofficial Companion to the Universe of Babylon 5Please feel free to comment, re-post, tweet, plus-one, pin, and use all sorts of other ways to pass along the news that a comprehensive Babylon 5 book is in the works with publication ETA sometime in 2016. And remember that you can always search through these posts to find all the "Third Age" posts by using the search feature on the right. Just use "Babylon 5" or "Third Age" as your search term.

Unfortunately, I've been put in quarantine for this week. I had thought that, since the dock workers' strike had been resolved (that Sinclair is a slippery eel sometimes and I have to admit that, while I don't know Neeoma Connally personally, she seems tough but fair), I'd be able to nose around, maybe even sneak around the Green Sector and give you some insider information on a few of the ambassadors and their staff, but Dr. Franklin is insisting on keeping me in one of the medlabs. He assures me it's nothing like drafa (and that's a good thing!) but he wants to keep an eye on me.

So no new post this week.  Instead, enjoy this short example of Mr. Garibaldi's work as a motivational speaker.