Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Hiatus!

Don't worry - Unfettered Brilliance has not gone away for good!

There's so much to talk about here at the end of the year - movies that have recently been released (Exodus, The Hobbit, etc.), movies that are about to be released (Big Eyes, Unbroken, etc.), and a movie that may never be released (The Interview) - but this blog is taking a holiday break and will be back shortly.

Enjoy the holidays and please - come back soon!

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 ever-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.


<*>





Monday, November 17, 2014

Old School

This weekend, Ensley and I kept a date we'd had for a long time and went to Durham to attend the NC ComicCon. It was Ensley's first "big" con and I had great fun playing sidekick. Along with the cosplay and acres of merchandise which ranged from back issues to steampunk-inspired clothing and one-of-a-kind collectibles, you get a chance to mix with dozens of fandoms, all of whom are as into their as you are into yours. Cons are a great time, provided they're well run. More and more of them have official harassment policies, a necessary addition as more females attend in costume and a small fraction of fanboys think a costume is a license to touch.

At NC ComicCon, the con included a film festival and our tickets entitled us to two showings. After looking at the program for panels, signing times and other events, we decided to see Hayao Miyazaki's first film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) and Brad Bird's first film The Iron Giant (1999). Both films are different in style, yet similar in theme and really - these are both really worth seeking out.

Nausicaa is from the early period of Miyazaki career. We saw the original version, in Japanese with English subtitles. The film was heavily re-written for American release (as Warriors of the Wind) and Miyazaki demanded that any later licensor for his films be contractually bound to do no edits to the film aside from a straight translation and language dubbing.  The Mouse bought the rights to all Miyazaki films from Nausicaa onward and has honored that agreement. Just to make sure the idea got across, Miyazaki sent a samarai sword to the executive at Disney with a two word note that simply read: "No cuts."

Nausicaa contains many themes that will be seen throughout Miyazaki's works - flight, war on a massive scale impacting ordinary people, the actions of one brave person turning the tide, and supernatural/magical elements affecting daily life. ("Nausicaa" is also the name of a character in Homer's The Odyssey - she's an example of unrequited love and without her assistance, Odysseus may well have wandered even longer than he did.) It's a lovely, magical, otherworldly movie about life, climate change, and finding harmony within a changing world. Go see it.



The Iron Giant should have been as big as Bird's The Incredibles a few years later, but Warner Bros. didn't know what to do with it and didn't seem to care that much, so the movie came and went, but slowly developed a cult following, not least of all for its voice talent, which includes Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., and Vin Diesel. It's a lovely movie, all about a time that really never was in the deep, snowy woods of Maine where a lonely boy could hide a new and highly improbable friend. Best line? Easy - "I am not a gun." It's a move that will choke you up a bit and make you dig out your old favorite toys, the ones that used to give you such comfort on the days when you were very small, the world was very large, and no one seemed to tell you much. There will probably never be a sequel to this movie, although jibber-jabber raises hopes from time to time. Maybe that's so - but go see this one. Seek it out if necessary - it's worth the effort.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Third Age Thursday 9

"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, (he's is a little behind as he took some time to help me deal with those tests Dr. Franklin insisted on me having - check the previous TAT here), 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.

Babylon 5 is such a rich, deep, complex text to explore that sometimes it's hard to know where to start these posts - should I discuss an episode, a particular character, the nature of telepathy, maybe the relationship between a couple of characters . . . which way to go?

Well, today, I want to talk about an odd episode that happens late in the run of Babylon 5. The only one to be written by someone other than JMS so late in the run of Babylon 5, "Day of the Dead" (5.08) sees characters visited by dead people from their past. For years, JMS had asked/hounded/stalked Neil Gaiman to write an episode of the show, but the scheduling never quite worked out.

That JMS is a fan of Gaiman is evidenced by 
  1. His persistence in getting Gaiman onboard and 
  2. JMS' introduction of a race of methane breathers that wear a mask on their heads to breathe. 
    1. The race is called the "Gaim." 
    2. That mask looks a whole lot like the one worn by Dream in Gaiman's Sandman series.
   
JMS's "Gaim"
Gaiman's "Dream" w/Helm
                                
Case rested on that point.

The episode itself is interesting as we see crew members face the dead, who (let's face it) nearly always carry guilt for the living, intentional or not. Season 5 gets a lot of flack - often from viewers who wanted things to end of the wham-boom-crack! of Season 4, but life goes on, and that's a lesson Season 5 of Babylon 5 teaches us.

<*>


Monday, November 10, 2014

Things in the Dark

Two new movies came across my bow this week - the action/adventure revenge flick John Wick and the Chris Nolan science-fiction epic Interstellar. What to see, what to see . . .

Seriously - wouldn't you kill for this dog?
 First - John Wick is surprisingly good. It's a film that knows what it is, makes no pretensions beyond that, and works within its parameters quite well. It's cliched (seriously, everything - everything - hinges on a cute beagle puppy named "Daisy" that was a gift to John Wick from his wife after her tragic death), but somehow it manages to make that work, possibly because the movie embraces the silliness of it. First time co-directors David Leith (who is best known for exceptional stunt work on movies such as V for Vendetta, 300, and the upcoming Jupiter Ascending) and Chad Stahelski (who has an equally deep resume on stunt work, including Whedon's Serenity) know what makes an action movie look good and there's nary a shaky hand-held shot in sight. (Thank you!) Keanu Reeves may have limited range as an actor, but here he's in his element (full disclosure - I like Keanu Reeves. There is story after story about him being a genuinely decent, nice guy (click here!) and I think that get shoved aside all too often. Besides, he was half of Bill & Ted, and that counts for something with me.)

John Wick is a revenge picture - Wick is a very talented hit man who got out of the game and lived a quiet, very comfortable life with his wife, who dies not from some other assassin's bullet, but from something as mundane as disease. She knew she was dying and arranged for a puppy to be delivered to her grieving husband after her death so he could have something to love and to help him heal. So far so good, until some piddling kid with a Russian mobster for a father tries to carjack Wick's ride and winds up staging a home invasion where the puppy - well, it's not graphic (wives and girlfriends usually get it worse in these sorts of pictures), but Wick is back in the game. The movie puts together a dark world that has rules, including hotels and clubs that cater to the dark underworld of hired killers and let me just say - awesome customer service! Not for children, but a solid action movie that understands how to film a gunfight so the audience actually knows what's going on in the frame. Tremendous, but highly violent, fun - and Ian McShane!

Interstellar, on the other hand, is less fun. I'm not going to quibble with the science - it's a feature film, not a documentary, and I allow a lot of leeway there, understanding that directors like Nolan are far more concerned with making it look good than making it strictly accurate.

But.

Bad design - way too much surface area
to get hit by debris, but hey! looks cool.
I know I'm going to be in the minority on this one - people love Nolan's movies, which I have often found to be disjointed, hinge on befuddling relationships, and rely far too much on bulk deliveries from the Plot Convenience Warehouse.* That said, Interstellar will be a wonderful movie to snark you way through and, at just under three hours, you'll have plenty of time to be clever. The core problem here is that Nolan is confusing intricacy of plot with depth. A tangled necklace chain can take some patient work to untangle, but then you have it sorted out in front of you. The plot to Interstellar is not worth nearly as much work, although I am gratified to know that there will apparently be no shortage of mascara in space. I could go on and on about the problems I have with this film (and there are many), but let me just hit on four.

1. We need some explanation as to how the "blight" destroying the crops has been able to leapfrog species.  And really - was it necessary to pick on okra?
2. Nolan's use of Ken Burns' Dust Bowl footage is an interesting use of misdirection to get us thinking that the folks being interviewed there are looking back and discussing the timeframe of the movie, not the 1920s and 1930s. You know, the Dust Bowl - the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history that really happened.
3. McConaughey's Cooper hasn't been a test pilot for at least a dozen years, yet he finds NORAD and within three days or so, he's in a spaceship.
4. Thank heavens Cooper didn't prefer a digital watch.

Scientists are weighing in on the hard science of Interstellar - click here  for that view and Vulture has compiled a list of "things in Interstellar that don't make sense" that's a fun read (click here!) if you want to get that point of view.

There's good in this film, too - particularly Mackenzie Foy, who plays the young Murph, Cooper's daughter who is left behind as he goes off to save the world.

I know that many, many people are loving this movie and finding profound questions in it regarding time, space, and love. I'm just not one of them. I've often said that science fiction is the genre that is perhaps best suited to asking those big questions - but no, Interstellar is not a film that does that, preferring to skim the surface, muddy the waters, and direct the audience in how to feel when. Plus, I think it owes an apology to the estate of Dylan Thomas for the heavy overuse of "Do Not Go Gentle." Last bit of snark - could someone PLEASE tell Hans Zimmer that the soundtrack doesn't always have to go to eleven? It makes the dialogue hard to hear, although now that I think about it . . . nevermind.



*I allow that Memento and The Prestige are exceptions to this - both are strong Nolan films that I enjoyed, even as I had to work to unravel the plots.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Third Age Thursday 8

 "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, 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, this post has to be a short one. Dr. Franklin wasn't too pleased with my latest scans - to tell you the truth, I'd been putting them off so I could nose around Downbelow - there's a lot going on there that "they" don't want you to know about - but it seems I got a little too close to - well, I'm not ready to say just yet. Let's just say Franklin wants to keep a close eye on me for a few days. I keep telling him it's not necessary, but he says that if I cooperate, he knows where he just might be able to get his hands on some real, honest-to-God coffee, so I'm stuck here for a few days.

Won't keep me from making notes, though. There are things about this place that people need to know about!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fearful Words!

There are certain hints that let you know you're probably in for a bad movie (there are always exceptions, of course - I'll get in to those in this same post, so hey! rule of thumb). Among those are - movie titles that include the author's name like "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (Gary Oldman's a lot of fun, but that's about it) or "Stephen King's Cat's Eye." Also avoid any movie "brought to you by Hasbro" - that lets you escape both Battleship and the current Ouija. You can see why I cringe from those fearful words

 On the surface, Ouija should be great Halloween-season fun. Nearly everyone has a slightly creepy story to tell about the "spirit board" and the planchette seeming to move under its own power. Cast an group of attractive not-quite-adults and really - just sit back and watch the cashy money roll in.

Or not.

Oh, Ouija is doing well enough at the box office that first time director (and many times special effects guy) Stiles White will get another shot at a low-budget scarefest. But the movie is just a checklist of "what not to do when you think you're under supernatural attack." First off, if you decided to go exploring in the (naturally) dark house - go to Lowe's. Buy a generator, a couple of hundred-foot heavy-duty drop cords and about half a dozen big work lights. Rig that house up like the Fourth of July - THEN go in. It's also crazy-making how the adults just disappear, leaving the kids to sort through a rash of teen suicides by themselves. Still, it's got some good jump scares and I admire the restraint it took to get a PG-13 rating for this sort of film.

However, one of my biggest gripes about Ouija is (I'm about to get all film scholar on you here; just bear with me for a minute) its self-reflexive post-modernity. You've got a movie here dealing with spirits, communication beyond the grave, malevolence lingering about places and objects - all the signs of a classic haunting and there's not one single mention of God. I can handle that to a point - personally, I thought the film Stigmata in which an atheist receives the marks of stigmata to be a very interesting take on that aspect. But I'd just come from watching the director's cut of The Exorcist and let me tell you - when in these confusing, frightening situation - get a Jesuit, not the Hasbro help line.

So - The Exorcist. First off, this breaks the rule of thumb, as it's actually William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist, but this is the exception that may prove the rule. Released in 1973, Warner Brothers still maintains a website for the movie. Often called "the scariest movie ever," The Exorcist has a slow pace and much of the terror comes, not simply from gross-out effects (although there are some seriously disturbing moments in this film, especially revolving around sex and religion), but from the sheer otherness that's involved. Is the little girl "just" deeply psychotic or is there actually something from another spiritual realm in there?

Ladies and gentlemen, bring out the Jesuits! Seriously. The Society of Jesus was often at the forefront of any exploration into the New World and they quickly established schools in their territories. As to exorcism and demonic possession, I hold to Hamlet's point of view that "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

The unknown is scary and we rational, 21st-century beings often like to think that there are no dark corners left in the world. H. L. Mencken knew better. He wrote: "Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops."

You want to be scared? Skip Ouija and read the front page news for three days. You want to be unmanned by the terror of what might be? Watch The Exorcist.




Thursday, October 30, 2014

Third Age Thursday 7

"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, 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.

Today I want to focus on one particular character – I’ll do this from time to time as the project progresses and Valen knows there’s no shortage of fun, interesting characters to examine on Babylon 5.

For today, let’s take a look at Susan Ivanova. Her character is missing from the pilot movie “The Gathering” – there, the role of the lieutenant commander of Babylon 5 is still played by a female (Tamlyn Tomita) but “Laurel Takashima” was written out of the series when full-scale production began. (Viewers hear that Takashima was recalled to Earth on a classified mission, which freed Tomita to pursue other roles, which she has done with success.) And thus the station became home to a new second-in-command, a strong-willed, smart-as-a-whip Russian Jew named Susan Ivanova (known in Russian as Сюзан Иванова and in Hebrew as סוזן איבנובה).

Now, there are many character arcs on Babylon 5 that I enjoy and that are well worth exploring, but Susan’s dry wit attracted me from the get-go. She’s very well aware of protocol, has a highly-developed sense of duty and honor, and yet is often a tragic figure. (Oh, the weight of that single earring she wears!) She’s also funny, provided her well-timed sense of snark isn’t directed at you, as in her warning to a nosy reporter who’s getting in the way – “Don’t. You’re too young to experience that much pain.” (1.04) And there’s her advice in Season 4 to “Trust Ivanova. Trust yourself. Anyone else? Shoot ‘em.”

And she’s got the absolute best ever answer to one of the key questions that runs throughout Babylon 5 – “Who are you?”




Really, how can you not love her?

<*>



Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Plans!

Halloween is the traditional time of the year for scares and chills. While I have a liking for the classic Universal horror movies (really, Bride of Frankenstein is just fantastic) and a soft spot in my heart for the "jump scare" as exemplified in the psychological thriller Cat People (the original, please - the one with Simone Simon and the creepy shadows in the pool), I understand that other people have other likes. So - a quick list of favorites, followed by "things that will guarantee I don't see that movie" followed by a quick list of "well, I'll try that" and an invitation if you happen to be near my hometown.

A few Halloween favorites:

  • The aforementioned Bride & Cat People
  • Nosferatu
  • The Crow (only the first one)

OK - movies that feature the following are right out:

  • Maniacal toy monkeys banging cymbals together (seriously creepy)
  • Possessed dolls (yeah, I wouldn't get near the new release Annabelle - really, you couldn't tell there was something off about that so-called toy??)
  • People just being flat-out awful to each other - I don't get (truly do not get) the appeal of the Hostel movies

On the other hand, I'll try:

  • Monster movies (were-creatures, vampires, hauntings, etc.)
  • Silly "it came from outer space!" flicks (I'll include irradiated critters in this category)
  • Psychological horror, including demonic possession as a theme

So there's a lot I'll try and I have to admit to really enjoying this season of American Horror Story with its gracious nods to Tod Browning's Freaks.

And I'm trying something new this Thursday! A local venue, the Don Gibson Theater, features classic movies for super-cheap on Thursday nights - the line up for November is especially impressive and more about that soon! This week, they're showing their first "R" rated movie (their classics are usually from before the modern MPAA came around in 1968) and it's a fun one. Come out and see 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street on the big screen! You can't find a better deal - tickets are a paltry $2, and another three gets you popcorn and a drink. Really - you can't beat that deal with a book written in Latin and a two-ended stick! Showtime is at 7 pm, which gives you plenty of time to get home safely before the ghouls come out!

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Third Age Thursday 6

"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 Thursdayan ongoing feature here at Unfettered Brilliance! 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 5. Please 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. I enjoy writing these posts, but this one is just - different.

Yesterday, a gunman shot a soldier guarding Canada's National War Memorial and then grimly continued his rampage inside Parliament before being shot dead by Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons. As I'm writing this, there is much that remains unknown - was the gunman working alone? Was this horrible attack motivated by religious fervor? Is this tied to the killing of another Canadian soldier in Quebec earlier this week? And what's "normal" going to look like for my neighbors to the North after this?



I'm sad, and my heart is heavy, so at first, I just wasn't even going to write a "Third Age Thursday" for this week. But then it occurred to me that actually, Babylon 5 has dealt with these issues, albeit in a fictional universe. In fact, isn't that one of the notions that first caught our attention - JMS's attention to detail in creating a universe that wasn't like ours, yet was similar enough that we recognized the battles, both internal and external, that we saw playing out? War, espionage, distrust, terrorism, even a simple desire to get one over on the next guy - we've seen all of this on Babylon 5.

Faced with the events of today, I don't know what Sinclair would do. Or Sheridan. Or Garibaldi. I'm pretty sure Ivanova would threaten to rip someone's head off and make sure they saw their own twitching body before she drop-kicked the head out an airlock. As for the nonhumans - well, I'm pretty sure Kosh would say something cryptic. Vir would dither and Londo would shout. Delenn would light a candle and shake some chimes while intoning solemn blank verse and G'Kar would sell arms to both sides. (Well, early G'Kar would.) 

I hate to say it (truly), but I think Bester might have some useful ideas right about now.

Humans. We often don't want justice nearly as much as we crave the coppery taste of revenge. It's a desire that can cause us to go on vendettas, begin multi-generational feuds, and sacrifice our own values. We'll eat our own entrails just to make sure the other rat bastard doesn't get away with it.

Be careful, Canada. My country's never been the same since 9/11 and not all of the changes we've made in the name of security have been worthy exchanges. Step lightly and look around before you act.  Please.

My heart mourns with yours for this senseless loss of life. I'm so, so sorry. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins played the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Obviously, neither one is a Canadian hockey team but tragedy can sometimes overcome such pitiful differences. And yes, O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee.