What happens on the fourth day?

What happens on the fourth day?

  • Once Upon a Time’s Missed Opportunity

    Last night was the season four premiere of ABC’s hit fairy tale mashup series, Once Upon a Time.  Featuring such famous characters as Snow White and Prince Charming, Peter Pan and Captain Hook, the Wicked Witch from the Land of Oz, and, of course, the “Evil Queen” Regina, this series has broken all kinds of new ground in its three-plus years on the air.  Between this show and its ill-fated spinoff Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, they have sampled virtually every animated film in Disney’s vault (as well as a few non-Disney titles).  So, it was only a matter of time until they threw Disney’s incredibly popular movie Frozen into the mix.


    Once Is Frozen (image credit - Once Wonderland on Twitter)


    I won’t make this a review of the season premiere, so you don’t have to worry about spoilers…too much.  I will say this much about the incorporated elements of the latest Disney princess tale:  so far, they seem to follow the events of the movie directly, making last night’s episode, “A Tale of Two Sisters”, a direct sequel to Frozen itself.  And that’s a bad thing.


    I have no objection to including this movie into the franchise.  While I’d hoped there would be more time to explore the elements from The Wizard of Oz that were introduced in the last half of season three, I do feel this show does a great job in general of telling a sprawling, intricate fantasy epic.  I’m sure they can continue the tale of Elsa and Anna in an engaging, entertaining manner.  But, they shouldn’t be doing that.  OUAT isn’t just about taking a bunch of different fairy tales and putting them in the same story; it’s about retelling those tales in new and exciting ways.  Remember when I said this show broke new ground?  That’s practically its signature move.  Snow White, the wispiest of Disney princesses, is shown to have a backstory that’s even more heroic than her husband Prince Charming.  Every time a new villain is introduced, it’s not long until we’re discovering elements of his or her past that, with time, take us from hissing their names to cheering for them to get their happy endings.  And you’ll never believe who some of those villains were.


    As I said, this show is famous for turning old stories upside, and avoiding the sense of clichéness that doing so often brings.  As such, I was looking forward to seeing how they’d handle this new material, these new characters.  Would they embrace the opportunity that Frozen rejected, to turn Elsa into a villain?  Would she be a sorceress to rival Rumplestiltskin, dangerous and deadly until she gets a chance to tell her story, which would be similar to what we’ve seen since last November, but just different enough to make our eyes go wide and our jaws to drop, until we learn that one, last, crucial detail that makes us cheer for her again?  You know, like we’ve done for Regina, Cora, Rumple, and virtually every other villain on the show?


    Unfortunately, no.  Now, for perhaps the first time in the show’s history, it’s adapting a movie character’s backstory note for note from the original, picking up exactly where the film left off without the slightest variation.  Even Elsa’s dress, her snow monster, and her crazy rock troll mentor/healer are all exactly what we saw in theaters.  I suppose, in that way, OUAT is still defying expectations, assuming I’m not the only one who expected them to do something different with the character’s past.  And, though it may not be too much of an issue, making the show a direct sequel to the events of Frozen makes it much less likely there will be an actual animated sequel to the movie.


    Oh, well.  There’s still time to make Roger Rabbit an actual murderer.


    Stephen Monteith is actually hoping the next crossover will be between Once Upon a Time and Star Wars.  You can buy his original fiction at

  • R.I.P. Thomas and Martha Wayne (or, The Triumph of Pettiness)

    The-Gotham-TV-show-7 (image credit -


    A columnist at the entertainment site Vulture is upset by the deaths of Bruce Wayne’s parents, but not for the reason you might think.  The single event that is most directly responsible for creating the beloved comic book character known as Batman, he feels, has become so “overdone” as to be annoying.  Never mind that this is one of the most important elements of the Batman mythos and warrants at least a passing mention in any new incarnation; murder itself is one of the most heinous crimes a human can endure.  Tragedy is an important element in drama, and fiction thrives on drama.  For these reasons and more, the new “prequel series” set in the eponymous city of Gotham included the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne in its premiere last night.


    Apparently, Abraham Riesman wishes they hadn’t.  He was inspired to create a video “supercut” of all the times Bruce’s parents have been shown dying in film or television (and even in video games).  It’s a shame he had such petty motivations, because it’s actually quite a good video, and perhaps can subvert his original purpose of showing just how much we don’t need to see a new interpretation of it.  I agree that origin stories can be revisited a little too often, but ironically, this video has convinced me, at least, that this particular element of Batman’s origins isn’t getting “old” at all.



    Batman is Stephen Monteith’s favorite superhero (except when it’s Superman).  You can buy his original fiction, which admittedly contains a few origin stories, at

  • Dance Magic–Er, Magnets

    A hundred years ago, if you’d taken a handful of metal shavings or a pool of liquid and made it dance around, then it would have been considered magic.  A few decades ago, it would have been considered movie magic at best.  Today, we have two examples of people doing those very things.


    The first, discovered at Maker Faire in New York, has a table with a “choreographed magnetic field”, a term right out of science fiction, where iron dust will literally “dance” with the music.



    If only they’d played it some Jackie Wilson.


    The next example is from a group of, no doubt, well-meaning scientists who certainly weren’t trying to awaken the nightmares of those of us who grew up with the scariest of all movie robots when they created a method for manipulating liquid metal into new and (somewhat) interesting shapes.  Researchers from North Carolina State University still need exterior stimuli to manipulate the metal, but still, it’s just one step closer to the Terminator:



    The T-1000, it’s not.  But, these scientists are surely mad enough to keep going until they’ve created it.


    Stephen Monteith believes there are some things man was not meant to invent, which might explain why he writes mostly fantasy stories instead of sci-fi.  You can read/buy them at

  • The Maze Runner: Going Nowhere

    I have sort of become the resident “go-to” for all things Young Adult, especially when it comes to book-to-film adaptations. Typically by the time a movie has come out, I’ve read the book. I’m pretty adamant about that actually. With The Maze Runner, however, I had not read the book. The jury is still out on whether I want to read it, but I do know one thing: if I had read the book and then saw this movie, I’d probably be pissed.


    Maze Runner


  • Dragon*Con 2014

    Last year marked my first foray into the wonderful world of sci-fi conventions.



    CONNNNNNNNNNNNNNN! (Wait, wrong kind.)


    Before then, I had suppressed my inner nerd and rarely let it shine. Having now attended 5 conventions over the course of a year, I believe I’ve fully repented and am continuing to redeem myself for years of sinful neglect. At Dragon*Con 2013, I had no idea what to expect. I knew George Takei and John Barrowman would be there, and so I was excited to see some really famous people, but I honestly had no idea what I was in for or what I was doing.  I managed to have an incredible time, but later realized how much of it I had wasted due to my ignorance.


    dragoncon2014 (image credit -


    This review, however, is all about Dragon*Con 2014! This was my chance to go back to where it all started and to do it over again, this time with experience under my belt and a plan literally in the palm of my hand. (Seriously, their smartphone app proved to be very useful.)


  • A House Is Not A Home


    I was recently lucky enough to get a chance to see a perfectly creepy haunted house movie called A House Is Not A Home.  A House Is Not A Home is one of those films that I have wanted to see ever since I first heard about it last year.  I have to admit that, usually, whenever I find myself looking forward to a movie, I sometimes dread actually watching it.  There’s nothing worse than being disappointed by a film that fails to live up to your initial expectations.  That’s why I’m happy to report that A House Is Not A Home not only lived up to those expectations but exceeded them.

    A House Is Not A Home begins with a close-up of a bloodied hand.  An obviously unstable man (played, with a truly unsettling intensity, by Richard Greico) calls 911 and tells the operator that “they’re all dead” and it’s all his fault.  He then hangs up and, after shouting, “Take me!”, disappears into a bright white light.  It’s an effective scene, largely because it’s played totally straight.  You look at Greico and you have no doubt that something terrible truly has just happened and that not only was he responsible but he’s going to also be responsible for a lot more before the film reaches its conclusion.  It’s the perfect way to open up a haunted house scene, one that hints at the promise that the film itself will soon fulfill.

    Sometime after the man had vanished, the house is up for sale.  Architect Ben (Gerald Webb) and his wife Linda (Diahnna Nicole Baker) are given a tour of the house by a real estate agent named Paul (Bill Cobbs).  When we first see Paul, he seems like a nice old man.  He’s friendly, he’s always smiling, and he comes across like he could probably sell snow in Canada.  But, it quickly becomes obvious that there’s something a little bit off about Paul.  By the time he finishes showing the house, you start to realize that his friendly smile seems to be more of a self-satisfied smirk.

    Regardless, Ben and Linda buy the house and, along with their two teenagers, Ashley and Alex (Aurora Perrineau and Melvin Gregg), move in.  From the minute that they unpack, strange things start to happen.  Ashley is woken up in the middle of the night by mysterious laughter and, regardless of how many times she tries to move them, the same scary-looking dolls keep showing up on her dresser.  (Seriously, those dolls were creepy!)  Alex feels as if he’s being watched wherever he goes.  Linda, a recovering alcoholic, starts to drink again and her attempts to give piano lessons are made difficult by the fact that the piano occasionally attacks her students.  And Ben suddenly finds himself having nightmares and deliberately cutting himself so that the blood can hynotically drip down onto the kitchen table.

    Even more frightening?  The man from the first scene in the film keeps popping up, standing in the corner and watching.


    Yes, obviously the house is haunted and eventually, even Ben is forced to admit it.  The family is forced to call in a voodoo priest, who attempts to exorcise the house.  (The priest is played by Eddie Steeples, who may be best known for playing the comedic Crabman on My Name Is Earl but  who actually gives a nicely intense and creepy performance here.  Just check out his eyes!)  If you’re a fan of the horror genre, then you’ve probably seen a lot of haunted house exorcisms but, even if it might seem like a familiar development, the exorcism scenes in A House Is Not A Home are really well-done.  If nothing else, they’re distinguished by the fact that the exorcist isn’t the typical quirky medium or self-doubting Catholic priest that most movies offer up.  For once, we’re given an exorcism that’s interesting to watch…

    But does the exorcism work?  Well — does an exorcism ever work in a haunted house film?  You’ll have to watch to find out.

    A House Is Not A Home is an effectively creepy movie, one that uses its low-budget to its advantage. Director Christopher Ray allows the camera to creep through the house, snaking its way through empty passages while the soundtrack is full of the sounds of restless spirits.  The end result is a film that, as opposed to relying on predictable CGI for its scares, instead creates a palpable sense of doom and dread.

    The film is well-acted by the entire cast, with Bill Cobbs especially giving a wonderfully sinister performance.  (I wish I could tell you about his final appearance in the movie without it acting as a spoiler but seriously, it’s a wonderfully acted scene.)  In the role of Ben is Gerald Webb, who will be a familiar face to anyone who regularly watches the SyFy Channel.  Webb (who also  earned a bit of pop cultural immortality by serving as casting director for both Sharknados) has appeared in several beloved Asylum films as characters who inevitably always seem to end up getting killed.  It was nice, in A House Is Not A Home, to get to see Webb play a leading role and prove that he’s capable of a lot more than just a good death scene.  He gives an effective, sympathetic performance here.  In fact, the entire family does.  One reason that the film works as well as it does is because you believe that these four characters actually are a family.  You care about what happens to them and, as a result, the horror is all the more effective.

    Finally, two final notes about A House Is Not A Home.  At its best, the film — with its emphasis on atmosphere and its scenes of the characters discovering that the house exists on its own plane of surreal logic — can compared favorably to the works of Italian horror director Lucio Fulci.  I don’t know if that was intentional or not.  But it’s definitely a good thing!

    Secondly, and perhaps a little sadly, A House Is Not A Home is one of the few “serious” films that I’ve seen recently that featured an almost entirely African-American cast.  That’s really saying something when you consider that I literally watch hundreds of films a year.  At a time when mainstream filmmaking (and the horror genre in particular) still seems to be struggling to break free from racial stereotyping, A House Is Not A Home is definitely a step in the right direction.


  • Beyond The Grave


    Beyond the Grave is an intriguingly enigmatic film about the end of the world.

    Why was the world ended?  To the film’s credit, this is left intentionally vague.  Some characters mention that the “Seven Gateways of Hell” have been opened.  (Just the term “Seven Gateways of Hell” pays wonderful homage to Lucio Fulci’s horror classics, The Beyond and City of the Living Dead.)  At one point, we spy some graffiti reading, “Beware the Walking Dude,” which, of course, brings to mind the apocalyptic fiction of Stephen King.  Occasionally, small groups of “returners” are seen aimlessly wandering up and down empty highways.  Are they zombies or are they something else?  Occasionally, on the radio, a disembodied voice is heard over a car radio.  “This is the end of the world,” the voice says, “If you are listening to this, it is already too late.”

    One thing that quickly becomes obvious is that there’s very few “normal” people left alive.  One of these is a mysterious and enigmatic man known as the Officer (Rafael Tombini).  The Officer, who carries both a sword and a gun that carries only one bullet, drives a police car over the deserted landscape and dispenses his own form of justice.  Who he works for or if there’s any sort of controlling legal authority left in this world is another issue that the film leads intriguingly vague.

    (I appreciated the fact that the film — much like Romero’s original Dead films and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – only hinted at what had causes it’s world-changing cataclysm.  When it comes to end of the world, there should never be any simple answers.)

    The Officer is hunting a demonic force known as the Dark Rider and, as he explains, it’s a search that he began before the world even ended.  (And, indeed, we saw in a brief flashback that the Dark Rider existed even when there was still civilization.)  Throughout the film, the Dark Rider jumps from body to body, all the while uttering, “What is near me, shall become mine.”

    Working with two teenagers, the Officer searches the Dark Rider, taking time to only briefly rest at a compound.  When, about 42 minutes into the film, the Officer finally tracks the Rider down, something totally unexpected happens, something that forces the audience to reconsider everything that they had previously assumed about how the film was going to work.  I’m not going to tell you what happens.  That’s something you should discover for yourself.

    Beyond the Grave is a visually stunning hybrid of a film.  It’s a western, a zombie movie, a postapocalyptic action film, and a philosophical rumination of man’s place in the universe, all wrapped up in one!  Director Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro gets the most out of the film’s bleak locations and Rafael Tombini gives an excellent lead performance as the enigmatic Officer.  Beyond the Grave is an intriguing film, both for the questions it answers and for the ones that it leaves unanswered.  It’s a film that any horror fan should see and will appreciate.


  • Why a Wonder Woman Movie Is Next

    Wonder Woman (image credit -

    So, Dwayne Johnson tweeted that he’ll play Black Adam in the Shazam! movie for DC.  That movie even has someone working on a script.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is writing a script for the Sandman movie with the original creator Neil GaimanAquaman, which may or may not have Jason Momoa attached as the lead, actually has as many scripts being written for it as the other two movies.  And, if website registration is at all a credible clue, then we can read quite a bit into this recent bit of Internet sleuthing.  There’s lots of speculation about what the next six years of comic book movies will be like, especially at Warner Bros., and we’ve certainly done our share of it; but I have a theory about which DC movie is next:  Wonder Woman.


    When the announcement was made last year that Israeli actress and soldier Gal Gadot would play Princess Diana in her first live-action big screen outing, the considered opinion of the Internet was that she was…problematic for the role.  Opinion hasn’t swayed all that much in her favor in the months since, although plenty have risen to her defense, including myself.  If I’m right, though, then 2016 will give her two opportunities to prove herself.  Two DC movies are slated for 2016:  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on March 25, and an as-yet-untitled movie set for August 5.  Here’s why I believe that second slot is reserved for Wonder Woman:


  • Regeneration Trauma

    He used to have a lot of round things.

    “I’m ready for my new quest.”
    “To track down Gallifrey?”
    “What? No! To find out where the round things went.”


    Regeneration episodes are always tough on everyone.  The fans are apprehensive.  The writers are nervous.  The new performers are tied up in knots.

    This made it especially interesting to me how the Doctor himself seems so lost, lonely, and uncertain in the early stages of his new life cycle.

    The Tenth Doctor proudly exclaimed that in the entire universe there is no higher authority.  That he was the Time Lord Victorious.

    Eleven, beneath the outward film of goofiness and daffy whimsy very calmly told entire fleets of powerful aliens to “Basically….RUN.”

    Contrast this with the graying, downcast eccentric who stole a vagrant’s coat, who’s lost his ability to mask his essential alien nature around humanity, and who, in a very humanizing touch, seems to need a friend now more than ever.

    The flush of grand accomplishment the Doctor felt during the anniversary was shattered by Trenzalore.  Realizing that even if he did manage to locate and free his world, it would only restart the Time War again did what no amount of Daleks ever could.  It broke his ironclad moral certainty.

    Hadn’t it been a good thing, saving Gallifrey?  Shouldn’t it have freed him from thousands of years of unresolved guilt?

    Alas, even for Time Lords, things are rarely so simple.


    Which brings us to the question of Clara…her own mission fulfilled, the Doctor she agreed to travel with now barely recognizable, should she depart?  Yet when she ponders just that, Twelve all but begs her to stay.

    He wants to do right by her.  He even promises to stop the flirting that’s been a trademark of the Doctor/Companion dynamic since, oh, 1996.   It’s a very telling change.  Whatever in him that needed to feel romantic as a way of more easily relating to the world is gone.  The guilt of those he hurt by doing so?  Still there.

    The flirting is over.

    He never said it was her mistake.

    I cannot say enough good things about Jenna Coleman’s performance this episode.  It’s evolved far beyond being cute and quipping.  The scene in the restaurant where she and the person she cares more about than anything else in the universe get into a snark-off is both funny and sad.

    She grieves.  She finds strength in the face of incredible peril.  And, saving the Doctor once again, his Impossible Girl agrees to take on the burden of being a companion to a hero no longer certain that he is a hero.  Or even if he knows the faintest thing on how to be what he was.

    And a burden it is.  Like I said, nothing seems certain anymore.  The way the Doctor awkwardly, eventually tries to face off against the Half-Face Man and the unexpected return of the cannibalistic Clockworks…

    Double Meaning!

    “Look at yourself in the mirror. Do you even recognize what you see?!?”

    …well, it doesn’t take him to a good place.  As I said, I don’t feel the Doctor expected another miracle after Trenzalore, especially after the realization that his grand new mission to return home was doomed before it even began.


    The platonic parable he invokes towards the antagonistic alien steampunk cyborg could be applied to him just as to the android.  His memories have been scrambled, his molecules destroyed, then reformed from the atoms up for thousands of years now.  So many personalities tried out and discarded.  So many attempts to do things better that ultimately have had a double-edged effect on the universe and himself.

    For this first time since his original incarnation, the Doctor finds himself vulnerable.  Needy.  That frightens him.  And frightened men are far more dangerous than brave ones.

    The beginning of an incarnation is never the best sign of how they’ll turn out.  Each one develops as they grow.

    I’m sure the heroic Lonely God and the daffy, benevolent wizard Madman in a Box are still there, on some level.  But in a way, this newly alien, distant Doctor is even worse off than the more inhuman and enigmatic incarnations we got in the old series.

    For you see, they knew who they were.  And they knew they were right.

    Twelve doesn’t yet even know what he wants, much less what he’ll do.  Hopefully the learning process won’t break his hearts all over again.

    On the lighter side, the return of Madame Vastra and the Paternoster Gang gave us some much needed lightness along with the angst and human organ-stealing baddies.

    Oh, Vastra

    “Wait, if you weren’t painting me, why exactly was I posing?”


    While I feel Vastra’s testing of Clara was cruel (and her conversation about the Doctor’s changing looks perhaps a bit too on the nose) I do enjoy the fact that, at least for now, some old friends are still sticking around.

    In fact, that’s what sold me on Capaldi as the Doctor.  After getting a final time traveling phone call from Eleven, a tearful Clara is confronted by Twelve.

    “I made that phone call.  Clara, I’m still here.  Do you realize what that feels like?  Having someone look at me and not recognize me?”

    Some have criticized the tentative hug that follows.  Personally, I found it sweet.  Even if the Doctor is no longer a cuddling type.


    Well, those are all my thoughts.  You can go now.  See you next week.










    …I said I’m done.  You can go.
















    ….all right, clever clogs.  Let’s talk about the coda.


    No spoonful of sugar...

    The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere. Answers to “Missy”


    The Half-Face Man awakens in a lovely (but eerily still, strangely small looking) garden and finds himself greeted by a woman who calls herself “Missy”…one who calls the Doctor “her boyfriend” and who maintains that the android has made his way to….PARADISE.

    Advance publicity stills named this character “The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere.”


    Who is this woman who looks like an evil Mary Poppins cosplayer?

    I have no idea.    Oh, I have theories.  Guesses.  Tons of potential culprits.  But I won’t share them just yet, dear Whovians.  Suffice it to say, I’m so excited about this season’s linking thread.  And I can’t wait to see where it goes.





    Review by John Ellis


    All images, titles, characters, and likewise belong to their owners, used here solely for the purpose of review.

  • The Next Six Years of Comic Book Movies

    JusticeLeagueVsAvengers (image credit -


    We’ve received a lot of information over the last few weeks about the future of movies based on comic books.  Marvel, Warner Bros., Fox, Sony, and even Paramount have collectively announced over thirty release dates devoted exclusively to comic book properties between now and the summer of 2020.  While only a third of these dates have announced titles attached to them, it still means we can expect up to nine comic book movies a year.


    Believe it or not, that’s not too much more than we’ve had in the past.  While people don’t automatically think “comic book movie” when they hear about Road to Perdition or 300 or RED, those do technically count, as did The Losers, Kick-Ass, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  I don’t think people need to worry too much about being “comic booked out”.  And Warner Bros., while historically a little slow in producing DC properties, has certainly packed numerous blockbusters into the same calendar year before.  Now that they’re (nearly) finished with the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings/Hobbit franchises, they’re free to devote more attention, talent, and resources to their long-neglected graphic novel-inspired wellspring.


    Let’s take a look at the road ahead.  First, we’ll lay out the schedule of coming attractions, and then we’ll hit on some of the highlights:


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