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What happens on the fourth day?


  • Dragon*Con 2014

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

     

    KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN! (Wait, wrong kind.)

    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 - froggysphotos.com)

     

    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.)

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  • A House Is Not A Home

    Gerald-Webb-Creepy-Stairs-A-House-is-Not-A-Home-Still

    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.

    A-House-is-Not-a-Home-Still-Gerald-Webb-Ben-Williams

    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.

    A-House-is-Not-a-Home-Still-Bill-Cobbs-Paul


  • Beyond The Grave

    Poster_Engl

    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.

    Still_02


  • Why a Wonder Woman Movie Is Next

    Wonder Woman (image credit - MoviePilot.com)

    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:

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  • 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?”
    “….Art?”

     

    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.

     

     

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    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 - comicbookmovie.com)

     

    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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  • Of Kryptonite and Cyborgs

    BvS logo

     

    So, there’s a prop, supposedly from the set of Batman v Superman, which, coupled with one set photo in particular, could provide a really big clue to BvS‘s plot; or, at least, two smaller clues.  Assuming the various theories I’m about to set out, my own and others’, are true, then Zack Snyder and David Goyer have put more thought into Dawn of Justice than even I’ve given them credit for.

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  • American Doctor Who

    http://bandril.blogspot.com/2013/07/who.html

    No, seriously, Daleks aren’t a metaphor for Americans at all.

     

    For the last few months, a certain list of actors who could have played in an American version of Doctor Who has been kicking around the Internet.  It’s not a bad list, actually.  You can even see a truly amazing video featuring clips of all the names on the list.  I like most of the choices, but the video highlights how…difficult it is to make these particular actors fit in the roles they’ve been assigned.  Obviously, no one can recreate what came before or match the actors who’ve worn the various mantles of the Doctor.

     

    But, it’s fun to speculate, so, I made my own list of American Doctors:

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  • Robin Williams’ Best Sci-fi Roles

    Robin-Williams-1999-robin-williams-19521980-2048-2560 (image credit - fanpop.com)Robin Williams, the man who practically defined comedy for a generation, committed suicide yesterday.  I won’t relay the details of his death or his depression.  It’s a terrible tragedy, and needless to say, we all feel the loss.  Our thoughts and hearts are with his family and all his loved ones.

     

    His filmography is an impressive blend of comedy and drama.  While we’ll always remember his sense of humor, some of his best movies include Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, and especially Dead Poets Society, roles that, while they do contain plenty of laughs, also speak to very serious issues that exist in all our hearts.  In that way, he guaranteed the messages would never be lost.

     

    At Fourth-day Universe, we’re all about sci-fi and fantasy, so this article will take a look at some of his best roles in those types of movies and television, in no particular order:

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  • You Will Believe a Raccoon Can Cry

    Catchy, no?

    You’re welcome.

     

    Starting its second week, while suffering a drop due to competition from a film based on one of the most well known comic book brands of all time, Guardians of the Galaxy is still enjoying tremendous success.  This despite being based on a comic that’s only existed in its current form since 2008, featuring characters whose biggest claim to fame was that they weren’t famous.  They were cult characters, beloved by a few, completely obscure to most.

     

    Like the Beatle's song!

    Rocket Racoon’s first appearance was in the Hulk’s book. Yes, really.

     

    Over the past week, many have picked apart the reasons why the film caught on so well.  There’s Chris Pratt’s evolution as a performer.  James Gunn’s loving homages to the cheesy but fun space operas of the 1970s and 1980s.  The juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The positive message about family giving one support.  The genuinely laugh out loud humor.

     

    For me, it all goes down to the friendship between a bionically enhanced, genetically altered uplifted raccoon and a sentient, bipedal tree.

     

    I AM GROOT

    Groot tried to conquer the Earth in his first appearance. He’s come a long way.

     

    When Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning were called in to assist in writing (and then eventually took over) Marvel’s revived line of Cosmic books in 2004, they struck gold with the pairing of Rocket Raccoon and Groot as unlikely best friends.

    Even though one looks like a ring-tailed Teddy bear with ray guns and the other only has one phrase to say.  Ever.

    Why was this so popular?

     

    I think it’s because in real life, the best friendships are not the ideal ones, never the epitome of perfection and attributes we might think we want.

    I love them all, but most of my best friends have been total weirdos.  But that’s okay, because they tolerate my weirdness as well.  And together, we’ve been capable of making things that are beautiful.

    Rocket, when we meet him in the film, has no end of sarcasm, snark, and aggression.

    It’s only with Groot that we see his softer side.  He lashes out at the world because he knows it’s judged him worthless vermin.  So he preemptively judges it back.  There ain’t nothing like him ‘cept him!  Even with Groot, he considers himself to be unique.  Singular.

    Completely alone.  No one to hold him…back.  Yes, hold him back.

    The mask comes off throughout the film.  He knows he has only one friend in the entire universe.  A friend who intentionally or not, has been digging roots into the cracks of his angry facade.

    Beneath the kleptomania, the gun nut mania, and the cruelly twisted sense of humor, there’s something tender.

    Quill, Gamora, eventually even Drax manage to bring out that tenderness, and transform it into a new strength Rocket can rely on when his best friend sacrifices himself to save them all.

    Stronger now, no longer afraid to show his kindness along with the snark,  Providence rewards our unlikely animal hero with a miracle many crave…a second chance to be a better friend.

     

    Yes, Guardians is full of cool references.  Yes, it’s exciting.  Yes, it’s funny.  Yes, it has an uplifting message.

     

    But above all, this film made me feel something real.  Something about two characters who are as unreal as can be.

    For me, that’s why it’s won the box office.  There’s nothing an audience loves more than endearing underdogs who get redeemed for the purest, most powerful reason of all.

     

    WE ARE CUTE

    o/` Together again! It’s just so great to be together again! o/`

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    Review by John Ellis

     

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



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